Liberal Democrats will vote to abolish the Elected Mayoralty

The way that Labour are behaving in Liverpool treats the people of the City with contempt and opens the way for direct rule of the City by Commissioners from the Tory Government

I have making it clear that Liverpool Lib Dems will vote to abolish the position of Elected Mayor despite a revulsion about the way that Labour is behaving on the issue.

Since its introduction in 2012 we have raised in Council on 5 occasions our belief that the Elected Mayor’s position should be abolished as we opposed its introduction in the first place. On a 6th occasion we were not allowed to move a motion because we were told that Mayor Anderson had already agreed to start consultation on the issue.

Our motions, however, always stressed that the issue could only be finally considered after consultation with the people of the City on the forms of governance which could be legally introduced. At the end of the day we believe that the Council which has existed since 1208 is not a plaything of a political elite of a particular political persuasion but the forum for debate of all the people of Liverpool and that the people should be at the heart of the debate.

We last debated this on 20 January when Liverpool Liberal Democrats repeated our long-held beliefs. We believed that there was little time for consultation but that there was time to have a consultation process which could report back to a Council meeting in time to make a final decision so that if people wanted to abolish the position it could be done to prevent the election taking place on May 6.

The Labour Party unanimously voted against that motion and amended it to have consultation in the form of a referendum in 2023 before the next election to the post in 2024. We will vote, if we can, on exactly the same basis as we have always done. The Labour Party will perform a complete U turn on their January position.

There are four problems facing the potential vote:

Firstly, our standing orders have a presumption that the same issue will not be debated twice within a 6-month period.

Secondly, if Labour try to introduce a motion next week at the Budget Meeting on the grounds of emergency, they will need to show why this is a crisis for the people of Liverpool rather than it being used to solve a crisis in the Labour Party.

Thirdly, the legislation does require at least some consultation. I know Labour likes to consult after a decision has been made but clearly here, they will need to consult before a decision is made.

Fourthly does this mean major problems for the election process? Our staff have done a huge amount of work getting things ready for a 4-vote election which will include design and pre-ordering of ballot papers, envelopes etc and the establishment of staffing and other regimes for polling stations in a Covid period.

So, issues will need to be resolved and a process decided before the Council can vote on the issue.

The Labour Party is treating the people of Liverpool with contempt over this issue as they have always done. The electoral process and governance of Liverpool should not be used to paper over cracks in an increasingly factional and fractious Labour Party. We will vote to abolish the legal using due legal methods as a matter of principle. The Labour Party will back track on nine years of voting for an elected Mayoralty on the grounds of political expedience!

Finally, we believe that the Labour Party are ignoring the scrutiny which this Council is under. My experience tells me that their antics of the past few days are making it ever more likely that the Government will introduce Commissioners to effectively run Liverpool and that all elected members will become bystanders to the governing process. That needs to be avoided all costs but it seems to me that Labour simply don’t care whether or not or City comes under direct Tory rule because of their behaviour. They simply want to try and maintain Party unity at all costs”.

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Another day, another scandal and getting our kids back to school safely

Decisions taken by councillors in Liverpool affect all of us. Liverpool Lib Dems take up dozens of issues a day big and small. Here, as an example, are two that we have taken up today.

Every day the Liverpool Lib Dem team take up dozens of issues big and small. Often, we seek no publicity for them because they are very small scale, or are sensitive for a variety of reasons. On other occasions we do seek publicity for them because we want to see these issues properly discussed and the taxpayers of Liverpool informed as to what is going on. Today we have put out two press releases and it will be interesting to see how the media pick this.

We will spread these stories on our own social media routes and would ask you to support us by doing so as well. You may not agree with what we say on these two issues but I hope that you will agree that losing £4 million and getting our kids back to school safely are issues that should be publicly raised. Even better would be a rational debate as to ways forward for these. As always let us know what you think.

Lib Dems ask for full examination of £4 million missing from Council’s Accounts

Liberal Democrats will be asking for an investigation into the failure of the Council to collect up to £4 million on planning gain money owed by the developers at next week’s budget council meeting.

Cllr Kris Brown says, “Its no good the Council moaning about lack of money from the Government when it fails to collect the money due from developers. The Council is now owed £4 million pounds. Some of this was due from developers before work started on site. Some of it is for schemes which have been completed for up to 5 years.

Council needs to understand why the money wasn’t collected and what steps are being taken to collect it. This might mean that we write some off or that we take a more aggressive role with administrators as we are now creditors on approved schemes such as Fox Street and the Paramount development on Lime Street. In these cases we can use our role as creditors to get money on this failed and stalled schemes.

At a time when we need every single penny to meet our needs our failure to collect agreed sums of cash is a disgrace.

We need a proper system for collecting money in when it was due. In the case of the Fox Street Village the developers were supposed to either provide a 120-place underground car park or to pay S106 money. It did neither. It beggars belief that our planning department could neither tell whether or not a huge car park had been provided or a sizeable invoice paid!”

The request for a review is being included in an overall budget amendment being moved on 3rd March by the Liberal Democrats. The specific amendment says:

‘Council (further) notes that Section 106 invoices have been raised for 35 locations in the City which have not been paid. It is understood that the total amount outstanding is approximately £4 million. It notes that some of this is for developments which have been completed up to 5 years ago. It requests a report to be presented to an early meeting of the Audit Committee to establish what steps are being taken to recover amounts due and which of these amounts should be written off.

Let’s learn lessons before schools reopen

Liberal Democrats believe that more action is needed to make schools safer when they fully reopen in 2 weeks’ time. 

Liverpool Lib Dem spokesperson for Education, Cllr Liz Makinson said 

“We need to do everything possible to support the school community by mask wearing and good ventilation and that good practice learned during the lockdown should be continued to ensure that our schools are safe for pupils and staff and that transmission is not made into the wider community. 

Mask wearing is commonplace in schools throughout the world and we must catch up to stop the spread of Covid.  Although mask wearing will now be mandatory on corridors, in classrooms they are not generally being used.  This has to change or we will be back here again with schools closed to everyone apart from vulnerable children and those of key workers.

A relaxation of some uniform rules, such as scarf wearing in class would allow constant ventilation to take place until the weather warms. 

Teachers and school support staff are the unsung heroes of this pandemic, working continuously either virtually or in schools to ensure that children’s education is as good as possible.  Children are suffering not just from disrupted education but are worried about being in school and the risks involved.  

From France, Germany and Italy to Chile, Malaysia and Thailand, children are wearing masks in classrooms, with some countries now specifying the type of masks to keep children safe.  We are so behind the curve on this and this needs action now.

Blended learning, with lessons in the school for some and in the home via social media for others, must also be an option available to reduce numbers in school and ensure that schools stay open. Schools have done tremendous work on virtual and distanced learning and this should remain a factor for older children.”

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Liverpool Labour – the gift that keeps on giving!!

Labour’s internal elections to replace Joe Anderson have descended into a farce that makes Captain Mainwaring look efficient. I think that most people would choose the Warmington on Sea lads over Joe Anderson’s Labour any day!

Well what a surprise. The Labour Party have paused their selection process for a new mayoral candidate to re-interview the three short-listed candidates.

Why is this really not a surprise? Simply because there are a key set of questions that need to be answered by everyone in the Labour Party now and especially those who wish to be their Mayoral Candidates. Let’s be frank. Two of the Candidates have been Deputy Mayor for most of the past decade ever since Paul Brant had to resign after his problem over drugs. Deputy Mayors are the number 2 in the whole political structure. They are the right hand of the Mayor. They are party to the key discussions that take place in private and public about contracts, strategies and policies. The questions that need to be asked are:

  1. Did you know what was going on? If you did know why did you do nothing about it?
  2. If you didn’t know what was going why didn’t you know given the positions that you held in the Labour Party?               

If the Labour Party don’t ask these questions now I will at the election. They are the questions that the people of Liverpool should be asking as well before they go to vote on May 6th. Depending on the reply that is given we can make an assumption about the competence, intelligence and morality of whoever emerges from the Labour process and that person may not be one of the three currently being considered.

Do not underestimate the desire of national Labour Party for their Liverpool problem to go away. I meet and talk regularly to leading Labour Cllrs nationally. They cringe with embarrassment if the talk turns to Liverpool politics. This is not new. They have been embarrassed for years but the revelations likely to come out of the City will damage Labour nationally. If necessary, they will impose a candidate on the City Party as time is getting very short for them to resume the electoral process.

I am surprised at the lack of spine being shown by Keir Starmer and the 5 Labour MPs for Liverpool. I haven’t seen a word from any of them about the scandals that are unfolding. Of course, if the Labour Party really believed in transparency and integrity in these troubled times, they would tell the people of Liverpool what the delay is caused by. Who has told them what about who?

Much as Labour try to whistle through these difficulties, they can neither pretend that things are not that bad in our City nor can they hope that no-one will notice. In the past 8 years there have been more people arrested in Liverpool connected with Council activity than have been arrested in the whole of the rest of local government in the entire UK. No charges have yet been laid but I am certain that they will be. I am also certain that there are more arrests to come.

In addition to the Police we are the only Council in the UK which has a Government Inspection team in. The team of three are highly skilled and highly knowledgeable about local government work. I understand that they have been going over past activities within the Council with a fine tooth comb. Boxes are being drawn up from the Cunard basement that many will have hoped would be lost for good.

It stands to reason that there must be cooperation between these two enquiries. One enquiry has the statutory force of due legal process. One enquiry has long experience and knows how to use their experience to find problems and can insist that councillors and officers answer their questions. Together they are an irresistible force.

I don’t know how long the Police investigations will take place but we all know when the Government Inspectors will report. Because they are not involved with courts or proving things ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, they will report before the end of March and they will do so publicly. The report and recommendations will drop on the desk of the Secretary of State and the Council politicians and staff at the same time.

Their recommendations will be binding on the council and already they are making clear that levels of scrutiny within the Council are inadequate, that financial controls and protocols need to be put in place and that councillors in particular will need to mend their ways. I don’t think that Commissioners will be put in to run the Council because there seems to be a level of satisfaction with the work being done by officers. However, I am sure that there will be intervention and that certain sections of the Council will have outside support, which we will have to pay for, for some time ahead.

But the pain is not over for Labour. We heard last night of the resignation from the Council of Joanne Kushner. There has been no public reason given for her departure but we know that there are big upheavals and dissensions with Labour in the part of the City she represented. Labour numbers in Liverpool. In theory there are 74 Labour members of the Council. There has been one sad death, two resignations, 4 people elected as Labour sit as independents and the Mayor is on gardening leave reducing them to 66.

 Is it a coincidence that she resigned on the same day as the internal labour election deferment or during the course of police and government enquiries? Only she or the Labour Party can tell us but I understand that she isn’t talking publicly. She is, of course, the wife of Cllr Barbecue Barry Kushner who had to stand down from the Cabinet for two months because of his impromptu Party during lockdown. Perhaps he’ll be going shortly as well?

I’ve been out delivering and safely talking to people this morning. I will share your blushes by not divulging the choice comments made by person after person as I went round about Labour in Liverpool and some of their members. Suffice it to say I gave them all the same message. “Don’t get mad, get even!” Let’s make May 6th a day of real change for our much suffering City. Join with us and elect a Lib Dem team which is a great mix of young and old, experienced and inexperienced but keen. Not one of whom has a question over their head relating to honesty, integrity or competence.

UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE

There’s been a whole 24 hours since I wrote this blog so obviously it needs updating!!

The Police are asking for a further bailing of Mayor Anderson and the 4 people arrested with him until August. This is hardly surprising since the first arrests were made in December 2019 and charges have yet to be issued.

Meanwhile the Labour Candidate, Julie Fadden, who was only chosen a month ago and swore undying loyalty to the people of Childwall has announced the withdrawal of her candidacy this morning. When asked why she was going by a well-wisher she replied in a Tweet, since deleted, “not willingly forced to”. Whether this was connected to her announcement the day before that she was supporting Ann  O’Byrne isn’t clear. But then nothing is clear about the internal spasms being had by the Labour Party.

In Childwall the last Cllr is standing down, the candidate who was going to fight the seat last May has gone, Fadden has gone so in less than 10 months Childwall Labour will have had three candidates!!  Mind you I wouldn’t like to take on Pat Moloney who will win the seat against anyone in May. He has a sharp temper when roused!!!   (Only joking – honest)

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When the call comes get your jab!!

Well I had my jab yesterday. When your GP calls please go and get yours. If you don’t a GP there are plenty of places where you can go to get registered.

Yesterday I went and had my first coronavirus inoculation. There are good and bad sides to the story but although I know that for some there is a down side I would still have no hesitation in going.

Why did I go and will go back again when called by the NHS? Well overwhelmingly it was for selfish reasons. I want to say as healthy as possible because if I do that not only am I keeping myself safe but I am also keeping my family and my community safe. I am also reducing potential pressures on our beleaguered NHS. That’s why I have always had my annual flu jab and even do the dreaded bi-annual poo test! If you don’t know what this don’t ask!!

I know I don’t look it (I hope) but I am now 68. So, I’m not in the top priority but when I was called, I went. What saddens me is that 10% of those in the higher priorities have yet to have their first jab. Some of these will have been for logistic reasons but some of these will be anti-vaxxers who either don’t think that the virus really exists or they think that they are endangering themselves by putting poison in their body.

I find such a view preposterous. I am old enough to remember the scourge of polio before a worldwide inoculation process has basically abolished it from the medical problem list. I remember seeing on the telly whole wards of people in iron lungs. Basically, they looked like coffins where all the breathing was done for those in the lungs by mechanical means. Condemned for life to no movement and very little opportunity.

100 years ago, Spanish Flu was rampant globally. It actually originated in the USA! Now flu still comes as a killer for a small number of people, but by and large is under control. That’s because of inoculation.

For arrogant people to ignore the anguish of our hard working and under pressure NHS and the evidence of what’s on the telly and in the media is a disgrace. Why does anyone think that simultaneously very Government in the world chooses to trash their economy and cause wide spread societal problems. It just beggar’s belief.

Anyway, back to yesterday! On Wednesday I got a call from my GP saying that my time had come! I chose a time and date that was suitable and turned up. It was incredibly well organised at the Valley Medical Centre. I had to queue for 10 minutes outside in quite a cold wind, but there was clearly continual movement. At the entrance there was a volunteer to sanitise our hands and more to move us safely around. Greeted at the door also by a receptionist my name was on the list and I was in.

3 minutes later I was in a cubicle where two lovely friendly fourth year medical students took me in hand. My name was on their list as well and we belted through a dozen questions on their screen about allergies etc. The injection didn’t hurt all. In fact, I have to admit that I was talking so much I didn’t notice it!! I was ushered out with an instruction to sit in the car for 15 minutes just to check there was no allergic response.

So far so good. I felt no problem at all until about 7 p.m. when I started feeling a bit under the weather. It still feels like flu but it clearly is passing much more quickly. By 9 p.m. I felt wretched and had a really bad night. Indeed at 14.30 the following day as I write this I have not fully recovered.

BUT not everyone suffers this. Most have no symptoms and less than 10% of the population will have anything more than very mild discomfort. I have let the relevant bit of the NHS know about my symptoms as they need to have all the information we can give them.

Even had I known I would be a bit rough for a few hours I would still have gone. This is my route to freedom. It is our route to freedom. Unless we can suppress the virus, it will suppress us. Do you want to go on holiday? Do you want to go to the pub? Do you want to get your business going again properly? Then we all need to get inoculated but don’t think that it’s a quick thing.

I am not yet able to resist infection. The inoculation I had yesterday is only just creating the resistance systems in my body and which will take about three weeks to achieve full efficacy.  My second jab will take place in about 12 weeks. Three weeks after that the vaccine will have a 92% efficiency. Until then I will behave as if I have had no vaccine.

 In fact, I will behave as if I actually had the virus to make sure that I am keeping everyone around me safe. By the end of May enough of us will have had both vaccines to begin to think of moving to a new normal of society. But the virus will always be with us. We haven’t got rid of the common cold, flu or AIDS. It’s possible that every year now we will have to have a Coronavirus job as those of us who are old already have the flu jab.

When the call comes please go for jab. It’s good for you and it’s good for everyone.

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Steve Rotheram falls for Thatcherite ruse over Freeport bid

Freeports are a Thatcherite idea that failed in the 1980s. They rely on cheap labour, tax incentives and lack of controls. Why is the Labour Mayor of the Liverpool City Region backing one. Use the money instead to create quality, well paying jobs.

I have written today to Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram suggestion that he is currently trying to introduce the failed Thatcherite policies to create jobs that failed in the 1980s.

In my letter I point out, “You are currently supporting proposals for Freeport status for the LCR. You should be aware that this is not a new idea. It was a key Thatcherite plan for economic growth in the 80s and it failed. Thatcher introduced two very similar measures. 6 Freeports were created, one of which was in Liverpool and about 30 Enterprise Zones and Liverpool had one of those.

Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg have supported Brexit because they want a low pay and low standards Country where workers will be exploited. They are happy to introduce these Thatcherite Freeport proposals to our Country. I am surprised that you, as a so-called socialist, have fallen for this Thatcherite ruse!

The only way that Freeports work globally is by a relaxation of workers’ rights and the introduction of companies that either do things that they wish to keep from the taxman for illegitimate reasons. Everyone says at the outset of schemes like this that these things will not happen but inevitably they do because you have eliminated the means to control them”.

I conclude by saying, “The people who want to create good jobs will be looking at Liverpool for a variety of reasons of which low cost provisions are only one. More important to them is accessibility to research, transport and markets and the availability of strong local labour markets”.

I want jobs to come to Liverpool but we need to spend our taxpayer’s money and use our intellectual and other resources to bring to our City Region good quality and well-paying jobs. There is no evidence from more than 50 years of Freeports globally that they succeed in either of these objectives.

The full letter to Mayor Rotheram can be seen here:

Steve Rotheram,

Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region

By Email

Dear Steve,

Re: Liverpool’s bid for Freeport Status

One of the advantages of being a round for a long time is that I can look back on what has worked and hasn’t worked over a long period. In other words, I can learn from history and not repeat the mistakes.

In the 1980s I was both a Councillor and an adviser on economic regeneration. It was a time of tremendous industrial and social change in the UK and nowhere felt that change more than Liverpool.

You are currently supporting proposals for Freeport status for the LCR. You should be aware that this is not a new idea. It was a key Thatcherite plan for economic growth in the 80s and it failed. Thatcher introduced two very similar measures. 6 Freeports were created, one of which was in Liverpool and about 30 Enterprise Zones and Liverpool had one of those. One of the Freeports was an airport in the Midlands.

There were many similarities with what is being proposed today. The fact is that after the 10-year period of their existence they were quietly and unceremoniously dropped. That was because they had failed to make any appreciable difference to the unemployment figures.

Let’s look at what happened:

  • Jobs were created in the Zones by people moving from outside it but still moving locally.
  • Jobs were lost outside the Zones by people who couldn’t afford to move and then couldn’t compete with those that had.
  • Jobs were created in the zones but many of them didn’t stick. I personally oversaw the redevelopment of three factories built for one Company who closed within about 3 years after the capital and revenue incentives had been used up.

Of course, there are beneficiaries of these Zones. The principal ones being the benefits to land owners. As other costs come down landowners put up the cost of land. The net result is that there is very little benefit to those wishing to develop. The land costs can equal or even outweigh the grants and fiscal incentives available.

The only way that Freeports work globally is by a relaxation of workers rights and the introduction of companies that either do things that they wish to keep from the taxman for illegitimate reasons. Everyone says at the outset of schemes like this that these things will not happen but inevitably they do because you have eliminated the means to control them.

Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg have supported Brexit because they want a low pay and low standards Country where workers will be exploited. They are happy to introduce these Thatcherite proposals to our Country. I am surprised that you, as a so-called socialist, have fallen for this Thatcherite ruse!

We need to have jobs that are economically, morally and ecologically sustainable. We need to build up the capacity of our Universities and our leading global players within the private sector. We need to assemble education facilities to provide future and current workers with the skills to apply for high quality and sustainable jobs.

The people who want to create such jobs will be looking at Liverpool for a variety of reasons of which low cost provisions are only one. More important to them is accessibility to research, transport and markets and the availability of strong local labour markets.

I hope that you will consider this letter carefully and look closely at the research into what has gone before. The record is not good for the types of schemes proposed. I would always be happy to talk with you on this. In the meantime, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will continue to fight to bring to our City Region the high quality, high value jobs that our population need.

Keep safe,

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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We must learn from the Brushwood and Millvina fiasco

We must use learning from the Brushwood and Millvina fiasco to set up a new way or working with the families of the elderly and looked at ways in which we can build a community led response to ageing.

When I heard a couple of weeks ago that it looked as though a contract was likely to be signed within days to preserve the future of Brushwood and Millvina Houses I was delighted. I was even more delighted when the news came though publicly about the new contract and I was able to talk to some of the families involved about that decision.

However, although we should be pleased at the decision, I believe it is vital that we review the past 9 months of torture for residents and their families and look at what went wrong. Everyone, definitely including me, makes mistakes. The most important question is, “what do we learn from them to ensure that they do not happen again”.

I have no doubt that these homes would have been closed for their current purpose if there had not been a huge outcry from the families involved and the wider Liverpool community. I attended three of the events outside the Homes and was privileged to be asked to speak at two of them. I was joined by Cllr Kris Brown, Cllr Mirna Juarez and Cllr Barbara Mace. I saw the implacable commitment that the community of relatives had to protect their loved ones. For many of the people who would have been moved would have died very quickly. People with dementia need routine and to be surrounded by familiar people and familiar sites.

I believe that the default position for the Council in these circumstances from the very first day that the contractors told them that they would withdraw from the contract should have been, “How do we keep these residential homes open?” But it wasn’t. Within two days of receiving the news Council spokespersons were on the media saying how the closure would be handled well and in a caring fashion.

Two months of media campaigning later and the situation changed. People like Lyn Staunton and the much loved and missed John Foley simply declared war on the Council who failed to meet the families in a responsible and caring manner. In the end the Mayor sent Cllr Ian Byrne MP with a message to one of the public meetings. “It’s alright there will be no closure”.

I don’t know whether the Council had a plan B for using the buildings for tourism given their locations close to the LFC ground and the airport. I suspect not. I do know, however, that they were looking at other social care uses for the buildings for which we would still need to meet finance, security, maintenance and insurance costs if we kept them closed.

Only after did the announcement did they actually start to do what they should have done from day one and look for another contractor to take over these blocks.

I believe that the Council has made three major mistakes in the way that it has handled the implementation of these issues. I think that the decision to build these blocks and the high specification to which they are being built was exactly the right thing to do. In fact, I used details of the project and some of their graphics in speeches I made as national health spokesperson at the Local Government Association. The speeches started, of course, with me saying, “I know it’s a Labour Council but they are doing absolutely the right thing!”

The first mistake must have been in the original procurement process. How good was it when it came up with a company that had to throw in the towel within 9 months?  Why didn’t we find through the process the companies that came forward over the autumn with a tried and trusted capacity that could deliver to the agreed budget?

Secondly, it looked at the financial costs of making a decision last summer before it looked at the human cost. Money is important. We haven’t got enough of it so we must use what we have got carefully indeed. The human costs of some things are always incalculable. It may be that there was no way to make viable the model that Labour had chosen to use. But closure should have been the very last option to be considered and not the very first.

Lastly, the second of these was compounded by the lack of respect shown to the families of those involved. These were not an inarticulate rabble. They were concerned people who knew the difficulties of decisions that needed to be made and wanted to be part of that process and not brushed aside until they became so powerful that they could no longer be ignored.

So, how do we make sure that similar situations never arise again?

The boring but crucial bit is to ensure that procurement is handled better. The business model of the chosen contractor should have been tested and tested again. Even before that what were the operating models and costings that the Council used when they decided to build the care homes and what were the financial assumptions against which they tested the tenders from the private sector contractors.

Behind that is the greater problem that the Council, and all Councils and he Government now face. How do they plan for a future in which more and more of us will live longer and longer but often with increased mental and physical needs?

I think that we can go some way towards resolving this big issue in Liverpool by establishing a review group led by the people who came forward because they were individual carers to look know from their wider knowledge to look at the needs of all of our elderly population and the people who care for and love them?

I hope that people like Lyn Staunton and the people she worked with will come together to provide permanent challenges to the Council to look properly at the long -term implications of ageing. It’s quite clear that the Council do not have all the answers to the ageing issues. I am absolutely convinced, however, that if it started up a good debate and discussion about these issues with the Liverpool community then better policies and practices will evolve.

In the Brushwood and Millvina action group members we have a strong group of intelligent and thoughtful people with a clear ability to communicate. If they were to take up this challenge of working with the Council, I would be the first person knocking at their door to listen to them.

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Liverpool Lib Dems review our lockdown strategy

They are huge questions to be asked about how our City is to be run. These will only be answered at the May elections if all the facts and solutions are put to the people of the City.

Since the latest lockdown started on January 6th Liverpool Liberal Democrats have stopped all external activity and have moved online with regular online newsletters, phone calling to local residents to check how they are and using social media.

However, today the Government have confirmed that the local elections will go ahead on May 6th despite the requests from Lib Dems locally and nationally to defer the elections until July when they will clearly be safer.

In the light of this ill-considered Government opinion Liverpool Lib Dems  have now reviewed our activities and have agreed that it would still be wrong to engage in any face to face activity which involved meetings, advice centres or knocking on doors. However, we have decided to start delivering newsletters once more on a regular basis.

We are doing this for two clear reasons. Firstly, we believe that it is important to get out to residents our localised information and particularly information about Covid and how it is affecting their area. All sorts of things continue to happen such as planning and licensing applications where we have been unable to adequately inform local people and therefore represent their views.

Many elderly and people on low incomes do not have access either to the Internet or to paid local newspapers. They are therefore not picking up information in the way they can. In places like Wavertree, Aigburth, Liverpool 18 and Childwall and Woolton our Focus newsletter is a trusted source of information throughout the year.

Secondly, although we have clearly called for a delay in the local elections until July and nationally have suggested ways to make the whole of the election process safer the Government are not listening. There will be 4 very important elections taking place on May 6 and we believe it vital that people should be informed about what is happening and what our approach will be to those things.

Liverpool Council is in crisis with a large number of Police investigations into actions within the Council and Government Inspectors looking at almost untold numbers of documents. It is important that the people of Liverpool hear the facts not only from the media but also the one Party in the City that could take control of the Council to end this disreputable behaviour from elected representatives. People deserve to know how we and others would deal with the situation that our Council finds itself in.

In Liverpool the other two opposition Parties supported our call for a deferment. Labour chose not to do so and have made no public statement apart from to suggest that Liverpool Liberal Democrats have been delivering illegally. This was not true.

The Government’s view is clear. It suggests that councillors can deliver as part of their duties, but that we could a pay delivery company or the Royal Mail to deliver the same leaflet on our behalf. Our deliverers will be equipped with PPE and will be far safer than commercial deliveries. In the past three days I have received a leaflet about holidays, an advertising booklet and a pizza shop leaflet through my door. If these can go out why not leaflets giving vital local information?

It is less clear what their advice is about election activity. Clearly if you have an election there must be the opportunity given to engage with the electors.

After consulting with police and public health officials we are satisfied that local activity of this sort is both safe and legal.

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Take action now to regulate property development industry Chancellor urged

The Parliament Residence in the Baltic area where a lot of people seem to have lost a lot of money. We need regulation to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

In a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and the Chair of the Financial Conduct Authority, Charles Randell I have demanded that action be taken to regulate the property development market which he describes as being like, “the Wild West”.

In a letter to them asking them to consider the regulation of various aspects of the property market I said,

“The UK’s reputation as a place to invest has taken a global hit because of property scams which have seen people all over the World lose money in investments where extravagant promises were made and projects abandoned in some cases without a foundation being laid.

I am also copying this to Parliamentarians and asking them to do what they can through an All Party Parliamentary Group or through the Select Committee system to highlight these injustices.

I am ready at any time to assist you in this work should you choose to do as I hope and bring regulation to bear into the this ‘Wild West’ part of the UK’s economy”.

As you know that through what I have done and said on this issue over the past 5 years I believe that the problem has its epicentre in Liverpool and have asked them to regulate this complex industry which many are trying to use for pensions and other long-term investments.

I have also asked MPs and Peers from all Parties to take action through the use of Select Committees and the development of an All-Party Parliamentary Group to take action on behalf of the thousands of people who have lost between £1 and £2 billion and possibly more.

The full letter is attached here:

Charles Randell,

Chair,

Financial Conduct Authority,

12, Endeavour Square,

London E20 1JN

2nd February 2021

Dear Sir,

Re: Investment in properties using property bonds, fractional investment and similar devices.

Attached to this letter please find an article form our local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, which shows the serious losses made by on investor in Liverpool’s murky property scene. I put Mr Hopkisson in touch with the Echo because I wanted to show the human cost of the investments which have failed so miserably. I could have put hundreds of similar cases before you from people from all over the World who have lost their hard-earned savings because they have entered into a market which they assumed to be operating transparently and lawfully and found quite the reverse.

I don’t know how much has been lost in Liverpool because there are two lots of losses:

Firstly, from people whose block was never completed or part completed. The report attached from the City Council showed that in mid-November there were 39 stalled developments in the City involving up to 7,500 separate apartments. Some of those may be completed most will not.

Secondly, those in blocks that have been part completed or completed where original investors had had their investments scraped off by preferential creditors who have acquired the blocks or in some cases hotels, where the blocks need completing or where debts were so high that new money had to be brought in.

In this latter set of cases, and every block and development is different, the original developer or a developer that acquired the block as preferential creditors are contacting original investors to demand a reduction the value of their completed property to accrue profit to that developer.

In most cases this has meant not only is all or part of the original capital been lost but so has the lucrative guarantees of income which have not been lived up to.

You may think that this is political hyperbole from a local politician but you should be aware of two enquiries into this matter:

Firstly, The Police launched ‘Operation Aloft’ into the work of the regeneration department of the Council and those preferred developers it was working with. So far 12 arrests have been made have been made of politicians, developers, contractors and staff although I would stress that none have yet been charged. This operation is ongoing.

Secondly, a Government Inspection Team led by Max Caller, has been put into the Council on the instructions of The Secretary of State at MHCLG. This inspection is looking in fine detail into the work of the Council’s regeneration department over the past decade.

However, it seems quite likely that a low estimate of the amount of money that has gone missing, been misapplied, lost or wasted would be between £1 billion and £2billion in Liverpool alone.

Clearly, there is interaction between the two enquiries. Liverpool is without a doubt the epicentre of this activity but reports from the Panorama Programme, Granada, BBC North West, Guardian, Times and Daily Mail have shown that this is a problem nationwide.

It has occurred because of a lack of regulation over this work from a number of bodies:

  • Solicitors, recommended by the Developer have acted for both side of the purchase
  • Surveyors have provided artificially high values
  • Estate Agents, especially London based ones, have misled buyers about the Market
  • Developers have moved money from one scheme toa another is a clear Ponzi style set of actions in which the first buyers get something and the last buyers lose the lot!

The Council wittingly or unwittingly have given credence to the market especially in the Far East where Governments such as Singapore and Hong Kong have looked askance at the money lost to their citizens by ‘Liverpool Investments.’

My belief is that as these developments have been sold for investment and in many cases recommended as investments for old age they need to be regulated.

People need to be able to have confidence that when they invest in a development there has been official oversight of the way that the development has been planned and carried out.

So, I am now asking the Financial Conduct Authority to step up to the crease and look urgently into ways these types of trading activities can be regulated. The view pertains in many parts of the world and indeed in this Country that the UK is an honourable place to do business. Regrettably, many people now know differently!

The Government should look I to great detail about the way that false promises about investment opportunities are causing global concern about UK investment generally with different types of problems emerging in parts of central London where property values are declining faster anywhere else in the UK.

I am hoping to persuade MPs and Peers to establish an All Party Parliamentary Group to look at these issues and for the relevant Select Committees to look again at what has happened, especially as the two afore mention investigations come to fruition and begin to give hard facts about what has and is happening in Liverpool and elsewhere.

I would of course be pleased to give further information to you in support of this suggestion.

Thousands of people globally have lost money because of a variety of property-based scams. It is now time to act on what has happened, bring the guilty to justice and to ensure that this type of behaviour cannot be repeated.

I look forward to hearing from you that you intend to take up this issue with the vigour that I believe is necessary.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Lib Dem Leader,

Liverpool City Council

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Silence should be golden in Liverpool at the moment

Only time will tell how many cases in connection with activities in Liverpool’s regeneration department will end up here in the Crown Court but please be patient. Lots of things are happening which will come to fruition soon. Remember no-one has yet been charged with anything and enquiries are proceeding.

I know that many people, including me, are getting frustrated at the length of time enquiries into the work of Liverpool’s regeneration department are taking at the moment. I get loads of emails almost every day telling me of new things to be investigated and telling me I should be doing more publicly to expose what has happened.

My answer to those understandable requests is to urge patience. Liverpool Council is unique at the moment – in fact its unique in modern times – in having two enquiries going onto into what politicians and officers have done in the past as well as the present.

Ongoing now since the summer of 2019 is the police investigation. This investigation is huge going back over thousands of transactions, thousands of meetings and looking at things some of which are on the public record and some of which are not but should be. There have already been 12 arrests of 11 people in connections with this. I strongly suspect that there are more to come.

At the same time the Government Inspection team are in the Cunard. Max Caller is a seasoned professional and he leads a team which is well used to examining bad practice inside councils. It was Max and his team who got to the bottom of crises in both Northamptonshire and Nottingham councils.

Max and his team have some thing that the Police don’t have, and this is not a criticism. They understand how local government works. I have done very similar work to this when I was an Inspector for the Audit Commission. I joined teams in some of the most problematic councils in the Country and made proposals for change. However, I was never in a team that worked alongside the Police who were looking at criminal activities.

I can only assume that there is some element of cooperation between these two investigations. If I had been up to shady practice within the Council either as a politician or an officer, I would be very worried about this. This investigation team are seeing huge numbers of people and are looking at mountains of documents. The ability of Max Caller to absorb information is legendary. I suspect that this research will add hugely to the efforts of the Police.

There is an end game to all this. We know that the results of the Caller investigation will be made public by the end of March. Unlike other reports and reviews this will not be discussed with the Council but issued publicly as a report to the Secretary of State with the Council being copied into it. I strongly suspect that the team will insist on an ongoing presence within the Council. This, on the officer side, will largely be to supplement and support the good work started by the Chief Executive.

On the officer side this will be more problematical. At the last Council meeting I suggested some changes to our scrutiny, performance management and role and actions of councillors. Labour voted them down in favour of an anodyne motion which basically went on in Liverpool Labour’s typical la-la land fashion to say that every was either good or being done. I warned at the Council meeting that if they did not vote for the Lib Dem motion and its changes then it would end up dealing with them at the Annual Meeting of the Council.

Change is on its way and Labour will be forced kicking and screaming into it. Incidentally, if I was a Labour Member in Liverpool, I would think very carefully of who might be in the sights of the Inspector or the Police in this set of investigations. It would be tragic for Liverpool to have an election for a Mayor and then a bye-election for another one soon after!

Alongside all this the Council is going through its own processes of looking at the culpability of staff and there will perhaps be some action on this front relatively soon.

My role in this is threefold. Firstly, to provide information into the two investigations and add to their efforts. You might have seen a big article in the Echo recently about some of the people affected by the Fractional Investment scam. That article happened because I introduced the people concerned to Liam Thorp. It is vital at the moment that we hear the human story because what has happened in Liverpool are not victimless crimes but crimes in which people have lost their savings and the money they were keeping back for a pension.

Secondly, I am also working with parliamentarians of both the Commons and Lords to try and get national action on the property scams which have taken place here. We might not be able to get compensation for what has gone wrong but we might be able to ensure that those who indulge in their reckless development activity are in future regulated and exposed.

Lastly, I am continuing to push new information into the investigations. I have been able to look at a number of things recently in terms of the investment practices of the Council and have been able to take action myself and get the actions looked at by people who have powers that I don’t.

But I am being very, very careful about what I say publicly. If some things are made too public at the moment it could affect not only the investigations with people being able to try and cover things up but could well affect future trials. If you want justice to be done then the old saying, “least said, soonest mended” comes to mind.

I have no doubt that my patience and yours will soon be rewarded. Since 2015 Lib Dems have bashed away at the fractional investment scandal whilst our Labour led Council did nothing. We shone a light at the ‘invest to save projects’ which became ‘invest to lose projects’. We championed those that were losing out because of poor Labour thinking like the market traders at St John’s Market and the carers and residents of Brushwood and Millvina Homes.

But we can wait just a little longer because justice will soon be done, our work will be exonerated, bad practices will be exposed and changed and a proper judicial process will take place to either clear or convict people who currently have been arrested but not charged.

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Reach PLC survey shows most people support most lockdown measures

Yesterday I got a very interesting email from Reach PLC the owner of the Echo, Mirror and a host of other local and national newspapers. A couple of weeks ago I filled an online survey about lockdown. I assume thousands of others must have done but the report back from Reach PLC did not say how many.

What this survey did show, however, was the huge support from within the UK community for most of the lockdown rules and regulations. Yes, I know these are irksome. I really want to go for a pint and have all my freedoms back just as you do all do. But more important to all that for most people is the knowledge that we can’t have anything like a normal life until we have beaten the virus or at least got it under control.

It is possible that like flu or the common cold we will never beat Covid-19. Perhaps we will have to have an annual Covid vaccine alongside an annual flu jab as we get older. In the short term, however, we can reduce infections now and keep the NHS operative until enough of us have been inoculated to give us wide-scale community protection.

I am proud of my City of Liverpool as we have responded together to the problems. We went for testing in the first mass testing project in the UK. There has been a high level of mask wearing, distance keeping and other basic health precautions like washing out hands. The anti- vaxers have had little traction with local people when they came up with their rumours and said things like, “the vaccines have a microchip in them”.

Our infection rates at 473 per 100,000 population a week are less that half the 1020 which were the levels at its peak. We must not be complacent as there is still a long way to go.

Our City has done its best as a community to look after the food needs of children and those on low pay. It has tried to ensure that people have not been lonely or depressed. Our Council has worked well both with targeting action to specific parts of the City were there were and stubborn rates of infection. The Council also very quickly got grants out to local businesses to give them heart and hope during the lockdowns which have particularly hit hard at the hospitality, leisure and specialist retail sectors.

Any way these are the figures that Reach PLC reported. It was a great effort to do this and I suspect that there was an added benefit from people thinking through some of the issues for the first time. I don’t like all the answers. Although I haven’t and wouldn’t break the law, I would be in a minority on two of the issues!

The responses to REACH

The vast majority of you felt the current lockdown was needed, although 13% did not agree. There was a little less support for shutting schools, with 20% not backing the return to virtual lessons. When it came to exams, 78% said this summer’s tests should be cancelled. 

On other aspects of the lockdown: 

  • 53% disagreed with nurseries staying open, with 33% backing the decision
  • 86% agreed with university students being told to stay put
  • 68% backed an individual being allowed to meet one other person for exercise but 28% disagreed
  • 70% agreed outdoor pools and gyms should shut
  • 65% backed the ban on pubs serving takeaway pints but 31% disagreed
  • 59% disagreed with elite sport continuing, with 33% backing it
  • 74% agreed weddings should only be allowed in exceptional circumstances
  • 74% agreed funerals should continue with up to 30 people
  • 39% backed places of worship being allowed to continue to hold services, but 53% disagreed
  • 60% backed parks and playgrounds staying open and other outdoor attractions shutting, but 36% disagreed
  • When it comes to people who break the rules, 44% thought a £200 fine for a first offence was about right, with 23% saying it was too much and 33% not enough.

What do you think of these questions and how are you adapting to lockdown to have a good life but keeping to the rules?

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