Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The laying of a wreath at Gladstone's statue on the 200th anniversary of his birth

A goodly crowd gathered in the garden's of St George's Hall Liverpool to see the deputy Lord Mayor lay a wreath at the statue of Gladstone to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth in the city. Lib Dem cabinet member Gary Millar was master of ceremonies. He is pictured above with a bust of Gladstone which is part of the new exhibition in the Gladstone Gallery in the Hall which is there for the next 3 months
The event was organised with St Deniol's library and they have learnt material for the new exhibition. Three talks followed the wreath laying-mercifully in doors as it was mightily cold. We learnt all about Gladstone's childhood in that paradise that was Litherland and a stout defence of Gladstone's actions in the Sudan concerning General Gordon (see the earlier posting)

200 years since Gladstone's birth

It is Gladstone's birthday and certainly in this part of the world it is being well marked. Gladstone was born in Liverpool-indeed in the next street to where I am sitting now. He went on to try to be an MP for South Lancashire which included Southport and Birkdale. You can read more about that on our website where you can access an online copy of Micheal Brahams's excellent history of the 'First 100 years of Southport Liberals'
The BBC did an excellent Radio Four programme direct from St Deniol's Library- Gladstone's residential memorial library. I have visited St Deniol's several times for conference-none of them Liberal ones! Under the present Warden it has become a very welcoming place and the Library is fascinating especially to those interested in Gladstone, victorian studies , Liberalism or theology. The building is a Victorian mock gothic gem. As you enter it there is a display of Gladstonian artefact donated by one Eric Flounders.
Regretably the Liberal Party contribution to the Radio Four programme was from David Steel. He was never a man for the detail-witness (amonst other examples)his major cock up over the 'dead parrot' policy statement. If he had spent as much energy and effort on checking that document as he spent preventing the policy committee and others getting a sight of it until after it was publish life may have been better. Well on this occaison despite being in Gladstone's Library he was easily outclassed in his knowledge and understanding of the Grand Old Man by both Andrew Adonis and David Willets. Sad. Surely there were other better qualified folk.....For his New Year reading the chapter on General Gordon in Roy Jenkin's biog may cause him to revise his opinion that Gladstone's policy in the Sudan and Egypt was a 'mistake'.
Anyway, I'm off to the wreath laying ceremony in Liverpool in my lunch hour. The invitation reads:
International statesmen, political reformer, 3 times Chancellor of the Exchequer and 4 times British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone was born in Rodney Street, Liverpool on 29th December 1809. Liverpool City Council, the Gladstone family, local historians Steve Binns, Brenda Murray and Frank Carlyle, plus St Deiniol's Library and the Flintshire Record Office have all contributed to help us celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the “Grand Old Man’s” birth. Please join the city’s celebrations at St George’s Hall on 29th December 2009 from 12pm to 3.30.
Please come to all 3 of the events below or whichever ones suit your busy diaries.

29th December 2009: -

12pm – 1pm : Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Gladstone Memorial at St John’s Gardens at St John’s Gardens, St Georges Hall
This hour includes teas & coffee in St Georges Hall

1pm : Gladstone Exhibition
Launch of Gladstone Exhibition, Concert Hall
The Gladstone Exhibition is in the Gladstone Gallery, St Georges Hall from 29th Dec – 7th March 2009

Gladstone Lectures
Concert Hall

1.30 – 3.30pm
* Brenda Murray
* Steve Binns
* Frank Carlyle

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Kew Ward Christmas

Kew had a great time at their christmas party last week. A few of the not so shy one agreed to have the photo taken

Monday, 14 December 2009

Temporary Library Costs “Unbelievable”

Major concerns about the costs quoted for relocating Southport Library into the Market Hall have really begun to concern me.

I told the press this week:, 'Conservative and Labour councillors have been claiming the cost of the temporary relocation would be £500,000 – which they say is not affordable.'

However I believe that the true cost is likely to be very much lower.

“We have thoroughly checked the figures and reckon that the net cost of the temporary relocation is likely to be in the range NIL to £100,000 - nowhere near the £500,000 claimed,”

“Some of the costs have been unbelievable. For example, there is a figure of £25,000 for ‘Kitchen Ventilation’. This is for a small temporary kitchen with facilities for the library staff to make a cup of tea, or heat some lunch in a microwave.”

“The other key issue is that there will be savings while the current Southport Library is shut for 2 ½ to 3 years. Those savings should be set against the relocation costs.”

“From Council figures we have obtained, we reckon there are savings of around £70,000 a year, on such things as building repairs, insurance, rates and suchlike. Over the period of closure that is something like £170,000 to £200,000 saved.”

“What we clearly have is a situation where certain other politicians are trying to make the cost as high as possible as an excuse not to provide a temporary town centre library.”

“We have 7,000 residents so far who have signed our petition to say that they think those politicians are wrong.”

If you want to see the details follow the links to our website on the left and then go to the download button.

(A, B &C) was sent on 6 November 2009 (a week before the key Cabinet meeting) by Council officers to all Cabinet members and all Southport councillors. This e-mail gave details of the estimated costs required and the amount retrievable against the planned Market Hall refurbishment. These were:

Gross costs for temporary Library £471,000
Less Retrievable against Market Hall refurbishment £101,000
Total net cost of temporary Library in Market Hall £370,000

Even the £370,000 seems overstated. Within that total, the biggest item by far is £183,600 + 10% Contingency + 15% Design Fees = £229,500 for “Upgrading lighting levels, ventilation and heating” (so-called M&E Works). Supposedly none of this £229,500 of spending would be retrievable/reusable in the long-term Market Hall refurbishment. We find that very difficult to believe.

Late last Wednesday (9 December 2009), and following a request to Council officers, we received certain information (D) which casts even more doubts on the figures within that £370,000. Some of the costings we obtained look to be way over the top, for example within the £229,500 M&E Works are the following:

Toilet Ventilation £10,000
Ventilation High Level £30,000
Kitchen Supply/Extract Ventilation £25,000

(Note that the kitchen referred to will be modest facilities for library staff to make a cup of tea, or heat some lunch in a microwave.)

In addition local Lib Dem councillors have looked at what savings there might be from the 2 ½ to 3 year closure of the current Lord Street Library. We managed to obtain details (E) of the costs incurred in 2008/09 and charged against Southport Library in Sefton Council’s accounts. Some of that spending would not take place during the Library closure and, we believe, could be set against the costs of the temporary relocation of the library. The most obvious examples are:

General Building Repairs £ 6,411
Environmental Sewerage £ 4,744
General Rates £15,015
Insurance – Premises £34,400
Building Cleaning £10,700

These costs alone total over £70,000 for one year. Over the 2 ½ to 3 years of the closure, the total saving would be of the order of £170,000 to £200,000.

To summarise:
According to Council Officers the “non-retrievable” net cost of works necessary to allow the Library to temporarily relocate to the Market Hall is £370,000, not £500,000 as some local politicians have bandied around.
Lib Dem councillors even have serious doubts about the figure of £370,000. It is claimed that none of the £229,500 within this total for “Upgrading lighting levels, ventilation and heating” is reusable in the Market Hall refurbishment. We find this unbelievable.
Even if none of those costs were “retrievable”, then some of the estimates still appear grossly excessive, for example £65,000 for ventilation including £25,000 for “Kitchen Supply/Extract Ventilation”.
Closure of the current Library leads to cost savings which can be set against the Market Hall temporary conversion costs. Over the period of closure those savings could amount to £170,000 to £200,000.
Taken together, we believe that the net cost is likely to be in the range NIL to £100,000.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Library Petition Campaign gains over 1500 signatures in three hours

Saturday’s three hour session in Chapel Street gained a massive 1574 signatures – well in excess of our target of 1000. Together with the 5443 already collected, this now means that 7017 people have signed the “Southport Needs a Town Centre Library” Petition.

As readers may be aware from earlier posts this week, the 5443 signatures collected by Wednesday were presented to that evening’s meeting of Sefton Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

It was at that meeting that a call (led by my colleague, Birkdale Lib Dem councillor Richard Hands) for the issue to be referred back to the ruling Cabinet was turned down by the Conservative and Labour councillors on the Committee.

From the amazing response on Saturday, it is very clear that the people of Southport have not given up in the fight. We found that people were genuinely angry at the refusal of the other two parties on the Council to reconsider.

At one stage people were queuing up to sign and it was clear we would run out of petition forms so we had to dash away and photocopy an extra supply.

As the decision currently stands, it means that Southport town centre would be without a library for nearly 3 years from around March 2010. The last chance to try and change this will come in early January, so we are certainly not letting up in our campaign.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Call for 1000 more signatures on Library Petition

Campaigners for the use of Southport Market Hall as a temporary home for Southport’s Library are aiming to collect 1000 more signatures on their petition this Saturday (12th December).

They will be out again in the centre of Chapel Street from 11.30 to 2.30 seeking to add to the 5443 signatures they have collected so far, but which were clearly not enough to persuade this week’s meeting of Sefton’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee to refer the matter back the Council’ ruling Cabinet.

Birkdale Lib Dem Councillor Richard Hands (pictured to rear on left) is one of those behind the Campaign and he says that people are angry.

“When we took the petition of over 5400 names to Wednesday’s meeting we had high hopes that councillors from the other two parties would listen to what people were saying,” said Richard.

“It is not just library users and residents who are angry about not having a town centre library for the next 3 years. We also had representations from the overwhelming majority of market traders who said that they strongly supported the idea of a ‘Library within a Market’. Despite this, and all the evidence that Cabinet members had not been aware of the full facts, the Conservative and Labour majority had their way again.”

“If 5443 signatures are not enough, then we will just have to collect some more. Our final chance to try and overturn this wrong decision is in early January, which is why we will be out again tomorrow, collecting more signatures.”

“We will be in the centre of Chapel Street on Saturday from 11.30 to 2.30, and look forward to seeing other residents who want to sign.”

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Hilda Ogden-well actress Jean Alexander-supports petition as public voice anger over Southport Library “snub”

Birkdale’s Councillor Richard Hands led an effort on Wednesday night at Southport Town Hall to get the issue of a temporary library referred back to Sefton’s ruling Cabinet. However Conservative and Labour members combined to defeat the Liberal Democrat move.

Richard, together with fellow Lib Dem Councillors David Sumner and Mike Booth, called for the unoccupied part of Southport Market Hall to be used as a temporary library while the £15 million Southport Cultural Centre project is carried out over the next 3 years.

A petition with 5443 signatures on it was presented to the meeting, but was not enough to persuade Conservatives and Labour on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to have a change of heart.

Even the appearance of Southport resident, Jean Alexander (Coronation Street’s Hilda Ogden, pictured at Southport Town Hall with Councillor Lord Ronnie Fearn) was not enough to win the day. As a keen library-user, she told councillors why she was opposed to the idea of Southport having to do without of a town centre library for the next 3 years.

Richard has condemned the decision: “This is a clear snub, both to the 5400 people who have signed our petition so far, but also to the market traders who strongly support the idea and many of whom were there on Wednesday night.”

“If only the Southport councillors from the other parties had backed this call, the issue would already be on its way back to Cabinet to be looked at again.”

“Members of the public who attended the meeting have said very clearly that they thought we won the argument, but that councillors from the Labour and Conservative parties had arrived with their minds made up. They are very angry about the way that some councillors are just not listening to the public on this issue.”

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

impact of smaller state and why blogs are for recipes

I have noted before that our local Tory leadership does not score highly on policy. In contrast some of those on what they call the 'naughty step' are conspicuous for the grasp of the current debates and the implications for local authorities.

I was pondering this today sitting on a train. Someone had discarded an unread copy of the Daily Telegraph. I don't know whether this was out of disgust or forgetfulness. One of the comment pieces asserted that 50yrs ago we opted to be a high tax country and that now we have an opportunity to reverse that and become a Texas like low tax country.

Clearly Cameron's speeches in recent months have a similar theme and philosophically many Tories have never had much truck with the post 1945 settlement. In recent years Labour too has ditched the idea of a redistribution of wealth often leaving Vince Cable as the lonely advocate of that policy objective.

Now how does all this play out locally. We were sat in the public session of cabinet the other week with the Trade Unions in the public seats. They had presented a series of suggestions designed to achieve budget reductions without compulsory redundancies. That is a perfectly proper line for a Trade Union to take. What was interesting was the Tory response. No talk of dramatically reducing the state instead the now familiar line. Nobody wants redundancies, we all agree it would be best if we could avoid them. The line was not as blatant as in the debate on the post office privatisation/modernisation debate we had when the Tory PPC explicitly announced that there should be NO redundancies. I'm sure that would be news to George Osbourne. As usual we go an out pouring of empathy. The strategy seems to be that the softer and fluffier they are the better. It is as if a decree has be sent out: don't mention politics or policy but hug and stroke as many people as you can meet, don't use you blog to explain policy -publish recipes instead!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Attack on Ronnie Fearn rebounds

Attacking Ronnie is seldom a good move. Our Tory candidate appears not to have learned that lesson...............

Last week’s letter from Councillor Porter attacking Councillor Lord Ronnie Fearn is typical of what people have come to expect from politicians. That is to divert blame from oneself by attacking others.

What she conveniently fails to mention in her letter is that Lord Fearn, as Cabinet Member for Leisure Services, resolved in July 2009 that “the temporary closure of Southport Library be agreed on the basis that the Leisure Director make continued efforts to find a suitable town centre location for the library prior to closure.” The minutes clearly show that. Perhaps Councillor Porter failed to read them.

The simple fact is that Councillor Porter is the only Southport councillor who voted against providing a temporary town centre library. The voting was so close that had she voted in favour we would now have agreement on using the Market Hall for the near three year closure of our town centre library.

In her letter Councillor Porter claims that to use the (currently vacant) rear of the Market Hall would cost “£500,000 with only £50,000 retrievable as part of their planned refurbishment.” Wrong! All Southport councillors were sent an e-mail on 6 November advising us very clearly that the estimate from officers was a cost of £471,000 with £101,000 retrievable, i.e. a net cost of £370,000. Perhaps Councillor Porter failed to read that e-mail.

Even the figure of £370,000 may well be an over-estimate. For example £230,000 of that total relates to “the heating and lighting requirements of the temporary library”. It is claimed that none of that expenditure is retrievable in the Market Hall refurbishment project. Is that really credible?

For Councillor Porter to suggest, yet again, that the Borough’s mobile library is a solution to the needs of Southport town centre shows how out of touch she is.

Library petition-enormous response

The backlash against the daft decision to leave Southport without a central Library for 3 years was been enormous. Well over 4000 have now signed up.
Despite having been told that it would not be able to 'recall' this decision the Chair of the relevant committee has over ruled this and we are all set for a meeting tomorrow evening in Southport Town Hall.
My colleague Richard Hands who triggered the review is going to speak and we are hopeful it will find itself back at cabinet. The voting on the cabinet is interesting. If all the Southport Councillors stick together the decision will be changed.

Tory U turn on Regional quango

About the one polices that our local Tories have grasped is 'anti regionalism' and 'anti quango'. It comes a particular delight to read about Caroline Spellman-the Tory front bencher-announce a U turn on that Regional Quango our Tories particularly love to loath, Regional Development Agencies. I can almost hear Mrs Parry stridently assert how how come the General election this will be the first quango to be slaughtered. Now she will have to get to grips with another policy...................................

Monday, 7 December 2009

Tories give up

I'm one of those people who never think elections are won until the votes are counted and the returning officer has declared. Nevertheless it is a boost to read the Times this morning relating that the Tories are effectively withdrawing from from a number of seats including Cheadle. Lucky Mark Hunter-although I'm sure that he will not give up working hard. There seems to be continuing evidence that the Tory vote in the North is not strengthening in the way it is in some places further south. I suspect that the truth is that in some key constituencies they will not vote Tory no matter how many millions of Ashcroft's money is spent.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Offensive jokes and how I've failed to respond

Offensive jokes are a lot less frequent than they used to be in my youth when open racist and homophobia stories were the norm. They still exits. I've written before how Ann and Nicholas Winterton, the disgraced Cheshire MP's, have behaved. You will recall that Michael Howard felt compelled to dismiss Mrs Winterton from the shadow cabinet for telling a very sick racist joke.

When I was PPC for Congelton in the 87/91 General elections I dealt with their offensive behavior at civic events by not joining in any laughter and not hiding my obvious discomfort. This usually brought forth a lot of 'tutting'. Their 'hangers on' clearly thought my reaction rude and for them rudeness was the greater crime. I still feel ashamed that I did not find an appropriate and effective way of challenging them

I was brought up short recently when I found myself feeling exceedingly uncomfortable in the presence of someone -who believed themselves to be a grand personage- starting to telling a story every bit as offensive as the Wintertons. This story poked fun at people with a mental health problem. It was presented as an example of 'scouse wit'. The teller clearly had no inkling that her crass tale could possibly cause offense. She either assumed we all shared her prejudice or felt that those suffering from mental ill health were fair game. I did not laugh nor hide my discomfort. Again I left feeling annoyed that I had not dealt with it better. I was lost in my own reflections on the matter when after the event one of the other people at the table came up to me and shared her discomfort. I was not alone. She was clearly as annoyed as I was. We had both held back from confronting the person.

I must find a better way of dealing with these events-no matter how important the person thinks they are...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Southport Library petition

The petition form can be found here . We have had an amazing response. It is important that we continue our efforts to get a really big total. It has been heart warming to see so many people wanting to sign up. Volunteers were out the main Library yesterday despite the cruel wind and got an excellent response. Full detail about the petition can be found by following the link above

Monday, 16 November 2009

Madness and the tram

Some politicians get so fixated on one particular project that they fail to see a bigger picture. For some it is a particular plan for retail development for others it is the tram. Tony Robertson speaks for most people when he calls the most recent rouse to revive the tram project as madness

Police investigate another explosion in Birkdale

I recieved the following message from the police on Friday which, I hope answers the queries that have been raised with me:

Dear Councillor
I write to keep you informed of an incident, which occurred on the evening of Friday 13th November 2009.
At 1826hrs a call was received reporting an explosion having occurred in Selworthy Rd, Birkdale.
Upon arrival the home address of John Ball has been subject of damage. It is unknown how the damage has been caused but early indications would suggest that this damage has been caused by an explosive device.
This incident is a targeted attack and forms part of a series of incidents at this location.
The matter is currently under investigation and the area currently remains sealed off whilst evidence is recovered.
An extensive disruption plan has been introduced and as such residents will note an increased presence of police officers both at the scene and in the immediate area.
I find it difficult to offer words of reassurance to the local community given the recent events. What I can state is that all previous incidents were also targeted attacks at one specific house in Selworthy Rd. No other damage to property has been caused and no persons have been injured as a result of this and previous incidents.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Comments from online petition

We have been amazed at the response to our petition to save the Southport Library. On this occasion we have run an online petition to compliment the paper one. This has given people the opportunity to add comments. I produce below a selection:

Many people come from overseas each year (mainly from USA & Canada) to do local and family history at the library. Only this week a man came from Bristol to do research in the library and photograph local documents for that reason. How will this reflect if people come here and records are unaccessible?Putting the documents into storage will cost how much? Much better to store them in plain sight in the Market Hall where they can be viewed.


Although I live in Scotland, my father still lives in Southport and uses the town library. He cannot get to the peripheral libraries as he is 88 years old and can't drive any more so is reliant on the bus service. I am a family historian and use the research facilities when I come to town. I believe that the decision to close the library for 3 years for refurbishment, without a temporary facility, is untenable.Thank youPauline

Keep the library in Southport. It is part of the town and heritage. There are people in the town who rely on the library
as they cannot travel to Ainsdale or Birkdale

There must be a Library in the town centre, if an alternative is not found the original must be kept open until one is.

I think that a town the size of southport to be without a town centre library for 3 yrs is deplorable.Apart from the residents who use it for books cd,s dvd,s etc,were are students or anyone for that matter supposed to go to get reference to any given subject they require.The back of the indoor market is the only logical place in my opinion.
David P

After signing the petition Doreen wrote:

The stallholders have been treated very badly, they deserve better treatment

I cannot believe that some petty stupid lab+con which put them together sums them up perfectly have veto d a fantastic idea for a temp library whilst giving the market a much needed boost they obviously dont care about the people who elected them and should be warned that sooner rather than later we will teach them a proper lesson
rant over
mari ann

Friday, 13 November 2009

a series of curious incidents

When I arrived at Cabinet yesterday for the important debate about Southport Library I encountered a number of unfortunate incidences.

  • Why were we meeting in Bootle?

There was only one real issue on the agenda-Southport Library and this was a special meeting called to decide on that matter. It was not a scheduled meeting. Why wasn't in held in Southport where local people could have attended. I venture to suggest that the decision may have been different

  • Why were the normal democratic safeguards waived?

Decisions made by cabinet can be 'recalled' by other councillors if they think cabinet has got it wrong or feel that not all the information was available. This process was waived on this item

  • The request to waive the 'recall' was presented in the name of the Leader of the Council

Politely but unequivocally the Leader, Cllr Robertson, made it clear that he knew nothing at all about this request and had not sanctioned it

  • Speed was the reason given for waiving the recall 'procedure'

This is not true. In the debate that followed my challenge to this manoeuvre the Labour Leader, Cllr Dowd, readily agreed with me that though there were matters of urgency concerning agreeing the Cultural Centre redevelopment(the money has to be spent against a tight timetable or we loose it) those considerations of urgency did not apply to the idea of a temporary Library

  • Why did the officers report say that there was not a consensus amongst the Southport Councillors?

Southport has 21 councillors. Two thirds of them have declared in favour of the temporary Library going to the market hall. As Mrs Parry (The Tory Leader) helpfully explained during the public session of yesterday's cabinet meeting (Councillor Tattersall no doubt has a verbatim note) there was an informal briefing to Southport councillors after that meeting the Chair asked if they wanted to vote to pass on their views to cabinet. Of those present 12 voted for the temporary Library and one against. The others dithered and did not vote.

How the officers turned that into 'Southport Councillors not having a consensus' is beyond my comprehension. But I think it is revealing. It's the sort of moment when if Freud had been present he would have sat back in his chair, pushed his spectacles up his nose and steepled his fingers together.....

  • Why was there no money set aside in the original plan for a temporary Library?

I now discover that the circa £200 000 or what ever the revenue costs are for the existing Cultural centre complex has been set aside to maintain the Arts programme at or venues ie Crosby Civic Hall. Not a lot of use to Southport, why was none of this earmarked for an adequate temporary facility?


online petition launched to save library


Southport’s town centre Library will have to shut for nearly 3 years from early 2010 while much-needed refurbishment work is undertaken on the Arts Centre and Library complex (the £15 million “Southport Cultural Centre” project).

Sefton Council’s ruling Cabinet considered this matter at a meeting held in Bootle on Thursday 12th November. By a narrow 6 – 4 margin it turned down a proposal put forward by the Liberal Democrats to relocate Southport Library to the currently vacant space at the rear of Southport Market Hall during the 3 years of building work. 3 Labour councillors and 3 Conservative councillors voted against having a temporary Library, while the 4 Liberal Democrats voted in favour.

Accordingly, Southport will have no town centre Library for the next 3 years.


We, the undersigned:

1. Believe that Southport cannot do without a town centre Library.

2. Call on Sefton Council to locate a temporary Library in the vacant space at the rear of the Southport Market Hall.

Believe that this would benefit library-users, and also market traders due to the extra 150,000 to 300,000 visits a year which there would be to “Southport’s Library within a Market”.

sign here

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Anger over Library decision-no Southport Library for up to 3 years

Sefton Council’s ruling Cabinet has thrown out throw a proposal to relocate Southport’s town centre library to the currently vacant space at the rear of Southport Market Hall during the 3 years of work on the Arts Centre and Library buildings.

The decision of the Labour and Conservative majority on the Cabinet has been condemned as “disastrous” by Liberal Democrats on the Council.

Despite being the largest party on Sefton Council the Liberal Democrats were outvoted by 6 (3 Tory/3 lab)to 4 at Thursday’s (12th November) held at Bootle Town Hall.

Work on the £15 million Southport Cultural Centre project means that Southport’s town centre library will close for 3 years while vital refurbishment work is carried out on the Arts Centre and Library complex.

Lib Dem Councillor Brodie Browne condemned the decision of the two other parties.

“This is bad news for the library users of Southport and bad news for the market traders,” he said

“Having looked at all the potential site in Southport’s town centre, it was clear to us that the only sensible option was to use vacant space towards the rear of Southport’s Market Hall.”

“As reported in the Visiter in recent weeks (e.g. Southport Visiter of Friday 30th October) there was widespread support for our preferred option. With the prospect of an extra *150,000 visits a year to ‘Southport’s library within a market’ it is hardly surprising that market traders have welcomed the idea wholeheartedly.”
“The decision of the Labour/Conservative majority on the Cabinet is disastrous for the people of Southport.”

Sign the online petition here

democracy-'it's only numbers'

I am indebted to my colleague Cllr Tatersall for the report below on a bit of this morning's cabinet meeting. David is a trained journalist-good (Pitman) shorthand and takes an excellent verbatim quote down accurately. I mention this only because we have a certain councillor who has been known to insist that minutes of meetings are changed because they didn't say xxxx. Tiresome when many of us were so gobsmacked at the time we are unlikely to forget.

Anyway for the avoidance of doubt we deployed David's skills -and one or two other tested means to hold the Tories to account. More, much more to come for now just a little comeo:

'Trying to muddy the waters about the clear votes of the majority of Southport councillors at the Southport Town Hall meeting some weeks ago for there to be a "Library in the Market", A Tory councillor-no prizes for guessing who- told the cabinet meeting on 12Nov that "it must be said" that it was "political" and added that "you can't just go on numbers."

When a Lib-Dem member of the cabinet (Iain B B) stressed that the majority of Southport councillors wanted to have a temporary library in the Market, the Councillor interupted claiming it was just "some of the Southport members" - a statement that was simply incorrect. She clearly doesn't do numbers - or agree that in a democracy a majority vote is the basis for a decision by those present.

The Lib-Dem Southport councillors were not coerced in anyway. They were not urged to vote any particular way. They made up their own minds and on a show of hands, after reading the detailed reports and listening to the discussion at the briefing meeting, they all agreed that the Market idea was a good one.'

a veiw from the market hall

The Southport Visiter sent their reporter to the market recently to see what the traders thought of the idea about moving the Library to the market hall whilst major capital works are being done. Here is his report:

Southport Market Traders have welcomed plans to temporally house the Atkinson Library in the Market Hall

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Chris Davis on Afghanistan

I got this email this evening


The fraudulent elections held in Afghanistan, and the further death andmaiming of British soldiers serving in the country, have forced me to think hard about the situation. I have written to Nick Clegg to give him my views and I want also to share them with readers of these occasional LIB DEM NOTES.

I believe that our troops should be pulled off the front line inAfghanistan. The justifications for their continuing presence seem tovary with the day of the week and the desperation of the advocate. I am not convinced by any of them, and I don't know how we would evenrecognise a 'victory' if it were to be claimed.Our people are part of a NATO contingent involving troops from manynations (though our numbers are second only to the Americans) that hasthe support of the United Nations. But we are easily portrayed as anoccupying force in a foreign land, fighting for one side in a civilwar as crusading imperialists seeking to impose our cultural andreligious beliefs on others. Radical Muslim men rally to the cause of our opponents in consequence.As we seek to avoid casualties we fall back on the use of technologythat allows us to attack and bomb from afar; all too often killing innocent Afghans. Support we may briefly have enjoyed from local people turns to hatred. None of this helps to make Britain a safer place.I bow to no-one in my detestation of the Taliban and the perversion ofIslam they use to justify their suppression of women's rights. I would love to see the country transformed into a benevolent liberal democracy,free from corruption and a champion of liberty. But the recentelections demonstrated how removed that vision is from reality. If weare fighting for Karzai's government are we sure it is a cause worth the effort?

We cannot use the treatment of Afghan women by Afghan men as anexcuse for military intervention any more than we would use it tojustify an attack on a country where genital mutilation is still performed on female children.In any case, genuine defeat of the Taliban may prove impossible whateverresources and lives are thrown against them. Its various localcommanders can withdraw in the face of overwhelming odds, only to returnwhen troop numbers have been reduced. Individual fighters can cut theirbeards, bury their weapons, and pose as hard working farmers – whichindeed is what they may be. The weapons can be dug up again at any time.We can continue to train Afghan soldiers, but the Taliban have a role toplay in the country's future and we should talk with them. Can that be so much worse than dealing with our current allies, the cruel andcorrupt warlords who care not a jot for human rights? Our money atleast buys us some influence with the warlords; perhaps its provisionfor development purposes can also be used to persuade the Taliban tokeep Al Qaida at a distance and curb the worst excesses of theirtreatment of women.To make Britain a safer place we have to win hearts and minds in theMuslim world. We have to address the causes of grievance used by ouropponents to bring people to their side. Our attack on Iraq did usgreat damage. Our involvement in Afghanistan risks doing the same.

The failure of Europe as a whole to address the injustice experienced byPalestinians is a source of anger amongst Muslims that we consistentlyunderestimate. We should learn our lessons.Yes, we must be prepared to use force to defend our values whennecessary, but military action can only be taken when the objective isclear. That is very far from the case in Afghanistan. We shouldnot allow more soldiers to be killed and maimed because politicians hereare too unwilling to lose face, too embarrassed to admit that lives havebeen lost in vain, or too weak to challenge orthodoxy within NATO.Afghanistan has defeated Britain in the past. It has defeated theRussians. The present campaign is not going to result in a triumph forAmerica or its British and other allies. If our troops are to remainthere it should be only to provide support and training for Afghans.They should not be on the frontline.

I would welcome your views.CHRIS DAVIES MEP
11 November 2011



The largest group of councillors in Southport – the Liberal Democrats, with two thirds of the council seats – have voiced their unanimous support for the idea of temporarily relocating the town’s library into the currently empty space at the rear of Southport Market Hall during the 3 years of work on the Arts Centre and Library buildings.

Sefton Council’s ruling Cabinet is due to make key decisions about the £15 million Southport Cultural Centre project at this Thursday’s Cabinet meeting (12th November), and one of the most controversial is whether an alternative town centre library should be provided while the major project is carried out.

The 10-strong Cabinet has 4 Liberal Democrats, 3 Labour and 3 Conservative members, so the votes of at least two of the parties will be needed for the relocation plan to be carried.

Councillor Maureen Fearn, Chair of the Southport Lib Dem councillors said: “Liberal Democrat councillors in Southport are firmly of the view that, for the three years during which work is being done to the existing buildings, Southport cannot do without a town centre library.”

“We have looked at every potential site in the town centre and it is clear to us that the only seriously viable option is to use vacant space within Southport’s Market Hall,” continued Councillor Fearn.

“There was a report in the Southport Visiter of Friday 30 October which reported on the support for this proposal. This confirmed our view that using the rear of the Market would be good news for library-users and good news for existing market traders. With the prospect of an extra 150,000 visits a year to ‘Southport’s library within a market’ it is little wonder that market traders have welcomed the idea wholeheartedly – as the Visiter reported.”

“Liberal Democrat councillors in Southport are unanimous in asking the Cabinet to back the option of using space in the Market Hall as the town’s temporary library.”

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

of interst to our friends in Sefton central

from Lib Dem Voice about Ashcroft. It sounds fishy to me.........................

should the chief executive blog?

Well just to remove any suspense I think the answer is a resounding NO. Nevertheless that was the intriguing suggestion that Tory blogger, (TV pundit, columnist for the Telegraph, Eastern Daily Press and GQ magazine-not to mention Total politic publisher etc etc) Iain Dale made to a local government conference last week.

I was in London for work and found time to attend some of the session at the LGiU conference which was looking at local councils and social media'. John Ball-formerly of this parish and now a Lib Dem councillor in Ealing-was one of the speakers.

Anyway back to Dale who traced the staggering growth of this type of media to the point where all Westminster journalist blog and have twitter and where since 2007 more Christmas greetings were sent via facebook than email.

Some Local authorities have been early and enthusiastic adopters which other lag stubbornly behind hoping the new world can be ignored. Bracknell Council apparently does press releases via twitter, advertises jobs, as well as publishing every expenditure over £500 online thus enlisting and army of citizen scrutinisers.

Even at the basic level of running a website most council's fail. Dale quoted Lib Dem Mark Packs article in Total Politics, sadly he could not resist a 'put down' as he did so. Packs article does lay out the basics and it will be interesting to see how many of the points he makes are covered when we are presented with a new media strategy for Sefton. I am not holding my breath. It will be interesting to see if they pick up on this posting.

One reason frequently given for not adopting these newer forms of social media is that there are some 'nutters' out there. Indeed there are. Stephen Fry's public pondering of giving up twitter because of one of them has been much in the news. dale told the conference that he got scores of phone calls from one critic and low and behold the said 'nutter' put an appearance on the twitter feed projected behind him! It must be said that such folk regularly put in appearances at public meetings and they are to be found on the door steps of the nation as we canvass.

The concern was raised that the new social media tends toward polarisation. Right wing blogs link to other right wing blogs and people can spend their whole time without having to interact with those who take a different view. Apparently this is very prevalent in the US. In the UK things are a little better. Dale felt that there was a 'blogging' community which meant that when the Daily Mail launched a 'homophobic' attack on him people across the political spectrum rallied to his support. I suspect that is true. It is a bit like the community of interest amongst those active in politics. People like Labour's Kevin Cluskey or the Tory Sir Ron Watson and I could easily have a chat about the US presidential election which would be of little interest to most of our elector.

One thing is clear that the impact of this style of social media is nor going away. There is nowhere where a hand held device cannot now be taken. Youtube, photos and podcasts will make much more accountable and the next generation seem more relaxed about the intrusion

There are some upsides. I would love to have had a tape recorder in Sefton's cabinet when the Tories had a collective attention deficit five minutes and demanded to have their anti vote recorded on a motion that had they paid attention they would have voted differently. There are lots of occasions when accountability would be enhanced by transparency that comes with the new social media.

John Balls contribution was to tell of an amazing campaign he organised via twitter. This brought out lots of volunteers most of whom had no previous involvement in campaigning.

So back to Dale's throw away suggestion that the Chief Exec should blog. It was based on the view that the social media age demand personalisation. This is undoubtedly one of the lessons of the Obama campaign where we saw lots of 'personal stories' from voters explaining why they were going to support Obama.

Dale told us that since the Tories had personalised their website so that visitors now have a named individual to ask questions of-a new member of staff called Sam. Since Sam has appeared on the website and people can directly ask him question the number of enquiries have rocketed.

It follows that in this new personalised social media Chief Execs will be tempted to join in. For myself I think it is something that politicians should do. We are accountable at the ballot box. we need to use this media to communicate with our voters AND to listen what they have to tell us. In that context it is sad to note that according to Iain Dale the Total Politics survey could only find 109 councillors to blog-and most of them suffer a fair amount of criticism from their non blogging colleagues.

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Monday, 9 November 2009

.....especially the men of Birkdale.

Remembrance Sunday found me not at the big ceremony in Lord St but at the small War Memorial at St John's Church Birkdale. There was a full congregation. The act of remembrance at which those who have died in the two world wars and conflicts since has the usual two minutes silence-preceded and ended by a trumpet played by one of the choir boys. There followed a recital of the eighty odds names on the War Memorial read by four young people from the church as we remember 'especially the men of Birkdale'. The youngsters stood in the four corners of the church and in the silence all spoke clearly and well. As you hear the list of local names: Rimmers, Wrights, Balls, Whitesides, Heaps and Littlers, it brings home how devastating the loss of life must have been in our community.

When I was a young lad I remember attending similar services in Lillington where we all stood outside around the War memorial. In those days there were many men who wore their medals from the First World War and one or two who served in the Boer War. I particularly remember Fred Warren an elderly man, who sang in the choir, telling me all about going to South Africa as a young man.

Yesterday there were still men who had served during the Second World War who were wearing their medals. Looking around the church there were younger men and women who have served since.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

time for action

If anyone wanted an argument for the "Southport Cultural Centre" major refurbishment project it came to me last week. One local resident tells me that they visited the Southport town centre library on Thursday (a rather rainy day as it happened) and was concerned to see that quite a few of the ceiling lights were switched off and anglepoise lamps in place on top of the racking to provide some illumination.They asked the library manager the reason, and were told that the roof leaks to the extent that some of the electrical circuits become unsafe in the event of moderate or heavy rain!

Thanks for all the background on the arrested Tories

Thanks to those of you who have contacted me with information about the arrested Tories and the shenanigans in the local party. I am now clear who to watch and also clear about the role of the foreign 'sugar daddy'. As always; follow the money.....

The curious case of the planning application

Some things just stick in your mind and months later you find yourself pondering why they happened. A year or so ago there was a planning application in for a development by the entrance to Southport's pier. (We have the 2nd longest pier in the country) The application upset many local folk. The officer's report firmly advised rejection.

The minutes say:

The Committee considered the report of the Planning and Economic Regeneration Director recommending that the above application for the erection of a single storey extension to the north east side and rear of the premises and external refurbishment be refused for the reasons stated or referred to in the report.

Prior to consideration of the application, the Committee received a petition from Mr.Brown on behalf of the applicant in support of the application. Councillor Porter was permitted, by the Committee, to speak in support of the application.

So why did two Ainsdale Tories hot foot it up to the planning committee-one (who had a poor attendance record) to act as a substitute and the other to speak in favour of the application which wasn't even in her ward? Very curious. If any of you have an explanation I'd be pleased to hear it. Neither of them declared an interest so I'm sure there is nothing fishy.

More shame for Winterton

Confirmation, not that more is required, that the nasty rightwing moraliser who loves to go on about decent standards is not such an upright toff as he would have folk believe. Todays Independent carries the story:

Natural slap
*Years ago, when the Tory MP Eleanor Laing was speaking in the Commons in favour of lowering the age of consent for gays, she was interrupted by that grand old cauldron of moral indignation, Sir Nicholas Winterton, who demanded that she explain how anyone could justify the "unnatural" things gay men do "in terms of Christian morality".

Sir Nicholas, now 71, and due to retire after a flood of revelations about his expenses, has been outed as the Tory knight of the shire who slapped a woman MP on the bottom in a crowded Commons tea room. Kerry McCarthy, who revealed the incident, has Twittered to say the woman took "a hearty slap".

The woman says that she does not want to make any more of it, dismissing Sir Nicholas as "a silly old man". Sir Nicholas has told the Daily Mirror that he could not "categorically deny" administering the slap but he would have remembered if she had taken offence.

Nothing unnatural there, then, that requires justifying "in terms of Christian morality".

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Kew cubs

My colleagues Mike Booth and Fred Weavers went to see their local cub pack tonight-whilst I was stuck on a late dirty,late-running Virgin train out of Euston. They clearly had a good time.

Mike was asked to present badges to some of the cubs. Fred also presented badges to newly invested cubs. Mike told the pack about his role as a councillor, which will be included in future badge work on communities.

The picture shows Mike and Fred with the Kew cubs and their leaders.

I want to vote on the Treaty that took us into Nato

I was watching a Tory MP on the news. He was all puffed up and self important. He was saying how outrageous it is than nobody under 50 had voted on membership of the European community. I got to thinking of all the treaties that we have -which in the perverse logic of the Euro sceptics- contain a loss of sovereignty.

Nobody has asked me if I want to belong to Nato which significantly shares our sovereignty. And nobody North or South of the border has voted to endorse the Union of the parliaments of 1707. How frequently should we have the right to 'recall a treaty'?

The truth is that these sovereignty sharing arrangements significantly enhance our influence. Lots of countries our size have 'independent' foreign policies but they have no influence. The Tory's central foreign policy stance is that they wish to be the US's best friend. For more than half a century the US Democrat and Republican has made it clear that they believe that the UK should be fully part of Europe. This presents a central contradiction for Cameron; he doesn't want to be the sort of friend that the US want for their best friend

One citizen, one vote and all votes equal

Throughout all the campaigns for full citizenship in the southern states of the US, in South Africa and the then Rhodesia the slogan 'one man one vote!' was used. The chartists in the 19th Century were so outraged by the rotten boroughs that allowed some votes to be worth more than others that one of their six demands was that there should be 'equal electoral districts'.

I raise this because talking to a Bootle councillor yesterday he,without a quiver of self doubt, asserted that votes in Bootle should be worth more. His argument was that because of the social deprivation they needed smaller wards.

'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.....'

There are many groups in society who are disadvantaged and the thought of 'weighting' their votes would have ridiculous consequences. Do travellers and gypsies get bigger votes, what about new immigrants or higher tax payer (how often have I heard from folk living in mansions that they should get more from the council because of the amount of council tax they pay)? No one citizen, one vote but if they are all to be equal we will need to reform the voting system

Fred does his bit

Fred has not made a lot of noise about this: but he spent several hours recently on a unicycle raising money for the armed forces, along with Billy and David Pullin and Julie manning the buckets. If you would like to donate please visit
I've been in London the last couple of days and I have been struck by how many young service men are out selling poppies. Fred is raising funds for those coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. What ever we think of those conflicts it should not deter us from sending a donation. The service men did not ask to be sent. I know that many soldiers have real concerns about our role in these conflicts. After the news from Afghanistan over the last week it is right that we should debate these issues . Do not use an concerns you may have from sending some money to Help the heroes from the link above.

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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

portland street cycle way

I've not yet seen the feedback from the consultation around the Portland Street proposal. I have had some very interesting suggested put to me by residents from all sides of the debate. I was heartened to read John Siddle's report in the Visiter which suggests that as a result of the response new proposals are beginning worked on. With goodwill I'm sure that a scheme can be worked up which will benefit the town

Monday, 2 November 2009

Councillor's expences

Birkdale's Councillor Simon Shaw is among the councillors claiming the highest in travel expenses from Sefton Council. This is because Simon is one of very few Sefton councillors who is a member of one of the Local Government Association's Boards or Panels, which meet in London. Simon has been a member of the LGA's Human Resources Panel and associated bodies since 2005 (including substitute member mid-2007 to mid-2009).

The key LGA bodies of which Simon is a member include:
LGA's HR Panel
Local Government Pensions Committee
National Joint Council for Local Government Services
Joint National Council for Chief Executives (also for Chief Officers)It was Simon who, in May 2009, first called for details of Sefton councillors Allowances and Expenses to be published on Sefton Council's website - this was agreed to by the Council's Chief Executive, Margaret Carney.

Details for 2008/09 are available here: http://www.sefton.gov.uk/Default.aspx?page=9702

In the interests of openness, full details of Simon's expenses claims for travel to LGA meetings (by year) are available on the Birkdale Liberal Democrats website, follow the link to Councillors expences. This includes details for the first 6 months of 2009/10. (NB THERE ARE 5 SPREADHEETS TO REFER TO).

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Southport Conservatives 'financially unstable'

Checking back through the Electoral Commission on line accounts I see that one of the recently arrested treasurers has been involved as a 'registered' treasurer of the political arm of Southport Tories for some years. In 2006 he was deputy to one Phil King and in the accounts they warn that the Association was heading towards being financially unstable (hence the resigination of the President et al ?)

Anyway look for yourself

Interestingly looking at seats that the Tories have targeted I see that the central party (Ashcroft ?) has provided tens of thousands of pounds to them. As the Independent reports this morning:

In Gordon Prentice's marginal seat of Pendle in Lancashire, the accounts of the local Conservative association show that they spent nearly £82,000 in 2008. That is thought to be just a fraction of the money the Tories have actually sunk into Pendle, because much of the cost is borne by party headquarters. Tony Greaves, a Liberal Democrat peer who lives locally, reckons that the true figure is around £250,000.

There is a similar picture in almost any seat on the Tory target list because these days, it seems, Lord Ashcroft is everywhere – except of course on the electoral roll or anywhere that might make him liable to pay UK taxes.

Compare and contrast as the exam papers used to say, and ponder why?

I understand that Ashcroft demands a robust business plan before parting with any money.

Arrested Tory party Treasurer

For the purposes of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000:

Mrs Jackie Glover is Registered Treasurer
Mr Andrew Logie is Deputy Registered Treasurer

More information here

Thanks to all those who have contacted me with information. I shall summarise what is printable later

Police arrests at Tory club, the HQ of Southport Conservatives

POLICE have launched a probe after tens of thousands of pounds went missing from one of the region’s most historic social clubs.

Southport Conservative Club treasurer Andrew Logie and deputy Paul Wilding were arrested and quizzed by officers after an audit of the Bath Street club’s finances revealed discrepancies ...............

The Southport Visiter has a full story. A front page headline: Melt Down at Tory HQ (which we covered in June 08) a little while ago reported the resignation of various officers of the Conservative Association including professional people. The party's accounts warned about the state of the party's finances. It is not clear how entangled the two stories are, rumours have circulated for some while about the cross over between the two separate bodies and the role of key Tories. I am checking to see if the two arrested Tories were involved in the local party's money matters.

Back in June 08 we predicted that there were more revelations to come. I am informed that is still the case..........................

Friday, 30 October 2009

Farewell and good luck

There was a good turn out at the Guest House tonight to wish Erin Harvey good luck and farewell. Erin came to work for our MP and has been a great hit. I covered her attendance at the Bournemouth Conference when she spoke twice very impressively.
Erin is off to work for London MP Susan Kramer. Susan has been a very impressive MP and I'm sure that Erin will prosper working with her.

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Southport Liberals: the First 100 years

Not many constituencies are lucky enough to have a book recording their history over 100 years. Michael Braham's study first published in 1985 is now hard to find. By kind permission of the author Birkdale Liberal Democrats have now published it online. You can find the book on our website. Follow the link on the top left of this page to the website and then click on the button 'Southport Liberals: the first 100 years

Michael tells the story from the time of Gladstone, on to the battles for votes for women and temperance and to the triumph of 1906. He covers the Tory dirty tricks of 1910, the liberal victory of 1923, Cecil Ramage's barnstorming campaign of 1929 complete with campaign songs and photos. After WW2 the revival of the party in Southport-a second place in a 3 cornered fight in 1959, control of the council in the 6o's, second again in 1970 and on to victory in 1987......

Please feel free to download it but if you publish it in any way we ask that
  • you acknowledge Michael Braham as the author
  • you don't charge
  • you don't alter the text
  • you tell us about it -email via the website
  • you include a link to our website
  • you publish these conditions

College Close trees

Success! well if you live in College Close you will be pleased. After our complaints about the state of the trees there action is to be take:

Three of the six trees have been highlighted for removal and the remaining three trees will be pruned.

This work is scheduled to take place in December.

Temporary Library

The Southport Visiter carries an important story this morning. I have never had a moments doubt about the need for the council to provide a temporary Library whilst the essential renovation of the Cultural Centre-the Art Gallery, Arts Centre and Library-takes place . I know there are some who think that we can make do with a caravan in a car park like some remote village in countryside. I have never thought that was acceptable. There were over 150,000 visits to the Southport Library last year and frankly anyone who thinks that can be replaced by a trailer somewhere or farmed out to Formby is not listening to townsfolk. Yes, in tough financial times there are going to be some hard questions to answer. Something else will have to give. It is a matter of priorities.

I went on the trip last Friday and at the end it was clear to me there was a stark choice. If we want a temporary Library then the Market site is the only realistic option. It does of course bring real benifits to the remaining market traders. Firstly it brings an immediate fix to the building -upgrading the structure, electrics etc and secondly it brings a massively increased footfall. I guess lots of folk going to the Library will use the cafe there to get refreshment whilst they browse their books.

For the wider Southport residents it gives us a town centre Library that can take all the key facilities and offer a proper service during the closure. This is not a short closure. It is meant to last 30 months. Given my experience with other major building works-especially old buildings like these -it would come as no surprise if the time scale was longer.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Health Service democracy

Congratulations to John Pugh who has used Parliament to challenge the quangos that run our Health Service. Here in Southport the Tory Government forced a botched hospital plan on us forcing and unsustainable marriage of Southport and Ormskirk. There is no local accountability for the quangos that run our Health Service.. A couple of Tory politicians have been involved but nobody else.

As the blog noted recently it is not more consultation we need it is more democracy:

Take the NHS. 1.4 million staff, eclipsed for size only by the Chinese Liberation Army and the Indian Railway. Only accountable to one politician-the Secretary of State. He attempts by the issuing of banal and ineffective targets to micro manage the entire operation even down to targets on how to clean the carpets. His writ is enforce by a vast army of bean counters and by place men and women who sit on his local administration boards. The employ 'link' people to talk to the community so they know what local people want. Well more precisely what some people think of a bright idea the government is keen on. 'You want to spend your money differently to prioritise a children's A&E service? Sorry we are not programmed to respond to that comment, please answer the question you were asked. Do you want round carrots or straight ones.

John's parliamentary Bill confronts the democratic deficit, read on.

Local NHS Democracy

"The local NHS is a huge taxpayer-funded service, affects everyone, is important to everyone, but is sadly totally remote from democratic decision making."

These formed part of my opening remarks when I introduced the The Local Health Services and Democratic Involvement Bill to Parliament last week under the ten-minute rule .

Please take a minute to offer your support. The Bill seeks to require, among other things, Primary Care Trusts to obtain prior approval for their spending plans, involving relevant locally elected authorities. Currently, decisions are made by enlightened, but unelected, quangos or trusts, and they are usually a combination of medical experts and appointees who may or may not bring relevant expertise with them. They decide what drugs are available, which hospitals or hospital departments stay open, where services are, how GPs and dentists shape up, and what after-hours care exists.

All those issues mean a lot to some people part of the time, and much to all people most of the time. We just need to remind ourselves about Children's A&E to appreciate that point.I propose that primary care trusts, as currently constituted, lay before the health scrutiny committees of existing councils, as currently constituted, their annual plans and their big decisions - not for scrutiny or consultation, but for approval, agreement and amendment. I propose a kind of democratic lock on the local NHS: a move beyond mere consultation. I propose a genuine redistribution of power from one existing institution to another existing, established institution. This is such a good idea that I believe that the model has already been embraced voluntarily in some areas.

The rest is on John's website


It was Southport Area Committee yesterday -of which more, much more later. On a positive note it was good to see our UK Youth parliament rep Ian Goley in attendance. Ian has made a very significant contribution to the Area Committee and is listened to with respect from all sides. This week he is off to Westmister and has sent out the following press release:


Ian Goley, 17, will join over 300 Members of the UK Youth Parliament in making history this week (Friday 30th October) when they take over the House of Commons chamber. It will be the first time in 300 years anyone other than MPs have debated in the Commons and sat on the green benches. The historic move will see elected 12-18 year-olds from across the country debate issues of concern to young people.

Ian Goley, Member of Youth Parliament for North Sefton, 17 years-old, commented,

“I’m looking forward to the House of Commons Debate. Not only does the decision of MPs allowing us to debate in the chamber show that MPs are prepared to listen, but it gives us the platform to establish what we are campaigning for, and what we represent. Friday will hopefully give us more publicity, and reach out to people who may not be aware that the UK Youth Parliament even exists. Young people do care about politics and the world around us, and Friday is the ideal opportunity for this to be displayed.”

The five issues being debated are -

University education being free
Youth crime and how to tackle it
Free transport for over 60s, but not for young people
Job opportunities for young people
Lowering the voting age to 16


Notes to Editors:

1. The UK Youth Parliament debates in the House of Commons chamber take place on Friday 30th October from 11am until 3.30pm.
2. For photographs, comments or broadcast information contact Fiona McKinstrie, Press Officer, on 020 7553 9894/07507 603378 (fiona.mckinstrie@ukyouthparliament.org.uk).
3. Members of Youth Parliament will be available for prerecorded/advance interviews in Central London on Thursday 29th October.
4. For further information about the event and the debate topics please see here http://www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/252529.html
5. The UK Youth Parliament gives young people a voice on issues that matter to them.
6. 500,000 young people take part in the UK Youth Parliament elections each year.
7. Over 600 young people are elected as Members of the UK Youth Parliament. They work to ensure that the voices of young people are heard at a national, regional and local level http://www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/

Good luck Ian

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

General Election campaign hots up....

A delightful bit of memorabilia has been passed to me by the usual sources-more of which later. The Southport constituency polled in January 1906 and Mr Astbury was victorious. The Tory candidate E.M. Hall was a barrister with a very high opinion of himself and the purveyor of 'dirty tricks', he was brought low.
A couple of small points; firstly the Southport and Birkdale Liberals fought in red and secondly although Southport polled in January the 1906 election was not held on the same day all over the country.

The red colours persisted until well into the 1960s. I have no record of what John Prescot made of that when he was the Labour candidate in the Town. A a Young Liberal in Warwick and Leamington in the early 70 we fought in green. The standardisation of colours didn't really happen until television dictated in 1974. Even then some clung on to their local colours-I remember that Geriant Howells in Cardigan (as it was called then) fought in blue!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Fred Weavers Unicycle ride-not up Portland Street

Fred Weavers -my colleague from Kew Ward- was putting his unicycle skills to good use on Saturday. Fred -an ex-SBS man-was raising funds for the Help for Heroes charity which is working with armed forces people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mike Booth, David and Julie Pullen and others were out shaking the cans and raise a very encouraging sum. I shall return to this item with information about the sum raised and a link for you to donate on-line

One wag-a knight of the borough (by which description he is easily identified)- suggested he did it along Portland Street. Another time maybe.....

Friday, 23 October 2009

Top Liberal at Southport

'A reception at the Cambridge Hall at which 2000 guests are expected, the stage exquisitely embellished with flower, the 50 strong Southport Choral Union and a special programme rendered by the Corporation Band.....'*

Well that is what welcomed Asquith in 1909 when he visited Southport for the National Liberal Federation Annual meeting. I wonder how it will compare to welcome given to Chris Huhne when he comes in 2009?

*quoted in M.P. Braham's, Southport Liberal Association: the first hundren years page 18

Free Speech:Areopagitica

'And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter'

It is good to start the day with a bit of Milton. The Areopagitica-from which the quote above is taken -was the symbol of office for Presidents of the Liberal Party.

We had a full council last night and not surprisingly the Question Time broadcast came up. Sir Ron Watson ( Conservative Dukes Ward) asserted the right of free speech even when it meant fools and vagabonds were published. I paraphrase because of the noise and the distance from the Conservative benches (they are the smallest party and sit at the far end of the chamber) I didn't catch every word. Sir Ron went on to thank me on behalf of himself and David Pearson for continuing the tradition and recognising that it could be a 'nutters charter'

Let us leave on one side for today Sir Ron's politically incorrect use of 'nutters' . You cannot fail to grasp what he meant.

I have never believed that championing free speech means that you allow to go unchallenged vile and dishonest misrepresentations . The point about free speech is that debate reveals the truth. I look forward to Sir Ron helping bringing to book those who abuse free speech in the BNP and elsewhere.

All in all I thought Question Time was positive. I could have criticisms of the structure of the programme. I thought that Griffin did badly when he answered the question about the gay pop singer. He was certainly out of sympathy with the audience who -like British people generally- do not share his homophobia. It follows that more question away from race/immigration could have served to illustrate the vile nature politics.

Jack Straw was a bit of a windbag which was sad as he made some good points early. I was especially impressed by his recounting of the contribution made by soldiers from the Indian sub continent along lads from Lancashire at the battles of WW1.

Chris Huhne was combative as you would expect and very effective. For me the star of the show was Ms Greer whose gentle put downs were the highlight of the evening.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


A couple of weeks ago I referred to the venomous public attack on the part of one faction within Southport Conservatives on another. I have now been supplied with a verbatim extract from pages 138 to 141 of the offending book: "Dirty Politics", authored by Pat Regan (Published 2009 by Can Write Will Write, ISBN 978-0-9554889-7-9).

As you may recall, the writer is a leading light in Southport Conservative Party circles, as well as husband to one Tory Council candidate and a close associate of Brenda Porter, Tory parliamentary candidate for Southport.

The key chapter is entitled:

“Outdated Tory turncoats that threaten the good name of their own party”

Read the full text here

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Ludovic Kennedy

I've nothing special to add to the many obituaries published about Ludovic Kennedy, the best I've read this morning is in the Independent.

The big thing I remember about was his campaigns against injustice. I recall the impact of the book 10 Rillington Place when my elder brother read it and the discussions in the family. His thirst for justice, to right wrong was never slated.

There was commission at a Liberal Assembly where he relentlessly argued that it was the adversarial nature of our legal system that made miscarriages of justice more likely. He argued in favour of the French inquisitorial system and cause some consternation when he seemed prepared to limit trial by jury if the french system was adopted.

Kennedy appears to have been attracted into the Liberal Party by Jo Grimond in the aftermath of Suez and Eden's disastrous leadership. His achievement at Rochdale by election is well documented. The Tories landed up in third place having held the seat. Kennedy defeated the 'squeeze' and was a serious challenge to the Labour candidate. That was one of a string of by elections in the 1950s where the party began to get its act together; Hereford, Rochdale Torrington-which Mark Bonham Carter won and the biggest triumph of the lot in 1962 when Eric Lubbock won Orpington.

Kennedy made a big impact on many folk because of his writings on a wide range issues. Sefton Council leader Tony Robertson recalled him in an email last night:

I loved his writing and his fight for justice for those wrongly convicted. He was a great Liberal whom I met by falling over his wheelchair a few years ago in the Southport Theatre during a Lib Dem Conference. His book on Scottish Independence 'In Bed with an elephant' is a good read as is his 'All in the mind - a farewell to God'. Another one of heroes gone...

Monday, 19 October 2009

£70m wasted by Lab/Tory transport chiefs?

Liverpool was never going to get a tram without a grant from central government. Today the Labour Government has made clear what has been obvious for a while-namely that they are not going to back the Tram. Let us be clear this is the Labour Government which has done this-to date the Lab and Tory coalition has spent what is estimated to be £70m on this project without the comfort of firm government backing for the project. I think the Tories rather hoped we wouldn't notice, or maybe plan B was to blame us but it is now clear the Labour Government has pulled the plug.

Why is it that the the transport exec -or whatever grandiose name it rejoices under now-couldn't hear what most other folks cottoned on to a while back?

Lets hope that they now turn their attention to solving some of other transport needs of residents. How about putting equal energy into coming to an agreement with our neighbours to the east of Southport so that we can have a decent rail service to Ormskirk and Preston. This project is n Norman Baker's plans for rail links and is achievable by upgrading the Burcough curves.

As John Pugh said in Parliament:

8 Jan 2008 : Column 205
In Lancashire, for example, the rail utilisation strategy revealed desperately poor connectivity between the Preston city region and Merseyside, yet lines from both conurbations arrive in the modest town of Burscough, which has separate stations, unlinked by rail, half a mile apart, severed by Beeching and simply missing a curve. Were this in London, such connectivity would have been delivered decades ago, but because it is in the north-west, it is a struggle to get it done.