Saturday, 29 November 2008

Garston waste proposals - update

I mentioned previously that we, the Cressington Councillors, were pressing for a public meeting which would include planning officers. This was so that people could ask questions about the process and get other information. We now have a provisional date - 15th December. This just has to be confirmed but its worth people who are interested putting this in their diaries now. The start time should be around 6 30 as we have pointed out that anyone commuting back from work may struggle to make an earlier time. When all the details are confirmed I will post again.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Budget consultation info

THE public are being given a big say in deciding this year’s Council Tax.

For the first time ever, residents are being asked to let the council know what they think council cash should be spent on next year – and to also suggest ways money could be saved.

And their views will be presented to councillors when they meet in the new year to set the council tax, and help them decide how much is spent on key services such as schools, roads, looking after the elderly and keeping the city clean.

City council leader Warren Bradley said: “Liverpool, like many councils, is facing some tough choices this year. Because of the credit crunch, more people are in need of the vital services we provide, and we are getting less money from the government to pay for them.

“We have already saved more than £44 million in the past three years, but we still need to make more savings to keep the council tax rise to below five per next year.

“That is why the views of the city’s residents are so important. What does the public want its council tax spent on? What do they think are the most important services we provide? And we want to know where they think the council spends too much money - and suggestions where we can further cut back on waste.”

“These views will help us decide what services should be a priority next year and also help decide on the level of council tax.”

More than 22,000 survey forms – Your council, Your Money, Your Say – have been distributed to every library and one stop shop in the city.

Residents are asked to choose their top three priorities from a list of services ranging from libraries and parks to spending on children and older people.

And they can also submit ideas on improving council services and ways of saving money.

Councillor Flo Clucas, executive member for finance, said: “We have made great progress in making big efficiency savings and at the same time really improving services. But as councillors, it’s our job to listen carefully to local people so that the services we provide are the services they want. Money is very tight, so it’s more important than ever to take on board what the public say. It’s their money.

“And this isn’t just a paper exercise. Local opinion really does matter and will have a direct impact on setting our spending priorities for next year and the level of the council tax.”

Everyone who completes the survey will be entered into a prize draw with the chance to win a handy £100 worth of gift vouchers.

The consultation starts on Monday 24 November and completed survey forms must be returned by Friday 12 December

The survey form can also completed online at

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Such sad news

I was so sad to hear yesterday about Neil Trafford dying in a car crash. Aside from being a Manchester Councillor, Neil was one of our regional organisers. We knew him well in Liverpool but he also helped right across the North West - and was actually very good at chivvying us up to do things. Neil will be really missed.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Garston waste planning application update

My objection to the planning application went in. I'll post extract from it (rather a long letter) in another post. The objection/comment deadline was 17 November.
My Cressington Lib Dem Colleagues - Peter and Richard - have sent their objections in too.

The planners tell me that the issue is unlikely to go to the planning committee this side of the New Year. I know that there is an awful lot of material - much of it written objections covering a lot of arguments. When I get a date I'll publish the details.

Meanwhile we (the Cressington Councillors) are attempting to organise a public meeting to give people a chance to talk to planners about the process. This will certainly help anyone wanting to lobby or speak at the planning committee.

When I get a date and time for this I'll post the details here. So lots of information to come.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Meetings - and thinking about meetings

Two very different meetings this week. On Tuesday I, and other councillors, went to a meeting for Regulation 33 visitors. This is basically a regulation involving montly unannounced visits to children's homes. They are done by elected members who then write a report. It's part of making sure we provide a good service to our looked after children. I used to do this a few years ago and stopped for a while, but am re starting now and will be visiting Prescot Drive (which provides short breaks for disabled children) again. A good meeting I felt - lots of useful information but not too much. We heard from some councillors who had done a recent visit and from staff at the various establishments.

Then yesterday I had Corporate Services Select Committee (I am one of the three exec members reporting to this one). If we are ever to achieve a meeting of a reasonable length we all, and I include myself, need to be a lot more disciplined about our contributions. I had to leave early but even then we had been going for more than two hours. I suspect the problem is there is too much on the agenda. There is not a lot the chair can do about this as councillors have the right to put things on in addition to the items of business that have to come there. And to be fair Andrew makes a good job of making sure people feel they are included and they can speak. I do feel however that long meetings without a break are simply not effective when you get towards the end. We are just starting a review of the Scrutiny Processes and I expect some of the councillor feedback to be around this point.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Refugees and asylum seekers

A little while ago Refugee Action, a charity which helps refugees and asylum seekers, held a briefing for councillors and others interested in issues of asylum and refugees in Liverpool. It clashed with one of the Executive Member meetings so I couldn't go. I am very interested in this topic though so was really pleased that one of the staff of Refugee Action was prepared to come along and talk to me separately about the work they did. We met on Friday and it was good to get an update on the situation as it relates to Liverpool.

I ought to say that I have some knowledge about this as one of my earlier jobs was as press officer for the Refugee Council - a national charity representig Refugees and Asylum seekers and providing a range of services. Being the press officer was not easy. In fact at times it felt like being under siege. There is nothing certain newspapers love more than having a go at asylum seekers.

And that's why I was so angry when I opened the Guardian today to read the interview with Labour minister Phil Woolas. His negative attitude to asylum seekers frankly took my breath away. I realise it is not an easy subject to talk about - but in my experience people fleeing their homeland don't do this on a whim. They do it out of desperation and to portray this as some sort of "con" does no one any justice.

My fear is that this is part of what is now called "dog whistle" politics.. saying something that sends a signal to a certain group without being too explicit about what is meant.

Labour politicians used to stand up for the oppressed and for minorities. This guy has clearly decided that is not the way to go. Shame on him!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Garston waste proposal update

This is not a particularly new update for some people, but as not everyone will know I will post it here anyway. The council's planning department has "invalidated" the application for the site at Garston Dock. That doesn't mean it's all over and the applicants will go away. It does mean however that one of the City Council departments found a flaw in the paperwork ( an evaluation which hadn't been done) which means it can't go any further in the process without that flaw being put right. What that in turn means is that if the applicants persist and carry on, there is little chance of things being decided this side of Christmas. The planning officers tell me that they will carry on processing all the various objections, and carry on providing answers and having meetings. But we are not able to get a date for a planning committee meeting yet. Will post again when there is more news.

Rememberance day ceremony

Yesterday I went along to the rememberance day ceremony at St Georges Hall. As ever it was very moving and there were an impressive number of organisations laying wreaths. I stood on the steps, with some of the other councillors, to watch the various processions. It was good I thought to have prayers from a number of different faiths towards the end.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Help needed at the CAB.

A message from Garston CAB posted below.

Do you know anyone who could give up a day or two each week to become an
advice volunteer at Garston CAB? No previous experience is needed and
there are no academic qualifications required. Full training is given.
Applicants must be good listeners, able to assimilate information and to
communicate in a wide range of circumstances. Contact Colette at Garston
CAB, 427 5317 for information.