Monday, 27 December 2010

Snow and ice - call for scrutiny to improve plans.

Hooray.  The ice on the pavement on my street seems to be melting away .  But the forecasters say there could be a lot more cold weather to come.

We all know people who've slipped and fallen in this lot of bad weather and uncleared pavements.  And we all know people who've had journeys messed up.

Some problems are inevitable, and I am not one of those who thinks that weather should have no effect at all.

But it seems to me that again we have lessons to learn about how we have coped in Liverpool so far (things we've got wrong as well as right).  And we need to use these lessons to think about next year (before collective memory fades a bit)

So at the environment committee last week I called for the setting up of a panel (name not important - could be a scrutiny panel) to look at what we've learned and what we recommend for next time.  Because in Liverpool this area of responsibility is split (partly environment and partly regeneration) I have asked for this call to be tabled at the regen committee in early January as well.

I personally am very keen we do some work to get some good early recommendations for next winter.

Up to now, for example, it seems to me that councils have operated on a "just in time" supply chain method when it comes to grit.  Get some in and then have an order in for future supplies.  The problem arises when everyone has bad weather and wants the same stuff all at once.  The capacity in the UK for grit production is a maximum  of 8,000 tonnes a day.  Liverpool, when it grits the roads it does grit, uses about 64 tonnes.  Extrapolate from that to other Cities all over the UK and you can see that if everyone is using the just in time approach there will not be enough to go round. 

I risk becoming a snow and ice obsessive (!) but these times are when people really look to local Councils and its important we get things right.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Grit Bins - call for more - committee 22 Dec

Berni Turner and I have a motion going to this week's Environment Select Committee about grit bins.  Like many councillors we have been innundated with calls about the need for more bins, the need for more publicity about where they are and so on.

This week's weather has clearly shown that we need to have more tools in place to help communities deal with snow and ice.

The text of the motion is below.

“Committee notes that while "grit bins" are provided in parts of the City there are areas which are under supplied and areas in which there is unmet demand for extra bins.

Committee recognises that analysing the need for bins by purely looking at a map is not the best approach as there are many local factors to take into account which might mean a bin is needed even if a map says that it is not (gradient of streets for example)

Committee believes that more bins are needed in Liverpool and that there is community demand for this.

Committee recognises that media reports have said that the Council has ordered some extra bins for particular locations (although these reports have not specified where). Committee however believes that while reacting quickly is important, it is equally important to think about future years and what the City needs.

Committee therefore calls on the Cabinet Member for Environment to produce a plan for the provision of extra bins which includes

* specifying how many bins will be ordered by the City Council;

* consultation with ward members and district committees about locations
where additional grit bins would be suitable; and

* discussions with social housing providers about whether they can also
provide and maintain bins in estates where they have a management role

Ends here

The reference to the media reports about extra bins is to a story in the Liverpool Echo a few days ago about some bins being not delivered because of the snow.  A council spokesperson said these were "extra" but no one appears to know to where.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Pupil Premium figures

Yesterday saw the announcement of provisional figures for the Pupil  Premium payments ( provisional because the actual figures depend on the school census for the next academic year).

In Liverpool we'll be getting nearly eight million pounds.

I had an e mail from Sarah Teather, Lib Dem minister in the education department, last night about the money that will be coming to schools in my own constituency - Garston and Halewood.

I've posted it below.


Dear Paula

Today the government unveiled further details of the Pupil Premium – a key Liberal Democrat policy which will ensure the most disadvantaged children in our country get the help they need.

From April next year every school in England will get £430 for each child in their school on Free School Meals. Based on latest estimates this will mean at least an extra £1,495,110 for schools to spend on the students who need it most in Garston & Halewood.

Each year between now and 2015 the amount spent in your constituency will rise – by 2015 we will be spending a total of £2.5bn nationally on the pupil premium.

This is money on top of what is already being allocated for schoolchildren – no school will lose money as result of the Pupil Premium. And it will be given to Head Teachers to spend at their discretion on what they think works best for their school – be it extra one to one classes, breakfast clubs or after-school clubs.

The Pupil Premium was one of four key front page manifesto commitments on which we fought the last General Election. Making it a reality will help improve the social mobility and life chances of hundreds of thousands of children from less privileged backgrounds over the coming years.

Best wishes,

Sarah Teather MP

Minister of State, Department for Education

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Poverty Commission - some movement. It's happening!

I blogged a while ago about my frustration at the failure of the Liverpool Poverty Commission to actually start meeting.  The problem was highlighted when a City Council motion was unanimously passed asking the Commission to do a piece of work, and it couldn't because it hadn't actually got going.

Anyway, since then there's been some progress and assuming no disaster the Commission should start off in January.

It won't be called the Poverty Commission but it'll be looking at all the sorts of things you'd expect it to and it will be producing recommendations that are not just for the City Council but for a range of public,private and voluntary organisations.

The work of keeping it on track (sorting out meetings and paperwork etc) will be done by the City Council's committee services section (so when its going that will be a first point of call for info - including the committee services section of the website)

I'll blog again when I have more details as I am sure there'll be some people who want to come and give evidence, listen to the debate etc.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

University and College Union - how about thinking before you speak?

Today saw the publication of a piece of "research" from the union "representing" University Lecturers, the UCU.

According to them Edge Hill University is on a danger list of Universitites at "high risk" of going out of business.

Leaving aside the first time anyone at Edge Hill, including those who are union reps, knew about this report was when the media got in touch, the lack of thought and consideration by UCU is breathtaking.

Firstly, the material in the report is innaccurate.  The Edge Hill Vice Chancellor, who ought to know a bit about the finances, told staff the following

"This (the claims in the report and press release ) is, of course, arrant nonsense. The University has just reported its highest ever cash balance, its highest ever operating surplus, its largest ever intake, its biggest all years student number, its best-ever performance in the Sunday Times, the Times and the Independent league tables, a record number of applicants, a record increase in the percentage growth in applicants, second place in the 'University of the Year' awards, second place in the 2010 graduate employment tables, second place amongst mainstream universities for students' personal development and a top fifteen place in the National Students Survey. We have also just had two of the cleanest institutional audits possible, and were the only university to appear in the Sunday Times' top twenty public sector employers."

Secondly, at a time when lobbying is concentrating on tuition fees, why choose now to muddy the waters with this?  This has effectively diverted attention from the clear argument about fees.  Own goal or what???

Finally, does UCU not realise that innacurate publishing at a time when students and their families are choosing whether to go to University, and if so which to go to, is hardly helpful.

UCU is meant to represent people who work at Universities.  But in one easy grab at profile, they have made our job that much harder.  Perhaps Sally Hunt would like to come and talk to my media students who are upset at reports that their University may close.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Give your views on local health services

Liverpool LiNK, which is an organisation giving people the chance to have their say about the health service, is holding five meetings this month for people who want to go along and share their views.  The organisation wants to get feedback about the NHS so that it can make improvements to meet the needs of local people.

The meeting in South Liverpool is

Monday 13th December 2010,

13.30 – 17.00

Bridge Chapel Centre, Heath Road Liverpool, L19 4XR
You can find out more by e mailing