Wednesday, March 05, 2014

My final Newsham Park Forum meeting

Last night I chaired my final Newsham Park Forum; the next one won't be until June when I will no longer be a councillor.

People were very kind and generous with their parting words and I was delighted with a lovely card. There were lots of hugs and wishes of good fortune on all sides.


It got me thinking about what we have actually achieved over the last 8 years



I started by reflecting back to April 2006 before my first election when I planted roses with the Friends of Newsham Park This was my first real exposure to the park and it was quite a sorry place really, unloved, dirty, broken and crime ridden.

Later that year, after my election, I became chair of the council's Parks and Lakes Scrutiny Panel and we took a tour of Newsham Park with residents, police, gardeners, fishermen and others as part of our work We created a long wish list of work and improvements we all wanted to see. We had learned that our HLF bid was unsuccessful so we worked hard to find alternative ways to fund them.

And now here we are, 8 years on, with the most incredible list of achievements.

A pavilion and changing rooms for new football pitches
A kiosk selling refreshments - and acting as a key information point for the park with the excellent Rob on duty
Youth play equipment
Exercise equipment
Tree planting
Cricket wicket and a great local cricket club
Ping-pong table
Boating lake renewed
Return of the Liverpool Model Boating Club
Platforms in the lakes for the ducks and water birds
Wildflower planting in Denham Gardens
Bins
Picnic tables
Signage welcoming people to the park
Renewal of entrance gate posts
The birthday wood

There will be other improvements and enhancements I have forgotten...

And people are using the park for their leisure so much more often now too. Newsham Park Arts Festival, Shakespeare in the Park, Spring Fling, Sports Festival, Bonfire night firework events...

And it hasn't finished there; we took lots of progress reports last night including plans for a skateboard and BMX facility, a new Multi Use Games Area (MUGA), a new fountain and aerators in the lake nearly ready to be installed, the bicycle health project hopefully ready by Whitsun half term and upcoming events in the park being prepared (including one which will truly put the Park on the map!!).

I want to pay tribute to so many people for their help and support; the Forum epitomises the best of partnership working; Paul, Derek, Nigel and Tom from the council who have driven through and delivered on residents aspirations; the Friends of Newsham Park through its various incarnations; Pamela and Mark Boardman for spearheading so many of the residents groups; JB for never ceasing to push for change; Richard Milligan for his wonderful work on Wildlife Photography and the group determined to save our water birds; the Model Boat Club who have returned from Walton Hall Park to their original home and who celebrate their 50th anniversary this year; Glendale the gardeners; Academy of St Francis of Assisi for their enduring enthusiasm and hard work; Norah Burns and other residents for continuing to demand the best from their representatives; all the councillors who have represented the park for putting in funds from locally held budgets and recognising the value of the park; Christina and Althea and their volunteers who have picked litter, planted bulbs, painted railings and shown the true nature of people power; Steve and the group determined to see the Orphanage brought back into use; all the sportsmen and women who now play or train in the park; Citysafe for patrolling; Rob in the kiosk for acting as our unofficial Parky;

I am sure I have missed people from the list but that only goes to show just how many are involved.

There is always talk of legacy at the end of a political time in office and I like to think this granddaughter of a Corporation Gardener has helped to steer and guide some real improvements in a park I am sure he would have admired.

Good luck to whoever takes this work forward and don't ever let the lack of funding stop you from aiming as high as possible.


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Liverpool City Council introduces freephone numbers for benefits queries

Supporting local people in poverty, Liverpool City Council has introduced a new freephone system to at least save people having to pay big phone bills just to get advice.

Introduced from Monday 3 February, this will cover enquiries for issues including housing benefit, council tax support, free school meals and benefits maximisation advice.

The numbers and the services are:

0800 028 3686      Council tax, community charge, business rates, corporate debt, overpayment of housing benefit, Business Improvement District

0800 028 3697      Benefits, free school meals and Benefits Maximisation Service

0800 121 8805      Benefits Fraud Hotline

0800 456 1523      Liverpool Citizen Support Scheme

0800 028 3707      Fairer Charging and Direct Payments for adult social care

The council’s letters, bills and website are being updated with the new information on.                                                                                                                               

People telephoning the Freephone numbers from mobile networks will get an automated message informing them they may be charged for the call and be given the option to dial a landline number if they prefer.  All the existing numbers will remain in use for three months.

Jobs Fair in Liverpool Town Hall

The Plus Dane Group are hosting a Jobs, homes and enterprise Fair on Thursday 27th February from 10am-4pm in Liverpool Town Hall.

The Living Local- Working Local event will give hundreds of people the opportunity to meet with businesses offering vacancies and apprenticeships, as well as get advice and support from agencies on securing employment, welfare reform and managing debt.

Attendees will also be able to view a number of Plus Dane’s vacant properties available in the city to rent or buy and get advice on setting up new businesses.

This event is open to all on Merseyside.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Finally! An end to more off licences and takeaways in Kensington and Fairfield

On Wednesday night I was proud to address the Town Hall Chamber on a proposal before us to stop any more off licences and fast food takeaways opening in our ward.

This is an abridged version of the speech I gave.









We have been talking a lot about poverty tonight

One clear sign of poverty in a neighbourhood is to look at the types of shops and businesses that predominate on its High Street. 

In my ward, Kensington and Fairfield, we have far too many of four particular types of businesses; there are off-licences where people buy cheap strong alcohol to drink themselves into oblivion so they don’t have to face terrible lives. We have dozens of hot food take-aways selling quick gratification for the miserable; we have betting shops for people whose lives are so bereft of positive experiences that their only enjoyment comes from praying for a big win on the horses or the slot machines. And of course we have lots of payday lenders and pawnshops for those who can’t pay the leccie this week.

It would be very easy as Councillors to become depressed at the futility of it all and at our inability to change anything but that’s not Labour’s way is it. We burn with the need to make a difference.

So we have been busy establishing foodbanks, supporting the credit union movement, paying for debt advice for our residents and trying to devise ways to limit people’s exposure to gambling.

There is another big project that has taken years to come to fruition but is finally going to happen tonight with your support. Ever since I was elected I have been fighting the excessive number of off licences in our ward. 

7 years ago to this very day, January 15th 2007, I stood in front of the licensing committee begging them not to pass an application to extend the hours of an off licence on Prescot Road called, believe it or not, “not drunk enough”.  They had been caught selling alcohol to underage kids, there were stories of people lying in the gutter outside and they had been accused in the local press of giving taxi drivers money to encourage them to bring drunks to their shop to buy more alcohol. The licensing committee were sympathetic but said their hands were tied and despite my very best efforts, passed the application to allow it to open until 4am. 

That was the day I realised that the law as it stood was not on our side and we had a big fight on our hands.

Over subsequent years we have heard some stories of young women and girls being found drunk and unconscious in our parks, vulnerable to sexual attacks or robberies, having persuaded adults to buy cheap vodka for them locally; We have regular reports of anti-social behaviour where people’s neighbours are screaming and shouting up the street in the early hours of the morning full of drink they have been able to buy on the corner, even so late at night.

And as you will see in the report before you tonight, we have had many responses to our consultation describing the behaviour of a small group of hardcore alcoholics who drink out on the street all day from 9 o’clock in the morning, intimidating passers-by, begging for money and staggering into the traffic, they urinate and defecate on the street and lie collapsed by entry gates for our local children and families to see.

They are being facilitated by the proliferation of shops open around the clock selling the cheapest strongest stuff.  

Ever since Allerton Road and Lark Lane were given local powers to oppose the opening of more bars and restaurants it has been the aim of me and my ward colleagues to find a way to utilise the same powers to stop any more off licences from opening in our area and to challenge the work practices of those we are already stuck with. 

Finally we are able to put a plan before you to change our local licensing law. If you pass this recommendation then in future the presumption will always be to refuse any applications unless there is a very good reason.

And in a stroke of genius, Councillor Robinson who has done so much of the leg work for this excellent initiative has also been able to include hot food takeaways into the same policy.

This Cumulative Impact Policy is not the only measure we are taking of course;

We continue to engage with the council’s Alcohol and Tobacco Unit to ensure that underage drinkers are not buying directly from our local shops

We work with property landlords to persuade them to help manage the behaviour of their tenants

We work with the police to manage the crime and anti-social behaviour and are currently at work on a proposal for a complete ban on alcohol on the streets of our ward

We work with Public Health, the Whitechapel Centre, the YMCA and organisations like the marvellous Basement Project who send outreach workers to engage with our street drinkers. Only this week we heard at our Problem Solving Group that two of them have been persuaded into a drying out facility in North Wales next week.

Our aim is the provision of a better and more healthy range of shops and local businesses. We want to see something on offer to our residents other than off-licences, takeaways, pawn shops and bookies. 

We need to give people better choices that won’t destroy their physical or mental health or drive them further into poverty.

Passing this policy tonight will be a big step in the right direction. 






Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Fire Safety Tips from Merseyside Fire and Rescue


Fire Safe at Christmas Tips






Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service is urging people to enjoy a happy and safe Christmas this year by following some simple fire safety advice.

When the celebrations take place over the festive period people sometimes forget about fire safety in the home.


Cooking

Most house fires start in the kitchen and people are asked to take care when cooking the Christmas dinner.

Food should never be left cooking on the hob unattended and people should not cook while under the influence of alcohol.

People should avoid cooking while tired and should be careful not to fall asleep while food is cooking in the oven.


Decorations

Christmas decorations and stray wrapping paper can burn easily and cause a fire. Decorations should never be attached to lights or heaters and should be kept away from candles.

Candles should not be lit near curtains or combustible materials and keep them away from the Christmas tree. They should also be kept out of the reach of children and pets. Ensure candles are put out when leaving the room and they should be placed in a correct holder.

Christmas tree lights should always be switched off when going to bed or when leaving the house and people should never overload plug sockets. People are also advised to check that Christmas lights carry the British Standard Safety sign.


Heating

Heaters should be kept away from curtains and furniture. They should be switched off after use and should not be used for drying clothes.

People should ensure open fires are out properly when they go to bed and they are advised to use a fire guard. Never hang decorations over an open fire.

Electric blankets should be unplugged before going to bed and hot water bottles should not be used with electric blankets.

People should also close the doors to each room when they go to bed.


Vulnerable People

People are advised to check on older relatives or neighbours during the winter period and ensure they have working smoke alarms.

Residents are also asked to check on vulnerable people in the community, particularly those who live alone.


Smoking

People should ensure cigarettes are completely stubbed out in a proper, heavy ash tray that will not topple over.

Residents should never smoke in bed and should take care when tired.


Smoke Alarms

It is advised that people have a smoke alarm fitted on every floor of their property and smoke alarms should be tested every week.

A smoke alarm can give a vital early warning to escape a fire. In the event of a fire people should get out, stay out and call 999.

For free fire safety advice call Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service on 0800 731 5958.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dangerous fireworks to look out for

Dangerous Bangers from Poland
A warning note from Sergeant Joyce

These are the newest bangers that we need to keep an eye out for.

They originate from Poland made by a company called Jasper and are called  'TAPIRKI'

They are poorly constructed, with a metal based composition which is exposed at both ends. They have no labelling on the actual bangers.





Apparently they are readily available around the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester. They are selling for around £2 per pack and contain 10 bangers in each pack. A sleeve of 10 packets is selling for £10 so that’s a 100 bangers for £10

I would suggest they are highly dangerous and such poor construction and amount of composite could cause serious injury with a possibility of loss of digits.

Although we have not seen huge numbers yet on Merseyside they are here and I anticipate that they will be sold illegally.

In the first instance Phone 101  and request the FIRST TEAM be informed or contact Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 to report

Enjoy Halloween and Firework Season safely!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Do you want to limit the number of off-licences and take-aways in Kensington and Fairfield?

Cheap alcohol fuelling anti-social behaviour
The Labour councillors in Kensington and Fairfield have been campaigning for years for action to stop any more off-licences and take-aways opening in our area. 

We already know the problems they cause locally, with noise, anti-social behaviour, street drinkers and begging. So when we found out about the schemes in Lark Lane and on Allerton Road a few years ago to stop them having to have any more bars, we though this was something we would have a look at. 

Unfortunately the wheels of local government can sometimes turn exceedingly slowly and it has taken far longer than it should have despite dozens of meetings and piles of correspondence. 

However, we now finally have some good news.

We have applied for something called a Cumulative Impact Policy which basically says that the impact of the large  numbers of establishments we already have, together have caused problems and that no more should be allowed. 

In order for this to be introduced we have to carry out a consultation of local people and find out what they think. 


Liverpool City Council is proposing to amend its Licensing Policy Statement by including within it a special Cumulative Impact Policy (or CIP) limited to specific streets in the Kensington / Fairfield / Central wards namely:
Boaler Street, Holt Road, Kensington, Molyneux Road and part of Prescot Road (from its junction with Kensington to the railway line forming the eastern boundary of Fairfield Ward)
   
   
A copy the consultation questionnaire and supporting information including a plan of the area can be viewed at - http://www.liverpool.gov.uk/scipconsultation


The deadline for receipt of completed questionnaires is 1st day of November 2013.




Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Promising moves in the creation of a new Post Office in Fairfield

As the Tories continue to put our post offices under threat, with a new privatisation scheme for Royal Mail on the cards, it is good to be able to report that Labour Councillors are making a positive difference.

We continue to work with a local small business on Prescot Road in Fairfield to convert some of their convenience store premises to open a new Post Office counter with staff, to replace the one across the road which closed 18 months ago. We are using legacy funding from the New Deal for Communities to pay for the necessary building works to ensure that this is one community which can enjoy an enhanced service despite Tory efforts.

I just hope we have the opening day event before I retire in May next year, it is one of the major projects that I want to see come to fruition as part of my final work in the city.

The swans are back in Newsham Park

Swans in Newsham Park - Richard Milligan

After the tragedies earlier in the year it is great to see swans back in Newsham Park. Thanks to Richard Milligan for his wonderful photograph.

BIG Lottery Funding – LCVS Training Course

Tuesday 24 September 2013, 10am-4pm - 151 Dale Street, Liverpool, L2 2AH.


‘Big’ and the other lottery funders have a wide range of funding programmes. Which ones are for you? What does the Lottery look for? How much competition is there, and how can you write the best application? Our course will take you through the steps of planning and preparing a lottery application.
With this course you will:  
  • Find out about different lottery funding programmes
  • Learn the language of the lottery and the key words they look for
  • Learn about evidence of need and why outcomes are so important
  • Understand how to bring all this together and write better funding applications
The course is particularly aimed at anyone who has to develop funding applications for over £10,000 and particularly focuses on the Reaching Communities Revenue Programme.
The course is delivered by an LCVS Funding Adviser who has helped many groups secure Reaching Communities funding.
Cost: £70 (non-profit) / £140 (statutory/other). Lunch will be provided.
Use the booking form from our website to book your place

Do you fancy singing in the bandstand in Newsham Park at Christmas?





For the last few years local Fairfield residents have been singing in the bandstand on Newsham Park at Christmas. 

Last years Liz Roberts was responsible for organising the event.   

She is wanting to build on last year's success and wants people who are keen to participate.   She is hosting a meeting at her house 21 Prospect Vale L6 8PE more or less opposite Bandstand.
on Monday the 23rd of September (this coming Monday) at 7.30pm to talk about it. 

If you are interested please contact her by email or by phoning her on 07507335874. 

Older People's Day in Liverpool

Harvest Festival in Kensington and Fairfield




Local councillors have helped fund a food growing project at L'Arche with Healing Space and this special community event will showcase the work.

We heartily recommend anyone in the area popping along to the community centre on Lockerby Road on Friday.