Friday, July 27, 2007

Health and Adult Social Care select committee

Ron Gould and I had our second meeting of the day together.

While we were waiting for the coach to come to take us to the liner terminal and the docks at Seaforth I said something about when I might rule the world. I guess I was wanting to ban something but cannot think just now what it was, smoking probably. (I can be a bit of a dictator when all comes to all)

Banning smoking outright is the only thing that will stop me, I sometimes think

Anyway he asked me if there would be a role for him in my world, if I was the ruler, I told him he could keep on with managing public health. He seems to be doing a good job of it so far, if smoking is anything to go by, at least for a LibDem that is!

(I realise that I am in serious danger here, of losing my hard-won crown of principal LibDem opponent in the whole country, by saying nice things about any of them. In point of fact I think I am now up to a whole 5 LibDems that might not need to be got rid of when I do actually rule the world. But to be fair, those 5 contrast with about 3000 on the other side, so it probably just means they are in the wrong party.
You know how the saying goes.
1. All LibDems are bastards
2. If you meet one who is not a bastard, refer to rule 1)

(Isn't it good to be able to say bastard without fear of recrimination from the site owner, because in this case it is me, hurrah!)

Anyway, I have wandered totally off the point, which was the Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee (or whatever it is called).

We had a lively debate around our called in item - the LibDems are determined to sell off our last few bedsits, because they are apparently "surplus to requirements" despite there being 12190 family or individual units "in need". Fancy facing homelessness to that degree and yet learning that the council think a few bedsits are a few too many. We are against it, needless to say. But they do what they like anyway.

A woman came to my surgery tonight who lives in a private rented property and her landlord is selling up. She has two small children and is scared of being homeless. She has been on the housing waiting list for 6 years. And the council's response? She will have to go in a hostel and take it from there. I am sure she would prefer bedsit accomodation to a hostel, if that was the only choice available to her.

How is selling off all our bedsits appropriate? How is that 21st century caring and accountability? I could spit (it is a better alternative to tearing people's heads off anyway).

We also talked about Venmore Residential Unit. I forget its proper name, but it is an award winning centre that houses the elderly and which the Labour Party in Liverpool have been fighting to save from closure for about a year now.

Cllr David Antrobus who is the LibDem in charge of this field, told the committee that it would not shut in the short term although, like James Bond, he could never say never. I paraphrase the whole of his contribution, but Roz Gladden and I were clearly of the view that he had backtacked considerably from his starting point last year.

Maybe it wont actually shut and maybe the residents and care staff wont have move after all. In which case it is a major triumph and success story but we were a bit shell shocked and still need to check our facts in case we had wax in our ears.

I also reminded the committee that I had written in June to the officers and councillors leading the SmokeFree Liverpool campaign to warn them that pubs, clubs and restaurants would need to offer ashtrays or buckets outside if we were to avoid a tide of cigarette ends on our streets.

That has not happened and the streets are knee deep in butt ends already.

We had a presentation from Derek, the man in charge of the PCT (I cannot just remember his surname or his post but he knows who he is and he is the key player. It is late and I cannot find the energy to go off and find my papers, sorry).

He was talking about the new plans for primary health care in the city, if we all agree and put the money in. In the brave new world everyone will be able to walk to their GP within 15 mins; access a local health clinic (a bit bigger than the doctors, with dentists and others in attendance) within 15 mins reach in a car and then have a reasonable proximity to hospitals.

I told Derek afterwards that I can walk to my GP and my dentist within 5 minutes, if I only stroll and can get to A&E at the Royal or the Women's Hospital within 10 mins in the car, I feel blessed really.

A very interesting meeting with lots of food for thought

I am only an alternate on this committee (in other words I only go when an official member from our side cannot be there) but there is always lots to say and ponder when I do get a chance to attend.

Very interesting stuff.

Community Safety - Kenny Regen

Another packed Community Safety meeting, it is easily the most popular of the Kenny Regen committees

I was a bit late having hot-footed it over from Seaforth and our inspection of the planned dock improvements

I managed to sit in for the Carbon Monoxide detectors session though, we have about 150 people waiting for an alarm to be installed. Now Maria has to persuade the volunteers of the Fire Service to put them in - you cannot put them anywhere, they need somewhat precise installation instructions.

Alan Kelly was quite right when he pointed out how far the committee has come. Now we are all quietly pleased with the progress that different partners are making in resolving local safety and anti-social behavour problems. So much to praise. The domestic abuse team are doing great work, the youth clubs are totally on board, then we have HEAT. We are blessed really.

Two years ago there was a lot of anger and no links at all between the residents and the different solution-providers

The utterly marvellous, handsome and wise Inspector Charnock (hope that gives me a few brownie points when I need a crime solving for a resident in the future Dave) told us that he wanted to put KNDC police team forward for the community police team of the year award. I had already sent my letter of commendation and others agreed to do so too. They really deserve it. They are like a cross between Heartbeat and the Sweeney, if you can imagine that. Happy to mingle with the residents and make friends on one hand and yet not afraid to swoop on the dealers, burglars, robbers and thugs, on the other hand. Simon Joyce must be the best Police Sergeant in the country, I cannot think what another Sergeant could do that he doesn't do. I am in a strange position really, representing a ward thick with violent crimes, serious dealing and masses of early stage ASB by kids emulating their criminal family members, and yet our police are very thoroughly on top of it. You only have to think about the work they have done to rid the streets of prostitutes for instance.

Tongue out of cheek for a minute, they are really very very good and we are lucky to have them in our ward.

Mersey Port Health Authority

A double dose of Ron Gould today

We spent the morning with the Mersey Port Health Authority. Beginning with the AGM (my first meeting of this authority) we heard about the work carried out in 2006/7 in the dock area with regard to public health.

Of particular concern was the health difficulties on our ocean going liners. In an incident last year a liner was tested for legionella, or listeria, or some other disease beginning with L, but it only showed up after the ship had set sail for ports elsewhere. We emphasised the importance of a much swifter testing regime, not taking up to 7 days in a lab in Preston somewhere.

Basically the MPHA deals with all aspects of public health within the dock area (which includes John Lennon Airport - Above us only sky).

We learnt at the meeting that the MPHA discovered in about May or June that they were to be responsible for making sure that nobody was smoking within establishments on the dock. There are evidently 400 of them and no database exists as to these buildings. A big job then from what seems like a very small team.

We had a tour of the proposed new liner docking facility on Princes Dock, imagine big liners docking once again in Liverpool, great news. Then we went to Seaforth to see the work of the MPHA in checking incoming food stuffs and animal products and the new building to make this easier. Obviously some consignments from out there in the rest of the world contain scary things and bits of animal parts etc that need a good inspection before they can go forward or are destroyed. A new terminal building will take care of them.

We also saw the plans for a new deep dock that will allow container ships that sit much lower in the water to dock in Liverpool. You know those big orange (usually) tin boxes that contain people's wordly goods or stacks of wood or whatever it is that companies want to import. Well they come into various ports in the country. Liverpool cannot easily take big shipments of ships with deep keels but with the new dock will be able to nearly double its intake.

Fascinating stuff

Elm Park Residents

A good meeting on Wednesday night, I had asked Ade and Ronnie from Neighbourhood Services to come along and talk about how we can clear up the back entries (alleys) in the Hinton/Parton/Kelso/Ottley area from rubbish and dogs so that we can establish community gardens there.

They were great, they promised to begin enforcement activities straight away in both dog ownership roaming and fouling and also to tackle our prima donna bin men who will only take wheely bins with flat lids (not too much rubbish in them) where the handles point towards the road (!!!)

This TRA on the neglected north side of the ward (not in the Kenny Regen area) does not get agencies to attend as a rule, but now that Ade and Ronnie have been and were so warmly welcomed, I have promised to get the police to come to the September meeting.

On the south side within the Kenny Regen area, all the TRAs get loads of partners and agencies attending, on the north side they get me, Wendy and Frank (sometimes) but no-one else. I am determined that they should be taken as seriously as everyone else.

This weekend they are having a children's party in St Sebs club (Sunday) and plans are going well for a trip to Llandudno on Sept 2nd, only £5!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Setting up a couple of websites for free

I am hoping some enterprising soul out there can give me a few tips.

I want to set up a couple of new websites - one for my genealogy and one for consultancy work.

I dont want to pay for the hostings if I can help it, although would want to buy a replacement URL address for each, I see these sites as being more for information and much less interactive than a blog. I would want to be able to display photographs, PDFs, text, logos etc, with contact details and a way to email me from the site.

I have a blueyonder email account and understand I could have a website with them but I have struggled to find out how to do it on their site. I keep get taking to a page I cannot understand where my login details for my email account dont get me into it?

I am clearly doing something wrong.

Other than Blogger which is great for blogging but wouldn't be the right format for my new sites, and Blueyonder, what else could you suggest?

I dont want something that is free for now but where I would have to start paying later, and ideally I want a standard layout function within the setup so I dont have to write HTML but can just use it the way they have it - a Frontpage perhaps?

Any ideas?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Deane Road Cemetery plans update

Last week saw a very successful clean-up day in the Deane Road Jewish Cemetery.

I went to the latest planning meeting tonight and Saul Marks of the Old Congregation Project told us about all the different volunteers that turned up, the hard work of the Probation Service volunteers and the efforts of the Kensington Clean Team.

One particularly interesting visitor during the clean-up was a man who as a child used to live on Chiswell Street and overlooked the cemetery from his bedroom window. He and his pals used to climb over the wall to play amongst the tombstones and he said he still has vivid dreams about the place.

A good third of the cemetery has once again been cleared of weeds and overgrowth, Tony, one of the Probation Office volunteers did a good job clearing the southern path nearly all the way down and everyone worked really hard clearing round a particular grave that was due to be visited by relatives over the weekend.

I have done some genealogy work in conjunction with Saul and with Maria Grimes and we have identified some descendants who we are now going to approach to see if they can help with our fundraising efforts to find the £200k we need to fully restore the cemetery.

The next project is to tidy up the front, outside area, so that residents walking past can see a renewed drive and flower beds. We have already got the funding for this and agreed tonight to get on with this straight away, so if you want to help please get in touch.

I am going to put a few photographs up for you to see the work and the workers (and the Sid Vicious graffiti I mentioned in an earlier post). These are of the areas that have been cleared up to a point, the rest is still head-high in weeds.
Comments would be appreciated

Full council - the usual bearpit sadly

We had our full council last Wednesday - where all 90 councillors come together to debate the issues of the day.

Well that is what it says on the tin, the truth is a little different

It is a horrible bearpit where we all shout abuse at each other and drown out each other's contributions, and yes, there are times when I am as guilty as everyone else. It turns perfectly rational sensible people into hostile ranting animals.

I hate it, I hate full council, it is the worst meeting I go to during a council cycle, I see it as a waste of four hours, we achieve little, the public has long since been turned off, very few turn up unless it is to hear a short debate on something they are interested in (this month was the agonising debate about care-workers in the city), the press go home early and we spend the rest of the time shouting at each other.

What a total waste of time and energy.

If we expended as much passion resolving the issues as we do yelling and cat-calling we would solve the problems of the city in a heartbeat.

This month's meeting was a special pilot, we only discussed five issues and tabled the rest, whereas technically we could discuss 100 issues at our usual format meetings. But it didnt seem to me to be any better. Or at least the behaviour was no better.

It did give us all the opportunity to think about the topics and decide if we wanted to make a contribution to the debate, or at least it would have done if we had had more than 24 hours notice of them.....but I dont think it worked

What is to be done? Perhaps if more people came to listen we would be shocked into behaving properly? But while we behave as badly as we do, why would anyone want to?

Every neighbourhood matters

I spent last Wednesday at Blackburne House on Hope Street. This wonderful centre used to be a school where two dear friends, Sara and Sandra used to be school-girls, I bet they gave their teachers a real runaround, but I digress

We were there as community members, representatives and partner agencies of the City and North neighbourhood to discuss how local people can get involved with the decision making in the area.

I was pleased to see some of the K&F resident groups in attendance as I had particularly asked that they be invited.

We talked about the neighbourhood charters, about different ways of sourcing funding for small local projects, about the different ways that residents can be involved in their area and about the way forward. There will be a meeting just for K&F people in October when we will be able to get into the detail.

It was good to see a more ethnically diverse group of residents than we usually see, perhaps because of the involvement of the Toxteth area in this meeting. Our BRM community in K&F is still finding its feet in community work as most have only been in the country, let alone the city for a few years.

As is usual, most of the residents attending were women (with a few exceptions of course), the men present tended to be from partner agencies, the police and some of the council staff for instance, but the real unpaid heroes who roll up their sleeves for their area are nearly always women. I see this a lot as I go round the different Tenants and Residents Associations. The lead presenters were women too. Someone should write a thesis on the role of women in community development, probably they already have, the men are great of course but the women are even better, seeing that most of them have not been key players in the world of work but do play huge parts in their community.

A very enjoyable day.

United Colours of Kensington face painting team

Last week saw the AGM of the United Colours of Kensington face-painting team. I am so proud of them and was absolutely delighted to accept their invitation to the meeting

They formed about 18 months ago from local women in the community, from all different ages and ethnic backgrounds and have now been professionally trained in face-painting to a staggeringly high standard. They have had a lot of funding to get them to the point where they are now a highly professional outfit and all those funders are very pleased to be associated with them.
They have now appeared at 32 community events in the city, painting children's faces, events like the African festival, the Arabic festival, Chinese New Year, the Lord Mayor's Parade, Kensington Fun Day, Newsham Park Festival and many more. Everywhere I go, at every event, I can expect to see their blue polo shirts, working hard, painting. Apparently they can now do a face in three minutes, and they are true works of art.

It was particularly heart-warming to see them conduct their AGM, elect each other to committee places and give very thorough presentations on the finances, the year's activities and so on. This is a real success story, a real legacy of the Kensington Regeneration programme in particular who have done so much to encourage and work with the group.

Well done every single one of you, I was so proud to see you all get your certificates of achievement and to see your great work being recognised.

St Helens would-be Councillors interviews

Back by popular demand.......

Sorry not to have posted in a week but I have been very busy, here goes with the latest instalments.

As is the usual case, independent Labour Party members from outside Liverpool, St Helens this year, interviewed would-be Labour Councillors for Liverpool to assess them for suitability to be included on a panel for wards to select from for next year's elections. In a spirit of reciprocation, members from Liverpool then interviewed St Helens party members over two weekends

I was part of the interviewing team on both Saturdays and it was very interesting, meeting these enthusiastic people who want to champion their local areas. Some of the would-be candidates were putting their names forward for the first time, as well as sitting councillors asking for the chance of a further term and the standard was high. We were impressed with a couple in particular (who shall remain nameless) and we look forward to watching their stars ascend, as they surely will. One guy has just moved to St Helens from Liverpool, definitely our loss and their gain.

The results in St Helens were better this year than some pundits suggested, although not as good as we would have liked, hopefully this new panel of candidates will go some way to restoring our fortunes.

Their offices are fantastic, I envy them their light airy rooms which they share in an extensive suite with their two MPs.

I get a great deal of pleasure out of meeting LP members from across the region and it gives lots of opportunity for sharing of best practice campaign ideas in particular.

We also got to eat some great cake thanks to Alan's mum, thanks very much!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fabulous Friday 13th

We are supposed to be nervous of Friday 13ths but I have had a fab day today (granted it is not entirely over yet and there is still time for something to go horribly wrong).

Work was good, I spent some time with colleagues helping them design a training programme.
Then I went off to a social event with Kensington Regeneration, it was meant to be a BBQ but like much else in the city in the last 6 weeks, it was rained off. So we ate indoors instead. I had a lovely long chat with our local police team, even Inspector Charnock himself was there (I say, that is Charnock, not Chadwick, certain local councillors please note, if you are going to name-drop, do please try and get it right!). I was regaled with various tales of successful collar-feeling (as a big reader of crime novels I do like to throw in a bit of the vernacular), I was fascinated, as I always am, to hear about the exploits of some of the most stupid criminals in the world, and all living in Liverpool.

One story which we are still laughing about was when a local criminal in Liverpool broke into a warehouse, attacked a guard and then stole his phone. The police were called and one officer decided to call the stolen guard's phone. The offender answered and the police officer pretended to be the guard, said he recognised the offender, forgave him and wished him well, saying he knew him and his friends and was on their side. The police officer kept him talking for long enough for other police officers to find him, until the point when the offender told the man on the phone that he would have to end the call as the bizzies had arrived. This confirmed they had their man and the rest is history.

They also told me about how useful YouTube has been in helping fight gang activity. These gangs are so arrogant that they post their own videos on the internet of them committing crimes. The police then send the video snatches to their experts who are able to identify voice patterns and images and identify the perpetrators.

You couldn't make it up.

I took the opportunity to talk to Val from GEARS about our plans at the As One anti-social behaviour group for physical boxing training for young men and boys in the area. We are all of the view that hitting a punch bag and doing press-ups etc is much more fulfilling than falling around drunk and mugging innocent passers-by. We are going to try for a scheme to develop the availability of this training in the area. I dont like boxing, I dont really agree with it, but I do agree with the training and think it would be wonderful to extend this very disciplined activity across the area.

We also chatted about some ideas for young women and girls, like nail-painting and adornment, fashion and beauty.

Then I went to our surgery where I took a bit of time out to help Rob, the security man who helps guard us while we are there, to update his CV.

Councillor Ian Jobling contacted me to talk about our joint campaign to outlaw smacking, more on this later, and then Carl came to see me to develop our thoughts about mine and Wendy's radio show on Kensington Radio in the autumn.

A busy day and I loved it all

Housing, Housing, Housing (Homes, Homes, Homes)

Housing provision has always been my primary political concern.

I remember talking about it at the selection conference where they chose me as the Labour candidate for K&F back in November 2005. I believe that health, education, jobs etc are all an irrelevance if you dont have anywhere warm, safe and secure to live. It is a fundamental and essential primary need.

I also believe very strongly in what we are now encouraged to describe as "social" housing. A strange expression to use, really we mean "rented" from a not-for-profit landlord. Surely all housing should be social, we certainly dont want any anti-social housing.

Not everyone wants to buy a home, some people intend only a short stay in an area and for them renting is ideal, others dont feel comfortable with a long-term financial commitment. Some will never afford a home of their own, others like the idea of a landlord who will manage the repairs, I have rented before. I can see why at certain times it is the ideal answer.

Both sets of my grandparents lived all their lives in council houses and flats and they wouldn't have wanted it any other way, it suited them.

As a Labour Party member I want to support my leaders and agree with and support their policies but sometimes, inevitably, it is a bit difficult. However, when GB told us that housing was one of his top three priorities, something I have not heard in 20 years from any politicians of any parties, my heart soared.

I am personally of the view that there is a lot we can do to bring back derelict, empty or damaged existing homes into use, this will reduce the need to build so many brand new ones which, although I am not against the idea, does rather use up lots of land that we struggle to find in some places.

I think it is true that there are lots of brown field opportunities in Liverpool and we won't necessarily find ourselves having to build swathes of new homes on the green belt between us and Warrington or Southport, but it is also true that we have houses already built that need redeveloping, not knocking down.

I dont know if you ever find your way onto Ullet Road or Princes Park Avenue. There is a block of flats there, I cannot recall the name of the road exactly at that point, but it is opposite Sefton Park Drive. A multi-storey block of flats, unattractive and poorly designed. It is in the process of being refurbished and upgraded and will become much more desirable. We have seen the disasters of high rises before, usually they get knocked down, this is a scheme, that for someone who only drives by and knows nothing of the finances, at least at face value looks really good. I am happy with bringing unwanted homes back into use.

Councillor Alan Dean showed me some figures last week where there are families in his area waiting for four, five and six bedroom properties. How dreadfully ironic it is then that we are planning on demolishing just such houses in Kensington because there is apparently "no call" for such large homes.

Says who?

Let's do up just one of the houses and monitor the list of people who are interested in either buying or renting it, before trashing the lot. I think the nay sayers would be pleasantly surprised by the take-up. Alan says that his families, at least 40 I think he says, would like to be near a suitable church, fancy that, we have at least two of those nearby that are empty and aching for someone to do them up too!

This new focus on housing gives us a great opportunity to call for renewal and regeneration of existing homes, even as we acknowledge that in some cases, usually of long term neglect by owners, the demolition of some homes is beyond redemption.

What say you?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Yet another councillorship module - working with constituents

I had an email last week from one of our committee clerks, Michael Jones, asking me whether I would be interested in a councillorship module into working with constituents which was run the year before I was elected but which he thought he would re-run for new arrivals.

After some deliberations - after all I am already studying one module and holding down a full time job as well as being a full time councillor - I decided to go for it. If they can teach me new and successful ways of serving my constituents then I want to do it!

I turned up for the session and it was just me and Michael Jones.

He was sweet enough to hold the course open, even though I was the only student, and I had an interesting presentation on organising surgeries, and advertising them in ways that will attract residents from all the different communities.

It was good stuff, I may well have bitten off more than I can chew with this extra module but I want to learn as much as I can about being an effective councillor and if it means a few months of particularly hard work then so be it.

Jane Kennedy, friend or boss?

I sent Jane a text message last week, saying that I hoped she had the call from number 10 offering her a post in Gordon Brown's new Government the following day.

Joy of joys, she did get the call. As Ian Herron described in yesterday's Daily Post, she is now the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, a very big job indeed. She is the Paymaster General in all but name, the title goes to Tessa Jowell, the work goes to Jane. Ian says she is inches away from being in the cabinet itself and I will be the first to congratulate her when she is elevated to the cabinet, I know this will happen.

This of course means that she is my new boss at work. Although I never talk about work on the blog, I have been approached by work mates the country over this week, all asking me if I know Jane and saying how thrilled they are with her appointment.

Yes I know her, yes she is my friend, yes I will help her all I can and yes she is going to sort out new tax credits if it is the last thing she does.

A great appointment of a great woman and things, as they say, can only get better.

Go Jane!

Unexpected consequences of the smoking ban - or how Louise met Gary from China Crisis

I popped down to the Richmond for a drink last night, quite late and because it is now illegal to smoke in pubs I went outside for a quick puff (sorry Mum!).

I couldnt get my matches to light in the wind so I approached two nice looking chaps on a nearby table for a light and we got chatting. It turned out that they were brothers, Colin (another one for Adele to get confused about) and Gary Daly. We had a lovely chat and Colin told me that brother Gary was the lead singer in China Crisis.

I had heard the name before but had to admit that I didnt really know what they had sung off the top of my head. However, I did tell them that indoors were two good friends of mine, Colin and Terry who were extremely big fans of popular music, especially those from the North-West and would no doubt know every little detail about the group.

I went back inside and sure enough they both had all the requisite albums and they asked me to go back outside and ask Colin and Gary to join us, which they did, and a lot of mutual "do you remember when" type conversations subsequently ensued.

Today I was played some China Crisis hits and I did recall at least two of them, although ironically their best top twenty entry, at number 9, Wishful Thinking was the only one that Gary did not sing!

Two very nice blokes. This smoking ban is even better than I had hoped it would be, who will I meet next?

Tony Blair says goodbye to Liverpool

I have just been sent this great photo of TB saying his goodbyes to Liverpool Labour Party at a recent event in Liverpool. It clashed with our surgery on the Phythian so you wont spot Wendy and me in the photo. They all had a great time though by all accounts.

'Ello, 'ello, 'ello

Kensington New Deal Police Team were out in force at Kensington Fun Day today, the kids had such a great time in the police car, flashing the lights, sounding the siren, really enjoying the "blues and twos" that they flattened the batteries and it had to be jump-started when home time came!

Jane, Wendy and I joined other local people in trying on all the uniforms, here we are pictured with a little girl who was debating whether she might like to be a policewoman when she grew up. Sergeant Simon Joyce was the photographer, thanks mate, I know you read the blog, so here is your name check!

Tale of two fetes

Last Saturday was the Newsham Park Festival, Lisa Harrison of St Francis of Assisi Academy had put in a tremendous amount of work with a supporting cast of thousands, but even she could not do anything about the dreadful weather.

Today was the Kensington Fun Day (ironically they hold it in Fairfield, but let's not get too parochial about it). The weather was lovely, sunny and warm, once again lots of stalls had packed up by the time we got there, but this time it was because they had sold out of all their goods and given away all their tombola prizes. Everyone was wandering round looking shell-shocked, pointing to the sky and asking each other what the blue stuff was! I particularly enjoyed the Kensington Community Choir who sang some great old songs from the 60s mainly. We met lots of our community friends from the different residents groups and everyone had had a great day.

Here is a photo from last week at Newsham Park, Michael from the Kensington Clean Team joining in with the big clear-up after the day's event.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More photos of Harlow Carr

Great pics, if I dont say so myself........Diarmuid Gavin made this wonderful 2004 garden, and you cannot see the purple walls in this picture, but they are there!

Inflatable sofas

There has been a massive amount of interest in the inflatable sofa we bought at Knowsley. There are photos of me in my sexy rain poncho sitting on our sofa, but I have not downloaded it yet so here is a photo taken at about 2pm on Sunday last week, of other people sitting on their own sofas in front of the stage. Look how empty it was at that early hour, what a shame for the acts who were essentially performing to an empty arena

A wet visit to York

I drove over to York on Saturday night to spend some time with Susan, Tom and Dylan (not really a baby any more) in their new home.

We had a great evening, Tom cooked a lovely curry from scratch and then we drank wine, caught up and enjoyed ourselves. Susan insisted I joined up with Facebook and then we discussed plans for a visit to the north of the northwest of Scotland for a friend's wedding in September.

Today we went to the RHS centre at Harlow Carr, it only rained a bit while we were there but we drove through flash flooding on the way back to York. I took some great photos, I will pop a few up, I only know how to do one photo per post so there will have to be several posts.

I got home in good time, although the A1 and the M62 were rough in places.
A lovely weekend with my mates, I just hope this facebook stuff doesnt end up being a pain in the bum!

Newsham Park Festival

........was a bit of a washout.

Wendy and I went along about 2.30 in the afternoon and stayed until the end. What a shame about the rain, which clearly lead to lots of stalls not showing up and also local people too.

However, we did spend some time on the Kensington Regenaration Stall, the Fire Service, the hanging baskets, face-painting and cheese burgers stalls! We listened to great music from the Congo and watched local children dancing, we just missed Eton Road who made a short appearance.

We also met our new L6 Sergeant, Bill MacGregor, who we expect to get to know very well as he takes over responsibility for the north end of the ward.

Last year it was so hot I burnt, this year I wore my wellies. C'est la vie

First meeting of the Sustainable Environment Committee

It is a new municipal year and a new select committee. We have a new name and a new chair - Councillor Steve Radford.

I presented our final Parks Strategy Scrutiny Panel report and it seemed to go down very well. No-one argued with any of the proposals which is good news indeed. I remain cautiously optimistic that our many recommendations will come to pass.

I was of course disappointed that the new Parks Scrutiny Panel has a new Chair - a new LibDem councillor named Paul Twigger. He was appointed without discussion or voting by Cllr Radford who also appointed LibDem councillor Roger Johnson as Chair of the Waste Scrutiny Panel and Paul Twigger again as the vice-chair of the committee itself.

So four jobs available for appointment and three LibDems and a Liberal put into post (and all men, but we are supposed not to notice that, I wager!). You can make your own assumptions from that.

Councillorship training - equality and diversity and community involvement

The second session of this module of the councillorship qualification is fascinating. We are asked to concentrate on those who are in a minority in our ward, women and men in different ways, people with disabilities, older people, younger people and those in the middle age, people of different races and religions and sexual appetites, the whole gamut of the human population.

How should a good councillor engage with all groups in the community? That is the task in hand.

I do my best to go to events where I will meet people from all those different groups and welcome them all to surgeries and public meetings. But there is clearly so much more to be done, given that Kensington and Fairfield is a very diverse place.

I am still trying to decide whether the new African population in the ward would want some of our literature in French, their first language, and whether we should also put out material in Polish, our other new group. Or would they prefer us to keep on with English and not be patronising?

I have asked lots of people in both groups but there is still no consensus, what do you think?