Thursday, July 31, 2008

Collins Fun Fair at Newsham Park - 14th - 17th August

The fun fair will be operated by the Collins family who have a long history of providing fun fairs in Liverpool.

The fair will finish at 8pm, there is an alcohol ban and all rides are subject to all the relevant inspections.

They have made a commitment to reinstate if the park is damaged and a litter plan is in place.

But all that aside, we hope it will be great fun for local people and is another fine example of the park being used for entertainment and pleasure

Liverpool Working Class Music Festival

Another one for the diary from Phil at the Picket

Liverpool Working Class Music Festival
Fri 19th - Sun 21st September 2008
The New Picket, Jordan St, Liverpool
Tickets Now On Sale

The Men They Couldn't Hang
Dick Gaughan
Roy Bailey
Leon Rosselson
Attila The Stockbroker
The Alun Parry Band
Robb Johnson
Tracey Curtis
The Prelude
Aidan Jolly
Claire Mooney
Chanje Kunda
Al Baker
Young Kof

Jul 25 2008 by Jade Wright, Liverpool Echo

MERSEYSIDE folk god Alun Parry has come up with a new showcase for protest songs and subversive songwriters.

Liverpool Working Class Music Festival is part of the TUC's contribution to Liverpool's Capital of Culture celebrations.

“The weekend brings together the very best of Britain's radical and subversive songwriters, “ says Alun. “It will be a musical celebration of the experiences of working people.”

The festival, to be held at the New Picket, will include sets from Dick Gaughan, The Men They Couldn't Hang, Roy Bailey, Leon Rosselson, Attila The Stockbroker, Claire Mooney, Chanje Kunda, Young Kof and Al Baker.

“It’s only £25 for a weekend ticket to see all of these outstanding radical songwriters,” adds Alun.

Liverpool Working Class Music Festival 2008 takes place from Friday, September 19 to Sunday, September 21 at The New Picket in Liverpool.

Individual gig prices also available.

For full schedule and more details;

The Picket,
61 Jordan Street,
0151 708 6789.

I would personally love to see Roy Bailey and Robb Johnson on the Sunday night so will probably be getting myself a ticket for that. It would be great if I could get one of them to sing "The Last house in our street is the one that I am living in", appropriate for Kensington, and also Robb's great song about Rosa Luxemburg.

Would anyone care to join me?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mural for Kensington or Fairfield?

Wendy and I have spent a few hours this evening with Peter from the Liverpool Mural Project, driving up and down the streets of Kensington and Fairfield looking for potential mural sites - gable ends of houses mainly.

We have a list of about ten possibles, after tonight, so we have to put our artwork proposals together (with the help of local community folk and artists) and then approach the homeowners/landlords of the various buildings we have identified in the hope that one (or more) of them say yes.

We want our mural to be a representation of the history and development of Kensington and/or Fairfield, depending on where we end up having it, and hope it will feature images such as perhaps the much-loved ice rink, Wild Bill Hicock (who brought his wild west show to Kensington in the 1800s), maybe a reference to the zoo at Botanic Park - and in particular the elephant - maybe a reference to the studio where the Beatles recorded their first track (on Kensington), perhaps something about Newsham Park, about Dr Solomon and his cordial balm of Gilead.

Frankly with an area with as much history as ours, the sky is the limit!

But we will want local people to work with us and decide on those images. Stand by your bed for the call. (Is that a mixed metaphor?)

We are really excited.

Vote for St George's Hall

St George's Hall needs your votes - again!

(from email from LCC)

St George's Hall has made it through to the finals of the National Lottery Good Causes awards.

Thanks to everyone who voted!

It now faces two other projects in the Best Heritage category: the Armed Forces memorial in Lichfield and the Diamond War memorial in Derry.

We need your support again to win the top spot and the £2000 prize.

Please vote by calling 0845 386 3646 or logging on to (choose Best heritage project) before midday on 8 August

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Love Music - Hate Racism - advanced notice of where I will be on my birthday

- please note if you wanted to join me!

(Who would not want to spend their birthday with Phil at the Picket?)

Love Music Hate Racism Big Summer Party
1-11pm The Picket, Jordan Street, L1

Merseyside Love Music Hate Racism in association with the NWTUC are organising an anti racism festival involving an extensive programme of events featuring many local bands and performers at The Picket, Liverpool on Sunday 31st August 2008.

We hope that this event will bring together people of all ages from across the city, and reflect the rich diversity of the people and cultures of our great city.

As I am sure you are aware the British National Party recently won a seat on the Greater London Authority, they sadly even increased the number of councillors in the local elections. Locally we saw them standing in new wards, coming second in two wards and third in seven. We must all act now and make sure this does not happen again. We must all unite and continue to fight this evil.

We hope that this festival will spread a positive and uplifting message; we intend to take and spread the good will of over 100,000 supporters who attended the LMHR Carnival in London in April this year and bring it to The Capital of Culture.

(And lots of money is required to support this so buy a ticket or send some money, show a bit of willing)

STOP PRESS: Organiser tells me the event is free, from 1pm - 11pm, how great is that!

Current line up is

Dinner Ladies
Flamingo 50
Curtis Watt
Wizards of Twiddly

Sense of Sound if TV show has finished by then

DJs Bernie Connor + Rockers II Rockers Sound System

- drumming and graffiti workshops

So you don't need to request tickets, just let me know if you will be joining me

Gustav Klimt exhibition at the Liverpool Tate

Mum and Roger came to stay for the weekend and the highlight of the visit was to be our trip to see the Gustav Klimt exhibition at the Liverpool Tate

Roger has been a huge fan of Klimt for over 20 years and their house is full of Klimt paintings (sadly not the originals, otherwise my life might have taken a whole different turn...!)

We booked our tickets about two months in advance, and it was just as well because the place was heaving. Although how much of that was to do with the coincidence of the Tall Ships being on the Dock, I couldn't say - but you were supposed to pre-book tickets, not just turn up on the day. We fought our way to the gallery through the thousands of people queueing up for a look at the ships moored there. What a great day to show off Liverpool!

Anyway we were in a huge queue inside the Tate, even for our 2.30pm booking, so we were taken to one side by a very helpful steward and advised to bypass the queue by going up the fourth floor first, seeing what was the "end" of the exhibition, and then to go back to the ground floor for the "beginning" in the hope we would miss the worst of the crowding round pictures.

This we did, but unfortunately it meant we missed out on the free guidebook, so we looked at some great stuff upstairs, went back downstairs, against the flow, in the massive industrial goods lift and looked round the ground floor.

But I knew we must have missed a bit. I had been told by previous Liverpool visitors, Pat, Cath and Steve that there was a particular exhibition of drawings that were considered pornographic 100 years when they were drawn (and would be thought so today by some people, believe me) and we had not seen them. (Mum and I giggled a little bit at the names of some of the drawings "Nude with left leg raised" hardly told the story at all, for instance, did it?)

So I found my way back to the front desk, got the booklet, checked it out and learned that there were two parts to the fourth floor and we had only seen half of it.

So back upstairs we went to the fourth floor and found a whole host of riches we would not have wanted to miss!

I think my favourite was the Beethoven frieze, probably because the end piece, Ode to Joy, is reproduced in Mum and Roger's living room in a particularly large painting and it was like greeting an old friend.

But there were other wonderful paintings that I loved. The "Three stages of life" is fantastic, as is the portrait of Marie Henneberg, and the unfinished Baby in a cradle.

Mixed in were some pieces from Charles Rennie McIntosh and some other wonderful artists and creative people. I particularly admired Hoffman's silver cutlery.

If you have not been, do go, and not just because of the pornography either! Klimt was a master before his time. He showed the way, 100 years in some cases, before others caught up with applying a similar style.

Klimt has been part of my family life for decades, perhaps it is time he was part of yours too?

PS When I was in the Tate two weeks ago with Cath and Steve, Rodin's Kiss was open to be touched or admired in the reception, as it has been for months since its installation. This week it was behind a wall of perspex. What is that all about then?

Deep fat frier causes fire in FIRE STATION!

A little bird, who is in a position to know the factual detail of this story, told me the other day that a certain fire station in Liverpool had recently to respond to a fire in its own kitchen!

They had a deep fat frier, they turned it on, went on a shout, and then got back to find it on fire. Apparently the cut-off switch failed.

When the junior fire-fighter went upstairs to make the tea for the returning crew, he saw the fire and shouted to his colleagues that the kitchen was on fire.

Of course they didn't believe a word of it to begin with.

It just goes to show that deep fat is a menace, whether it is a pan or an electrial frier.

Let's all campaign for the superiority of the grill and the oven, who needs a deep fat frier?

(But it did REALLY tickle me as a story!)

Rice Lane City Farm

Somewhere to take the kids over the summer holidays perhaps?

Thanks to Scouseboy for the information

The city farm is open every day during the school holdays. It is a working farm, there are sheep, cattle, ducks, chickens and a horse.

There are junior and senior kids activity clubs, as well as various school holiday activities. Community groups are very welcome, contact Maria on 0151 530 1066 for further details.

Buses 20/21, 62, 68 and 92 all go up Rice Lane, alight at Rawcliffe Road, the farm is a five minute walk up Rawcliffe Road, however it is probably easier to get the northern line train to Walton on the Ormskirk line where it is a two minute walk to the farm.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy 90th Birthday Mr Mandela

On Tuesday night Caroline (my black shadow councillor from Kenya, just to remind you) and I went to the Town Hall for a civic reception to celebrate Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday.

It was a lovely occasion, lots of Africans dancing, singing and reading extracts from his speeches, we both thoroughly enjoyed it.

I shall quickly take this opportunity to extract from an email about an event taking place in Kensington tomorrow, Saturday which you might like to attend. If you can, I urge you to do so, as the publicity has been minimal and I don't want them to have a poor attendance.

Saturday, 19th July, at the Kensington Community Sports Centre, Jubille Drive, L7, a full day of adult and family activities is offered, see second attachment, including:

Music workshops
Cultural Dancing
Face painting
Workshop: Nelson Mandela Theme with celebrity speakers, 1.0pm.
Fashion Show of African Clothes, 3..0pm
Cultural food tasting
Information Stalls
Art and Craft Stalls
Gospel Choir
Workshop: Nelson Mandela Theme with celebrity speakers, 1.0pm.

African food will be on sale between from 12.00. There will also be children’s Activities Area.

There will also be multi cultural football competitions at the Kensington Community Sports Centre, Jubilee Drive, and Botanic Park between 10am and 4 pm.

Mandela Cups

10 .00am – 4.00pm, Junior ( U10s, U12s ) 5-a-side football competition finals at Kensington Community Sports Centre, Jubilee Drive, L7
11.00am – 5.00pm, Senior (Over 16s) 6-a-side football competitions and finals, Botanic Park, L7

I hope to visit at some point with my folks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Newsham Park refurbishment - the people's priorities

We had a meeting of the Newsham Park Forum tonight to discuss our priorities for a £4.5million Heritage Lottery Bid that will be submitted in September.

Members of the Friends of Newsham Park were present, and also the Secretary of the Fairfield Residents Association and the Chair of the Elm Park Residents, as well as councillors from K&F and Tuebrook and Stoneycroft, staff and artists from the Adult Learning centre, the Deputy Head of the school, two shadow councillors and various parks staff, including the head of parks, Paul Scragg. I would have liked more residents there but the ones that did come were at least all representatives of a wider community and are clear about what local people want.

And I can reveal what the meeting chose for its priorities exclusively here in my blog!

(And then I let the Echo know and they covered the story here

Lighting for paths and dark corners - a real must in the fight against anti-social behaviour and vital for security

Refurbishment of the Bandstand - it could be a really great feature if brought back into good repair and its surroundings improved

Public artwork and a water feature - I am holding out for a fountain or a jet of water like the one in the lake at Chatsworth

Entrances to be refurbished - the entrances on Prescot Road for instance are in a right old mess, although the one on Gardners Drive is quite nice

New signage - showing people what is in the park, you cannot see the lake, for instance, if you come in through Gardners Drive or Carstairs Road and might fail to walk over to that spot and miss its loveliness.

Improvements to the Lake - including enhancements for the fishing community

Play and fitness equipment - a new playground for the north side of the park, a fitness trail and possibly also a so-called "pensioner's playground"

Landscape improvements and planting - one of my personal favourites, the horticultural offering in the park is rubbish, we need more shrubs and plants and more trees that will be there in another 100 years

Improvement of paving

I am so excited about this! Now we have to concentrate on putting in the best possible bid and then keeping everything crossed that we win. Sefton Park has had its cash, now surely it is time for a northern park to get the same chance!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

LibDem Westminster Enterprise spokesman says Liverpool people deserve less

Actually that is my paraphrasing of a Liverpool Echo story I spotted tonight.

It says that

"A senior politician has sparked a parliamentary row by saying the minimum wage should be lower in Liverpool than London.

Liberal Democrat business and enterprise spokesman Lorely Burt MP said the amount has "tremendously" less purchasing power in the capital than in Merseyside.

Mrs Burt, MP for Solihull in the West Midlands, insisted she was not arguing for a wage cut for Merssyde, but a system reflecting regional differences. She said "There are differences between Liverpool and London."

This tiny story features on page 21 so I would understand if you missed it yourself.

I would be interested to hear what Councillor Gary Millar makes of this story, he is the LibDem Executive Member for Enterprise and Tourism for Liverpool City Council.

I think it is massively more complicated than this MP is trying to suggest.

I have lived in four regions of England, and their prices were broadly and averagely the same, although the middle-class areas of each were always more expensive than the working class areas thereof.

We all knew that Yarm Presto was more expensive than Stockton Presto four miles away - and it is probably more expensive than Old Swan Tesco but not as much as Woolton Sainsbury's if we did the comparison.

We all know that Orkney petrol is much more expensive than Glasgow petrol - because of proximity to fuel terminals and we all know now that city housing costs more money than town housing. Liverpool's Housing market is considerably more expensive than that in Stockton or in Huddersfield for instance. But a house in Kensington, Liverpool is massively cheaper to buy or rent than a house in Mossley Hill.

And it is also true to say that Liverpool housing is cheaper than London. But this is getting very murky, isn't it?

Gas and Electricity, so far as I know, does not recognise regional costings, and we all know that there are councils in London where the council tax is a tiny fraction of what you might have to pay in a northern city. Wandsworth anyone?

So how can this Enterprise Spokesman for the national LibDem party make such a fundamental mistake?

I absolutely accept that housing is more money in London than the provinces, but she talks about purchasing power in a way that does not merely suggest rental levels.

I wonder what she has in her comparative shopping basket?

Beer of course is massively more expensive in London, is this MP trying to suggest that minimum wage earners have to consider the price of beer above all other expenditure?

Can anyone out there explain to me how the low paid of London deserve more than the low paid of Liverpool?

I am cross about this, can you tell?

Somewhat of a dilemma! Local Government strike on Thursday

I could do with some timely advice, that is for sure

Tomorrow morning is meant to be my surgery at Kensington Library.

Which will be closed because of the strikes

And I am a UNITE member (although my current workplace is not unionised) and I always go on the picket line when my own workplace is called out on strike (as it was twice when I worked at HMRC).

So I support the right of the local government workers to go on strike for better pay and I support their call for better pay too.

However, I also support my constituents who might turn up tomorrow at the library to see me with a problem and I don't want to let them down.

I am thinking of going to the library anyway tomorrow, even though it will be closed. I doubt if there will be a picket line there as it will probably be entirely shut, doors locked, nothing to see here, move along.

And I am thinking of sitting on the step with a newspaper or some paperwork I need to read, just in case anyone turns up.

But is this in the spirit of a strike?

Thoughts please! And you had better be quick because in about 12 hours time I am going to have to decide whether I should be putting my coat on!

Monday, July 14, 2008

What is poisoning us? A petition to the PM

Please sign this important petition calling for an scientific investigation into the health effects of being exposed to the products of combustion.

A large number of people who have been poisoned by CO - and lived - have had matching resultant illnesses and diseases that we must assume are connected. However medics cannot currently link these to CO therefore it seems that either the science around CO has yet to catch up or these illnesses and diseases must be connected to other toxins and chemicals that are produced by the combustion process.

I have met people with all sorts of central nervous damage who are known to have been poisoned by CO. People with paralysis, people who have had several strokes despite being very young. There is clearly a link but the research needs to be done to establish that.

Please sign up, thanks very much

Sunday, July 13, 2008

For Ged, Tim, Steve and Daniel

I know you hate waiting, but where do you think I have time to make new entries with a diary as packed as this, and all the casework that goes with it?

Make the most of it while you can, that is what I say!


Mama Mia!

Stephen T and I had a great night out on Saturday night.

It began with Mama Mia at the cinema on Edge Lane then a drink in Schmooze on Church Road, a meal in La Bassola on Allerton Road and a final drink in the Penny Lane wine bar.

What a fab film, we were singing, cheering, dancing in our seats, if not actually in the aisles, eating sweeties and simply enjoying ourselves.

Who would ever have imagined that Meryl Streep could sing, or Julie Walters could imitate a disco dancer, or that Pierce Brosnan could stop being a stuffed-shirt?

And the rest of the night went well too, lovely food and an ambient atmosphere.

Thanks for a good night out my friend!

Kensington Fun Day

Liam and I went along on Saturday after a leafletting session to lend our support to the Kensington Fun Day

Wendy is on holiday, the lucky woman! I bet she has better weather than us, although it did not actually rain while we walked round the show

Everyone who was anyone was out on the Police Club field and we enjoyed seeing old friends and new.

The police had several stalls, as did Kensington Regeneration, various Resident Groups, performers, singers, dancers, artists and Housing Associations and Environmental Groups.

Plus the launch of a new group in Fairfield designed to promote community cohesion and promotion - CREDHEDZ

A lovely day out, Liam particularly enjoyed talking to the lady from the Rice Lane City Animal Farm - and I particularly enjoyed the chilli and rice from the hot food stand.

We ran into Siddi who was updating us on his plans for a December tour of Ghana for his young footballers. And lots of our TRA secretaries, chairs, treasurers and active members, parents, governors, vicars et al

The end of the Cluster Partnerships...

...marked with more of a whimper than a shout!

There were a lot of empty places at the dinner in the Holiday Inn on Lime Street on Friday night. Our table joined up with the neighbouring table to make a whole, and as a result had more fun and giggles and some fun-poking and generally a much better time than probably anyone else at the dinner.

At our table was Karen Harris from LCVS, Alan Rogers from LHT, Elizabeth Hartley from City and North NMS, Jean Harrison from the Beatles Estate TRA, folks from the Eldonians, Anfield and Speke. Great dinner companions.

It was a good reason for an event, the end of one way of working and the beginning of the next, but it seemed that the participants had already moved on and were now well into their new ways of working because they didn't feel the need to come and celebrate their own demise.

There were clearly good reasons to be thankful, some really good projects came out of the Cluster Partnerships, several in Kensington for instance. But overall it felt very much to me like a stepping stone from what had gone before and what is still go come.

I rarely accept dinner invitations, but those that celebrate our officers are always important in my eyes, they get few enough plaudits

Well done everyone, onwards and upwards!

Official Launch of the Liverpool Mural Project's first mural

Wendy and I were delighted, if not actually thrilled, to attend the launch of the first ever LMP Mural.

It was Beatles' Day and the Lathom Club with its rich Beatles history was an ideal place from which to promote the first mural which features John Lennon and the Beatles, which is just up the street, very timely and very relevant!

We were spellbound by a presentation from a Sociologist from Belfast (I think) who talked about the history of the gable-end mural in Belfast and then a Q&A from mural painters from the Loyalist and the Republic movement.

We are very excited about the possibility of having our own mural in Kensington and hope to find the funding to make it happen.

We will include the local community in the development of the design but in the meantime we are looking for a suitable Gable End and ask all people of K&F to come forward with possible sites.

It is going to be awesome!

Peter and Greg and the NI artists have been magnificent, now it is our turn to rise to the challenge.

Full council - July 2008

A full agenda and lots to debate and I simply cannot do it all justice

There were discussions about the need for a new Skills Agenda in Liverpool and Merseyside to help the long-term unemployed back into work; a debate about ways of tackling obesity in children; snooping by council staff into politicians phone records; and a few other debates. All very worthy but you cannot help wondering what they will achieve.

The main points for me were my joy upon hearing the maiden speeches of Councillor Tim Moore (my mentee) and Jim Noakes. Both very eloquent and well delivered. I imagine the administration LibDem benches are beginning to tremble at the difference between our successful new representatives and their stale ones.

The speeches from members of the public that started the meeting were all very powerful - including powerful testimony as to why we should never park in a bus-stop, and the closure of Crocky Comp and the shoddy experience of some visiting artists

My Shadow, Caroline, was given permission to sit next to me and I spent a lot of the meeting whispering to her about the whys and the wherefores of the proceedings.

I am still not sure that I explained fully the need for Evertonian Season Ticket Holders to declare their personal interests in the debate about the possible moving of the stadium to Kirby!

Regulation 33 - in the Town Hall

There is a little known regulation in Local Government which talks about the responsibility of all councillors to be the corporate parents of all Looked After Children

Which in essence means that along with my 89 colleagues, I am the parent of around 820 children in care in Liverpool.

Some of the care of those children depends on a regime of inspection which should be undertaken by councillors amongst others.

I went to a short seminar on Wednesday to learn a bit more about what that entails, and have now signed up to a regular inspection regime to visit children's homes and talk to the children and to the staff and to look round the homes to ensure that all is as it should be and that the children are happy.

I was particularly interested to learn that several of these homes are actually in my ward which makes me (and Liam and Wendy) all the more determined to visit and play our part in ensuring that our children are doing well and are happy!

Kensington "Campus" seminar

I went to an interesting seminar (there is that adjective again!) last week about the Kensington campus

It doesn't really exist yet, but if it did, it would encompass Kensington I&J School and the Lifebank in the South and Kensington Library in the North and the Sports Centre and Reservoir in the middle (and perhaps my workplace, tangentially too)

There are plans afoot to bring all this land together as one and try to manage it as a whole, providing learning, relaxation, sport and play in one place.

If we can pull it off, it will be ground-breaking, but there are lots of obstacles, mainly financial ones.

Watch this space.

Shadow Ethical Governance

I met with the two senior officers who have the bulk of the responsibility for the Ethical Governance portfolio.

As you know, it is a new portfolio and I needed to hear from them about what they thought the key issues would be over the coming year.

I promised faithfully to keep our discussions private, and I will, but I can tell you that I now have a clear view of what it was that the Audit Commission was really referring to when it talked about poor councillor behaviour and poor councillor/officer relationships. These things included the behaviour of councillors in the council chamber, email and verbal communications between politicians and with officers and between officers and also politicians leaking information to other politicians or to the press.

And I have agreed to do what I can to improve this. I don't see it as a party political issue, it should matter to all politicians of all parties that the public have faith in our abilities to deliver for them

I have a few pointers which I wont go into here, but I sense this year will be a fascinating one and I am excited about the possibilities of my new portfolio.

(And both officers were very open and very helpful and I look forward to working with them during the year).

Dodgy Fake Fags - and some human rights abuses - emanating from Kensington

Liam and I had a very worrying meeting on Wednesday with the Principal Trading Standards Officer.

He was very open with us and I dont intend to disclose a lot of what he told us as it was in confidence, but I think it is okay to let you know about the main thrust of what we discussed.

We had asked for the meeting following a front page article in the Liverpool Echo a few weeks ago about the rising amount of fake tobacco products in Liverpool, which suggested that Kensington was a key area for its production.

The PTSO set the scene for us.

Apparently there are young people so keen to leave China that they will sign up with Gangmasters for a passage to Europe. Some of them end up in the UK. They are then in the debt of the gangmasters and are then obliged to work for them until their debt is repaid.

This work, where it affects Trading Standards and thus our report, involves illegally copying and then selling box-office hits onto DVDs and also copying pornography (rather than filming it I think) and selling them to customers in city pubs. They also assemble tobacco products and sell them in the same way.

This latter is more complicated than it sounds. They get loose tobacco in one consignment and empty pouches in another, and then fill one with the other and seal it up. Golden Virginia and Old Holborn mainly. This tobacco does not have much in common with the original product, both are of course deadly, but the fake stuff is even more so, containing such lovely things as rats droppings! But it is half the price of the real thing.

They also receive loose cigarettes in one consignment, empty cigarette packs in another (sometimes flat pack sometimes already made up) which they pack and then bind in cellaphane.

They then sell them in pubs for half the price of UK cigs

This might seem like a good deal to a smoker, but really they are smoking arsenic and rats droppings along with an increased supply of tar and nicotine

I am a smoker, I cannot pretend otherwise, but there are legal risks in smoking dodgy fags with no duty paid and there are of course even more deadly risks. Obviously there is no such thing as "good cigarettes" but there is definitely something called "seriously bad cigarettes" and these are they.

Very scary stuff, first message of today is DONT BUY DODGY FAGS, you have no idea what you are putting in your mouth.

The other big problem that I am seriously concerned about is the lives of the young people caught up in this game.

They come to the UK presumably with the hope and with dreams of a great new life in the West.

What they get is a modern-day slave trade.

They sell fags and DVDs in pubs

They live in a house with a lot of other Chinese people in similar circumstances

They get up early, make up pouches of tobacco, make up cigarettes, copy DVDs, package them all up and then get out to pubs to start selling.

If they get arrested, which happens very regularly, they might get a week in prison (counterfeiting does not carry a big sentence) they come out, and they cannot work at something else because they are illegal immigrants and there is a law against employing illegal immigrants. So no-one "proper" will take them on.

They are not allowed to access social housing.

They cannot claim benefits.

They cannot go back to China as they have been told to destroy their papers by the gangmasters - and the Chinese authorities wont have you back without papers (clever gangmasters, or what!)

They cannot escape to another part of the country as there is nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat and no way of getting any of these.

And most of them cannot speak English other than "DVD?" or "Cigarettes" or "£2.50 for twenty".

So they reluctantly go back to the gangmaster, who was probably waiting for them outside prison anyway, and they go back to live in houses of overcrowding, where the three bedrooms are taken up with manufacture and storage of DVDs or tobacco projects, the front room downstairs has one bed in it, and a number of sleeping bags, where they sleep in shifts, and the back room downstairs is running half a dozen DVD burners, 24/7

The kitchen has more pots and crockery than a hotel kitchen, heaven only knows how they all get in to feed themselves. (I saw all this on a video that the Trading Standards had captured on a recent raid).

So when you buy dodgy fags or DVDs, you are not just evading duty, or cheating the tax man, or damaging your health, you are also supporting a slave system for young people with no escape.

That is not great is it?

Liam and I were very shaken by our meeting and I keep thinking about this one girl that I heard about, who is only 17 and already enslaved in the system, having been arrested 6 times thus far

And I want to find her and take her home and help her find a new life, but I cannot. Because I couldnt support her and even if I could, I couldnt support the next girl, or the one after that.

At the risk of making myself deeply unpopular with certain parts of the community, I think these innocent and gullible young "slaves" should be allowed to give evidence against the gang-masters, leading to a successful conviction, whereupon they should be declared as legal and entitled to claim asylum or the right to remain or something similar.

That would mean that the gangmasters lost their claim over young people's lives and the scheme would be dead in the water within weeks.

Is there a national politician out there ready to take this on?

Overview and Scrutiny - my first meeting

Thanks to Councillor Paul Brant being as generous as to give up his place (and his Deputy Chairmanship) to me, I am now on the Overview and Scrutiny Select Committee. You will recall my complaining that the initial documents put out by Committee Services had said that the Ethical Governance Executive Member who I shadow, should report to Corporate Services Select Committee but that this had since been changed, after I had been put onto that committee.

Thankfully, because Paul made this kind gesture, I got to the first meeting of the new Municipal Year and found it very useful.

We discussed the progress of the Operation Black Vote Councillor Shadowing Scheme which I am involved in. We are going to have a mid-term assessment probably in September to see how it is progressing.

We also looked at the terms of reference and work programmes for the new Select Committees - and boy are they huge! Imagine for instance the work of Healthcare and Safeguarding which has to consider adult social care (care homes, care centres, aids and adaptations, people with disabilities etc), Looked After Children (their homes their education, their schooling, their dental health programmes etc), health programmes to reduce obesity and smoking, provisions for people made homeless etc etc

And all that just seven times a year.

I was most interested however in the progress of plans to improve Ethical Governance - and the behaviour of councillors in particular - over the last year. We scrutinised the report quite thoroughly, I think I asked about a dozen questions. I was particularly interested in the work of LCC to combat hate crime - those based on someone's race, age, gender, religion, disability, sexuality or any other way that makes someone appear to be different to others.

I have had a couple of useful chats with Sergeant Rob Venables of Merseyside Police -a lovely man - who is taking on this issue for the whole of Merseyside. Now that is an even bigger portfolio! I offered to put LCC in touch with him, at the meeting of Overview and Scrutiny, but having seen him again since it might appear that he is already engaged with the relevant LCC officer. He did say he was working with a particular officer but I dont know if that is the one who wrote the report we were examining.

He particularly wants to do a special project involving putting stickers on wheely bins, which LCC has not yet agreed to, but which I have promised to support. More on this on another occasion when I am clearer about what steps he has tried in his quest so far and what more we can try.

We were a very select Select Committee with a number of apologies due to holidays, but I enjoyed it and found it useful and responsive. Fingers crossed for the next year.

FARA - Fairfield Area Residents Association

It was my turn to attend FARA this quarter, as it clashed with Labour Group meeting which Wendy chaired and Liam also needed to be at to understand how his first real full council would work.

There were a couple of interesting items; apparently an unofficial club has opened on Prescot Road and the residents were complaining about the noise and problems spilling on to the street. It was unclear whether this was a club targetted at young people or at adults and the police were concerned as to whether the workers had been CRB checked if it were the former. And if they had a licence and planning permission etc. I have promised to take this up.

Also we identified some addresses that might be operating as brothels and crack houses. And this in just a handful of streets in Fairfield, where these things are quite unusual ordinarily. Thankfully the police were there to take away all the details.

Also I am nearly sure I heard someone say there is a superlambanana on Birchfield Park, which was new to me, so I shall pop down and have a look this week. That will be one that is not on the trail perhaps, as I dont recall seeing it on the list.

Polonia - developing the Polish community on Merseyside

Having bumped into Ghosia from Yellow House at the Newsham Park Festival, I went to visit her last week in Marmaduke Street to talk about a project she wants to launch in the area.

Focussing mainly on Kensington and Picton, because that is where a lot of Poles have settled, Ghosia wants to set up a project where the focus is on monthly meetings to bring together the Polish and English communities in Liverpool to support community cohesion through talks, presentations, screenings and cultural activities.

Certain areas of tension are apparent - for instance Polish people are antagonistic about the police as they dont have good community relations with the police back home and have not yet always learnt that in Liverpool things are very different. Many Poles, according to Ghosia, work hard all day, go home to bed, go back to work and live quite isolated lives, not engaging with their neighbourhoods.

Ghosia hopes to change this by bringing people together regularly, learning more about each other's cultures and way of life and helping to improve community cohesion. There will also be the opportunity for the different service providers to explain their services - like the bin men for instance, talking about how the bin service operates and how recycling should work, or Job Centre Plus or Housing Associations etc. Also groups like the Friends of Newsham Park and the TRAs talking about the activities that Poles can join in with.

I hope that working with Wendy and Liam we can support this initiative.

Liverpool Mutual Homes

Liam and I met our area's Housing Officers from Liverpool Mutual Homes on Monday. We write to them regularly - practically everyday in fact - since they took over our area on April 1st but we had not met before so we went to the big office on Commutation Plaza to sit down with them.

Just opposite their office is their own really fantastic superlambanana - a construction worker in t-shirt and jeans, with a tool belt and boots and the hint of a builder's bum. Really entertaining, I know at least one child who likes it best of all the ones he has seen - and that would be over 60 of them.

We had a very good meeting and I was really pleased that they knew all the key residents, the people who work hard to keep their estate looking good and working well. They also knew the problem addresses and the ASB cases and the drug problem areas, without us having to prompt them. And they already have plans in place to address some of these difficulties.

It was the kind of meeting you hope you will have, but don't ever truly anticipate.

The partnership between residents, councillors, agencies and partners is going from strength to strength.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Good sized meeting room in Liverpool

I need to organise a meeting room in the city centre, ideally free, but certainly quite cheap, for the NSPCC.

Can you think of anywhere?

What would you suggest?

Christmas Party in Liverpool

I am helping to organise a Christmas Party for our firm in Liverpool. There are about 30 of us. What would you suggest? Where did you go last year? Was it any good?
Where should we avoid?

Monday, July 07, 2008

First Jewish place of worship in Liverpool - plaque unveiled today by Lord Mayor

I was pleased and frankly, felt quite honoured today, to be invited to the unveiling of a plaque in the MetQuarter in Liverpool city centre, to recognise that on that site once stood the first ever place of worship for the Jewish community in Liverpool.

Seel Street is recognised as the first purpose built Jewish Synagogue but it seems that the MetQuarter location, which is now completely different from the old street maps that Councillor Peter Millea thoughtfully provided, was there first.

It was around 1750, give or take, when a small cottage with a small yard acting as a burial ground, was founded here for the new Jewish community by Joseph Clegg who became Mayor of Liverpool. After a short time the area became known as Synagogue Court.

Thanks to Peter Millea's good work, this site has now been officially recognised and we had a short but quite moving ceremony today to unveil the plaque.

The Lord Mayor, Councillor Steve Rotheram, drew back the curtain over the plaque and made a short speech. He was followed by Peter who explained the background to the site, which was very interesting. Thanks to him and his staff and the archivists for doing the ground work.

Then one of the few Freemen of the City of Liverpool, Rex Makin, made a speech, setting the site in context and talking about some of the more famous Jews involved in the early stages of their settling in Liverpool.

I was invited by both Peter and Rex to attend because of the work we have been doing in Deane Road Jewish Cemetery in Kensington (which was considered to be in Fairfield when it was built).

As well as the Lord Mayor, Councillor Peter Millea and Rex Makin, the others present were Jewish Councillors, the Rabbi, Council staff from the Equalities department and members of the Jewish congregation. There are lots of criticisms and very few praises in the politics game, so to be name-checked by a man as important as Mr Makin, not once but twice in a few days has really moved me. He acknowledged our small committee's work in Deane Road cemetery in his Echo article on Saturday and again today in his speech.

As you know, I am not Jewish, I am a Methodist. But I do believe the Liverpool Jewish community has, over 250 years, achieved the most wonderful things and I am priveleged to be however remotely associated with them.

Plus of course I am a time-served genealogist - 25 years this year - and so I have some insight into the work required to make ancient burials relevant for today's descendants.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Field of Women

Wendy and I met other Labour women councillors and Maria Eagle MP today at Liverpool Cricket Club to take part in the creation of a giant woman called LUCY, created by thousands of us, dressed in pink rain ponchos, standing together to form her shape.

This was a fundraising event for breast cancer organised by the Linda McCartney centre.

Sadly it rained a lot, and the rain ponchos were very necessary and I suspect we didn't manage anything like the desired 10,000 women (and a few men) on the field, the weather would have seriously put many off from coming, but the spirit was very good, and the sunshine in between the rain was very warm.

And Ricky Tomlinson made a very short but really rather good speech too. He said nobody should thank him for coming to support the event, it was an event for Liverpool women and Liverpool health and in fact in his view, all the "faces" should have been there. He got a big cheer for that.

Young Daniel took a lot of pics which I hope he will share with me so I will post a few up later.

I hope they raised a really huge sum of money, I am sure it will be in the papers tomorrow.

A very busy Friday night

After work, Liam and I had our photo taken with all the children who had worked on our Kenny superlambanana and with Barbara Galt of METAL who designed and supervised the project. They have done such a good job and all the kids were really excited. Thanks to Christina from LCC for setting up the photo shoot.

Then, with Caroline we did a surgery at the Fairfield centre - we have revamped all our surgeries, you will need to check the Liverpool City Council website for the new list. I couldn't get to the page tonight, it was crashing but if you follow that link and then go to "Councillors and then to my own record, you will see them all. We have added some extra dates and locations now that there are three of us.

Then I rushed over to town to catch the end of the Progress/Compass conference on the future direction of the Labour Party, unfortunately I was only in time for questions so I missed the views of the four speakers. But it was good to see such a big crowd.

Then I rushed again, over to the BT Convention Centre, part of the new Arena development, just in time to see the Liverpool City Council staff "oscar" awards. I was invited for dinner, but declined because of the surgery. I thought the important part was to see the staff receive their awards so I sat in at the back through the awards and then left again after the last one. There were awards for the Environment team who have boosted recycling rates, the community midwives, the crisis team, various teams working with vulnerable families, and several others. Jean Evans from the Town Hall got a well-deserved special award from the Chief Executive for organising the National Holocaust events. Alas I dont have a full list of award winners but I expect they are on the council website too. Well done everyone, winners and those short-listed, I like to see people get the credit when they have done a particularly good job.

Then I went back into town for a quick drink with the remnants of the conference attendees, it was after 11 by the time I finally got home!

Cath and Steve's visit

I tell you what, this Capital of Culture year is certainly bringing the visitors to Liverpool, and Klimt must be one of the biggest draws. Steve had not been to Liverpool for many years so I showed him as much of the city the top cultural attractions as we could manage in a fairly short time.

The three of us visited the Walker Gallery, St George's Hall, took lunch in the world museum, Albert Dock (where they visited the Klimt exhibition which I am saving for next week when Mum and Roger come back), and we looked at some more superlambananas. There is a particularly good one in the basement in St George's Hall, which Steve has since sent me his photo of, but I have saved it on to the other laptop so will have to upload that another time.

On the second day Steve was at his son's graduation at the Phil so Cath and I went about our business. She checked her emails on the internet in Kensington Library while Liam and I had the first of our new surgeries there - two people turned up which was pretty good for a first time. Then we had a drive over to Newsham Park to see the superlambanana there and give Rosie a run out. Then she came with me to meet the City Talk reporter before we had lunch in China town. Then in the afternoon she came with me the Palm House in Sefton Park where I am currently organising a big dinner for work to celebrate 50 years in business. Unfortunately there was a sign on the gate saying no dogs, and we had Rosie with us, so she had to walk round Sefton Park for an hour while I spoke to the caterers. Back in the car, waiting for me to finish, she picked up the news at the top of the hour and caught a bit of my interview, which must have been a bit surreal, to say the least.

I do love showing off Liverpool and helping to dispel the negative images and we had a good couple of days. They also shared some very good news with me but I dont know if I am allowed to share it, so will keep mum for now.

Prince Caspian

Colin and I went to see Prince Caspian on Tuesday night

It was very good.

He had free tickets from a Coca-Cola promotion so I didn't even have to pay, but it would have been worth paying for.

I read all the Narnia books when I was a kid but never since, so I had forgotten the plots and most of the characters, and I didnt watch the first movie. It was an interesting combination of make-up and props and computer animation. I particularly liked the Centaurs, I thought they were very well done.

Disney have had to take the books out of sequence because the action in Prince Caspian takes place only a year after the action in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so they couldn't let the actors get much older before filming it. CS Lewis moved backwards and forwards in time as he wrote the books - not like JK Rowling with Harry Potter, so it has made the filming a bit more difficult.

The countryside is rather lovely, I have Googled and found out that the locations were primarily New Zealand, with bits of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Anyway, I would recommend the film, I wont give the plot away, although you may well have the read book. This is not a precise copy of the book, but reasonably faithful I am told.
Do go!

Kensington crime and policing

There has been a big focus this week on crime and policing in Kensington.

On Monday night the Chief Constable, Bernard Hogan-Howe, held a public meeting in Kensington Fields at Sacred Heart school. There were about 30 members of the public and about a dozen police officers. He gave a short presentation about the different police operations that have been carried out in the area over the last year and then took questions from the floor. There was a lot of focus on the ASB and the big groups of kids, drinking underage, at nights in Pythian Park (Fielding Street public open space as it is officially called) and he has promised to give extra resources to resolving it.

The day before, on Sunday there had been a shooting on Kensington, someone was shot at home in a targetted attack, although not seriously wounded. Then later in the week there were two further shootings, one in Edinburgh Road and one at the Weighing Machine pub on Wavertree Road. Both were targetted and neither fatal - leg and foot wounds. By Thursday Kensington was at the very top of the Chief Constable's agenda and he put an operation together to massively intensify the policing in the area.

They are pretty sure that all three shootings have been carried out by one person and that they know who it was, and now they have to find the guy.

So there have been Matrix teams, vans, dogs, cars, extra foot patrols, something like 60 extra police in Kensington from across Merseyside.

On Thursday alone they carried out 150 stop and searches and made 11 arrests.

It seems to me that Kensington must conversely be a very safe place at the moment, while they are on every corner. It would be a very foolish criminal who chose this week to deal drugs or try to burgle anyone, let alone carry a gun on the streets. The police have been keeping me informed about progress and are working very closely with the community, acting on intelligence and tip-offs.

I was interviewed on City Talk, telling local people that despite the shootings, they should not feel that they needed to barricade themselves into their own homes in fear. The reporter kept asking me about the chances of innocent people getting caught in cross-fire, it was almost as though she wanted it to be the case, but the police have been very clear that the victims were known to the shooter and had been targetted deliberately. It does nobody any good to stir up fear and trepidation in a neighbourhood.

I have every faith in Inspector Charnock and his team and supported by such a big operation they will soon have this man in prison.

Doctor Who - Journey's End

I am so soppy!

I was crying tonight, watching Doctor Who (I caught it on "On Demand TV" tonight, because I was at Katie's wedding last night if you recall).

Wasn't it marvellous, if not extremely complicated in parts. I wont call it far-fetched, because that is entirely the point. But I couldn't help thinking with some of the final action in the Dalek HQ that Russell T Davies had got fed-up and was rushing to draw his writing experience and his final episode to an end.

But I loved all the pathos at the end!

Best line of the show has to go to Captain Jack who upon learning that there were now three Doctors said "What a picture that makes" (or words to that effect) with such a wolfish grin. Naughty man!

Still all's right with the world that Russell T Davies created and Rose has finally got her man - although I did think she could have been a tad more grateful!

Poor old Donna has gone back to being an air-head who was once for a moment the most important woman in all creation and is now back to being a temp in Chiswick. A rather sorry ending for her I think, who had become such a powerful and thoughtful character, because she doesn't now know the first thing about any of the massive events that have affected the earth for the last couple of earth years. People will be talking about space ships and daleks and the earth being moved in the heavens and she will not know what they are talking about, so they will probably think she is mad or in terrible denial and lock her up. And she will never know, or care probably, that she was magnificent and is now extremely trivial.

I do hope Russell did not do that on purpose.

A marvellous series though, and I was right about the regeneration thingy, I just knew the world was not yet ready to get rid of David Tennant.

Poor fella, I hope he finds a new assistant soon!