Monday, October 26, 2009

Councillors Community Initiative Fund 2009/10

The Councillors Community Initiative Fund 2009/10 Round 3 is now open for applications. Please follow the the link to the CRU web page which contains all relevent documents for this round. The closing date for round 3 is 12 noon on Monday 30th of November 2009.

We have still got some cash left in Kensington and Fairfield, because although we had applications for £45k in the first round, many were for projects that were not in our ward, or were not sufficiently detailed. If you want to apply, you need to be very clear about what the outputs will be from your project - who will benefit and how, and be careful that the project will be delivered in our ward. If you have any doubts please get in touch with one of the 3 councillors or with the council.

Good luck!

Mischief night, Halloween and Bonfire night operations in Kensington and Fairfield

Dear Councillor Baldock

Re: Op Banger 2009

I am writing to you with reference to Operation Banger, which is the Merseyside Police response to the traditional rise in anti-social behaviour during the autumn period and specifically on Mischief Night, Halloween and Bonfire Night.

Last years operation was a resounding success, reflected in a significant reduction in calls associated with anti-social behaviour compared to the previous year. We also received very positive feedback from the local community on our actions to tackle the issues that have been a real cause for concern in recent years.

This year we will be again challenging anti-social behaviour in all its forms under our Total Policing philosophy and we will be utilising the full range of tactics and legislation to tackle these issues. Our operation is not all about enforcement as we are also working with our partners to coordinate a comprehensive range of youth diversionary activities. We will also be contacting our repeat and vulnerable victims of anti-social behaviour and ensuring that they are provided with our full support and reassurance.

I will be leading on this operation for Liverpool North BCU and I will ensure that your local Neighbourhood Inspector keeps you fully updated on our activities.

In the meantime do not hesitate to contact me on this or any matter if you feel I can be of any assistance.

Yours sincerely

Paul White
Chief Inspector

Diversity film programme from Kensington Remembers

Please see the leaflet advertising Kensington Remembers' Diversity Film programme. Targetted mainly at educational and youth workers, the idea is to see the film and think about whether you would then like to show it, or extracts from it, to your colleagues or the young people you work with (where appropriate). It is all free, but you should let someone know you are coming along. Please share this with others. Thanks

The 45 lessons of life

Mum sent me these lessons. They were written by a 90 year old lady in Cleveland, Ohio

Some of them are a bit cheesy, and there are lots of Americanism, but many of these really hit home with me, so I thought I would share them with you.

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it..

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you, really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else..

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain..

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone, everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come.

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Further news on Kensington Regeneration/Kensington CIC

Boarded up houses on Edge Lane with painted murals over boarded up windows
Despite my belief that the Executive Board (cabinet) of Liverpool City Council would not take this item without alerting me, in point of fact that is exactly what they did. They took the item on Friday morning, only a few hours after I wrote that last post on the matter. Thankfully my colleague Councillor Nick Small was tipped off and was able to make it to the meeting, whereas I myself was at work all day. I am distinctly unimpressed that following my close involvement in this matter, no-one thought fit to let me know, cock-up, conspiracy, contempt or a cavalier attitude? I don’t know.

Nick said that the Executive Board did recognise some of our concerns, particularly about the size and scale of public support for the CIC model – is it enough given that both MPs and 6 out of the 9 councillors are against the idea? They have consequently referred the matter back to Kensington Regeneration for at least two weeks to look into this.

In the meantime, Jane Kennedy MP and Louise Ellman MP have each written to the Minister expressing their concerns over the value for money of these proposals.

I shall keep you updated.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The saga of the future of Kensington Regeneration continues...

On Tuesday evening Liverpool City Council's Sustainable Community Select Committee met and considered (amongst other things) the referral from the Executive Board (Cabinet) to look again at the plans for Kensington Regeneration's succession strategy.

The item itself was exempted, which means the press and public were not allowed to attend, on the grounds that some of the figures were commercially sensitive (I am not quite sure why, it is all tax payers money after all).

However, the Chair of the Committee, Colin Eldridge, allowed Norma Williams (Chair of Kensington Regeneration and Director of the CIC), her husband Alan Grace (also a Director of the CIC) and Richie Keenan (Former Chair and now Vice-Chair of Kensington Regeneration) to speak to the item before the room was cleared.

Subsequently, I spoke at length of my concerns about the value for money of a scheme where 40% plus of the proposed income for Kensington people was to be spent on overheads rather than on locally identified priorities. I cited a couple of examples of current wasteful practices, for instance employing solicitors from Birmingham to attend every board meeting of the CIC and take minutes, type them up, distribute them, and issue agendas at great expense, with a cost to the CIC which I won't detail but which is considerable. Why don't they employ local solicitors if they need legal advice? What is so special about Birmingham? We have solicitors in Liverpool and indeed in Kensington and the things they are asked to advise on are not all that specialist.

For instance, at one CIC meeting, the Chair was unavailable and the Vice Chair had to leave, so one of the remaining Directors suggested they should ask for legal advice about who should now chair the meeting!! (You could not make this up!)

I bet the solicitors were rubbing their hands in glee, fortunately another director stepped forward and explained quite forcibly why this was not necessary.

As to taking notes at meetings and then going away to write minutes and create agendas, why doesn't the CIC employ adhoc agency servies to do the admin for about £20 per hour, or ask their 7 members of staff who are all seconded to Kensington Regeneration to do it for nothing, instead of paying Solicitor's hourly rates for this service?

(These were among the points I raised. I also talked about the fact that the CIC has been renting an office since June, which is not currently in regular use, there being no dedicated staff to work there as yet, the new manager would not start until January if all goes to their plan. Again at a cost to the tax-payer.)

Other members of the select committee raised concerns of their own and finally it went to a vote, where my alternative proposals, to spend the money via the CCIF or Participatory Budgeting with the full engagement of local people (as detailed in my earlier blog), was passed.

This will now go back to the Executive Board to be heard again, with my alternative proposals on the table for consideration. I am expecting it to be on the agenda in a fortnight's time, or at the following fortnight's meeting where I can talk to my amendment.

I have had the agenda for tomorrow's Executive Board in tonight's council despatch and it is not featured there and nobody has phoned or emailed from LCC to advise me that they are taking this item in the morning, which would be the proper thing to do. So I am sure they won't be so crude as to take it in secret tomorrow in an unseemly rush. I may not get on with all the LibDems but I know that amongst the Executive Board are those who put Value for Money and the importance of protecting public expenditure high on their agenda.

So, over the next fortnight I hope to refine and develop the arguments that I will want to make to the cabinet, to convince them of the rightness of my alternative proposals which have already met favour privately with some officers of the council at a high level.

I would like to thank the many local residents, from Edge Hill, Kensington Fields, Kensington and Fairfield who have contacted me to tell me that they agree with me and don't want the CIC to spend nearly half their money on overheads and fat cat salaries when we could spend it all on local priorities.

An important issue that will run and run

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

We're not all at it, honest!

According to a report in the Liverpool Echo tonight, 32 councillors claimed expenses last year (out of 90), which means that 58 claimed for nothing (of which I was one).

Apparently, of those who did make claims, almost all claimed for something that was disallowed, this is disappointing and suggests that some further work is required and questions do need to be asked. (And yes Cllr Makinson, you should be embarassed about claiming for a planning meeting on Christmas Day, it is sloppy at best). I think Cllr Anderson is right to say that if there is something wrong on nearly every claim, then we need to pay some attention to this issue.

Perhaps we need to give more training to Councillors about what is eligible and what is not, and those who have claimed need to take their responsibilities a bit more seriously and ensure they are submitting accurate claims and relevant claims.

However, it is good news that our council staff are eagle-eyed and catch any mistakes or poor claims, however trivial they may be.

And it is absolutely refreshing that there is nothing on the scale of cleaning moats, housing ducks or having the garden landscaped. A few sandwiches for lunch, some fishy sardines and some over optimistic travel claims are not of themselves scandalous.

I hope the public will be reassured that politicians in Liverpool do not have their snouts in the trough.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

How satisfied are you?

The Liverpool Neighbourhood Satisfaction Survey is being run by Liverpool John Moores University, in partnership with Liverpool Active City and related partner organisations. The main aim is to find out Liverpool resident’s perception of their local neighbourhood, and how active they are within different aspects of life.

Please note: The survey should only be completed by Liverpool residents.

To complete the survey please go to:

The survey consists of 7 pages and once you click ‘Continue’ you will not be able to come back to the previous page. To ensure representation in YOUR area, the survey date has now been extended to the 21st October, and should take less than 15 minutes to complete.

If you require more information about the Liverpool Neighbourhood Satisfaction Survey please contact:
Denise Goodwin, Liverpool Active City Researcher, or 0151 231 4436

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Labour holds Liverpool Wavertree!

Rt Hon Jane Kennedy MP
- according to the latest Politics Home survey, Jane Kennedy will hold Liverpool Wavertree for Labour in the next General Election. (Page 14)

Colin Eldridge might therefore find this link useful on the following day

Why I resigned from Kensington Regeneration

Local newspapers reported yesterday upon my resignation from the board of Kensington Regeneration.

Appointed by Liverpool City Council, the "accountable body", I was one of two councillors on the board, the other being Andrew Makinson, Liberal Democrat, Picton ward. Kensington Regeneration is the organisation set up to manage the New Deal project in this part of Liverpool. £62million pounds of tax-payers money was awarded by the Labour Government to fund inner-city regeneration - I think I am right in saying it is the largest New Deal in the country. The money is paid to Liverpool City Council who then authorise its distribution to Kensington Regeneration and has to agree the annual plans etc. My role as an accountable body representative on the Board was to ensure that we had the ability to scrutinise plans and proposals, consider value for money, represent the council's interests, and of course as an elected representative, represent local residents.

I have taken the scrutiny role very seriously, asking huge numbers of questions about anything I have had uncertainties, doubts or concerns, at every meeting of the board, or the various committees and task groups that I have sat on. I have not always found it easy to get answers to those questions, but have doggedly gone on asking them, because it is what I was put there for - and because it is extremely important. Unfortunately, whereas scrutiny is very welcome at the council, with committees set up precisely for this function, where we are encouraged to interrogate policy and spending in depth, I have often felt that my questions have been seen as unhelpful by some of the leading figures of the organisation. I don't think they have understood my role or the nature of scrutiny and so have seen me as a threat, instead of someone who was (obviously) extremely keen to see this Labour Government initiative succeed in our area.

I have been concerned for some time now about proposals for the future, following the end of this 10 year project in 2010.

We met several times, including an away day, to discuss our priorities, those projects funded by the New Deal that we would like to see continue. My personal votes included the New Deal Community Police Team, the C7 wardens, the Clean Team, HEAT and the Community Learning Centre. A list of 10 was finally arrived at by adding up all the votes cast. We also met with the various service providers - like the police - to agree what they would be able to take forward on their own, continuing the good work - "mainstreaming".

The intention then was to fund, as best as we could, our priority projects, or some part thereof, using any income from any assets that Kensington Regeneration had acquired over its life.

Kensington Regeneration set up a Community Interest Company (CIC) a few years ago which we agreed might potentially form part of the solution, by spending and managing the income of the assets. Other alternatives were that the income could be spent and managed by an existing organisation - the Council, Community 7 Housing Association and Parks Options were all put forward by different people as suggestions.

In recent months the Board has moved strongly towards the CIC option. They have asked Liverpool City Council to take over the assets themselves, and lock them in, for the benefit of the local community. The assets are mainly grants which may be repaid when local people sell their homes, and some few plots of land. They may potentially generate an income of around £220,000 per annum we are told.

Kensington Regeneration then wish the council to pass this income over to the CIC to spend locally. The CIC, which is made up of several members of Kensington Regeneration Board, and local residents, and has a number of directors, have said that they would intend to spend £92,000 of this income, on paying a manager, renting an office, legals, insurances etc.

I was aghast at the thought that over 40% of the income that local people could expect to be spent on their priorities in the area, would be spent on overheads instead. I was particularly concerned that the manager's job was going to be at an advertised salary of £40,000 which I believe is considerably above what a social enterprise should or would be paying. And certainly nobody in Kensington earns that kind of money, including those running any other CICs.

I have developed an alternative strategy which I wanted to discuss with the Board. A strategy that would ensure that 100% of the £220,000 would be available for local priority projects.

Given that they are going to manage the assets anyway, and lock them in, Liverpool City Council could go a step further and also distribute the funds locally. There is an existing scheme - the Councillors' Community Initiative Fund, which is spent at ward level, awarded on a bids basis to local organisations who meet local priorities. My proposal is that we would add the £220,000, using some suitable formula, to the CCIF in the three wards contained within the Kensington Regeneration boundary, so increasing the sums available for spending locally. I further propose that we invite the resident board members of Kensington Regeneration to work with councillors in agreeing which bids to support each year.

Alternatively, I would also like to explore the possibility of using Participatory Budgeting to spend the funds locally. Liverpool City Council is currently working on plans to introduce this scheme where we encourage local people to vote on their priorities for local spending. If this were brought in, and personally I am supporter, then we could allow all Kensington, Fairfield, Edge Hill and Kensington Fields residents the opportunity to choose how the £220,000 is spent.

Neither of these options will incur overheads as they would both merely involve increasing the size of the coffers for schemes already put in place.

The proposals for the CIC plans were due to come to Liverpool City Council to agree, last week, and the report stated that I had been consulted and was supportive of them. Because this was not the case, I wrote to the council and told them that I was unhappy with the idea of spending £92,000 on overheads when alternative proposals would see all of the benefits going to local people. This will now be discussed at a Scrutiny Committee of the Council on Tuesday where I hope to make these points.

I asked at this week's Kensington Regeneration Board meeting if we could have a special meeting where I could explain my alternative proposals. This was turned down by other board members who said they were now fixed on the CIC plans. The Chair made it very clear that the decision of the Board was final and that as a board member I would be expected to support the plans for the CIC, rather than challenge them at the Scrutiny Committee. This obviously put me in an untenable position and so I reluctantly resigned from the Board, forthwith.

I have been prevented from commenting on any of this before, because it was made clear to me by the organisation that public criticisms of Kensington Regeneration were not compatible with board membership. Of course those restrictions have now been lifted.

KVFM 2009 Presentation and Awards

Louise receives certificate from Steve Faragher
The queue for cake at the celebration of another successful KVFM community radio fortnight

Kensington Vision held the KVFM 2009 presentation and awards at Kensington Fields Community Association again this year. A packed club watched three DVDs which you too can view by clicking on the following links.

The short film of presenters and their jingles

The longer film talking about the project and lots of clips from presenters - part one,

Part one contains tiny snatches of Liam, Wendy and Jane, if you know where to look

part two

Part two contains cameos from lots of our presenters and guests including lots of great kids and young people, Jane Kennedy MP, Phil Redmond, Frank Carlyle, Siddi (the Duke of Kensington), Steve Abrahams the Singing Pharmacist, Steve Rotheram (Lord Mayor of Liverpool), James May, Rt Hon John Prescot MP, Louise Baldock, Laurence Sidorczuk (not quite sure how he snuck in there?) and many others. It closes with the wonderful choir we have been supporting through our Working Neighbourhoods Fund.

Liverpool City Council's Councillor Community Initiative Fund paid for the training of all of the children and young people who took part in radio shows.

Kensington Regeneration did not fund any part of this project.

A tribute to Carl Speare, co-founder of the project who sadly died days before we went on air.

I enjoyed the afternoon hugely, making the tea, until it was time to be called up to receive my certificate as a presenter.

Everyone had a great time, especially after Jane Speare cut the cake and they were queueing round the club to get a piece. (You just gotta love Costco cakes!)

Well done everyone, looking forward to December when we will be back on air during Respect week!

(Photos by Sheila McCoy, including one of Steve's bum I notice!)

Kensington Remembers (Ltd)

Following the success of our Kensington Remembers event in January, (remember the 10 hour marathon I blogged about here?), which in itself built upon earlier events, a small committee has formed to set up the event for 2010. We have formed a limited company which we hope then to register as a charity, so that we can develop a strategy for the future when Kensington Regeneration comes to an end in 2010. We also tendered through LCC for an organisation to take on the heavy work for us.

Kensington Remembers 2010 will incorporate a youth event on Thursday 21st January, a family/adult event on Saturday 23rd January, and a series of films over the week, celebrating diversity or drawing attention to related issues. We are also working with local youth groups to tackle issues like bullying, homophobia, racisms within their lives.

We aim to commemorate the holocaust of the second world war, atrocities and genocides in other countries around the world, past or present, where people from those countries are now living in Kensington (DR Congo for isntance), and to celebrate diversity in all its forms.

I will publish the full programme in good time but do put those dates in your diary now.

Kensington "Neighbourhood Centre" underway at last!

Liam, Nick and I attended the ceremony to cut the sod on the site of the new "Neighbourhood Centre" in Kensington a few weeks ago.

Originally proposed as a real community resource, with a one-stop-shop, Community 7 Housing Association HQ, PCT offices, community space, shops and apartments, with a fire station, this truly was a neighbourhood centre project.

Unfortunately endless delays beset the project. The LibDem council chose to spend the money for our proposed one-stop-shop on a Tourist Information office in town - the 08 place white elephant. Community 7 were obliged to set up an HQ on the opposite side of the road, it opened several years ago, and from its upper windows, staff could gaze across at a site full of Japanese Knotweed and think about what might have been. The PCT went elsewhere too, nobody could put their development plans on hold indefinitely!

So what we are now faced with are some shops with flats above - that doesn't sound like a "neighbourhood centre" to me, does it to you? I tried for 2 years to persuade Kensington Regeneration to call it something different, given its changing nature but they have thus far obstinately refused. In my more generous moments, I was thinking we might call it Regeneration Place perhaps.

I am genuinely saddened that so much of what was promised will not be delivered.

Thankfully the Fire Service have hung on, waiting for the site to become available, and they will be building a new fire station here (entrance from Beech Street) to replace their ageing premises at Low Hill. They have also agreed to offer free community space withih the fire station so that local people can hold meetings there, good for them, let's hear it for Merseyside Fire Service!

I am delighted that shops are being built here, particularly Iceland, which will be the anchor store and I am sure will attract other national retailers to the site. The area is very poorly served by shops, only two supermarkets - a Lidl and an Aldi, and the latter is due to close before Christmas as it moves to a new site in Old Swan. Local people will really benefit from this extra retail opportunity and I hope it will begin to revitalise the shopping "offer".

And it will be great too, to have a decent development on this vital site in Kensington. (Technically it is in Fairfield, but Kensington Regeneration have driven a coach and horses through local place names, so now everything in the New Deal area is called "Kensington" even though Fairfield has been around for 150 years longer than Kenny!).

The cleared site, which used to house the much loved and dearly missed Silver Blades ice rink and later the bingo, as well as a couple of very small streets of houses, is absolutely central to the area. It sits on our most important junction and it can only be good news that something is finally being built here.

Plans for phase 2 - further houses on that part of the site that fronts Lister Road, have been scrapped, so this part will be landscaped instead.

I shall watch the construction and development of the *insert new name here* with interest!

Fairfield Post Office saved

Liam, Wendy and I were contacted by Mr Iqbal, the Post Office master at Fairfield Post Office to say that new railings had been put up outside his Post Office on Prescot Road. These railings, paid for by Kensington Regeneration, did not encompass a gate as they ran past the Post Office. This meant that the security guards who bring cash into and out of the Post Office were put in a real quandary. They were having to park in a side street and walk up the road towards the Post Office, bringing and taking away cash and other secure items for use in the Post Office. They were deeply unhappy that this put their safety at risk and were refusing to continue to serve the Post Office. Mr Iqbal told us that the Post Office would have to close unless something could be done - no security men, no cash, no Post Office.
We contacted Liverpool City Council and explained that an act of municipal vandalism was putting our Post Office at risk. Thankfully officers understood the implications and quickly moved to install a gate in the railings at this location.

Result - one Post Office saved.

I understand LCC will be sending the bill to Kensington Regeneration.

Labour Government invests £2.6million in Kensington and Fairfield homes

Liam and I were delighted to welcome Housing Minister, John Healey to Kensington Square a few weeks ago.

Kensington Square is a new housing development, built through a Labour government funded HMRI programme. Phase 1 has been completed - new houses and apartments in a mixed development, Riverside Housing Association has rented some out, others are available for sale. Some for shared ownership, some on rent to buy and some outright. They are fabulous, we went in the show-home during the visit and I was blown away with how fantastic it was.

Phase 2 was mothballed when the housing market crashed just as phase 1 was coming to fruition.

So what is phase 2? It is the plan to demolish the grotty shops, mostly empty and boarded up, and a couple of pubs, on the south side of Kensington, running from Holt Road up to Gilead Street. And then to build more homes on the land that will free up.

Builders Lovells were facing the unenviable task of trying to sell properties on phase 1, next to the decaying shops, in order to fund the demolition and building of the new homes. It was a real catch-22 situation, nobody wanted to buy until the shops were demolished, but the shops could not be demolished until the homes in phase 1 were sold.

Thankfully the Labour government has stepped in with £2.65million which will fund the demolition here, and help get phase 2 under way.

The Minister's visit was timed to share the good news with us. Thanks to his support, 58 affordable homes will be built on Kensington Square under this "Kickstart" programme.

The money also extends to clearing the site and getting down to work on the second phase on Fairfield Park, another new housing estate built as part of the HMRI programme, behind Quinns Bikes on Edge Lane. This beautiful little estate will be extended further, creating more affordable homes for local people - and hopefully also attracting some new people in the area.

The funds come with a requirement that apprentices should be taken on at the construction sites, meaning that local young people will get the opportunity of learning a real trade.