Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Torture Inquiry

Its good news that there's going to be an Inquiry into government complicity in torture. This post from Craig Murray is very apt.

Conference Motions

Today is the deadline for Lib Dem members who want to put motions to our national conference in the Autumn to get them in. Motions are submitted either by local parties (constituencies) or by some internal party organisations (like Liberal Youth) or by a number of individuals who've been elected as voting reps at conference (each local party elects a number of reps - we have five in Garston and Halewood).

I've written a motion on student tuition fees, which is going in from Garston and Halewood as well as Liverpool West Derby and Liverpool Wavertree. (If it gets picked I'l either be moving or summating on this)

I've also signed, as a voting rep, motions from other people on Trident, immigration and ensuring fairness in a time of austerity.

We now need to wait to see which of these make it onto the agenda. I expect that some will, although if there is a better motion (by which I mean fuller) on one of the subjects then the Conference Committee may well choose that as opposed to one of these.

I'll post the text of the ones that get chosen when I know if they have or not.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Were your bins collected?

My bins actually were collected today ( a nice change after two weeks of missed collections and failure to come back to pick up).

However further down the road in Garston residents are reporting three weeks of bins not collected on the right day and then not collected in the specified time afterwards.

We'll be taking all of this up with Enterprise, and more importantly with the responsible Councillors and Council officers. If your bin hasn't been collected please continue to alert Liverpool Direct but please also let me have the general details - street, number of times missed, delay before picking up, helpfulness of Liverpool Direct, so I can make sure the responsible people have an accurate picture of the problem.

I'll also be raising some other cleansing issues at the next Environment and Climate Change Select Committee.

You can either post the info here or drop me an e mail at

UPDATE: It's also important that we hear about cases of individuals who are on the "assist list" (that's where there is an arrangement that staff will collect their bin from their door or somewhere else very near and then bring it back for them.) The "assist list" is for elderly or disabled people who might not be able to get their bin down the path or along the alley and there is evidence that the change to the rounds hasn't resulted in the assist list details being passed on or acted on. That means even in a street where collections are being made OK on the day they are meant to, there could be "assist list" bins that are being missed. As a matter of fact my next door neighbour's bin appears to have been missed again yesterday.

Voting info

My motion at todays Constitutional Issues Committee was rather overtaken by the more media friendly story of the Labour Leader's request for more pay.

However I did manage to get committee members to agree to something that, if pursued properly, will give citizens in Liverpool more information about their Councillors.

At the moment you can find out about how your MP voted as every vote is recorded in Hansard.

You can't however do the same for your councillor in Liverpool as, unless there is a specific "card vote", which is the exception, votes are just recorded as numbers for,against and abstaining.

I believe that citizens should be able to find out how their representatives voted.

So today I had a motion at the Committee establishing this principle and asking for some work to look at how this might be done (there is more than one way of recording votes and then publishing them)

Apart from some discussion about mechanisms, people seemed to accept the principle so hopefully there'll be some progress on this.

I did actually start on this before the election and for me this is a piece of unfinished business.

If you want to see the phrasing of the motion it's on the Liverpool City Council website - in the section with all the meetings and agendas under Constitutional Issues Committee.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Pay rise for Labour

I am a member of the City Council's Constitutional Issues Committee. This sounds quite dull and in truth we do often spend a lot of time on what non politicians would consider tedious detail.

Not tomorrow however.

At the very last minute (ie less than 24 hours before the Committee is due to meet) we get the report linked to one of the agenda items.

And in it - the proposal for a huge boost in the Labour Leader's allowances.

Labour want to double this so that Joe Anderson would get a special allowance on top of his councillors allowance which adds up to more than £50,000.

They argue that he is a full time Leader. That is certainly true. But that is also his choice. If I take a job paid a certain amount and voluntarily put in more hours (like many of us do if we are honest) then I actually don't expect my employer to suddenly bung me some more cash.

There may be an argument for paying a City Council leader more. But it is an argument that needs to be made by a proper analysis of the role which has to be about more than what someone has chosen to do. And a proper analysis and discussion requires more than 24 hours notice.

The Committee tomorrow has a majority of Labour members on it so this proposal will almost definitely go through. We will have our say but they will outvote us. And when the proposal goes to Council for the actual decision, again they will outvote us.

I actually don't want us to spend ages talking about what people are paid. And I don't think constituents want us to spend time on this either. But we can't just let this one go. At a time when many are facing difficulties, this is a bad decision both in principle and in implementation.

Letting people have information

I was at Overview and Scrutiny Committee this evening pushing for more citizen access to information.

Before the election I asked for some research about how easy it is for a member of the public to find and read agendas and minutes for meetings run by organisations like the Waste Disposal Authority, the City Region Cabinet and MITA (Merseytravel).
Remember these are bodies which discuss and made decisions about public money and services.

We found that in some cases there was literally nothing that could be found easily.

Now that can't be right. The default position should be that these documents are easily accessible. Non availability should be the exception (and there will be times when that has to happen).

So this evening we were discussing a motion which was basically about doing a bit more research and then lobbying for more transparency.

We agreed that the research would happen, although I have to say I was not impressed that it seemed to take me some effort to convince people of this basic democratic point.

Of course it might be that no one is interested in going on line and reading about MITA's Rail Committee or the Fire Authority's community safety committee. But that is not an argument against. The information should be available for those times when someone does want to look.

Garston Park Fun Day

Saturday's Garston Park Fun Day was really good. A great range of stalls and activities with lots of people coming for part or all of the time.

Well done to the organisers. I hope everyone who worked hard in the run up to the day feels it was worth while.

I managed to talk to loads of people (picking up casework en route).

I took a few photographs which, while they are not brilliant, give a bit of an idea of what it was like. They show the Friends of Garston Park stall - talking to people and selling books as well as making bird boxes and insect boxes.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Cameron at conference - a step too far

It's being reported this morning that there are plans for David Cameron to come to Lib Dem Conference and Nick Clegg to go to the Tory event.

Hopefully this is a piece of misreporting.

I fully accept that there are some good things coming out of the Coalition agreement. The abolition of ID cards and roll back of the database state are two examples and are both things Lib Dems have campaigned for.

I also have very real concerns about some of the other decisions being made and am working with others on lobbying within the party on some of this.

Obviously now that we are a partner in Government, things are slightly different and it would be stupid to ignore the changed circumstances.

But whoever thinks it would be a good idea to have David Cameron at Lib Dem party conference is making a big misjudgement.

Lib Dem conference does not belong to the Government. It belongs to the party and is very much owned by members. The fact that our conference actually makes decisions for the party is significant.

Party conference isn't , and certainly shouldn't become, a sales conference. It also isn't an extended TV ad (although I am fully aware we need to think about how we present ourselves)

For activists conference is a big deal. It's not a particularly cheap thing to take part in and if you are travelling and taking time off work it is quite a commitment. Conference is important and many of us put effort into motions and amendments and fringe meetings and the like.

We are at the stage now where we need to use our conference to properly debate and assert our identity and Liberal policies. The inclusion of a David Cameron speech, or visit (which would obviously be very high profile) in this event would blur the boundaries in a really unhelpful way.

That's not to say we should never have speakers or visitors from other parties. We've had people from Northern Irish political parties in the past. I remember Ken Livingstone speaking at a transport fringe meeting. Even Boris Johnson has been there. But there is a big difference between a fringe meeting or a sort of information presentation and an address or organised visit by the Prime Minister.

It may of course be that today's reporting is wrong. Or it may be that this is the the deliberate floating of an idea to see what member reaction would be (although quite frankly phoning round constituency chairs would be an easier way to achieve this)

If the reporting is accurate however, I very much hope Conference Committee will think again.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Garston Park Survey

The Friends of Garston Park have a really short survey. Do please fill it in if you have views about the Park.

Click here to take survey

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Refugees and asylum

I used to work at the Refugee Council and have been interested in refugee and asylum issues ever since.

I was glad to see this post from them (On Liberal Democrat Voice) which I think raises some important issues.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Noise at the airport

I am one of the two City Councillors on the Liverpool John Lennon airport noise monitoring sub committee.

In fact I am now deputy chair of this.

I wonder if anyone living near the airport has actually ever heard of this group.

Our meetings mainly consist of a list of complaints made to the airport and the airport's replies. But I am not at all sure it's clear to people how to complain and who to complain to.

Now I don't want to whip up complaints where none actually exist. But it strikes me that if this group exists, the least we could do is make sure people know about us and how to register noise issues.

In the past I have suggested more proactive PR about the committee but have had these suggestions met with puzzlement or indifference. I'd be interested to know what people who live near the airport actually think

Poverty Commission

Some time ago we agreed, at a City Council meeting, to set up a Liverpool Poverty Commission. The idea wasn't just to bang on about what the Council should, or shouldn't, be doing but to look at poverty in the City in a broader sense and look at what all organisations that could have an impact should be doing.

When the Lib Dems were in power, it was part of my job to make sure this got set up so we recruited various members (from different sectors) thought about who might give evidence and found a Chairperson. Sandra Tai from the PCT did a lot of the work on this as did Chris Walsh from the City Council's committee services section.

After a hiatus for the election, we are now about to start. Sadly my Lib Dem colleague Paul Clein won't be a member now as Labour are now entitled to two positions on this to our one. But I am still on it and am looking foward to having my input.

When this was talked about we were really keen that all sorts of organisations and people had the chance to have their say. I haven't got the dates yet, but when I do have them I will post the details.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Afghanistan letter

Chris Davies MEP has written to Nick Clegg arguing for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.

Many of us had hoped this would be in the Lib Dem manifesto at the recent General Election.

I fully agree with what Chris has written so am pasting on his letter below.

Dear Nick

I have written to you before to urge that the Liberal Democrats call for the
withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan. It seems sadly inevitable
that within the next few days the 300th soldier from our forces will lose
their life, and I write now to argue that you should use your influence to
press for a change in government policy.

It is very difficult to justify our continued engagement when the reasons
for it so often appear contradictory and open to challenge. I suspect one
reason why 77% of people in this country tell pollsters that they want our
troops out of Afghanistan is because they either do not know what are the
objectives for their presence or do not believe that these can be achieved.
I share these doubts.

The American-led assault against the Taliban government was launched in the
wake of the 2001 aircraft hijackings and attack upon the World Trade Centre.
It had United Nations support because the Taliban provided shelter for the
al-Qa'ida leaders who planned that outrage. But the al-Qa'ida presence has
long since been removed, at least so far as this will ever be possible in
such a land, and the Americans have the technology and weaponry to prevent
it regrouping in an organised fashion

It has been claimed that our presence in Afghanistan is intended to keep
safe the streets of Britain. I do not believe this case can be sustained.
Our soldiers are easily portrayed as foreign invaders who should be resisted
by Afghan patriots, and our presence in the country may not only contribute
to instability there but increase the risk of maverick attacks on people

Nearly a decade on the American-led forces are still very far from
establishing an Afghan national army or police force that can claim to be
representative of all people in the country. It is widely recognised, not
least by President Karzai, that an accommodation must be found with the
Taliban. Our money, or 'soft diplomacy', may help facilitate this, and an
alternative political strategy should be developed with this in mind. In
the meantime British soldiers continue to be killed by people who will one
day be part of the Afghan government.

Undoubtedly the withdrawal of our troops would present risks. It could
allow the Taliban to increase their influence and to take control of a
greater part of the country. It might also allow the Taliban to strengthen
their presence in Pakistan. But then again it might not, or not to any
significant degree. The majority of Taliban fighters are said to be local
farmers who have no great national ambitions. I am not sure that our
allies, the former warlords who are now politicians and regional governors,
have any greater moral right to govern parts of the country than the Taliban
but they have their own private militias and will not easily surrender

I have heard it argued that the principal reason that British troops remain
in Afghanistan is because we do not want to weaken our relationship with the
Americans by following the example of other European states and announcing a
date for withdrawal. I do not regard such a reason as sufficient
justification for the death of our soldiers.

There will be no happy ending to our involvement in Afghanistan. At some
point we will start to withdraw our forces, and in years to come we shall
question why we did not take this step this at an earlier date. Let it
commence now, before still more lives have been lost

With regards

Chris Davies MEP

Friday, 18 June 2010

Waste plant Inquiry update - day four

Today saw the Inspector tour some of the locations relevant to the application for the waste plant on Garston Dock.

My colleague Peter Millea helped show her round.

We now know that it won't take as long as we had expected for the results of the Inquiry.

In fact the Inspector, Elizabeth Ord, is now saying we may have a result in a few weeks.

She also told us that this will be her decision. It doesn't need an extra decision from a Government Minister.

People who were at the Inquiry and who gave their address should get a copy of the decision in the post or by e mail, but the minute we are aware of anything we'll let people know.

Garage off license up date

Some time ago the Licensing Committee turned down an application for the petrol station on Aigburth Road (called Grassendale Service Station) to sell alcohol. There was a hearing which went on virtually all day and the reasons for it being turned down included the worries about it becoming a magnet for anti social behaviour.

A new application has come in and again there are objections from residents.

This application will be decided on later this month (28th June).

As it happens I won't be able to be there but I expect one of my ward colleagues will.

The people who wrote in with comments should get letters about this meeting, but the information will also be available on line here very shortly.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Garston waste site Public Inquiry - day three

Today was the day the Councillors got to speak as did members of the public.

We heard first from a representative of Bellway Homes, who was given quite a tough questioning by Jack Allen's lawyer.

We then had a series of speeches from local people and representatives. I spoke as did my Lib Dem colleague Peter Millea. Richard Oglethorpe, the third Cressington councillor, was stuck at home with sick children but he wrote something which I read out. He had also dug up some useful documents.

The public speeches were great. A real mixture of feeling and heavyweight research. I bet Jack Allen weren't expecting a professor of Physics!

We're all in this together so I don't want to be too party political, but I am disappointed that only one of the three Labour Councillors chose to speak. One hasn't even bothered to show up so far. The reason this matters is that it's important the Inspector sees a level of commitment. Still we will have to hope that the weight of argument so far carries the day (and there was certainly some brilliant argument today)

Tomorrow the Inspector is doing site visits. A list was drawn up today and people were asked to add locations (in fact there was one in Richard Oglethorpe's script).

After that there'll be quite a delay while the Inspector considers all the evidence (and there is huge amounts of written stuff as well as all the notes from this week). So I really can't say when we'll get the result. If I get a hint of a timescale I'll blog about it here.

Bit thanks to everyone who has helped by speaking, or researching, or getting signatures so far. Let's hope we win.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Waste plant Public Inquiry - day two

Today we heard evidence from Jack Allen Holdings' two witnesses. This included cross examination.

Much of what they said revolved around the actual effect of a waste plant on the housing market and what evidence existed. There was a lot said about the likely sale and use of Dingle Bank for housing.

I was concerned, and affronted if I am honest, at the witness who seemed to believe that perceptions and feelings counted for very little if not nothing. Demanding hard evidence is all very well but we all know that there are things in life, including things in the future, for which we need judgement and feeling.

Having said that I have some interesting evidence about various aspects of waste treatment which I hope I will be able to bring out tomorrow.

The schedule for tomorrow is that the morning should be mostly taken up by contributions from the public. If you haven't already given your name in but you do want to speak the advice is to get there at the beginning and ask to have your name added to the list.

Friday looks set to be a site visit by the Inspector. She wants to tour a number of locations and is open to suggestions from local people. There should be a draft list available at some point tomorrow.

Anyway, thanks to all the Garston people who have turned up so far. It's important to show strength of feeling. Tomorrow's sessions start at 10 am at the Garston Urban Village Hall on Banks Road, L19.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Garston waste plant inquiry - day one

Today was the first of four days of the Public Inquiry into plans for a waste plant at Garston Dock (right next to the Cressington Heath housing estate)

I'm tweeting from the Inquiry ( so do follow me if you want regular updates.

Today both sides opened their cases and we heard evidence from Liverpool City Council (which is defending the decision to turn planning permission down). Jack Allen, the company which wants the waste plant, has spent a lot on lawyers and advisers and the questions to the Council representative were pretty difficult.

Tomorrow Jack Allen will be giving evidence and the Council will be questioning them.

On Thursday we will hear from other speakers (including me). On Friday the Inspector is planning a site visit.

Any member of the public is entitled to come along and it would be good if the Inspector and Jack Allen saw that Garston people feel strongly about all of this.

The venue is the village hall on Banks Road. The start time is 10 am.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Public Inquiry - Waste Plant in Garston

The Public Inquiry into Jack Allen's attempt to be allowed to put a waste plant at Garston Dock and next to the Cressington Heath housing development starts tomorrow

I'll be there, with my colleagues, and will attempt to do Twitter updates as the hearing goes on. It's scheduled for four days.

Any member of the public can attend, but if you want to speak it's best to be there tomorrow at 10 am and register this fact.

I have been doing some last minute media interviews today as part of our effort to make sure people know what's going on. (We also delivered around 5,000 leaflets in Cressington ward over the weekend - hence my limp!)

Let's hope Garston people turn up in force to make their feelings clear.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Do you want e bulletins?

We have started sending out e bulletins from the three Lib Dem Councillors in Cressington. I plan to do these once a month. They'll have news about what we are doing, plus bits of news about the area.

I sent the first one out earlier today.

If you want to be added to the mailing list for future e bulletins, please let me have your e mail address. The easiest way to let me have this is by e mailing

The system I am using means you can unsubscribe if you decide these bulletins are not for you.

Environment Committee

Tonight was the first Environment and Climate Change commitee this (municipal) year.

I am one of two Lib Dem opposition members on this.

On the plus side I managed to get tree maintenance added to the work programme this year. Trees and their pruning, or lack of it, is a big issue in Cressington and I am sure there are similar issues in other parts of the City. I am quite frankly fed up of being fobbed off on issues around trees, and it will be good to do a piece of work about what the Council does and doesn't do on this subject.

Also on the plus side was an excellent presentation about ways of cutting down on road accidents affecting pedestrians, children and cyclists.

On the minus side, if I and my Lib Dem colleague hadn't been there this would have been a wholly male committee membership. (OK there is one woman on the Labour list of members but she didn't show). Given all the stuff around about gender balance I am surprised this happened and it'll be interesting to see what the balance is on tomorrows Regeneration and Transport Committee.

However I think this particular committee is going to be well worth the time and effort. I made the point that we ought also to be campaigning in Liverpool as a whole about waste minimisation (ie stopping waste being produced before we end up worrying about how to get rid of it). I'll push this again at future meetings as I suspect there is a lot of potential in doing this.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Garston Park Fun Day - 26 June

Later this month (26th June) there's a fun day on Garston Park (Long Lane Rec)

Running from 11 am to 2pm the day includes lots of activities for adults and children plus stalls and displays run by local organisations.

The events on offer include an inflatable assault course, face painting, bird box making and a demonstration by the fire bridgade.

Groups involved incluyde Long Lane Church, Bridge Chapel. All Souls Church, Garston Park Church, Friends of Garston Park, Rotters Community Composting, Marie Curie Cancr Care and the Five Families trust.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Fund Open

Here is the link to the application stuff for the Councillors Community Initiative Fund. This is especially designed for small local groups. Closing date is towards end of June.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Garston waste site fight - update

The Public Enquiry into the plans by private company Jack Allen holdings to put a waste plant in Garston (right next to some houses) is now less than a fortnight away.

It's scheduled to run in the week beginning 14th June at the Garston Village Hall on Banks Road.

With the other councillors, I had a meeting recently with a Council officer to get an update on the process, so this post includes information from that meeting.

The City Council turned Jack Allen's plans down. But the company appealed. This has led to the Public Enquiry.

The Council is using barristers to argue its case and cross question the other side. Thousands of pounds have already been spent on this - as it's vital that the Council (effectivly on behalf of the objectors) puts the best case possible.

The Inspector running the enquiry will, we are told, be keen to hear from as many people as possible. Residents are encouraged to turn up - either to hear the evidence or to speak. If you want to speak the best thing is to come on day one and register your interest. The Inspector will then be able to schedule slots.

It's likely that the Inspector will already have had a look round the area. But we are told that particular suggestions of places to visit are always welcome.

I asked about how long it would take after the Enquiry to get a result. It could be months sadly. Jack Allen clearly doesn't care about causing more worry to people in our area.

Peter, Richard and I are planning to be there (in fact I have already booked the days off work) and want to speak. I won't be posting our arguments here for the simple reason that I know that Jack Allen's PR company will do searches for websites making comments about the plans. I'm more than happy though to speak to people individually, or be in touch by e mail individually, about this. Many residents have already suggested some great lines of argument, which we will be pursuing.

Interstingly it seems that Jack Allen's representatives tried to object to the choice of venue for the enquiry. Perhaps they don't want to face the people of Garston.

If you want to contact me about this please e mail Peter Millea is at Richard Oglethorpe is