Kirkby-In-Ashfield – An interesting historical perspective of my original home town

www.miningheritage.co.uk/summit-circular-a-look-into-kirkby-in-ashfields-industrial-past/

I came across this website via a posting on the facebook Page of Kirkby Living Memory (Heritage Centre) and very interesting it is too. Having been born in Kirkby in 1958, lived there until the age of 6 and still having a relative in the Town whom I visit now and again it filled in some gaps in my knowledge of it.

An open letter to Michael Gove from Bob Robinson

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MICHAEL GOVE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, MP

Dear Mr Gove,

“TRUCK QUEUES COULD BE 7,000 VEHICLES LONG WHEN TRANSITION ENDS” – MICHAEL GOVE – THE GUARDIAN.

Thank you for responding so quickly to my earlier open letters,(posted on the Facebook Lib Dem Chat Group) albeit not in person. You are to be congratulated for your candour – albeit somewhat late in the day. You do, I take it, clearly understand the implications of what you have said. As a retired bean counter, I spent my career eliminating the need for holding inventory by promoting the use of “just in time” manufacturing techniques – stock although an asset on the balance sheet is not as liquid as cash. Liquidity is going to be critical to our recovery. Turning inventory into finished goods adds value and turning finished good into sold goods is what generates business liquidity. Please do not feel that you can duck behind coronavirus as an excuse – the seeds for this were laid long ago when some balding chap with glasses appeared talking about reshaping British Industry – He was looking for the next generation of disruptive innovation. Perhaps at some point, you might like to tell me how that’s going? No Pain No Gain only works if the same people asked to bear the pain can be given cast iron guarantees that they, not rentiers, will enjoy the gain.

In the meantime, might I suggest, until you have a spiffing response, you might need to avoid the honourable members for Southport and South Ribble – (they are/were on your side of the House). Both constituencies sustain a substantial part of the United Kingdom’s horticultural sector – in particular, fresh salad vegetables to Supermarkets. In addition to top quality tomatoes and salads grown locally in the area – the growers put the Wonder into Golden Wonder crisps. In addition to growing, they have built specialist packing and preparation plants that employ many workers. Britain, however, has long passed accepting seasonality in fruit and vegetables and in the off season, imported produce is shipped from Spain and other warmer climes, minimising handling damages. These are brought in by truck and packed for major supermarkets. This ensures door to door delivery but it does have to run to a tight, just in time, timetable. I am sure that whilst, in your Botany class at school, somebody explained to you that once a lettuce is cut – it starts to die. Two days extra in transit will increase the amount of not fit for purpose lettuce, sitting either on shop shelves or customers fridges – imposing knock on costs to supermarkets and consumers alike. The shipping time is therefore critical. I am sure you will also appreciate that queues of lorries outside European ports will represent a tempting target for desperate people.

Katherine Fletcher, the newly minted MP for South Ribble and Damien Moore will no doubt be catching it hot and strong soon. Indeed, the local Tory Parties are traditionally supported by major growers. If your party’s cash flow takes a hit following recent revelations – you may need to look to your home-grown supporters for help. Damien Moore, by the way, was, in his former, life a Manager at Asda – he will understand just what this kind of (expletive deleted) could turn out to be for Supermarkets. He will also know the best way the sweep up Maltesers. Just ask yourself – if this what you want to happen to you?

Best regards Bob

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/23/truck-queues-could-be-7000-long-when-brexit-transition-ends-ministers-warn

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/04/uk–businesses-demand-urgent-talks-over-fears-brexit-border-chaos

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-54260470

P.S. Archie Norman, the Chief Executive of ASDA, used to begin his welcome to new staff, including myself, by recalling his early experiences on the shop’s shop floor. Sometimes Maltesers would escape and represent a “slip” risk. The easiest way to sweep them up was not to chase them with a broom and shovel – but to tread on them. Nudge-nudge-wink-wink stamp-stamp Mr Gove – Know what I mean.

And then before publication but after writing the above this happened – The lorry and logistics crisis just got worse. The Guardian has just published the latest round of revelations including a twitter copy of the letter by Michael Gove to the RHA.

You could not make it up

An end to rail franchising – but what next?

Rail franchising has been an expensive failure and I think most involved with the rail industry will acknowledge that due not least to the fragmentation it’s caused to what needs to be a national infrastructure.

Northern Rail Franchise Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

In effect rail has been re-nationalised as the 1980’s high profile privatisation project has hit the buffers, indeed it’s been bumping into those buffers for a long time now. Of course Railtrack was nationalised into Network Rail quite a while ago.

The Railway Gazette has an interesting article on its website – see link below:-

www.railwaygazette.com/uk/uk-government-announces-the-end-of-rail-franchising/57396.article

Being a railway enthusiast means that I’m probably not a reliable witness but I’ll have my say, biased though it may be, anyway. That British Railways was in many ways a bit of a mess is a given but the route the Conservatives took to address its shortcomings was to say the least drastic, although I also appreciate that they did it to big up their policy direction of the day and there will have been little thought for what they were setting in train (sorry) and how things would actually look further down the track (sorry again). Such is politics, short term voter approval is all that is required and beggar the consequences as the other lot will be in power when the train derails!

What we managed to lose during the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s was anything approaching an integrated transport system (remember that the infamous Bus Deregulation Act plays into this too) and now we are paying the price. Yes of course there have been some positives with rail travel increasing year on year until Covid 19 came along. However, we now need to reinvent the wheel and build an integrated transport system which rail (both train and tram) will need to be at the heart of.

That many European countries and beyond have successfully done this means it can be done and should be. We’ve ended up in a kind of halfway house between many counties who have progressed integrated transport very well and the likes of the US and Canada who have all but tried to kill off public transportation completely.

A Virgin Trains Frabchise Pendolino train at Liverpool Lime Street Station.

The big question now is where will our Conservative government drive transport policy now. Certainly they are big on roads and cars and are planning huge infrastructure investment in new highways despite roads being the very opposite of what is required to tackle climate change. The old ten bob note they recently held up to pay for the reversal of Beeching cuts in our railways was of course all political froth as that tiny budget will pay for nothing much at all.

Of course Conservative voters don’t use buses and trains much, if at all, although all those right wing former Labour voters who backed Johnson at the last GE do.

Can’t say I’m optimistic about the future of public transport under the present occupier of 10 Dither Street, London.

My thanks to Bob Robinson for the lead to this posting

Lydiate – RIP John Kitson

I had a phone call yesterday from my good friend and former Maghull Councillor Roy Connell to tell me that his friend of many years John Kitson had died. I met John just the once myself and the link below outlines the circumstances:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/02/13/lydiate-meeting-a-lydiate-parish-councillor-from-the-1960s/

I don’t think that anyone involved in Lydiate Parish Council from the 1980’s onwards recalls John due to him being a councillor back in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s but never the less I feel it important to acknowledge his work for the community even though it was a long time ago.

If you’ve clicked on the link you’ll now know that Roy and John were connected with the trade union movement, a movement close to my heart too.

If anyone has any memories of John in his Parish Councillor role I’d love to hear them……

RIP John Kitson

Blue Wheelie Bins – It’s all about communication

Whatever the rights & wrongs (in recycling terms) of Sefton Council indroducing a 4th wheelie bin per household the issue is one that has many Sefton folk hot under the collar about, indeed some folks have been asking me (I’m a Lydiate Parish Councillor) to explain to them why it’s happening.

My understanding is that Sefton Council’s leaders must beleive there’s a good reason to separate out glass bottles and jars from other recycling materials which presently all go into the Borough’s brown wheelie bins like paper, cardboard, plastic, tins etc. It must be a good reason, or at least I really hope it is, because it’s costing £1.7m to order 100,000 Everton or Manchester City coloured bins! But as I’ve not seen the background information I don’t know whether the move is a good or bad one and I say that as a committed environmentalist & recycler.

But what I do see is a communications disaster due to the lack of clear messaging from Sefton Council. And that takes me back some years to when I was Leader of Sefton Council and a certain Councillor David Tattersall was Cabinet Member for the Environment. David was in public relations professionally and he realised as soon as Sefton was moving towards separating household waste into non-recyclable and recyclable that public messaging was vital. If I recall correctly some of the popular national press were sending out messages at the time against wheelie bins so clearly getting messages out to residents in the Borough was going to be difficult; all but a propaganda war.

The point here is that David realised that proper timely messaging was important via mail shots and even sticky labels placed on wheelie bins together, of course, with carefully placed local newspaper adverts and news items. I also recall that David told me that officials were not too keen on his demands for messaging but he was not to be put off.

Councils so often do things to their residents rather than working with them, command and control management I suppose you could call it. But, of course, imposition breeds resentment and a lack of cooperation/buy-in in a democracy, especially where folk are subject to alternative views and ‘facts’, or should I say even fake news/opinion.

Now I also realise that people with small outside spaces will, almost as a matter of course, be far from chuffed to find room for yet another wheelie bin. I even know of a Sefton resident who hardly ever uses their recycling bin but who drives to a local recycling centre to dispose of glass items. And yes there’ll be folk who oppose recycling in any form because that’s their political stance you might say. So there was always going to be a section of the Sefton community who just don’t want more wheelie bins, be they blue or any other colour, and they may even send their new bin back. However, the vast majority of folk just want to know in straight forward terms what they are being asked to do and why it will be of benefit to the environment, their ability to recycle etc. etc.

But, if you don’t get a clear message out or you just rely on messaging via press articles don’t be surprised that folks start asking ‘what’s going on?’. Politicians all know that personal messaging is what voters are more likely to respond to positively, that’s why political parties will often address political propaganda to you at elections. Why do those same politicians not realise that similar messaging is required when it comes to important council communications?

And to put the tin lid on it, so to speak, it’s only just over a year since Sefton ceased collecting food waste and that service cessation suffered from poor communication too as my blog posting of the time made reference to:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/06/13/sefton-council-food-waste-collections-cease/

THE GRAVY TRAIN SET – Guest posting from Bob Robinson

Michael Lewis in his seminal 2018 book “The Fifth Risk” describes how with each change of administration, supporters of the American President are appointed to head various Government Agencies. The LSE blog, at the time, crisply summarises Mr Lewis’s account of what went on at the National Weather Service.

“The choice of Barry Myers, head of private weather firm AccuWeather, to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, a scientific agency within the Department of Commerce) is both striking and predictable. Acknowledging that Mills’ appointment represents an attempt to effectively ‘dismantle’ NOAA through privatisation, Lewis writes that ‘the private weather industry, unlike the (government-based) National Weather Service, has a financial interest in catastrophe’ (172). The ‘dystopic endgame’ Lewis senses with weather forecasting can be extended to a host of other issues and risks, from nuclear waste to food security”.

blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2018/11/18/book-review-the-fifth-risk-by-michael-lewis/

For those who think it could not happen here – you might be in for a shock

On the 16th September, The Guardian reports that Shanker Singham, one of the main proponents of the so-called “alternative arrangements” for the Irish border, is understood to have teamed up with the customs expert Robert Hardy and the technology company Fujitsu for the Trader Support Service (TSS) contract. It goes on to describe the contract, the as the first of the “BREXIT SPOILS” in Northern Ireland, that was put out to tender in the summer with the appointment announced in time for implementation in September.

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/16/alternative-to-irish-backstop-consultant-shanker-singham-in-line-for-200m-contract

How easy is it for Liberal Democrats to hold the government to account on what appears to be, in euphemistic terms, “Cosy relationships”? Are there other examples of this? Does it amount to crony patronage? Robert Townsend in his seminal pop business book “ Up the Organisation” described Management Consultants as “Someone who borrows your watch to tell you’re the time – and then walks off with your watch”. Plus ça change……………………………….

Are we witnessing “Déjà vu all over again”, bearing in mind the Conservative previous catastrophes inflicted in the name of Privatisation? This fiasco occurred in what seems like not too long ago not so good old days.

www.theguardian.com/society/2019/may/16/part-privatisation-probation-sevices-to-be-reversed-offender-management-nationalised-chris-grayling

That by the way is the same Chris Grayling as this Chris Grayling

www.politicshome.com/news/article/conservative-anger-as-boris-johnson-makes-chris-grayling-chair-of-intelligence-committee

As Lib Dems, we should keep in mind the adage “What gets measured gets managed?” – Should we start keeping and publishing the score?

* Bob Robinson is a member of Central Bedfordshire Liberal Democrats