International Slavery Remembrance Day

Mydaughter Jen and I went to Liverpool Town Hall last night to hear a lecture by Dr. Maulana Karenga entitled Engaging the Holocaust of African Enslavement.

Dr Karenga, a lecturer from California University is on the right in the above photo and a passionate and knowledgeable speaker he is too. Liverpool’s very dark connections with the slave trade via the port has always been a subject that has interested me.

I have never understood the evil of racism and found Dr Karenga’s use of the word ‘holocaust’, which we would normally attach to Hitler’s appalling treatment of the Jews, quite appropriate.

As well as talking about the effects of slavery he also commented on President Obama as the first black American leader. Interestingly, Dr Karenga was particularly interested in the huge debt left for Obama by the previous Bush administration and how the new President’s hope and dreams have been compromised by the need to address this debt. Shades of what has happened in the UK here.

Thoughts from Scotland

Sheila and I have had 6 days away up in Scotland staying on our brother-in-law’s boat Pennine Warrior, which I have posted about before. It is moored just off the Isle of Bute. We spend a few days on it each summer and it is very much a get away from it all type of holiday sailing around the ports and islands in and around the Clyde.

This year we went to the Isle of Aran and had a good look at its ‘capital’ Brodick, we also visited mainland ports/communities of Tarbert, Port Avadie and Kames.

Here are 4 photos of our trip:-

Brodick, Isle of Aran - Very clear water looking out to sea from the slipway

Tarbert - A working fishing port with marina

Port Avadie - A modern marina still being developed but it was originally built as a Cold War submarine dock!

Kames - Best pub food for miles around at this hotel

One thing struck me in particular whilst I was away; this was my first holiday for years when I have not been Leader of either Maghull Town Council and/or Sefton Council for a long time ( I was leader of Maghull TC for 23 years!). The significance of this is that I almost totally switched off politics for a while something you just can’t do if you are leading a Council. I have taken Council reports to read on holiday before now and recall one year when I had to work through a ‘Best Value’ study on Maghull Town Council’s parks and gardens maintenance whilst I was away. Also, when you hold such responsibility the phone does not stop ringing and neither should it. If you take on a council leadership you just have to accept that it is a 365 day a year job. Funnily enough I always found the leadership of Maghull Town Council the most interesting as it was very much hands on. There are only a handful of staff so being Leader means you have to muck in whenever you are needed. It can be very rewarding but also quite demanding.

So this year I was not found on the phone, checking e-mails (much) or reading worthy documents by the family and I came back more refreshed than for a long time.

Back from a short holiday (more about that soon) but guess what my post bag was full of?

Yes, it does not take a great deal of thought to guess that it was full of Green Belt correspondence and many e-mails about the subject as well.

An interesting development has been folks contacting me from all parts of the Borough raising concerns about the potential loss of Green Belt. Thornton is the latest area. Also, as I pointed out a while ago people are noticing that Labour, when in Government, were to force Sefton to build 500 houses per year and compromise the Green Belt in the process yet now they are out of Government Labour don’t want any houses built at all in Green Belt!

One personally nice piece of correspondence from a Park Ward resident said that he had voted for me last May as he knew I would fight for the Green Belt.  I appreciate such support but I wonder what the ‘Thought Police’ (brought in under Labour) will think if they hear that a resident knows my views? Not only did Labour tell councillors what to do, when to do it and what to think they came up with a phrase called ‘predetermination’. What this means is if councillors have a view on a matter they should not express it as the ‘Thought Police’ (appointed council officers) would then say you can’t vote on whatever the matter might be because you decided too early what your view would be and told people what you thought! I kid you not and they will probably be reading this posting.

Sorry world I have been and always will be a fighter for green spaces and Green Belt. I think I predetermined that view when I stood for election and won my seat on Maghull Town Council in August 1985. Don’t even think of telling me what to think or do!

Sefton’s current round of ‘Core Strategy’ consultation has ended today

I may be getting to the point where readers say ‘not more about the Core Strategy, Green Belt & high grade agricultural land’. Well yes, I am on about again!

Seriously, I have been inundated with copies of submissions made by Sefton residents to the present round of consultation. The responses seem to fall within 3 particular categories and some of them comment on all 3 areas of concern. The 3 areas are:-

* A lot of concern about the quality of the consultation by Sefton Council– I am not surprised as I have been saying for weeks that folks were not happy with this. Yes I know the consultation process went via the Council’s Consultation Panel and it was approved but may I suggest that maybe the Consultation Panel was not fully aware of how sensitive this issue would be in some parts of the Borough? In other words it may have looked OK consultation on paper but the reality in the East Parishes, northern Southport and Formby/Hightown is that residents say it was poor consultation. Only one person has said to me it was appropriate consultation – The Mayor of Maghull.

* Campaigners are far from convinced about the conclusions reached by Sefton Council’s Planners in interpreting the studies into housing need in the Borough – I have seen numerous detailed submissions that call into question the Council’s conclusions and some of them are from experts in the field of planning.

* The final category is the obvious one i.e. folks in the hundreds want to retain their precious Green Belt at all costs – No surprise there then just as there was no surprise 13 years ago when I was also heavily involved in Green Belt defence.

It will be interesting to see what the Council’s report on the present round of consultation looks like when it is published and it will also be interesting to see whether the legal advice that some campaigners have been taking leads to judicial challenges to the Council’s conclusions, methods of consultation etc. etc. Frankly, I would not be surprised if this ends up in Court as feelings are running very high and the determination to retain the character of Sefton’s diverse communities runs very deep.

My good friend and colleague Cllr. Cliff Mainey (Sudell Ward) is seen above with our petition calling for Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land to be protected from development. Cliff is another veteran of Green Belt campaigns of the past.

Finally can the Lib Dem Sefton Councillors Team thank the many, many people who have contacted us, sent us copies of their submissions, asked for advice and thanked us for helping them. As I have said before, never have I come close to getting so many representations from residents about any other subject and I have been a councillor since 1985! I would guess that second on the list would have been the last round of Green Belt consultation those 13 years ago!

Riots

Thankfully, to date Sefton, has not seen anything but relatively minor events taking place on one day in the Borough.

Those intent on breaking the law, steeling and damaging our communities will always be amongst us and we will always have to react to their acts of destruction, vandalism and crime.

As Cabinet Member responsible for Community Safety in the Borough I am pleased to say that the excellent relationship between the Council and Police, that has been built up over many years, has meant that coordinated and proportionate responses to the problems that have sprung up in Bootle have been dealt with appropriately.

I have been impressed with the organisation of the Police and the planning that they have done for potential events in the Borough.

We all hope that the period of madness that seemed to grip some of the urban areas of England in recent days is at an end and that those responsible will feel the full force of the law.

As to why they did it? In my view it was wanton opportunistic theft and criminal damage. No excuses!

What really touched me was the interview on BBC radio with Tariq Jahan a father who lost his son when 3 young men were run down in an appalling hit and run crime in Birmingham during a riot. His calm appeal for people not to react with more violence was to his great credit despite the terrible hurt he must have been feeling whilst being interviewed.

The end of steam 11th August 1968

  • 1968: The last steam passenger service runs on British railways, hauled by the locomotive ‘Oliver Cromwell’.
  • My photo of a steam engine at the East Lancs Railway

     I was reminded of this by the BBC website and being a railway enthusiast it obviously got my attention. I was 10 in 1968 and having been brought up in a Nottinghamshire mining community, where railways were at the end of most streets, I found the end of the wonderful steam engines impossible to understand. Even today the smell of a steam engine brings back memories; it is a unique but wonderful smell.

    Obviously, experience has helped me understand why the steam engine had to go as a form of traction for British Railways but thankfully the many volunteer railways that have sprung up across the UK have kept the steam engine alive for children of all ages.