Local Democracy – Who investigates the goings on in local government these days?

I recently came across a scheme funded by the BBC (or more to the point more probably by its licence fee payers) to address a matter I have long had concerns about – see the link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2017/local-democracy-reporters

Having been a councillor since 1985 I have watched the demise of local reporting on local government with increasing concern. The demise has followed the loss of many local newspapers but even where the local newspapers do exist there is rarely any serious investigative journalism going on these days. I can recall 3 former newspapers that served my community from the not so distant past – The Maghull & Aintree Star, The Maghull Times & The Maghull & Aintree Advertiser and of course we have also lost the regional Daily Post too. This loss of local newspapers is sadly replicated across most communities.

I recall the days when the Maghull reporter for the Maghull & Aintree Advertiser would sit through most meetings of Maghull Town Council listening to and reporting on the debates that went on. Every year or so the reporters would change as new trainees were taken on. Nowadays you would be hard pressed to see local reporters at any meeting of Sefton Borough Council (or Merseytravel, the Fire Authority, NHS decision making bodies etc. etc.) unless a big issue is already on the agenda and even then the reporting is usually of ‘x’ said this and ‘y’ said that nature. You might say the local media often just passes on opinions these days. My point is there is little in the way of getting behind the politicians/officials spin.

A local paper on the warpath would once have been as worrying to a local council as the District Auditor if things were going wrong; now neither pay much attention to what a Council does so who is uncovering the goings on within local government and indeed within the other local decision making bodies that affect the lives of us all? Putting it bluntly no one the vast majority of the time.

Yes we see local government stories in the local press but they are virtually always built upon press releases from councils or the politicians who run the councils, or they are about party political spats between opposing politicians.

Is the issue that the remaining local media is not training young journalists to get to the heart of what is going on in local government? Is it that they can’t afford to pay the kind of wages required to bring on good investigative journalists? A good and experienced local government reporter would once have been expected to know as much or indeed more than the local political bigwigs they were reporting on so that they could take on the spin and expose the facts.

The problem is of course a national one, of that I have little doubt. I wonder how many uncomfortable moments that councils and publicly accountable local bodies across the land should have had (and would have had in the days when the local media was a force to contend with) are not being picked up at all these days, unless the matter is so bad that it reaches the national press/media such as the Rotten Boroughs page of Private Eye?

This challenge is, I think, what the BBC scheme is trying to address but will it have any effect? Are a new generation of independently minded investigative journalists going to be created via it? Is the present day poor reporting by the BBC a reflection of too few good investigative journalists coming through the system and is that why the BBC has launched the scheme?

As the majority of journalists will have started at the bottom of the journalistic ladder reporting on the goings on of the local parish councils will we once again see bored young reporters sat listening to the debates of Little Twittering Parish Council awaiting a juicy story?

In a functioning healthy democracy well informed investigative journalists are a big part of keeping the powerful on their toes and I fear the demise of them at a local level is doing us all a disservice.

Social Care Costs

The BBC has the story on its web site

www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45750384

What struck me about the BBC piece is that the writer of it uses almost the same words as I did when they describe the timescale for governments not to address this most vital of issues. My blog posting on the subject was on 29th September and here’s a link to it:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/09/29/sefton-council-its-social-care-budgetary-crisis-as-with-every-other-council-delivering-social-care-responsibilities/

This is what I said – This is a crisis that needed to be faced up to by politicians in government 20 or more years ago, the fact that it still has not been is testament to our broken political system which only thinks very short term indeed.

This is what Nick Triggle has said on the BBC web site on 8th October – In truth, it is an issue that governments have ducked for more than 20 years – Tony Blair was talking about reform as he came to power in 1997.

That we have to fund social care costs much better is a given and those costs have to come, in the main, from general taxation don’t they? Even in our broken political system surely the political parties can come together to agree a way forward rather than them each kicking the can further down the road whilst blaming the other political parties for doing the kicking.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Maghull’s Moss Side and the Great War Remembered at The Atkinson Southport

As a follow up to my preceding posting about how Maghull’s world famous former Moss Side Hospital is being recognised at the new Maghull North Station here are some details of a project and research concerning the hospital which is now on public display at Southport’s lovely Atkinson Museum and Gallery.

History board about Moss Side Hospital on the platform of the new Maghull North Station

Here’s a link to information about project and when you can visit the gallery:-

www.theatkinson.co.uk/events/moss-side-great-war-remembered/?utm_source=Master&utm_campaign=6a60a4baf1-&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0115a12ae9-6a60a4baf1-50600365&ct=t()&mc_cid=6a60a4baf1&mc_eid=73304c39fd

Extract from Atkinson web page – Local volunteers have been unearthing fascinating stories relating to Moss Side Military Hospital in Maghull. The hospital pioneered treatment for soldiers with shell shock during the First World War & treated over 3,600 patients between opening in December 1914 and 1919. Moss Side became renowned in the developing field of psychological medicine, with clinical staff at the time were described as “the brilliant band of workers who made Maghull the centre for the study of abnormal psychology”.

The Atkinson Southport photographed in November 2015 – Photographer unknown

With thanks to Keith Page for the lead to this posting

PS. On an unrelated matter if you are a Maghullian or anyone else for that matter and visit The Atkinson look out for their large display of Hornby related Toys and models. Other than the Frank Hornby Experience within Meadows Leisure Centre The Atkinson display is probably the most extensive you can find in the Liverpool City Region

Sefton Council – Its Social Care budgetary crisis (as with every other council delivering social care responsibilities)

Sefton Council Logo

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link below

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/social-care-in-crisis-sefton-15213903

I like Margaret Carney, she became Chief Executive during my time as Leader of Sefton Council. She is a calm and clear thinking council officer in my view so if she says there’s a crisis then you can take it that there is. Of course she is also saying what many other Chief Executives of Councils are saying across the Country and there’s much evidence to back up their concerns.

But as I’ve said before (in previous blog postings on this subject) the crisis in social care has been building for many a year. It would be a mistake to think it’s just another victim of austerity. Yes austerity has made things worse but well before the financial crash social care was hoovering up huge amounts of Sefton Council’s revenue budget often at the expense of other council services. Every yearly budget setting round there would be a need to put greater and greater sums into elderly and children’s social care to keep them afloat – rising demands and every spiraling costs. But as I say Sefton Borough is far from being unique in having to deal with this.

This is a crisis that needed to be faced up to by politicians in government 20 or more years ago, the fact that it still has not been is testament to our broken political system which only thinks very short term indeed.

Whilst we spend Billions of Pounds trying to exit the EU there are real life problems like this that keep getting swept under so many politicians carpets. Our priorities as a Country are utterly bizarre. The poor the sick and vulnerable are paying for the stupidity of our leaders with underfunded social care amongst other vital services, such as the NHS, from which we are diverting funds to fight fantasy projects like Brexit.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Can you help a Maghull Wind Orchestra member with a disability get to Fusion Festival WITH her Assistance Dog?

I like to think that I’m one of those people who always wants to help, where I can, a person with a disability and here’s a case where we can all try to help. Below is a link to a 38 Degrees petition:-

you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/let-charlie-barker-s-assistance-dog-george-go-to-the-fusion-festival?bucket&source=facebook-share-button&time=1534944458

Please click on the link and add your name if at all possible.

Surely there’s no logical reason why an Assistance Dog should be refused entry to a music festival but it’s seemingly the case here. If we all get behind this petition maybe we can persuade the organisers of Fusion Festival to back off and indeed embrace attendees, like Charlie Barker, who need assistance dogs to help them get through their daily lives.

Please help if you can.

Thank you

Has Brexit become more important than caring for the elderly?

Sadly it seems so, whilst the building and ever deepening crisis in our social care system gets worse every day. The Guardian has an opinion piece on its web site by Polly Toynbee on this matter, please have a read of it via the link below:-

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/17/brexit-crisis-social-care-workers-night-shift-pay-claim-quitting

To true Brexiters such as the majority of the Tory Party and the Labour Leadership it’s probably the case that they put leaving the EU before just about everything; it’s their cult-like religious goal and nothing can be allowed to get in the way. Of course in reality, not something Brexiter MP’s are often well acquainted with I guess, the big issues that Parliament need to concentrate on are still there festering away. And probably social care is at the top of the list of ignored crisis issues along with the related problems of our struggling NHS.

Yes I know, I’m a Remainer so I really don’t in any way understand why adult social care and the NHS crisis is less important than leaving the EU but I guess this is very clear to Brexiters?…

My thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting