A visit to The House of Commons

Last Tuesday I was invited to a meeting at the House of Commons to discuss economic development challenges and opportunities in the North West of England. The event was organised by my good friend Dr John Pugh the MP for Southport. It was facilitated by Gordon Lishman (recently retired Chief Exec’ of Age Concern which has just merged with Help the Aged) and sponsored by United Utilities.

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Now before I go any further may I make it clear that I paid for my own train fare to and hotel in London.

The meeting was very interesting as we had a broad range of people attending who could all reflect what economic challenges and opportunities were like at present and what may need to happen in the future to support local economies across the North West of England.

Gordon Lishman

It did not take long before we got around to jobs, the reliance on public sector jobs and how to encourage more young people to set up their own businesses. Another interesting fact and a sobering one as well is that United Utilities is, I understand, the only FTSE 100 quoted company that is based in England’s North West.

I hope we will be able to develop the relationships that were formed at the meeting as the North West has to become the master of its own destiny and be less dependent on Government if we are ever going to turn the tide and be a more prosperous region.

My thanks to Dr. Pugh MP on his initiative and I hope to be able to return to this subject in the future.

Maghull’s Youngest Traffic Warden

I was campaigning in the Greenville Drive area of Maghull yesterday and parked my car in this road. I noticed a young chap playing football a few yards away and thought nothing of it. However, the young chap (I would guess about 12) came towards me and my Team and asked me to move my car! He said it would be blocking traffic in the road. I looked and and clearly it would not and then the penny dropped; the car was where he wanted to kick his ball. I thought I would play along with the polite young man and asked him whether if I parked on ther other side of the road it would be OK. He said it would so I moved the car.

The lad is a born traffic warden.

‘Joe Anderson is a Tory!’

Not my words but words of letter writers to the Liverpool Post and Echo which Joe Anderson has felt the need to respond to.

He has been labeled a ‘Tory’ by some people in Liverpool because his Labour run Council passed a legal budget a few weeks ago. The letter writers wanted him to set an illegal budget and not make any savings. The fact that Joe refused to do this is clearly to his credit as he will know better than most Council Leaders what happens when Labour goes down the Militant denial of reality track as happened in Liverpool during the 1980’s.

Joe’s response was robust and pragmatic but it also inadvertently highlighted the activities of Sefton Labour Party who did go down the denial of reality track during Sefton Council’s budgetary processes. Readers will recall that if Sefton Labour had been in a majority their voting would have brought in a 29% Council Tax increase!

I respect Joe for his forthright response to the deficit deniers and the fact that he not only set a legal budget but was willing to defend what he had done to members of his own Labour movement who were calling him a ‘Tory’. My only gripe with Joe, whom I know reasonably well, was that he set a budget that closed 4 Children’s Centres. Having said that I understand that he has backed off from that position since the budget meeting.

So to all those who think I don’t give Labour any credit may I say that the letter which Joe wrote to the Daily Post a few days ago in defence of his actions deserves some credit.

Some facts to consider about the economy

These are difficult times for people across Britain, but this week has shown that this can also be an opportunity to reshape Britain into a fairer, more equal and greener country.
Labour’s financial legacy has left Britain needing to borrow an extra £400million, every single day, just to get by. Labour also left us paying £120million in interest on our debt each and every day – for that we could build a new primary school every hour. 
Sefton’s share of the country’s debt now stands at a dangerous £9.47billion and something needs to be done. 
But despite all this, Liberal Democrat policies coming into action this week are making a positive difference to people’s lives.
Over the last seven days in Sefton, thanks to Liberal Democrats:
  • 95000 people are getting a £200 income tax cut – benefiting 23 million people across the country
  • 4400 people have been lifted out of paying income tax altogether, with more to come
  • £625million extra has gone to our schools, aimed at the most disadvantaged pupils – rising to £2.5billion a year by 2015
  • 66000 pensioners have been given an extra £4.50 a week – and those retiring from today will be on average £15,000 better off over their retirement.
Liberal Democrats in government will not stop there.
This week also saw Pensions Minister Steve Webb announcing that the Government will be introducing a simple, flat-rate state pension of £140 to replace the current complicated, unfair and means-tested system.
Business Secretary Vince Cable is cutting regulation to promote small business and create jobs.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne revealed that Britain will be hosting the 2012 Clean Energy Summit – putting Britain at the heart of the Green Energy Revolution.
The Liberal Democrats have entered government at one of the most challenging times for the country. We did not choose the moment but we have not shrunk from our responsibility to act in the national interest. We will not miss the opportunity we have to build a greener, fairer and more liberal Britain. 
I can’t claim that these are my words, although I agree with them, so who wrote them?

Southport Blind Aid Society

Today I went to an event organised by this group together with Lord and Lady Fearn of Southport.

What a great self help group they are and what an uplifting experience to see many people, who are far less fortunate than many of us, having such a positive attitude to life.

They are merging with Galloway’s Society for the Blind and from what I saw today a long and successful future is likely for this organisation.

I met Alex there who is an almost totally blind Church of England Minister in Southport. I have met him before as he has been the Mayor of Sefton’s Chaplain over the past year. He has been blind since birth yet a more positive and engaging person you could not meet and I say that being a person who does not hold any religious beliefs.

What I learned today is that those with the greatest difficulties are often the most positive of people. An enjoyable day indeed.

Green Belt v Grade 1 Agricultural Land?

Like many parts of the UK Sefton needs more land for housing or so we are told. Here in Sefton Council Officers have been doing the rounds looking for sites to build on. They tell us that very soon the Borough will run out of ‘Brown Field’ land (land previously developed) and that within a few years there will be pressure to release land from the ‘Green Belt’ (mainly agricultural land).

As a long time campaigner for Green Belt this is a big challenge to me but I also have worries of a ‘green’ nature. If we accept, and I do, that we must start to grow more food closer to where we consume it then building on Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land is not the brightest of ideas. Indeed, it looks like a very bad idea! It was for this reason that I raised the dilemma at a recent Sefton Council Cabinet meeting.

This is the official map of agricultural land qualities in Sefton's East Parishes - It is all Grade 1 and Grade 2 i.e. the best growing land

My fear is that ‘green’ issues are not prominent enough in the present study of land availability so I intend to make it prominent. It is no use consulting the public over whether Green Belt land should be become unprotected or not when probably the biggest future consideration has to be where will we grow our food? We can’t just develop Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land and then say we wish we had not done so when we find there is no where left to grow food!

The photo above is of what is presently agricultural land to the east of Maghull but for how long will it be our local food basket?

Housing is important but so must we also consider the environmental sustainability of our communities. We all know that importing food from across the world, that we could grow in the UK, is simply not sustainable.