Regular readers will know that I have been an active trade unionist for over 30 years but that does not stop me being critical of unions when I think they are wrong.
My own union is PCS, a public sector union in the main representing civil servants in the main. Clearly PCS, as with all other unions, is upset about the savings that the public sector has to make but then again the depth of the savings is deep indeed and they worry most people. Why even the Archbishop of Canterbury (normally seen as the Leader of the Conservatives at prayer) has been having a pop in recent times but he, like many in the trade union movement, misses the fundamental point which is that we have an economy that is shot full of holes (because of Labour’s unsustainable borrowing and the irresponsible antics of their banking mates) and if we don’t sort it out we will get into a worse mess and end up like poor old Ireland or Greece or Portugal etc. If we go there the present savings will seem tame indeed!
Fundamentally I have a big worry about where our trade unions are going as my instincts tell me that they are in great danger of raising expectations amongst their members well beyond what can be delivered. It is all well and good telling your members that the savings don’t have to made, that the deficit is not really there and that socialist solutions exist that, if Labour were in power, would lead to no public sector cut backs etc. etc. The trouble is that Darling and Mandleson have already let that cat out of the bag and it is clear that for every £8 the Coalition is presently saving Labour planned to save £7. And Labour’s plans were written before the depth of economic collapse was fully realised as that only happened during and just after the 2010 election. It would therefore not be unreasonable to assume that if Labour were in Government that the level of cuts would by similar, as I have posted before, with only small differences at the margins.
My point in all this is that some trade union leaders are misleading their members into thinking that there are obvious and easy ‘alternatives’ and that with Labour in power they would be there. But as the Archbishop of Canterbury also pointed out the opposition (Labour) have yet to show us how it would be different. The problem is that the left are now running many unions and of course they quite obviously believe in a socialist economy. It is no surprise therefore that they are using the economic crisis and cuts to try to deliver a true socialist economy. I don’t blame them for holding such views but I fear that trade union members are being asked to fight for an end game that is clear to those trade union leaders but is not at all clear to union members. And before I made these remarks I ran them past a trade union official, who for obvious reasons I can’t name, and their response was to substantially agree with me. Indeed, they said that ‘the trade union movement is losing its head after years under Labour when it had to keep quiet’.
The real ‘alternative’ offered by the left is their socialist economy but the Labour Party will never deliver that no matter what left wing trade union leaders say or think. Having said that, Tony Blair is concerned enough to be offering words of caution to Labour as he can see the drift to the left that will, should it become embedded, ensure that Labour is out of office for a generation.
As for Ed (the wrong Miliband got elected), having let the left back out of his political kit bag he will need to find a way to put them back in it. If he leaves them out too long Labour will be back fighting them as per the Kinnock days and there is every sign that that they have been out too long already.
Today, together with Council Leaders and Deputy Leaders from the 6 Merseyside Authorities I met Lord Heseltine and Sir Terry Leahy. The event was associated with Liverpool City Region and progressing its economic regeneration.
An hour of discussion and debate took place and a stimulating conversation it was.
Then from speaking to a member of the House of Lords I went on to real parish pump politics in Lydiate as Sefton Council held one of its consultation events with local residents about that Core Strtategy thing that I have posted about before. There was a very good tun out and clearly many locals were raising unsurprising concerns about loss of Green Belt.
I spoke to quite a number of residents in the hour I spent at the event and there was certainly a common theme about defending the Green Belt from developmnet. A petition had been handed in earlier in the day to this end and our own Lib Dem petition has gained a large number of signatures from folks who want to stop Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land being developed.
All in all an interesting day and a useful one. Whilst it was facinating to meet Lord Hesaline and Sire Terry Leahy there is nothing like getting down to local issues with local residents. And I walked away from Lydiate Vilage Centre with two items of casework to try to sort out for residents.
My Lib Dem colleague and fellow Sefton Councillor Haydn Preece has scored a significant hit in the campaign to democratise the Academy conversion process that is presently sweeping Sefton’s high schools.
Haydn put a motion to Sefton Council which gained all-party support that called on high schools to ballot parents as part of the consultation process. Haydn’s initiative has since been copied by others, including Labour led Maghull Town Council.
Well done Haydn, you deserve credit for the fact that the first high school (Deyes High) to agree to ballot has come forward
This morning, together with Supertintendent Pilling of Merseyside Police and a number of other invited guests, I went to both these High Schools.
My daughter went to Deyes and I went to Maghull High so we have family connections with them both.
The purpose of the visits was to watch videos produced by young people at both schools about how the behaviour of young people affects the wider community. The Deyes video concentrated on knife crime and was a very powerful message. Maghull High’s video was about how groups of young people gathering in parks or around shops can be intimidating to older people, shop keepers etc.
and again it was great piece of work.
I am happy to say that both had won prizes in a competition organised by Merseyside Police and they can be viewed on Utube. See if you can find them via links from the school web sites or indeed Sefton Council or Merseyside Police web sites (I am told that links were being set up from today); they are both well worth looking at.
I have just had a call from Sefton Planning Dept. responding to my posting of yesterday and very positive it was too.
The message about the process not being one that has connected well with folks has been listened to and I was informed that people living very close to potential development sites would now be informed directly by Sefton by letter about the matter.
It seems that my posting and experience of the first consultation in Melling yesterday showed that messages had not got through to residents and that this had caused Melling residents to be frustrated when they found out late in the day.
The next consultation meetings in the East Parishes are:-
LYDIATE – At Lydiate Village Centre, Lambshear Lane, Lydiate – 2.00pm to 8.00pm on Monday 13th June.
AINTREE – At Aintree Library, Altway, Aintree Village – 4.00pm to 7.00pm on Wednesday 15th June.
MAGHULL – At Meadows Leisure Centre, Hall Lane, Maghull – 2.00pm to 8.00pm on Tuesday 21st June.
If you can get along to one of these events please do so as they are all about the future of our local communities. If you live outside of the East Parishes please check the Sefton web site for dates of events in your part of the Borough.
Yesterday evening I had another meeting with campaigners from Lydiate who are determined to do all that is possible to save the unique character of the Lydiate community.
The public consultation process is now in full swing but I still worry that the code words ‘Core Strategy’ are far from a snappy way to get folks attention. Also, the posters produced by Sefton Council’s Planning Dept. are worthy but too cluttered to reach out and grab the attention of passers by.
The problem is that Planners are not necessarily good at communicating with the general public and I know that some campaigners are openly of the view that the process of engaging Sefton residents in the Core Strategy has been poor; indeed some think the process has been designed not to be easily engaged with. I can understand such frustrations but I also realise that poor communications do not mean that there really is a conspiracy to confuse residents. As I say, the problem is the delivery of understandable messages that residents realise they should engage with. If all this is going straight over the public’s heads then the Council will have failed to consult properly.
There is little doubt from my perspective that many of Sefton’s communities are potentially facing a process that could well lead to significant house building in future years. I know that in the East Parishes communities such building is not going down at ball well with those who have managed to engage with the Core Strategy processes.
But my bottom line is still the one that I have been banging on about for ages now. We have some of the highest grade agricultural land in England and it needs to be protected from building. Once it has gone it is gone for good! I am up for the fight to save Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land from development and I hope that many others are too.