Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester – Tired and a bit Empty

I love museums and always have done but I must say this one in Manchester disappointed me.

The day did not start well when we arrived at Ladywell Park and Ride to get a tram into Manchester only to find that on this particular line last Saturday the trams were being replaced by buses as maintenance work was being done. Obviously I’ve heard the dreaded words for rail travellers before ‘rail replacement buses’ but tram replacement buses was a new one on me, although sadly just as depressing in practice I have to say. It took forever to get into Manchester but we did have a scenic tour of Salford Quays along the way.

Note to self and advisory for others, don’t go to Manchester expecting a tram ride without actually checking that the trams are running.

The nearest I got to Metrolink – Trams passing each other at the G-Mex – one day I’ll get a ride on one I hope.

Having got to the city center the tram replacement bus travelled past the end of Liverpool Road, where we wanted to get off, so we could wave at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and then dropped us off miles away from it having sailed (for whatever reason) past quite a few bus stops. But we finally got to the Museum.

First impressions were good, the entrance hall looked good, the welcome staff were friendly and the toilets and Cafe were fine too. Cafes in Museums have in general usually been poor in the UK and I’ve often wondered if poor spec cafes is actually a specification of the Dept. of Arts and Culture or whatever the UK Government is presently calling it. Don’t get me wrong the small volunteer/private museums where you can get little more than a mug of tea and a Kit Kat are great, it’s just that when you go to a National Museum you expect to be able to eat well at a decent price and rarely is this the case. But to give them their due MOSI had got this aspect pretty well bang on, so congratulations to them.

Stephen’s Rocket at MOSI

Sadly, that was about it though for me. We had a good look at the original Stephenson’s Rocket which had pride of place in the museum (it’s only there for another couple of weeks – until the 8th September) then toured the rest of the site. What struck us were the empty spaces especially in the former Liverpool and Manchester Station building and the lack of railway trucks and carriages etc. on the tracks outside of it. The Power Hall was closed for maintenance works and the separate building housing all the aircraft and vintage cars was also the subject of significant maintenance works (although open) and quite obviously an extremely leaky roof.

Crossley Limousine of 1909

MOSI seems to pitch itself as a museum of family entertainment with all kinds of activities taking place for youngsters but for the older generations I feel it looks tired and rather empty. I have little doubt that austerity will have played into the the maintenance issues or probably the lack of maintenance (due to lack of money) has led to an almost crisis maintenance regime where things only get fixed when they are really bad. But having said that I’ve been to this museum before, the last time maybe 15 years ago or more and I seem to recall it’s empty spaces from back them.

A giant MOSI mural on the side of a building

MOSI, in my view, needs a big injection of cash and a plan to make the best of it’s wide open spaces both inside and outside. Sorry it was a disappointment.

Ready for another financial crash? Well it seems one could be on the way!

Sky news have the story on their web site – see link below:-

news.sky.com/story/next-financial-crisis-has-begun-and-will-be-worse-than-2008-crash-economists-warn-11497433

As if we don’t have enough to worry about with our economy tanking because of Brexit! Very sobering indeed with Brexit and potentially another financial crash hitting before we have even recovered from the 2008 crisis. If I was religious I may even recommend praying……

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

Paradise Papers, tax avoidance and austerity

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/07/end-offshore-games-democracy-die-paradise-papers

The Guardian has this opinion piece on its web site – see link above

This is an interesting piece indeed and I agree with its general thrust.

On austerity though Aditya Chakrabortty tells us that there was an alternative to it. Well yes there may well have been but how come the UK’s 3 major political parties went into the 2010 General Election promoting austerity (in one form or another) as the major solution to the mess our economy had gotten into? The brightest minds in all 3 political parties seem to have reached a similar conclusion, some even thought that Alistair Darlings Labour version of austerity could well have been worse than the Tory plan although clearly he was not given the chance to implement it.

My personal view is that a form of austerity was always on the cards as part of the overall solution to the economic crash, together with tax increases and of course dealing with tax avoidance.

That it (tax avoidance) is legal in this day and age speaks volumes because of course it’s only the seriously wealthy who can engage in it. Tax rules for the poor and tax avoidance for the rich you might say.

Also the ‘Three hundred billion quid’ referred to in the opinion piece is not what the Treasury would or could have picked up surely but only the avoided tax upon it.

But quibbling aside, as I say, the general thrust of this piece is right; there’s no place for offshore money or tax avoidance in a functioning democracy. Time to stop both UK Government.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

JC – Hugely popular with his adoring fans BUT….

That Jeremy Corbyn has almost God-like status amongst his fans is undeniable. And why not he’s pledged to do many wondrous things that few people could argue with. He’s going to save the NHS with massive injections of cash. Save our railways with nationalisation and massive injections of cash. Save students with no more student loans/tuition fees (despite Labour previously bringing in such loans/tuition fees) and possibly paying off/refunding all the old/outstanding loans/tuition fees too. I could go on but I’m sure you get my and indeed JC’s drift.

Does he mean it? Will all his pledges come about if the electorate gives JC a majority at the next election? I’ve been asking such questions of folk I know who are involved in politics and their answers are illuminating.

Labour Party members/supporters (excepting the Momentum crowds and JC adorers of course) seem generally downbeat to me. And no, I’ve not been talking to those right wing Labour Party members who some refer to as Red Tories.

What Labour members who are sceptical of JC say is generally summed up like this:- We know he will not be able to deliver at least half of what he promises/pledges because there won’t be the money available to any incoming Labour Government to do it.

And of course this line is backed up by the present state of the economy following the the financial crash some 10 years ago and the many years of austerity we have suffered. Having said that JC is also going to kill off austerity of course!

Why only recently it’s been revealed that Brexit, which of course JC is hugely in favour of, will lead to the average household being around £4,000 per year worse off so government revenues will obviously fall, possibly dramatically too. What’s more leaving the Single Market and Customs Union, as JC wants, will in turn mean that to compete the UK will need to slash taxation (and things like the regulations that protect workers rights) so government revenues will be hit hard there too. The question being how will JC deliver his pledges with far, far less money being available to his government?

What I am saying is that Labour supporters, who are not wedded to Momentum, see a huge problem brewing for Labour in that it will fail spectacularly to deliver if it gains power at Westminster. Not my words but those of credible Labour people I have spoken to.

Wanting to do all the things that we all want doing in our society is very different to being able to deliver them and many Labour members know this.

And then you look at credible people outside of the Labour tent and the answers/comments are very similar to those skeptics within Labour’s tent. Look at this write up from Cllr. Ian Brodie-Browne:-

birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/sefon-lab-councillor-decalre-year-zero.html

Whilst Iain’s blog posting is predicated on what has happened at Sefton Council meetings the thrust of it fits with what I have heard from within Labour’s tent. Indeed it’s not just me as Roy Connell told me only recently about a chance encounter he had with a senior Labour figure locally who had all sorts of worries about JC’s pledges.

I seriously want many of the things JC is pledging to be delivered – A better funded NHS, no more PFI deals to deliver public services, no more tuition fees etc. etc. But economic reality can’t be controlled to deliver enough money into the government’s purse to make wishes come true. Leaving the EU is not going to make things better economically, its going to make things worse! We will still be living in a global economy no matter how much we pretend to be little Englanders who are unaffected by world issues. Investment in the UK needs stable economics, yet we are heading directly for unstable waters due to Brexit and unrealistic spending pledges by the likes of JC.

He may be loved, he may be adored and believed (indeed he may passionately believe that all his pledges are deliverable himself) but that does not mean he can and will deliver when all the pointers say he can’t.

As Iain Brodie-Browne points out you can’t just say the new world begins today and everything that was done before it, even by Labour in government, is irrelevant history. It’s not irrelevant because it has put us where we are socially and economically. We might not like where we are, I for one certainly do not, but that does not mean we can change our situation by simply believing another better world is possible. Slamming on the brakes does not stop a massive oil tanker; our economy is like an oil tanker. No matter how much we wish and vote for massive social and economic change it will only happen slowly over many years. Stop the world we want to get off could be the slogan of Brexiters and indeed Momentum but what will actually happen if we pull the wrong leavers is that we stop economically and the rest of the world keeps spinning.

JC your world like Brexit is a seriously false and damaging fantasy and there are many in your party who know that.

Emergency Services – Austerity causes innovative and welcome/unwelcome thinking

We are all sick and tired of austerity which has in effect been inflicted upon us as a consequence ‘casino banking’ and the subsequent financial crash. And yes it has caused great harm to the public services we all rely on.

But one, maybe the only positive consequence is that public services which for years have operated in glorious isolation from each other have had to look at innovative solutions to service delivery. Basing ambulances in fire stations or other similar solutions that bring together sometimes all 3 emergency services under one roof is an example.

Having said that the principle is good I was personally not supportive of the local solution which put ambulances, once based in Lydiate, in a fire station in Netherton. I wanted the Lydiate Ambulance Station and Maghull Police station merged onto the Maghull Police Station site but sadly no one was listening and the joined up thinking was not joined up as the Police were separately (and seemingly in glorious isolation) planning to shut down Maghull Police Station and sell off the land…….

But another innovative solution to service delivery is just up the road from my Lydiate home in neighbouring Aughton where the local Police Station is actually on Town Green Railway Station’s Liverpool bound platform. See photo below:-

As for Maghull the Police Station, we are told, it is going to occupy space within Maghull Town Hall. This may well have been a welcome and innovative solution if it had not meant the loss of the Town’s only surviving publicly funded youth facility. Plus that facility also doubled up to house the Town’s CAB but that has also now gone and a joint community the size of Maghull/Lydiate now sadly has no CAB.

So readers will understand why I am not at all happy with Maghull/Lydiate’s rather unwelcome public service delivery ‘solutions’. When the move of the Police Station to Maghull Town Hall will actually happen we don’t presently know as all has gone quiet on the matter.

Austerity as we think of it post the financial crash is far from being the whole story of the decline in council services

There is no doubt that austerity as either implemented by the Coalition Government (and then sadly pushed far, far harder by the present Tory Government) or indeed as outlined by Alistair Darling (his austerity would probably have been harsher than the Coalition’s some commentators say) on behalf of the Labour Party prior to the 2010 General election has had a huge impact on the ability of councils to deliver services.

But in fact there is a funding crisis that goes back much further than the financial crash of 2007 that has impacted on local authorities. That funding crisis is back in the headlines now but I recall it rearing its head almost every year that I was Sefton Borough Councillor during the budget setting process. In fact it was twofold i.e. children in care and care for the elderly.

Year on year senior council officers would present the need for extra money to be put into these two care budgets, often the amounts asked for, year in year out, would be have six 000,000’s behind them.

My point is that the elderly and children in care budgets have been eating further and further into council budgets for many, many years so austerity as far as local authorities are concerned did not start with the great financial crash but maybe 10 to 15 years prior to that.

And what made me think of this matter which must have been impacting on every local authority with responsibility for elderly/child care? Well two things really. The elderly care crisis is hitting the headlines yet again because politicians refuse to address it properly and have failed to do so for a least the last 20 years. And the other very local issue that made me think about it is the demise of public toilets and in particular the former award winning ones in Maghull.

Maghull's closed public toilets at the Square Shopping Centre.

Maghull’s closed public toilets at the Square Shopping Centre.

Public toilets have been in decline for a long time and the Maghull ones are an interesting and sad example not least because Sefton Council would once boast about them being award winners (Public Loo of the Year or some such award) back in the 1980’s. But since those days the Council’s focus, you could say its priority, has been slowly but surely moved towards funding the elderly and children in care.

What’s happened has been a creeping process whereby the amount of money each local authority has to spend on other services has got smaller and smaller as the budgets for elderly and children in care have got bigger. And this well before the consequences of austerity and the financial crash hit them via government grant cuts.

The thrust of government policy has in effect been to force local authorities to spend their money in these two key social care areas and on little else. Yes there’s no doubt that the austerity that followed the financial crash sped up this process beyond what anyone could have conceived but it had been a trend for a long time, one which was pursued by governments of all colours.

In reality local authorities (this does not include Town and Parish Councils – they don’t get an government grants) are now focused on delivering statutory services and have almost no money to deliver things that local people may want. Public toilets, for example, are a non-statutory service hence their demise across the UK.

Personally, I have thought that the funding of local authorities has been inappropriate for many years because they are in reality delivering two very different things i.e. local often non-statutory services for their communities and statutory services where they are in effect simply an agent delivering governmental/national services. The two got muddled up in the times of plenty and it did not seem to matter. However, in times of scarce money it is the local mainly non-statutory services that have been lost as the money has gone to prop up the statutory ones.

The former Aintree Library - closed by Sefton Council.

The former Aintree Library – closed by Sefton Council.

Sadly, it is more complex than that even because if you take the example of libraries they are a statutory service i.e. local authorities have to provide them. But the level to which they are provided is a different matter so Sefton Council was able to reduce it’s libraries from 13 to 6 without falling foul of the law not so long ago.

However you look at it local authorities are the fall-guys for austerity because governments of all colours over the past 20+ years have not funded statutory services, particularly adult/elderly social care, properly.