We import 50% of our food!- Now do opposition politicians get why I keep banging on about saving high grade agricultural land from development?

Over the past 20 years or so I have consistently fought to stop the headlong charge to build on the highest grades of agricultural land in Sefton Borough. That fight was most recently via its Local Plan process and prior to that it’s Unitary Development Plan in the late 1990’s. But my point here is not just about saving to save Green Belt, worthy though that aim is, it’s about trying to save the land which grows our food!

That we now import 50% of what we eat when only a few years ago it was just a third is surely a big worry as the higher that figures grows the more shaky becomes our food supply sustainability. What’s more the higher that figure grows the worse becomes our environmental sustainability too. This is not a race we want to win unless we want to find ourselves short of food one day!

Here’s an interesting article from the BBC web site (see link below) about the cost of our food and how much we import:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45559594

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

Giant U Turn? Well a small one anyway as Hightown is saved from station closure during event

Little girl and her dog near the old Mersey Tunnel entrance during the last Giants tour of Liverpool.

I blogged about this only a few days ago and it seems that public pressure has brought about some concessions regarding the number of Merseyrail Stations that will close during the The Giants Spectacular in Liverpool in a couple of weeks time. But even with these limited concessions Merseyrail and the powers that be who are organising the event have managed to cheese off a lot of the travelling public by closing stations on the network.

Hightown is one station reprieved:-

Hightown Station

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-45627563

With thanks to Keith Page for the lead to this posting.

What universe are the Government living in – Child-like challenge to EU!

Back May’s Brexit plan or risk no deal, David Lidington tells EU

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45344203

Frankly I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, this mess is all of the UK’s making. We said we wanted out and now we want ‘out’ to be on our terms. I’m not even sure that the Government or indeed the Official Opposition, who also back Brexit, know what kind of a deal they actually want anyway!

We must look an odd self-destructive lot to our soon to be ex-European partners as they clearly can’t work out what we are up to or even why. Then again you only have to listen to the drivel that comes from the lead Brexit politicians in both the Tory and Labour Parties to realise they don’t have a clue what they are talking about most of the time.

If I were the EU I would treat the UK like a naughty petulant child. Send our Tory and Labour Party Leaders (who seem to be having an attack of the Terrible 2’s) to bed early and ground them until they are capable of behaving anything like the adults we are supposed to have as our political leaders.

The UK has been taken over by political lightweights who think that whatever they think must be fact so they continue to repeat their nonsense whilst the UK economy goes to the dogs. The poor are going to be made poorer, we are all going to be made poorer yet those who promote Brexit just keep ploughing on as though all is going to be well. It’s NOT, there needs to be a peoples vote on the outcome of the negotiations with the EU. We can’t leave it to our MP’s as the vast majority of them will just go along with whatever their ‘other universe’ leaders tell them. The people need to speak before we consider whether we really should go over the cliff edge or not.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport staff to strike over pay

News that Liverpool John Lennon Airport staff are to go on strike if their demand for a 3.6% pay rise is not met is on the BBC web site – See link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-45208696

Extract from the article ‘Firefighters, bird control staff, engineers and drivers at Liverpool John Lennon Airport are to go on strike because of a pay dispute.’