Covid-Safe Workplaces?

I was a Branch Secretary for PCS trade union for 22 years and held other lay posts within that union and indeed its predecessor unions (IRSF & PTC) throughout my working life in the civil service. So it’s probably no surprise then that my now-retired eye was caught by the article below on the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-56647149

I’ve been troubled throughout this wretched pandemic about how safe UK workplaces really are and the telling thing for me has been that I’m yet to hear of any employers being prosecuted for unsafe C19 conditions. Trade unions, of course, will always be (or at least should always be) on the front foot should their members have concerns about unsafe workplaces.

Here’s what the Health & Safety Executive say about how they get involved with workplace Covid 19 concerns:-

www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/regulating-health-and-safety/index.htm

I’d heard about the Swansea situation a while back and it seems like my former trade union and indeed its members in that agency of government have decided enough is enough. Clearly, even if all guidelines are being followed by DVLA (and I’ve no reason to think they are not) something is far from right with such large numbers of staff falling victim to C19.

But just think for a moment about all those non-unionised workplaces across the UK and how safe the staff feel who work in them, over C19 or indeed other matters, if there’s no union to take their employer to task.

We generally have safe working conditions in the UK because of the efforts of trade unionists over many generations. It’s best to join a union in my view; indeed when I first started work in the civil service it was and had been government policy for a long time to encourage all civil servants to join their appropriate trade union. That was good advice to me.

Conspiracy Theories & Covid 19

The other day I came across a thread on a community Facebook Page where one of the admins was trying to address what conspiracy theorists had been putting on that page associated with their belief that Covid 19 does not exist or that if it does it’s associated with 5G etc. etc.

I blogged about the relationship between conspiracy theories and 5G back in April of this year and here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/04/24/5g-why-are-some-folk-so-upset-about-it/

And then this fascinating insight into how outlandish conspiracy theories can even destroy a family. It’s a BBC audio recording that’s well worth taking a few minutes to listen to:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-54669239

When you’ve read the BBC website article click on the ‘Trending’ tag at the bottom and this will take you through to the audio only recording.

Sadly, Facebook and other forms of social media are used by conspiracy theorists to try to widen their influence on those who may be taken in by their very odd take on Covid 19 and indeed many other things. My advice? Don’t take things at face value, try to fact check them – that goes for anything any politician tells you too!

Northern Politics & Covid 19

I posted a couple of weeks back about struggles in the north of England to tackle both Covid 19 and our Government in Westminster. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/10/16/scousers-cheer-metro-mayor-but-its-not-their-own/

So that was my view back on 16th October but what about an alternative take on it all from a professional independent analyst – step forward former BBC North West journalist Jim Hancock and his blog piece – ‘TURMOIL IN NORTHERN POLITICS’:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Jim neatly points to an issue which has always troubled me with regard to devolution of powers in England and how Regional Mayors can’t really stand up to Westminster. He is of course right.

This is my take on that very issue – Much talk of Regional Mayors in recent times due to Covid restrictions but devolution in England is half-hearted, that’s why I opposed the imposition of Regional Mayors. Putting power in hands of one person was another no no for me. However, I’m fully behind regional governance (well I would be as a Liberal) but for it to be useful the powers need to be extensive. What I’ve never got my head around is why on earth Labour backed the Tories devolution plans when they were clearly putting in place another level of governance but with far too few powers……

I suppose the other big question is what would northern leaders actually do differently, to what Westminster demands in this pandemic, if they had the power to defy Government? My view is that there may be many options to close down society in an attempt to control Covid 19 until a vaccine becomes available. However, in reality they are like selecting from a menu of foods you’ve not tried before. You may dislike all of them but some will be slightly healthier options than others. I suspect that closing this or that business is marginal and your view on the closure will be greatly influenced by whether you use that kind of business or not. Gyms have been the very public argument and now they’re all open following the backlash against them being closed. But surely it’s the case that by opening them the chances of supressing the virus are potentially/slightly diminished? Or looking at it a different way if you open gyms should you not close something else?

There are no easy answers whether the options are chosen nationally or regionally…………

Scousers cheer Metro Mayor (but it’s not their own)

It’s been a little surreal over the last couple of days as Scousers have been piling onto social media to cheer along on Greater Manchester’s Metro Mayor Andy Burnham! Yes you’ve read that right Scousers cheering a Manc’, when anything to do with Manchester is usually treated with utter distain probably because of football loyalties in the city of the Beatles where the main religion is indeed football be it red or blue.

But the Manc’ Mayor is actually all but a Scouser himself having been born in Aintree Village/Old Roan on Merseyside, so I guess that allows Liverpudlians to cheer him on even though he’s working for the enemy so to speak.

Personally, I’m no fan of Burham at all as I recall him, when in government, having a hand in NHS privatisation, something he seems to oppose these days. I also see him as a populist politician who will shift his ground to follow the crowd. However, presently he seems to be a bit of a hero in some folks minds because he’s been taking on Johnson’s Government when here on Merseyside/in Liverpool City Region Burham’s Labour colleagues are being accused of capitulating in the same Covid 19 Tier 3 lockdown fight in the very first round.

Steve Rotheram, the former Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, is the Liverpool City Region Mayor and he seems to find himself very much in Burnham’s shadow. Of course Burham is media savvy indeed he seems to be the darling of the media who rush to him for quotes on anything remotely to do with anything in Greater Manchester or even the North West of England. Poor Rotheram is clearly not so comfortable surrounded by the press and being out shone by Burnham must surely be getting him down.

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again that public health is the loser in the spat between northern leaders and Johnson’s Government over the detail of Covid 19 Tier 3 lockdown measures and the compensation which closing businesses will or won’t be getting. At the very time we need unity of purpose at all levels of governance we end up with a party political ding dong.

Interestingly, these issues have not just been exercising the minds of Labour Council Leaders, MP’s and Metro Mayors as plenty of Tory MP’s and Council Leaders in the north have also been picking a fight with Johnson and Sunak. Indeed, I hear that Labour allowed the northern Tories to have a good old go at Johnson’s lot before they joined in. It seems that Lancashire has gained a ‘better’ deal than Merseyside because they’ve been offered a better (better than what?) business compensation package and also their gyms will not have to close. The latter is very much a moot point because if gyms are seen by scientists as being Covid 19 spreaders then it’s debatable whether that aspect is part of a better deal or simply a bad decision. I know many folk think gyms are key to better mental health so them being open outweighs the negatives/challenges of them being open. I’m no scientist so am left wondering whether the trade-off’s are right or wrong and I guess that goes for many of us watching this most public of fallouts.

But what of Greater Manchester’s still to be done deal? What will Comrade Burnham ‘win’ for his own patch or, together with his Tory Lancashire colleagues, has he shown up how Merseyside’s Labour Leaders fell into line following the first Government punch?

More importantly, as this Covid 19 battle is seemingly going to last for a long time, through various phases have ‘lessons been learned’ (a favourite politician’s phrase) about putting public health first rather than political point scoring? Answers on a postcard……………….

Merseyside or Liverpool City Region?

or

With Merseyside/Liverpool City Region being somewhat the centre of attention presently due to the recent spike in Covid 19 it’s been interesting to hear how the media and politicians interchange Merseyside with Liverpool City Region. I’ve even seen a posting on Twitter explaining what Liverpool City Region is made up of as even on Merseyside it’s a matter of some confusion with Joe and Jane Public.

First a bit of history. Merseyside was created as part of the big local government reorganisation which came into effect in 1974. It comprised and indeed still does comprise the council areas of Knowsley, Sefton, St. Helens, Wirral and Liverpool. Mrs. T did not like the uppity Metropolitan County Councils and the Greater London Council so she abolished them. The powers that were held by Merseyside Country Council were given to joint boards made up of councillors from the boroughs or they went straight to the borough councils. The lead photo is of one of the last surviving Merseyside County Council boundary signs that I know of. It’s on Cunscough Lane on the Bikerstaffe/Melling – Lancashire/Merseyside boundary or at least it was last time I looked. You’ll note that the County Council had a crest which is displayed on the sign.

Then many years later there was a developing trend, particularly amongst Tories, to ape US/Australian local/regional government process and with that came the creation of Liverpool City Region, a City Region Mayor and a Police Commissioner. It also meant that Liverpool City had two elected mayors leading to the City Mayor becoming known as the ‘Spare Mayor’ in some circles. I think it’s fair to say that Police Commissioners have been a complete flop whilst the regional mayors are hardly viewed as being a successful policy move either.

The difference geographically between Merseyside and Liverpool City Region (LCR) is that LCR includes the Borough of Halton (Widnes & Runcorn) and the graphic below illustrates the area covered by LCR

But why did Merseyside morph into Liverpool City Region? Well it happened whilst I was leader of Sefton Council and the theory was this. The Council Leaders were told that potential investors in Merseyside did not know where it was, whereas they did know where Liverpool wass. You can follow this through reasonably logically by thinking about the huge successes of Liverpool Football Club who together with the Beatles put Liverpool on the world map. I get all that but to be honest I was never particularly sold on dropping Merseyside for LCR but a decision had to be made so eventually LCR was the title agreed but not with much enthusiasm I think it fair to say.

The irony of where we are now due to Covid 19 is that LRC may well mean a clear area of the UK for outside investors but to locals, politicians and the media in the UK it’s still Merseyside.

The name change has not really worked and it possibly never will with locals.

Museum of Liverpool – Covid 19 Mind Maps

Below you’ll find a link to a short Museum of Liverpool video on You Tube showing mind maps detailing the experiences of participants:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljTg1Sf6FF8&feature=emb_logo&fbclid=IwAR1WLyy_quCGIjhDZWF1ymXP479zspjHjSaE0FCL8E9QkOU7uDv8gDaSFAw

Our daughter Jen is one such participant and her mind map is at about 1.30mins into the video and it’s also at the head of this posting.

Click on the mind map grapic to enlarge for reading