Devolution frustrations as seen by Jim Hancock and Richard Kemp

The article is on Jim’s blog site accessed via the link above

I remember Jim, as others will, from his BBC North West Regional News days and respect his views. I’m sure he and other devolution skeptics (and I include myself here) are right to think that government is not that keen on the process of devolving power to the regions of England, except that is when it suits them to be able to blame the regions for whatever the troubles of the day are.

It might seem odd me being a Liberal, having been brought up on a diet of power needing to be exercised at the lowest possible level of government, but I opposed the devolution deal for the Liverpool City Region. I opposed it as it was a second if not third rate deal that was hardly worth having. My views have not changed.

Yes we now have a City Region Mayor but for me that post, whomever holds it, is a bit like the Police and Crime Commissioner one in that no one really thinks either will bring any positive change to Merseyside.

What has also concerned me since first hearing that government wanted a city region mayor for Merseyside is that it would make the sub-region more Liverpool centric with the towns and communities surrounding Liverpool always playing second fiddle. I’ve seen little to change that point of view either. Bringing more power and influence to Liverpool is often at the expense of its surrounding communities.

Devolution as presently practiced in England is indeed half hearted and deeply flawed.

And later on the same day that I published this posting I found that Cllr. Richard Kemp was on a similar theme:-

What the Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner costs Council tax payers

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above

When the post of Police and Crime Commissioner was imposed on Merseyside, as indeed with the post of Mersey Metro Mayor, many of us probably said oh no yet more political mouths for our Council tax to feed, or words to that effect. Neither post was requested by local people, neither seemed wanted yet both were imposed.

Since then I think it is fair to say that the majority of us are still scratching our heads wondering what these additional layers of political bureaucracy actually do to make the lives of Merseysiders any better.

Here the Liverpool Echo, rightly in my view, looks at the cost of us having a Policing and Crime Commissioner. Having read what the Echo has uncovered I bet all we can do is to scratch our heads even harder wondering why on earth we are spending out to fund such a post especially when that money could be funding extra police on our streets!

Merseyside Policing – Dig deep as you’re being asked to pay more

Seen In Merseyside Police HQ

The Southport Visiter has the story on its web site – see link above

Whilst this plea for Merseyside Council tax payers to cough up more to counter the lack of government funds for our local Bobbies is hardly going to go down well, as our Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy obviously knows, there are some other interesting issues to look into.

I covered this issue not so long ago and my previous posting is available via this link:-

But one aspect of the Commissioner’s press release, as quoted by the Southport Visiter, caught my attention – her reference to the cost of the increased policing on Council tax bills at band ‘A’, which she tells us is the most common Council tax band on Merseyside.

That Band A is the most common highlights a big problem that many urban local authorities have who raise money via Council tax. You can’t raise much money when many of the properties in your area are only contributing at Band A. Just think how much easier it is for those local authorities where the majority of households are in band D and above. Another example of how unfair Council tax is – we need a local tax that works and is fair, a local income tax based on the ability to pay not the value of your property.

Oh and by the way the other point about Jane Kennedy quoting tax at band ‘A’ is that in my experience the illustrative band used over many years has been at band ‘D’. Why did she choose to illustrate the additional cost at band ‘A’ other than for the reason she has stated of course?

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Southport – Gun violence erupts yet again on Merseyside’s streets

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above

This is in danger of becoming almost an everyday story across Merseyside as the culture of guns looms larger every passing week, or so it seems.

Can Merseyside Police get on top of the problem or is it already something that has effectively been lost control of? There can’t be many communities across the Liverpool City Region where discharges of guns have not taken place over the past few years so sadly my gut feeling is that our under resourced Police are really struggling to keep the lid on rising gun crime. Having said that it would probably be a false hope for us to think that simply increasing the number of Police would solve our gun crime problem; it would certainly help but guns are I fear becoming embedded in our society.

We may not glorify guns as many Americans do but neither do we seem to know how to stop our society slipping ever further towards one where guns are an everyday tool for those involved in crime.

And to cap it all the BBC is running this sobering story about armed Police in Liverpool:-

Policing – More cash but there’s a catch – Your Council tax is going up

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

It’s probably a major indication of how the modern Conservative Party has lost its way as it turned the screw on Police funding in recent times. Long gone is the ‘party of law and order’ tag which it once so prized.

But as crime has continued to rise and the police have become more and more stretched it was only a matter of time before the Government’s arm was going to be twisted to find more money for policing. Seeing the Police being cut back so much must have been hurting the Tory rank and file and I guess they have said enough is enough – the funding tap needs to be turned on again.

But in reality what the Government is doing is telling Police an Crime Commissioners to put up your Council tax to pay for the extra funding. It looks like an average of £12 per year per household to me but frankly I am more than happy to cough up.

Me outside the old Maghull Police Station – It’s now within Maghull Town Hall.

I have fought for policing funding throughout my time in politics and recall a big push to get policing numbers back up during the early years of the Blair Government when the outgoing Tories had pushed numbers down and Labour were slow to react when taking power.

I found this graphic recently*. It shows how policing numbers have gone up and down from 1977 to 2016 – It’s from the Home Office so should be reliable information:-

The interesting dates to look at are where General Elections and economic recessions fall and what follows them in terms of ups and downs in policing numbers.

1975 Lab Gov – numbers going down then up
UK Economic Recession – mid 1970’s
1979 Con Gov – numbers going up
UK Economic Recession – early 1980’s
1983 Con Gov – numbers going slightly down then up
1987 Con Gov – numbers going up
UK Economic Recession – early 1990’s
1992 Con Gov – numbers steady
1997 Lab Gov – numbers going down but then started to go up
2001 Lab Gov – numbers going up
2005 Lab Gov – numbers going up
Great Recession hits in 2008
2010 Coalition Gov – numbers going down
2015 Con Gov – numbers going down

Despite all the ups and downs there were clearly more full time equivalent policeman and women in 2016 (@121,000) than there were in 1977 (@104,000) when the graph starts. The peak seems to have been @141,000 in 2010.

Of course the other interesting piece of news is that a Tory Government is again increasing taxes. They can’t bring themselves to increase national taxation so like with extra funding for social care last year (and indeed this year) it is being put on local taxation/Council tax.

*Note:- The graph above is about overall national policing figures, there will be differences between individual police force numbers that this graph does not accommodate.

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

Click on the graphic to enlarge it.

Maghull – The math behind the Police station move to Maghull Town Hall

The present Maghull Police Station in Westway, Maghull.

The curious move by Merseyside Police out of their Maghull Police Station on Westway and into the former Youth Coffee Bar and CAB facility space in Maghull Town Hall has had folks head scratching.

Poster on Maghull Town Hall noticeboard recently

When Merseyside Police announced their new accommodation strategy in response to budget cuts it was clear that Police Stations across the County would be downsized and that they could well end up being in shop units in shopping centres.

Maghull TH being converted into a Police Station – Photo from Sept. 17

However, in Maghull things took a surprising turn in that its Town Council in effect invited the Police to rent space from them within Maghull Town Hall. Sadly, resurrecting the recently closed youth facility and Citizens Advice, both of which occupied the same space as the soon to be opened police station, would no longer be possible though. But it’s going to be a nice little earner for Maghull Town Council because it will get a yearly rental income of £11,000 from Merseyside Police.

The £11,000 includes all utilities bills thrown in I understand but then again the Town Council was paying them before as part of the overall utility bills for the Town Hall so in reality MTC is £11,000 better off per year.

The running cost of the present and soon to be closed Police Station on Westway per annum is £101,581, so its no surprise that Merseyside Police jumped at the chance to move into Maghull Town Hall thereby very substantially reducing what it would have cost them to rent a shop unit say in Maghull Square Shopping Centre.

So if my math is correct Merseyside Police has at a stoke reduced its annual running cost of having a Police building in Maghull by £90,581. And Maghull Town Council is a winner too as it has £11,000 coming in each year and no youth support staff to pay either as the youth facility is no more. If memory serves the CAB facility was provided by the Town Council at nil cost to Sefton CAB.

The cost of converting the youth facility into a police station? A budget of £60,000 has be allocated by Merseyside Police for the work.

Inside the Youth Coffee Bar after a refurb’ a few years ago

So everyone’s a winner? Not quite as somehow in the public policy making process Maghull has lost its last publicly funded youth facility and a Citizens Advice facility as well.

The figures used in this posting were supplied to me by Merseyside Police following a Freedom of Information request that I made.