Monday, 7 May 2007






Elections 2007: Big guns already firing for 2008
Big guns already firing for 2008

May 5 2007

Daily Post City Editor Larry Neild offers his analysis of Liverpool’s political map following Thursday’s local elections

by Larry Neild, Liverpool Daily Post

LIVERPOOL’S political masters are to launch their “Plan B” to re-engage inner city communities after the Liberal Democrats lost four seats to Labour in the town hall elections.

Leader Warren Bradley wants his B for Bradley plan to carefully look at housing renewal schemes that have left many communities devastated by boarded-up homes.

He is leading the council into its 10th year of Lib-Dem rule with a double-digit margin that has reduced from a peak of 40 seats in 2002 to today’s slimmed-down 12.

It was 2002 that saw the Lib-Dems, then led by Mike Storey, holding 70 of the then 99 council chamber seats, its highest ever tally. In the same year, Labour was reduced to its lowest ever count for generations, only 20 councillors.

The council has meanwhile shrunk to 90 members, but Labour’s Joe Anderson has nibbled away at the Lib-Dems’ grip, with the Lib-Dems holding 51 seats to Labour’s 35.

The big question today is what will happen next May when Liverpool’s 324,000 voters decide who should rule the roost during European Capital of Culture year.

Cllr Anderson is confident that Labour will make one big push to re-take the town hall hot seat, while Cllr Bradley argues that his team will stay in power for some years to come.

To gain overall control, the Labour group need to hold on to the seats they defend next year, and make 11 gains to reach the vital 46 to guarantee control.

Last year, Labour won three and this year ended up with four gains at the expense of the Lib-Dems. Even if they went one better next year and bagged five gains, it would still leave the Lib-Dems with that magical 46. It would make life at the town hall nail-biting, and would see councillors dragged from their sick-beds for key votes.

If Labour supporters in Liverpool continue to buck the national trend and support the party locally, it seems likely that the best they can hope for is a hung council.

THAT could still see Warren Bradley running the show if the four minor-party councillors agreed a deal.

It could even see Lib-Dem defector John Coyne, the council’s only Green member, becoming a critical power-broker.

Political pundits believe that Labour’s task will be daunting. Next year, Labour will be defending 10 of their 35 seats. The Liberal Democrats will defend 19 seats, with Liberal leader Steve Radford likely to retain his seat.

If Labour lose Croxteth, as they did this year, it will make the task even harder. The Lib-Dems will be defending some of their fortress seats, such as Allerton and Hunts Cross, Childwall, Church, County, Cressington, Greenbank, Woolton.

Cllr Bradley is also up for re-election in Wavertree.

Vulnerable seats could be Kensington where veteran Frank Doran faces tough competition after the defeat of ward colleague Richard Marbrow and this year’s Lord Mayor, Joan Lang, in Warbreck, which also fell to Labour on Thursday.

With no elections taking place in 2009, it means that an unsuccessful assault next year will guarantee Lib-Dem rule for some years.

CLLR Bradley said: “The one thing you can say about people in Liverpool is that they take politics very seriously. The people of our city should take credit for the interest and intelligence they show.

“Labour’s predictions of gaining control in a year are premature and, as far as I am concerned, it is business as usual.

“I accept that, despite the progress we have made in Liverpool, there remain challenges, particularly in the inner-city areas. We have got to get something done quick- ly about our housing renewal initiatives. It is something we must re-visit urgently and get on with the job of providing decent homes for people. I would like to see the process speeded up.”

Cllr Anderson refuses to accept that a massive swing is impossible.

“Look at the likes of Greenbank and Picton and we are well in with a chance. Our post-election leaflet will carry the headline ‘You’ve been had’ because we want the people of this city to know about the mismanagement of the Lib-Dems.

“When citizens hear more about the cost of Capital of Culture and the changes to care home provisions and the care service I am sure they will say enough is enough, and they will send the Lib-Dems packing.”

The Conservatives failed to make much impact in Liverpool with Steve Fitzsimmons, their best hope, coming second in Woolton in what was a repeat of last year. His vote of 742 was far short of Barbara Mace’s 2,019 for the Lib-Dems.

They came third or fourth in most wards, though in Anfield only 26 of the Tory faithful voted for them, putting the Conservatives last in a field of five.

THE BNP contested nine seats in Liverpool and in total received 1,667 votes, just half of one per cent of the electorate. They came second in Norris Green and Kirkdale.

Alec McFadden, president of the Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism, said: “Merseyside continues to be a fascist free zone.”

ADDITIONAL reporting by Jennifer Thomas.



No comments:




Council leader Warren Bradley said that some individual councillors’ behaviour was “appalling” and not fitting of a democratic society.




Roger: This is not a good report for us is it Warren?
Fireman:Well Roger we’ve got to put it into perspective really haven’t we and remember where Liverpool was and that’s not thinking back 10 years. Liverpool has come an awful long way. The people of Liverpool were asking for lower Council Tax and the Liberal Democrats have delivered that and they also wanted better services and you look at the services that are now delivered by Liverpool City Council. If we look at the most vulnerable either elderly or the Children’s Services the social care we are now delivering at a level that Liverpool has never delivered before. We also look at the bread and butter your schools, your sports centres, your libraries, One Stop Shops in communities, our parks, we’ve got 13 green flag parks. It’s like a new home to me when you get an old dilapidated derelict building you’ve got to bring it up to a standard and I think Liverpool City Council under the Liberal Democrats have certainly done that and I am certain if we did a survey of people in the City do you want Liverpool City Council to sit on £20m worth of reserves or do you want the City Council delivering front line services that affect the most vulnerable and people’s lives in the City. I think that they would vote with their feet and say that we support the policies of Liverpool City Council. We’ve got to look at the financial regulations put in by Government and if you want my opinion about this Roger it is purely political.
Roger: Well come on, you know the Audit Commission is not a political body
Fireman: Well with respect Roger and I would beg to differ on that
Roger: Well how can it be a political, it’s an independent organisation?
Fireman: We can say everything is independent to a certain extent but you know you look at what we’ve got at the moment in Liverpool and we’re delivering top quality services.
Roger: But the problem with this is that you’ve got an overall score rating of 2 which was adequate performance into 05, overall score in 06 was 2 which is adequate performance.
This year it is down to 1 below minimum requirements inadequate performance.
Fireman: Based around financial regulations…
Roger: Yes I’m talking about the financial…..
Fireman: Laid down by government. I mean that’s what you’ve got to remember. Don’t try and muddy the waters and say oh this is about Liverpool City Council and their overall performance. It’s not. You look at the issue that we’ve done about achievements. Liverpool scoring 3-4 on achievement at the moment through the Audit Commission.
Roger: I didn’t know that.
(EDs: Pitiful, just pitiful.)
Fireman: And we do seem to always go to the negatives when we’re looking for something like this.
Roger: The District Auditor was pretty negative about you wasn’t he and…
Fireman: No, I have got to say Roger I would love to have £50m in reserves. I would also love not to have to put additions of £7m into adult social care and £2-3m into children’s social care. The facts are we have got to do that because of the pressures that are on Liverpool at the moment.
Roger: So are other Councils….
Fireman: I’m not willing as Leader of this Council to take away care to the most vulnerable to allow it to sit in reserve. I am not willing to do that and I will go to the stake on that the people of the City. Liverpool now is only one of a handful of Councils up and down the country that is providing moderate care to the most vulnerable people in the City. Now to give people an idea of what moderate care is that is home care. These people who’ve got no family to support them and require a visit in the morning or a visit in the evening to make sure they’re ok to help them to take the pills, to make sure that they’ve got the food. Most Councils up and down this country have removed that care. Liverpool City Council is still allowing our most vulnerable people our sort of care. Now is that wrong, is that wrong?
Roger: Now no one would argue that’s wrong but everyone. But many people are affected by housing. Housing is really poor isn’t it. I mean you are so poor you’ve had to hand it over to a different group to run it.
Fireman: Well with respect Roger, with respect, you’ve got to know what the Housing Corporation have done and in partnership with the Government again it’s easy to say it’s the Council, in partnership with the Government we’ve tackled head on through the Pathfinder areas of the inner core of the City some of the housing inefficiencies of the City. That hasn’t happened over the last five years that’s happened over 30 or 40 years. The problems in Norris Green in housing were prevalent 30 or 40 years ago and weren’t tackled. As an Authority we’ve challenged what wasn’t tackled and we’ve challenged it head on and I opened a couple of weeks ago with Flo Clucas and Marilyn Fielding with Cobalt Housing the first phase of Norris Green. We’ve transformed that area and its got houses for sale and social housing in Norris Green that people are seeking to live in now. We’ve got in a core Edge Hill, Kensington, Kirkdale the same issues that have been there for 30 or 40 years that we’re tackling now hand in hand with the Government. I’m not taking the credit for it and the Government isn’t. We’ve got a schools’ programme that is second to none. Liverpool’s young people are now achieving at the national average. I want it higher than national average to give new opportunity but again I’ll say I’m not going to suit accountants’ financial regulations in London and leave £millions sitting in reserve while we have still got the challenges Liverpool has got and I think people you know.
Roger: Do you think it was a mistake to keep Council Tax down or freeze it over the past few years?
Fireman: Well isn’t it ironic Roger how last week John Healey said how Liverpool is charging £101 a head...
Roger: Because its inefficiencies….
Fireman: Well we have taken £150m worth of inefficiencies out of our budget over the last 10 years. We’ve kept Council tax down which is exactly what Government policy is and is exactly what John Healey is saying. Councillor Joe Anderson is saying something completely different to the people of Liverpool that he will put taxes up to build reserves to put in reserve well again this administration this Lib Dem administration is not going to tax for the sake of taxing to leave money sitting in reserve. We will build up the reserves over a period of years and then we will be able to tackle some of the other issues that we’ve got to do. We recognise the health inequalities. To improve health inequalities we’ve got to have a real stable economy offering real opportunity and raising the aspirations in them poorer communities. You cannot do that leaving millions and millions of pounds laying in reserves and this administration will continue the robust financial management that we’ve done. We’ll carry on delivering…
Roger: If it was that robust we wouldn’t have this problem of £20m overdrawn on Capital of Culture.
Fireman: Roger, lets put things into hindsight. We are still delivering front line services. We are still…
Roger: It’s about £20m overall that we’re short this year – now that’s not robust management
Fireman: But Roger we are going through a budget setting process. Every Local Authority up and down the country is in the same process as us. I remember reading about Wirral being £50m short. Other Local Authorities. I meet the core city leaders who are £40-£50m short exactly the same as Liverpool . And let’s not forget I haven’t come on here to knock the Government I’ve come on here to say that I believe we’ve got a robust financial programme in place that is going to deal with the shortfall. We’ve delivered year on year but I’ll say again I am not going to allow millions and millions of pounds to lay in reserve. Cut front line services to the most vulnerable and then say that’s acceptable. Nor as Leader of this Council am I going to allow Council Tax to go through the roof again which will drive the inability to bring further investment into this City. While the Lib Dems have been in control we’ve brought Council Tax down, we’ve brought renewed confidence and we’ve brought real investment that will bring opportunities to the most vulnerable and I think that is the most important and I think the people of this City will stand full square with us on that. I’m proud of what we’ve delivered in this City over the last 10 years and Capital of Culture is part of that."