Wednesday, 20 June 2007




How you can join the Culture club

Jun 20 2007

by Catherine Jones, Liverpool Echo

Radio City's Iain McKenna, Radio Merseyside's Roger Phillips, Liverpool ECHO editor Alastair Machray, Phil Redmond and Radio Merseyside's Mick Ord

MERSEYSIDE’S media organisations today joined forces to encourage everyone to get involved in Capital of Culture.

The ECHO, our sister paper the Liverpool Daily Post, BBC Radio Merseyside and Radio City have come together to launch the Open Culture project.

Phil Redmond is also involved in the initiative aimed at giving Liverpudlians the chance to take part in the 2007 and 2008 celebrations.

The Mersey TV founder said: “Open Culture is for, about and drawn from the people themselves.

“It’s about simply providing platforms for people to actively take part in helping shape rather than being asked to digest culture.

“As all the projects are jointly supported by the media, as supporters of Capital of Culture. We hope it will allow anyone who wants to take part to do so – and have a bit of fun while, perhaps, helping to leave a lasting legacy for future generations.”

Open Culture starts with the BBC’s Liverpool Saga - an 800-word poem penned by Scousers to celebrate the city’s 800th birthday.

This will be followed in September by an Echo spearheaded initiative to design new benches for the city.

Radio City is launching a Liverpool song competition in November and the Daily Post a Liverpool “map” in January 2008.

ECHO editor Alastair Machray said: “As the city’s media we have the means to reach hundreds of thousands of people and we want to use that reach to encourage everyone to get involved in 2008.”

Radio City MD Iain McKenna said: “One of the reasons Liverpool got Capital of Culture was because of the support of local people.

“This is a way for us to get together and do something for the benefit of Liverpool, to really engage with people so they can quite genuinely participate and have a sense of ownership.”

BBC Merseyside managing editor Mick Ord added: “The more people involved in Capital of Culture the better.

“This is a great way of encouraging as many individuals and organisations as possible to take part.”

Sing a song

Liverpool Song: RADIO City is taking the lead in finding a Liverpool anthem, folk song or ditty for 2008.

It is calling on any budding songwriters to pen an official song for Capital of Culture.

Radio City MD Iain McKenna said: "It can be anything to do with Liverpool – if you want to take a historical stance, great, look forward, great, or purely a cultural stance. Anything and everything goes."

The songs will be judged by an independent panel of judges.

Pen a poem

Liverpool Saga: RADIO Merseyside is looking for contributions to a Liverpool Saga – 800 lines of poetry to celebrate the eight centuries of the city.

Roger McGough penned the opening and closing verses - and would-be poets can provide four lines each.

Radio Merseyside managing editor Mick Ord said: "We’ve had a fantastic response via e-mail and ‘snail mail’ and our editorial team will be meeting shortly to look at the examples of poetry that people have sent in. "Most have been related to 20th century events but the saga itself, when it’s completed in September, will be concerned with the 800 years of Liverpool’s history."

E-mail your verses to, drop them into the BBC building in Hanover Street or post them to Liverpool Saga, BBC Radio Merseyside, PO Box 95.8, Liverpool, L69 1ZJ.

Take a seat

Cultural Bench: THE ECHO is leading the initiative to design stunning new benches for the city and is currently in talks with the Culture Company and a major sponsor.

Editor Alastair Machray said: "We want people across Merseyside to come up with ideas and designs for innovative street furniture.

"There are some very creative people out there and everyone who designs something will have their work viewed by a massive number of people."

Make a map

Liverpool Map: THE idea is to define the real Liverpool, which may not conform to regulation city boundaries.

Ideas of what makes Liverpool will be translated into a physical map which will go on show in the city.

Daily Post editor Mark Thomas said: "It will determine the real map of Liverpool which might not be the same as the geographical map. And the people of Liverpool will be the judges.

"Is Kirkby a part of the real Liverpool? How about Woolton? It’s up to Scousers to decide."

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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."