Thursday, 5 July 2007


This article is taken from society guardian on-line.

ALTHOUGH Blair McPherson is from Lancashire Council, he speaks as a general idea based on his experiences in Lancashire.

all thoughts on the article itself is from a capital view front, however it strikes a cord given Liverpool is actually CAPITAL of CULTURE!

Support your local carers, demand that they and the vulnerable people of the City do not suffer even more, just to fund the CAPITAL in the CULTURE events of 2008.


Capital in culture

Councils must take seriously the social and economic value of the arts when weighing up their spending priorities, writes Blair McPherson

Tuesday June 26, 2007

Blair McPherson
Blair McPherson: 'Culture is a fundamental ingredient in making for a better place to live'
Times are hard in local government. Big financial savings are required. Do we close a family centre or a museum; do we keep small rural libraries at the expense of closing a day centre for older people?

It's a no-brainer: services to vulnerable people come before culture. Or is there a case for cultural services being fundamental to delivering the big agendas of regeneration, community cohesion, social inclusion and wellbeing?

The significance of culture for local authorities is best understood by describing the range of services provided by local authorities that fall within the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's remit. In Lancashire, these services include libraries, museums, arts and archives.

Cultural services are not about aesthetics and taste but about the way communities describe and express themselves, how they portray themselves and about their sense of identity.

Community art can be used to help give a place an identity and a positive image by building on a place's heritage. Art projects can be used to harness the creativity of a community and to express loss, anger, celebration and aspiration in the face of economic and environmental change.

The outpouring of creative energy that was harnessed to help coal and shipbuilding industries adjust to loss and change was invaluable. Art, drama and music traditionally have been ways of rebelling and expressing dissent in a way that petitions, reports, and letters can never capture. Performing arts can provide an awareness-raising experience and connect with sections of the community that are often described as hard to reach.

An example of this nationally is the group of elderly people who have got together with a record producer to release a version of The Who's My Generation, drawing attention to the poor quality of life endured by many older people in society today.

Lancashire has its own sinfonietta, comprised of some of the country's finest musicians. Linked with the Sure Start programme in Lancashire, the sinfonietta puts on baby-friendly concerts. Classical musicians play Mozart live to young children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Cultural events such as music festivals can engage the young or showcase minority ethnic cultures through Caribbean carnivals or Asian melas. Art exhibitions can record a place's past or reflect present diversity. Plays in schools, films made by community groups and radio adverts designed by young people can engage a wider audience in addressing juvenile crime; bullying, binge drinking, graffiti and littering. In this way drama, music and art can bridge the generation gap and bring together sections of the community that might otherwise have no contact.

Libraries can provide venues for creative social activity, especially for the old and the very young. Libraries also provide access to computers to people who otherwise may not have access to email and the internet.

Museums provide the deep mines of heritage from which many communities extract their ideas about their past. In Burnley and the surrounding area, the terraced housing, canal-side warehouses and the large Asian population are all a direct result of the cotton industry. Well-preserved cotton mills that capture the noise, heat and risk to health and safety are not just interesting school history trip destinations, they are how your grandparents made a living and they explain why Burnley is different from other parts of Lancashire.

The economic benefit of a vigorous cultural services policy can equally match the social benefits. Cultural services - museums, arts and archives - attract visitors as part of tourism. It is estimated, for example, that for every £1 spent by Bolton council on its museums, an additional 60p is generated through the economic/tourism multiplier.

Arts development, including theatre, sculpture and crafts, also provides and supports an environment in which creative industries can thrive and support employment. In Lancashire it is estimated that each £1 spent on arts development generates an additional £5 from outside agencies, which in turn generates an economic multiplier.

Cultural services can influence a place's image and have a positive impact on people's view of where they live. An active cultural landscape is an indicator of whether a community is forward-looking, self-respecting and inspirational. These factors can be as important to the local economy as access to good road and rail links and a skilled workforce.

Investing in culture and investing in an area's cultural infrastructure requires local authorities to see the links between culture, regeneration, community cohesion, social inclusion and wellbeing. It requires recognition that, far from being the icing on the cake, culture is a fundamental ingredient in making for a better place to live, work, visit and invest in. In my experience it is not the local politicians who need convincing of this but my fellow local government officers.

· Blair McPherson is director of community services for Lancashire county council.

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."