Thursday, 2 August 2007

Liverpool Confidential - Mathew Street cancelled






This year's Mathew Street Festival has had to be cancelled for health and safety reasons. Below you can read the full council press release.
Liverpool's 2007 Mathew Street Festival has been cancelled for health and safety reasons.

The decision follows independent advice from Capita Symonds Limited, the country's leading experts in health and safety at outdoor events.

They were employed by the Liverpool Culture Company to undertake a comprehensive review of the plans for the festival, and highlighted the loss of the Pier Head and extensive regeneration work taking place in the city centre in August, which has reduced Liverpool's capacity to host an event which regularly attracts more than 100,000 people to the city.

Their advice, backed by Merseyside Police, states that this reduction in capacity, combined with huge crowds in an open, licensed environment, means there is a significant safety risk to the public. 
The detailed planning for the event, and discussions between the city council, police and safety officials, cannot fully eliminate the risk.

Chief executive of Liverpool City Council, Colin Hilton, said: "We have been working tirelessly for months to try and make the Mathew Street Festival work in the city centre. Unfortunately, it has just not been possible to make it happen this year. We have a responsibility for the safety and welfare of every single person attending the event.

"We brought in the country's leading experts to examine our plans, and look at the health and safety issues, and we have to take their advice. We are rightly proud of the festival, and were desperate for it to go ahead this year, but public safety must come first."

Merseyside police's assistant chief constable, Helen King, said: "Having had sight of the advice from the independent consultants to Liverpool Culture Company, we fully understand why they have made the decision to cancel Mathew Street festival this year. Public safety has to be the paramount consideration."

The loss of Pier Head and other regeneration work going on in the city has made planning for this year's festival an extremely difficult exercise, but staff worked right to the 11th hour to try and produce a workable plan which could accommodate the festival in the city centre.

Extra measures this year included an extensive temporary CCTV network to monitor crowd build-up, a big increase in the number of safety stewards and the use of seven stages across the city centre to spread the density of the crowds. 
The festival is the only major event for which a large area of the city centre is licensed for the sale and consumption of alcohol.

However, despite these extra measures, police and safety staff still had reservations about possible crowd safety implications, particularly in light of events in Clayton Square last year. 
To ensure the event provided the maximum protection for the public, organisers called in independent experts in to examine all public safety aspects of the event.

Regrettably, that review has concluded that there would be too many risks for the festival to go ahead as planned.

The advice relates specifically to the unique conditions surrounding the staging of the Mathew Street Festival this year, and does not affect the city's ability to stage other large-scale events, including the city's 800th birthday celebrations on 28 August.

Colin Hilton, added: "We have done everything we can to make sure the festival goes ahead and explored every possible alternative, but there comes a point where you can do no more, and this is it. Everyone is hugely disappointed it cannot go ahead."

Jason Harborow, chief executive of the Liverpool Culture Company, said: "In many ways, the Mathew Street Festival has become a victim of its own success this year. The huge growth in the popularity of the festival, combined with the loss of the Pier Head, presented us with a massive problem. 

"Unfortunately, that problem has proved to be insurmountable. We worked hard to try and find a way to stage the event in the city centre, but even after months of planning we were still not satisfied. As a last resort we employed national safety experts Capita Symonds to see if they could see a way through these intractable problems. Sadly, they have concluded there is still too great a risk to attempt to do so."

"The festival has become an integral part of the city centre's calendar of activities. We know that businesses and the public want to keep it in the city centre, and that's why we've tried right until the very end to achieve that."

The major difficulty in staging this year's Mathew Street Festival has been the redevelopment of the Pier Head which, in recent years, has served as a focal point for the festival.

The Pier Head can accommodate up to 34,800 visitors at any one time, but visitors to this year's festival would have to be accommodated on the city streets - many of which are also undergoing regeneration works.

The works at Pier Head include an extension to the Leeds Liverpool canal link, a replacement Mersey Ferry terminal with new visitor attraction, a new cruise liner terminal and the new Liverpool Museum. 

In total, these developments will deliver £260 million of new investment, attract 1.2 million visitors each year and create almost 1,000 jobs.




Liverpool Confidential - Mathew Street cancelled




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."