Peter Hough

Peter Hough
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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Sense and incensed-ability

There was a very interesting letter in yesterday's Daily Post from the Labour leader of Liverpool City Council. It is about the cuts he is having to make, and shows maturity and a sense of responsibility. I have reproduced it below, and it is worth reading in its entirety.

What a contrast then to the dangerous antics of Sefton's Labour group.

They refused to take part in setting the council's budget, which involved the painful process of reducing jobs and services to the tune of £44 million - even though they are claiming £1000s in extra allowances for being on Sefton's ruling cabinet. They even voted against a 25% cut in senior and middle management. This has incensed many people on the doorstep.

They have played to the gallery at every turn, made promises they cannot keep and emotionally manipulated young people and the disabled for their political goals. Labour leader Peter Dowd took great delight in publicly likening himself to Derek Hatton.

Sefton's Labour leader has compared
 himself to Derek Hatton
Hatton was the Deputy Leader of Liverpool Council, and a member of the Militant Tendency - a  Trotskyist organisation within the Labour Party. He helped set an illegal budget which committed the council to spend £30 million in excess of its Government grant. This brought Liverpool to it's knees, and Hatton and his cronies sent out redundancy notices by taxi cab to council workers.

The only way Sefton Labour could keep to it's promise of 'no cuts' would be to raise council tax by an average of £427.

Heaven help us then if Sefton Labour Party ever gain control of the Council.

Liverpool Council Labour Leader Joe Anderson's letter:

'PEOPLE have written letters recently asking me not to implement the
Government’s cuts and calling me a Tory. Let me enlighten those that
make those points and criticise.

There is no such thing as not implementing the government cuts.
Government gives the city 80% of its funding through different types of
grant. They have chosen to give Liverpool a 22% or £91m reduction. They
simply have not given us the money.

If someone’s household income is reduced by 22%, then they can’t just
ignore this, or they’d go bankrupt. If the city ignored its cut from
the Government, then quite simply we would run out of money by November
of this year, with no money to run social services or pay wages. That
chaos will not happen under my leadership.

Readers will see that those who call my leadership weak have no
solutions or alternatives other than demand I lead a revolution.

Our city more than ever needs sound, pragmatic leadership, with the
honesty to say we haven’t got all the answers but we have got the
passion and vision in equal measures to lead our city through these
difficult times.

Our determination is to create growth through having a cruise liner
turn-around facility, building a new exhibition centre at Kings Dock,
developing Edge Lane retail park, pushing ahead with Liverpool Waters,
getting on with the Stonebridge cross development in Croxteth and Mere
Park in the city centre, developments in Speke, developing north
Liverpool, growing the knowledge economy, the visitor economy and much

This is about this city council leading and developing our city – not
leaving its people without leadership at a time when it faces the worst
government cuts since the war.'

Monday, 28 March 2011

Animal Farm

There were two callers on Radio Merseyside this morning taking part in a discussion on stereotyping. They complained they were discriminated against on their trip to London for the demonstrations, because they were 'scousers'.

What emerged though was that both these men (one a retired trade unionist) had travelled by first class rail,  paid for by the unions.

It would have been bad enough if these men were union officials, but it seems there was no pecking-order, and there were first class coaches stuffed with ordinary members and their families. I also learned that many of the 'demonstrators' did an hour or so then went off sight seeing.

Was the first class rail fare a sweetener to persuade people to take part? It's not bad, is it? A freebie trip in first class style to the capital to demonstrate against government cuts, and a visit to Madame Tussuad's and the Tower of London for afters!

Many moons ago, I was a member of USDAW, and I would have been appalled that my hard earned cash was being used to fund a posh jolly aimed at supporting the Labour Party. Not all trade union members vote Labour. If I was one of them I would be demanding to know how much it all cost, and why demonstrators had to travel first class by the coach load.

Last week we learned from the Crosby Herald that Mark Dowd, Labour member for St Oswald Ward, one of the most deprived areas in Sefton - is the most expensive councillor on Merseyside, drawing £63,044 in allowances. It's good work if you can get it!

It is pure hypocrisy for these people to bleat on about government cuts when they themselves are living the life of Riley.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Customer care-less

I have to admit that I don't use my cheque book like I used to. But that doesn't mean I could do without it. There are times when a cheque will do and nothing else.

We often stay on farms - where a cheque is ideal
Sending money with a birthday card is one example. Who would be mad enough to put a couple of tenners in an envelope? When we go caravanning, we often stay on small 5 van sites, which are usually farms or half an acre at the side of someone's cottage. Unless you're stuffed with cash, a cheque book is the only way to pay your site fees.

It is scandalous then that the banks are planning to start the process to abolish cheques, in 2016. They say that cheques are in terminal decline, but as a nation we are writing 4 million a day - so there's obviously still a great demand.

If they get their way it will leave the elderly, small businesses, charities and social clubs high and dry.

The electronic alternatives of using the Internet or debit and credit cards will hit charities with a double whammy of a drop in donations and high processing charges. It's all about choice - and not everyone wants to set-up direct debits.

Without the choice of using a cheque, small businesses will receive payments mainly through credit cards - with their rip-off bank charges. And what of social clubs and societies who like to take their subscriptions by cheque?

Age Concern and Help The Aged have voiced worries that elderly people, robbed by the banks of their cheque books, will resort to hoarding cash at home, which will encourage burglary.

We are running a campaign to get the Prime Minister to put pressure on the banks, and I am collecting signatures on a petition in our area.

There has been a petition in our Focus newsletters delivered in Victoria Ward and Manor Ward, and we have received hundreds of signatures. We have decided to print the petition again in the next issue of the Victoria Ward Focus. If there is anyone from outside the area who would like to add their names - I can email them a petition for them to print, sign and return. Give me your contact details below by pressing COMMENTS.

When are the banks going to serve the needs of the customer - and not themselves? When will they get it?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

We need to be smart - and look after the pennies

At last month's Area Committee Meeting members agreed to fund 'smartwater' technology from our devolved budget for streets that were targets for burglars. The police had done a deal with the manufacturers to supply the kits at a reduced price.

Smartwater is an invisible liquid with a unique code for each kit that is painted on property, so stolen goods can be linked to a particular address. It can also transfer itself to thieves so they can be forensically connected to the crime.

The police later asked for further funding to place signs on lamp posts similar to those produced for the Neighbourhood Watch,  to act as a deterrent.

The signs cost £20 each - but the Council's contractor wanted £35 to attach each one to a lamp post! As they were made from polypropylene, I was told all they required were two plastic ties. I kicked up a fuss, and it turns out the quote included unsuitable metal bands.

Further negotiation between the Council and the contractor brought the price down to £20 per sign. This saved the council a few hundred pounds - which might not sound a huge amount in the scale of things - but that's only one example of how money can be saved - or rather not spent needlessly in the first place. If you look after the pennies, then the pounds will look after themselves.

The council needs to do what every householder already practices - not tie itself to one company - and ring around for the best prices when a quote seems too high.

In the past councils have been taken advantage of by contractors who believed they were bottomless money pits. Those times are gone, and council officials need to drive a harder bargain in future negotiations.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Sainsbury's won't appeal - but aren't offering any alternatives either

Sainsbury's representatives have been in touch with me to announce they will not be appealing the decision of Sefton's planning committee last September to throw out their proposed £50 million investment in Crosby Village. It is likely they would have won an appeal - landing Crosby's council tax payers a bill of as much as £180,000. The fact they haven't speaks volumes.

Sadly they are not offering any alternatives either.

On paper they still have the choice of walking away altogether, or offering something new. They are even considering selling off their land in the village, bringing down the final curtain. I was told that there was no time-table for a final decision, and I got the strong impression Crosby has been shoved onto the back-burner, that they now have other fish to fry. Since their offer was turned down, they have been looking at several hundred other sites in the North West, with a view to spending their cash elsewhere.

Never say never, but this is devastating news for our town centre. I said at the time when I and my colleagues supported the investment, that I didn't want to gamble away Crosby's future. The Formby Tory and Bootle Labour councillors who voted together to kick the investment out may have done just that.

Good riddance, some people will say - those who didn't like the modern look of the new store, and wanted something smaller - but the town desperately needed this investment, and the company was offering new retail units for small businesses, and an attractive shopping environment. At this time of cuts, it would have been Crosby's silver lining.
It gives me no pleasure at all to say that I think we read the situation better than those councillors who rejected the plans. There never was a plan 'B', and Sainsbury's made it abundantly clear that they wouldn't get back their investment with a smaller store. Senior planning officers were strongly recommending that council members accept the proposal.

There had been 18 months of public consultation and compromise on both sides. For instance, the company removed the filling station from their plans and replaced it with a building for community use, after listening to residents and local councillors.

The Planning Committee

We should have grabbed that opportunity and embraced this once in a generation offer - it was the only game in town. There are, and never were, any other investors waiting to step in.

I feel sorry for those traders who stuck out their necks to support the plan, despite the pressure from protesters.

The councillors who voted against it need to examine their consciences.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Domesticated cats and dogs are social parasites

When I was studying for my psychology degree as a mature student, there was one lecture which stuck in my mind. The subject matter was grief, how it affects people, and what coping strategies could be employed to mitigate it.

The lecturer turned the subject matter towards our anthropomorphism of animals - how we interpret their behaviour in human terms. To kick off the debate he came out with the following statement:

"Domesticated cats and dogs are social parasites."

This wasn't an emotional reaction on his part but a bald statement of facts.

Is this a social parasite?
Over generations, he explained, cats and dogs had learned how to manipulate our emotional response towards them, so we will give them the life of Riley, and all they have to do is eat and sleep. They have learned to do this by behaving like kittens and puppies for the whole of their lives. They worked out that if they roll over so we can tickle their stomachs, miaow and whimper, it will elicit a parental response.

And you see it with pet lovers. The pets become their children, and cats and dogs are more than happy to play along for the benefits they get in return.

I've seen this with my own cat. When she wants feeding, she rolls over and miaows like the little kitten she isn't. I tickle her stomach then go and open a can of food. Cat's happy, I'm happy, but according to my lecturer it's all based on a lie! She doesn't really love me, she's just manipulating me for what she can get. I'm sure that if I was to disappear today the cat wouldn't give a hoot - as long as there was someone else to step into my shoes.

Thinking about all this reminded me of a book of linked short stories by Ray Bradbury called The Martian Chronicles. The book is concerned about the human settlement of Mars. In one of the stories, an elderly couple have come to the red planet to escape the death of their son, Tom, many years before. They are startled one night to see their teenage son standing outside in a thunderstorm. This is one of the few surviving martians who can read human minds and shape-shift.

The couple accept the martian into their home, and in exchange he takes on the role of their much loved son.

I'm sure my cat can read my mind, but she hasn't mastered how to shape-shift yet.

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