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Friday, March 19, 2004


So I am in Southport for the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference. One of the joys of devolution is that a huge part of the agenda for our weekend spring conference tends to relate to English-only issues. As a result the demands on my time are not so great and I can have a bit of a rest and relax. This is good as the last week has been really frenetic.

I took advantage of the trip up north to spend most of today in Liverpool looking at regeneration projects. The Liberal Democrats have made a huge difference to the way that this City is run. They have brought a new way of thinking and confidence to the area, so much so that one Government Minister is reputed to have concluded a visit with the comment that Liverpool is the best "Labour-run Council in the Country." In other words the Liberal Democrat Council is doing everything right and he wished that there were Labour-run Councils prepared to think outside the box and grasp opportunities with both hands in the same way. The basis of the Council's regeneration philosophy is clean, safe, manage and then regenerate. It is true that the City is cleaner than I have ever seen it, whilst crime statistics show that it is also safer. The use of social businesses to employ and train local long term unemployed people is also a feature of the work being done by the Council. Where stock transfer is being pursued it is done within the context of the long term regeneration of the area and the opportunity is taken to empower local people. Perhaps Wrexham should learn something from this.

It is worth noting that when the Liberal Democrats came to power in Liverpool the Council Tax was the highest in the Country by a margin of 20%. They are now outside of the top 100 and in cash terms local people are paying the same Council Tax for City Council services now as they were then. This year the Council increased Council Tax by just 2.8% as their contribution to an overall Council Tax increase of 3.6%. Not only are we running the City better but we are giving better value for money too.

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