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The Laz Word: The choice is yours

Will local people ever be trusted to vote on big local issues again?, asks Larry Neild

Published on December 15th 2008.

The Laz Word: The choice is yours

THOSE mandarins who inhabit the palatial government offices down in London must think us Up North are a troublesome lot.

Our distant cousins up the A1 in Newcastle told Whitehall to stuff the idea of a regional assembly for the North East. Now our near neighbours, the Mancs, have said on yer bike to a congestion charge.

My guess is if Manchester had voted Yes to a congestion charge, any future schemes linked to transport improvements anywhere, would have needed a congestion or road charging element to win Government cash

The carrot dangled in front of Manchester was a whopping £1.5bn to spend on better buses, trains and trams. As Jim Bowen would have said, “That’s safe. That’s yours”. Except to guarantee such a massive pot of tainted gold, Manchester folk had to spend a further £1.2bn raised by a congestion charge of around a fiver a day.

The choices were put by way of referendums, or should that be referendie, on the basis of ask us to vote this way and it’s the kiss of death.

What’s interesting is in both the Newcastle and Manchester referendums, people voted four to one against the proposal put to them. You would think the conception of devolving power from Westminster to the provinces would be welcomed.

You would think highly-congested Manchester would jump at the biggest ever cash handout hurled at them as a way of tackling gridlock. The claim was that no more than 10 percent of Greater Manchester people would ever pay the congestion charge – as they don’t cross the charging rings at peak times.

The figures show that the vast majority of those voting No to a congestion charge were people who would never have paid in any case.

Is it because us northerners smell a rat when we are asked to vote in referendums? That there must be a downside to any Government proposition, inevitably leading to us digging deeper into our pockets?

Soon Merseyside will be asking for Government money to help fund a tram link between Kings Dock and Kirkby. Since the scheme was shelved a few years back, the cost has rocketed to around £430m.

My guess is if Manchester had voted Yes to a congestion charge, any future schemes linked to transport improvements anywhere, would have needed a congestion or road charging element to win Government cash. Though it isn’t Government cash is it? In reality it is our money we pay in taxes. And we would be paying for the privilege of getting some of it back.

Liverpool has not had a local referendum for almost 50 years. Sir Trevor Jones campaigned for a public vote to give the right to the barrow boys and street flower sellers, such as the legendary Lizzie Christian and Patsy Murphy, to sell their goods on the streets of the city centre. Police at the time were arresting sellers and some ended up behind bars.

The turnout in that referendum was low, but the result was an overwhelming Yes, allowing the barrow boys and flower sellers to continue to add colour and character to what was rapidly becoming a dismal city centre.

Dare important issues ever again be put to us wise-but-cynical northerners? The danger is politicians and civil servants may well seek other ways of imposing their barmy ideas, and that could well be a recipe for challenge, if not anarchy.

One day there could be a referendum to decide on devolution, or an elected mayor for “Greater Liverpool”. History shows a vote would be a waste of time, and all of the carrots in the world wouldn’t help.

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15 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Prof. Matthew MaticDecember 15th 2008.

The fuel cell was a BRITISH invention, sir! (It was a pity that the one used in Apollo 13 exploded - but still, they all got back to Earth safely even with the relatively crude 1960s technology of the time)

King CommuteDecember 15th 2008.

The Manchester vote shows the Car remains King of the Road, even among those poor things who can't drive or can't afford their own car. As Laz points out the real story is the mistrust people have for anything proposed by politicians. But will they learn that lesson? I don't think so. Look what's happening here. The council is asking people to say how they want 'their' council tax to be spent. How about a 50% reduction in the sky high wages paid to the top people?With bonuses their pay packets are nearing £200k. I think Hilton already gets more than that.Look around the city and ask yourself, afre they worth such money?How about free parking for shoppers on Saturdays and Sundays. That would help drive the local economy. I parked the other day for just over two hours in the Chavasse Park car park and it cost me six quid. They're all mad.

knotonyournellyDecember 15th 2008.

Scary to think that free energy is being denied to the people of Liverpool. Here we go again - why is Merseyside always denied these things?

pugDecember 15th 2008.

Solutions for the problems of liverpool are in everyones hands. If your kid is a murdering thug druggie tell the police. if the neighbour is a benefit scrounging layabout tell the authorities. if your family steal cars and abuse women report them to the police. it is easy, just ring 999. Is it Big Brother? no but we can easily shop the bad guys and create a useful society.Liverpool is a focus of many evils in this country and now is the centre of a network of east european murder gangs.Tell the police, dont give to beggars who are drug pushers on the side. clean the streets of buskers, beggars, immigrant pickpockets and minority crime overlords.Reclaim our city and let our children live a decent life.

Fran ChiseDecember 15th 2008.

Well if the last Council Election was anything to go by, no-one will bother next time. The electorate voted the Lob-Dem incompetents out of their majority, only to see it restored by the defection of a so-called Independent.The question shouldn't be 'why to those who don't vote not vote' but but 'why do those that do vote bother themselves'?

AnonymousDecember 15th 2008.

At least people turned out to vote. Would never have happened here, if the council turnout is anything to go by

mittlemannDecember 15th 2008.

More cars,more opportunity for scouser car theives. It is really an incentive scheme - what better than to use ratepayers money to make the crooks and robbers richer.Only in Liverpool.........not even the Poles would move there.

AnonymousDecember 15th 2008.

HB is talking bollocks as she normally does.The problems start with her labour party not calling for more haulage to go by train. Also congestion in Liverpool is being man made by the Labour controlled MPTE, who dictate the transport policy to all the Councils in the area. They are creating congestion so that more people will move from car to public transport. You only need to look at some of the stupid transport flow around the city,24hr bus lanes, more Street furnature in the Middle of the road making roads a lot narrower,therby creating congestion. Good on yer Mancs for throwing the whole thing out,everyone else should follow suit.

DigDecember 15th 2008.

The FCX Clarity is no longer a concept. Honda is currently producing approximately 200 a year in Japan of which the majority end up in Calfornia where they have Hydrogen pumps at their petrol stations. There are other manufacturers following Honda's lead. If you Google Honda FCX Clarity there is a website you will see it's in production and how the Hydrogen fuel cell works. Pretty simple and very safe.

DigDecember 15th 2008.

Who said it wasn't a British invention?

Prof DibleyDecember 15th 2008.

What has the american space program got to do with Liverpool?Lets get on with solving drug addiction, recidivist criminality, family breakdown and the atheistic consumer ethic which drives the petty criminals ruining this once great city.

LazDecember 15th 2008.

RE Taylor, there was a public referendum in the late 1960s, possibly early 1970s to decide whether to allow the barrow boys and flower sellers to have legal sites in the city centre. The turnout was less than 10% in a city wide referendum and the bulk supported the stall holders. The 1980s saw the arrival of the so-called Swagmen, selling goods in Church Street. The sight of them being chased by police was a regular thing. The then Labour-controlled council resolved the battles of Church Street by allowing them to have legal stalls.In 1998 the Lib Dems took control and one of their three pledges was to rid Church Street of the street traders. There were those who wanted the traditional flower sellers and barrowboys to stay and the rest to go.A lengthy legal battle ensued, ending in High Court hearings. The problem was eventually resolved by clearing Church Street but locating the street sellers to the Parker Street area. During the days of the legal battles I received numerous threats because of coverage in the media of the street traders, though I personally had no issue with the stalls. They provided work for around 200 local people. Now everybody's happy. The stallholders are still in one of the UK's busiest shopping streets, the council fulfilled its promise of ridding Church Street of the stalls and the public can still grab good bargains.Incidentally the other two pledges from the LibDems in 1998 were to kep down or freeze council tax (which they did) and not to sell off any of the city parklands.But it all goes back to that city referendum for the flower girls and barrow boys.

balaroxDecember 15th 2008.

The FCX clarity is not a product. it is a concept and a highly dangerous one at that. Hydrogen as every schoolchild knows is highly explosive and an exploding car would hardly endear itself to even the British public.The fact that it is a British car will also kill foreign interest; where will it be made?Who would insure an exploding car?Competitors would easily win by advertising a car that explodes and kills its occupants the first time an engine is switched on.It would be impossible to extinguish the fire caused by the exploding car and therefore it is dangerous to use in built up areas, motorways, dual carriageways and anywhere above the ocean floor.Ridiculous.

AnonymousDecember 15th 2008.

Lets ditch the bloody tram. It will cost an arm and a leg to fund,it will be expensive to use last figure £2 per stop.in todays financial climate it is to much to do and should be shelved. If you look at other European Cities,where trams work,they work,are cheap and Sustainable because the respective Governments in European Countries give 6 x the cash for transport than what we get from this labour government, this proves the whole issue of trams will be a fincinial nightmare not just for Liverpool but for the whole of Merseyside

Hilary BurrageDecember 15th 2008.

Actually, Larry, what bothers me most about the Manchester Congestion Charge vote is that people appear so unconcerned about carbon emissions. We all know that commuting by car is Not Good and will soon become Downright Dangerous for the environment (and us, in it). But even the genuine promise of large chunks of money - to improve things before the Charge started to be levied -has not, it appears, resulted in any serious consideration by voters of eco issues. Oh dear.http://www.hilaryburrage.com

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