BLOG: Mayoral Leads share their Christmas messages

Liverpool’s Mayoral leads reflect on the last 12 months and look ahead to 2017…

Just because it’s Christmas by Lynnie Hinnigan, Mayoral Lead for Youth and Citizen Engagement

Cllr Lynnie Hinnigan
Cllr Lynnie Hinnigan

As the festive season is upon us people begin to do things that they might not do all year round.

Just because its Christmas gives the green light to go out do something good, spread the festive cheer and reflect or, quite often in the case of young people, take unnecessary risks. I also wondered why just because it was Christmas everyone’s parents rushed out and bought drink for the house in case anyone called. For years, parents without even realising it have provided the opportunity and resources for their kids to have a really great yet risky festive period.

As a child of the 70’s, as I see it nothing much has changed: over buying, over indulging and drinking more at Christmas remain as traditional as turkey and tinsel.

Many years later as youth worker and a semi responsible adult and parent I realised just how at Christmas the risks to young people increase mainly as a result of drinking more and some cases for the very first time. If you asked anyone of any generation when was their first drink I bet many would say around Christmas in their teens? (Even it was your first sherry of a dear great aunt)

So what are the risks? None of these I’m sure will surprise or shock but they are definitely worth the conversation

Health – Drink related presentations at A & E will once again increase over the holidays. Kids live for today and really don’t understand the long term damage to their health. Research suggests that drinking alcohol in adolescent years can harm the development of the brain, lead to poor mental health and all the risks associated with it.

Relationships – Drinking alcohol lowers everyone’s inhibitions, and makes us more likely to do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. Young people are particularly at risk because at their stage of life, they are still testing the boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour.

One in five girls (and one in ten boys) aged 14 to 15 goes further than they wanted to in a sexual experience after drinking alcohol. In the most serious cases, alcohol has led to them becoming the victim of a sexual assault.

Unsafe sex and unwanted pregnancy – when young people drink, they are more likely to be reckless and not use contraception if they have sex. Almost one in ten boys and around one in eight girls aged 15 to 16 have unsafe sex after drinking alcohol. This puts them at risk of sexual infections and unwanted pregnancy.

ASB and getting into trouble – If a child or young person drinks alcohol, then they are more likely to get into trouble with the police. Every year in the UK, more than 10,000 fines for being drunk and disorderly are issued to young people aged 16 to 19. Even kids as young as 12 are being charged with criminal damage to other people’s property as a result of drinking.

Four out of ten secondary school age children have been involved in some form of violence because of alcohol. This could mean they have been beaten up or robbed after they’ve been drinking, or have assaulted someone themselves.

Being a parent is the hardest job in the world and keeping our kids safe is a full time occupation in itself. Kids drinking isn’t predetermined by what class they born and grow up in, all kids are risk. Try and have the conversation, seek advice and let’s give our kids the safest Christmas we can.

For more advice on drinking visit www.drinkaware.co.uk

Voluntary Work by Councillor Sharon Sullivan, Mayoral Lead for Voluntary and Community Sector

Cllr Sharon Sullivan
Cllr Sharon Sullivan

The voluntary sector in Liverpool has over 3 thousand voluntary sector groups employing 10,390 full time equivalent employees. The sector has Gross Value Added (G.V.A.) of £394m. In other words 4%of the city’s total G.V.A. Not to forget the value of volunteers /volunteering adding £171.5m. Combining the G.V.A. of both volunteers and paid employees the sector as a whole has a G.V.A. of £565.5m.

37% of organisations are involved in the delivery of public services, and 32% advice to individuals. Liverpool has twice the number of VCS registered organisations, Liverpool has 43% of the total voluntary sector workforce within the City Region.

It’s crucial that the work they undertake is appreciated which actually underpins the top tier of work in the city most of it being preventative work engaging with the most vulnerable and needy within the city.

We are now faced with the greatest dilemma, austerity caused by government cuts. Social care and health being one of the most important frontline services affected. The cruel benefit cap plunging the poor into ever cascading poverty.

My role is supporting the voluntary sector, initially addressing duplication and potential waste of resources which need to be identified encouraging people to merge and share buildings and look at reinventing and accessing different income streams. The role of private businesses to support the voluntary sector is crucial. We are all corporate carers/parents we all need to some responsibility in how we support and shape our wonderful city. The work involving corporate social responsibility is a phenomenal support to the sector – one which I’m personally proud of and what up to date it has achieved.

My message for Christmas look out for the vulnerable where you live and if you can help do it even if it’s just about one lonely pensioner it doesn’t cost anything.

Merry Christmas.

How was 2016 for you? By Councillor Emily Spurrell, Mayoral Lead for Community Safety and Chair of Citysafe

Cllr Emily Spurrell
Cllr Emily Spurrell

As we reach the tail end of 2016 it seems appropriate to take a moment to reflect on the year, and what a year it has been!

Most notable was the decision of the UK to leave the European Union; it was reassuring to see that the vast majority of Liverpool residents voted to remain and also that we did not have the same initial increase in Hate Crime that other parts of the country faced. I believe that this is a testament to the welcoming diverse community that Liverpool has. However, there are still challenges to overcome and I know there are a number of communities facing uncertainty and fear for the future ahead, but we are committed to calling out anyone who challenges the idea that all are welcome in our city and we will be continuing our work around Community Cohesion next year.

This year I was particularly proud to launch our campaign to tackle Domestic Abuse and supporting the UN Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls ‘Orange the World’ Day. I am very grateful to all the domestic abuse agencies who supported the campaign and the work they do all year round tackling domestic abuse. Hopefully you noticed the key messages on pavements around the city encouraging friends and family to speak out if they think someone is at risk. We know that the more people that access services the more likely they are to be free from the cycle of abuse. Christmas can be a difficult time for people in abusive relationships but there is help available either for yourself, or someone you know, at www.womensaid.org.uk or 0808 2000247.

Christmas is also an exciting and very busy time for everyone. Citysafe continues to work hard to support people around Christmas whether that be through the extended late night transport on offer to get you home safely, promoting safe drinking with our Drink Less Enjoy More campaign or clamping down on sales of counterfeit goods. So please, enjoy your holiday and have a very safe and happy Christmas and New Year.

Don’t be Lonely at Christmas – or at Any Time by Councillor Gerard Woodhouse, Mayoral Lead for Older People

Cllr Gerard Woodhouse
Cllr Gerard Woodhouse

At Christmas we spend time with our family and friends, having that night out with work colleagues and rushing around buying presents. For many of our older people, they will be spending Christmas alone without family and friends to celebrate with. While winter and Christmas is still the time when our older people need the most help, social isolation is present all year long.

This year the Local Government Association (LGA) launched the Combating Loneliness campaign to highlight the problem of loneliness among our older people and the detrimental effect this can have on mental and physical health. The statistics make bleak reading, revealing that loneliness increases the risk of developing dementia by 64% and doubles the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or a disability. It can cause higher blood pressure and depression with a higher rate of mortality which is more damaging than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

In Liverpool, we are working hard with partners to provide activities and events throughout the year for our older people to combat loneliness, such as cabaret afternoons and holidays to stop social isolation, shopping trips so people have independence, buddy schemes for those who have lost their confidence, training, craft opportunities and bridging the digital divide. We are also host an Older People Conferences to hear the views of our older people and also begin the process of gaining WHO Age Friendly Accreditation to recognise Liverpool is the best city to live and grow old in, as pledged by The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson.

It’s thanks to our partnership working with community groups, the Older People Forum, social landlords, local charities and local businesses that we are able to support activities for our older people.

This month we have delivered 1500 Winter Assistance packs across the city to help those who have to choose between eating or heating. 1,250 older people attended our Christmas parties held over 5 days in The Florrie to tackle social isolation. On Christmas day we are hosting A Yummy Scouse Christmas across the city not just for older people, but for everyone who might be facing Christmas alone.

So as the season of goodwill is here, let’s carry on that festive cheer all year long so our older people aren’t isolated at Christmas, or at anytime. Check on that older, vulnerable person this Christmas, but also throughout the year. Just 5 minutes of your time may be a small amount for you, but would have a big impact on our most vulnerable.

Social Value City by Councillor Rosie Jolly, Mayoral Lead for Social Value

Cllr Rosie Jolly
Cllr Rosie Jolly

Imagine the difference we could make if we adopted some of the behaviours many of us have at this time of year and applied them all year round?

Uniting around our city will become increasingly important as the council wrestles with the need to balance the budget whilst at the same time maintaining our world class city and supporting those of our most vulnerable citizens.

If as businesses, consumers, citizens we continued to ‘give’ all year round the impact would be far reaching and play a vital part in supporting our city through another challenging year of austerity enforced by continued government cuts.

‘Giving’ does not necessarily mean money. We can all make a difference in many ways by giving our time and energy to help others, by sharing our skills and resources and by caring more about the environment and the city we live in. Social value can be created by us all and can impact on everyone and everything around us.

So let’s unite around our city all year round for the benefit of everyone, not just at this time of year or when the city is in crisis. Ask yourself not ‘what can my city do for me’ but instead ‘what can I do for my city’?

Liverpool Loves Local by Councillor Gary Millar, Assistant Mayor and Mayoral Lead for Business and Enterprise

Cllr Gary Millar
Cllr Gary Millar

In the run up to Christmas, I took a stroll down a few of Liverpool’s high streets. Not surprisingly the contrast between them was chalk and cheese, open and shut, thriving and not! In September the national average shop vacancy rate was 12.4% – which means that Bold Street at 4% is doing well, but there’s a big job to be done in County Road which is closer to 25%

Evidence shows that our local independents account for between 95% and 99% of all businesses. Whether those are shops, cafés, restaurants, bars or hotels there are loads to choose from and competition is high. But, why do some areas work and some don’t? The experts say it’s all about location. Yet, I’ve seen failing businesses in successful areas and successful businesses in quiet high streets. So what else do they need to do?

Some people believe that business rates are too high and therefore complain to the council and ask that they reduce them. In fact, it’s the UK Government that sets this tax, the council can keep almost 50% of the rates collected but they also have to give 50% to the Government.

High streets with masses of shuttered shops, yet at night the same shutters reveal a take-aways, giving the impression that at least half the units are empty because closed shutters surely mean the unit is unused and unloved! In some areas, when the daytime economy goes to sleep the night time economy comes to life.

I’d love to see thriving high streets backed up by increased and distinctive local marketing – looking at the marketing successes created by local business associations. I’d also love to see more friendly parking and at least one anchor tenant on every high street. Plus, I would want to encourage the occupation of vacant shop units, with incentivised rents and clearer understanding of business rates. As for those shutters – I’d love to see them painted with advertising about what’s going on inside and emblazoned with the shop’s opening times. I’d get rid of rooftop weeds and install attractive, inviting lighting and eye-catching signage.

Of course, it’s also about the staffing, customer service and what’s being sold inside. With the massive increase in online shopping and large out of-town retail parks, how does a high street business still compete, be disruptive and differentiate themselves from other businesses whilst keeping costs down and profits and social value high?

The government has suggested that future successful high streets should be distinctive, and attractive, village and continental type settings with cafés, restaurants and bars with outdoor seating, plus a mix of retro arts and crafts shops. That doesn’t mean the high street should stop selling other goods, but they should complement each other with offers that you cannot buy online. This might explain why Bold Street – and more recently Castle Street – have seen a significant resurgence and have both become day and night destinations.

The challenge for all up-and coming, thriving or re-emerging areas is that their success could breed their eventual demise if corporate greed or high mortgages take over. So, let’s create an environment that is fair and encouraging, about independents, living wage jobs, “must have” products & services and the longer term passion and love for the area. I strongly believe that all high streets have huge potential – not just in the city centre, but in all parts of Liverpool, the most entrepreneurial city in the UK

Your high street just needs your loyalty and to know you care about and love the area. This Christmas, shop locally and do what you can to support your local community.

Heritage City by Councillor Alice Bennett, Mayoral Lead for Heritage and Design

Cllr Alice Bennett
Cllr Alice Bennett

We have so much built heritage to be proud of in Liverpool and the festive season is one of the best ways to showcase some of our beautiful buildings, including St George’s Hall, which is a perfect backdrop for this year’s Christmas market. We are a heritage city as well as an innovative, forward-thinking world city. The number of Liverpool buildings at risk in 1991 was 351; today there are 66, soon to be below 60 early in 2017, with a number of committed and innovative partners working together to bring the buildings back into use.

It is important to note that the focus of development for heritage buildings is not only preservation, conservation and innovation but also access by the public. Liverpool’s finest buildings must not have a closed door.

We as a council aim to work with partners who are willing and able to bring the buildings back into public use and our track record has been good. At 2.6%, Liverpool compares well to the 7% national average for heritage buildings or sites at risk. Even better is the fact that Historic England identifies Liverpool as an exemplary city in its heritage conservation.

Even with a desperately small budget to work with, the Mayor is ensuring that the city’s buildings are as important as its people. We are not in a financial position to save every building at risk but we are working hard to guarantee that each building is safe and not at risk from further damage. The historical design footprint across the city exemplifies that multiple styles can and should co-exist.

We are a global city; we started the skyscraper here and our landscape embraces its heritage as much as it welcomes its future. As we celebrate the old year and ring in the new, be assured that we are working hard to protect the legacy of the old city and create the legacy of the new city; a world-class city of the past as well as the future.

Energy Efficient City by Councillor James Noakes, Mayoral Lead for Energy and Smart Cities

Cllr James Noakes
Cllr James Noakes

The cold winter months are usually when people begin thinking about their energy use and keeping warm – quite often too late to do something about it. Unfortunately, for too many people in our city there is a choice between heat or eat. Many others sacrifice comfort in their homes as they cannot afford to heat their homes properly either due to financial issues or because their property is inefficient at keeping in the heat.

At the same time, we have big issues in terms of energy security and climate change that we need to think of and tackle. Energy – its use, its accessibility and where it comes from – are all challenges that we have to work with others on addressing, but we must be prepared to play our part in answering those challenges.

So my new year’s hope for the city with regards to energy is split into different parts. Firstly, 2017 will see the launch of Liverpool LECCY – the Mayor’s push for Liverpool to get involved in selling energy at competitive prices to the city. I have been heartened to work with my colleagues such as Councillor Munby and Councillor Hont in engaging with this and pushing it forward. At the same time, there is broad support across all parties for the need for Liverpool to take these big steps. So I hope it is the success we want to make it. We have the opportunity to begin to tackle the one element of fuel poverty that we have so far not been able to fully engage in – the cost of the energy itself. We hope that LECCY begins to address the scourge of fuel poverty by playing its part.

Secondly, I hope to see the emergence of more community and low carbon energy approaches in the city. In 2017 our Local Plan – currently being developed – will be submitted and that will play a big role in how we oversee energy development. Cllr Kennedy will continue to help officers steer the work before he become Lord Mayor (my best wishes for that as well!). But, like me, he knows only too well it will be just one part of encouraging low carbon energy and development. So I hope we see organisations, companies and developers fully engage with the low carbon agenda – despite the setbacks and problems placed in the way by government. Innovative thinking on how we improve and deliver on our energy choices will be crucial and I hope 2017 sees more of it.

I hope that 2017 sees Liverpool firmly establish itself as the prime location for offshore energy. It is great to see the activities around our port and river that are supporting the offshore sector – the Irish Sea already hosts the UK’s largest concentration of offshore wind turbines. So Liverpool needs to place itself at the forefront of this exciting energy opportunity. Added to the potential for extracting energy from the Mersey and Liverpool City Region should be the leading city for maritime energy in the country if not beyond.

Lastly, I hope that the people of the city begin to see that we can all take action to improve our energy future. Our individual energy choices really matter not just to each of us, but in shaping the world around us. Considering our energy choices and the impacts they have can seem like a luxury to some – I have already highlighted the fact that there are people in our city who could do with using more energy in the first place. But for those who can, taking some action to reduce climate impacts by the choices we make – whether that is for transport, and housing or in our business – would be a great way to be green in 2017.

A Stressful Time by Councillor Joanne Calvert, Mayoral lead for Mental Health

Councillor Joanne Calvert
Councillor Joanne Calvert

Christmas time, whether you have a faith or not, is traditionally portrayed as a time when families come together and happiness prevails – or at least this is how television and other forms of the media package it. However for thousands of people here in our own City this time of year is dreaded. Those who struggle to make ends meet and live from day to day, week to week, whether in a family or not, hate the commercialisation and pressure forced upon them. If you haven’t got the money for your children or just to have a good Christmas, then borrowing and going into debt is something many people are forced into doing. Often they are in debt already and this just adds to their ongoing problems. The stress this places on people and families is often to much and creates a real pressure as the realisation of more debt becomes a reality.

Loneliness is another area often overlooked at this time of year, when those who live on their own feel low and isolated. Often they remember their loved ones who have died and they don’t feel like Christmas is for them. When people are left alone for days and weeks on end, they often feel no one cares. They often will lose interest in themselves and life is not worth much, this continues until they make themselves ill.

Both debt and loneliness are big factors in increasing mental health conditions like depression. Please try and help those who are known to you who may well be struggling financially, if you can do so. If you know someone who is alone and especially if they have lost someone recently, please see if you can call just to see if they are alright and ask if they need anything.

Please spare a thought for others – after all it is the true spirit and meaning of Christmas.