In this first paragraph, I should introduce myself. My name is Mike Lane and I was 47 years old when I started this site. Iam now 53 years old. I live in a city called Liverpool, which is situated in Great Britain. Liverpool has a population of around 475,000 people and is part of a region in the North West of England called Merseyside. Merseyside has a population of 1.5 million people and is one of the poorest areas of the UK.
I became a direct activist campaigner because I am fed up with the present system, a system that forces people to strive and fight for anything worthwhile in life. Obviously many people never achieve their dreams, some, like myself, give up when they see what they are up against. They soon realise that the system is unfair and for all their striving their lives aren't going to change dramatically. I guess it's at this point that people like myself decide to fight the system.
I am also a campaigner against social injustice and as such have devoted my life to fighting against the way in which local and central Government try to, by using stealth, force their conniving subjugation agenda onto the largely unsuspecting people of the Northwest Region.
I am often accused of being parochial in the way that I think, but I am not. I know what is going on nationally and internationally. I know that national and international issues are very important. But this web site deals mainly with local issues. The whole emphasis of this web site is to try and encourage other activists to do the same.
At this present moment in history the North West Region of the UK is awash with regeneration funding. There are now 123 Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) organisations in the North West region and over 35 New Deal for Communities (NDC) initiatives in the UK, 9 of which are in the North West, each are responsible for spending an allocation of funds from central Government. I started to put together this web page in July 2001 and intend to try and add bits and update it as time goes by.
I am presently in the process of writing a book about how oppressive local government is. This book tries to explain in simple terms how city councils and all the agencies, which work with them, oppress poor working class communities.
The book, which is nearly completed, will be put on this web site to help other activists and students better understand how middle class local government council officers actively work with central government and other outside agencies to oppress poor working class communities so that these same public and private sector agencies, be they in whatever guise, can impose their agendas onto poor working class communities throughout the UK.
The book also looks at the never ending sea of bureaucracy which is deliberately created to keep these same middle class council, government office and other civil servant/officers in jobs as they over administrate everything to create even more administrative jobs for their middle England mates.
What's going on in Liverpool and my community?
The area of Liverpool that I live in is called Kensington and it is one of the poorest areas in Liverpool. Part of Kensington, which consists of 4,000 homes were 15,000 people live, has been designated as a New Deal for Communities (NDC) area and has, up to now, received £62 million with more to follow from central Government. This money is supposed to help economically regenerate the area and to reach the most disadvantaged people who live within the NDC community, but the fact is, this money is being used to slowly expunge poor working class people out of the community altogether as the Liverpool City Council and all it private sector partners push ahead with the intended gentrification of the Liverpool Kensington New Deal for communities area. This gentrification will involve the mass exodus of Housing Association tenants, from parts of the city, which are close to the city centre. Housing Associations are now commonly known as, Registered Social Landlords (RSL’s)
This exodus of tenants will come about through massive demolition of inner city old RSL stock and the ground that this stock stood on will literally be given to rich building firms who will build houses for sale rather than for rent. In fact it is estimated that over three quarters of all the land that RSL and council properties once stood on before the demolition derby will be used for new builds for sale. Only one quarter of this land will be used for RSL new builds for rent. These new builds for rent will be mixed in with the New Builds for sale. This means that only a hand full of rented new builds will exist amongst an overwhelming majority of new builds for sale on any given new build estate. Of course this reduction in estates where just tenants used to live would further help central government impose its oppressive social engineering onto tenants. Local and central government civil servants know that tenants when fired up can cause a lot of trouble, so to stop this they have concluded that new estates that house tenants only should be reduced and that tenants should be mixed in amongst an overwhelming majority of homeowners. Homeowners, being small property owners, are noted for their moderate views and better sense of civic responsibility. At the end of the day most homeowners are insular and worry only about the price of their houses going up. So the homeowners are also acting as a further oppressive tool against the tenants.
Trying to keep track of the gradualist subtle way in which these predominantly middle class senior local and central government civil servants/council officers operate is a daunting task. These same council officers and Government Office for Merseyside civil servants work in Partnership with the Housing Corporation who in turn work with the many RSL housing officers, who in turn oppress their tenants. These same RSL’s are supposed to be charitable organisations, but in reality they behave in the same way as private sector entities. They are supposed to be accountable to the government’s Housing Corporation but the Housing Corporation goes along with what they are doing.
The New Deal for Communities Initiative (NDC):
The team of people who were chosen by community cronies who were and still are connected with a community organisation called Park Partnership to administer the £62m NDC project are called the Kensington Regeneration (KR) and they have housed themselves in a building called the Job Bank. This building cost £1.4 million to build. The Job Bank, which has electronic locks on all its entry doors and CC TV all around its parameters, was purpose built to house the useless regeneration agency known as Parks Partnership. Parks Partnership has about 10 community workers and administrators.
It's rather strange to observe the Job Bank, which has been built just on the boarders of the NDC zone; it's supposed to be a community building yet it has the uncanny appearance of a prison like fortress, not a prison that keeps people in, but rather a fortress to keep the community out. Every night when it closes huge electronic steel shutters come down and a security guard enters the building.
The chief executive of the NDC project earns somewere in the region £60,000 per year is never seen walking around the NDC community on her own. The only time she ever ventures out of the fortress like Job Bank is when she has to attend community meetings. Up to now there has been three chief executive. The first one was a stand in, the second one stayed for a couple of years and resigned claiming he spent too much time travalling from his home in Yorkshire to Liverpool, but many activist felt he was not up to the job anyway. The third and present chief executive, just like the other two, does not come from Liverpool, is middle class and has not got a clue of the cultural perspective of the people who live in the NDC area. She, like the others before her, has stated what she intends to do for us poor unfortinate peiople. What she fails to understand is, we don’t want to do what she is trying to impose upon us.
There is now somewhere in the region of 26 Kensington Regeneration NDC administrative staff continually creating more bureaucracy and just just like the chief executive many these suberbanite administrators earn colossal salaries.
The £1.4m Job Bank where these regeneration administratirs are housed was built as the flag ship project of Parks Partnership. The European Objective One funded Parks has been in operation for over five years, their primary purpose was to help reach many of the poor and disadvantaged amongst the 36,000 people who live within their Pathway area. The Parks Pathway to integration area covers a zone, which encompasses the Kensington NDC community.
The people who are currently based in the Job Bank are: Leap, Jet, Lifelong Learning, Sports Action Zone, Early Years Development, and lets not forget the Kensington Regeneration NDC team of bureaucratic administrators.
All the above-mentioned agencies are publicly funded and they always evolve when public funding is available. It is amazing to witness, whenever public funding becomes available these agencies create themselves to put as many useless suburbanite service providers into well-paid jobs as possible. It matters little if they achieve nothing because they have perfected what is known as the learning curve excuse. Every time a mistake is made or it has been proven that a regeneration partnership never achieved much, the people involved always use the learning curve excuse and move onto the next project and make a mess of that.
It is largely felt by community activists that Parks and many of the other agencies that share the building with them have not and will not achieve very much. For instance Parks Partnership, in its entire ten-year existence, has only managed to refurbish a small library, that hardly anyone visits, and to promise the community a sports centre. This promise of a sports centre went on for at least six years. In the end the cronies who were involved had to go cap in hand to the New Deal administrators to get the one million pounds that was needed to complete the project. Had local government not decided to pick the Kensington area as an NDC zone the cronies who are involved with Parks Partnership would never have got the project off the ground at all.
They say that self praise is no recommendation but these people hold themselves up as a shining example of good practice when they have achieved practically nothing. A whole labyrinth of bureaucracy has been set in motion to keep these so-called incompetent service providers in jobs that will essentially achieve nothing. There are now so many different bodies of European and publicly funded service providers that a whole book could be written about them.
There used to be 11 Pathway Partnerships in Liverpool, but the City Council has recently merged them into 5. This sort of behaviour is typical of Liverpool City Council officers and certain elected members, who are mates with the Pathway Partnership chief co-ordinators. When it becomes glaringly obvious that these regeneration incompetents are doing nothing to alleviate the problems in the poor areas which they are covering, to avoid a scandal, the elitist council officers who monitor them, with the go ahead of certain elitist elected members just change all the goal posts so as to keep the populous and the media in ignorance to the fact that there is a multitude of useless regeneration people out there feeding like leeches off public funding that was meant to reach the poor and socially excluded.
Who is the Kensington Regeneration accountable to?
Who is the Kensington Regeneration accountable to? Like all the regeneration Partnerships that are in operation in and around Merseyside the Kensington Regeneration Partnership is accountable to the Liverpool City Council. Although they will strenuously deny this fact, the Liverpool City Council is one of the most badly run councils in Great Britain. In 1999 with the advent of a new political administration a team of people known as the Local Government Task Force was called into Liverpool to try and find out why the council services were so badly run.
The Local Government Task Force Report:
At the beginning of 1999 it was reported in the Liverpool Echo quote: Trouble-shooters have been called in to help Liverpool City Council improve its services. A team from the Local Government Association Improvement and Development Agency will begin work in Liverpool on the 8th March. The Echo article went to great lengths to make it look like the Task Force was casually invited in by council leader Mike Storey and the then chief executive Peter Bounds, when in effect the council was in a dreadful state and Mr. Bounds and the former Labour administration were largely responsible for this. (No administration likes to admit they made a bad choice in picking their chief executive). This fact was further established by the Task Force's damning report and summery.
The old chief executive leaves in a blaze of glory:
The new Chief Executive replaced Peter Bounds, who took early retirement and left in a blaze of glory, with a £250,000 golden handshake. Council leader Mike Storey said: "He leaves the council in a much stronger and healthier state than when he arrived." (Echo Oct 1999). What can one say about this statement? Here we have a chief executive who along with council leader Mike Storey invited a team of trouble-shooters into the city to sort out the problems connected with the city council and what does that council do? It holds him up as an example of good practice, when it was his administrative officers who were responsible for the way in which the council was incompetently run. Of course this out of touch with reality madness is a common feature through all of the councils in the UK.
As already mentioned the team from the Local Government Association's Improvement and Development Agency produced a damning report on the way in which the council was being run.
The Local Government Task Force reports findings:
When one reads this report, which does not really give the whole truthful picture, one should be taken aback by the absolute incompetence connected with the Liverpool City Council's administration. Putting the elected members to one side, one marvels at the behaviour of the extremely high salaried council officers. It's quite obvious that this report was written in such a way as to give the impression that the elected members are the bad guys. Granted many of the elected members are useless, but the council officers certainly take some beating.
The Task Force told Liverpool it had major weaknesses. They said a sea of change was needed if it was to have any hope of achieving the challenging modernizing agenda set by the government.
The main concerns of the report were:
1 Weak or non-existent corporate management structures for key strategic issues due as a result of chronic departmentalism, and a chief executive's management team, which is generally ineffective.
2 Hostility and mutual distrust between councillors and senior officers, and frequent interference from councillors in operational and non-strategic issues.
3 An excessive number of member-level committees, sub committees, task groups and working parties which detract from the effective participation of councillors in strategic decision-making and community representation.
4 Failure to produce effective corporate plans on major policy initiatives Poor communications, especially internally with the councils own workforce.6 Poor quality, high cost services.
5 Poor communications, especially internally with the councils own workforce.
6 Poor quality, high cost services.
7 Disengagement by the council from local people's real needs and interests.
The present political party in Liverpool is the Liberal Democrats. They are at present trying to turn this situation around, but such is the size of the council's administration and the incompetence of its officers that it is an uphill battle, which could take some years to rectify. But the probability is, it will never be rectified.
Recently, the Local Government Task Force came back to Liverpool and gave a much better report on the way in which the Liverpool city council was being run, but it is still felt that many of the council officers are incompetent.
The Accountable Body:
As already explained New Deal for Communities administrators are accountable to the Liverpool City Council who are, what is known in the regeneration game as the accountable body.
The original self elected NDC Board, which is comprised of what many people in the community see as moderate toadies, has systematically provided information to the NDC community that presents and holds them up as shinning examples of good practice. Much of the information that has been distributed around the community has been spin-doctored so as to present the most favourable image, when in reality the self elected NDC board and the KR Partnership team are utterly incompetent.
The Citizens Panels:
There was 5 what is known as Citizens Panels in operation in the NDC community. These panels were originally supposed to have 50 people on each one of them, but in reality there was only a hands full of people who joined each one of them and as time went by only 2 or three people were bothering to turn up at each Panel meeting. In the end the Panel members, realising that they were powerless to make any decisions anyway, created a Joint Citizens Panel. Imediatly the regeneration administrators and the senior city council officers made efforts to dissolve the Panels and create something else. This is always the case, when the oppressive regeneration administrators and the council officers see that the community is coming together as one body they try to stop this happening. The unification of the wider community is a direct threat to the oppressive behaviour of the service providers.
Towards the end of 2001 the faceless people involved with the Kensington Regeneration NDC team had community elections and 5 more community members were voted onto the New Deal board to join the other five who were voted onto the board by a hand full of people from the five Citizens Panels. At least five of these 10 community members are cronies, who will go along with everything the regeneration administrators want to impose onto the largely unsuspecting NDC community.
Council officers and paid community workers frown upon new innovative ways of empowering communities. When they do try to introduce something, which they think is innovative, (normally plagiarised from other peoples ideas) it's not long before it is totally overshadowed by old practice. Unless the community is given the opportunity to devise it's own empowerment methodology with no outside interference from local government bodies, the task of empowering the community and creating a totally fair democratic system is remote.
BELOW IS A SUGGESTED DRAFT CONSTITUTION FOR AN OPEN AND DEMOCRATIC NEIGHBOURHOOD
Is there a better way to involve the wider community in the Kensington New Deal for Communities initiative? Of course there is! Below is a suggested way of doing things using a democratic process. Remember the Kensington Regeneration team and their outreach workers in reality oppress the community.
It is felt by critical community activists who live in poor areas earmarked for regeneration that regeneration administrators, consultants and outreach workers (many of whom, do not live in the run down community that they work in) can not be trusted to work with and for the community in a democratic way. It is also felt that if council officers and regeneration administrators are not continually monitored they will surreptitiously impose their undemocratic agenda onto the unsuspecting community. Of course these accusations are levelled mainly at the Liverpool City Council who are the accountable body for the Kensington NDC initiative, but it's a well-known fact that what is happening in Kensington is happening, to some degree, throughout the UK.
Below is a suggested draft constitution, which tries to encompass democratic openness and procedure within an New Deal Community. As already stated this document is just a draft which tries to fit in with the present methodology that is being imposed on NDC communities throughout the country. It is felt that if communities were left to their own devices they would be able to develop a much better and fairer way of doing things.
A quantity of the text below has been taken from quotes by libertarians Paulo Freire and Ire Shor. Note the inclusions have not been plagiarised (plagiarism is common practice amongst careerist urban regeneration workers) but intermingled throughout the document. This is because the above-mentioned libertarians were experts at defining the undemocratic complicated and ambiguous way in which local government civil servants operate.
Draft constitution for a society of open democratic neighbourhoods
1. We the people of the Liverpool Kensington New Deal community believe that the betterment of society begins with the individual's needs and wants. That we should have a common understanding in all areas and be ready to compromise wherever possible.
2. In the New Deal for Communities (NDC) neighbourhood, one of the main concerns should be for equality for the individual. Each member of the NDC neighbourhood should have equal rights, and these rights should be protected. There should be an equal redistribution of the power of decision-making amongst the NDC community in order to make this equality possible. As long as certain interest groups and administrators control the NDC process they will always be in a position of power. Once the power is taken away from these interest groups, equality will be possible for all.
3. Each Neighbourhood within the Liverpool Kensington NDC zone will elect it's own community NDC board members to make guidelines for the best interests of the people. The board members will by no means have the final say. If they do not function in a manner concerned mainly for the people, they will be removed.
4. The NDC board candidates should be selected by virtue of the democratic process used in local and central government elections and not by community resident associations or panels. In other words anyone should be able to run for election as a board member by virtue of obtaining ten signatures from people who live in the area in which they intend to run.
5. The NDC community board members should outnumber the paid professional and elected members on the board by at least 4. This is because the paid professional service providers, being professional and conversant in community dynamics, have more ability to put their case across in a more convincing manner than the community members. This unfair advantage will always give the paid professionals an edge over the resident board members.
6. The goal of each of the NDC community board members is to try to help the community be a better place to live, where equality, freedom and concerns for other is to the highest degree.
7. All NDC board meetings should be open to be observed by the community,
irrespective of what issues the board meetings cover.
8. All community members other than the board members should remain as silent observers and should only speak if invited to by the NDC board chairman.
9. To avoid undemocratic parochial behaviour all community resident association and community council meeting should be open to members of the NDC community, irrespective of what part of the community the residents live in.
10. All community meetings, concerning whatever community body, held by the Kensington Regeneration team should be open to the community.
11. The composition of residents on the KR board, the Citizens Panels and all other bodies should reflect housing tenure.
12. Any resident working for the community, either on a voluntary or paid basis, should consider themselves to be trusted servants and not leaders. They should always work to the understanding that the residents as a whole are greater than a small group of people and as such are far better at making decisions collectively, if they are allowed to do so. Trusted servants must learn to trust the people they represent because it is felt that trusting the people is an indispensable precondition for lasting change. Those community residents who authentically commit themselves to the people must re-examine themselves constantly so as not to allow themselves to be caught up in ambiguous behaviour patterns.
13. Projects and initiatives should be put together by the community and not imposed onto them by the Kensington Regeneration and it's team of outreach workers.
14. The use of Community Referendums, especially for major projects, should be common practice, and used to further involve the community as a whole in the decision making process.
14. All repressive codes of conduct should be discontinued. If there is disagreement, at whatever level, the people involved should try to find out why the aggrieved person or persons are distressed. If there can be no agreement the meeting should be closed. Like all community participation and empowerment methodology all codes of conduct have been put together by the Kensington Regeneration's team of paid professionals without any consultation with the NDC residents and then, subtly, imposed onto the many resident bodies that the Kensington Regeneration team have put together. No resident should be excluded indefinitely, this behaviour as well as being undemocratic goes against what the NDC initiative stands for which is inclusion not exclusion.
14. People within the NDC community should try to work for the common good of everyone and not just for themselves.
15. The NDC community should hold gathering or a Community Forum every month to help improve the community and bring up beliefs and complaints against the NDC board members and the NDC paid administrators. They would be able to replace board members by a two-thirds majority vote if they feel fit. (At present Community forums are being held every three months).
16. As far as possible the dividing of the community into many different groups should be avoided and discouraged. It is felt that this practice is promoted and used by the regeneration administrators as a tool to control and domesticate the community. It is also used as a tool to put as many paid community workers as possible into as many jobs as possible to administrate the many small bodies of people. This practice not only slows the regeneration process down but also creates too much unnecessary bureaucracy. It's common practice for council officers and paid regeneration administrators to use divide and rule tactics as a means to impose their agenda onto the unsuspecting community. This form of oppressive behaviour is omnipresent in most regeneration communities. In order to dominate the majority the paid professional regeneration administrators and council officers, being in the minority, must divide the majority and keep it divided in order to remain in power. The minority cannot permit itself the luxury of tolerating the unification of the wider community, which would undoubtedly signify a serious threat to their own power base. Accordingly the paid professionals halt by any stealth like method any action, which even at its very beginning, could awaken the community to the need for unity. Concepts such as unity, organisation, and struggle are labelled by the urban regeneration administrators as dangerous. Of course these concepts are dangerous to the so-called paid professionals, for their realisation is necessary to actions of liberation. (Some inclusions from Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
17. It is felt that the paid professional regeneration administrators go out of their way to weaken the regeneration community residents and to isolate them, to create and deepen rifts among them. This is done by varied means, from repressive methods of bureaucracy to forms of cultural action with which they manipulate the community by giving them the impression that they are being helped. One of the characteristics of oppressive cultural action, which is almost never perceived by the so called dedicated, but naive paid professionals who are involved is the emphasis on a focalised view of problems rather than on seeing them as dimensions of a totality. In community development projects the more a region or area is broken down into local communities, without the study of these communities both as totalities in themselves and as parts of another totality, (the area, region and so forth) which in its turn is part of a still larger totality (the nation, as part of the continental totality) the more alienation is intensified. And the more alienated people are, the easier it is to divide them and keep them divided. (Professor Ire Shor, Staten Island University. Critical Teaching for Everyday Life 1982). These focalised forms of action, by intensifying the focalised way of life of poor people in poor run down communities hamper the community from perceiving reality critically and keep them isolated from the problems connected with other people who live in other regeneration areas throughout the UK.
18. Looking at the NDC regeneration community as a whole entity should be promoted and encouraged. The NDC residents should realise that the NDC community, in its entirety, is in reality a very small area.
19. Any person or persons attending any meeting i.e. Resident Association (be it in whatever area of the NDC zone), Community Council or any meetings connected with the NDC initiative cannot be asked to leave by an individual or individuals, but only by a vote of everyone present at that particular meeting.
20. No community leader or activists have the right to stop any community member from attending a community meeting, Resident Association or any other group, without first putting the issue to the community members of that group in the presence of the person they are proposing to exclude and asking for a vote.
22. As far as possible cronyism and the formation of community cliques should be discouraged and it should be continually pointed out that each resident is part of the wider community.
23. As far as possible parochial (narrow-minded, territorial) behaviour should be discouraged because it is felt that the paid professional administrators and their outreach workers use the communities parochial nature as a further tool to subjugate and domesticate the residents thus giving the paid professionals the opportunity to impose their agenda onto the unsuspecting community.
24. Constructive critical dialogue should not be discouraged but rather promoted as an implement for change. Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in a regeneration project and in the process of inquiry is one of symbolic violence. The means used are not important; to alienate community members from their own decision-making is to change them into objects. Those who have been prevented from expressing their opinions are entitled to reclaim their right, using a democratic process, to speak and prevent the constitution of this dehumanising aggression against them.
25. All community residents should be encouraged to change the environment that they live in, be it in whatever area, rather than adapting themselves to that environment.
26. The community should abolish the community participation and empowerment methodology that is being imposed upon it by the Kensington Regeneration team and it's outreach workers. The community should be allowed to independently devise its own community empowerment methodology, with no interference or influence by the Kensington Regeneration team or outreach workers.
27. The Kensington Regeneration's paid workers or service providers should learn to speak with the community and not to them as in the authoritarian manner of speaking from the top down. This type of speaking from the top down is in itself a clear demonstration of the absence of a democratising mentality.
28. The Kensington Regeneration team of paid professionals should provide the services and not get involved in or with the way in which the community conducts its empowerment strategy. The paid professionals should do what the community asks them to do.
29. The paid professionals NDC administrators should only attend community meetings when invited. The community should be allowed to make decisions without any influence from the paid professionals. During a decision making debate the NDC administrators and the KR board should leave the room and only come back after the decision has been reached.
30. As far as possible the community should devise its own consultation and research methodology and they should be paid the going rate for doing this. When trying to ascertain what the community wants the highest standards of qualitive research methodology should be devised and used by the community with no influence or interference from the Kensington Regeneration team.
31. There should be a constant flow of truthful simple and concise information circulated around the Kensington NDC community.
It is suggested that all community meetings should be held and organised in the most simple of ways. Below is a suggested set of rules:
1. All meetings should be held in a circle. People can relate better if they sit in a circle. Everyone can sit were they want. People should be able to sit were they feel most comfortable and not in an assigned seat.
2. People at the meeting should not speak only to the chairperson when they talk, but will speak to everyone, or to the person they want to respond to.
3. The chairperson is not always the only one responsible for filling up silence, and for keeping the conversation going.
4. The meeting should be as informal as possible and it should be permissible for residents and the chairperson or any paid professional service providers to talk to each other on a first name basis. Calling each other by first names doesn't let one feel superior over someone else, as if Mr, Mrs, ect, were used.
5. No one is forced to say anything. Everyone should have an opportunity to talk at one time or another, not just letting the same persons talk and carry on discussions. But no one should be forced or called on to talk.
To be constantly updated in a democratic manner with no influence from the Kensington Regeneration service providers: