Saturday, August 04, 2007

Civic Chaos In Toytown

Ringo: "Er, what are we doing here?
Paul: "We're occupying the main stage for this year's Matthew Street Festival."

The normal pace of political life on Merseyside would shame a sloth. However, the last 48 hours have seen well fed, well paid bureaucrats sweating in their designer attire as they do their headless chicken routine. The dash to cover their own backs has been matched only by the amount of exercise their arms have had as the finger-pointing assumes Olympian status. Normally, the arm exercises are confined to the bars around Dale Street & Castle Street.
This morning's Liverpool Daily Post is in bullish mood as a city's already shop-soiled reputation is paraded for wider ridicule (BBC Radio 4's Today programme even ran a piece, asking, not unreasonably, if this is the outcome of events for Liverpool's 800th anniversary, what awaits the city next year). The Post quotes leading figures/suspects (delete as appropriate) as saying that the show will go on: .
It's interesting to read into the piece, however, & find that the festival will not go ahead in the same format as previous years:
"Moves to salvage the festival event around the Cavern Quarter were still taking place last night, and will continue throughout the weekend."
The Post article backtracked a little further when it conceded:
"The rescue package will see a modified festival seized from the grip of the Liverpool Culture Company and handled instead by a hand-picked team under the control of the city council."
Health and Safety issues, the ostensible cause of the cancellation, are to be "overcome", yet the piece is vague on this. It also reports that the children's fun fair, previously situated around the South John Street area, will "be relocated to a nearby park to ensure their safety."
There is no "nearby park" in the city centre. The last remaining piece of greenery in the middle of town, Chavasse Park, has long gone, thanks to the Big Dig.
According to the Post, Jason Harborrow, chief executive of the Liverpool Culture Company, & who "earns" £150,000 per annum, "told councillors that he was devastated by the decision, and spoke of how Culture Company staff had worked tirelessly to make sure the event would be a success."
If this counts as success, I'm glad he isn't managing Liverpool FC.
I recall attending a public meeting at St George's Hall late last year at which Harborrow played the role of Little Sir Echo to Professor Drummond Bone, the then chairman of the Culture Company, his bumptious demeanour annoying the audience.
Where the Liverpool Daily Post dared to venture, its sister organ, the Liverpool Echo, boldly strides on in the PR/bullshit morass. This afternoon's edition claims that Warren Bradley, the city council leader, last night proposed a deal which "could see some of the outdoor stages rescued." ( ).
The key word here being "could". In other words, it's all still a reaction to Wednesday evening news rather than a clear plan to respond to it.
Again,there is ambiguous wording in the Echo piece, which is typical of local papers when they fly a kite for local projects which never take off:
"Police were this weekend looking at proposed sites including St. George's Plateau, William Brown Street, Dale Street and Castle Street."
Catherine Jones' Echo report goes on to offer a hint that the "plan" is, at best, a long shot, & that the careers of certain politicians in Liverpool are on the line:
"Cllr. Bradley said: 'The police have gone away over the weekend to have a look at the sites we've proposed. Logistically, I can't see why we couldn't use all the sites we've suggested.
'But we will have to go through the traffic movement and emergency planning. It's critical to do a risk assessment.'
Merseyside police last night declined to comment on the festival.
Cllr. Bradley added: 'I'm willing to talk to anybody to deliver the Matthew Street Festival. It's synonymous with outdoor stages.'"
That final comment betrays the sudden heat Cllr. Bradley is facing, the level of which is higher than that in the Canary Isles where he is currently on holiday.
It's worth noting, en passant, that Bradley was already facing questions about his leadership after the decision of Everton Football Club to move to Kirkby. Bradley had claimed that the city council had offered the club three possible sites for a new stadium within the cty boundaries. Responding to Everton's preference for Kirkby, Bradley, an avid Evertonian, was quoted as saying that it was a move to "a cowshed in a small town".
How to win friends & influence people, indeed.

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