Remembering Keith

A few words for Keith.

These were delevered on my behlaf by Cllr Dave Green @Dave4Wibsey to Keith’s memorial in City Hall , Bradford

A mentor, colleague and Comrade.


The Member information Flyer from 1996 

I am very pleased to pass on some heartfelt thoughts and memories of Keith, a man whose care and compassion and positive belief in humanity touched so many of us.
In 1990 I met Keith, he’d not long been elected for Wibsey; the only Labour Councillor then, having replaced Cllr Clem Richardson.
I was living in Manningham and has managed to get onto the panel of candidates and met Keith after I was selected.

He ‘apprenticed’ me to follow his footsteps as a combination of community development activist and councillor.


Keith supprting the Metropolitan Foodbank in Bradford with former Cllr Joanne Sharp 

The venerable 2 cv and collecting cans, getting people together to ensure that Buttershaw and other estates were heard , their voices taken to wherever it mattered to get that vital regeneration. His campaigning let people speak for themselves , he worked with all generations , indeed he drove the Bedale Luncheon club minibus for many years, ran the Bingo and amid all that dealt with a huge amount to casework.
A man for whom no was not an answer.

More ‘now then young Ralph’ are we going to change this ?


The Wibsey team for over 10 years  , Cllr Val Slater , Cllr Ralph Berry and Keith 


I was impressed by his support for social work and my former Probation work role . Keith led by example on those issues, always a supporter of young people he took wonderful interest in the lives of all my children.

A champion of adopters and Foster carers. He was a proud adoptive father.


Back second row…


Education and a child centred approach was always Keith’s passion, hundreds of local people still remember his role as Head Teacher of Grange School, the fondness and recounted tales could make many a canvassing session longer.
Keith was always there when times were tough, if you’d fouled up, or just had a rough time . He would listen and help you reflect and move on.
He helped write my maiden speech to Bradford council on the withdrawal of legal aid for Immigration Appeals .
His commitment to equality and respect was a hugely influential thing for me .



Keth at what is nor Millenium Green Buttershaw, with the now demolished Ridings Way which he fought to improve and replace 

A man ahead of his time the Geographer and the Politician was a great combination.
He set the path for environmental awareness and a world where we all make change together , he will I’m sure have approved of the rising up of environmental activism and Extinction Rebellion.

He was a man of peace , and as we know found the use of war and a tool of politics impossible to countenance , he made his stand .



1992 and the restoration of the Dam at Wibsey Park with  the ‘Comp’ behind .


I also have to say I find his refusal of an Honour something the was so much the mark of the man.

I really don’t think a ribbon with Empire on it would have been for him.

His ethical integrity was a great example to us all.



His compassion was for me the defining thing about Keith , a faith lived by actions . His belief in the common weal .
The foodbank was for him an expression of the need to act , his work there touched so many and for a while Lara my youngest daughter helped there and was very fond of Keith

Keith was a runner , cyclist and wit as well.

Time spent with Keith involved a lot of humour .


Here we see Glira Di Piero now MP for Ashfiled who was helped by Keith as a young activist 

The thing I miss is not bumping into him and hearing ‘now then young man’ …and then catching up .



A wonderful picture of the memorial  event in City Hall; thanks to Paul Hill 

A truly wonderful man to have spent much time with , thanks to him we got many good things done .

A fine legacy.


Links ..

There is is a recording of the tribute speeches made on the Council’s website here ; I made a speech as did Cllr Richard Dunbar .



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Battered and vital

Bradford Councillor Ralph Berry on how the Covid pandemic has revealed the value of local partnership

Published in the July/ August  of Chartist  Magazine

As we went into the Covid-19 pandemic local government in England had just begun to emerge from a decade of cuts and centralization that has seen many Authorities hollowed out. It appeared we were emerging from the punitive regime of austerity and care precepts to a world where suddenly the local mattered and the central had need of the local. The centralist municipal structures we have had since Modernization (with small groups of councillors holding most power by allocation of roles) found that grassroots community-based decision making, and coordination was a vital matter of near life and death. Localism was pulled back out of the archive.

Go spend what you need ! was the mantra. Suddenly the voluntary sector became the frontline as councils no longer had the numbers of staff to pick up emergency work. The same voluntary sector that has been squeezed to the edge by austerity.

But the bills have not been met and local government faces perhaps its toughest years since the 1930’s.

Cllr Ralph Berry

Effective local partnerships have emerged, and we need to keep and build on them as a real locus of power and decision making. Detailed local knowledge and partnerships became vital in get-ting resources and links made to build the local Covid hubs. In Wibsey, my ward, all the churches opened facilities, provide food and other support including befriending and emotional well-being.

The reversion to the old ways needs to be opposed. The reason is simple: community partnerships work. They can and will co-design more than just a food bank Rota and meals for kids in school holidays. It is not just councillors that have seen the reality of the fragility of our communities and the need for change. It is just not in a program yet.

It has been a challenging time with many local facilities lost to cuts with the old command and direct model of councillor activity.

It has been a challenging time with many local facilities lost to cuts with the old command and direct model of councillor activity being out of place , indeed its dying throes have been a reason for some conflict .

We have been pulling together the threads of local co-operation and solidarity across all communities and faiths, filling the gaps left by austerity. We have led work across agencies to secure support and protect the most vulnerable, filling the gap that have grown in a centralist structure.

Councillors now emerge with a more detailed knowledge of the strength of their communities while Covid has blown open the inequalities in work, housing, and health.

The status of Public Health had never been really secured in Councils. The budgets were often raided for other purposes but now the Director of Public Health and the health brief is one that must be used to tackle the agenda we face in recovery from Covid. We have forged new links to tackle some of this. We must not let the old ways slip back. Doing things to people or for people is not going to change things.

Involvement and facilitating community voice are the key.

Cllr Ralph Berry is Labour and Co Operative Councillor for Wibsey on Bradford MDC

He has been a Probation officer and Children’s Guardian before moving inot Mental Health and Community Develpment in the Voluntary Sector . He is manager of the Delivery Network Partnership for Live Well Leeds , part of Touchstone Support . Elected in 1991 he has seved in a number of roles inclding 6 years in the Council Cabinet and on a range of public bodies.

Ralph is a frontline councillor and adoption panel member and now serves on the Bradford Health Scrutiny Panel

Ralph is a founder member of Open Labour

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by: Ralph Berry | on: 09.08.20 | in:tags: CouncillorsCouncilsLocalismMunicipal Socialism

Local Government is historically where Labour’s heart and energy has come from. The day to day frontline work of hundreds of Labour Councillors at this time has been a source of vital connection with communities and can help renew and revitalise the Party from below.

Coucillors are also some of the biggest coordinators and funders of Labour’s activism. We provide community leadership in the face of cuts, mitigating the impact centralised political structures and leading the local political fight against them. We provide the so called ‘dented shield’, but we also innovate local service delivery and we speak for our communities. We have the ideas and experiences to shape the future, but we need to be heard. Working with local citizens to build from below we have found in the #Covid19 Crisis the need for genuine community-based politics has never been greater.

Open Labour stands for proper plural and devolved politics, based on local democratic structures that empower communities and build the relationships that will lead a progressive agenda for the future. We stand for transformation in our economy and services, but we also see the importance of decentralised, devolved and local ways of doing it.

These are the reasons why we are launching an Open Labour Councillors Network (OLCN) – by working together with our supporters and allies in local government, we will connect the vital experience of Labour Councillors the decentralised and socialist agenda of the plural left. We are kicking off the network with challenge , discussion, and by developing policies and ideas, and recently began with this debate involving Steve Reed MP, Labour’s Shadow Local Government Minister.

The Network will continue to debate the ideas that will help Labour build on the work and ideas of local Councillors and councils – a platform to reshape a local socialism, transcend beyond the centralised model we have now, and challenge the legacy of Labour’s own centralist past. By doing this, we hope to think beyond the elite structures sometimes favoured among socialists that can unwittingly concentrate power in very few hands.


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From English Electric to another Shopping Mall

Reflections on the Labour journey from opposition, to power and back .

Hoping we don’t need 18 years this time .

These are just my reflections of renewal , and the need for the lessons of that past to be learned from many paths , doors and committees . The pessimsism of the will if you like.

After the 2019 General election the local Labour team holding on to the ward, I’ve have represented for some years looked quite a feat.

 Wibsey on the periphery of South Bradford against the trend stayed Labour.

It was not easy.

We could have lost.

The election of 2019 was the most challenging election for me since 1983. It was a monumental disaster on all levels.

The sense of distance and rejection many voters who had months ago returned to Bradford City hall was palpable, the impact Brexit was undeniable, we had the indulgence of  whole year wasted trying to strangle a policy determined by members .This led to ‘Remainers’ and pro Brexit voters being confused and distant .

That was a factor we brought on ourselves the time between final resolution of the policy clearly determined by the conference membership and the election was so short we never got off the blocks. We also  saw rejection of Labours approaches whole a range of issues and it was harsh and deep but came from a deep  sense that we were not on their side  .

The Leadership the  issue that came up far more than Brexit by a factor of 3 /1. It came at us with an anger and reaction I have never seen before .

To map out a road to recovery and renewal It is worth reflecting on the past a bit .

I was around for the Labour Co Ordinating Committee in the eighties and successors in the 90’s .

Bradford Syrian refugees protesting against Assad to the annoyace of the Leninist Authortarian Left

The current we call the ‘Soft Left’ has its roots in those debates , but its successors like Open Labour need to learn from the failures of the period we call ‘New Labour’ and how dropping the ball then led to some of those failures.

That Political current in effect wound itself going off in different directions with a rather precious view its ideas were of such significance they did not require organisation.

Only to find the emerging events of the post ’97 movement developing policies and organisational approaches that hollowed out much of what we had asserted while making undeniable transformational changes in living standards and renewing public services , the absence of a critical debate on some of that agenda  allowed a outsourced approach to politics where temporary expediency (PFI was so described)  mushroomed into what is now a toxic legacy of burdensome debt and Service contacts.

 The currents that forged accommodation with the outsourcers and ‘new models’ became an intolerant rejection of more than just Morrisonian nationalisation, it opposed anything that opposed its right to decide. Lessons formed from bad cases in a few eighties Councils became the reason to administer medicine to the whole system.

So we were modernised.

This is before we reach the tragic Iraq 2 crisis and the impact that had on our politics for those of us who battled through that era. Ignoring in that the correct decision to take on the Serb Junta’s genocidal moves on Kosovo after letting Bosnia burn. Memory gets selective overtime

So I am now ready to reflect on the events and yes some of the polices or failures  of New Labour that have in my view brought about the circumstances that allowed the elements around Unite and CLPD etc to apply their almost revivalist Christian belief in the false consciousness theory .  

A battle for purity and orthodoxy detached from day to day reality but neatly capturing the lazy and perhaps unforeseen failings of Blair centrism’s collapse of the third way debates in the early 90’s saw a once vibrant soft left with some fairly challenging ideas side-lined for the expediencies of office. Smart organisation and innovative media  communicationcombined with really skilled electoralism guided the Labour ship to ride the waves of support that flowed from the deep decay of the Tory ancient regime.

But the roots..well they were not as deep as we thought.

Well lets recall that Labour once had 70 or so of the 90 councillors in Bradford

1992 and Bob Cryer MP just elected by a sliver in Bradford South. The old College Hall Westbrook Hall

We had all 5 MP’s 

In the years up to that we had become skilled in attractive palliative funding to address the retire economic damage that saw vibrant industries laid waste to property speculation.

From English Electric to Trafford Park Shopping Centre I saw broken me and women whose mils had been taken over by Hartley Trust , Tory Chairman of which bought Firms up with low stock, sent workers into rooms with an urn , and allowed them to go into despair as the textile machinery was removed and exported .These are the soulless Malls of today

The logo of what was once one of Bradford’s manufacturing powerhouses where my father was trained .Now it’s the Agrah Mid Point restaurant and shops.

We kept to the idea that industry had had its day.

Stole on Trent was such a place too, one I visited in a consultancy job I had , all the MPs all seats on the council euro cash and a Labour Government. We kept the regeneration competitions (New Deal for Communities, SRB 1,2,3 etc ) that played poorer communities against each other, leaving huge gaps . We transformed health and education budgets and many outcomes but not the fundamentals of work and the base of life that defined the meaning of being a Textile worker, Printer, Engineer, Miner etc…

After a decade or so of New Labour the palliative of social funding was not based in a deal with communities , subsidising low pay, councils became centralised in function and power  we had PFI and its hangover , endless restructures of the NHS , emasculated local councils which were driven to ‘modernise’. A new elite of powerful but barely accountable leaders and Mayors arrived as real power and funding was increasingly centrally controlled . Huge estates were missed out from regeneration competitions and were offloaded by asset transfers and we saw, and era indirectly directly managed quango led regeneration. Results were mixed but the dice were loaded, you will do this to a community not with a community

 Trust was lacking, and a dangerous rot began to set in . There was no plan to finish the job of reviving and renewing communities laid waste by the asst stripping and speculation driven economy .

Stoke and other cities saw a terrible shift t after the move to elected Mayor, a split between far right taking over outer estates rejected by Labour’s policies as mere voter fodder and a resurgent BAME membership but little common endeavour to work to address the loss of work and incomes and purpose . Years on and the narrative is what did Labour ever do for us ….

The response of some of the left was reaction to turn in on itself and embrace a version of left ‘reaction’ that was cut off from any relationship with the former voters.  It  proved that  mass membership is not a tool that wins . In many areas a massive middle class , angry and morally outraged culture sought new answers from the old testament of Labours  canon…

The old religion renewed into  a new variant using old passions that sounded clean, oddly but replicated the centralism, and focus on leadership that the Blair years had, with strong elements of this is what is good for you…

Meanwhile the world moved on as Bruce Springsteen noted 57 channels and nothing on. The old tools were no longer there, the call of the true message was not heard or recognised . 

The voters failed the movement, that sounds ridiculous, but it was the response by far too many.

I was told on the doorstep that my party looked like a historical Re-enactment Society, the Sealed Knot of the Left. 

I have never heard such sadness anger and rejection as we went from reserves of sympathy for Labour that was mixed with some distrust of the leader. Thant then that shifted to full rejection and pure anger.

Europe, the source of that palliative blanket of structural fund aid that had been used to massage Northern deindustrialisation was a real battleground, and one we did not really see coming enough.  Practical pro Europeans of a non-fanatical nature, we were simply not prepared, the other bonds that had broken in the movement meant arguments were not heard even when made (which was rare).

I found that Internal strife took up so much energy and was no longer hidden in duplicated minutes of old, it was now played out on twitter. We then had the toxic arrival of the anti-Semitism that grew in large art the Stalinoid ideology of the 70’s Leninist left and an almost reckless campaign to denigrate anyone who asked questions. This was combined with inexperience and incompetence but was not answered by much more that a call to go back to a tarnished past, with the ever-present blunder of Iraq casting a long shadow.

Bradford City Hall, a projection of Muncipal Confidence

Robin Cook was not there to shape these debates, and no one had the clarity of thinking to help heal those divides or frame debates as Robin could.

The mix was one of 1970’s distilled vanguardism and modern Media savvy organisation looked powerful, but it was fatally matched by a habit of seeing always to eradicate pluralism and to eliminate and delegitimise opponents’ opponents of centralist power and parches into seats etc became by default some of the most ruthless centralisers ever.

The opportunity to build an open political culture that learned from the 90’s and 2000’s was lost back then as key power figures did not see the need to learn; they had always been right. And getting into office because you are ‘better than the others ‘is not enough to grow a better culture.

The lessons of some of this will take a long time to be fully learned, we have first to make the case to do that.

Learning from the past

The Soft / Plural Left this time must be open and tough at the same time, be a bit more awkward in not going with the flow, stand firm on issues like electoral reform, internal pluralism democracy and devolution. Many passionate people have experienced local hopes and found themselves squeezed by centrally driven projects with top down and undemocratic and non-plural culture, they seek involvement not ‘worker ant’ politics.

I can now say you have experienced Democratic Centralism and they know what I mean , being told who you can choose between for an election neatly sums it up .

We have lost trust and rebuilding it takes patience and listening , it means we may be wrong , not the voters as Brecht pointed out the people have failed… we need to elect a new one.

We must build that bridge between the lessons of the past and the challenges of a future;  that means  pluralism is virtue , democracy where questioning is not treachery, and a culture where people are safe to be who they are .

But most of all we need to get that the people, the voters were not wrong , it was not a famous noble failure it was in 2019 an abject humiliation .

The rebuilding starts from moving from denial to acceptance.

This is just my reflection as a passenger on journey.

 I am not ‘right’ it is not about that.

It is about learning and changing to be more adaptable and getting to be the vehicle for people to feel part of that inspires hope and commitment.

I felt closest in the last Leadership contest to Lisa Nandy I have absolutely no regrets about that, a civil and thoughtful campaign with real ideas has been taken into the team Kier has formed.

I am not about to become a fanboy, but on issues like opposing the deregulation of Child Protection I am seeing grip of detail and policy I can really work with.

The challenge is for the not so Soft Left to be about structure and ideas, about implementation and inclusion and not to see this as few totemic battles, it got to be a whole new way or working together.

It is there to be done

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Wibsey Ward Councillors Corona Update

Wibsey Councillors Report

Corona Crisis Update from Wibsey’s Labour Councillors


 This is an extremely frightening and difficult time for everyone wherever we live and as local councillors we have been working not just to deal with the day to day cases which have been continuing but also to provide support to the community in dealing with the current pandemic.

The Council, NHS, The Care Sector, religious groups and the Third Sector have reacted quickly to try and develop local support networks, especially for vulnerable members of the community and as local Councillors we have been active in supporting the networks delivering for local people.

The work we have been doing includes being part of the telephone support network keeping in touch with vulnerable people, food deliveries, support for homeless people, and other tasks identified by the community groups and council officers who are co-ordinating the work in Wibsey.


Beyond the local work, like many people in the district, we have been working in support of the NHS and district wide organisations to provide support and help where it is needed.


We have been delighted with the number of people who have come forward to support their neighbours and the community and we have received information about those in need through our contact with local people and organisations and we work hard to ensure that people are getting the support and care that they need.

The Council is responsible for administering the business support grants announced by the government and we release the money for this as soon as it is sent by Government. We know that many of the Wibsey companies have already received their grants and we hope that the support for the self employed will be dealt with as quickly when the scheme is formally launched in the next few weeks.

Even with this support we know that businesses and their employees are suffering and we continue to liaise with the council department that deals with business support and the MPs office to try and ensure that any problems are resolved as soon as possible.

Work has started on preparing Richard Dunn Sports Centre site for use as a temporary mortuary should it be needed. As local Councillors we have dealt with a number of concerns raised by people living in the area and most of them have understood and accepted the need for planning for all eventualities and recognise that there will be no health or environmental issues for the local area.


In the last 4 weeks an incredible 1.4 million people have put in Universal Credit claims and the DWP are completely overwhelmed.  They have diverted all their activity to processing these claims.  The whole process for claiming Universal Credit (UC) has been changed and streamlined due to the current situation so that payments are able to be made on time. Individuals who apply for UC would normally have an “Initial Evidence Interview” face to face with a Work Coach in the Jobcentre that would verify their identity, bank details, housing  etc. However all face to face interviews have stopped and for those claiming on line they are advised that DWP will call them if necessary.  Approximately 30% of those claiming on line need to be contacted to verify some element of their claim so that a payment can be put in place.

To apply online

The council, with Cllr Imran Khan in the lead,  is working with officers to think about how to get people jobs at a time when so many people have been made redundant.


If anyone knows of people who they feel need support or help please ask them to contact the council on 431000 or get in touch with one of your councillors who will do what they can to help.

Other issues that have been causing distress for local people has been funerals following the death of a loved one. We have had to restrict the numbers who can attend funerals and cremations, in line with Government policy to protect mourners and our staff. We know that this is extremely stressful for all involved but we hope that people recognise the importance of these safety measures and the council is looking at ways we can support the families and friends of the deceased to try and find ways to allow them to support the life of their loved ones.

The pandemic has also created massive financial pressures for all the organisations involved. As well as the reported issues for the NHS and voluntary organisations Councils are facing severe financial problems unless the costs of reacting to the pandemic are met by government. We have received £16m from the government thus far and it out of the next tranche of government grants we receive the same figure Bradford will still face a spending gap of £27m. We are working with the district MPs and other West Yorkshire Authorities to raise this issue with the relevant ministers to try and ensure that when the pandemic is over local people do not face further cuts as a result of Covid-19.

We hope that the above goes some way to letting people know what is going on in the Wibsey area and the work that is going on by a wide range of organisations and your local councillors.

Pleasetake care and Stay Safe




Some Useful links



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‘Moving on’ Leaving Leeds and ‘Youth Giving Time’.

Volunteering that changes young people’s lives.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years here at Youth Giving Time at Voluntary Action Leeds.

So time for a few lines to reflect on how the last two years have seen Youth Giving Time grow. We have been working to show the difference we can make to the lives of young people by getting them involved with the amazing range of projects and charities in Leeds . There are many great projects that have been helping develop more opportunities for young people who have been in trouble with the Law, have experienced mental health challenges, or have struggled with post 16 training and education opportunities.

Youth Giving Time has helped young people deal with issues arising from a conviction, helped to build the confidence to overcome a period of instability, homelessness or family breakup, and has helped develop a real sense of purpose and achievement.

I’ve been looking at some of the placements we have been able to help young people find. I have been listening to the young volunteers speak about their improved confidence, sense of well being and sense of purpose.  Crucially a sense of giving something back to their community.

This is what Giving Time set out to do; to show a way forward using well matched volunteering experiences to empower young people to make positive changes in their lives.20161125_115120746_iOS


  • ‘It’s the first time I’ve been able to try something like this, it’s been amazing’
  • ‘It’s got me out doing things meeting people and having some fun too’
  • I feel more confidence, its bene nice to have people who help and support me here, I feel part of something now ‘
  • I have never been asked about what I want like this and giving things a go has been great’
  • ‘I’d never thought of volunteering before, I had no idea about all the things you can do’


I have been struck by the readiness to ‘give things a go’ both by local charities, community groups, and partner agencies who have helped Youth Giving Time to find volunteering roles.

Hearing those stories of self confidence and growth leaves me in no doubt that the project is making a difference.  Whether by reducing the  need for support, by feeling less isolated, or finding pleasure in volunteering with older people.  It is all helping create stronger communities where young people are  involved in making positive choices.



We have been supported by the Leeds Volunteer Centre and a host of great local projects who have been prepared to work with us and invest time and support in young people who often then go on to volunteer for long periods . Many even come back for other experiences.

Many young people have told me that their engagement with Youth Giving Time has been the first time they have felt involved making choices. Each individual young person’s life, experience and views are central to finding that next step.

As we know at this time many young people face real challenges in how they move from school towards a rapidly changing economy. The value of that volunteering experience has never been greater. That’s why we are now working to match those experiences to skills that transfer to the wider world of work and training. We know from employers that this works. Whether it’s helping other young people with a music or arts project, building a new community garden, helping older people who are themselves lonely, taking part in recycling, or helping in a Pay as You feel Café.  We have been able to find opportunities for most of the young people we work with who want to move into volunteering, when they are ready.


I have seen some truly inspiring young people whose optimism and enthusiasm is a real wonder. When you understand the previous experiences of some of the young people we have supported, and then see the volunteering in action you really do get a sense that we are making a difference.

VAL has been developing the Giving Time Network and Leeds Volunteer Managers network to deliver better  support for organisations who are working to create more opportunities for young volunteers . We also have some areas where we can’t get as many experiences as we need, but there are plans to have a good look at how those restorative volunteering experiences can be created. This can all help foster those journeys of progress that build  real independence and are worth investing in. The outcomes are lasting and ultimately create a more resilient community with care and involvement of young people  Giving Time is a model that we should be looking to take forward, in troubled times for services for young people. We have shown that young Volunteers are a real asset for the whole community.

There is more potential that can be unleashed.

It began here.


Ralph Berry

Broker / Support Worker

Youth Giving Time

Voluntary Action Leeds



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Wibsey Park – getting together to renew

A vital Meeting about Wibsey Park !

Friends of Wibsey Park 
Wibsey Park Bowls Hut
Wednesday 8th November 2017

Wibsey Park is a hidden gem, home to geese and the Memorial to the legendary Municipal leader who helped shape Bradford and after whom St Enoch’s Road is named; Cllr and Alderman, Urban District, County and City Councillor Enoch Preistley .


That road united Bierley UDC with Bradford to create the City of Bradford , home then to Trams and Trolleybuses… 2016-09-16_06-17-11

The park  where our late Councillor Colleague Lynne Smith asked for her ashes to be scattered.

As Councillors we decided it was time we got people really involved and began to reach out and get ideas and get a new Friends of Wibsey Park up and running.

Times are very hard for local Government we are being hammered [see my last Blog]  , but opens spaces are more and more vital. We also have the Nursery to get new ideas for as well, so its time to get involved .


The Report is here Continue reading

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The straightjacket on Local Government; the patient is very unwell.

Written for Chartist Magazine but held over due to the ‘snap election’.

As we face the devastating impact of ongoing cuts to local Government, the lasting  impact of those cuts seems to have been passed over very lightly up until recently .

The pain is now here and is set to continue into the foreseeable future if the Conservatives are retuned, local Government is on the line, communities are seeing all visible signs of collective services removed as councils battle to balance the books with uncapped demand for poverty and health driven needs .5566march13

What is about to take place is, to be frank, unparalleled in the post war era. These cuts seek to redefine how we relate to each other as citizens and to distance us from the needs of the most vulnerable.

The impact of cuts is skewed heavily against the Urban , poorer areas and Northern cities.

We are seeing redistribution. But it’s not of the sort we have been working with up to now.

Councils are heading to reliance on the Business rate base, as all central support is being removed incrementally. Meanwhile the game of thrones of City and Regional Mayors and regional structures is struggling as part advantage competes with the lack of real powers.

Here in Bradford we see major pressures on the Child protection system have been highlighted again, with major Child Sex Abuse investigations ongoing and a growing awareness of the needs of care leavers and the needs of children who have been abused or neglected.  One CSE case cost the system over £5 million; these needs are not recognised.

Valued early intervention and support services, ‘non-statutory’ are getting seriously squeezed. Thresholds in Social Care, the term for the pint at which families become eligible for support are getting higher and higher.

The polices of impoverishment and sanction driven insecurity have created a servile working poor. The Bedroom tax is now doing its work, communities are being fragmented …

We will have to try to make changes to bring about a system that can safeguard and support based upon new models of practice that have fewer resources and try to work with people who are leading more insecure lives as society reduces the support for children and families and moves to a culture of blame and stigma.

Children are now be seen by the state as a burden.

We have a state that seeks to determine outcomes for children by the manner of their birth.

Years of cuts have flattened Councils, and taken a heavy toll on the 3rd sector. A more joined-up partnership for the future is clearly a priority as the needs of the most vulnerable cannot be simply ignored. The state has walked away.



We will need to be very creative, the only body with that representative mandate and local knowledge is being asphyxiated by centralisation and cuts.

These are huge challenges on the scale of 1921’s Geddes Axe. The settlement strains the basis upon which local Government has been established as we are increasingly constrained by statute and denied the means to meet the needs of the Cities.

We see further moves to a regressive system of support as resources are redistributed away from areas of poverty back out to areas of relative affluence. down Tax Credit cuts have been pushed into the looming roll-out of Universal Credit, which in a City like Bradford where with 50% of families in poverty are in work, will create a major increase in the institutionalisation of child and family poverty.

It’s no accident

The Councillor – a battered shield

Local Councillors have moved from ‘sorting’ problems by command. The old Morrison Ian model had profound weaknesses, but it did deliver key services to a whole community. Now we Councillors are brokers, enablers, community workers with a front line of local political engagement in communities that can be seriously disengaged from politics. We more are respected far more than many think, but denied the powers needed to restore politics to relevance by being able to deliver resources for change.

Now we see the Labour’s base in local government heading into the level of cuts that are impossible to mask, we’ve been very good at protecting and being creative, but its tooth and claw now. Councillors are now the largest source of funds for Labour, much reduced after Mays battering struggle with seeing a vison of Municipal renewal and Mutualism, the debates are beginning but the bridges are on fire.

You can’t help but feel the purpose of Councillors has been turned inwards to internal Party issues, after years of in effect being the only functioning local element of the party.

755 sept 2011


Local Councillors have been taken for granted, abused ignored front the grim realities of welfare reform, homeless ness, and inequality.  and with damaging issue like Rotherham and other local service ethics and leadership problems.

We need a resurgence of civic leadership and independence of vision. Local Councillors need to be the building blocks from below, not the passive recipients to watered down policies that have no local basis. It’s simply not enough to talk of Nationalised models of Services like a ‘National Education Service’, the ruinous centralism of the Tories has at times been matched by a competing centralism of the left.

If we are to recover local socialism it’s got to be varied and genuinely local.

We have hardy debated electoral reform or what it is we really want from elected local Government.

Surely not just the battered tier of regulatory and enforcement services and functions central Government does not want on its risk register.

To end up accepting no local determination of the shape form and direction of education and Health is to in effect allow Local Government to wither into a set of administrative and quasi-Judicial functions with a few Metro Mayors trying to break out but chained by the treasury and struggling with what looks to be tiers of obscure committees.

Giving voice to communities and returning real powers; that may lead to varied and original expressions of local life This seems to struggle against the dead hand of centralism.; no matter how many ex Council leaders enter the PLP centralism barely changes

It’s grim.

It must be challenged by change from below.

ralph berry

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In anger and sadness – Ken and the non punishment

My initial response

The point of a punishment is to change behaviour ….Contrition helps but seems wholly absent .

The more I think about the Livingstone ‘result’ the more it bothers and angers me.

I was around in the 1980’s in London and recall particularity vile LCC meeting on Ireland at County Hall where his position on PIRA political violence was quite shocking..

But he’s serial offender is he not ?

His abuse of Kevan Jones MP on the basis of his openly shared mental health issues [well done for that] was pretty vile and I’m left wondering now what the hell is going on in his head.

The social worker in me knows that it’s a problem, its not new and that this is not accidental.

Ken is a core believer in some pretty nasty stuff. He is now going to do us deep damage as he’s never disavowed anything he’s ever said . We have  doorstep of his recent revisionism and twists and turns .

Owen Jones speaks out below.

I wonder what he’s had to say now on

‘Mr Jones added that it was important that people like himself who are not Jewish “stand in solidarity” with those who are, to “confront Ken Livingstone and others who make unacceptable comments.”

We are in danger of making legitimate the perpetration of pseudo history as a cover for abuse .

Not left wing.

Just wrong.

For an excellent resume of Ken’s revisionism and how his sources disagree with him check out Bob From Brockley






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Every child leaving care matters…

Because we need to be fair and care…..


At the next Bradford Council meeting on 8th December ,I will be moving a motion at the Council meeting that seeks to alter an anomaly that I feel is indefensible, and affects my duties and obligations as a ‘Corporate Parent’. This means that there is a lesser obligation to ‘looked after children’ who leave ‘care’ from a Local Authority private residential home.


Since 2013 any child leaving Foster Care can be supported  up to the age of 21 in that placement if it meets their needs .These provisions do not extend to children being young people in children’s homes.

Children in residential care are arguably the residential sector cares for possibly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people who may have been unable, or indeed chosen not to be fostered.

They are our corporate parenting responsibility as Councillors.

For those of us with children it’s created a situation where some have a better offer of support than others; that’s just not fair.

Our young people leaving Residential homes still face being discharged from care at 18 (and facing the real challenges disadvantages that life can bring. While there are wider obligations to all looked after children the option of retaining the placement is open to foster care, but not residential.

The path to independence is as every parent knows different with each child , one thing looked after children do not have is a nest to re-occupy , so even the act of giving the option is in itself an act of some significance.


I have enjoyed many discussions with Bradford’s amazing looked after children’s council, and know for a fact how much good residential care means to them,  not quite the story the media usually run. For many young people, a good residential home is what they need and want.

This ‘Staying Put’ campaign has their support.

We hope that Sir Martin Narey’s current review will reflect this when he reports in the Spring of 2016

It is our view that increasing the care leaving age for fostered children and not those in other residential settings will have unintended consequences. Let’s not forget that care leavers are over-represented in the figures for


  • Self-harm and Suicide in adulthood
  • Criminal activity [despite very few care orders being made for criminal behaviour].
  • Homelessness and employment challenges
  • Drug and Alcohol misuse
  • Mental health and well-being problems
  • Too many ex-prisoners have a care background.

Only 9% of 68 000 children in care are in residential homes, and the number for whom this may be an option may be small, but it has a significance that impacts widely.

This will cost some money , I am not for a moment thinking that this is a cost-free option in the short term, that is why this motion and others like it are going to Councils and to MP’s, we believe the spend would be paid back in better outcomes in a few years.

At a time when more and more not so young people are staying longer with their parents, we ought to act and provide a bit of support for those without that fallback.

So we hope that other Councils, Councillors [as corporate parents] will join this campaign and then we hope to get MP’s and hopefully Ministers.


The motion

Every Child Leaving Care Matters

  • This Council believes that as Corporate Parents we have a moral obligation to ensure that all children in our care have the best services, support and outcomes that we as a Local Authority, working together with partners and communities, can give
  • The Council notes that currently children in care who are with foster carers can ‘Stay put’ until 21 years of age but children in residential care only stay until 18 and that  sometimes these children leave at 16 or 17. The Council believes that this represents discrimination against a group of vulnerable children and young people who sometimes have very complex needs.
  • The Council resolves to call on the Government to amend the Children and Families Act 2014 to enable children to stay under the care of the local authority until 21 years of age and to make sufficient resources available to fund this.


Feel free to copy it…..

6536June 14

More information

The campaign

Twitter @rescareto21

E mail






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