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Whatever the agenda, it's people that matter.

Byline: Phil REDMOND

A GENDAS. We all operate to them. Sometimes our own, but more often not. Even local issues are often driven by national agendas.

On my way to Brookside recently, I drove through Stockbridge Village. Remember when that was officially called Cantril Farm but unofficially Cannibal Farm?

It changed its name as part of Michael Heseltine's agenda as socalled Minister for Merseyside. The big idea then was mixing private and council houses.

On the surface this was supposed to encourage more balanced communities but I suspect the real agenda was to soften everyone up to the idea of selling-off council houses. No matter which way you look at it, probably the best thing he did was to force the city council to look at that estate with a different agenda. Originally conceived and built, like so many post-war housing projects, as an amalgam of social engineering and cost-saving, the concept was to separate traffic and people.

There were no pavements alongside the busy roads. This was supposed to make things safer for pedestrians. It didn't. The designers, working to their Utopian agenda, forgot that real people don't behave the way the agenda says they are supposed to, but only to their own individual agendas.

The cars were given the fastest and direct routes in and out of the estate, while the pedestrians were supposed to negotiate a maze of back alleys and underpasses. You can guess what happened. More people were killed walking the roads than anywhere else in the city and more people were mugged in the darkened alleyways and subways. Hence the Cannibal Farm tag.

Looking at it today, I doubt the exMinister of Merseyside would be proud to hear that his greatest accomplishment was getting pavements installed, although he might be pleased with the way a lot of the estate looks.

It is obvious the council tenants as well as the homeowners have a pride in their local environment, just as it is obvious the council is still working to a different city-wide agenda.

This is not to knock the council. Perhaps the rusty railings, decaying woodwork and unweeded Heseltine pavements are not as bad as some other areas of the city and are therefore falling down the priority list, but it doesn't do much to help promote civic pride.

But it happens in all areas. Look at the chaos in vetting teachers. Speed cameras, scrapped in British Columbia after showing no improvement in safety, are driven here by a central government cost-efficiency agenda. A-Level record successes are rubbished by people wanting a more exclusive education agenda. The NHS is constantly reorganised to hit government targets, not local community needs. I am sure we can all add to the list.

So, what's the agenda? Simple. We need to get more national issues put back on our local agendas.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 6, 2002
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