DON'T switch off hope ...

A controversial BBC 'consultation' period expired last night.

But it doesn't mean the fight is over.

Scrapping free TV licences for over 75s is something we should all oppose.

Ricky Tomlinson and more than 66,000 signatures including an Age UK petition object to this cruel attack on the quality of lives for our senior citizens.

I once worked as a data processor sending out television licences to homes across the UK.

I recall wondering how many millions it brought in for the hallowed BBC coffers.

It was big business then as it is now and prosecutions for those without a licence still continue with the same rigour.

I left computers behind and went on to become a television editor for national and provincial media.

I recall the irony of one bitter cold, snowy Christmas Eve when an officious man from the TV Licensing Centre arrived on my doorstep demanding to see my licence.

Oh the joy when I produced it and closed the door on him.

That image has always stayed with me, but today I saw another mental picture of a poverty-stricken pensioner confronted by a clipboard-bearing officer wanting to see their licence.

A few years ago, I delivered Christmas hampers to people in their mid-70s who were living on their own.

I am still haunted by memories of drab tower blocks where TV sets dominated the sparsely-furnished rooms.

Colour in a black and white world.

Lonely folk told me that they would have been lost without their telly.

It was their only friend.

Now the BBC want to pull the plug on the free licence.

The Government say they are no longer responsible for funding it despite a pledge that they would.

What tawdry TV Times we live in.

I applaud former PM Gordon Brown in speaking out.

Following a decade of austerity this is one piece of cost-cutting that we can do without.

To rub salt in the wound the licence fee will go up in price on April 1.

I had hoped the licence would eventually be abolished and that the BBC would be self-financing through lucrative advertising.

Now this latest money-grabbing decision affects everyone of us.

It's time to turn the volume up so that Auntie Beeb - whose Royal Charter runs out in eight years - knows just who actually holds their remote control.


A NON-profit making environment campaign in Wirral ...

Yes, we do actually have one one that doesn't involve penalising people with unfair fines. Dedicated residents have been getting stuck in with massive community clean-ups.

While WBC comes under fire for 'Waste-Gate' (the incredibly ill-thought out fixed penalty notices blitz on businesses) these litter picking events, which were planned in November, are evidence that you don't need heavy-handed tactics from an outside agency to remind or convince ordinary people that they are stakeholders in their own living and working environment.

I respect people like Michelle Grey of the Wirral Constituency team.

If only the council had liaised and consulted, more with them and the practical needs of local businesses.

A logistical, cohesive strategy could have been arrived at and the current untidy, messy waste management fiasco avoided.


WHILE we welcome Nelson Mandela's daughter Dr Makaziwe to Merseyside, I can think of another international speaker who would make for compulsive listening.

Valerie Jarrett, one-time senior adviser to Barack Obama, would certainly take the lid off Wallasey Town Hall.

Her experience of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs until 2017 is best summed up in this quote: "When you are in local government you are on the ground and you are looking into the eyes and hearts of the people you are there to serve."

Valerie says there is no better training to make a difference in public life.

She said: 2It teaches you to listen; it teaches you to be expansive in the people with whom you talk to and I think that that engagement gives you political judgement."

As a one time council press officer myself I second that emotion.


HAPPY Valentine's Day for tomorrow, dear readers.

Here's a little poem I wrote when I was ten for those who won’t find a card tumbling through the letter box:

I never got a valentine and it hasn’t broken my heart.

It would have been smashing to get a Valentine - it would have been a good start.

I have clearly always been a romantic.

So, I was uplifted to hear Neuro researchers in Hamburg claim it only takes a third of a second to fall for someone.

Now here's my sequel ode, 50 years on:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue

It only took one blink

To say 'I love you.'


AND finally ...

A Merseyrail train announcement this week put a new light on that (rolling) stock apology 'sorry for the inconvenience.'

While the platform work continues on nine stations I sat bemused on a Northern line train when a guard declared over the speakers: "there will be a rail replacement service to Formby."

Before quickly getting back on track by adding “Er I mean ... bus replacement.”

Nice to be kept in the loop.

Peter Grant