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EXCLUSIVE: When did Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service request a new screening opinion for controversial Saughall Massie greenbelt fire station?

                                   

photo 15 Land off Saughall Massie Road Saughall Massie 13th December 2016 SAVE OUR GREEN BELT SAY NO TO THE FIRE STATION banner

Land off Saughall Massie Road Saughall Massie 13th December 2016 SAVE OUR GREEN BELT SAY NO TO THE FIRE STATION banner

Last week Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service applied to Wirral Council for a screening opinion for land off Saughall Massie Road it wants for a new fire station.

The screening opinion application (SCR/17/00313) which can be viewed on Wirral Council’s website by entering the application number is identical to an opinion request Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service submitted last year.

Screening opinions do not go through the normal planning application process as there is a legal requirement that they area dealt within weeks. In response to a screening opinion request last year Wirral Council deemed the greenbelt location was not “environmentally sensitive”.

Although plans for a fire station are opposed by the local Conservative ward councillors in Moreton West and Saughall Massie ward, Wirral Council’s Leader Cllr Phil Davies has made his support for a fire station at this greenbelt location public.

Cllr Phil Davies represents Birkenhead and Tranmere ward. In 2015, the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority chose to transfer land to Wirral Council valued at £250,000 to £325,000 for a nominal sum for a youth club called the Hive Youth Zone. The Hive is expected to become operational later this year in a marginal Green/Labour seat.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s former Deputy Chief Executive Kieran Timmins previously offered Wirral Council the land for the Hive Youth Zone in Birkenhead a land swap for the land the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service wanted (then in Greasby). Although this offer was not taken up.

Following public opposition at Greasby the land (owned by Wirral Council) was withdrawn by Wirral Council. A planning application just before Christmas for the land at Saughall Massie was turned down by a 7:6 vote of councillors.

If a planning application for a new fire station at Saughall Massie is approved, Wirral Council look set to gain an estimated £300,000 windfall from the sale of the land. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service have received a £1.5 million grant from the government towards the costs of the fire station merger proposals on the Wirral.

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Why are the Conservatives opposing Wirral Council’s monthly Wirral View newspaper but not as vocal about Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s bi-monthly Hot News magazine?

                                      

Councillor Lesley Rennie (background left) at a meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 26th January 2017 discussing Hot News

Councillor Lesley Rennie (background left) at a meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 26th January 2017 discussing Hot News

I watched the Sunday Politics show today in which Cllr Lesley Rennie states of Wirral Council’s Wirral View newspaper, “It’s a complete waste of public money.

The presenter states, “Government rules state that any council papers can only be published quarterly but this one here has been printed every month.

Later in that segment, Cllr Matthew Patrick states, “We’re actually spending less and being able to put money back into the Council for services.” In response to a further question he states, “We have a free press on the Wirral, it’s a great press and they hold us to account as they should do.

Let’s just deal with these two issues, the legal one about the status of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity and then Councillor Matthew Patrick’s curious comment about costs.

The legal situation is clear, Local Government Act 1986, s.4(1) states, “The Secretary of State may issue one or more codes of recommended practice as regards the content, style, distribution and cost of local authority publicity, and such other related matters as he thinks appropriate, and local authorities shall have regard to the provisions of any such code in coming to any decision on publicity.”.

Here’s a letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government to Chief Executives reminding them about this.

The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity is clear on frequency as in paragraph 28 it states, “Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly, apart from parish councils which should not issue them more frequently than monthly.” Just to be clear, Wirral Council is not a parish council.

The letter referred to above also refers to the Secretary of State’s power to direct compliance with the Code and the Secretary of State’s power to come up with legislation requiring local authorities to comply.

With regards to the financial point, section 4 of the Cabinet report about the Wirral View newspaper outlining the costs states the net cost (after advertising is taken into account) is £79,980 this financial year, £152,160 next year, £143,580 in 2018-19 and £134,142 in 2019-20.

If the advertising targets aren’t reached the costs will be higher. However, just to be clear the amounts expected from advertising are lower than the costs meaning there is no money from it to “put back into the Council for services”.

However, a point that hasn’t been made so far, is that the Code also applies to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. Cllr Lesley Rennie is one of the four Wirral Council representatives on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. Recently councillors discussed a bi-monthly colour magazine it produces called “Hot News” (the January-February 2017 issue can be read on their website).

So if Cllr Lesley Rennie is complaining about Wirral Council’s publication of Wirral View, why has she been so quiet about Hot News? Below is video of a public meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority when Hot News was discussed where Cllr Lesley Rennie is sitting next to a councillor talking about Hot News.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 26th January 2017

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What did Liverpool councillors say about death and 2 cars at an incredible public meeting?

                                       

Cllr Frank Prendergast MBE calls another Liverpool City Council councillor a “slimeball”

Cllr Frank Prendergast MBE calls another Liverpool City Council councillor a “slimeball”

The annual budget meeting of Liverpool City Council is known for those who go for producing political fireworks (for example two years ago when a councillor passionately argued against a cut to domestic violence charities and was asked to leave the Council Chamber).

Local politics (especially party politics) can become ideological at times rather than based in reality (realpolitik).

Read More…

Labour trigger byelection in Claughton following death of Cllr Denise Roberts

                             

Councillor Denise Roberts (Chair, Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee at Wirral Council) 6th July 2016

Councillor Denise Roberts (Chair, Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee at Wirral Council) 6th July 2016 and former councillor for Claughton

Whilst the rest of the media reports on Cannes, an election of a councillor to Wirral Council in Claughton ward has been started by George Davies and Ann McLaughlan.

Copies of the text of the public notices are below. The poll will take place on Thursday 4th May 2017 (combined with the Metro Mayor election).

When the list of candidates becomes available I will be publishing this too.


METROPOLITAN BOROUGH OF WIRRAL
CASUAL VACANCY
IN THE OFFICE OF COUNCILLOR

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN under Section 87(2) of the Local
Government Act 1972 that a casual vacancy exists in the office of Borough Councillor for the CLAUGHTON WARD of the Borough of Wirral.

Eric Robinson
Chief Executive and Returning Officer
13th March 2017


CASUAL VACANCY IN THE OFFICE OF COUNCILLOR
FOR THE
Claughton Ward

I confirm that, under Section 87(2) of the Local Government Act 1972, I have received notice in writing requesting an election to be held in the above ward.

The notice contains the names of two local government electors for the area and they are:

George Davies and Ann McLaughlan

The election shall be held within 35 days of this notice and the poll shall take place on Thursday, 4th May 2017.

Eric Robinson
Chief Executive and Returning Officer
13th March 2017

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Merseytravel blamed by Merseyrail as cause of 1 day strike tomorrow by RMT over axing guards from trains

                             

Merseytravel Committee (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) meeting 25th June 2015 Middle Row L to R Cllr Jerry Williams, Cllr Steve Foulkes, Cllr Malcolm Sharp, Cllr Terry Shields

Merseytravel Committee (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) meeting 25th June 2015 Middle Row L to R Cllr Jerry Williams, Cllr Steve Foulkes, Cllr Malcolm Sharp, Cllr Terry Shields

UPDATED 12.37 13.3.17: Merseyrail have suspended all trains until at least 2pm as drivers (presumably not part of the RMT union) refuse to cross picket lines, so trains are not running at all on the Merseyrail network at this point in time.

It was like the Wild West out there at the train station.

And who should I spy scurrying away, why a blast from the past Steve Maddox (with his wife)!

Those who remember will know that Steve Maddox was once clerk to Merseytravel (in the days it met at Hatton Garden).

So in a way I think the universe is gently nudging me to write this story!

In train related news, the workers are getting cross at the local politicians’ plan to axe the guards when new trains are introduced .

Decided in a behind closed doors extraordinary meeting last year, councillors (including Cllr Steve Foulkes (Labour), Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour) and Cllr Les Rowlands (Conservative)) agreed to new trains that only need drivers and not guards.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has called a strike for tomorrow (Monday 13th March 2017).

The strike will lead to disruption of timetabled services.

Merseyrail (their employer) objected to the High Court on the basis that RMT’s dispute was with Merseytravel not with Merseyrail, however this call for an injunction was rejected by the judiciary.

RMT is also striking on Northern Rail services too on the same day.

On the Merseyrail network (in addition to the planned engineering works that mean Liverpool Lime Street (Wirral Line), Moorfields (Wirral Line) and Liverpool Central (Wirral Line) will be closed), during the day of the strike action tomorrow Merseyrail plan to run trains only from 7am to 7pm with a half hourly service.

Services from Liverpool Lime Street (which was only recently reopened) travelling with Northern Rail to Manchester Victoria and Wigan North Western services will also be disrupted.

Northern Rail has a page on their website outlining the changes to timetables and so does Merseyrail.

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