Why did the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside need a seconded part-time Private Secretary costing £16,828 a year?

                                                

Job Description Private Secretary to Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner seconded from Liverpool City Council

Job Description Private Secretary to Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner seconded from Liverpool City Council

A few years ago, before Jane Kennedy was re-elected as Police and Crime Commissioner earlier this year, the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel agreed to her request for a Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside in June 2014. Previously Jane Kennedy had stated she wouldn’t need a Deputy but changed her mind.

The appointment of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (a part-time role of three days a week work with a salary of over £30,000) was first made to Cllr Ann O’Byrne (at the time also Liverpool City Council Cabinet Member for Housing), then in August 2015 the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner changed to Cllr Sue Murphy (a St Helens Council councillor). Cllr Sue Murphy continued as Deputy PCC until the end of Jane Kennedy’s term of office in May 2016. After Jane Kennedy’s re-election Sue Murphy was then was re-appointed as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner by the councillors on the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel on the 14th July 2016.

In addition to the £31,800 paid to the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (from June 2014 to the 1st May 2016, then from 14th July 2016 onwards) Liverpool City Council had been providing a seconded employee (part-time) to be a “Private Secretary” to the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner at a cost of £16,828 a year.

I requested the contract during the audit. In the interests of transparency here is the Secondment Contract Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside Liverpool City Council Private Secretary to Deputy PCC (zipped file). It’s provided as a compressed (zipped file) in case you want to read it (apologies for the poor contrast on the first 5 pages but that’s how it was provided to me).

However here’s one quote from the “Principal Accountabilities” bit of the job description, “Vet incoming correspondence addressed to the Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner/Chief of Staff, deciding on the most appropriate manner by which it should be dealt with, this ensuring that only relevant correspondence is filtered through to the Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner.”

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Merseytravel councillors agree to push for ½ hourly service on Bidston Wrexham “Borderlands” line

                                     

Bidston Train Station (Borderlands Line) 13th August 2016 (John Brace)

Bidston Train Station (Borderlands Line) 13th August 2016 (John Brace) Photo taken by Leonora Brace

A public meeting of councillors on the Merseytravel Committee (part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) last month considered a report on enhancing services on the Borderlands Line between Bidston and Wrexham, as well as an Executive Summary of the Borderlands Line Service Enhancements Economic Appraisal Report.

Three councillors from the Wirral (Cllr Steve Foulkes, Cllr Jerry Williams and Cllr Les Rowlands) each spoke on the item, which you can watch starting at the 24 minutes 20 second point in the video below.

Merseytravel Committee (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) 28th July 2016 Part 2 of 2 (Enhancing Services on the ‘Borderlands’ Rail Line starts at 24:20)

The Merseytravel Committee agreed to work with the Welsh Assembly Government to push for a twice hourly service, to set up a joint steering group with the Welsh Assembly Government and to develop a realistic project plan to:

a) improve the line,
b) introduce a bus-rail interchange in the Hawarden Bridge area,
c) enhance intermediate stations (such as Heswall and Upton) to make them more convenient, attractive and accessible and
d) to look into a potential new station at Woodchurch.

Future reports on progress are expected to be made to the councillors on the Merseytravel Committee.

Attending the public meeting was the Chairman of the Wrexham Bidston Rail Users Association John Allcock. When asked for a quote for WBRUA’s views on the decision by the Merseytravel Committee he wrote, “The WBRUA welcomes the Merseytravel Committee’s decision to support the enhancement of the Borderlands Line. This railway has been a Cinderella line for many years but has the potential to be a significant part of the transport network in our area and benefit the communities and businesses it connects.”

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Why did the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside spend “up to £16,474” on an “austerity” review with Liverpool John Moores University?

Jane Kennedy (left), the current Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside and Labour Party candidate in the 2016 elections for a Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside at a public meeting of the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee (2015)

Jane Kennedy (left), the current Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside and Labour Party candidate in the 2016 elections for a Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside at a public meeting of the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee (2015)

The author of this piece was briefly employed by Liverpool John Moores University on work experience in February 1997 (although this was 15 years before Police and Crime Commissioners existed). However in the interests of transparency I’m declaring it as an interest.

The recently reelected Jane Kennedy (Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside) who is pictured above to the left of the photo has often spoken in public about her views on the Merseyside Police budget, the funding of the Merseyside Police and has even referred to her “sleepless nights” worrying about it all.

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside spent up to £16,474 (see the purchase order below) with Liverpool John Moores University to “commission a scoping review of the scale, dimensions and implications of austerity on community safety, crime prevention and diversionary services within Merseyside.”

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside purchase order 20th October 2015 Liverpool John Moores University up to £16474

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside purchase order 20th October 2015 Liverpool John Moores University up to £16474

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EXCLUSIVE: Wirral Council planning officer decides greenbelt site for Saughall Massie fire station is not “environmentally sensitive”

                                            

Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer) answers questions at a public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie to discuss proposals for a new fire station

Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer) answers questions at a public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie to discuss proposals for a new fire station

The author of this piece is the Appellant in a First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) case where Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority is the Second Respondent.

The first decision on the Saughall Massie fire station planning application has been made by Wirral Council in relation to the screening opinion.

In a decision letter dated 17th August 2016, a Wirral Council planning officer has decided that despite the site bordering a conservation area and also (although it’s not mentioned in the decision letter) the fact the plans include fuel storage, that an Environmental Impact Assessment is not required as the site is not considered “environmentally sensitive”.

This is despite Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 listing the following as one the factors that should make a site "environmentally sensitive" and therefore require an environmental impact assessment,

“6 Chemical industry (unless included in Schedule 1)

(c) Storage facilities for petroleum, petrochemical and chemical products.

(i) The area of any new building or structure exceeds 0.05 hectare; or
(ii) more than 200 tonnes of petroleum, petrochemical or chemical products is to be stored at any one time.”

The site plan clearly shows a fuel store (presumably for storing petrol and/or diesel for refuelling the fire engines.

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Why did Wirral Council have to pay back £255,177.21 after overcharging fees for information requests?

                                        

The author of this piece is the Appellant in a First-tier Tribunal case in which Wirral Council is Second Respondent.

Below this story is an invoice Wirral Council paid to Bevan Brittan (who are lawyers) which was for disbursements.

In layman’s terms that means money that Bevan Brittan was dispersing on Wirral Council’s behalf which totalled £255,177.21.

This was to settle an overcharging issue involving fees Wirral Council had charged in the past to those making EIR [Environmental Information Regulations 2004] requests.

In 2012 Leeds City Council appealed two ICO decision notices (FER0372970 and
FER0354510) to the First-tier Tribunal over whether Leeds City Council could levy a £22.50 charge over processing CON29 forms (a form used in conveyancing by property search businesses to do checks about information held by the local council).

After a three-day First-tier Tribunal hearing in February 2013, the appeal of Leeds City Council was dismissed in March 2013 and the decision found the charges had been unlawful.

Firstly Leeds City Council should’ve published a list of charges before charging and secondly they were only allowed to cover certain costs involved and not set a flat rate charge.

Moving to Wirral Council, the £255,177 in disbursements below paid by Wirral Council is to (presumably) refund various organisations that had been overcharged by Wirral Council following the First-tier Tribunal decision in March 2013 (although this decision was later appealed and another similar case asked for an opinion by the Court of Justice of the European Union).

However that is just the disbursements (£255,177), the legal costs to Bevan Brittan will come to more than this amount.

In the "old days" at Wirral Council this sort of amount of money would have to be signed off by politicians, however I don’t remember a decision or report that explicitly mentioned this issue in the last 12 months. Maybe I missed something?

The invoice below was unearthed by myself during the 30 day working period during the 2015/16 audit, which I requested because of its size.

Certainly it raises a lot of questions as to whether this has been remedied, not just paying back what was overcharged, but making sure the charges are lawful going forward.

Maybe this is what Wirral Council means when they state, “It is about having a private sector head with a public sector heart.”

187 Bevan Brittan Wirral Council 25th June 2015 £255177 21 APPS Settlement

187 Bevan Brittan Wirral Council 25th June 2015 £255177 21 APPS Settlement

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