Two Planning Committee site visits originally scheduled for Monday 20th June 2011 have now been rearranged to Thursday 16th June.
This is because the original date of Monday 20th June 2011 clashed with the “Flay a Flag ceremony”.
10 a.m. – APP/00065 – TOWNFIELD CLOSE, CLAUGHTON, CH43 9JW – Demolition of existing petrol filling station and erection of a class A1 retail unit.
10:45 a.m. – APP/11/00283 – 7-9 ROSE MOUNT, OXTON, CH43 5SG – Proposed refurbishment of existing restaurant/bar with the erection of a conservatory within the rear courtyard and change of apartment within outrigger to become part of restaurant/bar and supporting office accommodation, installation of air conditioning units to rear.
He said they can do better. Cllr Foulkes was “truly honoured and privileged”, however he suggested they get together to deal with the nuts and bolts. His first act as leader was to make Cllr Phil Davies the Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Regeneration. This way they could be good cop/bad cop. He thanked everyone in the room and the members of the public. He asked people who were more knowledgeable even those of other parties to help.
The Mayor then called for an adjournment until 8:30pm and at 8:11pm the meeting was adjourned.
The meeting resumed at 8.38pm. Cllr Green spoke first and said he had had the opportunity to read what was circulated. He disagreed however with the way the Audit & Risk Management committee and Employment and Appointments Committee were being made. He said the Audit and Risk Management Committee had a vital role in holding the administration to account and sharing best practice. Similarly the Employment and Appointments Committee had a key role in policies relating to Human Resources. He said he was not sure it was [Labour's] intent to take control and it was not in the spirit of proportionality. Therefore he proposed an adjustment as follows.
Ratio is expressed as Labour: Conservative: Lib Dem
Audit and Risk Management (9 places) 4:4:1
Employment and Appointments Committee (7 places) 3:3:1
As a result the Conservative Group would cede a place on the Licensing Act 2003 committee to meet the total numbers. This way said Cllr Green they would continue to work in the spirit of the rules. Firstly in holding the executive to account and secondly ensuring that the Employment and Appointments Committee would need the support of two parties to agree to its actions. He said the new Leader of the Liberal Democrat councillors [Cllr Tom Harney] had wanted out of the council arrangements scrutiny of actions.
He then went on to discuss in-house bids for council services and how that they’ve got to run things more efficiently. This had been somehow bypassed by people drafted in. He asked Cllr Kelly what was wrong with Overview and Scrutiny Committees being ambassadors and going to the public? This way they would get a balance of views. Cllr Foulkes said he stands by elected councillors and would bring big policies to full meetings of the Council in order to do the best for Wirral. If people wanted to personalise this then do so. However his team had a different style and was going to be better. He said that [personalising politics] doesn’t achieve much. He also said Notices of Motion don’t matter a great deal. However the hot air looks and sound good. There was now a chance for other people to engage in policy and use Scrutiny Committees to develop policy.
Consultation could also be use to define changes to the Corporate Plan. However Labour had inherited the Budget and Corporate Plan. He referred to the people of Wirral that councillors are serving, who are affected by decisions but are not online. The Department of Adult Social Services was mentioned in relation to the changes to Personal Budgets. He mentioned Highcroft costing £95/day and that this was an obstacle. He referred to his visit to Mapleholme where he had been told not to tell the people there as they might get upset.
Cllr Foulkes said that the Notice of Motion of Cllr Gilchrist was very good and mentioned a serious review of SIGOMA (the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities within the LGA). He then went onto mention the changes to how business rates are distributed and said “when we work together we can achieve a great deal”. Cllr Steve Foulkes said that the Wirral Waters backing had sent a message to the outside world and that “I’m a human being”. He praised officers and referred to the library service.
He said that he would “change his style but not give in over principles” as this is “where he and the Labour Group comes from”. The £10.7 million of savings in the Strategic Change Programme was criticised by Cllr Foulkes. He said he would be brutally honest and referred to it as a budget crisis. Labour said it would continue a style of consultation and talk to the people. However the elephant in the room was a fair settlement from central government. Councillors needed to explain to the people [of Wirral] that this was the biggest source [of money to Wirral Council]. If they didn’t they would be missing a trick. The region was a strong power block.
I read the interesting article about Wirral Council’s sponsorship of Tranmere Rovers Football Club to be decided next Thursday evening.
I did leave a comment pointing out that three of the current Cabinet, Cllr Steve Foulkes, Cllr George Davies and Cllr Harry Smith had all received free tickets to Tranmere Rovers matches as evidenced by the extracts from Wirral Council’s gifts register.
It is of course possible it is more than three as I think councillors are given a certain amount of time between accepting a gift and having to declare it.
Certainly it will be interesting to see next Thursday whether they declare this as a personal interest, a prejudicial interest (and leave the room during its discussion) or decide not to. Certainly whether or not to take part in a decision to sponsor a football team that gives you free tickets is the kind of ethical dilemma Labour councillors will have to grapple between now and next Thursday evening.
Cllr Foulkes (Cabinet, Finance): 24/4/2011 Tranmere vs Exeter, tickets, lunch and drinks
7/8/2010 Tranmere Rovers football tickets
Cllr Harry Smith (Cabinet, Streetscene and Transport): 25/4/2011 Tranmere vs Exeter, tickets, lunch and drinks
Cllr George Davies (Cabinet, Housing):
25/4/2011 Tranmere Rovers v Exeter sponsored game, tickets lunch and drinks
19/4/2011 Ticket for Tranmere v Notts County
4/9/2010 Tranmere Rovers v Peterborough, programme and hot buffet
07/08/2010 Tranmere Rovers football match
The agenda for the first Labour Cabinet at Wirral Council next Thursday is now online.
The Labour spin machine seems to be running in overdrive (at least in the Wirral Globe).
First we have Steve Foulkes stating the Budget shortfall for 2011-2012 will be £24 million, the quote is We have taken a savage hit – £51m gone from the budget this year and £24m next. when his administration’s own Director of Finance Ian Coleman states in a report it’ll be £20.8 million (see the Shortfall heading in the appendix).
In the same piece he has the gall to take credit for Fernleigh staying open, when this decision was made by the Tory/Lib Dem budget of 2011-2012 before we even had a Labour Cabinet!
It seems barely three days into this Labour administration it’s going to be one run by spin, press releases and although there will be a “honeymoon” period of a fortnight it won’t take long before the Conservative and Lib Dem parties wake up and start holding them to account.
Cllr Foulkes said he was a proud man to be in that position [of Leader of Wirral Council]. He thanked his predecessor Cllr Jeff Green. He said he knew what it was like to make tough decisions. He said that [Cllr Green] had a sense of humour and had done what he thought best. He also thanked Simon Holbrook and said he had put his arm around him at the count in Birkenhead as he had looked dejected. However Simon had told him he could now get his life back.
He said the leadership style doesn’t have to be at each other’s throats, just to get a kick out of it. He said he found the FoulkesWirral [he meant the FoulkesWorld Twitter account] insulting to this. Cllr Green had landed him with an impossible task. He referred to £5 million and said there was a polite difference as to who to blame. Cllr Foulkes said they should have protested at the government. He said they needed to stand up to the new [Coalition Con/Lib Dem] government and asked why? Why was it on deprivation funding that Dorset had lost only £91/head whereas Liverpool had lost £161/head? He carried on saying that people had seen the figures and think it’s a raw deal.
He blamed his own [Labour] government for not having locked in specific grants, which then became a target for the cuts. He said it was disproportionate to other people. He acknowledged the need to make savings, but not to services people love. He had not seen the plans when the Leader of the Council….
Cllr Jeff Green interrupted and corrected him to former leader.
Cllr Steve Foulkes continued with his view that frontline services could get slower or less regular. He said 1,300 people had left. He said the people left behind were working harder, but had not had much choice regarding redundancy and getting a job elsewhere. In the private sector redundancy was like holding the sword of Damocles over someone’s head. Morale was at a low level. As a consequence there were difficult decisions moving forward. However he was not going to war. He said they needed to get their heads together as party leaders and go to the Government minister regarding the funding formula. He was not asking for funds to be replenished. However he was asking that money be distributed in a progressive Labour way regarding deprivation funding and poor and vulnerable people.
Cllr Adrian Jones then said he hoped people would support the position that the Conservatives almost sought to prolong. He thanked Cllr Lewis for the gracious way [he referred to Labour in his speech] and his past association with Pat Hackett. He asked if Ian Lewis was willing to revise that. Cllr Ian Lewis replied that he wasn’t that desperate.
The Mayor said [following advice from the Borough Solicitor Bill Norman] that it was safest to have a separate vote first to remove the leader and then one on who the new leader would be rather than the motion as a whole.
The first vote was to remove Cllr Jeff Green and Leader of Wirral Council. This vote was along party lines.
Labour councillors (for) 30
Conservative councillors (against) 26
Lib Dem councillors (abstain) 9
So the vote was carried by four votes and Cllr Jeff Green was removed as Leader of Wirral Council. The next motion was to choose Steve Foulkes as leader of Wirral Council. A card vote was requested. The voting was against along party lines.
Labour councillors (for) 30
Conservative councillors (against) 26
Lib Dem councillors (abstain) 9
So the vote to appoint Cllr Steve Foulkes as Leader of Wirral Council was carried by 4 votes. In total from the start of the meeting it took 98 minutes to get to this point!
The Mayor asked Cllr Steve Foulkes if he accepted the nomination to be Leader of Wirral Council. He did.
She asked for a pledge to protect the libraries, leisure centres and other council facilities. She asked would they protect vulnerable old people? She said the CQC [under the last Labour administration] had inspected how they run services for vulnerable old people. The CQC had rated Wirral Council’s Social Services department as 152nd out of 152 councils. However changes had been made. How can people rely and trust [Labour] if they can’t protect vulnerable old people? “Time will tell.” she said.
The Mayor asked Cllr Phil Davies (proposer of the motion) if he wished to have his right of reply. Cllr Phil Davies waived it. She asked the Conservatives if there was an apology regarding the councillor not there. Cllr Blakeley said an apology had been received, but that he had got the message late and asked for it to be added to the list of apologies.
Cllr Blakeley then requested a card vote. [A card vote is where they list the name of each councillor and how they voted].
The Conservative amendment was voted on first. The split was along party lines.
The thirty Labour councillors voted against. The twenty six Conservative councillors voted for. The nine Liberal Democrat councillors abstained.
The Conservative amendment was therefore lost by four votes.
Cllr Rennie next to speak said “If it was true [in relation to the Foulkesworld Twitter account] she was really worried, however she thought it was the product of a twisted mind. She said there had been signs of progress and that never before had the Council, staff, officers and residents worked together. She said they had run things in an open and transparent manner and hoped it would continue. Never in [Wirral Council's] previous history had there been such a wide consultation exercise. The wishes of the people had been carried out or if impossible they had been written to. The next administration had to engage openly and honestly. Cllr Green’s leadership had supported a strong and able Cabinet with the support of the Liberal Democrats. However not here today were three Lib Dem former Cabinet members [Gill Gardiner, Bob Moon, Simon Holbrook]. She was concerned that a new administration would take Wirral Council back to the “bad old days” driven by dogma.
She said whenever a party is in government that members of that party who are local councillors suffer. She referred to John Major telling Conservative councillors in 1995 to take a sabbatical and that it may be a while. After 24 years, Wirral Council was Conservative led, run for the people of Wirral. She took a dim view of the Lib Dems and said there were not nine empty seats as there had been in 1991. She said she couldn’t imagine they were elected to Wirral Council to sit on their hands. Cllr Rennie repeated they were not elected to sit on their hands, but thought perhaps they had lost the glue that kept them together under the strong leadership of Simon Holbrook, deputy leader Gill Gardiner, Bob Moon and Stuart Kelly (who had been to one Cabinet meeting). She said it would be a shame to be tearing things apart when they had been willing to challenge when necessary.