According to a press release Ian Coleman, David Taylor-Smith and Bill Norman have been suspended.
Bill Norman at a Council Meeting in 2012.
Brian John Cummings, formerly the Chair of Wirral Council’s Standards Committee has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for services to education in the Queens Birthday Honours List (2012). Brian Cummings is currently Chairman of Governors at St Anselm’s College and a governor at Birkenhead High School.
John Brace commented, “Although Brian Cummings will be leaving as the paid Chair of the Standards Committee in the next few days, the award of an MBE is well deserved and recognises his voluntary work in the community as school governor. As a former pupil at St. Anselm’s College (92 to 97), I know how valuable the work of the governors there is and how Brian Cummings should be proud of the results of his hard work.
Although Wirral Council has had its fair share of standards issues involving paperwork mixups, the mistakes have mainly been made by Wirral Council employees, one of whom has received a promotion, rather than members of the Standards Committee that he chairs.”
The Chair, Cllr John Hale welcomed those present and asked for any declarations of interest. No declarations of interest were made.
The minutes of the meeting held on the 28th March 2012 were agreed, with the Chair asking for a further report on the consultation on library opening hours.
Cllr Steve Williams was elected as Vice-Chair (proposed by Cllr Hale, seconded by Cllr Fraser).
The Chair said he had asked officers to produce the Committee’s terms of reference.
On item 5 Highway and Engineering Services Contract – Third Annual Review he said they had expected a presentation by Steve Grimes, the Contracts Manager for Colas Ltd. Due to the public interest report Colas’s legal representative had advised them it wouldn’t be appropriate.
Mark Smith said that the annual review was part of the management arrangements, but they did have Wirral Council’s highways manager Rob Clifford and Brian Smith the project manager, sadly Colas had declined to attend.
Rob Clifford said there were challenges and risks associated with extending the project and asked if there were any questions.
Cllr Dave Mitchell asked why greater progress hadn’t been made on IT and whether this was their responsibility or Colas’s?
Brian Smith answered that they had tried to tender, but it was unaffordable as the expenditure would be three times what they’d save.
The Chair said he thought that Colas must think “the writing was on the wall” and they had no incentive to cooperate. He said the quality had been abysmal, there were potholes in newly surfaced areas and that the work being carried out was not up to standard.
Brian Smith defended Colas stating that generally the quality of Colas’ work was good and that Wirral compared well to other areas.
Cllr Tony Sullivan was critical of work on Pensby Road. Cllr Fraser asked about where any report on significant cost changes would go, Brian Smith answered that it would go to the Cabinet, however they had been waiting for the auditors’ report first and it would go to Cabinet on the 19th July.
Cllr Fraser asked what was meant by the phrase “inaccurate perception of facts”, were they implying residents don’t understand the facts?
Brian Smith said that residential streets weren’t resurfaced very often and they were starting to use different materials. Residents still expected rolling machines but they were not the only Borough using these surface treatments which would be the subject of a future report.
He then answered a question about the capital program expenditure and how some projects got delayed to the next financial year. The Budget was agreed annually by Council, but it was being flagged up as a risk as until they got tenders back they wouldn’t know the costs of what other providers charged.
Brian Smith answered another question with the answer that the weather often caused delays to planned work, that was why the letters to residents were sent out at short notice. The same councillor asked why the metal signs about the work hadn’t been removed when it was finished? She said it makes it seem to the outside world like they can’t organise getting the roads done.
Cllr Mitchell said that communication was poor but his own road had been done perfectly.
The Chair said the concerns were about lack of coordination, concerns about quality and the attitude that workmen had towards residents and the community.
A councillor felt he couldn’t agree with the recommendation that the work was satisfactory. The Chair suggested it was changed. Mark Smith said that their views could influence the future and whether the Colas contract was extended.
There was a debate about whether to leave satisfactory in the recommendation or not. Eventually they agreed upon the following.
(i) Note the progress of the contract during the past year, and endorse Officers’
views in the report that the performance of the contract is satisfactory. Noting officers’ views but registering serious concerns in relation to coordination, quality and communication issues.
(ii) Recommend to Cabinet that the existing contract not be extended beyond its current 5 year term, and that the Director of Technical Services be requested to prepare an options appraisal for the delivery of highway and engineering services from 1st April 2014 in a report to Cabinet at the earliest opportunity.
(iii) Ask the Director of Technical Services to report on progress on preparation and delivery of a comprehensive exit and handover strategy relating to the satisfactory completion of the current contract, and effective and efficient transition to the new service delivery arrangements, in his future annual reports on the contract.
(iv) Note that officers will be undertaking actions, to be agreed by Council, in response to the External Auditors’ Report in the Public Interest; specifically in relation to the management of the contract; and ask that the Director of Technical Services reports on progress in delivering those specific actions
relating to the management of this contract in his annual report to the Committee in 2013.
Cllr Phil Davies (Chair)
Cllr Ann McLachlan
Cllr Adrian Jones
Cllr Anne McArdle
Cllr Chris Meaden
Cllr Tony Smith
Cllr Pat Hackett
Cllr George Davies
Cllr Harry Smith
The Chair, Cllr Phil Davies welcomed those present to the first Cabinet of the municipal year. He hoped in the future they would have a more focused agenda and not a shopping list. Cllr Phil Davies said that they would be looking at corporate governance and the new corporate plan at a special Cabinet on Monday 9th July. The good news of £40 million of investment in Port Sunlight by Unilever was also something he wanted to highlight. Hillbark Hotel had been awarded a five-star rating and was the only hotel awarded five stars on Merseyside. He asked for any declarations of interest.
Cllr Ann McLachlan declared a prejudicial interest in item 19 (Lease of Land at the Oval Leisure Centre) by virtue of being a governor at Wirral Metropolitan College.
Cllr Pat Hackett declared a prejudicial interest in item 22 (Portas Pilots Round 2) as he had helped the Town Teams with their bids.
Cllr George Davies declared a prejudicial interest in item 12 (Tranmere Rovers Sponsorship Agreement 2012/2013) as he was on a Tranmere Rovers board.
The minutes of the meeting held on the 12th April 2012 were agreed.
The Chair said he would bring item 19 (Lease of Land at the Oval Leisure Centre) forward as there were a number of people here for it. Cllr McLachlan having previously declared a prejudicial interest in the matter left the room.
Ian Brand, Head of Asset Management gave a verbal report summarising the report on the agenda. He said there had been an objection to the disposal of the land, but that a decision had been made to lease the land to Wirral Metropolitan College for new facilities. Section two outlined the planning permission granted on the 24th May, which had been advertised publically. The objection to the sale of the land was outlined in 2.10, there was a request that call-in be waived, so that work could start as soon as possible.
Cllr Adrian Jones said he was mindful that Cllr Stuart Kelly had made representations, but it was necessary to make a decision. He had made a delegated decision to proceed and the local councillors had been involved. The college had arranged a briefing and the decision had been published. Cllr Jones thought it was a win-win and was surprised there were suggestions for further consultation as the opportunity for consultation had been there, he believed he’d taken the right decision.
Cllr Phil Davies said he had concerns that it had taken three months to respond to the complaint and that corporate governance needed to get better so that they dealt with complaints promptly. There was a criticism that officers were not impartial and he believed the complaint should’ve been dealt with more quickly.
Cllr Adrian Jones moved the recommendation at 12.1 .
Cllr Phil Davies asked the Acting Chief Executive if it was ok to waive call-in.
Ian Coleman said he was satisfied that they did.
Cllr Ann McLachlan returned.
Cllr Phil Davies said he had been made aware there were a number of members of the public here about the item involving Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory on Bidston Hill.
Ian Brand said that it was a request from their tenant NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) to demolish the modern building constructed in 1973 on which they held the ground lease. The tenant would still remain responsible for the rent and maintaining the boundaries. NERC had tried to dispose of their interest, but failed, it was costing NERC money to maintain and the intention was to demolish the building.
Cllr Harry Smith said he had had a conversation with a concerned constituent who had made reference to the Unitary Development Plan from 2003/2004, but there was nothing about the UDP in the item, did Ian have information about that decision?
Ian Brand said that section 11 dealt with planning and that demolition did not require planning consent.
Cllr Harry Smith said he had been quite specific about the Unitary Development Plan and asked for deferment until there was further investigation.
Cllr Adrian Jones said that in principle he supported delaying the decision, he had had a phone call from Graham Clark who was best known for his association with the egg run who had similar reservations.
Bill Norman said the decision could be delegated to the portfolio holder.
Cllr Harry Smith said he was not happy and had further questions, he asked for it to come back to Cabinet.
Cllr Phil Davies said there were alternatives uses suggested at 2.5 and 2.6 and that they could use the special Cabinet meeting on the 9th July to have a report back on the alternative uses and UDP.
He have notice that he wanted to take an urgent item of AOB on the Liverpool City Region City Deal.
On item 3 Cllr Phil Davies had the following proposals.
On minute 360, it was consistent with the Improvement Plan, but could be brought to the special Cabinet on the 9th July and the Improvement Board. Minute 361 reflected on how they operated in practice, but there was the danger of adding another layer of decision making and bureaucracy, he said they had the scrutiny committees and Improvement Board, but he’d like to suggest a Leader’s Board which would be a forum to meet together to discuss issues of strategic importance. It would be an advisory not executive body. This was agreed by the Cabinet. On minute 362, he needed to confirm there was the £250,000 required and asked for a further Cabinet report. Minute 365 was the suggestion of the new administration, there would be a peer challenge in July and they would appoint an interim Chief Executive, he suggested they park the idea with the exception of the performance development and appraisals process. Minute 367 referred to an independent external ombudsman to deal with employee concerns, Cllr Phil Davies was not convinced this would add value to the organisation, he said there were already a raft of procedures on whistle blowing and grievance that they had to make sure worked effectively, so he wanted no action on minute 367. He agreed with 368 which he had read again and was a good document, he confirmed that since minute 372 a new procedure on compromise contracts had been agreed by the Employment and Appointments Committee.
To celebrate National Market Day on the 23rd June, Birkenhead Market will be running a number of offers and demonstrations this Saturday including:-
a cookery demonstration by Masterchef: The Professionals winner Claire Lara (during the morning only)
another cookery demonstration by Moyo Benson (again during the morning)
freshly cooked paella cooked by a Spanish chef
a karate demonstration in the late afternoon
a magician making balloon animals and
various special offers from the stallholders.
The event is organised by Birkenhead Market and Birkenhead Market Traders Association.
Colette raised the issue of the NHS doing armchair exercise with a pensioner’s luncheon club, she said the NHS had only guaranteed to pay for the coach for a further nine weeks, after which they’d have to pay. She said the existing coach was very good and that Arrowe Park Hospital were referring people to them.
In response to a question Colette clarified that the coach was a person and not a transport issue. It was pointed out that a decision over the Area Forum funds wouldn’t be made until October.
Michelle Gray pointed out that the St James Centre also had funding for community projects.
Donnie asked if the £83,000 included Your Wirral funds?
Michelle Gray said no as that was dealt with by regeneration and Wirral Partnership Homes.
John Cocker suggested they could put the existing IT suites in the community centres to better use, but that they needed someone to run it.
Michelle Gray encouraged them to apply for the participatory budget funding.
Colette asked the police to investigate cars braking harshly in the early hours of the morning in Grange Road West. She said there had been drug activity and a recent stabbing there.
I asked the police about what had been done about antisocial behaviour around the Tollemache Road play area. Inspector McGregor said they had had more patrols in the area.
Inspector McGregor said they had monthly meetings with their partners and concentrated on hotspots. He referred people to the handout and said there had been a reduction in crime. Three lads had been arrested which had led to a drop in crime. Joy riding of vehicles on Bidston Hill and Bidston Moss was still a problem, but they now had a quad bike to patrol and were working to engage the young people in positive activities. This was aimed not just at those that had got into trouble, but also as a reward for good behaviour.
Colette said she used to go to neighbourhood action group meetings, but these had stopped. Inspector McGregor said they’d been replaced by Have Your Say meetings, as well as an emailed newsletter that went out to 3,000 on the mailing list.
Paul Murphy of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service explained that the main fire station in Birkenhead would soon be demolished and rebuilt over the next year under a PFI scheme. He provided statistics on different categories of fires and home fire safety checks done. He asked those present to identify vulnerable residents and to tell the fire service about them via the free phone number so a Home Fire Safety Check could be carried out. There had been a reduction in deliberate secondary fires. They were aiming for a target to reduce smoking which was the cause of some fires in this area.
Leonora asked about tyres dumped on Bidston Hill and about these had been set on fire before they were removed. What could be done to stop dumping of tyres here?
Paul Murphy said it was partly seasonal, as children were more likely to light fires in the holidays. They had received training as to where the hydrants were and trained the Community Patrol. He felt that the removal of flytipping was an issue for Wirral Council.
A member of the public asked where the fire service would be operating from while the building was rebuilt?
Paul Murphy said there would be temporary accommodation while it was constructed.
A member of the public asked what would happen if the building work overran?
Paul Murphy said that there were penalty clauses in the contract and that other PFI contracts had been finished on time.
Community Safety gave an update encouraging new Neighbourhood Watch schemes, there was also a new Birkenhead Park Watch. He also said they now had a more robust reporting mechanism for disability hate crime which involved the safeguarding team at the Department for Adult Social Services and the Sigma team at Merseyside Police.
There was a camera monitoring Tapestry Gardens and one monitoring the new Asda, although levels of antisocial behaviour there had not been above the normal level they expect. The limited resources they had such as the Contactabus had gone to a hotspot in another part of the Wirral.
Cllr Harry Smith asked if Neighbourhood Watch scheme stickers were available. Ian Lowrie said they were and they were trying to link the Neighbourhood Watch scheme areas to No Cold Calling Zones.
Donnie advised against residential properties displaying the stickers as they could become targets for crime, but suggested lamp posts instead.
Ian Lowrie said that in the No Cold Calling Zones there would be signs at either end of the street to advise traders.
Laura Quigley gave an update on the changes affecting the GP Commissioning Groups. From April 2013, they instead of the PCT would commission services. There were sixty-one GP practices in three groups on the Wirral, there were patient groups at each GP that patients could contact or they could raise matters with their GP. It didn’t involve privatisation and healthcare would still be free at the point of delivery.
A member of the public asked if it would lead to a postcode lottery?
The answer given was that the big things such as Arrowe Park hospital services would be commissioned together.
The Chair asked what would happen next.
Laura Quigley answered that before they commissioned any services they had to be authorised which was a rigorous process. They would find out in January 2013 if they were, if not a NHS Commissioning Board would commission services.
A member of the public said the three groups had similar names, would they be commissioning the same sort of services and what was the logic in having three?
Laura Quigley answered that they had been formed in isolation, however they would commission some services together.
Colette asked how this would affect hospital services.
Laura Quigley replied that there wouldn’t be a change as the yearly contract would be made on behalf of all three groups for emergency and elective care.
The issue of the vascular services review was brought up by Colette. The Chair said there had been public consultation and public meetings.
A member of the public brought up speeding in the morning in Wexford Way and asked for traffic calming. Another member of the public asked for Buttermere Avenue to be resurfaced as there were many potholes. Someone else asked if the double yellow lines outside shops were reviewed as many shops were closing. Cllr Harry Smith suggested people contact Streetscene about it.
Cllr Roberts welcomed people to the June Forum and asked those present from the public sector to introduce themselves. Apologies were given for Cllr Crabtree. She asked if there were any matters arising from the last meeting.
Michelle Gray said she wished to provide a follow up to item 5 which had changed that day, she gave updates on a number of different issues involving Buttermere Avenue, Tapestry Gardens and Beaufort Road. She also gave an update on a stolen grit bin.
Inspector Roy McGregor arrived.
A member of the public brought up the issue of a telegraph pole on Stanley Road. Cllr Smith asked her if it was in front of the new housing, she answered yes. Technical Services said they would investigate.
Cllr Roberts said if there were no further questions they would move onto item 3.
Rob Clifford gave a brief talk about the 20mph zones consultation. He said it would cost £1.1 million and be in two phases covering 132 areas between now and 2014. On the leaflet the blue areas within phase one would be consulted on over the Summer, with schemes started in October. The red areas would be consulted and implemented a year later. He welcomed comments and there would also be a consultation advert in the local newspaper, a leaflet would go to houses in areas proposed as 20mph zones by the scheme and plans would be available in libraries. He asked for comments on the postcards.
Cllr Roberts asked how long the consultation would be for?
Cllr Smith answered twenty-eight days.
Cllr Smith asked if the police would enforce the 20mph zones? He blamed it on the previous coalition Cabinet and said it wasn’t the police’s fault. He brought up the example of a 20mph zone in Oxton (where he lives) where he had seen the police driving at 30mph. He thought that the £1.1 million to be spent on 20mph zones was a waste of money.
Inspector McGregor pointed out that under strict criteria the police were allowed to go at up to 40mph, their response time for grade one calls was ten minutes.
A member of the public brought up the issue of ambulances using their sirens in residential areas and how the police used their sirens every night on Corporation Road coming out of the Custody Suite.
Inspector McGregor said the police received advanced driving training and if they didn’t use their sirens and lights when exceeding the speed limit and there was an accident, that the driver would be culpable.
Donnie was surprised the police nationally didn’t recognise 20mph signs in built up areas.
Cllr Crabtree arrived.
Donnie asked if Streetscene could be told that the Area Forum failed to agree on the 20mph schemes.
Cllr Smith said it wasn’t the police’s fault as police numbers had been cut. In his view they had their hands full and he’s heard crime was rising. He mentioned that the Council had to cut £80 million from its budget over the next few years.
Inspector McGregor said that although the majority adhered to the law on the current 30mph zones a small minority break the speed limit, but that enforcement wasn’t the only answer and that it partly relied on members of the community.
Cllr Smith said he’d agree to disagree.
Pat Landsborough from Grosvenor Road that the 20mph zone in Claughton had been very effective. Rob Clifford said they were implementing a 20mph policy across the Borough.
Cllr Smith said it would not be implemented in areas that didn’t want it following the consultation.
George Thomas said he thought it was a waste of public money and pointed to the scheme whereby members of the public were given speed guns.
Donnie asked now that Labour were in charge, were they in a position to rescind the £1.2 million? He called it “crazy”.
Cllr Smith said that the Labour administration was reviewing all budgets.
Cllr McLachlan mentioned the consultation.
Donnie proposed a vote.
Michelle Gray said the minutes of the meeting would be passed to Rob’s team as part of the consultation.
It was suggested that instead of moving rejection, people could make their point on the cards. Every house in the areas covered by the first phase of the scheme (in blue on the map) would receive a leaflet.
Michelle Gray gave an update on the Neighbourhood Plans which there were also handouts about. Local people had asked for more sporting activities and a lack of youth services on the Beechwood had also been highlighted. Road repair had also been an issue. Issues surrounding health and social lives of the elderly had also been brought up. More education and training was wanted, as well as courses on stopping smoking, alcohol, drugs, sexual health for young people and on losing weight.
IT training in the community centres was wanted and the existing free courses needed better promotion, one stop shops and libraries were suggested.
In the Your Economy theme, jobs was the main issue, the feedback on Reach Out was positive, but people wanted more job clubs and better advertising of the existing ones. In addition to this, people wanted help with CVs, mock interviews, volunteering opportunities and work experience.
Better service from the job centres for those made redundant was asked for as well as free training in basic skills such as maths and computers.
She also highlighted the funding available in two pots, Funds for You and You Decide. She have the example decided in a previous year of an extra foot patrol for Flaybrick Cemetery/Tam O’Shanter which had reduced antisocial behaviour.
There was also £35,000 ring fenced for road safety funding.
The application forms for funding would be available from the 2nd July 2012 with a closing date of the 17th August 2012. Initial applications would be filtered by officers to see if they met the criteria. They were looking this year for applications in community safety, environmental health (such as projects that would reduce litter or flytipping), public health, improvements to community life, projects benefitting children or young people, projects that would train people or offer skills and advice, projects that would support work experience or volunteering and projects that would help SMEs.
Pat Landsborough asked why it was £83000?
Michelle Gray said that for this financial year, it was because some areas with higher need were allocated more money.
Pauline asked about organisations applying that served people across Wirral?
Michelle Gray said they should tick all eleven Area Forum areas on the application form.
It was asked if the priorities were the same across all areas?
Michelle answered that each area had slightly different priorities, but there were some that were common Wirral-wide.
George Thomas said that Beechwood had been abandoned by Wirral Met and Birkenhead Sixth Form College who said they would provide courses such as employability skills, but can’t pay the rent. He said Reach Out had just made eight redundancies.
Michelle Gray asked if the rent was covered, was the training free?
There’s an interesting story in the Daily Post about how a government minister is ruling this out between now and 2015. After that she says it’s up to Wirral Council and the other local authorities along the route putting forward a value for money plan.
I must say it’s broadly in agreement with what Neil Scales said, former Chief Executive/Director General of Merseytravel at Wirral Council’s Cabinet.
The Bidston/Wrexham line covers two countries (Wales and England) which makes things even more complex as the Welsh Assembly have oversight for transport in Wales.
The Area Forum is tonight (12th June 2012), starting at 6.30pm at the St James Centre, 344 Laird Street, Birkenhead, Wirral CH41 7AL. Further information including the agenda.
It’s a public meeting so anyone can come along. The agenda is below:
1. Welcome, Introductions and Apologies
2. Actions from February Forum
3. Update on 20mph zones
4. Neighbourhood Plans Your Economy Your Family What Next/Future Funding
5. Partner Updates/Public Question Time
6. Date of next Neighbourhood Forum
Wednesday 3rd October 2012 6.30pm – 8.30pm to be hosted at
Here are the missing six pages I didn’t have time to upload last night. The first part of this blog post can be found here.