Cllr Steve Niblock (Chair)
Cllr Joe Walsh
Cllr Phil Gilchrist
Cllr Tom Harney
Cllr Dave Mitchell
Brian Christian (Older Peoples Parliament)
Steve Preston (Community Safety)
Louise Harland-Davies (Community Engagement co-ordinator)
Phil Miner (Streetscene Manager)
Mark Craig (Community Representative)
Paul Murphy (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service)
Merseyside Police: Police Sergeant and Police Community Support Officer
Lead Officer Kevin McCallum (Press and Public Relations)
Plus ~seven members of the public.
Cllr Steve Niblock opened the meeting by welcoming everybody to the Bromborough and Eastham Area Forum. He gave apologies for Cllr Irene Williams and Marjorie Hall and thanked Mark Craig and Marjorie who would continue to be community representatives.
Louise Harland-Davies said the minutes of the last meeting were on the seats, under matters arising, she said she understood that antisocial behaviour at the local skateboard park had been set as a local policing priority, so it had received extra attention from police and youth services, with a number of incidents dealt with through Community Patrol.
Steve Preston said there had been five reports since the last Area Forum, three were about noise, two were about youths with one of the reports of noise being at 11 pm and one of the others at around 4 pm. He said they had made some improvements which he believed were beneficial to children and residents as the last report was in August, he hoped the problems had decreased because of the soundproofing.
The police said they had only had two reports in September of noise.
Louise Hartland-Davies gave an update on 20 mph zones and said there had been a spending freeze on non-critical areas. She referred to Laura Quigley who had been from the GP Commissioning Consortium and a response that Cllr Gilchrist had received direct from Laura. Louise Hartland-Davies said there was a minor injuries service at Parkfield and referred to a visit by Cllr Walsh to Bromborough Recreation Bowling Club, who had put a bid in for Area Forum funding.
Cllr Niblock said he was aware Tony had got to go early.
Tony said that on behalf of Wirral Festival of Music, Speech and Drama and Bromborough Recreation Bowling Club that he wanted to say thank you for money previously received. He mentioned the visit of Cllr Walsh, when the sun shone and there was no rain, however he described the problems in the rain of no shelter which is why they had approached the Area Forum and thanked Community Engagement Officer Louise Hartland-Davies for her assistance with their applications. To his chagrin Louise Hartland-Davies in 48 hours had cut through red tape and they had an approach by phone compared to four years of him trying and he thanked Louise.
Louise Hartland-Davies said there had been changes to parking, which had resulted in more spaces, however there had been questions about the number of disabled bays, traffic management had developed an alternative draft layout and the funding could happen but for the spending freeze.
Cllr Niblock said that unless there were other matters arising it was agreed. He said he would deviate from the agenda and ask Kevin McCallum to talk about the spending freeze.
Kevin McCallum said Wirral Council was now in a spending freeze on all non-essential expenditure based on a report by the Interim Director of Finance in September, he said the funding supposed to be distributed by the Area Forum was caught up in the spending freeze and was frozen until further notice, he had been told that it looked like November before they would know what might happen, but the decision was out of our [officer’s?] hands. He was happy to take questions.
Mark Craig said they knew Neighbourhood Funding might be reduced but why were monies unspent last year not carried over?
Kevin McCallum said it was more or less the same in every Area Forum, what had happened was there was a spending freeze and they were working through the implications. He said councillors on the Area Forum had raised that point.
Cllr Gilchrist said he had emailed Mr. Timmins, who had £42,000, but Mr. Timmins was trying to be prudent and careful by trying to keep the money aside, the difficulty was a recorded fact which had passed into the great machinery.
Kevin McCallum responded to Cllr Gilchrist’s point.
Louise Hartland-Davies said there was a consultation on the budget called “What Really Matters”, which comprised of a questionnaire. She said that it was not just Wirral Council that was affected, they were trying to engage many of the residents who live on Wirral to gather their feelings and opinions, their team had been out and about in the community. She said that there were four themes & nine questions, which asked for people’s thoughts about reducing or stopping services, along with boxes to write thoughts and comments. She asked for contact details if anybody wanted them to visit community groups and that every day there was a schedule of events, with a few groupies following them around, so if they were not where they were supposed to be people were aware.
A member of the public asked how long the consultation was?
Louise Hartland-Davies answered the 19th October .
Brian Christian (Older Peoples Parliament) asked if when completed, would the results be audited, shown and analysed by a small team of people?
The answer given was that they had a team of people doing this and that the raw data would be published. They had also asked the Market Research Society to double-check the questionnaire.
Cllr Harney said that although as a councillor he had plenty of opportunity to ask questions, there was an implication in how some of the questions were phrased. He said the evidence, especially when looking at the research into children showed that there were better results when one person was involved rather than many. He said it was his feeling it was not about spending more money, but about spending money properly and efficiently rather than destroying the futures of the vulnerable, but that it was not just about adults and social services.
A member of the public asked if there had been an indication if any of the Budget was ring-fenced, for example education and social care had previously been ring-fenced?
Kev McCallum said the Schools Budget was ring- fenced.
The member of the public asked him to explain.
Kevin McCallum said that it was a very difficult concept as there were additional bits of funding, but the world had changed.
I asked wasn’t this partly because Wirral Council lost out on £1.6 million of education funding this year because Wirral Council gave the wrong numbers for Early Years learners to the Department for Education?
Kevin McCallum (Press and Public Relations) said he didn’t know.
Arthur asked if they were looking at best practice in other Councils?
Kevin McCallum said that they should do that, but they don’t do enough of it.
Cllr Niblock said if there was nothing more, they would have the presentation.
The softly spoken Michelle Davis from the Department of Finance was asked by a number of members of the public to speak louder.
She told those present of the consultation on Council Tax Benefit changes, as Council Tax Benefit was to be abolished from the 1st April 2013, with the reasons for the changes being the Localism Bill and Welfare Reform Act 2012. She said that central government was cutting their benefit grant by £3.2 million, but as part of the scheme they had to protect pensioners, vulnerable people, people of working age with a disability, households with a disabled child or in receipt of a war pension. She said that working age people would either be paying Council Tax for the first time or paying more Council Tax. Michelle Davis said they would be mirroring the scheme they had currently, but there would be a change to the non-dependant charge and they planned to abolish a rebate, stop it for households that had over £6,000 in savings and stop backdated claims. She said if they didn’t develop their own scheme then one would be imposed upon them, they were legally required to consult residents, which they were doing from the 3rd September 2012 to the 31st October 2012. People could call the telephone centre, go to One Stop Shops, go into their nearest library, or go on the website. There were surveys available for people tonight, that they could take to a One Stop Shop or library. Michelle Davis said that once the consultation finished, there would be a report to councillors, who would be able to make adjustments, but it had to be finalised by the 31st January 2013. She told people that the proposed regulations had not gone through Parliament yet, but they still had to propose, design and implement a scheme.
A member of the public asked her to go through the list of people again.
She said pensioners in reply.
A member of the public asked about the leaflet.
She said that the proposed design of the scheme was in the leaflet and that they had to protect vulnerable people.
Brian Christian (Older Peoples Parliament) asked if they had consulted Age UK [formerly Age Concern]?
The officer said they had written to Age UK, who had responded.
Steve Preston (Community Safety) said would this include the single person discount?
Michelle Davis responded that the single person discount was not changing, this was a consultation on the benefit side [of Council Tax].
I asked how many responses had been received so far and was told they had received nearly four hundred responses. She said they planned an article in the Wirral Globe.
A member of the public asked if it would be in the Wirral News too as they don’t get the Wirral Globe?
The officer said it was only going to be the Wirral Globe.
Cllr Mitchell said he gets the Wirral Globe, but not the Wirral News.
Cllr Niblock thanked Michelle Davis and went to partner updates.
The police sergeant said that reported crime had fallen and on antisocial behaviour calls, the Archer Green Project had helped. He was pleased that hopefully it had been sorted, but they would still get problems in the open space, which was a congregating area for young people. He thanked Wirral Council. In early July over a two-week period they had received reports involving back to back garages which weren’t used on a regular basis. Although the reports came in over months, they’d released it was a one-off incident and “nothing major”.
A member of the public referred to banners outside a school saying that parking on zigzag lines was selfish and dangerous, she asked if it was an offence not only on zigzags but opposite zigzags?
The police sergeant said his colleague had more traffic experience.
The Police Community Support Officer answered that it was only enforceable if on the zigzag, unless they were blocking the driveway it was not an offence.
Paul Murphy gave an update on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and said their target for Wirral was 13,000 Home Fire Safety Checks, to date Bromborough had had 771 free Home Fire Safety Checks, which had been free of charge. He said that there were very low numbers that hadn’t been visited, but they were prioritising high risk people, but how sustainable it was over the longer term he didn’t know. In December he said the Chair on the Merseyside Fire Authority would make budget announcements. He expected an similar cut or an even larger cut compared to last year’s £9.2 million. Working with Wirral Council they were targeting their resources and he reported a reduction in deliberate secondary fires, mostly down to the poor weather and interventions with young people.
Paul Murphy continued by talking about their bonfire plan, how private firms were on board with rubbish removal, the community safety partnership and how they would be working with Wirral Council to prevent bonfire material building up. He said it was a very safe forum area, with two accidental dwelling fires over the past three months and a reduction in deliberate secondary fires to about twenty-eight. On road traffic collisions, they had attended three in the past three months, with the ones the Fire Service attended involving people who needed to be removed from cars.
George Thomas said he had asked a question at the last Area Forum he couldn’t answer, but since then he had made a Freedom of Information Act request about the money generated as income through groups using Wirral’s fire stations. He said it had been £25,000 over two years and £15,000 last year. George Thomas said that it was unfair that they could use the premises with not paying rent or utility bills.
Cllr Niblock said it was easier if he answered, he said in November  they would know how bad the cuts would be, but nothing would be debated until they knew the figure, the Metropolitan Authorities were getting the highest cuts, whereas Cheshire had a three percent increase. He said the cuts were back loaded which could be even more horrendous, but that community groups could [currently] use the stations free of charge.
George Thomas responded.
Cllr Niblock said he can’t preempt the decision and the budget [for 2013/2014] would be set in February  which may result in the closure of fire stations.
A member of the public asked what the number was to ring for reporting rubbish?
Paul Murphy replied that it was also the number for Home Fire Safety Checks if they know somebody vulnerable and was 0800 731 5958. He said people could call about the rubbish removal from the 22nd October and they would be working with their Council partners.
Jim Thompson said that Wirral was a safe place and antisocial behaviour was falling and that Cllr Harney had pointed out that the community safety team was a joint agency, the One Stop Shop for community safety, on burglaries there were less than a thousand across the Borough, but they were planning ahead for Bonfire Night.
A member of the public said Bonfire Night had been much quieter last year.
Community Safety answered that 65 tons of rubbish had been removed.
Brian Christian (Older Peoples Parliament) said he didn’t want to rub salt in the wound, but they had applied to the Area Forums to two part-time outreach workers and that it was a shame it hadn’t happened, he said it was more important now but that if the Council wouldn’t listen to a single voice, they would listen to over two thousand people. He referred to an event in February 2013 about safeguarding across all ages, which would involve plays through the schools and that it wasn’t just about elderly people living on their own.
Cllr Niblock asked if there were any questions?
Someone said they worked in the leisure services and in the 1980s there had been the same problem, so they had put the prices up at Christmas, so they would get three months of income before the end of the financial year.
Cllr Niblock asked Arthur if he would care to suggest it on the form?
He said he had sent the form in, but it was only a thought.
Cllr Niblock said the date of the next Forum would be Wednesday 6th February 2013 and people would be notified of the venue. He thanked people for their attendance.