Monday’s Council meeting started the usual way with prayers. Following the prayers the Mayor asked for apologies for absence. Apologies were given for Cllr Elderton and Cllr McLachlan. The Mayor said that Cllr Elderton had improved in hospital for two weeks and hoped they would have a wonderful evening. He also said he’d be stricter on keeping people to time limits on speaking as if they had been adhered to last time a further eight councillors would’ve spoken, with a warning that the Deputy Mayor said he would be much tougher during his time in office.
No declarations of interest were made.
The Mayor brought forward item 5 (by-election results) and asked for it to be noted. Cllr Jeff Green (Conservative leader) congratulated the two new Conservative councillors at being elected.
A number of petitions were submitted.
Cllr Patricia Glasman submitted a petition opposing planning application APP/12/01520 for a ‘One to One’ Birth Centre in New Brighton.
Cllr Kathy Hodson told of a petition of 690 signatures opposing the withdrawal of maintenance of the bowling greens.
Cllr Leah Fraser put forward a petition of 36 signatures opposing planning application DPP4/12/01491 for an extension to St Georges Primary School in Liscard.
Finally, Cllr Clements presented a petition of 118 signatures opposing withdrawing maintenance of a bowling green in Greasby.
The meeting moved onto approval of the Council Tax Support scheme. Cllr Phil Davies gave a brief speech, bemoaning the fact that their budget was being cut by 10% next year, but that pensioners and people with disabilities wouldn’t lose out. Cllr Gilchrist indicated his disagreement with the scheme and said there would be problems collecting money from people who hadn’t had to pay Council Tax before. Fifty-five councillors voted for the scheme (Conservative and Labour) with the seven Lib Dem councillors against it.
Cllr Phil Davies stating it was unfortunate that they didn’t have the right figures on the senior management restructure from the start, but that they’d had assurances it wouldn’t happen again. The changes were agreed unanimously.
The changes to delegation on employment matters were more controversial. Cllr Phil Davies said that following the feedback from the peer challenge review, which recommended clarifying roles to ensure councillors did “not get overly involved in operational matters”. He asked for a quarterly report to the Employment and Appointments Committee on the gradings, grievances and disciplinary action decisions.
Cllr Jeff Green said they would be supporting it.
Cllr Pat Williams said that poor working practices had been brought to councillor’s attention during these meetings and that they had often found in the employee’s favour. She said that they would not know about these issues if it was taken out of their hands.
The Labour and Conservative councillors voted for (55), the Lib Dem councillors voted against (7).
Item D (Collection Fund 2012/2013, Council Tax Discounts (Annual Review) and Council Tax Base) was agreed unanimously.
Item E (The Employment Contract of the Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service) attracted more disagreement. Cllr Phil Davies said that it was “important to make the change now”, whereas Cllr Green didn’t understand the sudden urgency or why there shouldn’t be an open and transparent process instead. He said it was disappointing as the Chief Executive should have the full support of councillors.
Cllr Harney said he couldn’t understand why the issue of a permanent contract couldn’t be linked to the performance appraisal of the Interim Chief Executive. He said he hoped it was not a precursor to employment practices that had “bedevilled the Council”. Cllr Pat Williams said that Labour had created division which was “unnecessary and insensitive” and referred to adverse and avoidable press publicity. Cllr Mark Johnston said during his time as councillor he had seen three political leaders, four Chief Executives and damning reports on poor governance. Cllr Gilchrist referred to the peer review.
Cllr Davies responded to the comments made and referred to a conversation with Cllr Green in December, Cllr Green disputed how Cllr Davies portrayed this. He said he was more than happy to show the public proof that this was incorrect. He said, “To suggest anything else is not only inaccurate, but it actually puts at risk any sort of trust we can have in terms of when we actually have a meeting, whether those views will be accurately represented or not.”
Cllr Davies (Phil) said that it was his recollection of the meeting and said the “business of the Council must go on” and taunting Cllr Green by saying, “this is why Jeff is no longer Leader of the Council”. He said “I believe this is the right thing to do” and said he was “showing leadership” and that it was “the right thing to do”.
A card vote was called for. Conservative councillors voted against, Labour councillors voted for. Lib Dem councillors voted for and against. The final vote was 36 in favour, 26 against.