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Posted by: John Brace | 4th December 2013

Council (Wirral Council) 2nd December 2013 Council debates the Corporate Plan

Council (Wirral Council) 2nd December 2013 Council debates the Corporate Plan

                       

The Mayor welcomed people to the meeting and asked for any declarations of interest. No declarations of interest were made.

Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Hodson, Sykes, Meaden, Dodd, Elderton and Muspratt.

The Mayor thanked Cllr Jim Crabtree for inviting him to the North West in Bloom awards ceremony in Southport which he had attended. He referred to the “beautiful award” to Bidston Village Green, who had been awarded both a silver medal award and had won the Best Small Village category.

He referred to the recent Youth Parliament as “one of the best that we’ve had in the years that we’ve been running those” and thanked the councillors, officers and young people who had taken part for their support.

The Mayor thanked Cllr Mike Sullivan for raising £600 for one of the Mayor’s charities by running a marathon.

He referred to various visits that he and the Deputy Mayor had made and made specific mention of a visit to Pilgrim Street Arts Centre and referred to the “brilliant music by lots of youth from the Wirral”. The Mayor wanted to put on record what a fantastic evening both he and the Mayoress had.

Moving to item three (matters requiring approval by the Council) he asked Council to consider the Corporate Plan 2014-16, which had been considered and referred to Council by Cabinet earlier that afternoon together with the feedback from councillors, Cabinet report and proposed amendments.

Cllr Jeff Green moved an amendment which was seconded by Cllr Lesley Rennie which is included below.

“Council notes the sentiments expressed in the proposed Corporate Plan 2014-2016, which it believes to be so bland as to be bordering on banal. Given the use of meaningless management jargon and this Administration’s tendency to talk to itself instead of the Wirral public it is not surprising that the proposed plan is bereft of any opportunity for Officers or Councillors to be held to account for its delivery by the public.

Council believes that any plan should have specific measures of success and is therefore disappointed but not surprised that they are missing from the Corporate Plan proposed this evening. Instead we are supposed to accept vague promises that ‘A coherent set of performance measures and targets are being developed to ensure priorities are achieved over the two year period covered by this plan’.

Council further believes that if the Administration truly want this Corporate Plan to be a blueprint for the Council’s improvement, they need to be open and honest with Wirral residents about which specific measures they are working towards before embarking on any ‘expedition’ with their money.

Council therefore defers adoption of the Corporate Plan 2014 – 2016 in its current form until a ‘coherent set of performance measures’ have been developed and discussed with elected Members for inclusion within the Corporate Plan. Council believes this approach will provide the public the opportunity of open and honest appraisal with the prospect of measuring true performance thus holding any administration to account”.

Cllr Phil Davies said, “I think it’s a shame that the Conservatives didn’t raise this last Wednesday at the all Members’ seminar. Nevertheless I would formally request given that we have a lengthy amendment that we ask for a ten minute adjournment.”

The Mayor agreed to a ten-minute adjournment.

After the adjournment the Mayor invited Cllr Phil Davies to move accepting the Corporate Plan. Cllr Phil Davies rose to move accepting the Corporate Plan, together with the amendments.

He said, “Clearly this a plan that sets a long-term vision for the Council around those three key priorities of protecting vulnerable people and communities, attracting new investment for businesses and addressing the inequalities within the Borough. I’d particularly like to highlight the agenda around tackling those inequalities which you know we’ve discussed on many occasions in this Council Chamber and in our scrutiny committees, but for me we really need to redouble our efforts on this agenda around narrowing the gap over the next twelve months and beyond.

We clearly do have, as the plan sets out, tremendous opportunities around particularly the economic agenda with the investment with business next year, the return of the Open and the International Trade Centre coming on stream. We’re also beginning to punch above our weight in the City Region and I believe that the Combined Authority does give us the opportunity to grow our economy.

I think the fairness agenda I highlighted in the forward has been particularly important. I was very proud that last year this Council became a living wage Council and I extend this to our contractors, our suppliers and ultimately to private sector employers so Wirral becomes a living wage Borough. That’s a key priority for me.

Mr Mayor, last Friday we took a major step on our improvement journey when the Improvement Board agreed to move away from continuous oversight of our work as they believed that we now have the capacity to continue our own improvement and it’s really satisfying that the pace of improvement of Wirral Council has been the fastest in the country when compared to other local authorities in similar situations and I would just like to take this opportunity of thanking all our staff and elected Members who have been critical to the landmark decision last Friday.

I would like to say and I’ll address the amendment that Jeff Green has tabled in these comments. You know I think we’ve tried to change the culture of this place by offering more opportunities for elected Members to contribute to any debates like where the Council’s going. We’ve had a number of visioning events over the last twelve months and I was really keen that rather than just turn up tonight and table the Corporate Plan, we actually had an event where all elected Members could come along and contribute to the debate around the Corporate Plan. We had that meeting last Wednesday and I have to say you know I’m very disappointed that the group opposite come to the meeting tonight with an amendment, when they had ample opportunity to attend the Members’ seminar last Wednesday and I pay tribute to councillors Elderton and Clements who were the only two members from the group opposite that came along but at no point in the evening were these points to my recollection made and I think it’s a shame that somebody in the leadership of the Group opposite didn’t have the courtesy to come along and contribute to that debate and I really do think that’s a shame but really in addressing directly the amendment, there’s no way we could possibly support this amendment.

You know I think it’s been well accepted and recognised now that a Corporate Plan is the high level statement of the vision we want to move towards, our key corporate priorities and indications of what key actions we’re going to take over the next twelve months to achieve those high level priorities. The detail around performance measures and targets will appear once the Corporate Plan’s been agreed. If we’d have incorporated everything, we would have been discussed a kind of hundred and fifty, two hundred page document tonight and you know much more sensible to agree the overall direction of the Authority and then have a more detailed report to Cabinet and that that would be debated as well by the policy and performance committees which actually fleshes out these priorities which we are discussing tonight.

So frankly Mr Mayor, I think this a rather pathetic amendment I have to say with the great respect to the party opposite. It’s a shame that they don’t take advantage of the opportunities to engage, you know there’s an old saying ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’ . I honestly believe that we have tried to change the culture of this place, I will continue as Leader to go on providing opportunities for all parties to contribute to debates about where this Council’s going. It’s just sad, very sad in my view that the opposition party for whatever reason they may have are choosing not to engage and I think that’s very sad for democracy in this Council Chamber frankly Mr Mayor.

So, we won’t be supporting the amendment and I will move the Corporate Plan as tabled with the amendments as included in the supplementary report which Cabinet agreed this afternoon and I’ve taken on board Cllr Gilchrist’s additional amendments which he was kind enough to give me advance notice of this morning, so I so move Mr. Mayor.”

Cllr Phil Davies’ motion was seconded by Cllr Ann McLachlan.

Cllr Jeff Green responded as follows, “Thank you Mr. Mayor and I think in starting, I know Phil seems to have this idea that a plan should be a, seems to be saying should be a sort of high level thing that outlines a series of a direction of travel. Well in my mind a plan is something that clearly says what you’re going to do, why you want to do it and the actions you’re going to take to carry that through and to allow councillors and public whose money it is you’re spending to actually measure you or measure any administration whether it’s yours, ours or anyone else’s on whether you’ve been successful against those measures or not and the measures of success and measures of achievement are absolutely key to the plan.

Just to say we’re going ahead with a wish list of things we’re going to do and we’ll full in the detail of what that means to people later on, I’m afraid Phil simply doesn’t do it and I think maybe I think Phil has been spending too much time with officers because actually looking at this particular document it is full of management speak, you know stating the blindingly obvious, but certainly not accessible to people who you should be serving, ie not officers but the Wirral residents in terms of what it is you’re going to do.

Again, simply saying you’re going to ‘remodel early intervention and prevention services to ensure we manage demand efficiently and community based care effectively e.g. developing services, early help services’, well what exactly is that supposed to mean? What exactly are we doing tonight on voting on a sentence like that?

Why not just be absolutely clear as we did in previous plans that what we want to do is focus on some pretty key things such as protecting children, such as supporting and protecting frontline services and ensuring no part of Wirral is ignored? Mr Mayor it seems to me that there are certain key things that one could put into a document like this and it is very glossy and a lot of work’s gone on and no doubt a lot of money has been spent putting it together but there are certain key things we could have put in very straightforward measures as to their effectiveness.

Well this particular document I’m afraid is absolutely devoid of any specific measures of success. One, as I say in my amendment vague promises and lacking in a coherent set of performance measures and targets.

Mr. Mayor, the other thing I think we should all please remember is that this is the public’s money that is being spent in terms of these objectives and lists of things, wish lists that are included in this document and I think it would be well for the administration to actually understand that as they seem to think somehow that this is their money that they can spend however they see fit without really explaining to the public whether that money has been properly spent or not.

Mr Mayor, I believe that Council has to show itself in some fairly basic areas. It needs to show that that it can collect rubbish, it can clean streets, it can grit roads, it can people are entitled to safe streets with properly lit and so on to show there are certain things that the public expect the Council to provide and if you can’t do the simple things and the basic things correctly, I don’t believe that the public will have confidence that you can do complicated items or stitch together a set of performance criteria around these sets of issues you actually have in this particular document.

Mr Mayor, fundamentally I’ve a problem with this particular plan and I think it’s fair to say those views were made clear because we did take the opportunity to add onto the work which the Chief Executive to have a rethink and to discuss detail, some of it might be news to you Phil, but it won’t be news to the Chief Executive in terms of some of the things we’ve said we believe we should see in that is a plan must have measures of success.

It is for you know we’ll develop this, we’ll extend that, we might maximise the other thing, but what exactly do those things mean? Where is the detail? Mr Mayor, where is the beef because at the moment these are a set of well meaning words, none of which are particularly exceptional or not to be expected in all these documents.

The only sadness for me is, along with some of these words we don’t know what success looks like and it certainly hasn’t been identified by the administration. Mr. Mayor, as I say we note what it is that’s been done but actually I believe that it should be referred back so that we can all see what is actually proposed because it will only be when the measures are put in alongside some of these outputs we will know exactly what it is that the Council is driving at.

I know Phil likes to look back at previous sets of Cabinet minutes and so on, and I’m sure he will give credit to the previous administration which set the Council on its path for a living wage actually put the resources into the Budget to make that happen so I’m sure he will take that opportunity.

I’ll also hope he’ll take the opportunity as well to welcome Councillor Matthew Patrick to Council, as I understand it this is the first Council that he will have attended and congratulate him as I do on what was an excellent result and well fought out and I’m particularly pleased that the Conservatives increased our share of the vote but I also am prepared to, … and even if your Leader won’t welcome you for your contribution Matthew I certainly welcome you to the Council.”

13:33

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