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Posted by: John Brace | 8th August 2014

The shocking tale of Wirral Council trying to scapegoat the disabled and forcing them to pay more £s for parking

The shocking tale of Wirral Council trying to scapegoat the disabled and forcing them to pay more £s for parking

                          

“But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.”

“Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.”

“But the plans were on display …”

“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

“That’s the display department.”

“With a flashlight.”

“Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”

“So had the stairs.”

“But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”

“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

-The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The above quote is very suitable for another tale of bureaucracy gone wrong involving Wirral Council.

The below exchange shows a tale of Wirral Council that is sadly familiar, blaming the disabled, making them pay more, making sure officer’s plans can get approved by preventing those pesky members of the public objecting! In the “changed” Wirral Council I hope my intervention will lead to change. We shall see. I suppose in this case they just have the bad luck that these proposals affect this blogger’s wife (which in the interests of openness and transparency/ethics I’m declaring at the start of this piece). As Wirral Council seem to use an extremely small font size for their public notices, you can click on the image below for a more high-resolution version.

Proposed traffic regulation order public notice (Birkenhead Market Service Road) 9th July 2014
Public notice of proposed traffic regulation order (9th July 2014) Wirral Globe Birkenhead Market Service Road

CRM 825834 – PROPOSED WAITING & LOADING RESTRICTIONS – BIRKENHEAD MARKET SERVICE ROAD, BIRKENHEAD
John Brace 8 August 2014 10:35
Reply-To: john.brace@gmail.com
To: “Amos, Carl A.”
Cc: “Smith, Mark” , Surjit Tour , “Cllr Stuart Whittingham – Cabinet Member (Highways and Transportation)” , Malcolm Flanagan , Cllr Alan Brighouse , Cllr Mike Sullivan , Cllr Steve Williams , “Cllr Ann McLachlan – Bidston & St. James ward councillor” , David Rees
Dear Carl Amos (Team Leader (Network Management)),

CC: Mark Smith
CC: David Rees
CC: Surjit Tour
CC: Cllr Stuart Whittingham (Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Transport)
CC: Cllr Ann McLachlan (Cabinet Member for
Governance/Commissioning/Improvement) & ward councillor for Bidston &
St. James ward
CC: Malcolm Flanagan
CC: Cllr Alan Brighouse
CC: Cllr Michael Sullivan
CC: Cllr Steve Williams

RE: Proposed Traffic Regulation Order (your reference KO) at Birkenhead Market Service Road/Car Parking Review

Dear Carl Amos (and others),

Thank you for your email of 4th August 2014 (your CRM reference 825834) in reference to a proposed traffic regulation order for Birkenhead Market Service Road, Birkenhead.

I appreciate the apology you give in paragraph two. The public notice (which stated was published by Surjit Tour) for this proposed traffic regulation order was published in the Wirral Globe on Wednesday 9th July 2014 and stated “A copy of the Order, map and a statement of the Council’s reasons for proposing to make the Order, may be seen at all reasonable hours at The One Stop Shop, Town Hall, Seacombe, CH44 8ED”.

My wife and I attended the Seacombe One Stop Shop on the afternoon of the 9th July. The staff at the One Stop Shop informed us that they had not been given a copy of the Order, map and statement of the Council’s reasons. Therefore we were unable to view them at this point and make any objections to the proposed TRO. What was the point of publishing the notice in the paper directing people to the One Stop Shop to view this when they did not have it?

Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996, SI 1996/2489 states in Regulation 7(3) “The order making authority shall comply with the requirements of Schedule 2 as to the making of deposited documents available for public inspection” and Schedule 2 states in relation to the documents that they are to “be made available for inspection at the principal offices of the authority during normal office hours”.

This clearly didn’t happen. It is of course unknown how many (if any) other people would have made an objection as they couldn’t inspect or view the documents relating to this proposed TRO. I would therefore suggest that if you wish to proceed with the next stages of this TRO that you re advertise it in the press, this time making sure that you supply copies of the documents for public inspection to the One Stop Shop prior to having the notice published! Otherwise, it casts legal uncertainty as to the legality of any TRO that results as the regulations regarding consultation weren’t followed.

My comments on the proposed TRO are below (which it would be useful to feed into councillors doing the car parking review therefore I would appreciate it if someone would forward this to them):

I’ve been asked by my wife to respond on her behalf (but I am also commenting in my own capacity) to the proposed traffic regulation order as she is one of the people that will be affected by it if it goes ahead.

I will deal with the points raised first in your email. Parking is already prohibited for blue badge users along most of the Birkenhead Market Service Road as the majority of it is currently either loading bays or is double yellow lines with kerb blips (where those with blue badges can’t park).

Therefore parking in a way that’s obstructing loading bays is already something that a driver doing so could receive a ticket for. The proposed TRO won’t change the parking restrictions in the area around the loading bays so without greater enforcement any existing problem of obstructive parking is likely to continue even if the TRO is agreed.

In relation to displaced Blue Badge users. You refer to free car parking in the Grange and the Pyramids multi storey car park for blue badge users. However free parking in these car parks is only on a Sunday (for all users). Monday to Saturday there is a charge of £2 to park in either the Grange or Pyramids car parks which applies to all users (irrespective of whether they have a Blue Badge or not). Therefore it is misleading to refer to the Grange and Pyramids as “free disabled parking facilities” without mentioning that these are only free on a Sunday. Any concerns raised by the Pyramids/Grange Shopping Centre have to be viewed in light of a commercial interest in increasing patronage of their car parks by reducing parking for blue badge users on the Birkenhead Market Service Road.

There are 14 blue badge parking spaces in the Europa Square car park and 6 in Oliver Street (according to your website). I have no idea exactly how many disabled parking bays are available on Conway Street, but from memory it is not many.

The issue however is not the number of alternative free spaces (referred to in your email) but the fact that at the times when the shops are open it is often impossible for blue badge users to find one of the alternative parking spaces you refer to as available. My wife requires extra space around the space she parks in in order to safely get in and out of her vehicle. She uses a walking stick and has mobility problems due to a disability she has had from birth.

It is clear looking at the numbers of disabled spaces in the car parks in Birkenhead (compared to the overall numbers) and the numbers of blue badges issued by Wirral Council that there is under provision of spaces for blue badge users. I don’t believe that the proposed TRO will achieve its stated aim of road safety and Wirral Council has to be very careful (from the way your reasons are phrased) as it appears you are trying to make disabled people scapegoats.

There are a whole range of legal duties Wirral Council has, such as the public sector equality duty and due to what I’ve written above the impacts that this proposed TRO would have on blue badge users has not been fully thought through. For example those with mobility problems would be forced to park further away from where they’re shopping. This might not be a problem for the able bodied, but for those for whom the extra distance will cause additional pain and suffering is morally (and probably also legally) wrong.

I realise Wirral Council has had a chequered history with regards to how it has treated minorities (including the disabled) in the recent past. I hope the culture however has changed and I will receive a positive response to this letter and assurances that actions will be taken to prevent this happening in the future. Due to the serious corporate governance failings it highlights I am also publishing this
letter. Please class it as a complaint/objection to the proposed TRO/to be fed into the car parking review.

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

On 4 August 2014 13:30, Amos, Carl A. wrote:
> Dear Mr Brace,
>
> Thank you for your enquiry dated 30 July 2014 requesting information about
> the proposed waiting and loading restrictions along Birkenhead Market
> Service Road, Birkenhead.
>
> I am sorry to hear of the difficulties you experienced in viewing a copy of
> these proposals. Please find enclosed a copy of the consultation plan
> showing the extents of the scheme.
>
> The reason for this order is to prohibit parking along sections of
> Birkenhead Market Service Road and to allow loading and unloading for
> vehicles within the designated bays following concerns raised by the
> Pyramids Shopping Centre and Birkenhead Market Hall management teams. The
> effect of this order is to improve access for vehicles servicing the Grange
> Precinct and Market Hall and prevent obstructive parking.
>
> Vehicles except buses and for loading purposes are currently prohibited from
> travelling through Birkenhead Bus Station which provides access to
> Birkenhead Market Service Road. The proposed waiting and loading
> restrictions will prohibit blue badge holders from parking within the
> Service Road, however there are alternative free disabled parking facilities
> available in the following car parks; Europa Square, Oliver Street, The
> Grange and The Pyramids multi storey car parks. On street disabled parking
> bays are also available along Conway Street.
>
> Letters have been delivered to those businesses who may be affected by the
> restrictions and the proposals were also advertised within the local press.
>
> Apologies for the difficulties you experienced in viewing the proposed TRO,
> should you wish to register any comments can I please ask that you submit
> them to me by Friday 8 August so we can finalise the evaluation of
> consultation feedback and progress with the next stages.
>
> In the meantime, should you have any further queries please do not hesitate
> to contact me.
>
> Kind regards,
>
> Carl Amos
> Team Leader (Network Management)
> Regeneration & Environment Directorate
> Wirral Council
> Tel No: 0151 606 2370
> carlamos@wirral.gov.uk
> Visit our website: www.wirral.gov.uk
> Please save paper and print out only what is necessary
>
>
>
> —–Original Message—–
> From: Smith, Mark
> Sent: 31 July 2014 07:38
> To: John Brace
> Subject: Re: proposed TRO behind Birkenhead Market
>
> Hello John
>
> Thanks for your email – I’ll ask our Traffic team to get the requested
> information to you as a matter of urgency.
>
> Regards
>
> Mark
>
> Sent from my iPhone
>
> On 30 Jul 2014, at 18:51, “John Brace” wrote:
> Hi,
> I’m not sure if your responsibilities still cover traffic matters, but I had
> an enquiry about the proposed TRO published in the local press about
> parking changes behind Birkenhead Market. The notice said the
> proposed TRO could be viewed at the Seacombe One Stop but when Leonora and
> I visited they stated they hadn’t been sent a copy.
> As the date for responses is I think August 1st could you if possible email
> a copy of the TRO to myself so any comments or objections can be made
> before August 1st?
> Thanks,
> John
> John Brace
> Jenmaleo
> 134 Boundary Road
> Bidston
> CH43 7PH
>
>
>
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> This footnote also confirms that this email message has been swept by
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Responses

  1. Hi john what will the council do to the disabled next, it does not bear thinking about they have been proven with the martin morton affair & the AKA DASS report what they were capable of & now another vulnerable section of society is being picked on. What next one way tickets to Dignitas I would not put that past these abusers in Brighton street
    In the meantime council officers & councillors enjoy free parking opposite the town hall so its one rule for & to them & two fingers to the residents they are supposed to represent it beggars belief .

    • Well so far I have received three replies:

      Surjit Tour (chief legal officer) is away until the 11th August.
      Mark Smith is away until the 20th August.
      Malcolm Flanagan (who has responsibility for one stop shops) is away until the 19th August.

      Yes, it’s not lost on me that I’m writing this the day the Wirral Globe publishes a story about Martin Morton (although I disagree with the bit where the newspaper claims to have exclusively covered it as there were many articles about it written on this blog).

      I read that Wirral Globe article shortly after writing this. You are right that the car park opposite the Town Hall is free. Councillors are however currently doing a review of parking, with a report expected to come back to Cabinet later this year.

      To give credit to Martin Morton though, councillors (and senior officers) are more aware now of disability issues. However just to give one example disabled Wirral Council employees are treated subtly differently by their fellow employees, not in a good way but in a bad way. I expect it is this sort of culture that Graham Burgess seems to be denying is still the case that is part of the reasons why Martin Morton has chosen not to return.

      Councillors can also claim a travel allowance for turning up to meetings (which many do).

    • Oh in answer to your question “What will the council do to the disabled next?” , it’s not just the activities of Wirral Council that cause concern to the disabled community but wider changes to for example benefits being made by national government.

      I’ll give one example, many of those born with autism are in receipt of a benefit called disability living allowance to reflect the extra costs they face because of their disability. At the time these benefits were awarded they were awarded on a lifetime basis as people are born with this condition and will have it their entire life.

      Despite these “lifetime awards” everyone on DLA of working age will be forced to reapply for its replacement benefit. It has been made clear that this is being done to reduce the number of people claiming disability benefits (so some current claimants will be left with nothing). Many of those on the autistic spectrum lack the communication skills to be able to do this. It will cause a lot of stress, upset and time for them, their families and their carers.

      It will cause added pressure on the appeals system and for voluntary groups, charities and political parties who help people with welfare rights issues.

      For those disabled who are working, the government propose to take tax credits away from some in reform of that system too. There are a bunch of people who will fall outside this due to the nature of their disability, but don’t you think they’ll take their money away first, let them endure a many-tiered appeal system designed to completely ignore appeals meaning they’ll be forced into poverty merely for asking for what they’re entitled to?

      Basically to pander to Daily Mail prejudice about benefit cheats (when more is lost through official error than through fraud) the government is going to put millions of disabled people through stress, difficulties and problems (which will no doubt make their health conditions worse and cost the taxpayer more money).

      I realise the above may sound like a political rant, I’m not blaming any particular party, but I do think making the disabled scapegoats for the sins of bankers is wrong…. if these changes are brought in before the General Election next May it could affect how many millions of people vote.

  2. […] The tale which explains why they’ve had to re-advertise this Traffic Regulation Order (I’m sure the Wirral Globe doesn’t mind the extra money as it’s now been advertised twice) for the second time in the Wirral Globe is covered in this story from August 8th 2014. […]

  3. […] The shocking tale of Wirral Council trying to scapegoat the disabled and forcing them to pay more £… […]


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