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Posted by: John Brace | 8th October 2014

9 councillors vote to make Wirral Council leisure centre concession scheme for Armed Forces less generous despite objections

9 councillors vote to make Wirral Council leisure centre concession scheme for Armed Forces less generous despite objections

                                                                                                                           

I will start by declaring an interest in this story as I have a friend who is now a Lance Corporal in the Armed Forces and was recently mentioned in this Telegraph article.

Last month (23rd September) there was a review (by the Coordinating Committee) of a Wirral Council Cabinet decision made on the 7th July 2014 to change the concessions provided at Wirral’s leisure centres to former Armed Forces personnel.

The decision had originally been scheduled to be decided by the Coordinating Committee on 7th August 2014, however the meeting on the 7th August 2014 was adjourned because on 7th August 2014 key Wirral Council officers involved in the decision were on holiday and couldn’t be present to answer questions. So the meeting of the 7th August 2014 was adjourned to the 23rd September 2014.

There was then an interesting meeting on the 23rd September 2014 (which was in part a repeat of the adjourned meeting on the 7th August 2014). Councillors discussed the impact of the proposed changes to the policy and witnesses were heard from and questioned.

The motions at the end of that meeting were:

1) “That Cabinet minute 37 – 7 July 2014 (Transformation of Leisure Services Sports and Leisure Facilities Pricing Structure) be upheld” (proposed by Cllr Moira McLaughlin and seconded by Cllr Paul Doughty)

and the proposed amendment (proposed by Cllr Chris Blakeley and seconded by Cllr Mike Hornby) was

2) “That this Committee, having heard evidence this evening, stands unconvinced that any potential saving (the achievement of which remains dubious) made by implementing the decision at paragraph 3 of the Cabinet report, outweighs the harm this decision will do to Wirral’s reputation as an Authority which takes seriously its duties under the Military Covenant and as an Authority that does all it can to actively uphold and advance the Covenant.

Therefore, this Committee urges the Cabinet to reconsider its decision and restore the free Leisure Passes to all the veterans of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.”

The vote on the amendment was 6 votes for (5 Conservative, 1 Lib Dem) and 9 votes against (9 Labour councillors).

The amendment was therefore lost.

The vote on the original motion was 9 votes for (9 Labour) and 6 votes against (5 Conservative, 1 Lib Dem).

The original motion/recommendation was therefore carried.

At the start of the meeting both Cllr Mike Hornby and Cllr Walter Smith declared interests as former members of the Armed Forces.

The Cabinet Member (not part of the committee but a witness) Cllr Chris Meaden declared an interest as her daughter is a former member of the Armed Forces.

Cllr Paul Doughty (the Vice-Chair) declared an interest as his late father had been in the Armed Forces.

There is then an “anomaly” (as Surjit Tour would put it) identified at this point.

Cllr Chris Meaden (the Cabinet Member) declared an interest as her daughter is a former member of the Armed Forces at the Coordinating Committee on the 23rd September 2014 which reviewed the earlier decision of Cabinet (of which she was one of the Cabinet Members present) on the 7th July 2014.

However the agreed minutes of that Cabinet meeting show that she was present and spoke on this agenda item and contain no record of her declaring an interest at that meeting either during the agenda item itself or earlier.

Certainly the video (below) of that Cabinet meeting in July shows Cllr Chris Meaden both present and speaking on that item which fell under her portfolio.

The video footage of declarations of interest was earlier in that meeting (see below)

However in Cllr Chris Meaden’s defence, this item did come near the end of a long Cabinet meeting held in the evening. Politicians do get tired and overlook things. She [Cllr Chris Meaden] referred to a conversation with Surjit Tour (who is Monitoring Officer) at the Coordinating Committee meeting in September. By the way she was talking then she seems to realise it was an oversight on her part and was trying to make amends by declaring the interest instead at the Coordinating Committee meeting in September, when it should have happened at the Cabinet meeting on the 7th July.

Declaring interests is one of the few bits left of the Councillor’s Code of Conduct on which separate legal provisions apply. It’s also a personal legal responsibility of politicians, so they can’t pass the buck to someone else or blame them. The guidance from the DCLG titled Openness and transparency on personal interests A guide for councillors issued in September 2013 states in reference to councillors starting at the bottom of page 4:

“One of these is the principle of integrity – that ‘Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.’”

By my reading of the rules, this interest would be classed as a “personal interest” not a “prejudicial interest”. Therefore even had she declared this on the 7th July 2014, she would still have been able to take part and vote in that agenda item. Had it been an undeclared pecuniary/prejudicial interest it would be a much more serious matter.

This is what the existing Code of Conduct states on such matters.

Personal Interests

4.2 You have a personal interest in any business of the Council where it relates to or is likely to affect:-
(i) any body of which you are a Member or in a position of general control or management and to which you are appointed or nominated by the Council;
(ii) any body:-
(a) exercising functions of a public nature;
(b) directed to charitable purposes; or
(c) one of whose principal purposes includes the influence of public opinion or policy (including any political party), of which you are a member or in a position of general control or management.

4.3 You also have a personal interest in any business of the Council:-
(i) where a decision in relation to that business might reasonably be regarded as affecting your well-being or financial position or the well-being or financial position of a relevant person to a greater extent than the
majority of other council taxpayers, ratepayers or inhabitants of the electoral division or ward, as the case may be, affected by the decision, or,
(ii) it relates to or is likely to affect any of the interests you have registered as a disclosable pecuniary interest.

Sensitive Interests
4.4 Where you consider that disclosure of the details of an interest could lead to you, or a person connected with you, being subject to violence or intimidation, and the Monitoring Officer agrees, if the interest is entered on the Register, copies of the Register which are made available for inspection and any published version of the
Register will exclude details of the interest, but may state that you have an interest, the details of which are withheld.

Disclosure and participation
4. At a meeting where such issues arise, DO declare any personal and/or professional interests relating to your public duties and DO take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

5. Certain types of decisions, including those relating to a permission, licence, consent or registration for yourself, your friends, your family members, your employer or your business interests, are so closely tied to your personal and/or professional life that your ability to make a decision in an impartial manner in your role as a member may be called into question and in turn raise issues about the validity of the decision of the authority. DO NOT become involved in these decisions any more than a member of the public in the same personal and/or professional position as yourself is able to be and DO NOT vote in relation to such matters.

Just in case someone thinks I’m singling Cllr Chris Meaden out for criticism. At a recent meeting last week Cllr Leah Fraser was present at a meeting of the Wallasey Constituency Committee Working Group when a decision (following a recommendation from the Merseyside Police) over whether to spend money on Ian Fraser Walk in New Brighton was made. As far as I can as I was present throughout the whole of the meeting, I don’t remember her declaring an interest in that agenda item (although I may not have heard her if she did).

Ian Fraser Walk is in fact named after her late father-in-law but she didn’t declare an interest. However whether Cllr Leah Fraser should have to declare a personal interest in whether money is spent on a stretch of promenade named after her late father in law is another matter.

If I wend through all the times councillors had failed to declare personal interests, it would be a very long list! Some are like the last example somewhat subjective. It’s more when councillors actually fail to declare prejudicial interests and then speak and vote on agenda items, which are the kind of major abuses that should be tackled and not happen in the first place.

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Responses

  1. G’day John

    Can’t wait for your Fudgit and Risk It Special Meeting blog.

    If the panto they are advertising in the foyer is half as farcical I will go every night.

    Great to see you.

    James

    Ps God Bless Simon Kelly.

    Ps What about the old buffoon who last meeting said it was the worst scandal he had seen in forty years in local government and then couldn’t get up the derrieres any further last night?

    God Bless Simon Kelly.

    The the 7 mistakes in 29 seconds man “I wasn’t there ‘honest gov” saying he wasn’t there more than 7 times but it is all ok at WBC now and no one has a case to answer. Ha ha ha ha ha God help us.

    How many untruths did you pick up John?

    “Highbrow” and I picked up four without much thought.

    God Bless Simon Kelly.

    They really don’t like social media John, don’t take it personally, they will love you if you can dig deep enough and find something nice about them.

    God Bless Simon Kelly. There is something decent you can blog.

    Hope the “Pretend Friend’s” snoring didn’t keep you awake. Does he get paid for attending.Zzzzzzzzzzz?

    No wonder they didn’t take “Highbrow” up on his offer to answer questions.

    It was worth the air fare back from Australia to watch them and hear a very “RED” “Football Shirt” say how proud of ISUS he is and next breath said they didn’t monitor it.

    It’s not our money honest.

    I really don’t think “The Shyster” or “The Football Shirt” have read the contract and the 28 day clause. Even if it was signed or not. Or maybe they have???

    Has DCLG got everything…….I don’t think so kids or should I say they don’t think so.

    By the way John the honourable members’ that said in the pub after the last meeting that “Highbrow” could talk for as long as it takes didn’t come to the pub last night. My list of people who have lied directly to my face is growing.

    • I’m about to write a blog about that meeting, although it may get finished off after I return from the Cabinet meeting tonight or tomorrow. It’s on the to do list, sadly there were some recording issues yesterday.

      I’m not sure if it was the tripod getting knocked, Nigel’s loud voice (amplified by a microphone), interference from nearby mobile phones or the electrical storm going on outside.

      Had to switch to VGA because of the problems rather than HD. Problems took me by surprise… sorry if there are bits missing… but I got most of the meeting…

      Cllr Kelly did ask some questions during the meeting.

      Graham Burgess (Chief Executive)’s interventions were interesting.

      Perhaps you were watching my facial expressions as to what I made of some of what was said!

      When Kevin Adderley waved about the signed contract at the meeting (not that anybody seemed to ask to look at the signatures) and gave a speech about it looking back it reminds me somewhat of “Peace for our Time” and Neville Chamberlain.

      However that was a different document and different signatures…

      Kevin Adderley seemed to be quite proud that they’d managed to find the signed document in time for the meeting yesterday evening!

      P.S. Honorable Members is MPs… councillors are politicians of a different… calibre..

  2. G’day John

    Well done.

    I will leave “Highbrow” to discredit their twaddle of last night after you post.

    Lies lies and bullshit.

    They were very busy with whitewash and saying because they spent £50,000.00 on Grant Thornton and who knows how much on salaries, they wouldn’t know how much that is for sure, it looks like they forgot to read the Grant Thornton Report or is it just they are too stupid to see the shambles, chaos and criminality.

    Thank God for Simon Kelly.

    Apparently DCLG can see the the shambles and that report is finished by the way.

    Someone should be in jail.

    “The Shyster”, “keep your mouths shut”, looked amazed at that suggestion.

    The figures quoted were ridiculous they seem to forget “Highbrow” has the data.

    The ghost of the “Dunny Chain Wearer” was definitely in attendance when they started with “lessons to learn” “lessons to learn” and once they started they were all into it. “Phil the Dill” must have been learning lessons elsewhere.

    Ooroo

    James

    Ps We have waited 3 years 3 months and 4 days for this ridiculous farce.

    You know what that means John? I only have to write about them and to them for a further 46,808 days.

    • I’m confused, are DCLG and BIS writing separate reports or a joint report?

      Let’s face it, isn’t it just a question of how much they ask for back from Wirral Council (whether £0 or a lot) and whether Wirral Council says yes or no in reply?

      Bear in mind these are civil servants that work for these organisations, which is a different culture to that found in local government…

  3. G’day Again John

    Sorry I just thought what might make it a bit more clear about the panic amongst the people who have been at WBC long enough.

    “Highbrow” had the NOKIA in his pocket last night. ha ha ha (Just reminding you you know who.)

    If your readers just go to What Do They Know Wirral and click on Nigel Hobro’s name they will see from the internal reviews that things were really really rotten at WBC. Still more to come.

    Why are they still covering for the guilty?

    OK OK OK we know you weren’t there Burger with lot and 7 mistakes in 29 seconds.

    Ooroo
    James

    • Well Graham Burgess announced his retirement tonight. He’ll just be working out his notice and leaves by the end of the year.

      I’ll miss him when he’s gone.


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