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Posted by: John Brace | 4th November 2014

Councillors met to discuss 3 areas of Future Council consultation (Youth and Play, Gitrell Court and West Kirby Marine Lake)

Councillors met to discuss 3 areas of Future Council consultation (Youth and Play, Gitrell Court and West Kirby Marine Lake)

                                                    

Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee  Wirral Council  3rd November 2014   L to R Legal adviser who was missing, Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Chair), Clare Fish and Graham Hodkinson

Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee Wirral Council 3rd November 2014 L to R Legal adviser who was missing, Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Chair), Clare Fish and Graham Hodkinson

Last night showed something that we’ve been promised for some time which is pre-decision scrutiny (of a sort). Now the Future Council consultation is over, the first of three overview and scrutiny committees met yesterday evening to discuss the proposed budget cuts in their area of responsibility.

Prior to this there had been a behind closed doors set of meetings among councillors, which explained why the public meeting itself was rather short.

The rather late reports (which included a Powerpoint presentation on the consultation results) concentrated on the following proposed budget cuts:

Youth and Play Service £450,000 cut closing 4 youth centres, reducing provision at the “hubs” from five evening a week to four, Play Schemes funding ceased, grant to Wirral Play Council stopped, Civil Award Scheme stopped and Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme stopped. If chosen this would end play schemes in Beechwood, Gautby Road (in Bidston) and Leasowe Adventure Playground in Wallasey. These three playschemes cost Wirral Council £190,000 a year but benefit about 600 children.

The Wirral Play Council (a charity on the Wirral) runs play schemes including an annual event at Birkenhead Park attended by 3,000 children, which was discussed at the Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee public meeting last week. People at that meeting were shown photos of the Mayor at this event in Birkenhead Park which I can’t show you because the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Cllr Tony Smith and Wirral Council officers decided to try to negotiate a broadcast media blackout of that public meeting and had I tried to film it, Surjit Tour would’ve advised Cllr Tony Smith to adjourn that meeting.

The detail of the effects of each proposal had been previously discussed behind closed doors by councillors who then produced a scrutiny panel report.

The other possible budget cuts involved Girtell Court (a short break respite service for adults with disabilities of £385,000), a cut to the all age disability service of £600,000 (affecting Willow Tree (overnight short breaks for children with high-level learning and physical disabilities), Children with Disabilities Team, Transition Team and the Family Support Team) and West Kirby Marine Lake (a cut of £25,000 and the possible outsourcing to a third party although an alternative option is being looked at).

Certainly these were not popular proposals (especially considering the fuss kicked up over the playschemes proposal) cuts and in not all areas did councillors agree with officers. At one point the Chair felt that the cuts were just being fitted around the amounts that had to be saved. As the budget options cover £4 million out of £2.5 million of options, some won’t happen, however you can watch the video of the meeting below to see and hear what councillors and officers said.

I will upload clearer audio of the meeting at a later date, although I felt it was important to point out the above at this point. When the overview and scrutiny committees finish (the last one is scheduled for tomorrow night), their proposals will feed into a Cabinet meeting which will make a recommendation on the budget to Council. All councillors will then meet, debate, discuss and vote on the budget, which according to the new legislation now has to be done by each councillor individually voting on each budget proposal (due to a change in legislation earlier this year). This way when it comes to election time in May, the Wirral public can look up how certain councillors standing in the election voted on the issues that matter to them if they so wish.

There are however going to be sections of society lobbying hard to make sure the Labour administration (who decide where the cuts are) spares them from the effects of the cuts. It remains to be seen how easy it will be both for councillors and political parties to deal with the public relations effects of what is proposed. As was mentioned at the meeting yesterday evening, there are large petitions opposing some of the cuts proposed. Some petitions are large enough that the petition organisers will get the right to speak at the Council meeting at which these decisions are made. The papers for this public meeting can be read on Wirral Council’s website

Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee Wirral Council 3rd November 2014 Part 1

Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee Wirral Council 3rd November 2014 Part 2

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Responses

  1. This is a nice area of both National and International Law. covering Conservation, Open Public Spaces, Children, Vulnerable Adults, Building Regulations, Building on open spaces, Flooding, Drainage, use of land not suitable other than for Leisure pursuit – Brings to mind ” Horses Field ” a Recent case.

  2. As this is a money saving idear i take it the above staff all worked for nothing! for the good of Wirral!


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