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Posted by: John Brace | 3rd December 2014

Fire Brigades Union will strike for 24 hours from 0900 on 9th December 2014 to 0900 on 10th December 2014 over pensions dispute

Fire Brigades Union will strike for 24 hours from 0900 on 9th December 2014 to 0900 on 10th December 2014 over pensions dispute

                                                          

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority Consultation and Negotiation Sub-Committee 2nd December 2014 L to R Unknown, Cllr Mahon (Chair), Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer), Phil Garrigan (Deputy Chief Fire Officer), Unknown, Cllr Robertson

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority Consultation and Negotiation Sub-Committee 2nd December 2014 L to R Unknown, Cllr Mahon (Chair), Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer), Phil Garrigan (Deputy Chief Fire Officer), Unknown, Cllr Robertson

Present (Consultation and Negotiation Sub-Committee, 4 out of 5 councillors were present, quorum is two):
Cllr Jimmy Mahon (Labour, Chair)
Cllr Leslie T Byrom (Labour)
Cllr Linda Maloney (Labour)
Cllr Tony Robertson (Lib Dem opposition spokesperson)

Also present:
Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer)
Phil Garrigan (Deputy Chief Fire Officer)
Janet Henshaw (Clerk to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority and Monitoring Officer)
Fire Brigade Union guy 1
Fire Brigade Union guy 2
Union guy 3
Union guy 4
Two members of the public (of which the author of this blog post John Brace is one)

The Chair started the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting by stating in the event of a fire alarm sounding where the nearest fire exits were and people were to assemble at the assembly point across the car park in the event of a fire. Smoking would not be permitted during the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting and the toilets were further down the corridor on the opposite side to the meeting room.

If anyone was requested to leave the meeting for whatever reason, recording was to not continue outside the room. He asked people not to leave on display anything that was private or confidential items on display.

There were no exempt items on the agenda for this meeting so the press and public wouldn’t be asked to leave. He asked if any of the two “observers” present had any objections to being filmed (one of whom is the person writing this). Neither of us (including myself) did. He asked people to have their mobile phones on silent, told people he was Councillor Mahon and declared the meeting open.

1. Preliminary Matters

An apology was given by Cllr Tony Robertson for Cllr Lesley Rennie.
An apology was given by the Chair for the Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan.
The Deputy Chief Fire Officer pointed out he was present.

No declarations of interest were made.

There were no items that the press and public would be excluded for.

2. Minutes of Previous Meeting

The minutes of the meeting of the consultation and negotiation sub-committee meeting of the 2nd September 2014 (the blog post Labour councillors blame government for strikes in 1st ever film of a Merseyside Fire Authority meeting refers to this meeting) were agreed.

3. Industrial Relations Update

The Chief Fire Officer, Dan Stephens introduced his report (CFO/124/14) on matters of negotiation and consultation with the trade unions since the last meeting on 2nd September 2014.

He referred to 45 service instructions issued since 2nd September, most had been agreed but nine were outstanding. Dan Stephens referred to the ongoing talks with the Fire Brigades Union and that the Fire Brigades Union did not agree with the health and fitness instruction as well as an ongoing national dispute. However there had been talks in London on the 10th and 11th of September and a further meeting in Liverpool on the 29th September.

The Chief Fire Officer on behalf of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service thanked Phil, Mark and Kevin for getting to the point where they had reached an agreement.

He referred to paragraphs 10 and 11 of his report about 24-hour shifts, the impact of station mergers versus outright closure and the mitigation he had recommended to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. With regards to the pensions dispute it was outside his influence and totally outside his sphere of control, however he hoped to maintain constructive dialogue and Merseyside was testament to strong industrial relations between the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.

There was notification by the Fire Brigades Union of a 24 hour strike from 0900 on the 9th December 2014 to 0900 on the 10th December 2014. An Early Day Motion by Hilary Benn MP had attracted 236 signatures so far. However the pension regulations had been laid before parliament and the 40-day period would conclude on the 11th December 2014, which was the reason for the timing of the notification of industrial action by the Fire Brigades Union.

If the pension regulations were agreed by Parliament they would come into effect on the 1st April 2015. He said he would take any questions.

The Fire Brigades Union representative referred to the service instructions and the enormous body of work it had entailed. They had put it forward to the national Fire Brigades Union to be recognised as a template. He agreed with the Chief Fire Officer that it was much better to have an agreed outcomes and agreed introduction.

He referred to the policies about aiding sick and injured firefighters rather than punitively punishing them and accepted the reassurances about the issue of 24-hour working. Rather than death by a thousand cuts, he wanted to deal with the issues now to give a relative period of stability moving forward. Finally he pointed out to everyone at the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service that it was a national pensions dispute and he wanted to reiterate that there was excellent industrial relations locally in that they could talk about thorny issues without either side finding it offensive.

Cllr Maloney said that as an Authority they hadn’t got a clue as to what was going to happen.

Cllr Byrom said that during the strike period relationships on Merseyside had been cordial. Other authorities hadn’t seen this so he was grateful. He said that they “stand on the brink of considerable change”. In the tours they had been doing of fire stations, he’d been able to say to firefighters and members of the public it’s not the cheapest way of working but a better way of working to retain a full-time method of operation.

If they lost control of the agenda, the way to save money would be to move to retained. He said, “We don’t want that.” However, working closely with the staff and the public they serve, he wanted to put forward the message that it was safe, a good speed of response, a good weight of response and that the crews when they get there were prepared and trained.

The representative of the Fire Officers Association referred to the financial difficulties, the staffing model and how everyone was integral to providing an emergency service. He too referred to the 24-hour shift system. On the pensions issue he said that the government wasn’t moving and that they had got to persuade ministers and civil servants as there were issues that hadn’t been fully considered by the government.

He wanted (in reflection of the 236 MPs that had signed an Early Day Motion) a debate, otherwise there was something seriously wrong with politics. The union representative suggested that they address their MPs and ask them to sign the Early Day Motion apart from the one who is a government minister.

Referring to the MP for Wirral West, the Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, he said that she, “certainly doesn’t seem to live in the real world, doesn’t seem to want to know the impact of the cuts that are happening on this [Merseyside Fire and Rescue] Service”.

Although the Fire Brigades Union had said not to respond to the Adrian Thomas review of conditions of service and questionnaire, he had seen a tweet from the Deputy General Secretary encouraging members to respond to this. He had retweeted it, because he thought it was important as it affects all members.

He wanted Adrian Thomas as the independent person undertaking the review to fully understand and appreciate the concerns and issues of members. Looking forward to the budget proposals in February, the mergers were the big issue, he wanted to make sure that any cuts protected the frontline.

Cllr Tony Robertson (Lib Dem opposition spokesperson) that he agreed over the fulltime issue. He referred to his union background as a branch secretary and how there was a huge amount of respect on both sides. Although he was only a recently appointed member of the Fire Authority, he had read about it prior to becoming a member. He said that industrial relations were a hugely important issue as poor industrial relations would lead to a poor service. Cllr Robertson also said he had “no enthusiasm for city region government”.

The Chair referred to the disputes from 2003 and the £100,000 cost of getting the Green Goddess and how in the past the trade unions had told them what to do and how bad it was in the past. He compared how it was in 2003 to the improved industrial relations in 2014.

The Chief Fire Officer said to respond to Cllr Hanratty, that all MPs on Merseyside, bar the MP for Wirral West had signed the Early Day Motion, which included the Rt Hon John Pugh MP for Southport who is a member of the coalition.

The recommendations were agreed. The Chair said that the next meeting would be the 24th March 2015, he thanked people for their attendance and wished people a safe journey.

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I’ve started a petition calling on the Mersey Fire and Rescue Authority to delete the part of its constitution that requires permission to film each public meeting following the legal change in August 2014. Please if you agree with it then sign it.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.


Responses

  1. G’day John

    Given you a few days off from the ranting irreverent Aussie but I am growing more concerned for Reprahnehpets and his obsession with the BIG PICTURE.

    So a bit of a look at the big picture regarding what went on at “Wirral Funny Bizz”

    An article from a national paper in October 2011 when “The Football Shirt” was saying to me all was great with the world of Wirral.

    Taxpayers’ millions lost by EU-funded regional schemes

    Millions of pounds have been lost through mismanagement of a string of bizarre taxpayer-funded schemes.

    From a rooftop plant nursery to scooters for the unemployed, they seem unlikely recipients of public money.

    But these, and dozens more projects across England, were awarded European Union funding under a programme to “reduce economic disparities” between countries and regions.

    And now the Government has admitted that millions of pounds handed out to the schemes has been lost through mismanagement.

    Ministers say that £38.1 million awarded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has been misspent or is unaccounted for, while a further £133.9 million may also have to be written off.

    Management of the projects has been so bad that the EU froze all payments in March.

    Funding was restarted in July after Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, whose department is responsible for deciding which projects qualify for help, pledged to bring in tighter controls.

    David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, said the sums amounted to “an extraordinary and outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money through incompetent bureaucracy”.

    In a four-page document released last week, ministers disclosed for the first time the 130 schemes that have suffered from financial irregularities, and how much money is missing in each case.

    They include:

    • An enterprise scheme in Tees Valley where £1.8 million is unaccounted for due to “audit trail and document retention issues”.
    • An regeneration project in east London, which involved a rooftop plant nursery to provide seeds for biodiversity projects, lost more than £300,000 after its promoter, Tower Hamlets Environment Trust, went into liquidation.

    • Regional film agency Screen East was responsible for £368,000 of “ineligible expenditure”

    Among the smaller financial discrepancies, Wansbeck on Wheels, a project in Northumberland, designed to help the unemployed to find jobs by advising them on public transport or providing them with scooters, lost more than £2,000 due to poor auditing.

    The projects on the list relate to the period between 2000 and 2006, when Labour was in power. Many of them were ultimately administered by the former Government Offices of the Regions (GOs) and regional development agencies, all since abolished by the Coalition amid spending cuts.

    Mr Davies added: “This confirms the suspicions of many taxpayers that these unnecessary regional agencies were simply wasting money.

    “It should be remembered that this is not European money being wasted but our own, because Britain pays far more into the EU than it gets out.

    “These figures bring into question our relationship with the EU and what we are getting out of it.”

    Other losses revealed in the Government’s list include £90,000 due to “inadequate financial controls” at the ‘Hive of Industry’ enterprise scheme in Sefton, Merseyside, and £43,000 for “overclaim of salaries” at a South Yorkshire project called “Attracting Growth Sector Champions”.

    In Nottinghamshire, £20,000 was lost when environmentally-friendly enterprise park Sherwood Energy Village went into liquidation, while £884,000 was written off from a regeneration fund administered by Nottingham City Council because of “miscalculation of revenue expenditure”.

    North-east England dominates the list of affected projects, with at least 15 inward investment and business support schemes collectively losing £5.5 million of public money through “audit trail and document retention issues”.

    An England-wide business start-up project called Access to Finance, run through the Government Offices, misspent £200,000 through “ineligible expenditure”.

    The ERDF, which has handed out more than £5 billion in England since 2000, has also been behind a number of high-profile successes including the Eden Project in Cornwall and the King’s Dock redevelopment in Liverpool.

    Bob Neill, the local government minister said: “The ERDF programme has been plagued by a legacy of poor administration and fines that dates back to 2000.

    “The Coalition has overhauled the management of these schemes, bringing them in-house, and successfully minimising the liabilities.”

    A DCLG spokesman added that losses between 2000 and 2006 could have totalled £236 million, but that officials and managed to “claw back” £63 million. Of the remainder, £38.1 million has been written off and a further £133.9 million remains outstanding.

    Screen East was declared involved in September 2010 after the Coalition abolished its parent organisation, the UK Film Council; its former finance manager was jailed earlier this year for stealing £60,000 from the organisation.

    The enterprise scheme where £1.8 million is missing is the now-defunct NE Business Support Network for Tees Valley.

    So John maybe you could get the firemen to give the shower at Wallasey a good hosing down on there day off.

    Ooroo

    James

    Ps The Big Picture is fine but it is no excuse for what “Highbrow” and I have undergone for three and a half years.

    • Considering how much EU money was spent in the times of plenty and how poor the financial controls were, I’m not surprised.

      I might point out that auditors also signed off on these grant claims and despite the claims that it’s not council’s own money, in many cases it was match funding such as 50/50 or different ratios depending on the type of project.

      State Aid rules shouldn’t be too hard to understand.

      What’s more worrying however is the lack of political oversight (until the change of government in 2010) at the regional and local level.

      Maybe that’s an argument for regional government… I’m not sure! However EU grant awards were a tangled web of accountability to the extent that when things go pear shaped nobody knows who’s to blame when things go wrong!

  2. G’day John

    Where are you?

    Don’t tell me you are sworn to secrecy like the tweed jacket from the rubbish paper over Stella’s Mersey Waters or that local rubbish.

    Don’t they want taxpayers to know how rubbish the councils north of the country is.

    Maybe they should rebuild Hadrian’s Wall just south of Brummie.

    Ooroo

    James

    • I am here. Just had a busy day yesterday that’s all. Although I did talk to Mr. Hobro on a train somewhere between Moorfields and Liverpol Central on the Wirral Line yesterday, not by design but by chance.

      No I’m not sworn to secrecy.

      As to rubbish and councils, a decision over a 10 year extension to their rubbish contract comes back to Cabinet for a decision next week.

  3. Mr Griffiths, Sir, Here am I thinking you were a man without feeling, but really you get quite Emotional over things do you not?

    • Nothing wrong with getting emotional… we’re all only human!

  4. G’day Reprahnehpets

    Very emotional when people like “Highbrow” and the Wirral Taxpayer are used and abused by stuck up there own arses “The Football Shirt” “He who can talk for twenty minutes without breathing” “The Shyster” “Humpty Dumpty” think they can do whatever they want with as “The Football Shirt” calls it, even in public, “not our money” and then keep a conspiracy of silence.

    The four unwise men.

    The administration should be in.

    Lovely day by dear friend Reprahnehpets.

    Ooroo

    James

  5. Good Morning Mr Brace, No there is NO problem getting emotional over things that you “Really Believe In”. As you say were only Human, but the way to clear things up, is to be Human, untouched, Honest and remained Principled and always, always, keep the paperwork (Original or Certified Copies) ” Never let the B……. grind you down”. I do know the latin for that last quote, but it would make me look smug, unfortunately I am not, I am only Human

    • Good Morning also to Mr Griffiths, who I know does not rely on praise to keep him going, but I will say it anyway ” You are a Good Man ” Reprahnehpets

      • Thanks Reprahnehpets

        The more “The Shyster” tells them all to keep there big gobs shut the “Gooder” I get.

        But that is not saying much I meet more decent people in the dole queue.

        They are truly low lives and should not get the top job.

        Bring in Administration.

        Ooroo

        James (Yesssssssssss Reprahnepets thinks I’m a good man)

  6. REVIEW OF WEST MIDLANDS 2000-06 ERDF PROJECT
    CONTRACTED TO
    STOKE CITY COUNCIL
    BUSINESS GROWTH IN NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE
    11 October 2012
    Department for Communities & Local Government
    Internal Audit Services
    Commentary

    RENEW as the development arm of North Staffordshire Council, as Invest wirral was to Wirral Borough Council but RENEW was incredibly inventive and deserved the LGA award for innovation in regeneration rather than having five staff members arrested for fraud.

    Anyone interested in this report apply to nigelhobro@gmail.com and you will see “the art of the possible”

  7. Staffordshire first played down the seriousness of the allegations -familiar? but later accepted the seriousness of the matters(Familiar?)…. “and part of a wider investigation {by the police} into the activities of the regeneration department of SCC {staffordshire County Council}”

    £530,000 had been paid to SCC on a falsified invoice

    the contractor had no recollection of taking part in a competitive tender exercise

    led to 6 SCC staff being suspended and £3m of contracts being questioned

    correction to first comment the Police could not find enough evidence to arrest for fraud {familiar?} 6 not 5 staff

    and much much more

  8. Funny enough I had seen the Stoke one. quite a few months ago now, the MO (Method of Operation) appears to be the same in most of these projects you have already mentioned, the problems come when people try to become to inventive or the Authorities become to inquisitive

    • Mr Honro appears to have his finger on the pulse and Mr Cardin, it however still does not change the fact that the Authorities need EVIDENCE to pursue any Case against anyone one or any entity, by way of Civil or Criminal Law and this maybe stating the Obvious, but a Higher level of EVIDENCE is needed the Higher up the Scale you go/ Balance of Probabilities, Beyond a reasonable Doubt on the other.

      • Mr Harper they had evidence by the barrtow-load and still have access to the same. Clearly the Local Authority, aided by an impecunious Police wanted not to have to repay serious ERDF money and ESF money, prior to 2009,

        I see this as WBC balancing clawback of over £1 m against the merits of theprosecution of wirralbiz, which firm not having means to ameliorate the £1m plus claw-back. With the discredit that would follow to senior officers it became necessary to put blue water between Europe’s time of ire March 2011- July 2011, and the eventual completion of Grant Thornton’s report, March 2012. Paying GT £50,000 and buying an extra 4 months breakwater is small beer compared to the backlash from the truth having emerged in autumn 2011. The GT manouevre also allowed the report to be shielded from public eyes firstly for BIG by a spurious 16 week further investigation, then for BIG full report and ISUS, a referral to the Police bought a further 17 months. I daresay the costs of all this topped £125.000 but kept full knowledge away from the public whilst the threat of both Commissioners and claw-back hovered over their heads.

        To allow small fry like the directors of wirralbiz to escape is again a small price to pay should one wish to protect the status quo. Commissioners ask awkward questions and remove established figures from influence.

        We ought to have had a “Tower Hamlets” solution back in summer of 2012 but did not because firstly the government is impecunious and this doubled with the vested interests of local big-wigs

        • G’day Reparhnehpets

          I think what Wirralbizz is saying (my interpretation anyway)is that all those Clowncillors and other senior officers would rather keep their gobs shut, not rock the boat, whether they know or not and let the scumbag officers get away with rooting (Check what rooting means in Oz) the Wirral Taxpayer.

          They are just despicable.

          Bring in the Administration not another CEO who is a toothless tiger that can be bullied. (If it suits him and his back pocket.)

          Why can’t people be honest, open and transparent and work for the people and not their own big fat arses, (Check out the Dunny Chain Wearer).

          Ooroo

          James

          Ps Come on you senior officer that are decent… BLOW THE WHISTLE your family will have someone reputable to respect.

          Unlike him from The Raving Loony Party of 8 October. Worst scandal in forty years… you nut case.

          Pps Have I had a drinky poo? No

          Sorry can’t lie I am not associated with Wirral of course I have!

  9. In Respect of the Petition, the FIRE AUTHORITY and RESCUE Authority have to change their Constitution to accomodate the LAW of the LAND, it does not depend on Signatures from it’s Citizens. The duly elected Citizens have spoken through Parliament!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • The Fire Authority will only change their constitution if the officers suggest it and vote on it.

      You are right the law has changed but their constitution hasn’t. One would hope they would change their constitution without prompting, but it seems at least a petition should hopefully force some kind of response on this issue!

      As to the point about parliament and laws trumping local councils. I had that conversation with a members of staff at Liverpool City Council.

      He felt their (unchanged constitution) had the force of law, therefore overruled even regulations. It took a lot of persuasion on my part and explanation to persuade him of the opposite..

  10. I am Sorry Mr Brace, before we possibly go down the road of Local Government and the Sovereignty of Parliament, to my knowledge ” Parliament is still Sovereign” and does still have a say what happens even in the Combined Authority

    • Indeed, but in the case of the CA the officers won’t even put proposals (on the filming issue) to change its constitution in front of councillors to vote on.

      However the CA doesn’t meet very often… strangely enough they have agreed a policy on filming but not made the changes to their constitution (one would hope they’d do the latter first, before the former!)

  11. Probably taking advice from a Public Law Lawyer. However whatever the cost, I am afraid even a Super Duper Top Notch Lawyer would not be able to say that their Constitution is not in Contravention of the Sovereignty of Parliament and as yet I have not seen the Devolution Plans, but I cannot see Our Good Lady the Queen or Parliament creating a ” Republic of the Combined Authority ” Can you?


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