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Posted by: John Brace | 31st December 2014

Looking back to 2014 on this blog at the 3 most popular stories for each month

Looking back to 2014 on this blog at the 3 most popular stories for each month

                                              

Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School L to R Shirley Hudsepth Surjit Tour Cllr Phil Davies Graham Burgess

Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School L to R Shirley Hudsepth Surjit Tour Cllr Phil Davies Graham Burgess

The lists below are of the top three most viewed stories in each month in 2014. To be selected each story also had to be published in that particular month.

January 2014
1 Why did Martin Morton call for three councillors to resign?
2 Birkenhead Market Limited Accounts: Is This The Reason Behind Neptune’s Masterplan?
3 The letter Wirral Council wrote gagging Councillor Gilchrist

The year started with a look at why Martin Morton had called on Cllr Pat Williams, Cllr Moira McLaughlin and Cllr Denise Roberts to resign. I also published the accounts for Birkenhead Market Limited (who lease Birkenhead Market from Wirral Council) and a letter gagging Councillor Gilchrist.

February 2014
1 Exclusive: Incredible £88,174 loss made by Merseytravel on sale of Liverpool pub
2 Incredible: Lyndale School call in causes second constitutional crisis for Wirral Council!
3 District Judge Woodburn grants Wirral Council possession order: pony club given a year to leave Fernbank Farm

After the Merseytram matter hit the buffers, Merseytravel was left with property that it didn’t want or need. The first story is about what happened when they tried to sell it off. The second story is the first about Lyndale School and how when the first Cabinet decision got called in, the call in committee had to ask Council to add extra people to it who’d been left off in a “constitutional oversight”. The third story was about the court battle between Wirral Council and Upton Park Pony Association. Upton Park Pony Association were given a year to leave Fernbank Farm (which is owned by Wirral Council).

March 2014
1 Will you comment on the government’s new public meeting filming law before consultation ends on the 12th March?
2 Wirral Council show how “open and transparent” they really are
3 Mark Latham of Wirral Street Pastors tells Wirral’s councillors graphic stories about Birkenhead’s boozy night life

Mark Latham from Wirral Street Pastors told councillors on Wirral Council's Licensing Act 2003 Committee about his experiences of Birkenhead's night life and alcohol (19th March 2014)
Mark Latham from Wirral Street Pastors told councillors on Wirral Council’s Licensing Act 2003 Committee about his experiences of Birkenhead’s night life and alcohol (19th March 2014)

It may seem strange now, but in March the government were consulting on changes to the filming public meetings law. Some changes were made to the draft regulations and a right to live commentary during meetings was removed. Some new criminal offences were also added to the same legislation (but not to the section about filming). The “open and transparent” story was about the Chief Executive, in a 4 page letter, upholding an earlier decision at internal review to refuse a Freedom of Information Act request for the minutes of the Standards Working Group of the 17th December 2013. The last story was about the Wirral Street Pastors organisation and what Mark Latham had to say at a public meeting about Birkenhead’s night life.

April 2014
1 Who are the 113 candidates in the 2014 Wirral Council elections?
2 Liverpool City Region Combined Authority choose Cllr Phil Davies as Chair
3 How much evidence does there have to be of wrongdoing at Wirral Council before an apology is given?

113 candidates stood in the Wirral Council elections and only 23 of these were later elected. However if you’re interested who they were then there’s a list of names. The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority met for the first time on April 1st and chose Cllr Phil Davies as Chair. The third story is my rebuttal of a (mainly) false complaint made about me by a Lib Dem.

May 2014
1 Election results for North West Region (European Parliamentary Election 2014)
2 Election results for Wallasey (Conservative hold), West Kirby and Thurstaston (Conservative hold) and Upton (Labour hold)
3 Election results for Leasowe and Moreton East (Labour Gain), Hoylake and Meols (Conservative hold) and New Brighton (Labour hold)

May had two elections in it. The first was where one councillor to Wirral Council was elected for each ward (except one that elected two due to a recent resignation in Greasby, Frankby and Irby). The second election was for 8 Members of the European Parliament for the North West region. The Lib Dems lost their only MEP in the region Chris Davies and ended up with no Members of the European Parliament in North-West England. Brian Kenny (Labour) lost his council seat in Birkenhead and Tranmere to Pat Cleary (Green Party). Ian Lewis (Conservative) lost his council seat to Treena Johnson (Labour) in Leasowe and Moreton East. Labour also gained in Pensby and Thingwall (the seat was held by an independent formerly a Lib Dem who wasn’t standing).

So the net result was that Labour increased its number of councillors from 37 to 38 (a majority of seats on Wirral Council is one party having 34 or more councillors). The Conservatives decreased their number of councillors from 22 to 21. The Lib Dems stayed on six and the Greens increased from no councillors to one.

June 2014
1 Wirral Council: It’s time for some answers over Fernbank Farm and filming!
2 Horses or 100 houses at Fernbank Farm? Liverpool City Region Combined Authority agrees to list it for housing
3 If Lyndale School closed: what might happen next?

In June I started publishing some of the court papers to do with the Fernbank Farm case including Wirral Council’s particulars of claim. During filming a public meeting of the Licensing Act 2003 Committee Cllr Steve Niblock insisted on me stopping so I moaned to Surjit Tour about it. The last story was warning about the effects on the health of the children at Lyndale School if the Lyndale School were to be closed.

July 2014
1 Wirral Council takes 5 minutes to U-turn on libel threat over Graham Burgess golf email to councillors
2 Graham Burgess invites Wirral Council councillors to 5 days of the Open Golf Championship
3 Councillor Walter Smith “I must say I enjoyed lavish hospitality”

Wirral Host of the Open Championship 2014

July was all about golf because of the Open Golf Championship. First the email of Graham Burgess was claimed to be “fraudulent” by Surjit Tour (who referred to it as the “Open Gold Championship”). Then five minutes later Surjit Tour tried to recall the email. Then BBC Radio Merseyside had a caller asking about the story. Wirral Council’s press office then managed to tell BBC Radio Merseyside two contradictory versions of events over a short period of time. However don’t worry Cllr Walter Smith came on the radio and told everybody how in his day job as a tailor he had enjoyed “lavish hospitality” at the golf!

August 2014
1 Lyndale School Consultation branded “white-wash” & 1 officer is singled out for criticism for lack of impartiality
2 UPDATED: EXCLUSIVE: 90 Incredible Lyndale School Closure Consultation responses
3 Why did Wirral Council spend an incredible £1,872 on a London barrister to prevent openness and transparency?

Treasury Building (Wirral Council), Hamilton Square, Birkenhead, 19th August 2014 (you can click on the photo for a more high-resolution version)
Treasury Building (Wirral Council), Hamilton Square, Birkenhead, 19th August 2014 (you can click on the photo for a more high-resolution version)

Phil Ward came in for criticism for the way he’d chaired the Lyndale School consultation meetings. As part of the 2013/14 audit I made public the £1,872 Wirral Council had spent on Robin Hopkins of 11KBW to make sure that they didn’t have to give out information to a Freedom of Information Act requester in response to ICO decision notice FS50474741.

September 2014
1 Expense claim forms for Councillor Tony Smith 2013 to 2014 reveal mysterious Lyndale School meeting in February 2013
2 The 25 ways in which the Wirral Council Cabinet decision about Lyndale School is flawed
3 A letter to Wirral Council about the 29 ways they allegedly got the Lyndale School decision wrong

Councillor Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services) at the Special Cabinet Meeting of 4th September 2014 to discuss Lyndale School L to R Cllr Stuart Whittingham, Cllr Tony Smith, Cllr Bernie Mooney and Lyndzay Roberts

Councillor Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services) at the Special Cabinet Meeting of 4th September 2014 to discuss Lyndale School L to R Cllr Stuart Whittingham, Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services), Cllr Bernie Mooney and Lyndzay Roberts

The mileage claim forms for councillors threw up some interesting visits, including one by Cllr Tony Smith to Lyndale School back in February 2013. Once again the Cabinet decided to go ahead to the next stage of consultation on closure of Lyndale School, Surjit Tour got sent another of my letters pointing out the flaws in the decision-making process. The decision was called in.

October 2014
1 Marvin the Martian returns to try to understand the incredible Lyndale School situation and the £1 million SEN budget cut
2 Whistleblowers assembled in Committee Room 1 to hear apologies from Wirral Council over a toxic whistleblowing saga involving secrecy, national, local and regional government, internal and external audit, the private sector, ££££s, senior managers, contracts and Wirral Council
3 Graham Burgess (Chief Executive) announces he will retire from Wirral Council on 31st December 2014

Marvin the Martian from Disney's Looney Tunes
Marvin the Martian from Disney’s Looney Tunes

Marvin the Martian returned to discuss Lyndale and cuts to the SEN budget. The special Audit and Risk Management Committee meeting (twice adjourned from July 2014) finally met on 8th October 2014 to discuss the BIG/ISUS issues and hear from Nigel Hobro. Graham Burgess also gave in his three-month notice and announced his retirement from 31st December 2014.

November 2014
1 Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”
2 Trade unions march on Wirral Council, only to hear how wonderful the 2014 Open Golf championship was
3 Dan Stephens answers questions at 4th public consultation meeting on Greasby, Upton & West Kirby fire station plans

Dan Stephens Chief Fire Officer, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service at Greasby Methodist Church Hall, Greasby Road, Greasby on 10th November 2014 for consultation meeting on closure of Upton and West Kirby fire stations and merger at Greasby

Dan Stephens Chief Fire Officer, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service at Greasby Methodist Church Hall, Greasby Road, Greasby on 10th November 2014 for consultation meeting on closure of Upton and West Kirby fire stations and merger at Greasby

A Merseytravel public meeting to discuss whistleblowing led to an interesting turn of phrase. The trade unions marched on Wallasey Town Hall, to have to first sit through a Cabinet meeting discussing how wonderful the Open Golf Championship had been. A consultation on a possible new fire station in Greasby village led to a packed public meeting in Greasby, with Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer) doing his best to answer questions from the public about Wirral Council’s involvement.

December 2014
1 8 Labour councillors on Wirral Council vote to close Lyndale School from 31st August 2016
2 Wirral Schools Forum member expresses concern at proposed £600,000 cut for children with special educational needs
3 7 Wirral Council councillors, 1 appointment to be longlisted & an HR consultant from Penna PLC; what could possibly go wrong?

December’s stories start with the sad news that just before Christmas the Cabinet decided to close Lyndale School (from 31st August 2016). A member of the Wirral Schools Forum expressed concern at the scale of cuts to special educational needs and Wirral Council councillors decided on a long list for a Head of Specialist Services (the outgoing Head of Specialist Services leaves on 31st December 2014).

Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School L to R Shirley Hudsepth Surjit Tour Cllr Phil Davies Graham Burgess

Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School L to R Shirley Hudsepth Surjit Tour Cllr Phil Davies Graham Burgess

So that’s it for the 2014 round-up! See you in 2015!

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Responses

  1. Bring in the Administration for a Happy New Year.

    • They tried that it was called an Improvement Board. The Improvement Board even wrote a report with one recommendation (which Wirral Council then chose to ignore). Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

      • With Respect Mr Brace,that is not the Administration. That is like them “Investigating Themselves” and they would never get at the Truth that way. One investigation is/can be the same as another, especially when the parameters for the Investigation, Enquiry, Training Exercise, etc, are already mapped out and attended by so many who have set the above.

        • Just not Cricket. Happy New Year to all of the valuable and I am sure Valued Bloggers

          • If Wirral Council played cricket, they’d both employ and control the pensions of the umpires. That way they could ensure they win.. 😛

            • That is Basically what they did in around about way, if you follow my drift, power, control, money and a veil of cotton to hide the real problems

              • My cricket remark was meant semi-seriously/semi tongue in cheek. Money & power can be toxic combinations. As to hiding the real problems, you first have to know what they are…

        • You’re right, but it’s as close as Wirral Council has come to the administration being sent it.

          You’re also right that part of the problem was that the Improvement Board involved Wirral Council councillors and senior officers, therefore had some of the flaws of the predecessor to the Improvement Board.

          • It is also Logical to assume, if Mr G and Mr M are right and I have no reason to doubt them, it would appear that more twists and turns maybe on the way to add to already existing problems of the Local Authority

            • A week is a long time in politics.

              • Mr Brace, if you follow your Blog, just on 2014 alone, you can see where the problems lay. Without going back to 1997 or even 1977 (try; Hansard West Kirby). Again check, if your inclined, purchase of Property for the failed bid for Liverpool Transit System. There is and has been a lot to go through for me

                • Might I add, I understand were you and others are coming from!!!!

                  • Thanks. It’s good not to feel alone and that there are others in the same boat.

                • The amount of public money spent with amongst other matters outside consultants on the failed Merseytram project was a very large sum of money before the plug was pulled and a sorry reflection of the exceedingly poor corporate governance that was in place at Merseytravel at the time.

  2. Congratulations on another brilliant year exposing the shortcomings of Wirral council, keep up the good work & have a happy new year.
    You never know they might & I repeat might become open & more transparent in the future.

    • Thanks for your kind comments Jonathan and Happy New Year to you too.

      Wirral Council have become a little more open and transparent. However it’s a cultural shift they’d have to make to becoming really open and transparent.

  3. Also would like to say big thanks for all your work, I’m sure 2015 will bring more of the same when it comes to Wirral Council, so there will be enough to keep you busy over the next year.

    • Thanks, it’s when I (rarely) go to Liverpool Town Hall and see a public meeting there of LCC councillors that I realise how much of a difference someone filming public meetings and writing about them here changes (over time) the behaviour of councillors.

      They seem a lot more… shouty on that side of the water and there seems to be a tension beyond merely party political differences between the Labour councillors and the Green councillors.

  4. G’day John

    Glad you put that photo up twice for our amusement.

    Check out “The Shysters” face with “Phil the Dill” sticking his stinking charm pit in his face and “Gra Gra” has gone missing altogether at the stench of “The Hole Kitchen Cabinet”.

    Happy New Year.

    Ooroo

    James

    • I did put up that photo twice, however you do get the right shoulder of the former Chief Executive Graham Burgess. Just look to the right of Cllr Phil Davies for that.

  5. Thanks John

    I think that might be an exit stage left faster than the glutton that is “The Dunny Chain Wearer” can down a free pie and pint.

    Ooroo

    James

    • Well the former Chief Executive Graham Burgess has gone.

      Now Acting Chief Executive David Armstrong is in charge until Mr/Miss/Mrs Unknown gets the job.

  6. Ha ha ha ha it just gets worse and worser.

    His anger rage and blood pressure looks up there with “The Dunny Chain Wearer”.

    God help Wirral

    • I’ll leave people to guess which of the eight male people in the photos above you could be referring to. Glad to see you are still retaining your sense of humour.

  7. G’day John

    Do you reckon the buffoon that is acting will deal with that email the whole world got that started:

    Summary

    The Mayor of Wirral Cllr .Steve Foulkes and Cllr.George Davies are unfit for public office.

    I presume that you have seen it John.

    So now they have got rid of him that would not obey. What was his name again?

    Is this one going to be open, honest and transparent, or, is he another that is closed, dishonest and opaque?

    Ooroo

    James

    • No I haven’t seen the email you refer to although a lot of money was spent after Cllr Chris Blakeley made similar comments to the press.

      No I haven’t seen the email referred to. I’ve no idea who you’re referring to by “So now they have got rid of him that would not obey. What was his name again?”.

      Are you referring to the former Chief Executive? If so it will be many months until a permanent person is appointed to the post of Chief Executive.

  8. Then many months to tell HIM about what they are covering up and to keep his gob shut.


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