Advertising
 
Posted by: John Brace | 15th December 2015

A farce at Wirral Council’s public question time (Act 1, Scene 1) No microphone, silent musical chairs & no answers

A farce at Wirral Council’s public question time (Act 1, Scene 1) No microphone, silent musical chairs & no answers

                                                             

Public Question Time (Wirral Council) 15th December 2015 Mrs Nowell asking a question to Cllr Adrian Jones about a fire station at Saughall Massie

Public Question Time (Wirral Council) 15th December 2015 Mrs Nowell asking a question to Cllr Adrian Jones about a fire station at Saughall Massie

Wirral Council Council meeting on the 15th December 2015 starting at public question time agenda item

Public question time at Wirral Council’s meeting on the evening of the 15th December 2015 was a farce. You can watch this in the video above. I’d better declare an interest as I was one of the two asking questions of Cllr Adrian Jones.

The first member of the public to ask a question was Mrs Nowell (yes it’s Christmas although I’m not making that name up), she was ushered to a chair by Patrick Sebastian to ask her question.

However there was no microphone there.

Cllr Phil Davies (giving up his chair for the second time this week having earlier this week given up the Chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) then gave up his chair for Mrs. Nowell. So in the Town Hall version of musical chairs (but without any music) everyone got a chair except Cllr Phil Davies who was left standing next to Mr. Tour.

The seasonal fun however did not end there!

Mrs Nowell got about four words into her question to be interrupted by Cllr Ann McLachlan sitting to her left who then apologised.

Mrs Nowell resumed her question which was,

"Given the substantial local opposition to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s proposal to build a fire station directly adjacent to sheltered accommodation, will Wirral Borough Council Members honour their commitment, as set out in the 2020 Vision, to "empower locally" and attempt to gain a "deep and meaningful understanding of what local people want" by agreeing to "detailed engagement and conversation with local people" prior to gifting, releasing or selling the only significant publicly amenable green-space in Saughall Massie?"
   

The Mayor thanked her for the question.

Cllr Adrian Jones then replied as follows, "Mayor, it is customary to have some advance notice of the question! I’ve had no advance notice and therefore I’m very happy to give a written reply!"

I will point out at this stage that unlike myself Mrs Nowell submitted her question about a month before the meeting (which reminds me of the following famous poem I have rewritten for this):

Though the mills of Wirral Council grind slowly;
Yet they grind exceeding slowly;
Though with patience Cllr Adrian Jones stands waiting for the question,
Waiting for the question which he has done for a whole month,
He is never sent it.
  

The Mayor looked at Mrs Nowell and asked, "Is that OK for a written reply?"

She answered, "That means I don’t get to ask another question. I did email the question in plenty of time."

The Mayor then said to Cllr Adrian Jones, "Cllr Adrian Jones is it possible to give a reply? I understand that you don’t know the full details."

Cllr Adrian Jones answered, "Mr Mayor, I’ve had no advance notice of this, therefore I’ve done no research on this occasion, I’d be very happy to give a written reply but I think in any case it’ll have gone to planning, therefore it will be dealt with fully at that particular point."

The Mayor thanked Mrs Nowell for her question.

As Cllr Jones had now answered she asked the following supplementary, "Why was Cllr Blakeley not allowed to respond to Dan Stephens at the Regeneration meeting?"

The Mayor said, "Cllr Adrian Jones is the Cabinet Member for this particular question to be addressed to."

Cllr Adrian Jones said, "Had I been given some advance notice, I would have done something about it, I’m terribly sorry but we do have a system here as a courtesy, if you want to ask a question."

A councillor heckled, "But she’s done that!"

Surjit Tour said, "I’ll need to look into why the question and the issue about the question why it didn’t make its way to Cllr Jones and I’ll respond to that for that as regards to the process."

Cllr Jeff Green said, "Mr Mayor, we do have the Chair of the relevant select Committee, maybe Cllr Sullivan could answer that?"

Surjit Tour replied, "The appropriate form for a further question to come to Council around that advance notice of it, I appreciate the expectation was that it would be appropriate for a question to be asked in the circumstances."

The Mayor said, "OK, there seems to have been some sort of delay in the question, advance notice being got to the Cabinet Member or the Chair so we need to give them the opportunity to research that and give you a written response."

Mrs Nowell replied, "My second question, I don’t have to give notice of that you see!"

The Mayor said, "It’s called a supplementary question and unfortunately you’re unable to ask the supplementary because the substantive question hasn’t been answered and replied to."

Cllr Chris Blakeley said, "Can I ask, as I know Mrs Nowell submitted the question some time ago, why hasn’t it found its way to the Cabinet Member for a response to that?"

Surjit Tour replied, " I’ll have to look into to understand exactly what has happened."

Mrs Nowell said, "I sent the question to you."

There was laughter from councillors at this point.

Surjit Tour continued, "Yes, that’s agreed, apologies for not following the process, I just need to understand why Cllr Adrian Jones didn’t get the question and then I’ll report back to Council after that moment."

Cllr Adrian Jones said, "Mr Mayor I would be very happy to deal with this question at the next meeting and it goes without saying that I promise to do everything within my power to protect Council." There was more laughter at this point.

The Mayor said, "Under those circumstances, could I ask that the question be asked at the next Council meeting? Where opportunity will have been given to the.. Adrian Jones?"

Cllr Chris Blakeley added, "It may well be too late Mr Mayor!"

The Mayor finished by saying "We’re going to have to leave it to the written reply then I’m sorry."

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


Responses

  1. No wonder it takes forever and a day to get anything done on Wirral,
    I think the people should start running the Council and then we can string the rest of them up, worthless load of gobshites,

    Most of the streetlamps are turned off to save money yet the new Met College is lite up like a Christmas tree wasting electic and money, and then they are thinking of putting up the rates next year, and cutting £26 mill but want spend millions doing Hamliton square up
    Gobshites!

    • Well the people get to pick the councillors who are supposed to be running the Council.

      A question was asked later in the meeting about streetlights and the lack of faulty ones being fixed later in the meeting. You can see the question and the answer given in the video below (the question and answer starts at the 22m 27s point.

      https://youtu.be/bCDIOxGF6eQ?t=22m27s

      The notice of motion on Hamilton Square was referred by the Mayor to the next Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee meeting.

  2. The councillors seem to have the brains of a wooden rocking horse

    • The fire station issue is only over ~£4.2 million of public expenditure. Therefore after years of discussion and decisions on this at public meetings and in the media, is it truly credible that Cllr Adrian Jones is so in the dark on this that he can’t answer a question on it (and Wirral Council’s internal communications so bad that he never is sent it in the first place)?

      They managed to find two councillors later in the meeting to moan about the £10k it allegedly cost them to respond to my request for some invoices, three contracts and councillors’ expenses during the 14/15 audit! However that was to do with councillors’ expenses, an issue it seems much easier to get a response from councillors on!

    • Unfair slur towards rocking horses!

  3. I doubt if the Council’s senior officer’s Christmas party will be held in a brewery,they don’t have the organisational skills.

  4. Unbelievable! I had no idea. Course, I realised it was bad but never did I think that things could be as bad as this. And I moan and groan about Herefordshire Council!
    Heavens above, our collection of deluded, incompetent bunging economic idiots that the Hereford public elected to bugger up our fragile economic activity are nothing compared to your lot who have their hands on the rudder of the Good Ship Wirral.
    Thank Jehovah and the forces of geology that we are separated by one hundred and twelve miles I say!
    Sweet Loving Jesus! I recently submitted a FOI to our Council demanding to be told ‘how many rate paying observers have committed suicide during a Council meeting as a result of unexpected bewilderment and frustration’, and they very quickly replied, ‘we are pleased to inform you that nobody has ever succeeded in killing themselves during a Council meeting’. Course, there was a caveat (inside the Town Hall)
    Now you on the other hand, those upon the Wirral, I dread to think how many good and decent souls who pay their way and diligently recycle their rubbish have chosen to end it all and make their journey to meet the sweet loving Jesus after witnessing any one of your Council meetings.
    God, your lot are bad and it wouldn’t surprise me one tiny jot to learn that some poor fool, bereft of hope and a willingness to breath in and out, stood on a chair, if they had one, shouted, ‘enough! Let me die now’, they pulled out a small pocket Derringer pistol, faced their maker and blew their brains out if ever they had to witness the whole exchange regarding dear Mrs Nowell’s attempt to ask a simple bloody question.

    • Hi,

      I think there were problems with the comments displaying on this thread so apologies. Not sure what caused it.

      As a result (and perhaps out of frustration on your part) the same comment has been posted three times.

      So in order not to bamboozle any more people, I’m leaving this comment to explain why your comment is here three times.

      So you’re saying Herefordshire Council conduct their public meetings in plain English and don’t go in for what seems like the Wirral way of politicians not answering questions?

      As an aside I was once on the other side of a courtroom from a local councillor back in 2012. I was the one doing the suing, because sometimes in order to get sensible decision making you have to have someone independent doing it.

      The Deputy District Judge presiding over the case got quite cross with said local councillor not answering her question (as this particular councillor did on a regular basis).

      In fact earlier on in the case she’d decided not to put this politician under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

      I wonder if this had been done whether it would have been a very short hearing.

      I remember her (yes in this world of equality we have female judges up here on the Wirral) getting very cross with the councillor’s attempt not to answer her question and telling me just to answer her question yes or no.

      It was all I could do to not burst out laughing as councillors aren’t used to being told to answer the question in a courtroom by a Deputy District Judge!

      Needless to say I won the case!

  5. Unbelievable! I had no idea. Course, I realised it was bad but never did I think that things could be as bad as this. And I moan and groan about Herefordshire Council!
    Heavens above, our collection of deluded, incompetent bunging economic idiots that the Hereford public elected to bugger up our fragile economic activity are nothing compared to your lot who have their hands on the rudder of the Good Ship Wirral.
    Thank Jehovah and the forces of geology that we are separated by one hundred and twelve miles I say!
    Sweet Loving Jesus! I recently submitted a FOI to our Council demanding to be told ‘how many rate paying observers have committed suicide during a Council meeting as a result of unexpected bewilderment and frustration’, and they very quickly replied, ‘we are pleased to inform you that nobody has ever succeeded in killing themselves during a Council meeting’. Course, there was a caveat (inside the Town Hall)
    Now you on the other hand, those upon the Wirral, I dread to think how many good and decent souls who pay their way and diligently recycle their rubbish have chosen to end it all and make their journey to meet the sweet loving Jesus after witnessing any one of your Council meetings.
    God, your lot are bad and it wouldn’t surprise me one tiny jot to learn that some poor fool, bereft of hope and a willingness to breath in and out, stood on a chair, if they had one, shouted, ‘enough! Let me die now’, they pulled out a small pocket Derringer pistol, faced their maker and blew their brains out if ever they had to witness the whole exchange regarding dear Mrs Nowell’s attempt to ask a simple bloody question.

  6. ..
    Unbelievable! I had no idea. Course, I realised it was bad but never did I think that things could be as bad as this. And I moan and groan about Herefordshire Council!
    Heavens above, our collection of deluded, incompetent bunging economic idiots that the Hereford public elected to bugger up our fragile economic activity are nothing compared to your lot who have their hands on the rudder of the Good Ship Wirral.
    Thank Jehovah and the forces of geology that we are separated by one hundred and twelve miles I say!
    Sweet Loving Jesus! I recently submitted a FOI to our Council demanding to be told ‘how many rate paying observers have committed suicide during a Council meeting as a result of unexpected bewilderment and frustration’, and they very quickly replied, ‘we are pleased to inform you that nobody has ever succeeded in killing themselves during a Council meeting’. Course, there was a caveat (inside the Town Hall)
    Now you on the other hand, those upon the Wirral, I dread to think how many good and decent souls who pay their way and diligently recycle their rubbish have chosen to end it all and make their journey to meet the sweet loving Jesus after witnessing any one of your Council meetings.
    God, your lot are bad and it wouldn’t surprise me one tiny jot to learn that some poor fool, bereft of hope and a willingness to breath in and out, stood on a chair, if they had one, shouted, ‘enough! Let me die now’, they pulled out a small pocket Derringer pistol, faced their maker and blew their brains out if ever they had to witness the whole exchange regarding dear Mrs Nowell’s attempt to ask a simple bloody question.
    ..

  7. Jones deserves to be deselected for:

    A. Attacking a member of the public for engaging with the council, as is his legal right

    B. Taking £60,000 plus in public money over the threshold of his and his councillor wife’s property every year

    C. Creating corrosive apathy in the hearts of innocent local people, and in so doing effectively using our council tax to secure his own “impregnable” position

    D. Not staying in Wales

    • A. As you put his I presume you mean me (part 2 of this saga will be on the blog tomorrow). However have you ever met a politician that didn’t moan about press scrutiny at some point?

      B. I have nothing against Cllr Jones and Cllr Jones being paid for what they do. I get paid for what I do.

      C. Personally you and I know Seacombe is a safe Labour seat, therefore the problem is partly the other political parties not keeping Labour on their toes in Seacombe. You just have one-party politics there which isn’t good for democracy…

      D. That’s rather unfair! It doesn’t matter where someone’s from, they can still become a Wirral councillor!

      • D. It’s fair. Jones once publicly claimed some sort of bogus superiority over me, stating he’d never heard of me and in so doing tried to belittle my status as a person local to this area.

        I was born a matter of yards away from the Town Hall many, many, many years before he’d even heard of Wirral, let alone thought about setting foot in it.

        He obviously likes to attack members of the public when they engage with the abusive council. Causing apathy in most people.

        I’m therefore in a position to tell him to sling his hook and get back to bothering sheep. In fact, if home is where the heart is, I sometimes wonder what makes certain people leave the land of their upbringing to set up camp elsewhere.

        Probably best not to go there.

        • I too was born on the Wirral, on the other side of the docks though in Birkenhead.

          Look at it this way, on the question I asked of Cllr Adrian Jones, he is merely following the example of Michael Martin (another Labour Party politician) who was Speaker of the House of Commons.

          My question is a different sort of request to that which Cllr Adrian Jones thinks it is, he doesn’t have the option to refuse it or give excuses about why it can’t be done such as the cost to Wirral Council.

          Read this and contrary to what Cllr Adrian Jones said it will tell you that:

          records of allowances/expenses paid to councillors are to be:

          available, at all reasonable times, for inspection and at no charge

          to

          any local government elector for the area of that authority

          There are no opt outs in that legislation for "personal information", "commercially confidential" information or even the names of the taxi drivers! Yet in a previous year I get redacted expenses with councillors’ cars registration numbers removed, signatures removed, names removed etc.

          Note it states be available at all reasonable times! I made the request in the summer, it is therefore not available at all reasonable times and Wirral Council is the one not being reasonable!

          Sorry if I sound a bit cheesed off, but as you know I have extreme levels of patience with Wirral Council, but when Wirral Council expects its residents to stick to the letter of the law (for example not drop litter, pay council tax) but Wirral Council itself merely follows the law when it suits it doesn’t set a good example does it?

      • Oh, and B.

        You think he deserves to be paid handsomely for what happened over e.g. WirralBiz and for the crap brought down onto the heads of the honest whistleblowers – NH and JG ? That’s a strange remark from a campaigner ! In fact it’s powderpuff and very wet blanket, to volunteer a modicum of respect to them.

        He was and is central to it. A prime mover. And I’d say he (and others) deserve to be investigated, charged, and IF found guilty of dishonesty and criminal conduct, then sent to prison for a long time, where they’d have their vote and their freedom taken from them, and be granted some time to dwell on their conduct and ponder over where it all went wrong.

        • I realise there are all kinds of public debate and viewpoints that can be had over how much politicians should be paid. However politicians decide on their own pay at Wirral Council. This breaches the "Nemo iudex in causa sua" rule (no-one should be a judge in his own cause).

          However this is strictly speaking an internal matter for them (much as how I get paid is an internal matter here). My comment was merely that they get paid, I get paid and we’re all doing a job of work (for which it is reasonable to be paid). That’s my personal viewpoint.

          If politicians weren’t paid and it was a purely voluntary role (as it used to be for local councillors), don’t you think it would put some people with the talent, skills but without independent means off putting themselves forward for the role?

          I will point out that I merely commented on him being paid, I did not comment on how much he should be paid. Politicians are paid the same whatever they do as the only performance related element (based on the crude measure of how many votes are cast) determines how much public money goes to their political party.

          As to Wirralbiz/NH/JG, although he is your local councillor it wouldn’t be fair to solely lay the blame for that at Cllr Adrian Jones. Although yes, councillors decide on the whistleblowing policy, it is senior officers (and below) that implement it (or not as the case may be). I have been as open and transparent as I can be on that score, whereas openness and transparency has to be forced upon Wirral Council in the form of ICO decision notices.

          People like politicians (he used to be on the Merseyside Police Authority remember) rarely do anything that would result in them personally being found liable in a court of law. Look up power politics and buck passing for two examples.

          So to clarify, apologies if you read into my words a meaning I did not intend. However I will state this. Cllr Jones is directly accountable to you. You get a vote every 4 years as to whether you wish to choose him as your local councillor.

          If you wish to tell people your opinion of why you wish to not vote for him, it’s a free country.

          However people will only either stop voting for him or vote for someone else, when they see the someone else as a better alternative.

    • point C) is most valid- a corrosive apathy does result from the inanity of the proceedings that John has filmed here. The council is a club beginning to resemble the parliamet of the rotten boroughs in which an elected dictatorship, largely gerontocrats, play to rules of their own making that procedurally can prevent any elector from receiving direct answers to embarrassing questions. I do wonder whether it is even procedurally correct for a councillor to interrupt between John asking his question and his receiving his non-reply from Adrian Jones. Above all the interrution was pure demagoguery to whip up the councillors and one must commend John for his sang-froid.

      As to the £10,000 crikey that is a very small sum compared to the known financial high-jinks of this council- not least the £45,000 for hurt feelings, the money uselessly expended on Thynne1 where untruths led her up a blind alley, or indeed, half of Grant Thornton’s £50,000 fee to investigate BIG where the council already had 370 pages of its Internal auditor’s report to prove the allegations!

      Carry on sergeant Brace I salute you

      • Thanks for those words of encouragement, I have written further about the question I asked of Cllr Adrian Jones and the background to it here.

        As to your point about Cllr Ron Abbey’s interruption. He made the claim that he claims no expenses from Wirral Council, however as one of the representatives on Merseytravel from memory he is given an all zones Trio pass which according to Merseytravel’s website if you were to buy costs £1,257. Wirral Council fund Merseytravel through the levy (which includes the costs attributed to Cllr Abbey).

        Therefore although Cllr Ron Abbey may be technically correct, he is in my view being somewhat disingenuous.

        Councillors are allowed to interrupt on a point of order, however in doing so they are supposed to explain (usually with reference to the relevant rule) what their point of order is about.

        Questions can be vetoed by the Mayor and Surjit Tour and had the question been as Cllr Ron Abbey claimed I wouldn’t have been permitted to ask it in the first place.

        As to sang froid, it just comes from experience! I’m not quite as blunt as the Paxman style question, “Mr Howard, have you ever lied in any public statement?” as I think if I was ever to be this blunt it would cause mini-uproar at Wirral Council.

        https://youtu.be/Uwlsd8RAoqI?t=1m39s

      • Replying to your filming point, I was around before public meetings were filmed.

        I know this may be hard to imagine, but before they were filmed, standards of behaviour were in fact worse (when they knew what they were saying and doing wasn’t being recorded).

        However the most vocal critics of filming were the Labour Party.

        I suspect that filming has also ended a few political careers as their party members actually found out what their politicians were doing and deselected them.

  8. My naughty list is now ALOT longer!

    • Well any time you want to come along to a public meeting and tell councillors and senior officers off I’m sure they can practice apologising to you! 😀

      The fact you knew what Wirral Council’s constitution stated on public questions (which let’s face it councillors don’t seem to know and senior officers would have to look up) seemed to blindside them.

      I’m just wondering how much of a fuss the trade unions will make tomorrow evening….


Categories