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Posted by: John Brace | 2nd January 2016

How much a mile do taxis for Wirral’s councillors cost (between £1.33 and £6.40/mile)?

How much a mile do taxis for Wirral’s councillors cost (between £1.33 and £6.40/mile)?

Last year I published the £multi-million contract Wirral Council has called the Passenger Transport Contract which covers transport for children with special educational needs/disability, children in care and vulnerable adults (to places like school and day centres) (lot 1), ad hoc journeys for these categories of people (lot 2), the "Maxi Taxi" scheme (taxis for people to work) (lot 3) and of course that most interesting category of all taxis for councillors (lot 4).

From the answer Cllr Adrian Jones gave recently (this blog post details the aspects of the request that relate to an underspend on the modern equivalent of the Poor Laws), I think it is fair to summarise that his answer states that providing me with a 44 A4 page contract about a £multi-million contract such as this, is a great drain on Wirral Council’s resources (bear in mind this is an organisation that has a revenue budget of hundreds of millions of pounds a year plus a capital budget of a similar size). Just the annual invoices to their external auditors Grant Thornton comes to a six-figure sum! Personally I’d prefer Wirral Council to routinely publish such information (but they don’t). Maybe if all such contracts that Wirral Council has for millions of pounds were published the public would know what they were getting for their money?

He pointed out at a public meeting to me last month that it takes a long time to black out " personal information" on such contracts. Out of those 44 pages I published, as only one telephone number is blacked out on page 39, I am truly glad that Wirral Council is saving the public from knowing the phone number of a local taxi company (that I’m pretty sure will be in the phone book anyway!)

It’s a contract estimated at £4.1 million (no that’s not all on taxis for councillors).

Of course, as regular readers of this blog will know, despite the information on councillors’ expenses being open to inspection at "all reasonable times" actually getting information out of Wirral Council on councillors’ expenses is a bit like a dentist asking a patient do they want their teeth out!? I asked (again) and the answer from Cllr Adrian Jones was that I should be "patient".

I gather that "all reasonable times" by Wirral Council’s interpretation of the legislation is at some point between to be poetic "when hell freezes over" or the councillor (or former councillor) to whom the expenses relate is dead.

From a public relations perspective I would say that the drip, drip, drip of information on councillors’ expenses at Wirral Council and repeated attempts to block information is probably far more embarrassing (to all councillors including the ones that don’t claim any expenses) than actually releasing the information in the first place! Has their new PR adviser heard of the Streisand Effect? This FOI request (which will be the third time of asking for this information so I must have a lot of patience) is one I hope will be answered. However dear reader I presume this request will be either refused or ignored (despite the Court of Appeal judgement [2015] EWCA Civ 388, [2015] 1 WLR 2879, [2015] WLR 2, [2015] WLR(D) 194 referred to being extremely clear that such information has to be released). As there is for want of a better term "political resistance" at Wirral Council to the release of expenses information, I am beginning to think an ICO decision notice (which will take an answer to this FOI request past the May 2016 elections) may be what it takes. Who knows? Please leave a comment if you know more than me.

However moving on to oversight and scrutiny. I have conducted some oversight and scrutiny on my original publication of the contract and realised that there was a schedule containing rates that I didn’t include when I published the original contract. That table can be found below. This table is how much that Wirral Council is charged by Eye Cab Limited for taxis for councillors.

Here is an easy read version of Councillors Pricing Schedule LOT 4.

You can see the original below (linked to a more high-resolution version). Personally I feel this web version and the PDF file I’ve created above are far easier to read (especially for those with visual issues like myself it can be zoomed in without loss of resolution). However don’t get me started on Wirral Council’s track record towards people with disabilities. I hate to think how much I’d be moaned at if I asked for large print versions of documents and how much of a drain I’d be regarded on resources then!


































































Councillors Pricing Schedule LOT 4



Item




 Description
 1 Mile = 1609.344 Metres




Distance





Quoted
Mile Cost



Quoted
Total
Journey
Cost



1





 First 805 metres (half mile)




First mile





£3.20



£3.80



£3.80





2





 Remaining 805 metres






£0.60





3





 Additional mile @1609 metres




1-5
miles






£1.40





£9.40





4





 Additional mile @1609 metres




5-10
miles





£1.40





£16.40





5





 Additional mile @1609 metres



10-15
miles





£1.30





£22.00





6





 Additional mile @1609 metres




15-20
miles





£1.20





£26.60



7



 Waiting time (if applicable)



Per Minute Cost



£0.20



  Additional Information or Charges:
  All vehicles are Hackney Carriages 5/7 seat vehicles and have been quoted accordingly, any tolls will be charged extra at the appropriate return rate.


Passenger Transport Contract Councillors Pricing Schedule Lot 4 thumbnail

Passenger Transport Contract Councillors Pricing Schedule Lot 4

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Responses

  1. The people in position to abuse power on Wirral are malevolent, spiteful, mendacious, selfish, egotistical filth.

    They will continue to be this into the New Year and beyond, through several ‘seasons of goodwill’ and into the foreseeable future. Anna Klonowski bottled it and walked away with £377,000 of our cash. If she hadn’t been compromised from the very start and Jeff Green had had the courage to appoint somebody determined, impartial and proven as fully independent we could have divested ourselves of this dirt once and for all.

    But the chance came and went and he bottled it. So it’s onwards and downwards.

    I’ve said it before but my cynicism is passive and doesn’t harm anybody. However theirs is constantly active, causing foreseeable and avoidable abuse, stress, misery, theft, injury, harm, death, largesse with public funds, destroys livelihoods and brings about the cover up of all the above.

    I’m a sworn atheist but in my daydreaming moments, of which there are many, I often hope there is a hell waiting for these nasty, pestilent pigs.

    • The funny thing about these expenses stories though is that:

      (a) it allows the officers (and the public) to have a good laugh at the politicians and the knots the politicians tie themselves in over it,

      (b) it shows people I’m doing my job, that the press is “independent” and I’m not veering away from some topics just because they might upset powerful people (or upset my advertisers) and

      (c) it highlights cultural attitudes over openness and transparency in a powerful way that’s hard to do so otherwise.

      Here’s an alternative scenario for you.

      Imagine instead of Anna Klonowski Associates, that I’d been commissioned to write that report. After all, I’m determined, independent and as far as I know to a large extent impartial.

      Firstly I wouldn’t have written Officer 1, 2, 3 and 4. It would’ve named senior officers/councillors from the start, no key required.

      I wouldn’t have charged ~£1,000/page and I would’ve (as they thanked me a long time ago at a disciplinary panel meeting and looking back they proved that they didn’t want these attributes in someone in a political party) been frank, open and honest. No writing in riddles.

      OK, like the Improvement Board recommendation to have independent people on the Audit and Risk Management Committee, if I’d made such recommendations that would shift power away from the ruling elite they would probably have been ignored, but I’ll state this.

      Had I been commissioned to write such a report it wouldn’t have been behind closed doors like the AKA report was done.

      The way I would’ve done it would be more like the Sue Charteris public inquiry into the library closure program. A lot more press scrutiny/openness and at least two days (all recorded on video tape) of high profile public meetings at a large venue for the public and interested parties to have their say.

      OK I asked a few questions about the AKA report at public meetings, but the public had limited opportunities to have their say about it.

      There were of course calls at the time for a public inquiry, but I think part of the downside of what happened with AKA Associates was that instead of it all being discussed calmly and rationally that political parties instead seized upon it for their own political ends in a grab for power.

      Indeed at this point I will link to my famous piece on Cllr Foulkes’ thoughts on whistleblowers (the “courted almost feted”, how he “did not believe whistleblowers should ever be used in a political fashion” and “that councillors “don’t seem to have an up to date picture” as to how whistleblowers concerns were being resolved”).

      In fact that latter point is the most telling isn’t it? The peoples’ representatives are kept in the dark while management figures out a way to come out of it smelling of roses!

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t Wirral Council set the fares for hackney taxi cabs and didn’t they just have a meeting to increase them for this year?
    Now does this mean Wirral Council gets a bigger share of these fares and if they keep going up they get more, As I’m sure the extra money doesn’t go to the drivers or taxi firms
    So its a bit like giving yourself a pay rise each year even though the company you work for has no say in the matter!

    • Yes they [Wirral Council] decided to have a consultation to increase the hackney carriage fares (just in time for Christmas). That’s a maximum that can be charged, but as discussed at that meeting the hackney carriage drivers stated that they wouldn’t charge less than that as it would undercut their fellow drivers.

      The rates in this contract are the same as the maximum that can be charged for hackney carriage fares for some distances and very slightly less than the maximum for others.

      This led to Cllr Adrian Jones stating earlier in the year that that was the reason behind the contract as it was more cost effective.

      However if the contract extension for a year was exercised, it is entirely possible the rates in the contract could’ve been put up then (or possibly as you point out altered if hackney carriage fares rose). However the contract will have to be put out to tender again soon, so I suspect the rates in it will go up then anyway.

      Wirral Council charges taxi drivers various fees, for renewing their licences etc which are fees they tend to put up each year.

      So yes some of what is paid out on this contract will come back to Wirral Council’s licensing department.


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