Election Spending (local elections) 2010

Well I went down to the Town Hall today to see what was spent during the election campaigns candidates/agents (or at least what was declared) on their election campaigns. The maximum amount that can be spent is £600+5p/elector (apart from joint candidates where the spending limits are lower at either £450+3.75p/elector or £400+3.33p/elector). As the number of electors varies from place to place, this varies the total amount.

These are the amounts spent between 29th March 2010 and 6th May 2010.

I only looked at candidates in four wards, those were (totals as follows):-

Bidston & St. James Labour £875.54
Rock Ferry Labour £742.54 Lib Dem £288.83
Oxton Labour £510.64 Lib Dem £221.98
Prenton Labour £775.54 Lib Dem £660.83

In three out of four of those places the candidate that spent the most money won. What was interesting though was what it was spent on and the source of the funds.

In some cases (as there was an election for the town’s MP on the same day) candidates put out joint leaflets with the parliamentary candidate. However the legislation wouldn’t class these as “joint candidates” as they are in elections to different bodies even though the election was held on the same day and voted for by the same people.

Dogs, Rain, Alcohol – Crime, ASB & the Labour Party

Well, stone the crows when my wife walked the dog this morning; Labour have been sighted in Bidston & St. James delivering a leaflet.

This follows on from Cllr Harry Smith refusing to answer the question on Monday evening whether he’d visit Bidston & St. James ward on Friday/Saturday nights to see the problems that alcohol brings in the area he represents deriding the question as “political”.

I will give full marks to Cllr Smith for consistency. The independently written minutes of the Wirral Council Scrutiny Programme Board at point 33 quoted below state in response to my wife’s letter on this matter back in January (for Members read Labour councillors):-

“Members considered also a response they had received from a local resident to the Alcohol Scrutiny Review, which also offered some general observations on the issue of alcohol in the Bidston area of Birkenhead. A number of Members expressed their disagreement with a number of points in the letter, particularly what they perceived to be attacks on Council officers in relation to licensing of off-licences and test sales of alcohol to young people under the age of 18. Other Members questioned the objectivity of the response, as the respondent appeared to be promoting the issue for party political purposes.”

However you can read the actual letter from my wife to the members of the Scrutiny Programme Board who were discussing the Alcohol Strategy Review at the meeting.

The points she made that prompted this response from Labour councillors, were “A number of off licences in the area have in recent years made sales of alcohol to customers under 18. Although Trading Standards send in teenagers in test sales to check on under age sales; local shop assistants know who lives locally and will generally be able to spot these strangers.”

This is based on fact. An offlicence in Hoylake Road had had its licence revoked after making an underage sale. This is not the only one that had been selling to under-18s (in fact some still do!)

While Labour merely deride bringing up the problem as “political”, it was Liberal Democrats that asked the police to do something about alcohol related antisocial behaviour which led to the mobile police station being placed near Birkenhead Park train station. Local residents in this area were pleased that finally their complaints were heard and (finally) something was done about it!

What was the response from a party that said they were “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”?

I personally wish I didn’t feel the need to write this post highlighting problems with crime and alcohol in the area. It feels like I’m talking down an area I live in, however as a local resident who lives here, I want the area to improve. If the Labour Party won’t even answer an easy yes/no question or merely derides residents like myself and my wife bring it up with a local councillor as “political”; is Labour there to truly represent the views of the local people or is it party politics first and the local community second?

Wirral Council’s own constitution states:-

“2.3 (a) All Councillors will: …represent their communities and bring their views into the
Council’s decision-making process”

Cllr. Harry Smith chooses to live in Oxton where he’s represented by three Liberal Democrat councillors. Doesn’t this say it all?

Planning Committee – 21/10/2010 (Part 5) – Warehouses

The meeting moved onto an application in Bromborough for a new warehouse. The Chair was keen that the gates were retained. The officer stated that the applicant had been approached and had agreed to incorporate them in the landscaping, but that it couldn’t be added as a condition had to be reasonable and necessary. The Chair was delighted that they were to be retained as they were part of the history of the site. The Chair proposed approval, with Cllr Salter seconding. It was agreed unanimously.

The next item to be discussed was an extension to a warehouse in Hoylake. There was a petitioner who handed around a photo to the committee. He then addressed the committee stating the extension would have a detrimental effect on their homes due to its size of two stories. He asked that the extension be kept to one not two storeys. He also mentioned concerns about noise and the quality of life of residents and requested a site visit.

Cllr Elderton addressed the committee on the subject of the height of the building and asking if it set a precedent. The Chair pointed out that the proposal would lead to less noise as the delivery area would be enclosed. The Chair moved approval. 7 councillors voted for, with 5 against so it was approved.

The Committee agreed the planning applications decided under delegated powers, noted the development control quarterly report and noted the report on recent changing to planning policy regarding housing and the revocation of the North West Regional Spatial Strategy. The meeting then finished.

Planning Committee – 21/10/2010 (Part 4) – New House in Bidston

Item 4 (demolition of a petrol station and erection of shops in Claughton ward) was unanimously approved.

The next item for decision was the erection of a new dwelling in Upton Road, Bidston. There was no petition associated with this application.

The officer described this as in filling of a plot at the end of a cul-de-sac and that there was currently a live planning consent from 2008. The footprint of the amended application was the same and there was no significant difference so the application was recommended for approval.

Cllr Harry Smith addressed the committee, and referred by name to the two residents of 292 that had objected to it. He mentioned about parking, entry/egress, health and safety, the adverse impact on the area and Monday’s site visit. He said the site was too constricted and cars would have to reverse out onto the highway. He also said that if councillors allowed the application it would cause conflict between neighbours. He said a three bedroom house was bad enough, but a four bedroom was out of the question. He asked that if approved that construction traffic go to the rear of the plot. He asked for the application to be refused.

The Chair asked the officer to answer two of the points raised by Cllr. Smith. They answered that there was parking on the site itself and although access was far from ideal, the traffic caused by one residential property was unlikely to be noticed. It was pointed out that residents of other properties had to also reverse to come out onto the road.

Cllr Johnston said he was glad he’d been on the site visit and until today had thought of no planning reason to turn it down. He mentioned a report to be discussed later by the Planning Committee on garden grabbing.

The Chair said planning permission was already in place. Cllr Johnston said that this amended application was just to keep it live. Was the amended first floor element a step too far? It was pointed out that it would rely on the consent of the owners of 290 and that there were no overlooking issues.

Cllr Kenny pointed out that planning permission had already been approved and if rejected tonight the original planning permission would still stand. Cllr Kenny was minded to refuse the application. Cllr Elderton asked if it counted as overdevelopment in relation to the footprint. The response was that overdevelopment related to the % of the site being built on.

An officer also urged caution with Cllr Kenny’s point that it couldn’t because refused because the applicant might not build what they already have planning permission for.

Cllr Elderton raised a point about massing and that since the first application the owner of 290 Upton Road had changed hands. He felt there were no reasonable grounds on which to turn it down. It was pointed out there was a small area for parking at the front of the site.

Cllr Kelly raised the garden grabbing policy and said that the reasons given wouldn’t satisfy the objectors. It was in the gift of the resident of 290 as to whether to permit access.

The Chair pointed out that the rush to develop in rear gardens should be resisted. An officer pointed out that if this was a new application then garden grabbing would apply and he would report later on PPG3. The officer pointed out a strong material consideration was that there was a live consent which is why the decision had originally been delegated to officers to make.

The Chair move approval. Cllr Keeley seconded. Nine councillors voted for and 3 against (all Labour) so the application was approved.

Planning Committee – 21/10/2010 (Part 3) – Bebington House in wrong place

The next application to be decided was a retrospective planning application for the erection of a house and garage.

There was no qualifying petition associated with this application. The Chair asked in future that any photos should be displayed before the meeting started. He also mentioned that Cllr Williams had objected to the application earlier at 4.15pm.

An officer talked about the application and that the house had been built too close to a boundary, it should’ve been 5m away but had been 2.2m away, although the original proposal had been approved. An extra condition had been added that the proposed changes had to be made within 9 months.

Cllr Sheila Clarke addressed the committee and talked about an access road that had been made. She pointed out that in some parts this property was as close as 1.25m and that it was unneighbourly. She pointed out it was in a Conservation Area. She said it was disproportionate to the plot size and had no regard to the character of the area. She referred to page 4 of the report and circulated photos. She said there was overshadowing and loss of amenity to the neighbouring property and that a hedge at 2m was not feasible. She also pointed out that other residents had conformed to the Conservation Area requirements.

Cllr Keeley asked if an objective report had been done as to whether it was out of character in a Conservation Area. The Chair said that an independent report had stated that the amended plans didn’t conflict with policy CH2 or the Conservation Area appraisal.

It was pointed out that there were no habitable rooms on the side of the property which had been built too close to the boundary. Cllr Gilchrist asked a question about condition 4 and was told it removes all permitted development rights and that the 9 months to carry out the work was reasonable.

The Chair proposed it for approval. Ten councillors voted for and two against, so it was approved.