Merseytravel Budget meeting – Bidston to Wrexham line, increase to tunnel tolls, report into removal of exemption for disabled Fast Tag users

Merseytravel’s budget meeting will be held this Thursday 3rd February at 2pm at 24 Hatton Garden, Liverpool, L3 2AN (which is open to the public). Due to the elections last year, instead of being a Labour-Tory (or Tory-Labour) run Merseytravel it is now run by Labour as ten of its eighteen councillors are from the Labour Party.

I was at its budget meeting last year and noted the removal of funding (from future year’s budgets) of the £100,000 that had been there to look into improving the Bidston to Wrexham line. As Neil Scales (Merseytravel’s Chief Executive) told Wirral Council’s Cabinet recently the line is “unloved”.

Another item of interest to Wirral’s resident’s is the proposed changes to tunnel tolls. Officers recommend that the Fast Tag discount continues, but the following rises are proposed:-

Class 1 (mainly cars, 3 wheel vehicles and motorcycles with sidecar) goes from £1.40 to £1.50 (up 10p)
Class 2 (HGVs, vehicles with trailers, two-axle vehicles carrying> 9 people) goes from £2.80 to £3.00 (up 20p)
Class 3 (HGVs with three axles, three-axle passenger carrying vehicles) goes from £4.20 to £4.50 (up 30p)
Class 4 (HGVs with four or more axles) goes from £5.60 to £6.00 (up 40p)

In addition, the meeting is going to consider recommending that a further report on determining whether the existing toll concessions for disabled drivers are “justified and appropriate”. The report on tunnel tolls can be read in full here.

If you feel strongly about these issues, Mersey Tunnel’s User Association has current contact details for the four Wirral councillors that represent Wirral’s interests on Merseytravel (one Lib Dem, two Tory and one Labour) if you would like to get in touch with them prior to the meeting.

Readers may also be interested in a similar story about the tunnel tolls in the Wirral Globe that goes into more details. Further details on how to apply for the Mersey Tunnel’s free travel concession including the application form can be found by following the link.

In the interests of open journalism, I’ll point out that my wife is currently in receipt of a “disabled fast tag” which enables her to take some free trips through Mersey Tunnels each year.

Cathcart Street Primary School – Cabinet will decide on £1.8 million investment next Thursday

It’s always good to have a good news story about matters in Bidston & St. James. Next Thursday at Wallasey Town Hall Wirral’s Cabinet, made up of Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors will decide whether to spend £1.8 million on Cathcart Street Primary School.

As reported on this blog last year the decision to close nearby Cole Street Primary School will mean some of its pupils will be joining Cathcart Street Primary School.

A detailed Scheme and Estimate Report, picture of what the proposed changes will look like, compared to the current building, existing floor plan and proposed altered floor plan are all available to view by following these links.

If approved next Thursday and agreed by the Planning Committee (or planning officers), work will start in May and (hopefully) be complete by the time of the next school year in September. Due to the closure of nearby St. Laurence’s Primary School, if this scheme is agreed the existing Children’s Centre at St. Laurence’s will be relocated to the Cathcart Primary School site. This scheme includes:-

  • Alterations and small extensions to improve the pupil toilet and cloakroom provision
  • Dry lining the existing internal walls to conceal the exposed brickwork and block-work and to improve acoustic properties
  • Alterations to the internal room layout to provide practical resource areas adjacent to classrooms and to improve internal circulation
  • Provision of a hygiene room for pupils with disabilities
  • Improved office and reception facilities and a new entrance area
  • Refurbishment of all toilet provision for both pupils and staff
  • Redecoration and new floor finishes throughout
  • Replacement of the existing high level clerestory windows
  • Complete replacement of the roof covering with improved insulation levels to reduce heat loss
  • A secure external covered play area adjacent to the Foundation classrooms
  • Replacement boilers and heat emitters
  • Additional classroom ventilation
  • New energy efficient lighting
  • New fire and intruder alarms
  • CCTV security system
  • New fencing throughout to improve the security and appearance of the site

In yet another good news story for Cathcart Street, Lib Dem MPs in government have agreed to give schools an extra £430/year for every child on free school meals and those in foster care or who have been adopted. This extra money, which will go directly to schools will mean over £5 million extra money being spent across Wirral helping schools such as Cathcart Street and other schools in Bidston & St. James.

Arrowe Park & Clatterbridge closed to visitors (again)

Due to another outbreak of the norovirus, visiting has once again been suspended. This also affects Clatterbridge hospital (with the exception of the Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology).

Dr Katy Kidd, director of infection control said: “Anyone who suspects they may have norovirus, or has been in contact with someone who has it, should not visit local hospitals, GP surgeries or care homes. People should not go back to work until 48 hours after the symptoms have settled to avoid the spread.”

The situation will be reassessed at 5pm, on Monday, January 31.

Employment & Appointments Committee – 27th January Part 15 – Chief Executive

Cllr Holbrook suggested they use North West Employers. The officer answered that was part of the subscription.

Cllr Green said he had written something down and read out the motion (which wasn’t circulated to the members of the public present).

His motion proposed a subcommittee in the proportion 2:2:1. It was agreed it was not appropriate to share a Chief Executive. The Head of Human Resources would consult with the subcommittee and it would be advertised at a salary of ~£130,000. The subcommittee’s duties would be advertising, job description, timetable/selection and a recommendation to Council. There would be no external consultants, but a local Chief Executive would be used as an external adviser.

Labour said they would agree to the motion if he removed the word local.

Cllr Bridson mentioned something else. She said a shared Chief Executive would’ve let to the furore over a shared MP. The officer said there was a robust performance management process. Cllr Mitchell seconded Cllr Green’s motion. It was agreed the makeup of the committee would be the Labour leader, Labour Deputy Leader, Conservative Leader and Conservative Deputy Leader and Lib Dem Leader.

Cllr Bridson confirmed that that was agreed unanimously. There was no item of non-exempt AOB. The motion to exclude the press and public from the remainder of the meeting was then passed and the press and public left.

The other items on the agenda considered in a closed session were allegations against employees, and early voluntary retirement/voluntary severance requests.

Employment & Appointments Committee – 27th January Part 14 – Chief Executive

Cllr Davies said he took a slightly different view, but would not push it to a vote. He said if they involving recruitment people that they would have a wide knowledge of the pool of talent. In addition they would have a knowledge of contracts in the private sector and local government.

He said they would benefit from consulting a chief executive or retired chief executive. He said it was the most important appointment that will be made and it is worth the investment. He said it should be based on consensus and this was also essential to go down this route. In an ideal world they would find a breadth of expertise and knowledge that a recruitment consultancy form could bring to the table which would lead to a better appointment.

Cllr McLaughlin asked as a point of info that there didn’t sem much difference in cost between the two forms of advertising and using an external adviser.

An officer answered for clarity that the amount was only for the online section of The Times. A search consultant would be over and above the costs in the report. The cost depended on the advice. Maybe a local Chief Executive could be used. It would depend on availability and choice.