Harry Smith talks to Wirral Councillors at the March Budget meeting

Harry Smith talks to Wirral Councillors at the March Budget meeting


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Cllr Harry Smith – Point of order Mr. Mayor, I do believe that you asked for the gallery cleared of all people except for the lady with the disability. I do believe there are people creeping back in.

Mayor: No, I haven’t…

Cllr Smith continues talking over the Mayor: I think everyone should be cleared except for the lady.

Mayor: Security asked my permission and I gave it.

Cllr Smith: Well, Mr. Mayor, I’ve got to say that the people who are there are political party members and there’s such thing as (at this point he gets drowned out by the Deputy Mayor Cllr Moira McLaughlin, Labour councillors, Lib Dem councillors, Tory councillors and others)

Cllr Smith: Mr. Mayor, I think you’re allowing some people to come back but not others. There was others who were very quiet up there. They’ve made no arrests of anybody but cleared with the noisy ones.

Mayor: I note your comments.

Cllr Stuart Kelly: From the opposition, you can see that there are a number of other people that have been allowed back in.

Mayor: There are a number of people up there listening to the debate very quietly.

Cllr Harry Smith: I’ll will just reiterate that everybody was asked to be cleared from the public gallery. That’s all.

Mayor: Yes and I do,

Cllr Harry Smith (interrupting the Mayor again): And some quiet ones, had to go and no doubt they don’t know now. So they’ve missed out on the opportunity of coming back and listening to the debate and I just think it’s unfair that some are and some aren’t.

Mayor: OK, Cllr Mountney.

Just for the record, the Labour Party (and its union sympathisers) planned before the meeting started to disrupt the meeting seemingly to get the Budget delayed to the reserve budget date a week later. When one noisy heckler was thrown out, another started. The Lib Dem Mayor decided to adjourn the meeting. At this point he asked for the public gallery to be cleared.

The adjournment lasted longer than originally stated (whether the rumour that a councillor had gone to get a pizza was true or not I don’t know). However the journalists (who had their laptop set up tweeting) and the petitioner were allowed to stay in the Council Chamber. The Council has a legal duty to provide for journalists at the meeting and nothing had (yet) been decided in response to the petition.

Anybody who wanted to hear the rest of the meeting was ushered into Committee Room 1. A few people refused to leave the public gallery.

In Committee Room 1 Cllr. Jeff Green couldn’t be heard giving his speech as the volume on the speakers was too low to be heard and a member of the public started smoking. However all the building staff (which had been supplemented by Community Patrol and police) except one were either in the public gallery supervising the one or two people left in the public gallery.

Clearly things could’ve been managed better and the fact people were delayed from joining the council meeting until about twenty minutes after it started didn’t help the mood of the public. After most had left, those remaining in Committee Room 1 were invited back to the public gallery to hear the rest of the meeting.

Cllr Harry Smith (Labour’s candidate) unfairly accuses the Mayor Alan Jennings, because he is in the same political party as myself and my wife of showing us preferential treatment compared to Labour Party members. This was not the case as I will demonstrate in a further blog post. There were others in the public gallery. It is not the first time he has interrupted a meeting of the Council to comment on my presence and that of my wife.

P.S. For any of those people who think you can’t record public meetings please read this Wirral Globe article first.

New Housing Development Clarence Park on the Beechwood

Clarence Park - site for new Housing in Beechwood

When out delivering with the Liberal Democrat Focus Team on Beechwood today I noticed a derelict piece of land that used to attract flytipping has now got a big sign on it advertising 2 and 3 bedroom properties in a development called Clarence Park.

This is as well as a plan for houses by Liverpool Housing Trust on the former site of Feltree House (which was demolished over the Summer). Residents on the Beechwood (despite less car ownership than some parts of Wirral) have regularly told us about the parking problems encountered by them on this estate.

Clarence Park is being made possible thanks to funding from the Coalition Government. Without funding the properties would be about £140,000. However the government provides a loan of 15% of the value. The housebuilder also provides a loan of 15%. These two loans of 30% are interest free for five years. There are no restrictions on selling the property during this time.

Lib Dem councillors Simon Holbrook and Alan Brighouse have tabled a motion to Wirral Council at its meeting of the 18th entitled “Mortgage Support for First Time Buyers”. This outlines the “Lend a Hand” scheme (which lends buyers a deposit), the “First Buy” scheme (again helping low-income families to find a deposit) and asked for a report from Ian Coleman and Kevin Adderley on how this can be achieved on the Wirral.

Last November I wrote the following about the Liberal Democrat government housing policy. I am glad to see it being put into effect!

November Focus:-

Lib Dems deliver 150,000 new affordable homes

New Lib Dem plans will see the biggest increase in affordable homes for more than thirty years.

The Lib Dems in Government will deliver 150,000 affordable homes over the next gour years. That’s more than Labour delivered in their first eight years in power!

The plans will reverse the massive decline in affordable housing under Labour, who sold off more properties than they built.

Local campaigner John Brace explained, “After 13 years in power, Labour left Britain with 45,000 fewer affordable homes than they started with.

Thanks to the Liberal Democrats affordable social housing will at long last be available to thousands more families across Britain.”

Photo caption:
The Lib Dems are providing new affordable homes where Labour failed.

Postal Voting – Deadline 14th April – Only 5 days to go

Today Wirral Council sent my excellent agent, who then passed on the information to me the invite to the opening of the postal votes (starting on the 20th April) at Wallasey Town Hall.

It is not too late to register for a postal vote, if you want one. The form can be downloaded from Wirral Council’s website. For people who are planning to go on holiday, will be at work or have children to look after having a postal vote brings welcome flexibility to the process.

I am pleased that (unlike last year) Wirral Council is sticking to the legal requirement to invite candidates/agents to the opening of the postal votes. The postal ballots are one of the weak points of our system and as a judge described Labour’s previous election fraud “would disgrace a banana republic”. Having said that there are many other weak points in our democracy, considering the large amount of people registered to vote who are not allowed to (eg dead or other reasons).

Lib Dem voters are more likely to vote by post. Last year many in Bidston & St. James did not receive their postal votes. When they complained they didn’t receive replacement postal ballots and were turned away from polling stations.

This even included myself! If this year anyone tries to stop your exercising your democratic or legal right to vote, please get in touch with us and we will submit a formal complaint.

One change made from last year, which affects polling stations outside Bidston & St. James (I live in the largest polling station area) is that polling stations serving more than 2,500 voters have been split. I see this as an excellent change that will prevent the disgraceful long waits for hours that people had to endure when voting in the local and General Election last year.

If anybody has any questions or suggestions for improvement in the democratic system, please leave a comment. There have been reports of people previously going to a polling station and being turned away as someone has impersonating them has already voted.

We must have a democracy where everybody’s vote counts not just in theory but in practice. After the election I had a conversation with the Returning Officer Steve Maddox (who has since retired) as to why it appeared my own vote hadn’t been counted as it didn’t appear in the list of people who had voted. I was not entirely convinced by his explanation and hope this year Wirral Council will at least be able to be able to provide a result which isn’t questionable. I live in hope that one day we’ll actually get an accurate result in Bidston & St. James and that everyone’s vote is not only counted, but recorded as being counted.

This year the Returning Officer is Bill Norman.

Wirral Council Cabinet to decide contractor for Cathcart Street Primary School/Children’s Centre

The Lib Dem/Conservative Cabinet will next Thursday decide upon a contractor for the refurbishment of Cathcart Street Primary School, creation of a new Children’s Centre here (as reported by the Liverpool Echo) and provision for holidays/after school clubs.

The Cabinet report suggests they choose Paragon Construction for the project.

Waiving of call-in is also requested on this decision, so that the project can be started right away (depriving the Labour Party to have a further meeting within two weeks stating why they’d be against over a million pounds worth of investment in this school). The plan is that the contractor will start over the Easter break which would be impossible without waiving call-in.

The project raises a number of questions which I will be asking of Cabinet:-

a) Will the contract specify that local employment has to be used (or a % of local employment)? Is this what “Provision will be made within the contract for Targeted Recruitment and Training (TRT) so that Wirral Council can continue the policy of developing a Construction Employment Integrator (CEI).” means at 9.7? 12.2 states “The successful constructor will be encouraged to employ local labour and source materials from local suppliers as far as possible.”, but does this mean they will?
b) What’s the scale of the bonus the contractor would get for completing on time?
c) Considering the tendency of construction projects to take longer and cost more, what controls are in place to ensure it comes in on time and budget?
d) A number of construction companies contracted on the Wirral have gone bust part way through a project. For example the project to reconstruct the West Kirby Marine Lake or the new medical centre on Laird Street. What alternative arrangements are in place regarding this eventuality and has the financial background of the preferred contractor been looked into?
e) What can other Wirral schools learn from the green elements of the design in helping combat climate change, reducing their carbon footprint and saving Wirral Council money?