Planning Applications update (Bidston & St. James) APP/11/0192, APP/11/0207

A planning application has been decided by officers to approve Planning Application APP/11/0192 which is in relation to 172 Upton Road, Bidston CH43 7QQ.

This is an amendment to a previously approved planning application (APP/11/00207). It alters access between the ground floor, garage and first floor from the previously approved plans.

Strikes Update – 30th November 2011

Well today is N30 (30th November), the only union I’m in (National Union of Journalists) isn’t on strike else how would people hear about what’s going on through the media?

Yet, in a roundabout way the strikes do affect me. As a funeral organist, I can only play at funerals if the dead can be buried. However the cemetery/crematorium run by Wirral Council is closed so nobody can be buried today.

I really don’t mind as there was a funeral yesterday and one tomorrow. The colder it gets the more people die. It’s good to have a day off once in a while so I can deal with pending matters.

What the strikes have done is bring the issue of public sector pension reform to the top of the media agenda. Over two years ago, I asked the then Chair of the Pensions Committee (which controls the Merseyside Pension Fund) what will be the cost of the extra pension contributions to Wirral Council in this financial year (2009/10), due to a drop in Pension Fund Assets?. She gave a comprehensive answer which sadly isn’t in the minutes, but from my recollection she didn’t know what the increased cost to Wirral Council would be ahead of the tri-annual revaluation of the Fund.

In the last two years the answer given seems to be that the increased costs should fall on employers and employees. If you increase pension costs for employees it is in effect a cut in their take home pay. Any public sector worker working earning £21,000 a year or more has already had a pay freeze, so with the cost of living rising, no wonder they are going on strike!

Update: I passed Arrowe Park Hospital and saw a lot of union flags and a picket line there (sadly my camera battery died so no photos). The M53 was very slow between the Moreton Spur and Bidston due to the closure of the Mersey Tunnels. It’s down to one lane as you approach junction 1 as you’re not allowed to go past junction 1 due to either roadworks or the tunnel closure.

Cabinet (Wirral Council) 24/11/2011 Part 7 Budget Projections 2012-2015, Insurance Fund Budget (2012-2013), Annual Children’s Services Assessment 2011

Motion on Item 3 Projected Budget

Proposed Cllr Steve Foulkes
Seconded Cllr Phil Davies

Cabinet recognises that, although the projected budget gap is diminishing, considerable work is still required to set a balanced budget in March.

In order to avoid any undue delays as proposals are explored, Cabinet authorises the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council, to undertake any appropriate consultation, in addition to the broader consultation already carried out, as required in order to allow the Council to meet the budgetary challenges it is facing.

The motion was agreed by all councillors on the Cabinet.

Cllr Foulkes then moved the meeting to agenda item 4 (Insurance Fund Budget 2012/2013).

Ian Coleman said for 2012/2013 there was a small impact on costs and savings. The report was agreed.

Cllr Foulkes then moved to agenda item 5 (Annual Children’s Services Assessment 2011) which he described as welcome news. A two-page letter was handed out in relation to this agenda item.

An officer said that David Armstrong sends his apologies as he was with headteachers in Anglesey. The officer said Wirral’s children’s services had performed excellently and were graded four out of a possible four. The report detailed how the assessment had been made as well as their strengths in educational standards and safeguarding. The officer referred to “Howard [Cooper]’s strong steer” and David’s role as acting director and the activity that was underway referred to in the report.

Cllr Ann McLachlan said it was excellent news, “fantastic” and referred to the letters sent to all staff in the Children and Young People’s Department.

Cabinet (Wirral Council) 24/11/2011 Part 6 Gas disruption (Leasowe and Moreton), Budget Projections 2012-2015

Cllr Steve Foulkes said the debrief should include lessons learnt and a critique. He said he had been there on Friday night and said people had been "working hard" and that it was a "huge National Grid operation". Cllr Foulkes said they had been lucky the weather had been relatively mild.

He referred to Cllr Jeff Green’s earlier comments about the Serious Fraud Office investigation. Cllr Foulkes referred to an email which referred to a letter being received.

Jim Wilkie said he had emailed all three party leaders (Cllr Foulkes, Cllr Green and Cllr Harney) last Friday [18th November] over a conversation. However Jim Wilkie said the letter had not yet been received. He had intended to speak, but he understood the letter would arrive this week.

Cllr Steve Foulkes said it had been reported that the Serious Fraud Office was investigating. He referred to Frank Field but said it would be “difficult to break a confidence”. In order to discuss it further they would have to go exempt session to seek legal advice.

Cllr Jeff Green expressed the view that he wanted it dealt with sooner.

Ian Coleman introduced report 3 on the Budget Projections for 2012-2015.

He said it was an update, but this would be the last time the Cabinet received the report in this format, as in the next few weeks they should get the provisional local government financial assessment. They were not making provision for price inflation.

Cllr Steve Foulkes said there were still a number of days to go for the budget simulator. He referred also to Neighbourhood Plans. They were waiting to put it together, to give leeway on the issues to be resolved. He read out a proposed resolution of Cabinet on this agenda item.

Cabinet (Wirral Council) 24/11/2011 Part 5 Gas disruption (Leasowe and Moreton)

Dave Green continued by saying that given the scale the response of council officers was “very good indeed” after the “unfortunate accident”. There would still be a formal debrief and lessons learnt. He was happy to talk to councillors, such as the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee and/or Cabinet. On a nicer note, he said the response of the Emergency Planning Team was excellent and that things went well.

He mentioned a Sue Lang and volunteers who had fed people, they were drafting a letter of thanks to the volunteers. National Grid was paying for the food and costs. He wanted people’s views on the matter to be presented to the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee so it could be done in public in an open and transparent way. The biggest problem had been the problem of getting into people’s houses to turn off the gas as some had been away. Warrants had to be applied for to the courts which had been a “logistical nightmare”, but there were always lessons to be learnt.

Cllr Steve Foulkes asked Cllr Anne McArdle if she had anything to add?

Cllr Anne McArdle said she thanked the Managing Director and staff at the centre as well as the Department for Adult Social Services. She also said the community had rallied round.

Cllr Steve Foulkes said he wanted to endorse a thank you letter to volunteers. He said the debrief could go to Cabinet or the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. If scrutiny met first, that was fine.