Senior officers at Wirral Council suspended

According to a press release Ian Coleman, David Taylor-Smith and Bill Norman have been suspended. Bill Norman at a Council Meeting in 2012.

According to a press release Ian Coleman, David Taylor-Smith and Bill Norman have been suspended.

Bill Norman at a Council Meeting in 2012.

Former Wirral Council Standards Committee Chair Brian Cummings awarded MBE

English: Member of the Order of the British Em...
English: Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) medal, front and obverse Tiếng Việt: Hai mặt của Huân chương Thành viên Đế chế Anh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brian John Cummings, formerly the Chair of Wirral Council’s Standards Committee has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for services to education in the Queens Birthday Honours List (2012). Brian Cummings is currently Chairman of Governors at St Anselm’s College and a governor at Birkenhead High School.

John Brace commented, “Although Brian Cummings will be leaving as the paid Chair of the Standards Committee in the next few days, the award of an MBE is well deserved and recognises his voluntary work in the community as school governor. As a former pupil at St. Anselm’s College (92 to 97), I know how valuable the work of the governors there is and how Brian Cummings should be proud of the results of his hard work.
Although Wirral Council has had its fair share of standards issues involving paperwork mixups, the mistakes have mainly been made by Wirral Council employees, one of whom has received a promotion, rather than members of the Standards Committee that he chairs.”

Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) Part 1 Colas contract (HESPE)

The Chair, Cllr John Hale welcomed those present and asked for any declarations of interest. No declarations of interest were made.

The minutes of the meeting held on the 28th March 2012 were agreed, with the Chair asking for a further report on the consultation on library opening hours.

Cllr Steve Williams was elected as Vice-Chair (proposed by Cllr Hale, seconded by Cllr Fraser).

The Chair said he had asked officers to produce the Committee’s terms of reference.

On item 5 Highway and Engineering Services Contract – Third Annual Review he said they had expected a presentation by Steve Grimes, the Contracts Manager for Colas Ltd. Due to the public interest report Colas’s legal representative had advised them it wouldn’t be appropriate.

Mark Smith said that the annual review was part of the management arrangements, but they did have Wirral Council’s highways manager Rob Clifford and Brian Smith the project manager, sadly Colas had declined to attend.

Rob Clifford said there were challenges and risks associated with extending the project and asked if there were any questions.

Cllr Dave Mitchell asked why greater progress hadn’t been made on IT and whether this was their responsibility or Colas’s?

Brian Smith answered that they had tried to tender, but it was unaffordable as the expenditure would be three times what they’d save.

The Chair said he thought that Colas must think “the writing was on the wall” and they had no incentive to cooperate. He said the quality had been abysmal, there were potholes in newly surfaced areas and that the work being carried out was not up to standard.

Brian Smith defended Colas stating that generally the quality of Colas’ work was good and that Wirral compared well to other areas.

Cllr Tony Sullivan was critical of work on Pensby Road. Cllr Fraser asked about where any report on significant cost changes would go, Brian Smith answered that it would go to the Cabinet, however they had been waiting for the auditors’ report first and it would go to Cabinet on the 19th July.

Cllr Fraser asked what was meant by the phrase “inaccurate perception of facts”, were they implying residents don’t understand the facts?

Brian Smith said that residential streets weren’t resurfaced very often and they were starting to use different materials. Residents still expected rolling machines but they were not the only Borough using these surface treatments which would be the subject of a future report.

He then answered a question about the capital program expenditure and how some projects got delayed to the next financial year. The Budget was agreed annually by Council, but it was being flagged up as a risk as until they got tenders back they wouldn’t know the costs of what other providers charged.

Brian Smith answered another question with the answer that the weather often caused delays to planned work, that was why the letters to residents were sent out at short notice. The same councillor asked why the metal signs about the work hadn’t been removed when it was finished? She said it makes it seem to the outside world like they can’t organise getting the roads done.

Cllr Mitchell said that communication was poor but his own road had been done perfectly.

The Chair said the concerns were about lack of coordination, concerns about quality and the attitude that workmen had towards residents and the community.

A councillor felt he couldn’t agree with the recommendation that the work was satisfactory. The Chair suggested it was changed. Mark Smith said that their views could influence the future and whether the Colas contract was extended.

There was a debate about whether to leave satisfactory in the recommendation or not. Eventually they agreed upon the following.

(i) Note the progress of the contract during the past year, and endorse Officers’
views in the report that the performance of the contract is satisfactory.
Noting officers’ views but registering serious concerns in relation to coordination, quality and communication issues.

(ii) Recommend to Cabinet that the existing contract not be extended beyond its current 5 year term, and that the Director of Technical Services be requested to prepare an options appraisal for the delivery of highway and engineering services from 1st April 2014 in a report to Cabinet at the earliest opportunity.

(iii) Ask the Director of Technical Services to report on progress on preparation and delivery of a comprehensive exit and handover strategy relating to the satisfactory completion of the current contract, and effective and efficient transition to the new service delivery arrangements, in his future annual reports on the contract.

(iv) Note that officers will be undertaking actions, to be agreed by Council, in response to the External Auditors’ Report in the Public Interest; specifically in relation to the management of the contract; and ask that the Director of Technical Services reports on progress in delivering those specific actions
relating to the management of this contract in his annual report to the Committee in 2013.

Cabinet (Wirral Council) 21st June 2012 Part 1 Oval Leisure Centre lease to Wirral Met, future of Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Bidston Hill

The agenda and reports can be found here.

Cllr Phil Davies (Chair)
Cllr Ann McLachlan
Cllr Adrian Jones
Cllr Anne McArdle
Cllr Chris Meaden
Cllr Tony Smith
Cllr Pat Hackett
Cllr George Davies
Cllr Harry Smith

The Chair, Cllr Phil Davies welcomed those present to the first Cabinet of the municipal year. He hoped in the future they would have a more focused agenda and not a shopping list. Cllr Phil Davies said that they would be looking at corporate governance and the new corporate plan at a special Cabinet on Monday 9th July. The good news of £40 million of investment in Port Sunlight by Unilever was also something he wanted to highlight. Hillbark Hotel had been awarded a five-star rating and was the only hotel awarded five stars on Merseyside. He asked for any declarations of interest.

Cllr Ann McLachlan declared a prejudicial interest in item 19 (Lease of Land at the Oval Leisure Centre) by virtue of being a governor at Wirral Metropolitan College.
Cllr Pat Hackett declared a prejudicial interest in item 22 (Portas Pilots Round 2) as he had helped the Town Teams with their bids.
Cllr George Davies declared a prejudicial interest in item 12 (Tranmere Rovers Sponsorship Agreement 2012/2013) as he was on a Tranmere Rovers board.

The minutes of the meeting held on the 12th April 2012 were agreed.

The Chair said he would bring item 19 (Lease of Land at the Oval Leisure Centre) forward as there were a number of people here for it. Cllr McLachlan having previously declared a prejudicial interest in the matter left the room.

Ian Brand, Head of Asset Management gave a verbal report summarising the report on the agenda. He said there had been an objection to the disposal of the land, but that a decision had been made to lease the land to Wirral Metropolitan College for new facilities. Section two outlined the planning permission granted on the 24th May, which had been advertised publically. The objection to the sale of the land was outlined in 2.10, there was a request that call-in be waived, so that work could start as soon as possible.

Cllr Adrian Jones said he was mindful that Cllr Stuart Kelly had made representations, but it was necessary to make a decision. He had made a delegated decision to proceed and the local councillors had been involved. The college had arranged a briefing and the decision had been published. Cllr Jones thought it was a win-win and was surprised there were suggestions for further consultation as the opportunity for consultation had been there, he believed he’d taken the right decision.

Cllr Phil Davies said he had concerns that it had taken three months to respond to the complaint and that corporate governance needed to get better so that they dealt with complaints promptly. There was a criticism that officers were not impartial and he believed the complaint should’ve been dealt with more quickly.

Cllr Adrian Jones moved the recommendation at 12.1 .
Cllr Phil Davies asked the Acting Chief Executive if it was ok to waive call-in.
Ian Coleman said he was satisfied that they did.

Cllr Ann McLachlan returned.

Cllr Phil Davies said he had been made aware there were a number of members of the public here about the item involving Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory on Bidston Hill.

Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Bidston Hill
Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Bidston Hill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ian Brand said that it was a request from their tenant NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) to demolish the modern building constructed in 1973 on which they held the ground lease. The tenant would still remain responsible for the rent and maintaining the boundaries. NERC had tried to dispose of their interest, but failed, it was costing NERC money to maintain and the intention was to demolish the building.

Cllr Harry Smith said he had had a conversation with a concerned constituent who had made reference to the Unitary Development Plan from 2003/2004, but there was nothing about the UDP in the item, did Ian have information about that decision?

Ian Brand said that section 11 dealt with planning and that demolition did not require planning consent.

Cllr Harry Smith said he had been quite specific about the Unitary Development Plan and asked for deferment until there was further investigation.

Cllr Adrian Jones said that in principle he supported delaying the decision, he had had a phone call from Graham Clark who was best known for his association with the egg run who had similar reservations.

Bill Norman said the decision could be delegated to the portfolio holder.

Cllr Harry Smith said he was not happy and had further questions, he asked for it to come back to Cabinet.

Cllr Phil Davies said there were alternatives uses suggested at 2.5 and 2.6 and that they could use the special Cabinet meeting on the 9th July to have a report back on the alternative uses and UDP.

He have notice that he wanted to take an urgent item of AOB on the Liverpool City Region City Deal.

On item 3 Cllr Phil Davies had the following proposals.

On minute 360, it was consistent with the Improvement Plan, but could be brought to the special Cabinet on the 9th July and the Improvement Board. Minute 361 reflected on how they operated in practice, but there was the danger of adding another layer of decision making and bureaucracy, he said they had the scrutiny committees and Improvement Board, but he’d like to suggest a Leader’s Board which would be a forum to meet together to discuss issues of strategic importance. It would be an advisory not executive body. This was agreed by the Cabinet. On minute 362, he needed to confirm there was the £250,000 required and asked for a further Cabinet report. Minute 365 was the suggestion of the new administration, there would be a peer challenge in July and they would appoint an interim Chief Executive, he suggested they park the idea with the exception of the performance development and appraisals process. Minute 367 referred to an independent external ombudsman to deal with employee concerns, Cllr Phil Davies was not convinced this would add value to the organisation, he said there were already a raft of procedures on whistle blowing and grievance that they had to make sure worked effectively, so he wanted no action on minute 367. He agreed with 368 which he had read again and was a good document, he confirmed that since minute 372 a new procedure on compromise contracts had been agreed by the Employment and Appointments Committee.

Birkenhead Market: National Market Day events (23rd June)

To celebrate National Market Day on the 23rd June, Birkenhead Market will be running a number of offers and demonstrations this Saturday including:-

a cookery demonstration by Masterchef: The Professionals winner Claire Lara (during the morning only)

another cookery demonstration by Moyo Benson (again during the morning)

freshly cooked paella cooked by a Spanish chef

a karate demonstration in the late afternoon

a magician making balloon animals and

various special offers from the stallholders.

The event is organised by Birkenhead Market and Birkenhead Market Traders Association.