Wirral Council Recruiting Solicitors

 

Wirral Council are recruiting a Senior Solicitor (Child/Adult Social Care), Senior Solicitor (Litigation/Governance) and Solicitor Child Care – Wallasey Town Hall.

Part of the reason I’d guess that Wirral Council is recruiting the Senior Solicitor (Litigation/Governance) is because the current Head of Legal and Member Services, Shirley Hudspeth isn’t a practising solicitor or barrister. When Wirral Council concentrates on internal promotions to fill posts, this is why you end up with anomalies like the Head of Legal and Member Services not being a practising solicitor or barrister.

Certainly there seems to be a cultural drive away from the past (subcontracting for external legal advice) to dealing with legal matters in-house. Bill Norman, Head of Law, HR & Asset Management did make the point in public meetings that he wanted more solicitors in house at Wirral Council (well just before he had to leave the room as the Tory councillors tried unsuccessfully to remove him as Monitoring Officer). It certainly would’ve led to a saving to the taxpayer as Wirral Council was at the time spending £millions/year in external legal advice. Yet for whatever reason the politicians at the time wouldn’t authorise the creation of the new posts required as corporate governance issues at Wirral Council weren’t once seen as the priority they are now.

Certainly some councillors prefer to rely on in house advisers employed by Wirral Council rather than have to spend months putting out a contract to tender before external adviser/s are agreed and appointed (and the delays can cause increased costs).

 

Licensing Act 2003 Sub-Committee 25/7/2012 Decision to Transfer Premises Licence for North Star, Laird Street to Mr. Fox refused

The papers for this meeting are here.

The meeting started ten minutes late and in a different room to the advertised Committee Room 4. Cllrs present on the panel were Cllr John Salter (Labour), Cllr Steve Niblock (Labour) and Cllr Cherry Povall (Conservative). Officers of Wirral Council were David Abraham (Legal Adviser), Anne Beauchamp (Committee Clerk) and Margaret O’Donnell (Licensing Manager). Representing Merseyside Police was Sgt Jenkins. Colin Fox (the proposed Designated Premises Supervisor) was represented by Samantha Brown/Ford of Napthens Solicitors.

When everybody came back, the Chair apologised for confusing Fox and Ford.

The decision was as follows:

We have given careful consideration to the application made by Mr. Fox for the transfer of a Premises Licence in respect of the North Star, 294 Laird Street, Birkenhead. We have listened carefully to the representations by Mr. Fox and Mrs. Ford, his legal representative. We have considered the representations made in writing and orally by Sergeant Jenkins of the Merseyside Police.

In determining the application we have regards to the prevention of crime and disorder objective, the Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy and the relevant guidance issued under s.182 of the Licensing Act 2003, in particular paragraph 8.99.

We’ve heard evidence from Merseyside Police, that they have serious concerns that the transfer of the Premises Licence to Mr. Fox would undermine the crime prevention objective. Merseyside Police gave evidence that when the premises was subject to a closure notice, it operated in a breach of that condition of the licence and an alleged serious sexual assault took place at the premises which is currently being investigated by Merseyside Police.

After these incidents have taken place, since Mr. Fox has been involved with the premises. We were not satisfied that the applicant Mr. Fox, as a holder of the Premises Licence …
2:01
to uphold the licensing objectives. We are not satisfied with the applicant’s responses, when he was asked to demonstrate what his responsibilities were and how the licensing objectives would be upheld by him, should the transfer of the Premises Licence be granted.

We also note that the applicant did not intend to take an active role in the running of the premises, that the lease…
his name..

Furthermore…
transfer the licence to a future

Designated Premises Supervisor.

2:47
In light of the above, we have considered it necessary to refuse the application by Mr. Fox, to transfer the Premises Licence in respect of the North Star, 294 Laird Street, Birkenhead. Thank you.

Cabinet (Wirral Council) 19th July 2012 Part 2 Budget Projections 2013/2015, Welfare Reform: Council Tax Benefit, Welfare Reform: Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans, Improvement Board

The meeting started with Cllr Phil Davies giving apologies for Cllr Tony Smith and saying that he was delighted by the news that fourteen parks [in Wirral] had been awarded a Green Flag. Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm had been awarded a Green Flag Community Award, he asked Cllr Meaden to comment.

Cllr Meaden (Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Leisure) said that Birkenhead Park had won a Green Flag and that the volunteers had worked hard to achieve this. She said it was the most Green Flags awarded in the Merseyside region.

Cllr Pat Hackett declared a personal interest in item 14 (Investment Strategy Update).

Cllr Phil Davies declared a personal interest in item 14 (Investment Strategy Update) due to his involvement with the Local Enterprise Partnership.

The Cabinet agreed both sets of minutes to be signed.

Malcolm Flanagan introduced item 3 (Budget Projections 2013/2015). He said it was a regular report and highlighted the change in balances in 2.4.2 from £9.8 million to £14 million.
Cllr Phil Davies thanked Mr. Flanagan, but wanted to comment on the considerable budget challenge due to the shortfall. He asked for working budget options to be brought forward and for  a detailed public consultation from September. He asked for a report on how the Budget in future years would be affected by the recently released 2011 Census population figures? Mr. Flanagan said he was happy to note that.

Mr. Flanagan also introduced report 4 on Welfare Reform: Localised Council Tax Reduction Scheme. From April 2013 there would be a ten percent reduction in funding. If they wanted their own scheme, there had to be a consultation on it by 31st January 2013. Pensioners would be protected, which would mean any shortfall would be passed to people of working age. This would mean people who didn’t previously pay Council Tax would become liable, the timescale for this was outlined in 2.17.

Cllr Phil Davies thanked him for the report, but said it was a “difficult report to digest” as it would lead to a £3.15 million reduction in spend on Council Tax, which in his opinion just added to the difficulty with the Budget. However he went on to say they had no choice in it, it was important to consult, but he took the point made in 2.28. He went on to say that out of the options on pages 15 & 16 on balance they would like to consult on option two. Cllr Davies then expressed their view on changes to exemptions and discounts in relation to repairs, second homes and vacant properties. He claimed that by their calculations this would save £3.286 million which was slightly over what they needed and asked for a further report back to Cabinet.

Mr. Flanagan said there would be consultation and a report back in September. The report was agreed.

Mr. Flanagan then introduced item 5 Welfare Reform: Local Welfare Assistance Scheme. He said that from 1st April 2013, Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans would be transferred to a local welfare assistance scheme, designed and administered by Wirral Council. He said a consultation would be required, using a similar timescale to the Council Tax changes.
Cllr Phil Davies asked for another report and worried about paragraph 2.12 and the budgetary implications. He said they would receive a proportion of the current spend however it was regrettable to talk about cutting crisis loans for the vulnerable residents in the Borough which Wirral Council would have [in the future] to administer. He said it was crucial to have a local scheme with discretion and referred to the current increased demand on the new food bank. He asked for a further detailed report.

The Cabinet then turned to the recommendations from the Improvement Board. Cllr Phil Davies asked Cllr McLachlan to make comments about the items and key messages. She said that the document was for noting, but since its last meeting issues had moved on. There had been a seminar on the 7th July for councillors with over forty attending. Cllr McLachlan said there was a real energy and buzz about improving governance structures, but there was an issue raised about communication with councillors and engagement. The Improvement Plan was going to the Board for agreement and ratification. The report was noted.

An update on the political thinking at the time in the Lib Dems behind the Martin Morton saga

The below is information revealed by the court order granted by Deputy Disctict Judge Ireland in Mr. John Brace v Cllr Alan Brighouse on behalf of the Birkenhead and Mr. John Brace v Liberal Democrats (the Federal Party) on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

It was written by former councillors Simon Holbrook and Ann Bridson in May 2011. It is published because of the public interest surrounding this issue and it was sent to me (John Brace) in May 2012.

This forms an attachment to an email (since deleted) between Simon Holbrook and Cllr Patricia Williams and Cllr Alan Brighouse sent around the 30th May 2011. Italics are my response to the issues raised.

It’s published under the provisions that surround court reporting. The publisher regards the publication of it as absolutely privileged under the publishing provisions that apply to court proceedings.

The outcome of the legal case was that Cllr Alan Brighouse on behalf of the Birkenhead Liberal Democrats and Liberal Democrats (the Federal Party) on behalf of the Liberal Democrats were found liable for not sharing it in response to the subject access request of John Brace made around the 4th June 2011.

Appendix – Case against John Brace

1. Smearing of Sitting Councillors

In an email to Cllr Gilchrist dated 19 May 2011 at 09:59, John Brace did link the Standards investigation into Cllr Williams’ and Cllr Bridson’s part in the “special charging policy” with that of the recent investigation into the way in which Martin Morton had been treated, despite the fact that these are two totally seperate matters.

Cllr Williams and Cllr Bridson are not and were not under investigation into the alleged bullying of Martin Morton. This investigation, which was instigated by former Cllr Holbrook has now concluded and reported. It never was and never had been a matter for the Standards Board of England.

At the time this matter was still being considered by the Standards Board for England, who according to Wirral Council’s website had instructed the IAP to be reconvened as the Martin Morton complaint relating to Cllr Bridson had “mysteriously vanished” from a filing cabinet (the first complaint of Martin Morton didn’t include Cllr Bridson). The Cabinet Member with democratic accountability for this area was former Cllr Simon Holbrook. Cllr Williams was the Lib Dem representative on the Charging Policy Working Group in 2005 that decided on the policy and during some of the period concerned Cllr Bridson was Cabinet Member for Social Care and Inclusion. The Charging Policy Working Group minutes formed an appendix to the Anna Klonowski report that wasn’t circulated in the public version, but known about internally at Wirral Council since the Audit and Risk Management Committee meeting.

2. Disclosure of Confidential Information

John Brace did disclose on the Wirral Globe website blog, discussions that took place within the Birkenhead Executive Committee. Meetings of the Birkenhead Executive Lib Dems are internal party matters and therefore as such confidential to members of the Liberal Democrats and not for general publication.

These disclosures resulted in a senior Councillor from outside Birkenhead (Phil Gilchrist) being sufficiently concerned to raise the matter with the Constituency Chair (Cllr Williams).

The information was not confidential as s.29 of the Data Protection Act 1998 would make the disclosure exempt from the first data protection principle. The conviction of Cllr Warren Bradley (former Lib Dem Leader on Liverpool City Council) for false statements in his nomination papers should show that making any false statement on a nomination paper is a criminal offence. See original comment here dated 9.08am 9th May 2011.
3. Making False Allegations in Public

The matters disclosed in point 2 above questioned the eligibility of Simon Holbrook to have stood as the Lib Dem Candidate in Prenton at the recent local elections. John Brace also questioned the appropriateness of Cllr Ann Bridson signing Simon Holbook’s nomination papers. The allegation is that this was a denial of the democratic process to Birkenhead party members.

This point of mine (although this part of the complaint was withdrawn by the complainant as were many other parts) was upheld by the panel, who stated “The Panel expressed their concern about the organisation of Wirral’s selection procedures and felt that the problems should be addressed and resolved.”

The same blog also contains a statement insulting to all Wirral Lib Dem Councillors which said that when Simon Holbrook says “do something, unfortunately his councillors do it.”

Well they were whipped to vote for the closure of a dozen libraries, some Lib Dem councillors voted against and found themselves subject to yes you guessed it party disciplinary procedures following a complaint. The resulting public inquiry headed by Sue Charteris proved they were right though. At the time Simon Holbrook said in public meetings that the Cabinet’s position (which he had been a part of in proposing the library closures) would be vindicated by the public inquiry. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t.

4. Making an Unsubstantiated Allegation of a Complaint

In an email to Cllr Pat Williams dated 19 May 2011 at 00:05, John Brace did allege that former Cllr Simon Holbrook had made a complaint about his conduct, when no such complaint had been made.

In the same email, he made reference to Simon Holbrook’s personal statement that he will not seek elected office in 2012 and concentrate on his professional career and seeks to link that with his own comment on website blogs with no factual justification.

So when drunk, calling me despicable in a party meeting in relation to the issues outlined in 8 is not complaining? That comment on the blog was based on Simon Holbrook’s press release yet has no factual justification?? Is the complainant saying their own press release has no factual justification?
5. Seeking to Attend a Civic Function without an Invitation

That together with Leonora Brace, John Brace did seek to attend the celebration party following the Mayor Making ceremony despite not having received an invitation to the event. When challenged, John Brace did inappropriately attempt to claim that his possession of a “Press Card” entitled him to attend this invitation only civic function.

Note: John and Leonora Brace did attend part 1 of the Annual Council meeting from the public gallery, which they are entitled to do so.

Completely untrue, part 1 of the Annual Council meeting is held in the Civic Hall and for years the gallery there has been out of use as it’s classed as “unsafe”. To be honest, nobody uses it any more. The public gallery is above the Council Chamber where part 2 was held. Both of us have special dietary requirements so we don’t attend parties and I certainly don’t gatecrash things.

6. Giving a False Impression of Holding Public Office

In a seperate blog John Brace did write, “Although in theory I hold the position of councillor, it’s not with Wirral Council and like the Mayoress of Wirral Mrs Jennings is unelected so am I, as like with the Mayoress it’s to do with who I’m married to.”

This remark appeared in a blog speculating about the future shape of the Council administration. Although its purpose is unclear, it does seek to give credibility to the comments through claiming an association with a public office.

My wife does hold a position with a government unit on a reservation in Canada, which means she’s on the Council of Elders, due to the nature of the position and being married to her I hold a position too. 

7. Did Make Allegations in his Blog of Irregularties in the Count

In a blog following the local elections, John Brace claimed that the votes had not been counted properly. He sought to compare the declared result with his own canvass returns to justify his claim that his own votes had not been counted properly. In the same blog, he inappropriately said that a large number of votes in Oxton changed hands on the recount.

There was a problem with how the votes were counted in Bidston & St. James, so the result was altered slightly before it was declared. The Labour candidate in Oxton asked for a recount and the majority of the Lib Dem candidate was reduced by about a eighty votes after a recount (which is pretty usual as recounts never give the same result).

8. Making an Unjustified Complaint against a Lib Dem Councillor to the Standards Board for England

John Brace did report Cllr Ann Bridson to the Standards Board over the seating arrangements for members of the public at a meeting of the Health Scrutiny Committee. The complaint was investigated at significant public expense and dismissed as unfounded.

The complaint had the potential to be damaging to the reputation of a party colleague, yet at no time did John Brace seek to discuss the matter about which he felt aggreived with Cllr Bridson, or any other member of the Liberal Democrat Council Group.

Not true, the only complaint made in the last four years about Cllr Bridson that got referred to the Standards Board for England was made by Martin Morton. Members of the public couldn’t complain directly to the Standards Board for England following a change in legislation four years ago. The first paragraph is untrue as it was referred for alternative action, compared to other complaints investigated around the time it cost far less (on a per complainant cost), as mentioned in the witness statements the matter was raised with former councillor Ann Bridson who merely replied, “I’m not prepared to listen to arguments from members of the public”. This conversation was in fact witnessed by someone else. 

So there to summarise you have now the reasons the Lib Dems tried to suspend which were:-

1) Spin over Martin Morton and asking the wrong sort of questions.

2) Expecting party members to abide by the party’s constitution.

3) Party Members being denied the opportunity to choose their candidate and Simon Holbrook’s attitude towards others.

4) Basing a blog post on a Lib Dem press release, means it has “no factual justification”.

5) Completely made up as anyone who attended that meeting would know but relates to disabilty.

6) Confusion by Simon Holbrook but relates to me being married.

7) This happened and is documented.

8) I never made a complaint that was referred to Standards for England, the original complaint originated from the fact my wife and I are disabled. The covering report written by Surjit Tour that went to the Wirral Council Standards Committee panel that made the final decision, was for a completely different complaint made by someone else.

My wife was selected as the Claughton candidate that year, once Cllr Bridson found out about the complaint about her she asked her friend Margaret Teggin instead which bullied Leonora Brace into withdrawing. This part of the complaint was written by Ann Bridson, who managed to get the other co-complainant about her barred from “seeking any elected public office for the party for five years”.

So comments anyone or would you like to know more?

Wirral Council (Cabinet) Item 12 Tree Planting and Green Infrastructure Scheme – Green Streets Wirral Waters 2012-2015

Proposed tree planting in Bidston & Birkenhead agreed by Wirral Council’s Cabinet on the 19th July 2012.

Interest declaration: John Brace lives and work in the area near the roads proposed for tree planting. I received a free pen from The Mersey Forest.

Wirral Council’s Cabinet agreed to the planting of up to six hundred trees in the area covered by this map. The full Cabinet report is available here.

There is a display up in the Town Hall lobby showing the exact proposed locations for each tree. One area is Hoylake Road and Gautby Road. Another proposed area is the streets around Duke Street near Birkenhead North train station. A third is the area at the back of Birkenhead North train station where the Merseyrail car park is proposed and the third is on the approach to the ferry terminal (Shore Rd etc). From a chat with some of the people behind it it’ll go out to public consultation (of residents in the roads affected by it) in the next few weeks.

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