How did general election night in 2017 go on the Wirral?

How did general election night in 2017 go on the Wirral?

How did general election night in 2017 go on the Wirral?


Accredited Observer John Brace Electoral Commission 2017 7857
Accredited Observer John Brace Electoral Commission 2017 7857

I was always planning on publishing a report on the first general election I have been an election observer for and this is it.

Polling station – Holy Cross Catholic Primary School (AC – Birkenhead Constituency (Bidston and St James ward))

When I visited this polling station along with my wife (who was also an election observer), we were both there to vote.

So I told the Poll Clerks who we were and our addresses. Unfortunately they initially didn’t give us ballot papers as one of them was too tired to look up our address properly. We live in Boundary Road and the poll clerk instead of looking at the page for 134 Boundary Road to mark the register, was instead looking at a different page for a different part of Boundary Road where there is an elector with the number AC 134 instead. This caused a delay in receiving our ballot papers.

They were apologetic about it.

The Count (Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre)

We then walked the short distance to the count centre which was to be held inside the Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre.

Unlike in May, for the Mayoral and Claughton byelection, the gate to the footpath was padlocked, so we went round to the entrance to the car park.

We were immediately stopped by Wirral Council’s Community Patrol who insisted we wait by the entrance to the car park (this was while Wirral Council staff, councillors and others arrived unchallenged).

I explained we were both election observers accredited on an individual basis by the Electoral Commission and therefore entitled to attend the count. I showed them our photographic ID.

Obviously this was a part of elections Wirral Council hadn’t planned for or expected as Community Patrol insisted we wait while they find someone.

We waited for about 15-20 minutes (which is fine for myself but Leonora after the walk from the polling station was suffering a little from the standing as there was no chair to sit on). Even the police officer was feeling sorry for her!

Eventually Kate Robinson started walking in our direction with two men either side from Community Patrol.

We walked towards them.

We then had to explain again that we were election observers accredited by the Electoral Commission, here was our ID etc.

She wanted to look at our ID and didn’t seem happy with our presence.

She insisted we wouldn’t be allowed to use recording equipment in the count. I pointed out that in my opinion wasn’t a lawful instruction and that we only had to follow lawful instructions from the election authorities. I pointed out that in my view it breached the Human Rights Act 1998 and asked for the name of her manager to appeal the decision to. She said that was Eric Robinson (Acting Returning Officer) who she said wasn’t there.

I pointed out that I didn’t have recording equipment on my person anyway. I had an iPad to use but that was for making notes as I have a writing disability (that makes it painful to write).

She then gave us both a short lecture about not telling anyone anything at all about what happened during the count for “secrecy” reasons.

Anyway, she went with us to where people were checking in by the turnstile and it was insisted (despite me pointing out earlier about the writing disability making it painful to write) that I write our names and individual observer numbers on the attendance list.

We were then instructed to go through the turnstile, which Leonora pointed out she couldn’t do as it’s impossible for someone with a walking stick to go through that design of turnstile. So she went round through another side door instead.

We then walked down a corridor past the refreshments area. Unlike election counts in previous years where the tea and coffee had been free (but a voluntary donation suggested) Wirral Council was charging for drinks and food this year. From memory hot drinks were a £1.

It is also to be noted (unlike the Mayoral count and Claughton byelection in May) that this time the whole Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre was closed to the general public from 6 pm on the Thursday to 6.30 am on Friday morning (the tennis hall where the count was held was closed to the public from Monday to Saturday).

The count itself was being held in a large room in the leisure centre called the tennis hall which is usually tennis courts. The netting to catch balls around the sides was still in place, but the floor covering had been covered with a white floor covering kept together with tape.

One half of the hall was for the count for Birkenhead and Wallasey constituency and was also where ballot boxes arrived.

The other half of the hall was used for the Wirral West and Wirral South constituency counts and a raised stage for the platform for announcing the result.

Both halves of the hall had a projector and a screen showing the BBC election coverage.

In the middle in the raised area up steps was an area for the media where they had their video cameras set up and other equipment. From memory the Wirral Globe, Liverpool Echo, BBC, Radio City and others from the media were all there.

At 10.00 pm Eric Robinson (Acting Returning Officer) announced over the PA system that the count of the postal ballots would start. Around this time the BBC announced the result of the exit polls.

A short time later, the ballot boxes started arriving from the polling stations. Counters sat at flip down tables, with baskets on the table and paper clips.

Just before 11.00 pm I went for a walk past the Wallasey constituency tables and somebody dropped a large number of ballot papers on the floor. Thankfully they were bundled in bundles of 25.

The Birkenhead and Wallasey counts went quicker, therefore a result was expected earlier.

By twenty past twelve, Kevin McCallum (Head of Communications) (I had asked him earlier for turnout figures) told me that the turnout for Birkenhead was 67.9%.

A result in Birkenhead was announced at around 1:10 am, Wallasey at 1:45 am, Wirral West at 2:03 am and Wirral South at 2:12 am.

We had made earlier requests to film the speeches of the candidates after the result was declared but this was denied.

The candidates returned were Frank Field (Birkenhead), Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) and Alison McGovern (Wirral South).

Mayor of Wirral Ann McLachlan announced the results for the Birkenhead and Wallasey constituencies. Stephen Burrows (High Sheriff of Merseyside) announced the results for Wirral West and Wirral South constituencies.

Here are some quotes from the speeches we would have liked to have shown you. Frank Field referred to it as a “disaster for the Prime Minister”, Angela Eagle said that the “country rejected Theresa May” and referred to her [Theresa May] as a “vampire avoiding the sunlight”, Margaret Greenwood referred to a “stunning victory” and Alison McGovern thanked many groups of people including the people reporting on the count.

There were also some speeches from the second placed candidates who in summary congratulated the winning candidate and then went on to make various political points.

Once all four results were declared, people started to go home.

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In response to my petition 2 1/2 years ago what changes are now proposed to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s constitution?

In response to my petition 2 1/2 years ago what changes are now proposed to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s constitution?

In response to my petition 2 1/2 years ago what changes are now proposed to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s constitution?


Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 25th May 2017 left Cllr Dave Hanratty (Chair) right Janet Henshaw (Clerk to the Authority)
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 25th May 2017 left Cllr Dave Hanratty (Chair) right Janet Henshaw (Clerk to the Authority)

A long time ago (December 2014) I started a petition about Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority in relation to their policy and constitution on the matter of filming public meetings.

The petition started off just being myself and Leonora, but also attracted 7 online signatures (total 9, 7 online and 2 in paper form).

The petition called for a change to MFRA’s constitution and filming policy and went on the agenda of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting on the 16th of December 2014.

Due to a visit by royalty the time of that meeting was changed from 1.00 pm to 11.00 am. Although I was invited to speak at the meeting I wasn’t told formally of the change of time. So I wasn’t present as I didn’t know the meeting was starting 2 hours earlier than planned.

The councillors at that meeting resolved:

“a) The petition be noted;

b) The Authority’s awareness of the protocol and procedure developed following the introduction of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, and its publication on the website for anyone wishing to attend or record proceedings be noted; and,

c) The Clerk be instructed to include any amendments to The Constitution, including revision of what is acceptable to the Authority as a petition, as part of the annual review, and provide with a covering report to the Annual Meeting 11th June 2015.”

Two years later, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service have proposed to councillors a new draft constitution which includes a minimum number of five signatures on petitions.

I might point out that (c) was agreed by councillors to prevent a petition of two signatures being on the agenda. It seems to have ignored the fact that their constitution requires 7 working days notice before the meeting, so in those 7 working days the number on a petition can change!

So in the end my petition is likely to have caused a constitutional change (2 and a half years later), just not to the bit of the constitution that myself and the petitioners requested changed!

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Wirral Council’s Standards Panel will meet on the 15th June to decide on a complaint about a councillor

Wirral Council’s Standards Panel will meet on the 15th June to decide on a complaint about a councillor

Wirral Council’s Standards Panel will meet on the 15th June to decide on a complaint about a councillor

Council Chamber (Wallasey Town Hall) 1st June 2017 - Does the councillor complained about sit on one of these seats?
Council Chamber (Wallasey Town Hall) 1st June 2017 – Does the councillor complained about sit on one of these seats?

I noticed looking through the calendar of public meetings at Wirral Council this month that a Standards Panel meeting is scheduled for Thursday 15th June starting at 5.00 pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall.

However two days before it meets Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (its parent Committee) meets to decide which councillors sit on the Standards Panel.

Publishing the date, time and place of the meeting is of course is an improvement on the last Standards Panel involving a complaint about Cllr Steve Foulkes last year which wasn’t added to the calendar until after the meeting had taken place.

So who is the complaint about? Short answer is I don’t know as I didn’t make it! Here however are the papers from a previous Standards Panel meeting I was present at involving Cllr Denis Knowles in 2012. The complainant was also then Denis Knowles too!

However, presumably it won’t be about any of the three councillors that may be on the Standards Panel deciding it (Cllr Chris Blakeley (Conservative), Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat) or Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour)).

It looks possible that Cllr Paul Hayes could be an Alternate Member at the Standards Panel meeting for the Conservative Group in place of Cllr Chris Blakeley though.

It also won’t be about about Cllr Gillian Wood as she was only elected earlier last month. Therefore there has been insufficient time for any complaint about her to reach this stage.

That leaves a large number of other councillors (sixty or so) it could be about! As the agenda is set to be published by the 7th June 2017 it’s possible I might find out then.

The good thing about it meeting in Committee Room 1 is that it’s possible microphones can be used there. Other people down on Wirral Council’s website as attending the meeting are Shirley Hudspeth (presumably to take the minutes), Surjit Tour (in his capacity as Monitoring Officer) and Professor Ronald Jones (in his capacity as Independent Person).

The agenda to be agreed for Standards Panel meetings is as follows:

1. Appointment of Chairperson of the Panel

2. Declarations of Interest

3. Opening remarks of the Chairperson

4. Panel to determine whether the exemption to exclude the press and public is to be maintained. (Parties invited to make representations)

5. Complainant (or representative) invited to make opening remarks

6. Subject Councillor (or representative) invited to make opening remarks

7. Investigator to present his/her report

8. Parties invited to question the investigator and/or seek points of clarification on the report

9. Panel to question the investigator on her report

10. Complainant (or representative) invited to make final submissions

11. Panel to seek clarification on any points relevant to the Complainant

12. Subject Councillor (or representative) invited to make final submissions

13. Panel to seek clarification on any points relevant to the Subject Councillor

14. Panel to invite the views of the Independent Person for consideration

15. Panel hearing adjourned to allow for deliberation (as deemed appropriate the Panel)

16. Panel hearing resumed for decision

17. If the Panel decision upholds/finds a breach of the Code, the Subject Councillor (or representative) shall be invited to make submissions in respect of any mitigation (including in respect of sanctions) for consideration by the Panel

18. Panel hearing adjourned to allow for deliberation (if deemed necessary by the Panel)

19. Panel hearing resumed for decision on sanctions (if any)

The Chairperson and Panel shall have discretion to vary the above procedure if it is considered appropriate and necessary to ensure fairness to all parties.

The Standards Panel can decide either to determine that no action should be taken in respect of the allegation(s) made (if so and the councillor complained about agrees a media statement is issued about it and if the councillor complained about agrees it is reported to the next meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee) or the Standards Panel can determine that the Members’ Code of Conduct is proven to be breached.

If their decision is the latter, then the Standards Panel can request:

(a) that Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer) write to the councillor concerned,

(b) that the councillor has to apologise tot the Complainant (whether verbally or in writing),

(c) recommend to the Leader of that Political Group that disciplinary action be taken against the councillor,

(d) ask Surjit Tour to arrange training for the councillor concerned, if the councillor fails to turn up to the training then this is reported to the Leader of that Political Group.

If the Standards Panel upholds the complaint, the councillor complained about can choose within 21 days to appeal the decision to the Standards Appeal Panel.

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What’s in a whistleblowing report about Wirral Council’s “dismal decade?”

What’s in a whistleblowing report about Wirral Council’s “dismal decade?”

What’s in a whistleblowing report about Wirral Council’s “dismal decade?”


ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo
ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

On the 5th August 2016 a former Wirral Council employee Martin Morton made a Freedom of Information request to Wirral Council for a copy of a report commissioned from Nick Warren on whistleblowing by former Wirral Council employees.

After Wirral Council had ignored his request for a month, Martin Morton requested an internal review on the 6th September 2016.

Wirral Council completed that internal review and communicated the results to Martin Morton on the 3rd October 2016 refusing to supply the report in its entirety.

The refusal was made by Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour on the basis that it would prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs (section 36).

Martin Morton then appealed Surjit Tour’s decision to the regulator ICO (the Information Commissioner’s Office).

During the course of ICO’s investigation, Wirral Council apologised for how long it had taken to reply to Martin Morton‘s request, but added an additional reason for refusing some of the information giving personal information (section 40) as a further reason.

On the 27th April 2017 ICO issued a decision notice (FS50649341). The decision notice required some of the information requested to be released to Martin Morton within 35 calendar days as ICO disagreed with Wirral Council and felt there were parts of the report to which neither section 36 nor section 40 applied.

Wirral Council released that information yesterday which comprise paragraphs 1-8 of the report (although part of paragraph 4 is redacted) and paragraph 76. I’ve put in a line break between different pages and in the conversion from print to HTML there may be some minor formatting changes.

I include what has been released below yesterday as it is rather short. A series of XXXX represents the redacted bit. I’ve made two additions. The first is that I’ve linked the words “precise terms of reference” in paragraph 4 to the terms of reference as the report makes more sense when read together with the terms of reference. The second is that I’ve made it clearer that paragraphs 5-75 haven’t been released of the report.



  1. This review arises from events which formed part of a dismal decade for Wirral Borough Council (“Wirral”) culminating in a remarkable joint statement from the Leader of the Council and the then Chief Executive (CE) which have accepted a number of failings and recognised the need to improve Wirral’s corporate governance, culture and workforce policies.

  2. Part of the statement concerned the Highways and Engineering Services procurement exercise (“HESPE”). This work was put out to tender; there were bids from the private sector and an in house bid from the Wirral “DLO”. It is convenient to state here some important dates concerning HESPE.

    Dec 2007 Announcement in the Official EU Journal.
    13 March 2008 Qualifying bidders chosen
    2 July 2008 Bidders invited to tender according to a Bill of Quantities.
    4 Sept 2008
    (later extended to
    5 Sept 2008)
    Tender return date.
    16 Oct 2008 Contract formally awarded to COLAS.

  3. The DLO bid was therefore unsuccessful. This meant that the DLO staff would transfer to COLAS from April 2009.

  4. In November 2008 some employees of the DLO made a disclosure on the advice of their Trade Union to Wirral’s CE. I will refer to them collectively as “the Whistleblowers”. They had all worked for Wirral for many years. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX I have been asked to review the treatment of the Whistleblowers. It is not necessary to recite precise terms of reference.

  5. I have interviewed the Whistleblowers and other witnesses and have read a large number of documents provided by Wirral. I thank Wirral staff for the co-operation which I have received. I will not deal with all the evidence because I want to make my report as short and as readable as I can. If required, I can expand on or explore any individual issue.

  6. I have of course used hindsight. That is in the very nature of a review. There is nothing wrong with this provided I do not use it to criticise people or actions unfairly.


  7. It took Wirral about four months to respond to the Whistleblowers. They were dissatisfied and went to the Audit Commission. The Commission took the

    unusual step of issuing a public report identifying serious weakness in Wirral’s arrangements for:-

    (a) Declaration of Interests.
    (b) Internal Audit
    (c) Reporting to Elected Members
    (d) Dealing with Whistleblowers
    (e) Evaluating Tenders

  8. As a result Wirral has altered and improved its procedures in these important areas of work. It seems clear that the weaknesses would not have been exposed, nor would the improvements have come about, if the Whistleblowers had not had the courage to speak out. I am not aware that Wirral has acknowledged publicly or privately the contribution which the Whistleblowers thus made to our community.

    (Paragraphs 5-75 are redacted).


  1. The Whistleblowers have not received sufficient credit for exposing poor practice within Wirral. The “informal” nature of the first investigation resulted

    in them having to work under great stress for several months. While they were still Wirral employees, their names were disclosed to their new employer as being in some way untrustworthy. Their health and their jobs were adversely affected over an extended period.

    Nicholas Warren 6th October 2015.

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