Wirral’s Future – Be a Part of It, Wirral Council’s consultation on the budget

Comment on the Wirral’s Future – Be a Part of It budget consultation and the Prenton/Oxton Area Forum meeting of the 19th October 2010

Wirral’s Future – Be a Part of It, Wirral Council’s consultation on the budget


The new Lib Dem-Conservative coalition in charge of Wirral Council as part of their aim to bring about a culture of openness and accountability started a public consultation on next year’s budget.

I asked a question of the Lib Dem leader at last night’s Prenton and Oxton Area Forum as to whether the consultation would feed into the capital budget (the money used for investment eg new schools, new pedestrian traffic lights) as well as the revenue budget (which is mentioned on the front of the questionnaire).

He confirmed it would. This gives an opportunity for the public to feed their views into the budget process and despite Labour’s criticism of the process; a chance for all voices to be heard rather than just the ruling parties.

Whatever method of consultation was used, there’d be criticism. However I am pleased that (like the You Decide consultation last year) this is also being done using an online survey.

Last night Wirral Council officers also detailed how they’ve been trying to reach hard to visit groups; whether by knocking on doors or visiting supermarkets. As was pointed out yesterday, short of an insert in the free newspaper or writing to everyone, not every member of the public can be reached but over 1% of the public have returned a questionnaire. Considering the average turnout in this year’s election was 65% and in some places only 26% of the public decide vote for their elected representative; who are there to represent all their residents (not just the ones who voted for them), I think the consultation is doing its best to gather as many people’s views as possible.

Labour have called for public meetings; as there were over the library/community centre/leisure centre closures. However at the one I attended in Birkenhead people were turned away as the venue was full. That packed meeting started with a rather long presentation on the strategic asset review leading to the audience getting more and more livid as their felt their voices weren’t being heard. At least with a questionnaire everybody’s views can be taken on board.

Public meetings are best when they involve the audience and give members of the public a real chance to influence decisions. As mentioned above, when in some areas 74% of the electors haven’t voted at all in their local council elections; how are their views taken on board when some councillors feel that people who didn’t vote for them can be ignored?

There were similar issues raised about the You Decide consultation; however I genuinely think that involving the public in decision-making can only lead to better decisions being made. As mentioned last night, ultimately it is councillors who will together be making the budget decisions for 2011/2012 next March. However I have heard at least one Labour councillor say openly in a public meeting (and one of another party privately) that they didn’t even read the budget they vote on.

After the fiasco that was the library closures; I hope the new administration has learnt lessons on public consultation and fully takes on board the views of the public (who pointed out well before the budget was set in a public meeting at Wallasey Town Hall that Wirral Council hadn’t adhered to the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964).

On a sadder note, I heard yesterday evening that Mr. Garrett had died (about a month ago). He was the secretary of the Wirral Transport Users Association and on the Merseytravel Advisory Panel. He was a staunch champion of public transport and as Cllr. Pat Williams described enthusiastic. He will be missed.

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Town Hall drama: Labour’s lost the plot – more playground politics

Town Hall drama: Labour’s lost the plot – more playground politics

Town Hall drama: Labour’s lost the plot – more playground politics


Last night’s full council meeting at Wallasey Town Hall certainly had some firsts:-

a) the first time a Labour councillor has refused to answer a question at Public Question Time
b) the first time two journalists have been asked to leave (highly irregular and illegal) from the Council chamber merely for exercising their rights under Wirral Council’s constitution to ask questions (and as a result irking Cllr. Harry Smith).

As I really doubt Cllr. Harry Smith is aware of the law on this I will quote it here (with a little underlining of the relevant points):-

"Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960

1 Admission of public to meetings of local authorities and other bodies.


(4) Where a meeting of a body is required by this Act to be open to the public during the proceedings or any part of them, the following provisions shall apply, that is to say,—

(c) while the meeting is open to the public, the body shall not have power to exclude members of the public from the meeting and duly accredited representatives of newspapers attending for the purpose of reporting the proceedings for those newspapers shall, so far as practicable, be afforded reasonable facilities for taking their report and, unless the meeting is held in premises not belonging to the body or not on the telephone, for telephoning the report at their own expense."

As Cllr. Smith well knows the press table is situated in front of the Labour benches in the Council Chamber. There are no "reasonable facilities" in the public gallery as there’s no large flat surface to write on.

It got so bad that to sum up the words of one member of the public (previously a councillor) in the public gallery "My brain hurts and I’m going home". Cllr. Foulkes gave long speeches about how he believes in scrutiny and democracy. However not it seems in respect of any Labour Party councillors. His own councillors heckled both members of the public during the time they asked questions, Cllr Adrian Jones slandered me (why can Labour never get their facts right?) and behaved like spoilt children who’ve had their toys taken away throwing a temper tantrum merely because a couple of people asked one of their councillors questions.

As if Labour councillors wasn’t bad enough and I am being serious now (surely you can’t be serious I hear you say) a senior officer was even heard making racist remarks about my wife. Officers are supposed to be politically neutral and adhere to the officer’s code of conduct.

I am a person who believes in freedom of speech; but until the Labour Party learns some respect and manners; I will continue to be ashamed that I’m represented in Bidston & St. James ward by three Labour Party councillors.

However, I here is a list of the notices of motion/amendments at last night’s meeting, which can be found on Wirral Council’s website.

Bill Norman was made the new Returning Officer. Jim Wilkie will carry on for the next 9 months as Interim Chief Executive.

P.S. I am getting well used to the fact that a 15 minute adjournment ends up being half an hour; why don’t they just say they need 30 minutes to start with?

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Planning Committee site visit to land adjacent to 290 Upton Road, Noctorum

A report on the Planning Committee’s site visit to land adjacent to 290 Upton Road on the 18th October 2010

Planning Committee site visit to land adjacent to 290 Upton Road, Noctorum


I went on the site visit today. What is a site visit you may ask? A site visit by the Planning Committee is when the Planning Committee and officers go to a visit a site that relates to a planning permission application that the Planning Committee will decide on in the future.
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Cabinet meeting (Wirral Council) 14th October 2010

A report on what was discussed at Wirral Council’s Cabinet meeting held on the 14th October 2010 | Gritting routes | Sail project | IT tender | Social Services and the Care Quality Commission | House building | Apprentices | Blogs

Cabinet meeting (Wirral Council) 14th October 2010


To those who know me, they will realise I don’t deal with councillors of another political party in a partisan way. However I will tell a brief tale about what happened yesterday before the meeting.
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