Arriva 410 Bus: From “Ferry Across the Mersey” to “Folsom Prison Blues”

English: Mersey Ferry Royal Iris of the Mersey...
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So, having a rare day out with the wife we returned from Liverpool on the Mersey Ferry (she likes the ferry whereas my taste in music isn’t Gerry and the Pacemakers “Ferry Across the Mersey” as loud as possible). We get an Arriva 410 bus from Woodside planning to change on Conway Street on the way back.

The bus goes through the bus station, lets some passengers off, past the new Asda and carries on down South Claughton Road. There must have been at least about twenty passengers on it.

A noise as loud as a firework going off a few feet away happens, and one of the windows on the left side of the bus goes from transparent to opaque with lines running from the point of impact. How it actually managed to hold itself together is anyone’s guess. In a surreal twist the one passenger sitting next to it carries on listening to his music through a Walkman oblivious to his lucky escape.

The bus driver stops the bus at the next stop near Cole Street, informs everyone that they’ll have to get off and get on another 410 that’ll be sent. He invites anyone who smokes to get off and have a cigarette (and looks visibly shaken up himself). As we get off the bus and walk past you can see the glass window is completely buckled and warped. It was clearly something that hit the window with a massive force.

There were many ideas from the bus about what happened, one said a kid through a stone (unlikely when you consider the damage), another said someone fired something at the bus. Certainly the guy sitting next to the window, when he realised what was going on was out of the bus like a shot and not seen by anyone on the replacement bus.

I was looking out of the wrong window at the time and didn’t see anything, but heard a very loud bang similar to a firework or a gun shot. The police didn’t turn up before the replacement bus arrived and decided to investigate things at the bus depot instead. You’d think they’d take a possible firearms discharge more seriously… but it’s certainly strange when Arriva can arrive on the scene quicker than Merseyside Police.

We got off on Conway Street by the entrance to Birkenhead Park, the bus driver came round, stopped the bus and pushed out the glass with a rolled up newspaper. Certainly the thing had rattled him, but I expect he got the rest of the day off. It was one of the massive windows you get to look out of…

Cathcart Street Primary School – Start of Autumn Term delayed – Apology from Wirral Council

In an update to an earlier story about Cathcart Street Primary School it is now planned to open on Monday 12th September instead of Wednesday 7th September.

David Armstrong, Interim Director of Children’s Services, explained:

“Cathcart Street Primary School is undergoing £1.8m worth of major refurbishment works, which will create a better learning environment for pupils and new build accomodation for the after school club and satellite children’s centre. Contractors did as much work as possible prior to the summer break and despite working hard throughout the school holidays, there are still some final improvements to complete before the school can re-open.”

“It is regrettable that the school is not able to open on time, however, the safety and wellbeing of pupils is our priority. We are confident that this three day delay will not impact children’s education and that the investment being made will make a real difference to everyone attending Cathcart Street Primary. We apologise for any inconvenience that this has caused but hope that people understand that we have pupils’ best interests at heart.”

Looking back over the last 12 months

Looking back over the last half-year or so since this blog started, what were the stories and pages on this blog that have captured the public’s attention and brought them to this blog?

There was the story about the 2011 Census, which many people had questions about ranging from why was there no question 17 (it was a question asking if you understand, speak, read or write Welsh).

The About John Brace” page was popular and attracted a number of comments. It’ll be updated soon.

This Cabinet meeting about the Conservative-Lib Dem budget and Labour not being happy was read over a hundred times.

Merseytravel’s response on Mersey Tunnel’s issues also aroused interest.

The pages about protest outside Birkenhead County Court regarding Council Tax and the Save our Forests campaign were read just a bit more than stories about the Chinese New Year celebrations in Liverpool, HMS Campbeltown, ID Cards being scrapped or the Labour Chair of Merseytravel using his casting vote to increase Mersey Tunnel tolls.

More local issues also aroused interest such as the Lib Dem plan to invest £1.8 million in Cathcart Street primary school as a result of the closure of Cole Street primary school and the relocation of the Children’s Centre across the road to Cathcart Street Primary School, how much councillors are paid (which was used by some parties during the election to show how some councillors were getting £50,000+/year), Arriva not stopping its buses at the new bus stop near Tesco, the Lib Dem Mayor at Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm, Flaybrick cemetery flytipping and the Corsair in Bidston Village being demolished.

Over the Winter the issue of gritting and bin collections was on resident’s minds. The street level crime website and minimum price proposals for alcohol were also topics the public were interested in.

In total there have been 5,557 views of pages on this website and it has been read keenly by certain councillors and others. Yet who knows what the public will be wanting from its elected representatives in the next 12 months?

Labour Rose: Election Special

Whilst out today with my wife, I spotted Cllr Harry Smith on Worcester Road and sure enough when I returned home there was a Labour leaflet delivered.

It seems both the Lib Dems and Labour agree that the nearly £2 million spent on Cathcart Street Primary School is a good idea. The very spot Cllr Smith and former Cllr Cocker are standing in in a photo on the leaflet was where we were told by a caretaker that photos couldn’t be taken! I have also listened to the concerns of John Cocker and the headteacher which they have aired at a number of public meetings when the future of the school was under threat.

It was however not Labour’s decision to make. It was Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors that decided to close Cole Street Primary School, save Cathcart Street Primary School and invest money into Cathcart Street Primary School (in fact they will be making a decision on the contractor on Thursday).

Onto the second story in the leaflet, as Cllr Smith knows it was Liberal Democrats that campaigned for road safety measures on Fender Way. We were the ones who handed in a petition over over a hundred residents. We lobbied the local councillors, showed them photos and kicked up such a fuss we were told (after Cllr Smith complained to Cllr Roberts) never to bring a petition to an Area Forum ever again!

His claim that he "made sure resources were allocated from local Area Forum funding" is a strange one to make. The decisions over the local Area Forum funding allocation for road safety for this financial year were made by Wirral Council’s Cabinet (comprised of Conservative and Lib Dem councillors). We have an email from Wirral Council stating that no decisions are made by the Area Forum panel in respect of this. Wirral Council may have it wrong, so we will look into the matter and report back in a later more detailed post.

Cllr Harry Smith then takes credit for "more than £250,000" allocated to road repairs on Wirral. Going by a press release about pothole repair, the figure is £625,931 and judging by the large difference in the amounts, Cllr Harry Smith seems to be referring (despite writing "the recent cold spell" to not last Winter, but the Winter before when a Liberal Democrat Cabinet member for Streetscene and Transport Cllr Jean Quinn decided to put extra money towards potholes.

Cllr Smith then goes on to mention the Liberal Democrat Party. He states "Are you aware that the Liberal Democrat Party has long been in favour of votes for prisoners?"

Jeremy Brown, Lib Dem MP for Taunton and spokesperson for the party said in the House of Commons, "It was said that my party favours votes for prisoners, but that was not in our manifesto and the Leader of my party has made it explicit that he does not favour them."

In February MPs voted 234 to 22 against giving prisoners the vote. I will write an article further on this. However if you wish to view the debate in the House of Commons on this issue it can be viewed on the BBC’s website.

Cabinet meeting (Wirral Council) 22/02/2011 Part 1 – the Conservative/Lib Dem budget cometh and Labour is not happy

Well yesterday the Conservative & Lib Dem Cabinet “unveiled” their Wirral Council budget for 2011/2012. Labour’s (opposition) budget will arrive by noon on Friday the 25th February.

Next Monday (1st March) the full Council will vote on the budget, although with 41 (yes I know it’s 42 including the Lib Dem Mayor but generally he doesn’t vote as he’s supposed to be politically neutral as part of his office) “progressive partnership” councillors to Labour’s 25 24 (edit – I sometimes forget Cllr. Knowles had switched from Labour to Tory and the independent Cllr Kirwan isn’t still with Wirral Council) councillors, I’m sure even Labour can do the maths and realise Labour’s budget will be defeated next Monday (with no need for Budget Part 2 on the evening of the 9th March) by around seventeen votes.

Can you see which bits of the Budget are from the Lib Dem side and which from the Conservative side? Yes you can see “the seams” between the two halves as we continue to be two independent political parties with minds and policy making processes of our own. If you look really hard you can see the bits influenced by yours truly and others (for example the 4-year rolling programme for 20 mph residential zones discussed last year by the party when Cllr Quinn was Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Transport) now carried forward by Cllr Rennie.

One Lib Dem policy coming into play is the pupil premium which means about £5 million extra for Wirral Schools to spend on children on free school meals, looked after children and service children. You should’ve heard the “wails of anguish” at the Wirral Schools Forum from headmasters/headmistresses from the more prosperous parts of the Borough when they realised £5 million would be spent on improving the educational chances of the most needy! Clearly Wirral is a place of large social divides and the extra money will be a welcome boost to the schools in Bidston & St. James.

So what may you ask is “in the budget”? Well, first to deal with the elements of the council tax that are made up by Merseyside Police’s budget and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service’s budget. Both Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service froze their contributions from Council Tax compared to last year (2010/2011).

Due to increased costs and inflation (as well as a high proportion of its costs being on staff), Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service will be cutting some jobs. Their Chief Exec/treasurer explains the situation in a self-styled “podcast” (I don’t think he quite knows what a podcast is but I have to give them a few marks for trying), which unfortunately with my browser Firefox either opens a blank black window or six video windows of him at once creating an echo effect so I’ve uploaded it to Youtube (which has slightly better audio quality than five echoes).

For the purposes of any copyright lawyers out there, as the work has been made previously available to the public (and still is on Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service’s website at this location), this is classed as “fair dealing” under s.30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and is being done for the purpose of news reporting (and making sure you can hear what the speaker says).

Quite why councillors on Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service left it to an officer to record a video to explain the cuts is a mystery I’m sure my humble readers can enlighten me on in the comments section (or maybe I’ll just ask Cllr Ellis, Cllr Niblock, Cllr Rennie or Cllr Roberts next time I see them).