The author’s wife has a Fast Tag for the Mersey Tunnels issued on disability grounds, therefore she does not have to pay the tolls referred to below.
Yesterday (at the time of publication which you can watch above) was the annual public meeting where councillors on the Transport Committee (formerly called the Merseytravel Committee) of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority made a recommendation on the Mersey Tunnel tolls (although the final decision will be made after this article is published by a different set of politicians on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority). Continue reading “Councillors recommend 10p rise in Mersey Tunnel cash tolls from 1st April 2018”
Yesterday, there was a public meeting of Wirral Council”s Local Pension Board scheduled to start at noon. The Local Pension Board is part of the governance of the Merseyside Pension Fund that Wirral Council administer and has hundreds of thousands of people in the pension fund (mainly public sector workers) and a £multi-billion Pension Fund.
I am making an educated guess that either Commerz Real Investmentgesellschaft mbH contract out (or Merseytravel does) the reception staff at the building the public meeting was to be held in, which is done by I think Carlisle Security Services Limited (which is a subsidiary company of Carlisle Support Services Group Limited).
If you are confused by reading that so far, then so am I!
We arrived first at reception at Mann Island and they had been told we were coming to the meeting. So we were issued with visitors passes.
However we were told we couldn’t go in because no-one from Wirral Council was there yet.
Reception told us that we couldn’t go in (although they knew we were there for the meeting) until someone from Wirral Council told them it was ok for reception to allow us into the building to attend a public meeting. So we waited.
First to arrive was Pat Phillips (the Committee Clerk and point of contact for the meeting). Standing in front of reception we asked her to confirm we were there for the meeting. She said she would have to go ask someone (despite nobody else but us being there for the meeting).
So they let her through (and she didn’t come back as there was no-one else but her).
Then Joe Blott arrived, who is at Deputy Chief Executive level at Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council and therefore part of the political element of his job such as dealing with people like myself.
Again, Joe Blott insisted he could not tell reception staff at Mann Island that we could come in through the gate as it wasn’t a “Wirral Council building” and he needed to first consult with the Chair of the Local Pensions Board (who actually hadn’t arrived in the building yet).
However, reception staff let Joe Blott through too.
Reception staff then told us they couldn’t let us in because of “terrorism” training and that they had “orders”. They pointed it wasn’t a “public building”.
Apparently now terrorism is used as a reason to avoid legal responsibilities!
The public meeting was scheduled to start at noon and we were still there at reception when more people arrived for the meeting, Peter Wallach, John Raisin, Mike Hornby, Kerry Beirne, Donna Ridland, Pat Maloney and Roger Irvine to name but seven.
I also briefly talked around this time to the Chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Merseytravel Committee Cllr Liam Robinson about the problem.
Reception staff are then busy handing out visitors passes and bizarrely trying to determine when the Local Pensions Board plus myself and Leonora should be allowed through the gate on the ground floor to room GA-25.
Finally (at the third time of asking) we found a Wirral Council employee (Peter Wallach) who was willing to tell reception we were allowed into the building!
Eventually by the time we’re all let in, I come through the door to the meeting room (GA-25 on the ground floor) at about 11:59:30, most of the rest of the people behind me came in late.
Then of course, the room needs to be set up and surprisingly the lights turned on (as neither Joe Blott or Pat Phillips had turned the lights on). One Wirral Council officer introducing one of the reports arrived even later even though there was a delayed start to the meeting (which caused a further delay).
Common sense means letting the press in at least fifteen minutes before so that a safe space to film can be determined, a tripod put up, seating arranged, agendas and reports requested etc.
But I feel that since this legal requirement came into effect in August 2014 various parts of Wirral Council have tried to try my patience over it at various public meetings.
Delayed starts to meetings cost the public sector money in lost time.
Terrorism can not be used as an excuse to delay or prevent democracy happening or the press reporting. The legal right to attend public meetings of local councils has been in its current form since 1972 and in another form since 1960. It’s not new legislation!
Nearly every other meeting of Wirral Council’s committees has one of their solicitors present but this one does not!
This is sadly a recurring problem when attending to report and film public meetings at Mann Island. There have been public meetings that have started before we’re allowed in.
Merseytravel’s own Head of Internal Audit (Merseytravel lease room GA-25) has stated at a public meeting in 2014 that people should not talk to the press about whistleblowing concerns.
However who do the press blow the whistle to when there’s no point in blowing it internally? Write an article about it? Embarrass people into changing? Or does it just end up being like the film Groundhog Day with a public sector seemingly unable to stick to its own policy, the legislation and just full of excuses?
What it has shown me, that is of wider concern is that at Wirral Council some senior managers are frightened to make decisions. The culture of not making a decision, just in case it’s the wrong one or the manager may be criticised can be just as damaging to Wirral Council’s reputation as the myriad of other scandals (on subjects ranging from child protection, complaints about councillors, how requests for information are handled and so on and so on).
So below is footage of the Local Pensions Board which turned out to be an interesting meeting (albeit hard to hear due to the lack of microphones).
I had to skip ten minutes of checks to film it and had no chair to sit on (there was literally no time to get a chair before it started).
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Wirral Council is forced to go back to the drawing board on plans to lease the Conway Building and Hamilton Building in Birkenhead as Isle of Man based International Centre for Technology Ltd pulls the plug on the project.
Continuing a theme running through a number of these stories about freedom of information requests, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan gives his view on freedom of information.
Of course as Wirral Council (from council tax on Wirral residents and other sources) is budgeted to send Merseytravel £26.264 million this year, you may wonder how Merseytravel has been spending this money?
Below is an invoice to Merseytravel for £19,000/year + VAT (part of a 3 year deal) with Vocus UK Ltd (a company that monitors the media). Part of that is spent on monitoring this blog and arguing with me if they read something that they don’t like! Of course Merseytravel could subscribe to this blog via email for free, but instead the public sector spends this large sum instead.
I realise £19,000 + VAT a year is a drop in the ocean as far as budgets are concerned, but some would think that when there are cuts to be made that this sort of spending should fall in the discretionary category, but then for Merseytravel management possibly managing their reputation is not something that would be put forward for cuts?
Just out of interest here’s what Merseytravel get for their money (unless people are really interested in this topic I won’t publish the whole contract).
The Merseytravel signatures on the below documents are Frank Rogers (Interim Chief Executive and the Lead Officer for Transport/author of the Mersey Ferries report in yesterday’s story). The other signature is of Louise Outram who is Merseytravel’s Head of Legal and Committee Services. As usual the thumbnails link to higher resolution versions of the documents.
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