Scrutiny Programme Board 4th January 2012 Part 1, Declarations of Interest, Minutes

Present Councillors Cllr Andrew Hodson (Chair) Cllr Simon Mountney (Vice-Chair) Cllr Patricia Glasman (Spokesperson) Cllr Ann Bridson (Spokesperson) Cllr Ron Abbey Cllr Chris Blakeley Cllr Pat Hackett Cllr Adam Sykes Cllr Jerry Williams Officers Mark Delap, Committee Clerk Surjit Tour, Head of Legal and Member Services Another Wirral Council officer Two members of the public. … Continue reading “Scrutiny Programme Board 4th January 2012 Part 1, Declarations of Interest, Minutes”


Cllr Andrew Hodson (Chair)
Cllr Simon Mountney (Vice-Chair)
Cllr Patricia Glasman (Spokesperson)
Cllr Ann Bridson (Spokesperson)
Cllr Ron Abbey
Cllr Chris Blakeley
Cllr Pat Hackett
Cllr Adam Sykes
Cllr Jerry Williams

Mark Delap, Committee Clerk
Surjit Tour, Head of Legal and Member Services
Another Wirral Council officer

Two members of the public.

The Chair, Cllr Andrew Hodson said good evening to everyone and commented on the fact that Cllr Bridson was looking better since he’d last seen her, but was not looking 100%.

Cllr Ron Abbey said there’d been no improvement in the Chair.

The Chair, Cllr Andrew Hodson said it had been three weeks since he’d seen Cllr Bridson and she looked a lot better. He asked those present to turn their mobile phones off. Cllr Hodson then asked councillors if they had any declarations of interest to make.

1. Declarations of Interest

Cllr Patricia Glasman asked for advice on a declaration of interest.

Cllr Tony Smith arrives late and apologised for being late.

Cllr Patricia Glasman says that it is about her role as Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the work of the Health and Wellbeing Board.

Surjit Tour replied that it was up to Cllr Glasman if she wished to declare an interest.

2. Minutes

The Chair, Cllr Andrew Hodson asked if members of the Committee were happy with the minutes [of the meeting held on the 8th September 2011]

Cllr Bridson said on page three, the top item there was a summary of complaints made against councillors that had led to a vibrant discussion. She said she had asked for costs to be presented, this had been agreed and noted.

Surjit Tour said he was happy to give to councillors this information as soon as possible.

Cllr Bridson said it was important the public knew how much they were spending when making inappropriate complaints.

Cllr Blakeley said it had been referred to the Standards Committee.

Surjit Tour said he would check it and apologised.

Cllr Chris Blakeley said it had gone to the last Standards Committee meeting, however some final costs had yet to be decided.

The Chair, Cllr Hodson said he wanted it minuted.

Price of Alcohol – Lib Dem and Tory councillors vote not to raise it – Licensing, Health and Safety and General Purposes Committee 21st March

Unusually the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Licensing, Health and Safety and General Purposes Committee weren’t available. This led to a few jokes from the Cabinet Member for Housing & Community Safety as to what he’d Twitter about it following his recent coverage in the Wirral Globe of the Chair.

The Committee decided to (for this meeting only) have Cllr Ian Lewis (Cabinet Member for Community Engagement) as the Chair. The most interesting item on the agenda was a decision (following consultation) as to whether Wirral would recommend a minimum price (per unit ~50p) for alcohol as a local bylaw.

Many councillors told members of the public present and committee members about their favourite drinks, how alcohol was an issue that needed to be addressed but that putting up the price for Wirral residents wasn’t the answer. They also suggested that raising the price would lead to an increase in shoplifting. A quarter of the consultation responses were from the Birkenhead & Tranmere/Rock Ferry area.

Here were the results

Licensed premises
39% agreed with a minimum unit price for alcohol (384 people)
16% had no strong opinion (159 people)
45% disagreed with a minimum unit price for alcohol (438 people)

Off Licences
44% agreed with a minimum unit price
14% had no strong opinion
42% disagreed with a minimum unit price

People cited issues such as anti social behaviour, young people drinking, violence, noise and criminal damage as some of the problems caused by alcohol. There was also a call for better policing and education.

In the end after a spirited debate the committee voted not to implement one of the “Access to Alcohol by Young People” report’s recommendations and press for a bylaw on Wirral. However with an election less than a month away would you have expected any politician to vote to increase the price of alcohol?

When I dig out my notes, I’ll provide a more detailed report of the meeting.

Full Council last night & Scrutiny Programme Board

Full Council last night & Scrutiny Programme Board

Full Council last night & Scrutiny Programme Board


The Scrutiny Programme Board in a three-minute meeting decided to send the Hoylake lifeboat call-in to the Council Excellence Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

All the stops were pulled out an hour later for invited guests (and councillors) at Wirral Council’s meeting last night, where Steve Maddox was awarded Freedom of the Borough. Before the meeting from the public gallery you could hear drunken laughter echoing through the corridors of the Town Hall.

Despite myself and Leonora being invited; we were both prevented from speaking to councillors or Steve as Town Hall staff had been left with instructions as usual. All I managed to get was a hello to Steve as he walked past through the lobby.

For the first time in a long time, Labour councillors behaved and didn’t jeer/heckle through anybody’s speeches. After the last full council meeting where Cllr Harry Smith got two people booted out of the Council Chamber I half thought he’d jump up and say, "I object to the dozen or so member of the public sitting in the Council Chamber (some in front of the Labour benches obscuring our view of Tory councillors) including Steve Maddox, his family, the High Sheriff, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant, Mayoress and others and insist they’re thrown out of the Council Chamber and sit in the public gallery." but he didn’t.

So much for Harry’s assertion last time that it was usual procedure of members of the public to be bullied into moving about contrary to Wirral’s constitution!

However, someone must have told Harry to behave because I didn’t even hear one heckle or jeer out of him.

There were around thirty in the public gallery, I’ll write a longer report on last night including a summary of the speeches by the three leaders. The atmosphere was quite different to usual; partly because all the political parties agreed.

The only thing that seemed to go wrong (with a night that was meticulously planned by officers who got rather stressed) was the Mayor’s microphone wasn’t working.

Dogs, Rain, Alcohol – Crime, ASB & the Labour Party

Well, stone the crows when my wife walked the dog this morning; Labour have been sighted in Bidston & St. James delivering a leaflet.

This follows on from Cllr Harry Smith refusing to answer the question on Monday evening whether he’d visit Bidston & St. James ward on Friday/Saturday nights to see the problems that alcohol brings in the area he represents deriding the question as “political”.

I will give full marks to Cllr Smith for consistency. The independently written minutes of the Wirral Council Scrutiny Programme Board at point 33 quoted below state in response to my wife’s letter on this matter back in January (for Members read Labour councillors):-

“Members considered also a response they had received from a local resident to the Alcohol Scrutiny Review, which also offered some general observations on the issue of alcohol in the Bidston area of Birkenhead. A number of Members expressed their disagreement with a number of points in the letter, particularly what they perceived to be attacks on Council officers in relation to licensing of off-licences and test sales of alcohol to young people under the age of 18. Other Members questioned the objectivity of the response, as the respondent appeared to be promoting the issue for party political purposes.”

However you can read the actual letter from my wife to the members of the Scrutiny Programme Board who were discussing the Alcohol Strategy Review at the meeting.

The points she made that prompted this response from Labour councillors, were “A number of off licences in the area have in recent years made sales of alcohol to customers under 18. Although Trading Standards send in teenagers in test sales to check on under age sales; local shop assistants know who lives locally and will generally be able to spot these strangers.”

This is based on fact. An offlicence in Hoylake Road had had its licence revoked after making an underage sale. This is not the only one that had been selling to under-18s (in fact some still do!)

While Labour merely deride bringing up the problem as “political”, it was Liberal Democrats that asked the police to do something about alcohol related antisocial behaviour which led to the mobile police station being placed near Birkenhead Park train station. Local residents in this area were pleased that finally their complaints were heard and (finally) something was done about it!

What was the response from a party that said they were “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”?

I personally wish I didn’t feel the need to write this post highlighting problems with crime and alcohol in the area. It feels like I’m talking down an area I live in, however as a local resident who lives here, I want the area to improve. If the Labour Party won’t even answer an easy yes/no question or merely derides residents like myself and my wife bring it up with a local councillor as “political”; is Labour there to truly represent the views of the local people or is it party politics first and the local community second?

Wirral Council’s own constitution states:-

“2.3 (a) All Councillors will: …represent their communities and bring their views into the
Council’s decision-making process”

Cllr. Harry Smith chooses to live in Oxton where he’s represented by three Liberal Democrat councillors. Doesn’t this say it all?