Postal Voting – Deadline 14th April – Only 5 days to go

Today Wirral Council sent my excellent agent, who then passed on the information to me the invite to the opening of the postal votes (starting on the 20th April) at Wallasey Town Hall. It is not too late to register for a postal vote, if you want one. The form can be downloaded from Wirral … Continue reading “Postal Voting – Deadline 14th April – Only 5 days to go”

Today Wirral Council sent my excellent agent, who then passed on the information to me the invite to the opening of the postal votes (starting on the 20th April) at Wallasey Town Hall.

It is not too late to register for a postal vote, if you want one. The form can be downloaded from Wirral Council’s website. For people who are planning to go on holiday, will be at work or have children to look after having a postal vote brings welcome flexibility to the process.

I am pleased that (unlike last year) Wirral Council is sticking to the legal requirement to invite candidates/agents to the opening of the postal votes. The postal ballots are one of the weak points of our system and as a judge described Labour’s previous election fraud “would disgrace a banana republic”. Having said that there are many other weak points in our democracy, considering the large amount of people registered to vote who are not allowed to (eg dead or other reasons).

Lib Dem voters are more likely to vote by post. Last year many in Bidston & St. James did not receive their postal votes. When they complained they didn’t receive replacement postal ballots and were turned away from polling stations.

This even included myself! If this year anyone tries to stop your exercising your democratic or legal right to vote, please get in touch with us and we will submit a formal complaint.

One change made from last year, which affects polling stations outside Bidston & St. James (I live in the largest polling station area) is that polling stations serving more than 2,500 voters have been split. I see this as an excellent change that will prevent the disgraceful long waits for hours that people had to endure when voting in the local and General Election last year.

If anybody has any questions or suggestions for improvement in the democratic system, please leave a comment. There have been reports of people previously going to a polling station and being turned away as someone has impersonating them has already voted.

We must have a democracy where everybody’s vote counts not just in theory but in practice. After the election I had a conversation with the Returning Officer Steve Maddox (who has since retired) as to why it appeared my own vote hadn’t been counted as it didn’t appear in the list of people who had voted. I was not entirely convinced by his explanation and hope this year Wirral Council will at least be able to be able to provide a result which isn’t questionable. I live in hope that one day we’ll actually get an accurate result in Bidston & St. James and that everyone’s vote is not only counted, but recorded as being counted.

This year the Returning Officer is Bill Norman.

FOI request – Freedom of Borough – £2k so far and counting

I’ve just received a partial answer to my request and I am to be quite frank staggered by the costs so far in awarding a person Freedom of the Borough.

The buffet was £705, the alcohol £121.15, flowers were £30, a photographer was a staggering £258.50 (to take a few photos)! and the scroll was £846.

So far that’s £40 shy of £2000. Bear in mind although this is a public meeting any members of the public are kept away from the alcohol & buffet (which the public have paid for) and told they can’t sit anywhere in the public gallery they’d actually be able to see how at least £2k of their money is being spent.

157 guests were invited and 110 turned up.

I will point out at this stage, I’m not in any way criticising Steve Maddox getting Freedom of the Borough, but at a time when Wirral Council is making people redundant, personally it just doesn’t seem right to be spending so much. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be money spent on awards and ceremony it’s just the taxpayer should know that its money is being spent prudently.

The original report stated “There are no staffing implications arising out of this report; there may be some modest financial implications which can be accommodated from within existing budgets.”

Clearly Jim Wilkie’s view of “modest financial implications” are different to mine!

Freedom of Information & Wirral Council. Do officers get paid overtime for attending meetings?

Freedom of Information & Wirral Council. Do officers get paid overtime for attending meetings?


I have today received an apology from Wirral Council about a Freedom of Information Act request submitted on the 1st December 2010.

The request here is basically an answer to the question, “How much does it cost to award someone Freedom of the Borough?” which I wrote about before on this blog when it happened earlier this year.

As readers may recall Wirral Council was "named and shamed" by the Information Commissioner in October for taking too long to respond. Quite what the monitoring being done by the Information Commissioner isn’t gone into detail.

As pointed out when he was awarded Freedom of the Borough, Steve Maddox had had to sit through many years of Council meetings and had never been asked to say anything. Whereas I understand the logic of the Chief Officers being there, the only one I’ve known be asked anything (in recent times) is Bill Norman about who had seen the infamous Charteris report into the library closures (and the odd procedural question).

Either the Chief Officers of Wirral Council come to meetings on a purely voluntary basis or they are paid overtime. The table below shows how much they got paid last year (although there have been some controversial changes uprating them since).

Senior Officers Remuneration (Wirral Council) 2009-10
Senior Officers Remuneration (Wirral Council) 2009-10

Wirral Council – Steve Maddox awarded Freedom of the Borough

Wirral Council – Steve Maddox awarded Freedom of the Borough


In a well attended meeting at Wallasey Town Hall last night, attended by councillors, senior officers, Steve Maddox (and family), assorted invited guests and about thirty members of the public Steve Maddox was awarded Freedom of the Borough.

Despite his microphone not working, the Mayor of Wirral, Cllr Alan Jennings gave a speech detailing Steve’s service to Wirral Council and the people of Wirral referring to Mr. Maddox as an exceptional public servant. The Mayor went on to detail Steve’s career from Council trainee to Chief Executive and said that it was a "most appropriate tribute" to a "true public servant". He went on to call Mr. Maddox an "innovative forward thinker" who would insist on seeing every employee once a year at a roadshow. He went on to refer to Mr. Maddox as modest, thoughtful and supportive of the Council and colleagues. He said Mr. Maddox had integrity and that to be awarded an Honorary Freeman was very rare and only happened to exceptional people. He said that he had rendered eminent service to the Borough and mentioned Mr. Maddox’s OBE. He then proposed the motion to make Mr. Maddox an Honorary Freeman of the Borough.

The Conservative leader Cllr Green spoke first, seconding the motion. He called Mr. Maddox a "shining example of a man dedicated to public service" who had "impressed me with his commitment to excellent local services". Cllr Green went on to talk about the Open Gold scheme and Wirral Waters. He told those present about how Mr. Maddox is the current tourism ambassador and Mr. Maddox’s earlier work with Merseytravel, NHS and support for schools in special measures. He said that Mr. Maddox was a shy and modest man and stated that he had started a charity into which he had donated his fee he received as Returning Officer.

The Labour leader Cllr Foulkes spoke next, jointly seconding the motion. He brought up Mr. Maddox’s humble background and mentioned his passionate determination. He referred to Mr. Maddox’s work on the governing body of a primary school and mentioned the Open Golf tournament. He joked that the one thing the Conservative Minister Eric Pickles had got right was his recent decision over Wirral Waters. Cllr Foulkes also referred to HMS Astute and said that Mr. Maddox had had a "great career". He said Mr. Maddox was backed up by his family (who were with him).

The Lib Dem leader Cllr Holbrook then spoke about the winter maintenance arrangements, public health, Youth Forums, Older Peoples Parliament.

The motion was unanimously approved with calls for a card vote. Mr. Maddox was awarded a small token of esteem from the Mayor and other councillors in a John Lewis bag and his wife was given a bunch of flowers.

Mr. Maddox was then invited to speak. He said that it’d be 36 years next week since he started at Wirral Council and expressed regret that his father couldn’t come. He said he’d been attended council meetings as a senior officer for 20 years; with about 8 council meetings a year that made about 160 council meetings. He said this had been the first time he had been asked to say anything after listening to 700 to 800 hours of debate. He joked in saying does how long he’s had to listen reflect how long you’d have to listen to his speech. He expressed his thanks and said he would be eternally grateful. He mentioned how other distinguished people had been awarded this honour and that he had recommended one or two people. He said he was not awfully sure what he’d done to qualify for it.

He went on to say that he was received the award for the staff and the thousands of people he had worked with. He said he was proud to be associated with every member of Wirral Council. He said he truly appreciated the political differences among councillors and of the need to support democracy which involves challenge and disagreement. He talked about tough decision and it had been an absolute honour. A photo was taken of Steve, the Mayor and the certificate followed by the Mayor closing the meeting.