Wirral Council Recruiting Solicitors

 

Wirral Council are recruiting a Senior Solicitor (Child/Adult Social Care), Senior Solicitor (Litigation/Governance) and Solicitor Child Care – Wallasey Town Hall.

Part of the reason I’d guess that Wirral Council is recruiting the Senior Solicitor (Litigation/Governance) is because the current Head of Legal and Member Services, Shirley Hudspeth isn’t a practising solicitor or barrister. When Wirral Council concentrates on internal promotions to fill posts, this is why you end up with anomalies like the Head of Legal and Member Services not being a practising solicitor or barrister.

Certainly there seems to be a cultural drive away from the past (subcontracting for external legal advice) to dealing with legal matters in-house. Bill Norman, Head of Law, HR & Asset Management did make the point in public meetings that he wanted more solicitors in house at Wirral Council (well just before he had to leave the room as the Tory councillors tried unsuccessfully to remove him as Monitoring Officer). It certainly would’ve led to a saving to the taxpayer as Wirral Council was at the time spending £millions/year in external legal advice. Yet for whatever reason the politicians at the time wouldn’t authorise the creation of the new posts required as corporate governance issues at Wirral Council weren’t once seen as the priority they are now.

Certainly some councillors prefer to rely on in house advisers employed by Wirral Council rather than have to spend months putting out a contract to tender before external adviser/s are agreed and appointed (and the delays can cause increased costs).

 

Budget 2012: Changes to Pensions, Age Related Allowances, Royal Mail Pension Plan, State Retirement Age, Pension Infrastructure Platform

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon George Osborne MP announced the 2012 Budget today, I thought I’d better write a blog post with the potted highlights, although obviously for more detail you can watch his long speech, check out what’s published on the Treasury’s website (and is the main source for what is below) or have a read through the extensive media coverage.

I’ll start with pensions.

Pensions

(a) as average lifespan increases the State Pension Age will go up and

(b) the State Pension will be reformed into a single tier pension for those not currently in receipt of a State Pension but not until the next Parliament (at least 2015).

The latter means such changes don’t affect those currently in receipt of a pension, or those receiving one before the changes come into effect.

Age Related Allowances change affecting those of pensionable age

These allowances affect income tax calculations for pensioners. This will be £10,500 and £10,600 for 2012-2013, with changes in future years from 2013 onwards.

A Pension Infrastructure Platform will be set up to allow pension funds to invest in UK infrastructure.

The Royal Mail Pension Plan is being transferred to the public sector, assuming the government gets approval.

There will be reform of public sector pensions and the age at which you can retire will be increased to bring it in line with increases in State Retirement Age. This and other reforms will have to be agreed with the public sector unions.

The deficit in the Royal Mail pension scheme will be addressed if the government gets State Aid approval. The government will (if they get approval) sell off the non-gilt assets of the pension scheme and take on board the liabilities.

Budget night at Wirral Council & Off licence application for 46 Hoylake Road, Bidston turned down

Well tonight councillors at Wallasey Town Hall meet to decide among other things Wirral Council’s Budget for 2012-2013.

So far we have had the surprise Labour Budget at its last Cabinet meeting on the 13th February, which was then rescinded by the new Conservative/Lib Dem Cabinet on the 21st February.

Labour councillors then “called-in” the decision by the Conservative/Lib Dem Cabinet of the 21st February to rescind their earlier Labour Budget recommendation to Council and the Budget procedure chosen by the Conservative/Lib Dem Cabinet. This call-in was decided at the Council Excellence meeting on Tuesday 28th February. This call-in failed mainly because Bill Norman said that Cabinet recommendations to Council from Cabinet weren’t subject to call-in as in his view it wasn’t an Executive decision, just a recommendation so Labour have tabled an amendment to the Budget procedure tonight.

Confused yet?

However in more local news the Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee of Cllr Steve Niblock, Cllr Mike Hornby and Cllr Don McCubbin decided yesterday to turn down an application for an off-licence at 46 Hoylake Road. The reasons given were the objections of Merseyside Police (both Sgt Jenkins and Inspector McGregor were against it as they thought it would lead to increased crime and disorder).

The committee also had serious concerns about the integrity of the person who’d made the application for the licence and his alleged association with criminal activities. Trading Standards also spoke during the meeting about how they had seized counterfeit goods from the person applying for a premises licence.

The Subcommittee also felt the person applying displayed no understanding of the licensing objectives, despite previous involvement with other licensed premises, one of which had had its licence revoked due to violent crime. The issue of under age sales was also given as a reason by the subcommittee.

If you’d like to come to the Budget meeting tonight (1st March) it starts at 6.15pm in the Council Chamber at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Wallasey, Wirral, CH44 8ED .

Merseyside Police Authority 20/2/12 12/13 Budget Meeting Pt 2 – Police Authority agree to raise Council Tax police precept by 3% and refuse Council Tax Freeze Grant

The members of the Merseyside Police Authority met to decide on the 2012/2013 Budget after their meeting last Thursday had been adjourned.

There were two options to decide between. The first option was whether to accept a one-off Council Tax Freeze grant for 2012/2013 which equated to what they would have gained from a 3 percent rise in the police precept on the Council Tax bills for Merseyside residents. The second option was to reject the Council Tax Freeze grant and increase the Council Tax precept by 3 percent for Merseyside residents.

Neither option made any difference to the 2012/2013 budget, but did to budgets from 2013/2014 onwards.

The Chair welcomed people to the reconvened meeting. He said they wouldn’t go through the whole report again. He asked for a proposal.

It was proposed to reject the Council Tax Freeze grant for 2012/2013 and increase the Merseyside Council Tax police precept by 3 percent compared to its 2011/2012 level.

It was moved as an amendment to accept the Council Tax freeze grant for 2012/2013 and not increase the Merseyside Council Tax police precept for 2012/2013 compared to its 2011/2012 level.

A councillor spoke for the amendment and against the motion. Cllr Kate Wood spoke for the amendment and against the motion. The Chair commented that the Merseyside Police Authority sets the precept independently of the Merseyside local authorities who collected the Council Tax on their behalf.

Janet referred to a story on the BBC website. She had asked for a copy of the press release and felt the BBC had mixed it up as they had used a figure of £2 million instead of £1.865 million. She also didn’t understand the BBC article suggested there would be a loss of forty officers, which made out there would be a deficit when the revenue Budget for 2012/2013 was neutral between the two options.

She had an issue with the survey using survey monkey that the Police Authority had done. She said it was biased as option 1 was for putting up the Council Tax precept and that people could vote in it as many times as they liked, she herself had voted three times. She said although the proposed increase was small,would some residents would have to cut their heating bill to afford the increased Council Tax.

The Chair asked the Chief Executive to clarify.

The Chief Executive referred people to table 14 on page 45. He pointed out the issue was with the 2013/2014 Budget, not 2012/2013. He explained that the issue was never 2012/2013. The issue was what happened after 2012/2013 to the one year Council Tax Freeze grant.

He continued by pointing out in 2013/2014 if the Council Tax Freeze grant was accepted, then it led to a £2 million gap, as the grant would be dropped out of the Budget for 2013/2014. This meant the Council Tax base for 2013/2014 would be reduced [compared to increasing the precept for 2012/2013] and the effect of the Council Tax Freeze Grant was close to £2 million.

Referring to the survey, Paul Johnson explained that it had been sent out to libraries and they had made it so that more that each person could vote more than once. He said they had been criticised on Thursday for reorganising a meeting so quickly, which gave little opportunity to the public of Merseyside. They had achieved some helpful information, but if Authority members thought it was not up to scratch they were at “liberty to ignore” it.

The Chair said he was not going to give a summay out unless he was asked for it. In the short period of time he only intended to introduce it if there was another stalemate. It had been raised, but it did have limitations.

An Authority Member referred to a “lot of misunderstanding”. They then referred to Liverpool City Council deciding on the Council Tax levels and the effect on them of receiving or refusing the Council Tax Freeze Grant. The Member thought the effect over five years for the Police Budget could come to Ł9 million.

The Member referred to the “poorly paid on benefits” who had faced “Housing Benefit cuts” when “nobody gave a monkeys”. He then went onto refer to Working Tax Credit cuts and Winter Fuel Allowance reductions from Ł250 to Ł150.

He was arguing that the 3% rise would not lead to greater numbers of officers on the frontline as in previous years. However it would allow injured and ill officers to be tacken off their backroom jobs and made redundant, which would lead to a longterm saving.

This could lead to [approximately] forty new officers. If they were not going to recruit now then in a couple of years there would be a big gap and experienced officers who needed to pass their skills and advice on would have left Merseyside Police.

Wirral Council meeting (13th February 2012) Leader Cllr Foulkes loses second no confidence vote

There was drama and excitement last night as Cllr Foulkes tried to persuade the Tory and Lib Dem councillors to let him stay on as Leader of Wirral Council.

A debate on the HESPE report and AKA report was adjourned partly due to the HESPE report not being ready (despite an earlier assurance it would be) and councillors grumbling over all the blacked out sections of the AKA report that they hadn’t been allowed to see.

Cllr Foulkes felt this wasn’t fair. He said he was worried about justice and claimed he would be sacked before getting a chance to debate the report [Ed – it’s an office he held, not employment so he can’t be “sacked” just voted out].

He wanted the whole thing adjourned to the 20th February and that he would be “seeking independent legal advice”. The Mayor decided to hear the no confidence motions in him anyway. Cllr Harney and Cllr Green both outlined why they wanted Cllr Foulkes to go.

Cllr Phil Davies gave an impassioned defence of Cllr Foulkes, stating that he “doesn’t believe it’s right or just to place the entire blame on Steve Foulkes”. He pointed out how the issues dated back to 1997, through three different leaders, two chief executives and various Directors of Adult Social Services. He said there was a strong argument that all political parties on the Council should take the blame as to why they didn’t take action or ask questions.

He said the “nasty, personal attacks on Steve” were “bang out of order” and that Labour would not take part in a three party Cabinet leaving the Tories and Lib Dems to run it as a Coalition or collaboration.

Cllr John Hale finished his speech by saying, “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” which sums up a lot of what the Conservative councillors had to say.

Impassioned speeches were made in defence of Cllr Foulkes, Cllr Kenny pleaded with them to wait until the May elections. Cllr Steve Williams compared Cllr Foulkes to an incompetent surgeon who needed to be removed before he does any more harm. Cllr Adam Sykes’ speech was interrupted by the Mayor, keen that he used the word alleged in respect of things alleged in the AKA report.

Cllr Foulkes said he was not in it to seek personal gain but wanted to point out what had been done. He apologised again to Martin Morton and anybody who had suffered a detriment in the past. He said they had got it “horribly wrong on Fairer Charging” and got heckled by someone from the public gallery shouting “he hasn’t got his job back”.

The Mayor gave a stern warning to the public gallery and said it was the last warning that if there was any further disruption she would order it cleared.

Cllr Foulkes referred to an unspecified “disgraceful blog” and said he was sorry if sticking ruthlessly to Anna’s recommendations had been misinterpreted by Cllr Tom Harney as lack of involvement. He wanted to make it clear to people in the public gallery that he had apologised and pointed out he had disbanded the Corporate Governance Committee and set up an Improvement Board. Cllr Foulkes said he tried to do things in an open and honest fashion, but that he couldn’t trust Cllr Green [Leader of the Tories] as far as he could throw him.

There were harsh words between the Mayor and Cllr Foulkes who finished by saying he was “not begging for my job”.

Cllr Green said he was not one for Standards Board complaints, but that Cllr Foulkes had called his trustworthiness into question. Cllr Foulkes was forced to apologise.

Cllr Stuart Kelly mentioned the senior officers who had been implicated had left under the cover of a compromise agreement, did this contain a gagging clause? He said “the cover up continues” and compared it to Watergate. He did acknowledge that Cllr Foulkes had “been badly advised” but that not to pay a price and resign diminished him.

Various other councillors spoke either for or against Cllr Foulkes’ removal as Leader. After all the speeches the meeting was adjourned. The Lib Dem motion of no confidence was combined with the Tory motion and went to the vote.

In favour to remove Cllr Foulkes were 36 councillors, against were 30, so he was removed as Leader of Wirral Council. After another adjournment there was a vote as to whether Cllr Phil Davies should be Leader. Thirty voted for and 36 voted against.

There was then a vote on Cllr Jeff Green as Leader, and he was elected Leader by 36 votes to 30. The Mayor asked Cllr Green to make an acceptance speech.

Cllr Green thanked Council for the confidence placed in him and that he wouldn’t name his Cabinet now. He hoped for an all party Cabinet and thought it was “genuinely important to find ways of working together”. He wanted the trust to be regained in Wirral Council and was going to defer Budget Cabinet from the 20th February to the 21st February. He would also send the Budget to the Council Excellence Overview and Scrutiny Committee to allow it to be scrutinised. Cllr Green wanted to accelerate the work of the Local Democracy Working Party.

He wanted a pause to reflect if the new management model for the Department of Adult Social Services was the best model. Cllr Green also wanted the Audit and Risk Management Committee to “be more activist”.

Cllr Green then answered a question from myself on the redacted parts of the AKA report. He said he wanted the maximum amount of information shown in public, but that he had to be responsible and speak to Bill Norman.

There were then a series of votes on the motions and the meeting finished soon after.