Why did Wirral Council councillors vote for a just over 4.5% council tax rise?

Why did Wirral Council councillors vote for a just over 4.5% council tax rise?

Why did Wirral Council councillors vote for a just over 4.5% council tax rise?

                               

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Wirral Council (Budget) 6th March 2017 Part 1 of 5

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Wirral Council (Budget) 6th March 2017 Part 2 of 5

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Wirral Council (Budget) 6th March 2017 Part 3 of 5

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Wirral Council (Budget) 6th March 2017 Part 4 of 5

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Wirral Council (Budget) 6th March 2017 Part 4 of 5

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (right) (Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group of councillors on Wirral Council) speaking at the Budget meeting of Wirral Council (6th March 2017)
Cllr Phil Gilchrist (right) (Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group of councillors on Wirral Council) speaking at the Budget meeting of Wirral Council (6th March 2017)

It’s been misreported in the press that both Wirral Council and Liverpool City Council agreed a 4.99% council tax rise.

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Wirral Council’s Children’s Services branded “inadequate” by OFSTED

Wirral Council’s Children’s Services branded “inadequate” by OFSTED

Wirral Council’s Children’s Services branded “inadequate” by OFSTED

                              

Cabinet 17th December 2014 voting to close Lyndale School L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan
Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School closure L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan

I’ll declare at the outset that I was the Appellant in the First-Tier Tribunal case referred to later.

I’ve just read the 44 page inspection report by OFSTED into services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers which you can read on OFSTED’s website.

The inspection was carried out in July 2016 and the headlines (these are quoted from the report) are:

“1. Children who need help and protection
Inadequate

2. Children looked after and achieving permanence
Requires improvement

2.1 Adoption Performance
Requires improvement

2.2 Experiences and progress of care leavers
Inadequate

1. Leadership, management and governance
Inadequate

The report then goes on to explain the many reasons why and starts with the sentence, “There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection in Wirral.” and perhaps even more telling makes this point about senior management and councillors, “Almost all of the deficits identified in this inspection were known by senior leaders.

And in response to a certain senior manager at Wirral Council who repeatedly states the Council acts in the best interests of children, “Plans to restructure services to respond better to children’s needs were delayed for a year due to competing council priorities.

However I don’t want you to think I’m cherry-picking negative criticism from the report. If you read the report you’ll find it has very little to state that is positive.

After all this sentence, “Performance management data is widely scrutinised by managers and elected members, but is not yet leading to improvement and is not always focused on the right things.” sums it up. People (whether that be councillors or managers) know about the problems, but seemingly don’t know (or if I’m being more charitable are thwarted from) fixing them.

The infamous report into Wirral Council by Anna Klonowski Associates explained how in years gone by Wirral Council received independent reports similar to these but just carried on (whereas in other councils it would’ve raised red flags and led to major alarm bells ringing).

Of course it remains to be seen what Wirral Council’s response to this is. An Improvement Board has been mentioned (but if it meets in private as the one before did) the public won’t know about the changes Wirral Council is making in response and to be able to hold their political leaders to account.

And let’s face it, a Council that is prepared to go to a Tribunal to make sure some of the views of senior councillors, union representatives and senior managers at a meeting held in secret about education are kept out of the public domain in response to a FOI request, is that a Council acting in an “open and transparent” way or one that knows about its problems but wants to keep them out of the public domain?

The OFSTED inspection report is due to be discussed by councillors on Wirral Council’s Children Sub-Committee at a public meeting this Thursday evening (22nd September 2016) in Committee Room 2 in Wallasey Town Hall starting at 6.00pm.

Oh and just to quell any rumours, no I don’t have any children but Wirral Council’s external auditor Grant Thornton are reviewing the impact of the OFSTED report on their Value for Money conclusion which goes to be considered at a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee on Monday 26th September starting at 6.00pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall.

As I wish to end on a positive note Committee Rooms 1, 2 (and I’m told also Committee Room 3) on the ground floor at Wallasey Town Hall are now able to be better accessed by those in wheelchairs or those with reduced mobility due to changes recently made to the doors to these rooms at this listed building.

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What are the details of the recommendation to Wirral councillors about a senior management restructure at Wirral Council (1 redundancy, 5 promotions, 4 posts created and 4 vacant posts deleted)?

What are the details of the recommendation to Wirral councillors about a senior management restructure at Wirral Council (1 redundancy, 5 promotions, 4 posts created and 4 vacant posts deleted)?

What are the details of the recommendation to Wirral councillors about a senior management restructure at Wirral Council (1 redundancy, 5 promotions, 4 posts created and 4 vacant posts deleted)?

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016
Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016 (who is one of the employees recommended for an increase in pay)

Councillors on Wirral Council’s Employment and Appointments Committee will decide on changes to Wirral Council’s senior management next week on Monday 25th July 2016. If approved by councillors the restructure will take effect from November 2016.

This senior management restructure had been put on hold until Eric Robinson’s appointment by councillors as Chief Executive of Wirral Council in February 2015.

However these are the changes recommended to councillors and you can read the full details on Wirral Council’s website.

Redundancy (1)

There is a recommendation that one senior manager (the Head of Housing and Community Safety Ian Platt) be made redundant, offered early retirement and his post is deleted. However the recommendation from officers is that his name and the financial details of how much this will cost are kept out of the public domain before the public meeting and that councillors decide on whether to release the information about Ian Platt after the meeting has been held.

For comparison the early retirement of Kevin Adderley last year cost ~£49k in redundancy plus ~£207k in pension costs for early retirement but as Ian Platt is on a lower salary grade I estimate the costs to Wirral Council are roughly ~£30k in redundancy and ~£127k in pension costs total £157k.

Promotions (5)

The following senior managers are recommended to receive a promotion:

Tom Sault (who has been acting up to the s.151 officer role will be permanently appointed to it)

Surjit Tour (who has been Monitoring Officer since shortly after Bill Norman was suspended in 2012 will now receive extra pay for being Monitoring Officer too in addition to his other job)

Mark Smith (promoted from Head of Environment and Regulation to Strategic Commissioner for Environment)

Alan Evans (promoted from Investment and Business Manager to Strategic Commissioner for Growth)

Sue Talbot (promoted from Schools Commissioning Manager to Lead Commissioner for Schools)

Vacant posts deleted (4)

Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment (formerly Kevin Adderley)

Director of Resources (formerly Vivienne Quayle)

Head of Neighbourhoods and Engagement (formerly Emma Degg)

Head of Business Processes (formerly Malcolm Flanagan)

Posts deleted because postholder being promoted (3)

Investment and Business Manager (current postholder Alan Evans)
Schools Commissioner Manager (current postholder Sue Talbot)
Senior Manager (current postholder unknown)

Posts created (if approved by councillors) 4

Transformation Director (grade HS2 (£68,011 to £75,567))
Assistant Director: Commissioning Support (grade HS2 (£68,011 to £75,567))
Assistant Director: Community Services* (grade HS2 (£68,011 to £75,567))
Assistant Director: Adult and Disability Services* (grade HS2 (£68,011 to £75,567))

*Note new posts marked with * are recommended to be recruited internally from existing Wirral Council employees.

Penna will be advising Wirral Council’s Employment and Appointments Committee &Wirral Council officers on appointments to these four posts at a cost of £thousands per each post. If the creation of the new posts is agreed by councillors, councillors will also decide who the successful applicants are.

The councillors on Wirral Council’s Employment and Appointments Committee (although the councillors below can send a deputy in their place if they can’t make a particular meeting) are:

Cllr Adrian Jones (Chair) (Labour)
Cllr Phil Davies (Vice-Chair) (Labour)
Cllr George Davies (Labour)
Cllr Ann McLachlan (Labour)
Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour)
Cllr Jeff Green (Conservative)
Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative)
Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat)

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What were top 7 most viewed articles and top 7 most viewed videos for May 2016?

What were top 7 most viewed articles and top 7 most viewed videos for May 2016?

                                       

Power
Power

Well just over a month has passed since polling day the election for a Merseyside PCC and local councillors on the Wirral and on the 23rd June 2016 there will be a referendum about membership of the EU.

As I’ll be at Wirral Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday morning, instead I thought I’d look back at the most read stories of last month (May 2016) and some of the most watched videos. Both are in order of most viewed (so the top number 1 slot was the one that attracted the most interest).

Top 7 articles on this blog (May 2016)

1. Who wouldn’t want you to read this story about the election of 4 Wirral councillors?

Since I wrote this story question marks have also been raised about the election of two further Wirral councillors not referred to by name in the article, which leads to unanswered questions about over a quarter of the 23 councillors elected. If all six elections had been (or are in the next 2 years) declared null and void*, no political party would have a majority on Wirral Council.

*Highly unlikely considering how this country works or doesn’t work and I’d like to point out that councillors/candidates are innocent until proven guilty and that trial by media doesn’t count.

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Cllr Pat Hackett elected as Wirral’s new Mayor for 2016/17

Cllr Pat Hackett elected as Wirral’s new Mayor for 2016/17

                          

Mayor Cllr Pat Hackett at the Annual Council meeting of Wirral Council 16th May 2016
Mayor Cllr Pat Hackett at the Annual Council meeting of Wirral Council 16th May 2016

After the recent elections, the new year at Wirral Council began with the election of Cllr Pat Hackett as Mayor in front of hundreds of invited guests in the Civic Hall.

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Annual Council (Part 1) 16th May 2016 Part 1 of 2

Outgoing Mayor of Wirral Cllr Les Rowlands giving a speech about his Mayoral year at the Annual meeting of Wirral Council 16th May 2016
Outgoing Mayor of Wirral Cllr Les Rowlands giving a speech about his Mayoral year at the Annual meeting of Wirral Council 16th May 2016

Outgoing Mayor Cllr Les Rowlands gave a brief summary of his Mayoral year. During the year he had raised money for his three charities which were the North West Air Ambulance, Friends of Clatterbridge and the Alzheimer’s Society. His scariest moment during his year was scaling the 170 foot spire of St James Church in New Brighton to affix a new cross.

Cllr Phil Davies nominated fellow Labour councillor Cllr Pat Hackett to be Mayor and gave a brief speech about Cllr Pat Hackett’s life before he became a councillor for New Brighton in 1994. There were no other nominations so Cllr Pat Hackett was elected Mayor.

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Annual Council (Part 1) 16th May 2016 Part 2 of 2

Mayor Cllr Pat Hackett (perhaps not unsurprisingly) managed to talk at length about New Brighton and his life including a time he spent managing football teams. He talked enthusiastically about the regeneration of New Brighton and his time as Cabinet Member. His charities this year would be Wallasey Sea Cadets and the Wirral Narrowboat Trust. There would also be a general fund to make small donations to local charities that weren’t as well-known. Mayor Cllr Pat Hackett hoped everyone would enjoy the entertainment and told everyone that the food would be coming soon.

Cllr Ann McLachlan was elected unopposed as Deputy Mayor. The meeting was then adjourned to Tuesday evening when the rest of the business will be dealt with in the more usual venue of the Council Chamber. Following refurbishment, the Civic Hall at Wallasey Town Hall is available for hire.

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