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

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

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

                        

Power
Power

George Orwell “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

This is a tale of power, money, elections and the public right to know. What happens next following this is a reflection of the society we all live in. I strongly suspect that very little will result. I’ve used my editorial independence to write this as my conscience is clear if these matters are in the public domain.

I would like to point out that until recent years the chairs of committees at Wirral Council were shared across the political parties. Labour however decided in the recent past that they wanted to keep the power that rests with chairs to themselves. Therefore that is the reason why all the main characters in this are Labour politicians. It’s nothing personal and I have no axe to grind against the Labour Party.

Like all good stories this tale indeed starts well before the election started. However, we will skip ahead to the beginning of the elections in 2016.

All candidates have to fill out what are termed nomination papers and deliver these nomination papers to Wirral Council by a deadline to be included in the election. The four candidates this tale (who were each elected as councillors) are Anita Leech, Janette Williamson, Mike Sullivan & Bill Davies (real name William Davies).

During the election (but not now after the result is declared) you have a legal right to inspect the nomination papers and request copies. I requested these 4 nomination papers from the Returning Office Eric Robinson.

In addition to the nomination papers, in order to be a valid and legal nomination various pieces of legislation need to be attached too. These pieces of legislation deal with who is disqualified from being elected. I presume the point of having to attach these for a valid nomination is to prevent candidates and agents at a later date claiming ignorance of what they mean.

The declaration they each have to sign (which also has to be witnessed) states the following,

“I declare that to the best of my knowledge and belief I am not disqualified for being elected by reason of any disqualification set out in, or decision made under, section 80 of the Local Government Act 1972, section 78A of the Local Government Act 2000 or section 34 of the Localism Act 2011 (copies of which are printed overleaf), and I do not hold a politically restricted post, within the meaning of Part 1 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, under a local authority, within the meaning of that Part.”
 

The nomination papers of each candidate are linked to at the end of this article.

The first part of section 80 declares:

80 Disqualifications for election and holding office as member of local authority.

(1) Subject to the provisions of section 81 below, a person shall be disqualified for being elected or being a member of a local authority … if he—

(a) holds any paid office or employment (other than the office of chairman, vice-chairman or deputy chairman [or, in the case of a local authority which are operating executive arrangements which involve a leader and cabinet executive, the office of executive leader or member of the executive]) appointments [or elections] to which are or may be made or confirmed by the local authority or any committee or sub-committee of the authority or by a joint committee [or National Park authority] on which the authority are represented or by any person holding any such office or employment; or

 

So what does that mean? Well he above also means she, but the employment bit means councillors cannot also be employees of Wirral Council as it represents a conflict of interest. Section 81 provides an exception for teachers and other people employed by schools (who are technically classed as local council employees) to be elected as councillors.

As you can see from the above, any Leader of a Council or Cabinet Member is also not excluded from being elected on those grounds.

Edited: 9/5/16 It’s been pointed out that s.80(1)(a) is open to different interpretations and chairman could be interpreted as all people with the title of Chair or just the Chair of Wirral Council (the Mayor). The guidance the Electoral Commission produce for Returning Officers on the matter is here and makes it very clear about the disqualification of candidates represented on outside bodies. That guidance however makes it clear that the relevant dates about disqualification (as determined in previous legal cases) are the date of nomination and the date of election.

Each of the four candidates I name above were at the time of their nomination and election holders of paid office at Wirral Council. I outline below which paid offices they held and the annual amounts they received. These are additional allowances in addition to the basic allowances they receive as councillors.

Anita Leech – Chair of the Planning Committee (£4,585)
Janette Williamson – Chair of the Transformation and Resources Policy and Performance Committee (£4,585)
Mike Sullivan – Chair of the Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee (£4,585)
Bill Davies – Chair of the Licensing, Health and Safety and General Purposes Committee (£4,585) and Chair of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (£1,375).
 

None of these four individual resigned their chairs before the date they were elected and they continue receiving allowances for these at the time of writing.

I presume the whole point of this is to ensure a level playing field and free, fair and open elections. After all if one candidate can turn round and say “Vote for me, I’m Chair of the Planning Committe” and in theory use their taxpayer funded paid office to pay for their election expenses is that fair?

The observant among you will have already realised that the above disqualification also rules out those councillors representing the Council on outside bodies (off the top of my head the Police and Crime Panel, the Merseytravel Committee (or other committees of the Combined Authority) and the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) are a few that I could name.

However I am not covering these here and it’s up to you the reader if you wish to explore whether any candidates in the election would seem to be disqualified on these grounds.

So what you may say? Even if the above four resigned, that would leave 35 Labour councillors and only 27 opposition councillors. As I say, I haven’t considered whether any candidates would be disqualified on any other grounds and as the deadline for submitting election expenses is a month away I haven’t inspected the declared election spending of candidates too.

However as the public have a right to know, here are the nomination papers of the four candidates I have named above.

Obviously the individuals (and their agents) have some unanswered questions as to whether they knew the above at the time of their nomination. It is only however my job to observe this anomaly and report on it, rather than be in a position to take action to resolve the matter one way or another.

The nomination papers are multi-page TIFF files as these were the format supplied by Wirral Council. I have not converted them to image files that can be read by a browser as I felt it best to leave them as they originally were.

I will end this with a big caveat, the above is merely how it seems from here. The people named could be totally ignorant of what disqualifies people from being a councillor (which would seem to be a difficult position to maintain as they had to include the legislation with their nomination papers). I could be wrong and the above could just be an arcane legal point.

Looking at a case where two Lib Dem Assembly Members were elected to the Welsh Assembly but were disqualified, one of those two successfully argued that the published Welsh guidance on the matter was out of date therefore disqualification was unfair.

However, I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on what I’ve written here.

Rock Ferry – William Davies (Bill Davies) nomination papers

Pensby & Thingwall – Michael Sullivan nomination papers

Liscard – Janette Williamson nomination papers

Leasowe & Moreton East – Anita Leech (nomination papers)

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Election Result (Wirral Council, 2016): Rock Ferry: Labour hold (Bill Davies)

Election Result (Wirral Council, 2016): Rock Ferry: Labour hold (Bill Davies)

                          









Rock Ferry Ward
 
Name of candidate    Description (if any) Votes  %
DAVIES
Bill
 Labour Party 1,642  67%  Elected
FOSTER
Billy
 UK Independence Party 327  13%  Not elected
HUGHES
Robert Glyn Mon
 The Conservative Party 209  8%  Not elected
PEERS
Kenny
 Green Party 158  6%  Not elected
SMITH
Edward Peter
 Liberal Democrat 86  3%  Not elected
HALLIGAN
Leah Jade
 Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition  38  2%  Not elected

There were 20 rejected ballot papers, the electorate was 9,641 and the turnout was 26%.

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Who are the 103 candidates in the 2016 Wirral Council elections?

Who are the 103 candidates in the 2016 Wirral Council elections?

                                             

Polling card Bidston and St James ward 2016 front
Polling card Bidston and St James ward 2016 front
Polling card Bidston and St James ward 2016 back
Polling card Bidston and St James ward 2016 back

The nomination period for anyone wishing to stand as a candidate in the elections to become a councillor at Wirral Council has been closed for some time. As usual elections in each of the twenty-two wards on Wirral are all being contested (ranging from two candidates in Seacombe ward to seven in Liscard ward).

All wards except Liscard will be electing one councillor, Liscard will elect two councillors.

Continue reading “Who are the 103 candidates in the 2016 Wirral Council elections?”

Which Wirral Council councillor made 38 taxi journeys in 6 months?

Which Wirral Council councillor made 38 taxi journeys in 6 months?

Which Wirral Council councillor made 38 taxi journeys in 6 months?

                                                       

Eye Cab taxi invoice Wirral Council councillors
Eye Cab taxi invoice Wirral Council councillors

Yesterday Wirral Council responded to my FOI request for the more recent invoices from Eye Cab Limited for taxi journeys by councillors.

These don’t include taxi journeys where councillors have paid for the taxi themselves and then claimed back the cost.

Sadly, due to a lot of missing pages (curiously always the ones with councillors’ names on them), plus a number of pages scanned at such low quality making them very difficult to read, I’ve requested an internal review.

There was an £85 taxi journey listed on page 5. By the price list published on my blog here it comes to a taxi journey of around 67 and a half miles.

Sadly the second page of the invoice that invoice from May 2015 that would state who undertook this unusually long journey is not supplied. The invoice itself is of such low quality it’s hard to read how far this journey was. However if you’re going on a journey that far why not take the train instead?

In fact if the journey was by a councillor then Wirral Council’s constitution states (members means councillors):

8. Travel and Subsistence

Travel Costs

8.1 Travel costs incurred by members in performing “approved duties” as specified in Schedule 2 to this Scheme shall be reimbursed at the prevailing public transport rates, provided that the use of taxis or members’ private motor vehicles may be permitted where public transport is either not available, or the journey by public transport would be likely to result in unreasonable delay.”

Sadly as Wirral Council didn’t respond properly to this FOI request it’s impossible to tell whether a councillor took this journey or not!

However over the 6 months of invoices where names were supplied, here are how many taxi journeys were undertaken by each councillor at the taxpayers’ expense. For shared journeys I’ve counted it as one journey for each councillor sharing the taxi:

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (38)
Cllr Steve Niblock (23)
Cllr Bill Davies (13)
Cllr Irene Williams (5)
Cllr Pat Williams (2)
Cllr Kathy Hodson (1)
Cllr Denise Roberts (1)
Cllr Phil Davies (1)

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What were the top 10 most viewed videos on this blog’s Youtube channel in 2015?

What were the top 10 most viewed videos on this blog’s Youtube channel in 2015?

                                               

Cllr Phil Davies at a recent Cabinet meeting
Cllr Phil Davies at a Cabinet meeting (which makes the list at number 10)

I never expected when I was young, I would end up running a TV channel (albeit only a Youtube channel). So it’s time for a new feature on this blog looking back at the most viewed videos of 2015.

Hopefully in 2016 I will record even better videos than the ones so far. This list is not based on views but watch time (that is how many hours each video has been viewed). I’ll leave a brief comment below as to what each video is about and why it became popular.


1. Liverpool City Council Budget Meeting 4th March 2015 Part 1

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Liverpool City Council Budget Meeting 4th March 2015 Part 1

The annual budget meeting of local councils are known for being the time at which each political party sets what it would do if they were in charge after the elections. This video isn’t popular really for those reasons though.

The blog post Why did Mayor Anderson claim a councillor was "behaving like a child" for highlighting a cut of £42,000 to domestic violence charities? explains better what this meeting became known for (in fact I think it ended up being referred to on the regional TV news).

A councillor called Jake Morrison took exception to a cut to a domestic violence grant to a local charity. The meeting had to be adjourned for a short while. This was because neither the Lord Mayor of Liverpool Cllr Erica Kemp nor Mayor Joe Anderson appeared to know how to deal with this sort of sustained objection by a councillor (other than to adjourn the meeting).

The dramatic scenes are towards the end of this clip, which ends when the meeting was adjourned. Words were had behind the scenes during the adjournment.


2. Liverpool City Council 8th April 2015 Part 1 Mayor Joe Anderson responds to green space protestors

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Liverpool City Council 8th April 2015 Part 1 Mayor Joe Anderson responds to green space protestors

The next meeting is also of Liverpool City Council. In the midst of the local and General elections last year it saw a clash between Mayor Anderson and various groups (including an umbrella group) trying to protect green space in Liverpool. Again there’s a linked blog post headlined Mayor Joe Anderson responds to green space protestors "I’ve got news for you, I’m going to stand again [as Mayor]".


3. Liverpool City Council public meeting 11th November 2015 Part 2 of 6

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Liverpool City Council public meeting 11th November 2015 Part 2 of 6

Another more recent meeting of Liverpool City Council also makes the top ten list. This time it was a notice of motion (the earlier few minutes of the notice of motion can be viewed in part 1) about another green space issue (which was to do with Liverpool City Council plans for Beechley Stables, Calder Kids and the Miniature Railway). This was the most well attended meeting of Liverpool City Council I’ve seen by members of the public.


4. Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service consultation meeting Saughall Massie 20th April 2015 Part 1 of 4

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Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service consultation meeting Saughall Massie 20th April 2015 Part 1 of 4

To more local political issues than those across the River Mersey, again just before the 2015 elections, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service held a very heated public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie. Hundreds of people turned up to the meeting but couldn’t get in, which may in part explain the high viewing figures on this video.

There are three blog posts about this meeting, Public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie on proposed new fire station (written before the meeting) and Saughall Massie residents ask Wirral Council for reasons why greenbelt site suggested for new fire station and Saughall Massie residents express their opposition to fire station plans at first consultation meeting.


5. Liverpool City Council 16th September 2015 Part 1 of 6

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Liverpool City Council 16th September 2015 Part 1 of 6

Another Liverpool City Council meeting, but instead of green space issues this one was instead (according to Mayor Anderson) about mud. The interest (which there was a lot of media coverage on both locally and nationally) were in the issues in the blog post headlined Mayor Joe Anderson "my good name [has been] dragged through the mud" over £90,000 legal bill for unfair dismissal case.

Indeed on this topic, as recently as the 22nd December 2015, Mayor Anderson (who had just been made Chair of the Combined Authority) refused to answer a question on this topic asked by a member of the public at a public meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.


6. Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee 23rd November 2015

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Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee 23rd November 2015

Finally in 6th place is the first Wirral Council meeting, normally the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee attracts little interest, however the facial expressions of its chair during this meeting attracted many comments and more views of the video of the meeting.


7. Liverpool City Council Budget Meeting 4th March 2015 Part 2

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Liverpool City Council Budget Meeting 4th March 2015 Part 2

Liverpool City Council makes its final entry in the top ten list, with what happened at the Budget meeting after the adjournment (for what happened before the adjournment see the video at number one).


8. Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service consultation meeting Saughall Massie 20th April 2015 Part 2 of 4

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Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service consultation meeting Saughall Massie 20th April 2015 Part 2 of 4

This is part 2 of the public consultation meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service held in Saughall Massie on a proposed fire station in Saughall Massie (part 1 makes this list at number 4).


9. Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service consultation meeting Saughall Massie 20th April 2015 Part 3 of 4

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Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service consultation meeting Saughall Massie 20th April 2015 Part 3 of 4

Part 3 of the public consultation meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service held in Saughall Massie on a proposed fire station in Saughall Massie (part 1 makes this list at number 4 and part 2 at number 8).


10. Cabinet Wirral Council 12th March 2015

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Cabinet Wirral Council 12th March 2015

Finally, a Wirral Council Cabinet meeting makes the last in this list. In an unusual change of venue it was held at Birkenhead Town Hall.

I can’t remember (nine months later) anything particular that was controversial discussed at this meeting a few weeks before the May elections. The only high-profile issues discussed and decided at this meeting were the "Master Plan Principles" for Birkenhead Town Centre, the outcome of consultation about Pensby High Schools and the nomination for Civic Mayor/Deputy Civic Mayor.

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