Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

                                                            

Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 2 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 2 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 3 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 3 of 3

Above are three photos of Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton taken on the 29th June 2015. Over the busier summer holidays this car park will be full.

Future Council Wirral logo
Future Council Wirral logo

As part of the Future Council consultation last year Wirral Council consulted the public on £2.5 million of budget cuts. In the end only £2.4 million of cuts were agreed because of savings that resulted from the extended Biffa contract.

One of the budget options as part of the Future Council consultation was to introduce car parking charges at the Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton. Councillors were told that this would bring in an estimated £25,000 in 2015/16 and £10,000 in 2016/17. A public document (that wasn’t part of the documents shared with the public as part of the Future Council consultation) estimated that the cost of providing cash payment ticket machines would be £20,000 (see section 6.2 page 9).

Last year as part of that budget consultation, there was a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee on the 4th November 2014 where councillors discussed the budget option for charging for car parking at Fort Perch Rock car park.

You can watch that discussion in the Youtube video below which should start at the point about the Fort Perch Rock car park.

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The minutes of what was agreed at the public meeting of the 4th November 2014 are included in the agenda for the Cabinet meeting that decided on the budget options.

At that meeting Cllr Jerry Williams (Wirral Council’s Heritage Champion and a Labour councillor) tried to move a recommendation that the budget option of charging at Fort Perch Rock car park be removed from the budget options. However the solicitor advising the Committee said that it couldn’t be removed, so instead it was watered down to a recommendation to Cabinet that the budget option wasn’t adopted. The recommendation was seconded by Cllr Robert Gregson (also a Labour councillor representing New Brighton ward). This is what the recommendation stated:

“The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee recommend to Cabinet that the budget option to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock Car Park, New Brighton is not adopted.”

                                                            
Cllr Irene Williams (Labour), Cllr John Salter (Labour), Cllr Anita Leech (Labour), Cllr Matt Daniel (Labour), Cllr Robert Gregson (Labour), Cllr Jim Crabtree (Labour), Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour), Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative), Cllr John Hale (Conservative), Cllr Jerry Ellis (Conservative), Cllr Andrew Hodson (Conservative) and Cllr David Elderton (Conservative) voted in favour of the recommendation.

Two councillors voted against that recommendation (Cllr Chris Carubia (Lib Dem) and Cllr Mike Sullivan (Chair, Labour)).

On the 9th December 2014 Cabinet (which is ten Labour councillors including one for New Brighton Cllr Pat Hackett) met. They didn’t agree with the recommendation from the Policy and Performance Committee and instead voted to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton. The minutes of that meeting state “We also feel that it is appropriate to introduce a modest charge for parking at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton up to 6 p.m.” .

This Cabinet budget proposal then formed the Cabinet’s proposal for Labour’s budget to the 2015/16 budget meeting of all councillors held on the 24th February 2015.

All the Labour councillors on the 24th February 2015 present at that meeting (including those who had three months earlier voted for a recommendation to Cabinet not to start charging for parking at Fort Perch Rock) voted for the Labour budget apart from Cllr Steve Foulkes (who was Mayor and Mayor’s traditionally abstain from votes on party political matters). You can see which way each councillor voted on the Labour’s budget here.

On December 22nd 2014 I wrote When Wirral Council introduces car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock, will 3 hours free parking end for a further 423 New Brighton spaces? which details how if car parking charges are brought in at Fort Perch Rock car park then under the terms of the lease that Wirral Council has for the Marine Point development at New Brighton, that charges could be introduced at two free car parks (the supermarket car park and the health & fitness car park).

Earlier this year Wirral Council had a formal consultation on introducing car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park. You can see the public notice (which has more detail as to how much they could charge for parking) for that consultation below. That consultation ended on the 3rd July 2015.

Fort Perch Rock car park public notice
Fort Perch Rock car park public notice

There is a large petition against introducing charging for car parking at Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton which at the time of writing has 3,395 signatures.

So what happens next? In September there will be a public meeting of the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel to consider objections people have made to introducing car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park.

The Chair of the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel is Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative). Cllr Mike Sullivan (Labour) and Cllr Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem) are the rest of the panel. This panel meets during the day and if any of the three councillors can’t make it to the meeting they can send a deputy in their place.

When the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel meets in September, it will make a recommendation on whether to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park to the Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee. The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee meet in public on the 15th September 2015 starting at 6.00pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall. The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee can alter any recommendation they receive from the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel.

The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee then make a recommendation to the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation Cllr Stuart Whittingham who then makes a formal decision on the matter which is published on Wirral Council’s website.

Such a large petition also grants the petition organiser for five minutes to explain their petition at a meeting of all councillors, which then triggers a debate of a maximum of fifteen minutes. However as the next meeting of Council is on the 12th October 2015 (probably after all this will be decided) this is a moot point.

Finally, what’s known now, but wasn’t known last year, is that Wirral Council had an underspend last year of £510,000 last year (which is money that is carried over to this year).

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Why are Wirral councillors trying to kill off press freedom by a new public meetings filming ban?

Why are Wirral councillors trying to kill off press freedom by a new public meetings filming ban?

Why are Wirral councillors trying to kill off press freedom by a new public meetings filming ban?

                                              

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Video of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee from 3rd March 2015, the item on filming starts 43 seconds into the meeting

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer at Wirral Council) gives councillors his opinion at the meeting that he doesn't think the draft policy banning filming breaches the Human Rights Act 1998 3rd March 2015
Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer at Wirral Council) gives councillors his opinion at the meeting that he doesn’t think the draft policy banning filming breaches the Human Rights Act 1998 3rd March 2015

Last year I wrote a piece on this blog headlined The day democracy and freedom of the press died at Wirral Council: 28th October 2014 and earlier this week published my email to councillors on the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee detailing my concerns about a proposed policy banning filming at public meetings of Wirral Council.

Last night councillors (as you can see from the video above) on Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee agreed to bash the final nail in the coffin of press freedom to report on public meetings of Wirral Council and recommended to all councillors at the next Council meeting on the 16th of March that press freedom remain dead and buried (that is they recommended a draft policy on the reporting of all public meetings of Wirral Council).

Around the time a new law (the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014) came into force last August, which prevented local councils stopping filming of their meetings, Eric Pickles was quoted as saying "How can we criticise Putin’s Russia for suppressing freedom of the press when, up and down the land, police are threatening to arrest people for reporting a council meeting with digital media?"

Labour councillors on the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee last night repeatedly prevented any discussion by opposition councillors on the controversial subjects of the closure of Lyndale School and library opening hours. If councillors from the ruling group can’t respect and listen to viewpoints they may not agree with, how can democracy actually function at all on Wirral Council?

Despite concerns I expressed at the meeting itself about the lack of consultation and concerns over whether the draft policy breached both section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 (in respect of Article 10 on freedom of expression) and Regulation 4 of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, councillors agreed to recommend it to the next Council meeting.

The draft policy (if approved by Council) will mean that at the start of the meeting the Chair will ask anyone if they have any objections to the meeting being filmed. If someone does object the Chair will stop the meeting being filmed. However any legal powers Chairs may have had to stop filming of public meetings were repealed by the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 last year.

The policy goes much further and states a ban on editing filming, photography or recording of a meeting that could cause “reputational harm”.

Wirral Council seem to not recognise the importance of the independence of the press and councillors on the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee don’t seem to think there is anything wrong with this policy.

If you’re from the Wirral and would like to make your views known to your local councillors ahead of the Council meeting on the 16th March, their contact details are on this page. As emails to councillors are no routinely filtered, I would suggest phoning or writing by mail.

If you’re have a WordPress blog, please feel free to reblog this post. If you’d like to write about the draft policy it is on Wirral Council’s website and the other papers and reports for the meeting can be found on Wirral Council’s website here. The code to embed the Youtube video of the meeting can be found by visiting Youtube and clicking on share then embed.

You can also give your opinion whether you think this policy is a good idea or not in the poll below:

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Councillor Ron Abbey today reassured people about the risk of infectious diseases to the people of Merseyside through Liverpool Airport and sea ports

Councillor Ron Abbey today reassured people about the risk of infectious diseases to the people of Merseyside through Liverpool Airport and sea ports

Councillor Ron Abbey today reassured people about the risk of infectious diseases to the people of Merseyside through Liverpool Airport and sea ports

Councillor Ron Abbey, Chair and the Mersey Port Health Committee plus officers at the West Reception Room. 1st floor, Liverpool Town Hall, Liverpool on the 16th October 2014 for a public meeting
Councillor Ron Abbey, Chair and the Mersey Port Health Committee plus officers at the West Reception Room. 1st floor, Liverpool Town Hall, Liverpool on the 16th October 2014 for a public meeting

Apologies for the poor sound quality on the video below, one of the few spots to film in the West Reception Room was sadly next to a working air conditioning unit. The video below should finish uploading at about 5.30pm on 16/10 and is one of two parts. The second part will be uploaded later.

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Mersey Port Health Committee (comprising councillors from Liverpool, Wirral and Sefton), 16th October 2014 at West Reception Room, 1st Floor, Liverpool Town Hall, High Street, L2 3SW starting at 11.00am | 53.40711°N, 2.99162°W

I attended my second meeting (this time on dry land so no possibility of sea sickness) of the Mersey Port Health Committee, for my write up of its AGM earlier this year just follow this link.

Although we were the only two members of the public at the last meeting, this time we were also joined by a student who was attending as part of her studies.

On the Mersey Port Health Committee and present from Wirral Council were Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour) and elected Chair at the AGM last time), Cllr Gerry Ellis (Conservative) and Cllr Harry Smith (Labour). Councillor John Salter (Labour), Councillor John Hale (Conservative) and Councillor Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem) (who are all on the committee representing Wirral Council) were not present.

There were also various other councillors representing Liverpool City Council and the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton.

The meeting started with an officer saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, could you please take your seats before we start today’s meeting? Before I formally commence proceedings, …” before going on to remind people that there were no fire alarms planned during the meeting, which fire exit they should use if there was an emergency and where to assemble outside at Exchange Flags. He also referred to the “new legislation” (a reference to the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/2095)) and said, “The use of recording devices both audio and video is permitted at public meetings now in accordance with government legislation” and he asked that we not film the other members (he should have said member) of the public present (the error was because there was only one other member of the public present, a student there attending as part of her studies at the University of Liverpool).

I’ll point out at this point I will make a declaration of interest as I have previously been a student there (as has Leonora) and Leonora and I both have a current connection with that university.

I will also point out that we’re allowed to film whoever is in the actual meeting room, but Liverpool City Council decided on their own filming policy (which is at odds somewhat with the legislation) earlier this year (with no prior consultation of the people affected such as ourselves but that’s Liverpool City Council for you). A the meeting it was discussed they decided that they didn’t want the public filmed at public meetings for rather complicated reasons I won’t go into here. From what I remember of the discussion back in September 2014 Liverpool City Council councillors expressed the slightly odd viewpoint that the public at a public meeting were entitled to privacy. In fact I seem to remember that at that very meeting at least one councillor expressed the viewpoint that they felt it was the height of bad manners to turn up with a camera and record a public meeting! For the earlier discussion on that filming policy see: the video footage I took then and the major problems I had filming Liverpool City Council’s Constitutional Issues Committee which was about filming public meetings in the same room that I was filming in today.

No declarations of interest were made.

There was a correction made to the minutes as the list of councillors attending was incorrect. Cllr John Coyne (Green Party, Liverpool City Council) raised the issue of infectious diseases and the Chair (Labour, Wirral Council) Cllr Ron Abbey referred to the guidance on Ebola and how port health was the “guardian on the frontline of preventing infectious diseases”.

An officer referred to the Liverpool City Council emergency group and an exercise the day before. She said that there was a lot of literature about the public health measures if there was an outbreak at a sea port.

Cllr John Coyne referred to the press reports about the intention to screen at the Eurostar Terminal in London. The Chair Cllr Ron Abbey pointed out that there were no direct flights to Liverpool with a point of origin from the countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. He also referred to Heathrow and Eurostar and that people would be transhipped through other ports first.

The councillor referred to trains.

Cllr Ron Abbey (Chair) said that Eurostar links to France, which was a main connecting hub and then people could travel by Eurostar from the French airports.

An officer, supporting Cllr Ron Abbey said that it was based on risk and that both Heathrow and Eurostar were both passenger hubs. She referred to regular surveillance of flights coming through.

A councillor once again referred to Eurostar and the terminal in London.

The Chair (Cllr Ron Abbey) reassured him that people travelling from affected countries would be automatically screened on flights before they got to Liverpool, therefore there was no call to do a secondary check at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

An officer said that they were working with Public Health England and there was a port health plan. He referred to meeting all relevant agencies to discuss the potential of sea ports or airports with regards to communicable disease.

The Chair (Cllr Ron Abbey) said it was a “moving issue”. He referred again to a secondary check at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, but that it was a smaller airport than Gatwick or Manchester.

A councillor said that he felt that as it had a 21 day incubation period, that the screening had no medical value and expressed the view that it was being done for “political” reasons. However he did want to ask about ships from West Africa docking at the pier and also for guidance about ships, crew and passengers which he felt was more relevant than people flying in or Eurostar.

An officer answered about the potential for ships from West Africa on which there were people who had possibly contracted a communicable disease and referred to meetings with public health. She said that ships had a responsibility to report any illness of crew or passengers under maritime law, not just Ebola.

The minutes of the last meeting were then agreed, with the amendment to the list of those who had attended.

The Chair made an announcement that he welcomed a student (who he named) to the meeting. However the student wasn’t there so he apologised to the student who was there for misleading people over what her name was. He welcomed her to the meeting and hoped she would find it interesting.

The meeting then considered the quarterly report for April to June of 2014.

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Expense claim forms for Councillor John Salter 2013 to 2014

Expense claim forms for Councillor John Salter 2013 to 2014

Expense claim forms for Councillor John Salter 2013 to 2014

                             

Councillor John Salter is a Labour Party councillor for Seacombe ward. His five expense claims are all for travel to the Manchester Port Health Authority (which are mainly for trips to Runcorn). During this period he was Wirral Council’s only representative on the Manchester Port Health Authority which according to its website is “the local authority for the Manchester Ship Canal and River Weaver including the ports of Eastham, Ellesmere, Manisty, Stanlow, Ince, Weston, Runcorn, Partington, Irlam, and Salford.” Its website goes on to state “The Authority, originally Manchester Port Sanitary Authority, was established in 1896 following the designation of the Manchester Ship Canal as a customs port.”

I presume the Manchester Port Health Authority runs along similar lines to the Mersey Port Health Authority (which Wirral Council has six councillors on) which I wrote about earlier this year after having attended its meeting in July.

Councillor John Salter’s expense claims (below) are for travel in his car to and from meetings of the Manchester Port Health Authority as Wirral Council’s representative.

Cllr John Salter expenses claim page 1
Cllr John Salter expenses claim page 1
Cllr John Salter expenses claim page 2
Cllr John Salter expenses claim page 2
Cllr John Salter expenses claim page 3
Cllr John Salter expenses claim page 3
Cllr John Salter expenses claim page 4
Cllr John Salter expenses claim page 4
Cllr John Salter expenses claim page 5
Cllr John Salter expenses claim page 5

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Wirral Council launches Future Council consultation on 17 budget options for £2.5 million savings

Wirral Council launches Future Council consultation on 17 budget options for £2.5 million savings

Wirral Council launches Future Council consultation on 17 budget options for £2.5 million savings

                                                       

Future Council Wirral logo
Future Council Wirral logo

Ed – Update 14:55 9/9/14 to fix 6 incorrect links to the budget options that was helpfully pointed out by a reader.

Yes, it’s another annual consultation on savings from Wirral Council that began yesterday and runs from yesterday to the 31st October 2014. What’s this one on? This is on £2.5 million of cuts that Wirral Council need to make in 2015/16.

Although the documentation refers to £4 million of budget options this seems rounded to the nearest million (the options total £3.75 million). Out of these options about £2.5 million will be chosen (two-thirds by total value).

Here are the documents and links:

Final Full Consultation Pack (this is a 21 page document which covers all options).

The options are then in various “themes” and are below by theme (I’ve also included the amount in pounds next to each option for financial year 2015/16 if that option is chosen).

This means some of the larger savings options are almost certain to go ahead which are those involving community libraries, the all age disability service, youth and play, preventative maintenance (highways and parks), Council Tax Over 70s discount and Girtrell Court.

These six options total £2.566 million of the £2.5 million savings required.

The other eleven options seem less likely to meet with public approval as they will be opposed by (in some cases) large sections of Wirral’s society. Some of them have already been rejected in earlier years following consultation such as charging for car parks at the country parks, school crossing patrols etc.

With the options below I’ve briefly included a sentence or two explaining what it’s about.

Customer Contact

Reduce library opening hours to four hours (10am to 2pm) with these libraries opened either two or three days a week. This option does not seem to apply to the four central libraries or combined libraries/One Stop Shops whose opening hours remain the same.

Delivering Differently Theme

Close four satellite youth centres & end funding Play Scheme.

Managing Demand

Remove 41 school crossing patrols.

Income and Efficiency

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