Why will councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority only be shown a confidential report to be discussed on Thursday afternoon on the day of the meeting itself?

Why will councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority only be shown a confidential report to be discussed on Thursday afternoon on the day of the meeting itself?

Why will councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority only be shown a confidential report to be discussed on Thursday afternoon on the day of the meeting itself?

                                  

Cllr Dave Hanratty (Chair, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) 22nd February 2018
Cllr Dave Hanratty (Chair, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) 22nd February 2018

The author of this piece had the secrecy of two previously secret reports about fire station closures to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority overturned as a result of a consent order in First-tier Tribunal case EA/2016/0054.

A public meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s Community Safety and Protection Committee that was originally planned for Thursday afternoon starting at 1.00 pm has been cancelled and replaced with a public meeting of the entire Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (all eighteen councillors and the Police and Crime Commissioner will be invited).
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What are the Conservative and Liberal Democrat budget proposals for Wirral Council for 2018-19?

What are the Conservative and Liberal Democrat budget proposals for Wirral Council for 2018-19?

What are the Conservative and Liberal Democrat budget proposals for Wirral Council for 2018-19?

                                                      

Councillor Ian Lewis (Leader of Conservative Group) Wirral Council (Council, 11th December 2017) who proposed the Conservative Budget Objection
Councillor Ian Lewis (Leader of Conservative Group) Wirral Council (Council, 11th December 2017) who proposed the Conservative Budget Objection

As a declaration of interest, I will start by stating that I’m married to someone will have to pay the 5.99% council tax rise (if agreed tonight).

This evening, all 65 councillors at Wirral Council have been invited to a public meeting in the Council Chamber at Wallasey Town Hall to decide on the Council’s Budget for 2018-19 (1.4.18 to 31.3.19) starting at 6.00 pm.

The ruling Labour administration (who hold 38 out of 65 seats) proposed their Budget at the Cabinet meeting held on the 19th February 2018.

However both the Conservative Group of 21 councillors and the Liberal Democrat Group of 5 councillors have proposed alternatives to be considered this evening.
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Councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority face decision on 2.99% council tax increase proposal

Councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority face decision on 2.99% council tax increase proposal

Councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority face decision on 2.99% council tax increase proposal

                                    

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service 4th August 2012 photo 16 pink fire engine
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service 4th August 2012 photo 16 pink fire engine

The eighteen councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority will be meeting in public on Thursday 22nd February (starting at 1.00 pm) in the Liverpool Suite, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Headquarters, Bridle Road, Bootle, L30 4YD to decide on a proposed 2.99% increase to council tax from 2018-19 (starting from the 1st April 2018).
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Why are the Conservatives opposing Wirral Council’s monthly Wirral View newspaper but not as vocal about Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s bi-monthly Hot News magazine?

Why are the Conservatives opposing Wirral Council’s monthly Wirral View newspaper but not as vocal about Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s bi-monthly Hot News magazine?

Why are the Conservatives opposing Wirral Council’s monthly Wirral View newspaper but not as vocal about Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s bi-monthly Hot News magazine?

                                      

Councillor Lesley Rennie (background left) at a meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 26th January 2017 discussing Hot News
Councillor Lesley Rennie (background left) at a meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 26th January 2017 discussing Hot News

I watched the Sunday Politics show today in which Cllr Lesley Rennie states of Wirral Council’s Wirral View newspaper, “It’s a complete waste of public money.

The presenter states, “Government rules state that any council papers can only be published quarterly but this one here has been printed every month.

Later in that segment, Cllr Matthew Patrick states, “We’re actually spending less and being able to put money back into the Council for services.” In response to a further question he states, “We have a free press on the Wirral, it’s a great press and they hold us to account as they should do.

Let’s just deal with these two issues, the legal one about the status of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity and then Councillor Matthew Patrick’s curious comment about costs.

The legal situation is clear, Local Government Act 1986, s.4(1) states, “The Secretary of State may issue one or more codes of recommended practice as regards the content, style, distribution and cost of local authority publicity, and such other related matters as he thinks appropriate, and local authorities shall have regard to the provisions of any such code in coming to any decision on publicity.”.

Here’s a letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government to Chief Executives reminding them about this.

The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity is clear on frequency as in paragraph 28 it states, “Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly, apart from parish councils which should not issue them more frequently than monthly.” Just to be clear, Wirral Council is not a parish council.

The letter referred to above also refers to the Secretary of State’s power to direct compliance with the Code and the Secretary of State’s power to come up with legislation requiring local authorities to comply.

With regards to the financial point, section 4 of the Cabinet report about the Wirral View newspaper outlining the costs states the net cost (after advertising is taken into account) is £79,980 this financial year, £152,160 next year, £143,580 in 2018-19 and £134,142 in 2019-20.

If the advertising targets aren’t reached the costs will be higher. However, just to be clear the amounts expected from advertising are lower than the costs meaning there is no money from it to “put back into the Council for services”.

However, a point that hasn’t been made so far, is that the Code also applies to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. Cllr Lesley Rennie is one of the four Wirral Council representatives on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. Recently councillors discussed a bi-monthly colour magazine it produces called “Hot News” (the January-February 2017 issue can be read on their website).

So if Cllr Lesley Rennie is complaining about Wirral Council’s publication of Wirral View, why has she been so quiet about Hot News? Below is video of a public meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority when Hot News was discussed where Cllr Lesley Rennie is sitting next to a councillor talking about Hot News.

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Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 26th January 2017

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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.

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

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