Cllr Michael Sullivan starts public meeting by calling me “discourteous”

Cllr Michael Sullivan starts public meeting by calling me “discourteous”

                                               

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Cllr Mike Sullivan (Chair) Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee 29th November 2017
Cllr Mike Sullivan (Chair) Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee 29th November 2017

Cllr Mike Sullivan (Chair of Wirral Council’s Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee) tonight decided near the start the public meeting to use meeting time to refer to me as “discourteous” and stated that I “interrupted him when someone from the CCJ” was speaking.
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Did Hoylake Golf Resort developer offer Wirral Council £300,000 if its planning application is approved?

Did Hoylake Golf Resort developer offer Wirral Council £300,000 if its planning application is approved?

Did Hoylake Golf Resort developer offer Wirral Council £300,000 if its planning application is approved?

                                                      

Councillor Mike Sullivan (right) (Chair, Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee) 7th December 2016
Councillor Mike Sullivan (right) (Chair, Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee) 7th December 2016

Although this call in meeting about the Hoylake Golf Resort was last year, as Wirral Council have recently received the Funding Strategy from the developer (Nicklaus Joint Venture Group Limited), a decision by Wirral Council’s Cabinet on the next stage is expected in the couple of months.

Below is a transcript of the first fifteen minutes of that public meeting, you can watch video of the call in meeting about the Hoylake Golf Resort on Youtube if you wish.


CLLR MICHAEL SULLIVAN (CHAIR): to order please.

Good afternoon and I welcome the members of the public. It’s spot on four o’clock. Errm, as everybody’s aware we’re here this afternoon for a call-in errm to discuss the merits and the demerits of Hoylake Golf Resort and I’d like to start the proceedings by calling errm Councillor Blakeley please. You’ve got five minutes Chris.

CLLR CHRIS BLAKELEY: Thank you Chairman.

CLLR MICHAEL SULLIVAN (CHAIR): Right I’ve got to go through the process I’ve just been informed, so sit down Chris.
Continue reading “Did Hoylake Golf Resort developer offer Wirral Council £300,000 if its planning application is approved?”

What do a car crash, road safety, A-boards, Wirral Council and the Merseyside OPCC have in common?

What do a car crash, road safety, A-boards, Wirral Council and the Merseyside OPCC have in common?

What do a car crash, road safety, A-boards, Wirral Council and the Merseyside OPCC have in common?

                                        

Councillor Michael Sullivan (Chair, Wirral Council's Business and Overview Scrutiny Committee) at a public meeting held on the 13th September 2016. His microphone is now... on!
Councillor Michael Sullivan (Chair, Wirral Council’s Business and Overview Scrutiny Committee) at a public meeting held on the 13th September 2016. His microphone is now… on!

Yesterday evening’s meeting of Wirral Council’s Business and Overview Scrutiny Committee was for once quite literally car crash TV.

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Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 14th September 2016 (Agenda item 4 Road Safety – Reducing Pedestrian Casualties starts at 2m:21s) Part 1 of 5

However, the first main item at the public meeting was about reducing pedestrian casualties and road safety. You can read the reports for this agenda item that are linked to from this page on Wirral Council’s website.

Cllr Warren Ward reminded those present at the start of his declaration of interest by saying,

“Chair, I’ve got a declaration of interest.

In the report it mentions a quote from the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner.

In 2014, I was employed as a private secretary to errm the Police and Crime Commissioner Panel.”

 

I am of course welcome that Cllr Warren Ward brought this up, as Wirral’s criminal justice system caught up with Merseyside’s former Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner on the subject of road safety (although the embarrassing incident below wasn’t mentioned at last night’s meeting). At the time of the offence she was Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.

Cllr Ann O’Byrne (who for the purposes of clarity and avoidance of doubt is a completely different councillor to the current Merseyside Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Cllr Sue Murphy) according to a report in the Liverpool Echo pled guilty at Wirral Magistrates’ Court to two driving offences which were

driving “without due care and attention”

and

failing to stop after a road accident

 

after crashing into an orange BMW Mini. She pled guilty, was fined and had to pay prosecution costs of £565.

Of course there will be many regular readers who will see parallels between this behaviour and that of some politicians.

In the past some councillors have been accused of failing to stop going on after political accidents (such as the library closure programme only halted by a government ordered public inquiry), of generally being politicians behaving “without due care and attention” and also in the process of being more interested in scoring petty party political points and damaging the peoples’ trust in democratic systems in the process.

But then I shouldn’t be too critical as there are plenty of good politicians too that unfortunately get tarred by the same brush by association!

Certainly there is a lot of car crash TV I have filmed at public meetings over the years!

Moving swiftly back to the subject of the current Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy. She was asking questions on Monday afternoon about the effect on jobs of a joint Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service project (involving consultants Deloittes are doing) at an eleven minute public meeting of the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee (see video of the meeting below). You can read the agenda and reports to do with that on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s website.

As this is a committee of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, I had better declare an interest as an Appellant in a First-tier Tribunal case in which Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority are Second Respondent (case reference EA⁄2016⁄0054).

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Police and Fire Collaboration Committee (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) Monday 12th September 2016

On the subject of legal action, at the meeting of last night’s meeting of Wirral Council’s Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the subject of A-boards and pedestrian safety was raised with respect to a display outside a fruit and vegetable shop in Moreton which was previously covered by this blog in 2012 (including a photo of the shop display in question).

David Rees (a road safety manager at Wirral Council) made it clear at the meeting that Wirral Council hadn’t received any legal claims for compensation from pedestrians arising from A-boards on the footway.

Conservative councillor Gerry Ellis stated that the person who had raised the issue with Wirral Council about the A-board outside a Moreton shop had been threatened with legal action by Wirral Council and asked a senior manager at Wirral Council (the Head of Environment and Regulation Mark Smith) to explain why.

However the Labour Chair of the Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee Councillor Michael Sullivan intervened before Mark Smith had a chance to answer. I will also point out that from my recollection at least one Labour councillor expressed the view at the meeting that Wirral Council employees should not be criticised by Wirral Council councillors.

The Chair decided unilaterally that in his view the report was purely about pedestrian casualties and that as he knew of no recorded accidents known to Wirral Council involving A-boards, Cllr Sullivan told Cllr Ellis that Wirral Council’s Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee wasn’t the forum for discussing such matters and ended any debate on the matter.

Finally, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner have been in touch with me.

During the 30 working day inspection period this year (which finished mid-August 2016) I requested some invoices. However I challenged whether some of the blacked out bits were done properly in accordance with the legislation. Technically not providing the information inside the 30 working day inspection period is unlawful (although it’s a civil law matter).

So I challenged it and around a month later got back three invoices from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside with less redaction.

Can the citizens of Merseyside expect the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside to understand the law? Would that be expecting too much considering these invoices are to their “legal services department”? Or was this a genuine mistake? Or am I too robust in press scrutiny of the local public sector?

As it’s a related topic to the issue of police appeal tribunals I’ll point out that Cllr Mary Rasmussen is proposing at a meeting of Liverpool City Council tonight at the time of writing (14th September 2016 if you’re not reading this on the day it is published) a boycott by vendors and retailers selling the Sun newspaper in Liverpool over its reporting of matters involving the police Hillsborough. The three invoices are for the following:

1) An invoice from Drystone Chambers (based in London) for the services of Mr Gregory Perrins (a barrister) at a Police Appeals Tribunal held on the 4th December 2015 for £1,632.

2) An invoice from Mishcon de Reya (a London-based firm of solicitors) was for £6,000 for supply of legal services in the matter “Royal Mail – VAT Invoices for Postage Services”)

3) An invoice from Slater and Gordon UK LLP for £2,221.92 (a Manchester based firm of solicitors) for professional charges involving criminal defence and disbursements.

 

Each invoice is an A4 page and all 3 invoices involving the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for legal services 2015-2016 financial year are provided here.

I am of course grateful to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for resolving these issues so quickly in a month, rather than the over three years it takes Wirral Council to properly consider the redactions on an information request (request made 29th March 2013, information provided in redacted form 19th May 2016)! In the interests of openness and transparency I had better declare I was Appellant in that case where Wirral Council was Second Respondent.

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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): Pensby and Thingwall: Labour hold (Mike Sullivan)

Election Result (Wirral Council, 2016): Pensby and Thingwall: Labour hold (Mike Sullivan)

                       









Pensby and Thingwall Ward
 
Name of candidate    Description (if any) Votes  %
SULLIVAN
Mike
 Labour Party 2,243  49%  Elected
GARDNER
Andrew Mark
 The Conservative Party Candidate  1,541  33%  Not elected
DAVISON
Jan
 UK Independence Party 417  9%  Not elected
CUMMINS
Damien William
 Liberal Democrat Focus Team 296  6%  Not elected
BURTON
Allen John
 Green Party 125  3%  Not elected

There were 29 rejected ballot papers, the electorate was 10,388 and the turnout was 45%.

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