Consultation feedback and questions to Improvement Board (15th November 2013)

Consultation feedback and questions to Improvement Board (15th November 2013)

Consultation feedback and questions to Improvement Board (15th November 2013)

                                    

Handed out at last Friday’s Improvement Board meeting were the responses to the consultation received so far, motions passed at the Audit and Risk Management Committee and Coordinating Committee and the questions submitted in advance of the meeting by the members of the public as circulated at the meeting (although some of mine were subtly altered).

I’ve checked the Improvement Board section on Wirral Council’s website at the time of writing, but they haven’t appeared there yet, so here they are instead!

FEEDBACK FROM PARTNERS

Comments on the draft report on behalf of Wirral Community NHS Trust

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this report.

Wirral Community NHS Trust recognises the significant steps forward taken by the Council over the last two years and agrees with the broad conclusions set out. We also recognise the commitment shown by key personnel, officers and members, and the level of improvement activity which has taken place and which is reflected in the report.

Particular phrases from the concluding pages which resonate with this organisation’s experience working with the Authority over the last year include the reference to a stable, well-led and inclusive organisation, where a change in culture has taken place. We agree that there is a stronger sense of strategic direction, planning and performance management. The grip of the financial position is evident, and there is much greater clarity about the individual roles of senior staff in the new structure, and a strong sense of accessibility.

The Authority is engaging well with key partners and taking a proper leadership role, particularly from our respect, in the health and social care economy.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Council and building this relationship. A key challenge for all public sector partners over the coming years will be our ability to work together to manage the impact of the financial constraints under which we all work, and to ensure that actions taken by individual partners to not impact adversely on the challenges faced by other agencies.

Simon Gilby
Chief Executive
Wirral Community NHS Trust

Thank you for a copy of the Wirral Improvement Board Review report.

I think sharing this document with your peers across the Liverpool City Region is an example of the increased transparency and accountability that you, Cllr Davies your Leader, together with Officers and Members are trying to bring to Wirral.

It is clear that Wirral faced a number of significant challenges and it is to your credit that these have been identified, accepted and acted upon in a way that can only be to the benefit of residents in the Wirral.

The priorities identified by the Improvement Board have set out a clear improvement framework for the Council and the actions taken to date are noted. For me, the priority around political and managerial leadership is key – it sets the example for the Council and all it’s staff and members. This leadership is reflected throughout the other priorities and our challenge now is to build on the cultural changes that are beginning to happen at Wirral so that they become the norm for the future.

It is also to its credit that this improvement has been undertaken in a time of significant financial pressure on the Council, as with the other Councils in the Liverpool City Region. Again the development of a longer term budget and financial plan is noted and will clearly help the Council address current and future challenges in respect of financial settlements.

It would appear that the Council has made significant progress in a relatively short period of time and again it is noted that the Improvement Plan recognises it is not the end but clearly there are further steps that need to be taken to build on what has been achieved to date.

On behalf of St. Helens Council, I would like to congratulate the Leader, yourself and the teamwork of the whole Council on getting to where you are now.

Yours sincerely

Carole Hudson
Chief Executive
St. Helen’s Council

Wirral Improvement Board Review

Merseytravel would like to concur with the view expressed in the report which has recently been published that significant progress has been made by Wirral Council in addressing a number of critical issues that had been raised.

Relationships between Merseytravel and Wirral Council are very open and transparent based on trust. We have a joint agreement on the current transport priorities that will best serve the Wirral, in particular looking at enhancing the connectivity between Wirral and North Wales and Cheshire West. This has been done in the spirit of collaboration at a strategic and operational planning level.

We have developed, and will continue to develop an open and trusting relationship with both the political and senior officer leadership at Wirral Council and have worked collaboratively on the development of a Combined Authority scheme which we hope, when fully implemented in 2014 will see a greater level of outward looking, strategic leadership at City Region level with a very progressive set of revised transport arrangements which will have been developed with collaboration by all parties through which Wirral have contributed significantly.

We also recognise the role of the Leader of Wirral has played in the development of securing European funding within the European programme and we hope to continue to maximise this expertise and the new approach to partnership working between all parties but in particular between Merseytravel and Wirral Council.

I trust that this helps.

Yours sincerely,
David Brown
Chief Executive and Director General

Wirral CCG welcomes this report which clearly demonstrates the significant progress the council has made over the last 18 months. We believe the the correct structures, governance and culture is now in place for us to work collaboratively in the future to deliver integrated services for the population of Wirral.

Dr Phil Jennings
Chair
Wirral CCG

“Congrats! Need to keep up the good work!”
Angela Eagle MP

RELEVANT RESOLUTIONS PASSED AT AUDIT AND RISK MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE 14/11/13 WITH THE SUPPORT OF MEMBERS FROM ALL PARTIES

[Ed – Cllr Simon Mountney voted against which isn’t mentioned here]

Moved by Councillors Pat Glasman/Janette Williamson
RESOLVED:
That this Committee welcomes the report of the Improvement Board, which draws attention to the significant progress Wirral has made in the last 20 months.

It recognises that there are still issues which need to be addressed but believes it is clear that Wirral is now an outward looking Authority – open to constructive criticism and willing to address problems when they occur.

We would recommend the sector-led approach to change and development to other authorities who find themselves in difficulty.

We would like to thank the Improvement Board, all staff and Members who have participated in the change process. It now remains for Members to continue to participate in their own development and not become complacent but ensure that change becomes embedded for the future

Moved by Councillors Steve Foulkes/Pat Glasman
RESOLVED:
That the Committee welcomes the response to critical reports in that it puts the Council’s progress in an accessible and available format.

The issues remain complex and what happened was regrettable. We urge that all outstanding matters should be resolved as quickly as possible and that Members be updated periodically.

RELEVANT RESOLUTIONS PASSED AT CO-ORDINATING COMMITTEE ON 13/11/2013
RESOLVED:
That this Committee welcomes the Report. It clearly states the Authority is moving in the right direction.

This Committee pledges to play its full part in continuing the direction of travel.

All Members will be encouraged to engage in the next steps identified within the report.

We must not be complacent as we still need to improve in many areas identified in the report and embed positive changes.

We thank all members of the Improvement Board for their help.

We thank all employees and Members for their efforts in this journey of improvement.

We would recommend the approach adopted by the Local Government Association, in piloting sector led improvement, and would recommend it to others who find themselves in difficulties.

QUESTIONS OR FEEDBACK SUBMITTED BY THE PUBLIC

J YATES

Dear Sir/Madam

I raise an objection to the timing of the Public meeting arranged for Friday 15th 2013 as notified in the Wirral Globe.
I have not received the statutory notice of at least 5 working days and feel I would not be able to attend at such short notice.
I therefore submit that this meeting be re-arranged to incorporate the legally-required term of notice.

JOHN BRACE

The final report of Anna Klonowski Associates Limited was published as part of the Cabinet agenda of the 12th January 2012. Wirral Council also received from Anna Klonowski Associates sixteen appendices (listed below), which apart from appendix G (Standards for England Decision notices) have not been published. If Wirral Council is now “open and transparent” when will the other fourteen appendices be published (except for appendix L)?

A Appendices as Referred to in the Report
B Equality & Human Rights Commission Letter Dated 29 December 2010
C First Improvement Plan
D Care Quality Commission Inspection Report
E Charging Policy for Supported Living Services
F Documents Relating to 27 Balls Road
G Standards for England Decision Notices
H Documents Relating to Reimbursement Claims
I Emails Relating to Supported Living Contracts
J Documents Relating to Service Provider 2
K Documents Relating to Service Provider 3
L Medical Information Relating to Martin Morton (MEDICAL IN CONFIDENCE)
M Documents Relating to Service Provider 4
N Minutes of Adult Protection Strategy Meetings Relating to Service Provider 4
O Documents Relating to the Safeguarding Adults Unit
P Minutes of the DASS Monitoring & Development Sub Group Meeting Held on 11 December 2008
Q Employment Dates for WMBC Employees

On the 14th April 2011 Cabinet resolved that Martin Smith’s report be made public, however all the names (presumably of Wirral Council officers and councillors) contained within the reported were redacted before publication. Is publishing the redacted (rather than full) report complying with the spirit of the earlier Cabinet decision? Will Wirral Council to publish an unredacted version of the Martin Smith report?

Presumably some of the blacked out names in Martin Smith’s report would be the names of councillors. As councillors are accountable to the people of Wirral, how can the people of Wirral hold their elected representatives to account unless the full Martin Smith report is published including the names of councillors in it?

Does the Improvement Board understand that the Wirral public will find it hard to believe that Wirral Council has changed when there are so many unanswered questions surrounding these events due to the lack of transparency and accountability?

The Standards Committee of Monday 4th July 2011 discussed an administrative error that had occurred in dealing with the standards complaint made by Martin Morton made regarding Cllrs Roberts, McLaughlin, Pat Williams and Bridson. He had initially made a complaint about Cllrs Roberts, McLaughlin and Pat Williams, but had replaced this with a more detailed complaint involving Cllrs Roberts, McLaughlin, Pat Williams and Bridson. This second complaint mysteriously vanished from Wirral Council’s files. A public apology was made at the time by the Monitoring Officer to Martin Morton and the councillors who were the subject of the complaint. Did any Wirral councillors have access to the revised complaint prior to its disappearance from Wirral Council’s files if so who were they?

A separate and unrelated complaint about one of the four councillors referred to in question five (ref SfE 2010/02) was decided on the 20th December 2010. However the covering report sent to the panel which decided was incorrectly titled “Report of the Monitoring Officer – Case Reference 2010/03″ . This report to the panel also omitted that the original complaint referred to an alleged breach of 6(a) of the Code of Conduct. As an apology was given for an administrative error to the complainant referred to in question 5, will an apology for this administrative error be given to the complainants of complaint reference SfE 2010/02 and the subject of the complaint?

In the review report it states “it is proposed to strengthen the independent nature of the Audit and Risk Management Committee through the appointment of a majority of external members”. How many independent members of the Audit and Risk Management Committee will be appointed, who will they be appointed by and will the Audit and Risk Management Committee be chaired in future by one of these independent members?

Although Wirral Council is meeting its target of responding to 85% of Freedom of Information Act requests within twenty days during the Information Commissioner Office’s monitoring period, a greater proportion of Freedom of Information Act requests have been turned down. If memory serves me correctly, this has been achieved by dedicating greater human resources to responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. This raises the questions, are these resources temporary and only for the Information Commissioner Office’s monitoring period (and if so how will the current performance be maintained once these resources are withdrawn) and how does refusing a greater proportion of Freedom of Information Act requests tally with the administration’s stated desire to be more “open and transparent”?

The reports into whistleblowing allegations raised about Wirral Council’s BIG (business investment grants) and ISUS (Intensive Startup Support) have both not been published in full despite being received by Wirral Council in the Spring of this year. The Executive Summary to the Grant Thornton report into the BIG scheme was published by Wirral Council on the 15th July (the companies referred to in the Executive Summary were anonymised). If the Executive Summary to the ISUS report follows the same format as the BIG report and has also been anonymised, why has this not been published also?

If the Improvement Board decides that it is safe to withdraw, do they think that the Corporate Governance Committee should be reconstituted to ensure sufficient oversight by councillors of the work identified in the “Next Steps” section?

Are the LGA members of the Improvement Board financially renumerated for their work on the Improvement Board and if so, could amounts (whether exact or approximate) of the total cost to Wirral Council over the lifespan of the Improvement Board?

GREG VOGIATZIS

Dear Improvement Board,
As a member of the public living on Wirral I have reviewed your report in the limited time it has been available and would like to comment and seek response as follows.

Your recommendations include

(a) The need for an Improvement Board in its current form is no longer the best way forward for Wirral.
(b) Instead the Council will need to drive improvement through the future actions suggested in the Next Steps sections of the report.
(c) There should be a review of Wirral’s progress overall at the end of the year end as suggested in para 85, on page 30 of this report

I struggle to grasp why these recommendations are appropriate given the significant number of “next steps” that the report suggests are required.

The review proposed at c) is to take place within a relatively short timescale at which point, given the scope of the report, it would be unlikely to establish genuine progress or provide confidence that strategies and changes have been effectively implemented.

I believe that continued external oversight by the Improvement Board is necessary to ensure that “next steps” and changes are in fact implemented and embedded.

There are a number of areas of concern that lead me to this belief.

At para 71 of the report reference is made to community representatives having been recruited for Constituency Committees which are a key plank of neighbourhood working.

This is untrue – Birkenhead, the largest constituency is yet to recruit community representatives and from my own enquiries do not appear to have a process to do so.

I am advised that the meeting of Birkenhead Constituency Committee arranged for 28 Nov 2013 is intended to address this although no agenda has yet been produced.

This does not inspire confidence that your report is accurate in this area and leaves other areas open to doubt.

At para 99. reference is made that the direction of travel is towards amber. This implies the situation is still RED and undermines your position that external oversight/scrutiny is no longer necessary.

At para 107 reference is made to FOI requests and the 85% target being achieved. This is measured over a very narrow timescale and makes no reference to any challenges to response that may have been received.

Give Wirral’s poor performance in this area surely continued oversight is required to ensure this is consistent and representative of anticipated future performance.

I have concerns that the Neighbourhood working structures are flawed and as these are key to delivery of the “new” ways of working and this calls into doubt the validity and credibility of much of the work the Improvement Board have undertaken.

The (published) Equality Impact Assessment for this does not appear to consider any potential negative impacts for protected groups or consideration of socio economic factors when in fact these clearly exist on the basis of £200,000 being equally split between constituencies regardless of their demographic or socio economic need. There is potential that inequality will be increased in constituencies/areas with more ethnically diverse population or younger/older populations.

Even on a simple budget per head calculation unequal treatment could be perceived as existing.
If my concerns are correct then this is something I would expect the Improvement Board to have noticed and addressed given the weight and emphasis placed on Neighbourhood Working.

NIGEL HOBRO

In your report p53 section 184 you write that you are “the first sector-led improvement approach taken to support a Council facing significant governance issues”. In the potted biographies of Joyce Redfearn it is written:

“She has served on two previous improvement boards for Blaenau Gwent and for Liverpool.”

Question 1.
What happened at Blaenau Gwent and Liverpool. I interpret “sector-led” as being led by a peer group rather like the Police investigating themselves. What was different about Mrs Redfearn’s prior appointments to Boards.

Question 2.
Your report refers to external reports 2010-2012 though by contrast WBC writes a response to critical reports 2010-2013. Given that those reports included two from Grant Thornton in 2013 which showed alarming deficiencies in the award of business start-up grants both in working Neighbourhoods, in BIG and in ISUS, how can you make a statement that the Economy was an “area of excellence” for WBC even under the difficult conditions to which you allude?

This is not a complaint regarding those investigations but a query of on what authority can you print such an assertion faced with knowledge of, certainly published in BIG Abbreviated summary, the deep failures of scrutiny over the process shown by WBC?

JON KING

I have two questions to the Improvement Board:

I would contest that the ‘war’ has been won when so many legacy issues remain outstanding, but to ‘win the peace’ when there has been such a breakdown in trust between the local authority and its residents is it not time for the Local Authority to adopt a corporate charter reflecting the Nolan Principles to embrace the expected standards in public life?

To ‘win the peace’ you have to resolve the grievances and issues resulting from the previous periods of poor performance how can the Council assure the residents that these have been investigated and addressed with the appropriate vigour.

ANONYMOUS (DID NOT WANT TO BE NAMED)

The report states that some council members were less engaged with the improvement training and process than others. Is the public allowed to know which ones these were and can anything be done about the persistence of this negative attitude now that the Improvement Board is planning to reduce its level of involvement?

The ‘What Really Matters’ and other previous questionnaires were hailed as a success and yet there were frequent public complaints regarding the loaded nature of the questions and the lack of information regarding the choices they presented (evidenced by letters to the local press, for example). Were these questionnaires actually designed by a reputable and experienced market research company, and if so, which one?

MARTIN MORTON

The Improvement Board will hear from Martin Morton who has requested time to address the meeting.

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Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 22nd April 2013 Thextons (Green Deal Installer) explain the “Green Deal”

Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 22nd April 2013 Thextons, Green Deal, Wirral Partnership Homes and rendering

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The Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee met on Monday 22nd April, although the agenda and reports can be found on Wirral Council’s website, two agenda items (Thextons and Digital Inclusion) were presentations and three (Trader Toolkit, Fair Trade and Regeneration Update) were verbal updates so for the full details on those you’ll have to watch the video of the meeting above.

Present:
Cllr Mark Johnston (Chair)
Cllr Jean Stapleton
Cllr Stuart Wittingham
Cllr Mike Sullivan
Cllr Jeanette Williamson
Cllr Rob Gregson
Cllr John Salter
Cllr Peter Kearney
Cllr Tony Cox
Cllr Andrew Hodson

Cllr Stuart Wittingham declared an interest in items five (Under-occupation scrutiny review), six (Draft Housing Needs Assessment) and ten (End of Year Performance Update) as he is a director of Wirral Partnership Homes.

The first main agenda item was a presentation by Simon Thexton from Thexton Properties Ltd. Mr. Thexton began by describing his various experiences working in the construction industry before starting Thextons in 2001 and said that his aim had been to create a small building firm to offer a quality service. This hadn’t worked as everyone had wanted the cheapest price instead so they had concentrated on specialist sub-contracting instead.

In 2003 they’d won a business award and the business had grown and between 2005 and 2009 they had consolidated and improved. Originally based in Brassey Street, they’d moved after purchasing a derelict pub to use as a Head Office. Although the construction industry had flatlined since 2009, he was proud that they hadn’t laid anyone off and had maintained the workforce at 2009 levels by reducing profit margins.

Eighteen months ago Mr. Thexton had been to a seminar on the government’s Green Deal and ECO (Energy Company Obligation) funding, he’d seen this as a massive opportunity for Thextons. It had taken them eighteen months to change their policies investing £150,000 in retraining their workforce in internal and external render systems. He’d travelled the country looking at how other organisations were doing internal and external rendering and bringing this knowledge back to Thextons to retrain their staff. Thextons then became a chartered building company and were PAS 2030 certified (as a Green Deal Installer).

Simon Thexton referred to the work Thexton had done on the hundreds of Wirral Partnership Homes houses being rendered in the North End of Birkenhead through Brammall Construction. He said that the Green Deal element for the public (as opposed to large landlords such as Wirral Partnership Homes) was being rolled out slower due to backlogs. He explained the various stages of the Green Deal process and the various types of work that could be done to properties using Green Deal funding.

Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 22nd April 2013 Part 1 of 3
Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 22nd April 2013 Part 2 of 3
Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 22nd April 2013 Part 3 of 3
Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 22nd April 2013 Playlist (all three parts)

Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 16th January 2012 Presentation by CETCO

Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 16th January 2012: presentation by CETCO

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Last night’s Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee started a few minutes later than planned and the first part of the meeting (about half an hour) is above which can be viewed in High Definition (if your internet connection is fast enough for HD video). The meeting itself starts at 2m30s in.

Most of the first half hour is a presentation by CETCO who manufacture waterproof linings used in the construction industry.

The representative from CETCO told those present about what CETCO did and how its American parent company had originally wanted to close CETCO’s operation on the Wirral which would have led to a loss of about fifty jobs. However thanks to help (and some investment in automation) from Wirral Council they were able to convince the parent company to keep CETCO on the Wirral and there were only a handful of job losses.

Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) (14th November 2012)

Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee 14th November 2012

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Apologies for the first two items (declarations of interest and minutes) missing from the footage. Video starts part way through item 3 (a presentation about CIPRO).

Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) (5th September 2012) Declarations of Interest, Minutes, Business Presentation/Discussion David Downing of Drivecompare.com Ltd Part 1

The first part of a report on the public meeting of the Economy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Metropolitan Borough of Wirral) 5th September 2012. This covers agenda items 1, 2 and part of 3.

Interest declaration: The blog is run by Level 80/John Brace that have a commercial relationship with Google.
Interest declaration: The author works in IT technical support/consultancy.

The agenda and reports for this meeting are on the Council’s website.

Present
Councillors
Cllr Mark Johnston (Chair) Liberal Democrat

Cllr Darren Dodd (Labour) deputy for Cllr Jean Stapleton (Vice-Chair) (Labour)
Cllr Denise Realey (Labour)
Cllr Stuart Whittingham (Labour)
Cllr Robert Gregson (Labour)
Cllr Jeanette Williamson (Labour)
Cllr Mike Sullivan (Labour) note arrived at agenda item 3, not present for agenda items 1 & 2

Cllr David Elderton (Conservative) deputy for Cllr Andrew Hodson (Conservative) (Spokesperson)
Cllr Tony Cox (Conservative)
Cllr Peter Kearney (Conservative) note arrived 6.25 pm (agenda item 3)

The Chair, Cllr Mark Johnston Liberal Democrat, welcomed people to the Economy and Regeneration Committee.

Agenda Item 1 – Declarations of Interest 00:07 to 00:15

The Chair, Cllr Mark Johnston Liberal Democrat, invited any declarations of interest from the Committee. There were no declarations of interest/s made.

Agenda Item 2 – Minutes of meeting held on 7th June 2012 00:15 to 01:20

Cllr Stuart Wittingham said he wanted it noted that Cllr Jean Stapleton sends her apologies. The Chair, Cllr Mark Johnston Liberal Democrat, asked a question about page three of the minutes, about the Green Growth Working Party. The answer given by David Ball was that they had arranged a meeting for the 27th September. Cllr Tony Cox referred to a speech he made last year ([2011]) in the Council Chamber. The Chair, Cllr Mark Johnston Liberal Democrat, asked if the Committee were happy to accept the minutes? The minutes were accepted.

Agenda Item 3 – Business Presentation and Discussion – Member of the Business Community 01:21 to 22:00

In the silence that followed the end of agenda item two, a squeaky door was heard opening and Cllr Mike Sullivan (the missing Labour Member of the Committee) appeared. Cllr Sullivan walked over to his Labour colleagues and sat down as the Chair, Cllr Mark Johnston Liberal Democrat, explained his plan for agenda item three.

The Chair, Cllr Mark Johnston Liberal Democrat, said that this was the regular business slot and that David Downing of Drivecompare.com Ltd was here.

David Downing, Chairman of Drivecompare.com Ltd addressed the Committee, accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation of nineteen slides. He explained that the market they were in was worth circa £900 million and that there were thirty-five thousand active driver instructors. Mr. Downing said it was a fragmented market, with large companies such as AA Driving School and BSM Driving School [Ed – AA Driving School and BSM are both owned by the same parent company Acromas] and explained that some of the large national driving schools were set up as a franchise business.

Mr. Downing referred to also to the independent and small schools. He said that the large driving schools accounted for fifteen percent of the market and that the “big guys” spend on Google. He told a story about a man in an unspecified organisation with twenty instructors that had spent £15,000 on business software and search engine optimisation and £6,000 on Google AdWords, that had cried. He explained that he had cried as he didn’t feel he was getting a return on the investment.

David Downing had come up with a business model when previously working for a driving school, but they weren’t interested, he felt that Google was so complex especially for a “one man band”. He said that the software needs to be tailored as the learners were using new technology. Their core product was providing driver instructors with a new learner. The problem he identified was that the driving instructors couldn’t answer the telephone in their car while they were driving, so they had developed a software platform and business service that included a diary, as well as learner resources so learners could practice for their theory test.

Mr. Downing said there had been challenges in the start-up, in going from part-time to full-time there had been some very long days getting ready for launch. He said they had registered the company in Scotland, as there had been a lawyer (and friend) in Scotland helping them, however the Head Office was in this area. Mr. Downing said they had spent a lot of time being pulled through processes about eligibility for grants and funding when one question up front would’ve been useful in finding out they were not eligible. Eventually he said they had decided to stop looking at them.

He explained that as a fluke he had spoken to Kevin [Adderley] at an Invest Wirral one day seminar on recruitment, he had been impressed by the people and been taken over to the table to talk to the Invest Wirral team at an event in Bromborough. Their three key things had been premises, recruitment and human resources. In his view Job Centre Plus (he mentioned Phil Kane) had been “phenomenal” and had helped in their recruitment in narrowing it down to twelve people and they had taken on six or seven. He also referred to the apprentice scheme and how he felt that [on the Wirral] they were all working as a cohesive team, compared to the “one-upmanship” he had experienced in Scotland.

Mr. Downing said they had opened on 1st August [2012] and had sourced as much as possible from local suppliers, with a soft launch on the 2nd August [2012]. He explained what they could have done better and that pride had stopped them opening doors, they had been lucky to get a bank loan but there were a lot of government schemes available if you got turned down by a bank, however as they had houses they couldn’t get funding. In his opinion they had chased things they thought they’d have an entitlement to, but he had given up his paid job in March, once he had been in it for months, somebody had asked him why he didn’t get tax credits? He said don’t be shy, they might wear a suit, but the team is working together and asked if there were any questions?

Cllr Jeanette Williamson (Labour, Liscard), said she had spent time with Invest Wirral and had nothing but praise. She declared an interest as a civil servant working for the Insolvency Service in Liverpool. Cllr Williamson said she had dealt with a bankruptcy for the Official Receiver and had just interviewed a BSM driving instructor, who had to pay £350 a week to guarantee new learners, which they had defaulted on and she wanted to point out the difference between a business offer and a franchise.

Mr. Downing said it had taken him six months to get his head around it as he couldn’t understand the [business] model. He explained that BSM were doing it and pumping instructors into the industry, with the franchise costing £350 a week and a good instructor getting £25 a hour, they had to put in many hours of work before making money. The guarantee of pupils had exasperated business owners and he said that when it was put in front of a Judge, the Judge said it promises nothing and delivers nothing. Mr. Downing said there would always be a place for driving schools but the industry was changing to a model that was a lot more user-friendly. His company had a guarantee that if a learner didn’t turn up then the next one would be free. He explained that in his view this was better than paying a franchise or Google (which he said he’d love to own) where it could be £600 a month for two learners and was speculative.

Cllr Jeanette Williamson (Labour) said people had less money for people’s cars and lessons, tax and insurance had both gone up, but brought up the example of a new learner, just leaving university for a job that needed to learn to drive, who would initially be driving their parent’s car.

A piece of technology that monitors how you drive and alters insurance premiums based on risk was referred to.

Cllr Jeanette Williamson (Labour) thanked Mr. Downing for his answer and wished him good luck.

Cllr Stuart Wittingham (Labour) started talking about engagement, the door squeaked again and Cllr Peter Kearney (Conservative) arrived late (at 6.25pm).