Julia Hassall resigns and Cabinet Member Cllr Tony Smith sacked

Julia Hassall resigns and Cabinet Member Cllr Tony Smith sacked

Julia Hassall resigns and Cabinet Member Cllr Tony Smith sacked

                                      

Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School closure L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan
Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School closure L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan

A week ago I wrote Are Wirral councillors about to make another Town Hall bungle on education? and since writing that story from the outside it looks like Wirral Council has descended into an episode of The Thick of It.

One can just imagine the Wirral Council equivalent to Malcolm Tucker shouting at people, “Who’s going to resign? Who’s going to get sacked?”

Wirral Schools Forum (3rd December 2014) Agenda item 4 Consultation on the local schools funding formula L to R Andrew Roberts Julia Hassall Richard Longster
Wirral Schools Forum (3rd December 2014) Agenda item 4 Consultation on the local schools funding formula L to R Andrew Roberts, Julia Hassall and Richard Longster

The answers to both those questions (in the order they are asked) being Julia Hassall (Director of Children’s Services) and Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services).

I’m sure politicians will be making political capital out of this change in the next few days.

Tonight, Wirral Council councillors meet to decide on a new Mayor (Cllr Ann McLachlan) and a new Deputy Mayor (Cllr Geoffrey Watt).

The political fireworks on this story look set to go off tomorrow evening.

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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?”

3 meetings of Wirral Council tonight, but what are they about?

3 meetings of Wirral Council tonight, but what are they about?

3 meetings of Wirral Council tonight, but what are they about?

                                              

Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education) voting to close a school rated Outstanding by OFSTED at a time when Wirral Council was rated as inadequate
Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education) voting to close a school rated outstanding by OFSTED at a time when Wirral Council was rated as inadequate

Below is a brief update that should cover what’s happening at the three meetings of Wirral Council tonight.

The first is about the recent OFSTED report (which has previously been covered by this blog).

Each political party’s response (you can read the motions for yourself) is summed up below.

Labour – Things can only get better (but the government doesn’t give us enough money)
Conservative – Things were better when the Conservatives and Lib Dems were in charge of Wirral Council and why don’t the Labour councillors in charge of these areas resign?
Liberal Democrat – Things were better when the Lib Dems were in charge, but there should be regular progress reports on what’s happening, statements by the Cabinet Member and an opportunity to question him


The second Council meeting is about the proposed newspaper idea.

Again, there’s a split by political party on that proposal too.

Labour – We want to publish a new monthly newspaper delivered to every home and business on the Borough
Conservative – Refers to Labour’s plan as an “expensive exercise in spin and control” and a “vanity project” that’s likely to lead to government intervention
Liberal Democrat – The legal advice received and correspondence with DCLG should be shared with all councillors (who shouldn’t have to make Freedom of Information requests for it)


Then there’s finally the regular Council meeting. The only Notice of Motion likely to debated at that meeting (proposed by the Labour Group) is one asking retailers and vendors to stop selling the Sun newspaper.

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Wirral Council’s Children’s Services branded “inadequate” by OFSTED

Wirral Council’s Children’s Services branded “inadequate” by OFSTED

Wirral Council’s Children’s Services branded “inadequate” by OFSTED

                              

Cabinet 17th December 2014 voting to close Lyndale School L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan
Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School closure L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan

I’ll declare at the outset that I was the Appellant in the First-Tier Tribunal case referred to later.

I’ve just read the 44 page inspection report by OFSTED into services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers which you can read on OFSTED’s website.

The inspection was carried out in July 2016 and the headlines (these are quoted from the report) are:

“1. Children who need help and protection
Inadequate

2. Children looked after and achieving permanence
Requires improvement

2.1 Adoption Performance
Requires improvement

2.2 Experiences and progress of care leavers
Inadequate

1. Leadership, management and governance
Inadequate

The report then goes on to explain the many reasons why and starts with the sentence, “There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection in Wirral.” and perhaps even more telling makes this point about senior management and councillors, “Almost all of the deficits identified in this inspection were known by senior leaders.

And in response to a certain senior manager at Wirral Council who repeatedly states the Council acts in the best interests of children, “Plans to restructure services to respond better to children’s needs were delayed for a year due to competing council priorities.

However I don’t want you to think I’m cherry-picking negative criticism from the report. If you read the report you’ll find it has very little to state that is positive.

After all this sentence, “Performance management data is widely scrutinised by managers and elected members, but is not yet leading to improvement and is not always focused on the right things.” sums it up. People (whether that be councillors or managers) know about the problems, but seemingly don’t know (or if I’m being more charitable are thwarted from) fixing them.

The infamous report into Wirral Council by Anna Klonowski Associates explained how in years gone by Wirral Council received independent reports similar to these but just carried on (whereas in other councils it would’ve raised red flags and led to major alarm bells ringing).

Of course it remains to be seen what Wirral Council’s response to this is. An Improvement Board has been mentioned (but if it meets in private as the one before did) the public won’t know about the changes Wirral Council is making in response and to be able to hold their political leaders to account.

And let’s face it, a Council that is prepared to go to a Tribunal to make sure some of the views of senior councillors, union representatives and senior managers at a meeting held in secret about education are kept out of the public domain in response to a FOI request, is that a Council acting in an “open and transparent” way or one that knows about its problems but wants to keep them out of the public domain?

The OFSTED inspection report is due to be discussed by councillors on Wirral Council’s Children Sub-Committee at a public meeting this Thursday evening (22nd September 2016) in Committee Room 2 in Wallasey Town Hall starting at 6.00pm.

Oh and just to quell any rumours, no I don’t have any children but Wirral Council’s external auditor Grant Thornton are reviewing the impact of the OFSTED report on their Value for Money conclusion which goes to be considered at a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee on Monday 26th September starting at 6.00pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall.

As I wish to end on a positive note Committee Rooms 1, 2 (and I’m told also Committee Room 3) on the ground floor at Wallasey Town Hall are now able to be better accessed by those in wheelchairs or those with reduced mobility due to changes recently made to the doors to these rooms at this listed building.

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Labour councillors on Wirral Council’s Cabinet will decide next Monday whether to spend £200,000 to demolish Lyndale School

Labour councillors on Wirral Council’s Cabinet will decide next Monday whether to spend £200,000 to demolish Lyndale School

Labour councillors on Wirral Council’s Cabinet will decide next Monday whether to spend £200,000 to demolish Lyndale School

                                       

Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School closure L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan
Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School closure L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan

As reported around a fortnight ago on this blog Wirral Council’s Cabinet meets next Monday morning to make another decision about Lyndale School.

Cabinet previously decided to close Lyndale School in Eastham at the end of August 2016. On Monday councillors on the Cabinet will be deciding whether to declare it surplus to requirements, to ask the government for permission to sell off the playing fields (with a further six-week consultation expected on this), demolish the school building and to sell off the site.

Demolishing the buildings will cost an estimated £200,000 and the Cabinet report recommends doing this before a consultation on selling off the playing fields.

The rationale for demolition is that an empty building could attract vandalism.

Parents of disabled children at Lyndale School campaigned to try to persuade the Labour councillors on Wirral Council to change their mind and keep the Lyndale School open. Although councillors from opposition parties agreed with the parents that the school should remain open, Labour councillors consistently voted to close the Lyndale School school.

The site of the former Lyndale School is expected to be sold for housing.

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