What I was sent on the litter enforcement contract I publish a copy of below. If any page is difficult to read, I’ve had to resize the images and compress them for publishing on this blog.
For those who don’t know the background is that the litter enforcement function used to be done in-house at Wirral Council. From July 2015 it was outsourced to Kingdom Security Limited. I’m rather surprised by how much has been blacked out from the contract, but the invitation to tender explains that it’s a 2 year contract with an option to extend for a year.
Wirral Council require at least 4 full-time enforcement officers and interestingly don’t issue fixed penalty notices to people under 18. Enforcement officers have to hold a SIA licence, and be “of good character, polite and confident with proven experience of dealing with conflict situations”.
The Council ask that a minimum of 4,800 fixed penalty notices are issued each year. There are two interesting bits about the press which I quote below (it’s a gagging clause).
“2.10.1 Neither the Contractor nor his Employees shall give or offer to permit to be given, any information concerning the Services for use by or publication in the press or radio, television or cinema screens, or in any other media whatsoever without the written approval of the Council’s Authorised Officer.
2.10.2 The Contractor shall under no circumstances use the name of the Council in any advertisement or press release without express written permission thereof.”
Here’s another interesting bit, “5.1 .. In order to incentivise the contractor to reach the minimum requirement of 4800 FPNs, the pricing schedule enables tenderers to specify a different fixed price for all justified FPN’s [sic] issued over 4800 per annum.”
Unfortunately Wirral Council have decided to black out the method statements at pages 20 to 39 of the contract and the pricing schedule at pages 45 to 46. Those with long memories will remember some stories in the local press about fixed penalty notices issued, then rescinded by Wirral Council.
Below is the contract (or at least the parts Wirral Council was happy with the public seeing), many of the blacked out bits are subject to a public interest test.
DATED 3rd July 2015
WIRRAL BOROUGH COUNCIL
KINGDOM SECURITY LTD
THE PROVISION OF LITTER ENFORCEMENT
Surjit Tour Head of Legal and Member Services Town Hall Brighton Street Wallasey CH44 8ED
What’s happening in the week ahead in local government (30/11/15 to 4/12/15)? (Wirral Council, Merseytravel, Merseyside Police and Crime Panel, House of Commons and House of Lords)
I thought it would be a good idea to restart a regular feature I used to do on this blog which was looking to the week ahead with a brief summary of what’s happening.
Wirral Council’s Families and Wellbeing Committee meets tomorrow (Tuesday 1st December) at 6.00pm at Wallasey Town Hall. There are no motions on the agenda but councillors will discuss the all age disability strategy and the day services local authority company called Wirral Evolutions.
On Thursday you are literally spoilt for choice for public meetings and if I wished I could probably spend all day filming them!
The Merseyside Police and Crime Panel meets starting at 10.00am in the Council Chamber in Huyton. On the agenda are updates on serious and organised crime, the appropriate adult scheme, sustaining excellence, a home office pilot for mental health nurses to be colocated in custody suites, a night-time levy consultation (the consultation has already finished but just applies to Liverpool and 70% of the levy on licenced premises will go the police for policing Liverpool’s night-time economy), proposals for future Chief Constable recruitment and other routine items.
Other than minutes and the co-option of Cllr Joan Lilly (who replaces the late Cllr Sharp), councillors will hear an update on smart ticketing, discuss the Merseytravel Fees and Charges Review for 2016/17 and a report on delivering an improved bus "offer".
On that last report I should also declare an interest as their current social media policy by my initial reading of the policy/report to councillors seemed to state that Wirral Council employees (unless they can prove some business need such as the press office) were prevented from accessing this blog, the associated Facebook Group, Twitter account and as mentioned in the report itself also video of public meetings of Wirral Council on Youtube. However a reader has left a helpful comment stating that this blog isn’t blocked which is useful information I am interested to know.
I’d better declare a financial interest as Youtube pays me a very small amount in royalties from videos I’ve filmed (and by small I mean £1.10p for October 2015). In fact Wirral Council blocks employees from watching its own Youtube channel.
If the new policy goes ahead, Wirral Council employees will be allowed to read this blog (after writing this a reader left a comment to say they already can despite this blog falling into the social media category) and the above sites that fall into the social media category in their breaks.
However Big Brother, sorry Wirral Council will be watching what they get up to, so who knows what red flags you’ll raise if you read this blog or Wirral Leaks or well something really subversive like Wirral Council’s Youtube channel!
So that’s the round up for the week, I used to also provide a quick overview of what’s happening this week local government wise in two more open and transparent public bodies the House of Commons/House of Lords which you can watch online.
This afternoon starting at 4.00pm the Communities and Local Government Select Committee will discuss the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill. The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill has implications for Merseyside over an elected Mayor in 2017 and the devolution changes that have already received a lot of press coverage. As I’ve seen at least one local government officer here in Merseyside refuse to answer politicians’ questions about the government’s side of what’s happening, this looks like an interesting opportunity to hear about what’s happening from another perspective.
Tomorrow starting at 9.25am, the Public Bill Committee will discuss the Housing and Planning Bill. At the same time (starting at 9.30am) the Education Select Committee will discuss Holocaust Education and in the afternoon starting at 3.00pm the Treasury Select Committee will ask questions of the Chancellor on the Comprehensive Spending Review (which is only partly related to local government). In the House of Lords a Select Committee will be discussing the built environment starting at 10 am.
On Wednesday morning starting at 8.55am the Second Delegated Legislation Committee will discuss the Draft Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) (Revision of Code E) Order 2015. For those not familiar with police procedure Code E relates to the audio recording of interviews with suspects. Starting at 9.30am the Work and Pensions Select Committee will discuss the local welfare safety net, also at 9.30am the Education Select Committee will discuss regional school commissioners, the Treasury Select Committee will continue debating the Comprehensive Spending Review starting at 2.15pm and the Public Accounts Committee will discuss reform of the rail franchising programme.
Thursday sees more discussion of the Housing and Planning Bill by the Public Bill Committee in two sessions starting at 11.30am and 2.00pm. The House of Lords Select Committee will continue to discuss the built environment and hear from a former Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate.
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Does Wirral Council believe that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government?
I was planning on writing today about the implications of the Comprehensive Spending Review (however that’s something that would really benefit from a very in-depth piece), but Wirral Council have published an interesting document about Cabinet meeting report protocol.
That probably sounds rather boring, but it shows the informal arrangements that everyone knew existed behind the scenes before reports were published are being put on a more formal footing.
Although much of it is probably the rather dry nuts and bolts and let’s face it there will still be people submitting reports late and chairs not following procedures with regards to late reports, it does seem an attempt at least to make what the press and public end up reading at least not full of obvious errors (and I’m not talking about spelling mistakes).
The report does state what I knew already, that the SLT (Senior Leadership Team or senior managers at Wirral Council) see reports before they’re published and have a chance to suggest edits.
Even before each public Cabinet meeting happens, Cllr Phil Davies has a meeting of his Cabinet (called a briefing) which the officers are expected to attend (usually in what’s called the Cabinet Briefing Room behind locked doors at Wallasey Town Hall) where he goes through the entire agenda and matters are discussed in private.
Interestingly, this report shows that the Cabinet briefing is used as a filter and the Cabinet briefing can be used to change the reports that are later published. I presume this practice of writing reports by committee leads to some bits being watered down.
There are also four compulsory steps a report has to go through before the press or public see it. It seems reports have to be run by legal (which makes me laugh considering some of the legal howlers I’ve pointed out on this blog over the years), human resources (which is understandable as many of the decisions are going to have HR implications), finance (again understandable) and the Head of Service (which has been standard practice for years anyway). As there are vacant heads of service posts, in that situation the relevant strategic director signs it off.
However there is one very important group of people this all leaves out, the public. Anyone involved with politics will of course comment and say that the last group of people involved in political decisions are the public.
This is what Wirral Council’s constitution states about decision-making:
13.2 Principles of decision-making
All decisions of the Council will be made in accordance with the following principles:
(i) proportionality (i.e. the action must be proportionate to the desired outcome);
(ii) due consultation and the consideration of professional advice from officers;
(iii) respect for human rights;
(iv) a presumption in favour of openness;
(v) clarity of aims and desired outcomes; and
(vi) Wednesbury* reasonableness (i.e. the decision must not be so unreasonable that no reasonable Council could have reached it, having taken into account all relevant considerations, and having ignored irrelevant considerations).
Every policy disaster (whether the library closure fiasco which resulted in a public inquiry or half a dozen others I could mention here) has resulted because the public weren’t involved (or were involved/consulted but politely ignored by politicians and officers who had the arrogance to think they knew better) and/or the above principles weren’t followed.
Let’s take the Fort Perch Rock car park charging U-turn as an example. Principle (ii) above states the "consideration of professional advice from officers" yet officers didn’t tell them that if they started charging at Fort Perch Rock car park then the lease the Council had for the Marine Point development would lead to charges at hundreds of spaces at the other currently free car parks.
No, it fell to a local blogger to publish the pages of the lease, a large petition against it of thousands of people and a campaign against the charges from a former Conservative councillor in the marginal seat of New Brighton. This was despite Labour’s backbench councillors warning the Cabinet at at least one public meeting not to go ahead with plans for charging.
Next week, the Transformation and Resources Committee will discuss the high-profile issue of a fire station in Saughall Massie. At the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting earlier this year where the decision was made, the petition organiser was given five minutes to speak and a delegation from the Saughall Massie Conservation Society was also given the opportunity to speak for up to five minutes.
Yes, you are probably going to say, this ties in with (iii) above, respect for human rights as article 21, which Wirral Council signed up to when Cllr Adrian Jones was Mayor quite clearly states
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Notice the importance of that word directly or through freely chosen representatives (that is politicians).
The other public bodies I report on either have mechanisms written into their constitution (for example Liverpool City Council has a regular public question time slot at many of its meetings and I’ve mentioned the mechanisms that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority has), so people can exercise their rights at public meetings and have their say before the decision is made.
At Wirral Council the public at public meetings get frustrated and heckle instead (then get told to shut up by the Chair or clear off which does show some politicians’ attitude towards the public outside of elections).
The Chair at last night’s meeting (despite his wish to get home in time to watch Coronation Street) tried to let many taxi drivers have their say (some more than once) before the decision to consult on increasing hackney carriage fares was made (if a decision is made following the consultation it’ll mean fares go up in time for Christmas).
Yet if there’s one point I am trying to make from this maybe boring piece about Wirral’s politics, it’s that the public should be more involved and you don’t encourage the public to turn up by expecting them to sit through meetings in silence and not have any influence over decisions that are going to affect their lives.
At the moment taxi drivers have more influence over decisions as there is a Joint Consultative Committee that meets regularly behind closed doors than I do over say Wirral Council’s filming of public meetings policy.
Yes, this probably sounds like as to why it’s a good idea to have politicians, or for the kind of public interest journalism I spend a lot of time doing but the point I’m trying to get at is one that Wirral’s political system doesn’t seem to have quite grasped which is "the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government".
At Wirral Council this seems to have morphed in the past to "the will of the officers shall be the basis of the authority of government" (and we expect politicians to rubber stamp decisions we refer to them).
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Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee meeting held on the 23rd November 2015
One of the changes agreed by councillors at last night’s meeting of Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee was a change to the protocol for dealing with referred notices of motion. Referred notices of motion are notices of motion that have been sent by Wirral Council’s Mayor to one of Wirral Council’s committees to debate instead of being debated at a Council meeting.
The changes to time limits on speeches for the proposer (5 minutes) and right of reply (3 minutes) were to bring the time limits in line with new time limits proposed for Council meetings.
However an extra category of speaker has been added. This is described in the new rules as "any other person" and they will have three minutes to speak. "Any other person" is described as "at the discretion of the Chairperson, other persons with expertise on the subject of the Motion may be invited to attend the meeting at which it is to be considered"
These new rules won’t apply to next week’s high-profile Notice of Motion Proposal for a fire station on green belt land in Saughall Massie to be discussed by councillors on Wirral Council’s Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee at a public meeting starting at 6.00pm on the 2nd December 2015 in Committee Room 1, Wallasey Town Hall. This is because the recommendation by the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (if agreed by Council on the 14th December) won’t come into effect until the 15th December 2015. At a previous meeting of the Regeneration and Environment Committee councillors wanted to ask questions of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service officers about why they wanted to build a new fire station in Saughall Massie.
Back to the BIG/ISUS matters and let’s just quickly recap the blog posts I’ve written on the many aspects of this matter as they provide some background. I’m sure there are one or two I may have left out (I remember I republished some of my earlier blog posts which contained the agreements for BIG/ISUS in the lead up to the special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee last October).
BIG/ISUS Reports: Wirral Council and Merseyside Police in “Alice in Wonderland” (4/10/13) Wirral Council and Merseyside Police respond to FOI requests for the reports for Grant Thornton’s (Wirral Council’s auditor) report into the ISUS matters. Wirral Council state they can’t release it because they’ve referred the matter to Merseyside Police, a Detective Chief Inspector for Merseyside Police states that "This matter is currently in the hands of Wirral Borough Council" and suggests that I make a FOI request to Wirral Council.
Or as I sum it up "Wirral Council won’t say anything because it’s in the hands of Merseyside Police, but Merseyside Police say it’s "currently in the hands of Wirral Borough Council".
So that’s a brief summary of developments so far? So what does the new information reveal? It’s a report by an auditor at Wirral Council which details the allegations the two whistleblowers made, the investigations into those allegations and the auditor’s opinion as to whether the whistleblowers were correct or not.
The executive summary runs from pages 9-16 and details the allegations made by the two whistleblowers and whether what was inspected during the investigation substantiated or refuted these claims. Pages 17-20 go through each of the allegations in detail as well as whether each allegation is correct or not and the implications that follow. Pages 21-45 are the main report which at the end contain 14 recommendations. Had some of these recommendations been implemented in 2012, some of the unanswered questions surrounding this matter would have been dealt with much earlier, such as the transfer of assets from Lockwood to Harbac.
At the special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee in October 2014, councillors, officers and those speaking at the public meeting were warned not to refer to names of companies, yet the release of this 2012 audit report only removes the names of Wirral Council employees (and former employees). These matters are now out in the open (which should’ve happened before the Audit and Risk Management Committee met last year). Had this 2012 internal audit report been made available to councillors before that meeting the discussion may have been very different.
However it only came to light because of a FOI (Freedom of Information) request made by one of the whistleblowers and even then only after the Information Commissioner’s Office intervened with a decision notice. Certainly the whistleblowers must both feel vindicated by the conclusions reached in this detailed 2012 internal audit report.
The Liberal Democrat Group of councillors on Wirral Council plus the Green Party Councillor Pat Cleary have tabled the following Notice of Motion for the next Council meeting on the 12th October 2015 on the subject of FOI requests. It reads as follows:
OPEN GOVERNMENT ?
This Council recognises that the Information Commissioner’s Office, as the independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest and to promote openness by public bodies, upheld 13 complaints against Wirral Council in the past year.
Of the 18 notices issued between 29 September 2014 and 24 August 2015, the majority (72%) of complaints were upheld.
Council believes that this is a matter for concern, requiring an explanation to its Members.
Council requests that lessons should be learned and applied from these decisions and questions whether Officers have been excessively cautious or defensive in their interpretation of the legislation.
Council, therefore, requests that the legislation is approached with greater regard to the ‘public interest test’ so that the risk of further reputational damage to Wirral can be reduced.
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