Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee 20th October 2011 PACSPE Call-in

Tonight’s meeting was as the Cabinet decision of the 22nd September 2011 on the PACSPE contract had been called-in by Cllr Jeff Green, Cllr Tom Harney, Cllr Dave Mitchell, Cllr Lesley Rennie and Cllr David Elderton.
At the end of a 3 1/2 hour meeting the voting went as follows.

Labour Amendment to Conservative motion

This amendment upheld the original decision.

Votes For         : 5 (Labour councillors)
Votes Against : 5 (Conservatives councillor plus one Liberal Democrat councillor)

Abstention       : 0
Casting vote of Conservative Chair: AGAINST

Votes For        : 5 (Labour councillors)

Votes Against: 6 (Conservatives councillor plus one Liberal Democrat councillor) + Chair’s casting vote
Abstention     :  0

AMENDMENT FAILS

Conservative Motion

Votes for          : 5 (Conservative councillors plus one Liberal Democrat councillor)

Votes against: 5 (Labour councillors)

Abstentions   : 0

Casting vote of Chair: For

Votes for:          6 (Conservative councillors plus one Liberal Democrat councillor) + Chair’s casting vote

Votes against: 5 (Labour councillors)

Abstentions:  0

MOTION PASSES (Proposed Cllr John Hale, seconded Cllr Don McCubbin)

Text of Motion:

This committee notes that:

    • The Cabinet appeared to ignore, and did not even mention, the findings of the Office of Government Commerce Gateway Reviews that the Parks & Countryside Services Procurement Exercise (PACSPE) had been subjected to.
    • No attempt was made to publically question officers from the Finance Department, the Legal Department and the Procurement Unit who were members of the PACSPE Project Board as to whether the “risk” identified by District Audit, and made such play of in the Cabinet resolution could or had been satisfactorily mitigated.
    • No discussion was had by Cabinet Members of the risks of not awarding the contract.
    • No mention or discussion took place regarding stakeholder management or the views of key stakeholders about the benefits of clear quality improvements that were built into the procurement exercise. In fact, other than the view of the Council’s Trade Unions, the results of the consultation and the views of the park users and user groups were not even mentioned in a single Cabinet meeting.
    • No reference was made to the new post of Community Engagement Manager to work with Friends, stakeholders, user groups, and local Area Forums or the new key performance indicators developed through PACSPE to reflect the change to a more customer and community focused service.
    • Insufficient account seemed to have been taken of the reduction from costs of £8.1 million per year to £7.4 million per year already achieved by the PACSPE process with the potential to reduce costs by a further circa £500,000. Indeed, it is hard to understand how the Leader of of the Council characterised a £1.2 million per annum potential saving arising from PACSPE to be sufficiently marginal to be ignored.
    • No effort appeared to be made by Cabinet Members to discuss or evaluate the additional costs to Council Tax Payers of purchasing what has been accepted as worn out equipment requiring immediate replacement (circa £2.5 million) or the TUPE costs of bringing current contractor staff into the Council workforce and pension scheme, per annum or over the 10 year period.
    • No mention was made of the training and development programme for staff and volunteers or the three to six new apprentices to be created as part of PACSPE.
    • No explanation was given at Cabinet regarding the opposition to a 10 year contract that would reduce annual costs by circa £1.2 million and improve the quality of our parks and countryside, other than the expressed need contained in the resolution to reduce spending by £85 million over three years.
    • Therefore we believe that the decision to refuse to award the PACSPE contract would see the ever decreasing quality of a service starved of investment by this administration which is already characterised by going for the quick fix instead of making the difficult but necessary strategic decisions in the interests of Wirral residents.

The Committee recommends to the Cabinet

*Editor’s note will have to check rest of resolution due to noise preventing taking it down*

My guess is that the rest of it is “reconsider the decision”.

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In the interests of openness, John Brace lives opposite Bidston Hill which is covered by the PACSPE contract.

West Wirral Area Forum 6/10/2011, Neighbourhood Plans, United Utilities roadworks (Hoylake) Part 3

Cllr Jeff Green started talking, but someone from the audience said they couldn’t hear him, so the wireless microphone was passed to him. He continued by thanking Tracey Smith and her team for the opportunities that local residents had been given to feed into Neighbourhood Plans. He wanted to make a point about the number of responses and the quality of responses. He said if you went to West Kirby Primary School, it would not be surprising if road safety especially speeding around schools was brought up. If they chatted to youngsters it was not suprising, however he was interested in the broader picture and not taking things for granted.

Resources were following the Neighbourhood Plans, which Cllr Green said were “only as good as the people who contributed” to them. He didn’t want a small number of people to set the agenda, as most people [present at the Area Forum] came to every one of the meetings. He asked Tracey if she agreed?

Tracey Smith, Senior Community Engagement Co-ordinator replied in the affirmative.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Gerry Ellis said that they should “take the opportunity” and that “the council would take some notice”. He said the “main attraction of the evening is Dave Green”. He also mentioned the display and that from Monday United Utilities would be digging up the road in Market Street and Birkenhead Road. There would be disruption to traffic.

Peter Cummings from United Utilities said the display illustrated the areas affected, but they would be working with Wirral Council’s Head of Traffic.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Gerry Ellis mentioned the work on the railway. Peter Cummings said the United Utilities work had been delayed. Deputy Mayor Gerry Ellis opened it up to the floor for questions.

Merseyrail: Changes to train timetables for Sunday 28th August and Monday 29th August and Mersey Tunnel Closure

Due to the Matthew Street festival, Wirral Line trains will be following a temporary timetable. James Street station will be closed on Sunday 28th August and Monday 29th August.

The Wirral Line temporary timetable is in addition to a temporary Northern Line timetable.

Also The Queensway (Birkenhead) Tunnel will be closed to all traffic travelling in both directions from 1930 on Saturday 27 August until 0630 Tuesday 30 August.

The Kingsway (Wallasey) Tunnel will be open, however due to water main renewal works at Liverpool on the exit road towards the city centre, traffic will be limited to one lane. The lane will be closed from the exit of the tunnel at Liverpool to Scotland Road. All lanes will be operational through the tunnel itself however, delays may occur and motorists are advised to allow extra time for their journey.

Trains running to the special timetables will not stop at the following stations:-

Wirral Line
Chester and Ellesmere Port trains: No stopping at James Street or Liverpool Central stations
New Brighton and West Kirby trains: No stopping at James Street or Moorfields stations

Northern Line
Hunts Cross and Southport: on Monday 29th August trains will run to a Saturday timetable
Kirkby and Ormskirk: on Monday 29th August trains will run to a Saturday timetable with an earlier start time.

Looking back over the last 12 months

Looking back over the last half-year or so since this blog started, what were the stories and pages on this blog that have captured the public’s attention and brought them to this blog?

There was the story about the 2011 Census, which many people had questions about ranging from why was there no question 17 (it was a question asking if you understand, speak, read or write Welsh).

The About John Brace” page was popular and attracted a number of comments. It’ll be updated soon.

This Cabinet meeting about the Conservative-Lib Dem budget and Labour not being happy was read over a hundred times.

Merseytravel’s response on Mersey Tunnel’s issues also aroused interest.

The pages about protest outside Birkenhead County Court regarding Council Tax and the Save our Forests campaign were read just a bit more than stories about the Chinese New Year celebrations in Liverpool, HMS Campbeltown, ID Cards being scrapped or the Labour Chair of Merseytravel using his casting vote to increase Mersey Tunnel tolls.

More local issues also aroused interest such as the Lib Dem plan to invest £1.8 million in Cathcart Street primary school as a result of the closure of Cole Street primary school and the relocation of the Children’s Centre across the road to Cathcart Street Primary School, how much councillors are paid (which was used by some parties during the election to show how some councillors were getting £50,000+/year), Arriva not stopping its buses at the new bus stop near Tesco, the Lib Dem Mayor at Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm, Flaybrick cemetery flytipping and the Corsair in Bidston Village being demolished.

Over the Winter the issue of gritting and bin collections was on resident’s minds. The street level crime website and minimum price proposals for alcohol were also topics the public were interested in.

In total there have been 5,557 views of pages on this website and it has been read keenly by certain councillors and others. Yet who knows what the public will be wanting from its elected representatives in the next 12 months?

Arriva and the tale of the new bus stop at which Arriva buses won’t stop (for 5 months!) – Hoylake Road/Compton Road, Bidston

As regular readers of the Bidston & St. James Focus know, Merseytravel recently responded to a campaign we ran (on behalf of local residents of Beechwood) for extra bus stops on Hoylake Road near the Wirral Tennis & Sports Centre.

The one on the North side of Hoylake Road (opposite Compton Road) is fine and buses are stopping at it. Both stops now have timetables in too.

At the end of June I met with a representative of Merseytravel and Wirral Council on site. There was some concern about the effect of parking and traffic from Compton Road. However since a road of houses off Compton Road was demolished to make a park for Bidston Rise there’s been much less traffic coming into and out of Compton Road (which is short and only has houses one side). Both Merseytravel and Wirral Council agreed there would be no road safety issues as long as the bus stop didn’t obscure a drive on Hoylake or affect sight lines. At this point (a few yards from a set of traffic lights the traffic would be moving slowly anyway).

The bus would be fine stopping on the double yellow lines here and the no loading sign wouldn’t apply to a bus.

However a local resident recently stopped me in the street and told me that Arriva buses were not stopping at the Hoylake Road/Compton Road stop on the South side of Hoylake Road.

Originally Merseytravel had planned to put this stop further along Hoylake Road, but the resident outside whose house it’d be objected on grounds of parking and privacy. So instead it was sited nearer to the double yellow lines/no loading at Compton Road/Hoylake Road.

The resident said she had tried to get off Arriva buses at this stop, but they wouldn’t let her on/off, with the driver insisting it wasn’t a stop. However other operators such as Avon that use this route were stopping here. This sounded odd to me, so I wrote to Arriva.

Back in July all operators on the route (including Arriva) were written to about the proposed pair of new bus stops. This is what the Managing Director of Arriva wrote on the 16th July 2010 (before the bus stop was put in):-

Should existing bus stops be moved, Mr. Finnie would be more than happy to continue using these to aid access to the Tesco store for our customers. However, this would have to be fully risk assessed to ensure that these stops could be used safely

Bear in mind the existing bus stops weren’t moved, but new ones were added! A risk assessment was done by Wirral Council.

Arriva wrote to me again in a letter dated 23rd February 2011. In this they quote “The manager of Birkenhead depot has investigated and advised the following. Our drivers have been instructed not to serve this stop until we have carried out a full safety assessment on it. We apologise for any inconvenience this may be causing, but it is essential for the safety of our passengers, our drivers and other road users that this is completed before it is used. The stop will then be served once we have registered this additional stop with the Local Authority as we are required to do so.”

So, to summarise Arriva won’t stop their buses at a new bus stop which has been in place for 5 months. It’s already been risk assessed by Wirral Council and Merseytravel and been found to be a suitable site for a bus stop. The timetable insert (provided by Merseytravel) gives people the impression the Arriva services stop here. Today I took some photos of the stop and recorded a video to try and explain to Arriva (and the public) why they aren’t stopping here!

Hopefully Arriva will have some common sense in the near future and/or carry out their “full safety assessment”. I’ll be writing to Simon Finnie, the General Manager at Birkenhead (and back to Steven Hill) and taking him up on the offer of a site visit and Merseytravel if they wish to come.

Compton Road/Hoylake Road bus stop timetable

Compton Road/Hoylake Road bus stop timetable

Compton Road/Hoylake Road bus stop timetable

I did make a one minute video of myself at the bus stop explaining the above, but the traffic seems to have drowned me out! When out this morning, I did bump into the resident who seemed pleased that someone was taking an interest in the problem. However she was walking someone to school and couldn’t chat long.

When I clear up the audio (or dub over it) I’ll post it on this blog. On a point of local history, when I was a teenager the secondary school used to play hockey on the astroturf pitches at Wirral Tennis & Sports Centre in the Winter and Spring term. As the school day finished at the Wirral Tennis & Sports Centre we were expected to make our own way back home as the school minibus only took a few back to the school gates (the school minibus took twelve, but about a hundred boys in my year did sports here each week arriving in a coach). In 1994-1996 I could have done with these extra bus stops (especially in the cold Winter!) as it would’ve saved me a few minutes walk after the slog up the steep hill with sports gear from the sports centre.

However, the main reason behind these stops is to help Beechwood residents who visit Tesco by bus to shop. These extra stops save about 3 minutes walk along Hoylake Road (which with heavy bags of shopping can be tiring for the elderly or disabled).