So what is the Love Wirral grant scheme you may wonder? Well it’s £40,000 of money split four ways between each constituency and will be available for “individuals, groups, schools and businesses” to “improve and look after their neighbourhoods”. The money can be applied for between 28th October 2013 and noon on 6th December 2013 with the sole aim of the project being “to improve the appearance of the local environment”.
Between the 13th and 24th January of next year the public will be able to vote online either yes or no to each project, councillors will decide which projects get the funding in the first half of February and successful projects will get the money in the middle to the end of March (the cynic in me would point out that’s just in time for it to be included in various candidate’s election leaflets taking credit for it). However in the report itself it states “this project will enable communities to play an active role in presenting Wirral to the world during the Open 2014”.
A third unstated reason behind all this would be the £1 million cut to the street cleansing contract this year and the threatened strike action that was reported in the Wirral Globe with the rather alarming threat from the unions that Wirral would be engulfed by a “tidal wave of filth”. You only have to look around to tell that the streets aren’t cleaned as often as they used to. So are we heading slowly towards the American “Adopt-a-Highway” system where local community groups are responsible for regular litter picks on a local stretch of the road? Is Wirral’s problem with litter made worse by Wirral Council cuts to enforcement too (which has meant fewer people fined for dog fouling as well as litter)? As usual your thoughts on this topic in the form of comments are appreciated.
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Prior to the Cabinet (which was rearranged from Committee Room 1 to the Civic Hall) there was a union protest outside the Town Hall and many of the hundreds of people stayed on for the meeting itself which lasted about an hour. When the Cabinet Members arrived they were booed.
No Cabinet Members declared any interests. The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed and Cllr Phil Davies asked the Interim Chief Executive Graham Burgess to talk about the proposals on the Council’s Budget from 2013 to 2016. Graham Burgess spoke for about five minutes about the issues.
Joe Taylor (the branch secretary of the local Wirral UNISON branch) then was asked to speak to the meeting. Before Mr. Taylor had even sat down, he received loud applause as well as whistling and cheering which continued even after he sat down. He started off by thanking Cllr Phil Davies for the opportunity to make a number of points. He said he would try to keep within the five minutes but not to hold him to that (he actually ended up speaking for eleven minutes).
He said after the Cabinet meeting of the 8th November the Labour Group had agreed to extend the consultation on the terms and conditions [of employment] which was welcomed, however he made it clear that UNISON was against any reduction in pay as a result of changed terms and conditions. He said it had been rumoured that the unions had agreed some savings, but that no savings had been agreed between the trade unions and Wirral Council.
Mr. Taylor said that during the ninety day consultation period they would work with the Authority [Wirral Council] to find alternatives. He said that they also welcomed the extension of the consultation on the voluntary redundancy scheme. He said that if Wirral Council did go for compulsory redundancies that UNISON and UNITE would ballot their members.
Joe Taylor then referred to the proposed senior management restructure and the budget consultation. He said they’d asked a national union officer to come down from London on the 16th January 2013 to go through the books so that the unions could come up with alternatives.
He said there should be no compulsory redundancies, but he said that the officer’s proposed savings “devastate services to the people of the Wirral”. Joe Taylor then said that the service losses would lead to job losses, that he didn’t want services to be slashed and asked the Labour Group to work with the trade unions and get something “viable for this Authority”. He told the Labour councillors “don’t smash the communities and the people who voted you in”.
The next items Mr. Taylor referred to were the special Scrutiny Committee meetings specifically the Council Excellence Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting [of the 5th December]. He said, “I was appalled, I was appalled and I was alarmed. I was alarmed on the basis that the person who came forward couldn’t quote some of the factual information that affects our members”, he went on to give three examples. The first job referred was a part-time receptionist which he claimed would lose out on £3,163 if the new terms and conditions were agreed which he said would equate to a 34% loss of pay. This prompted heckling from the audience.
The next job he referred to was an Emergency Duty Team Social Worker on £40,234, who would lose out on £8,098 if the revised terms and conditions were agreed followed by a part-time cleaner on £6,256 who he claimed would lose out on £4,175 under the revised terms and conditions. He said that those were the real facts that should be quoted and scrutinised by councillors and asked councillors to “delve into the detail”.
He said that if the revised terms and conditions were accepted that it would equate to a pay cut over the next three years. He next referred to the statement that changes to the essential car allowance in other authorities had caused a short disruption. He said, “If that’s the type of consultation that you study other authorities about car allowances and how much the disruption will be for the Authority, I can tell you now, we met with our Members, we’ve had six general meetings around the Borough and they were packed to the rafters. Packed to the rafters and they were quite clearly telling us they won’t use their cars. Social workers were saying they won’t use their cars.”