How did councillors think Wirral Council should spend £75,000 in Wallasey on road safety, cycling and walking?

How did councillors think Wirral Council should spend £75,000 in Wallasey on road safety, cycling and walking?

How did councillors think Wirral Council should spend £75,000 in Wallasey on road safety, cycling and walking?


Following on from yesterday’s story about a legal change meaning Wirral Council can’t prevent filming at its public meetings any more, the first meeting affected by this was a Working Group of the Wallasey Constituency Committee.

You can watch this entire meeting from beginning to end if you wish, but let’s start at the beginning.

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First here’s a list of who from the Working Group was present:

Conservative councillors
Councillor Bruce Berry
Councillor Chris Blakeley
Councillor Paul Hayes
Councillor Leah Fraser

Community representatives
Ken Harrison
Tony Jones
Brian Higgins

Labour councillors
Councillor Rob Gregson
Councillor Chris Jones
Councillor Adrian Jones
Councillor Matt Daniel
Councillor Anita Leech
Councillor Bernie Mooney
Councillor Janette Williamson

The first item was appointing a Chair (just for this meeting). Unusually nobody from Wirral Council’s legal services was present to advise the Committee, so the committee services officer Andrew Mossop asked for nominations for Chair.

Cllr Janette Williamson proposed Cllr Rob Gregson. Cllr Williamson’s proposal was seconded by Cllr Chris Jones.

Six out of seven Labour councillors voted for Cllr Rob Gregson as Chair.
Four out of four Conservative councillors voted against Cllr Rob Gregson being Chair.

So Cllr Rob Gregson was elected Chair by a vote of 6:4. Who was the Labour “rebel” who didn’t vote for Cllr Rob Gregson as Chair? Well the answer to that was he didn’t vote for himself.

Cllr Rob Gregson said “thank you very much” and wandered over to where the Chair sits and continued his list of thanks which was thankfully shorter than most Oscar acceptance speeches.

He thanked people for attending, he thanked myself and my wife, the councillors & community representatives. Having thanked literally everyone in the room, he then went on to apologies.

Andrew Mossop read out a list of apologies. It was a long list of councillors that couldn’t make it Cllr Pat Hackett (Labour), Cllr Treena Johnson (Labour), Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative) and Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative).

Councillor Anita Leech apologised for the absence of Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour). Another Labour councillor apologised for the absence of Cllr Chris Spriggs (Labour). The Council’s website also lists apologies from Keith Raybould (one of the community representatives).

The Chair got his glasses out of his shirt pocket to read what was the next item on the agenda. He asked for declarations of interest? Nobody made any declarations of interest.

The first main agenda item was Integrated Transport Block Capital Programme Funding (2014/15). In case that agenda item title means absolutely nothing to you, it was about how the committee would decide to spend £38,875 on “improving road safety” and £38,875 on promoting active travel & health. The jargon “active travel” if you’re unfamiliar with the term it refers to walking and cycling.

The Chair asked Wirral Council’s road safety manager David Rees to introduce his report. He explained that his report and how officers decided on road safety schemes based on casualty figures. Mr Rees referred to what the money could be spent on, such as vehicle activated signs which had previously been funded by the Area Forums. Another way the money could be spent was on dropped crossings which assisted pedestrians with mobility issues, blind people, those in wheelchairs and mums with prams. The list of schemes already approved by Cabinet under central funding was referred to. He asked for areas that the Committee wished officers to look into and they would find out how much it was likely to cost.

Councillor Leah Fraser spoke first and asked a question and asked what on the list had been dealt with already which was replied to by David Rees. The next councillor to be heard was the mellifluous tones of Councillor Adrian Jones. After a short answer to his question Cllr Adrian Jones explained that he was in a position to understand his own ward (which is Seacombe) but that they had to decide what was best for Wallasey. He explained that each councillor would make a bundle of requests for their own ward which would go to officers, who’d then make recommendations. He said he assumed that David Rees must be frustrated by the process.

David Rees in his answer referred to Department for Transport regulations. Mr Rees said that even with suggestions where there weren’t recorded accidents, there may be broader benefits that officers could see for particular schemes.

Councillor Chris Jones asked about potholes and asked whether some could be done using the extra pothole funding that Wirral Council had received? David Rees explained that he had limited knowledge of the highway maintenance side and that they were keen to sort out the potholes while the weather was good. He said he could ask Caroline Laing to circulate a list to the Committee as to which ones they were looking at sorting out.

Councillor Chris Blakeley said, “OK thanks Chairman, .. I’m aware we’re being filmed tonight” and glanced in the direction of the camera. He said “we all know our own wards” and “at the risk of sounding like a stuck needle” that in the days of the Area Forums, where there were two wards involved that they used to split the money down the middle. He suggested that the money should be split six ways (as there are six wards in Wallasey), so that each ward would get just under £13,000.

The Chair replied to Councillor Chris Blakeley and admitted he was a little confused, but he said the danger was that the more articulate councillors being able to able to describe a minor dint in the road as apocalyptic which would mean such things would be favoured over areas that needed to be looked at.

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Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 prevents councillors stopping filming at public meetings

Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 prevents councillors stopping filming at public meetings

Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 prevents councillors stopping filming at public meetings


Today marks a change in the filming of public meetings of Wirral Council. Today is when the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 comes into effect. This new law (which only applies to England) prevents local councils stopping filming of their public meetings (which obviously is welcomed by myself and others up and down the country).

It doesn’t however just apply to local councils, but also to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, meetings of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (which includes Merseytravel) and joint committees such as the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel. The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Merseyside Police and Crime Panel have in the recent past refused requests from myself to film their public meetings (you can read here about the refusal by four councillors on the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel which happened back in April). The new law also applies to meetings of parish councils, although there aren’t any of these in Wirral there are in the rest of Merseyside.

However Wirral Council it seems is still clinging to the past. Here is a statement they gave to BBC Radio Merseyside which was read out this morning on the Tony Snell show:

“We are considering the practical implications of the legislation. Wirral Council’s meetings are regularly filmed by members of the public and journalists and residents live tweet and write blogs about proceedings. However we also need to consider the feelings of members of the public, who might be involved in proceedings and who may or may not wish to be filmed. We’re always keen to look at new ways of opening the democratic process to residents.”

The most recent example of Wirral Council stopping filming at a public meeting was exactly two months ago today at a Licensing 2003 subcommittee meeting to decide on an application for an alcohol licence for a shop in Moreton.

As to blogs, well it was about a month ago that Wirral Council made a threat of a libel lawsuit (which was withdrawn five minutes later) against this blog with regards to a comment somebody else had written.

August however is a quiet time for public meetings at Wirral Council. There is a public meeting of the Wallasey Constituency Committee Working Group tonight at 6pm in Committee Room 2 to discuss how they’ll spend £38,875 on improving road safety, £38,875 on promoting active travel and health and whether to spend £1,000 on marketing (leaflets about the Wallasey Constituency Committee and the Have Your Say meetings).

Tomorrow at 6pm (also at Wallasey Town Hall) is a meeting of the Coordinating Committee to discuss two call ins. The first call in is about a recent Cabinet decision over less generous concessions for current and former Armed Forces personnel at Wirral’s leisure centres and the second is about a recent Cabinet decision to remove funding for the Forest Schools program. However before a decision is reached on both matters the meeting will be adjourned. The one about Forest Schools will be adjourned until 6pm on Thursday 18th September and the one about leisure centres will be adjourned to Tuesday 23rd September at 6pm. The rest of the month of August (apart from a Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee meeting on the 27th August at 10am) there is only one other public meeting which is a Planning Committee meeting on Thursday 21st August at 6pm.

My next blog post today will be illustrating why filming is necessary to show that what politicians say at public meetings of Wirral Council and what Wirral Council states in their press releases isn’t always true

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