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:
Councillor Bruce Berry
Councillor Chris Blakeley
Councillor Paul Hayes
Councillor Leah Fraser
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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