I read with interest Cllr Tom Harney’s press release about a response to the Anna Klonowski report. He is right that Wirral Council needs to change and Cllr Tom Harney calls for more joint party working.
However it was his group of councillors that in May ended the joint Conservative-Lib Dem “progressive partnership” by their “positive abstentions”. This put an end to a certain level of joint working between the Lib Dems and Tories that Cllr Harney is now calling for!
In his press release of 19th May 2011 he set out why the remaining nine Lib Dem councillors through their “positive abstentions” were supporting a Labour minority administration. Labour have 45% of the councillors, but 100% of the seats on the ten councillor Cabinet (which makes most of the major decisions).
No party has a majority on Wirral Council (Labour 30, Conservative 27, Lib Dem 9). The Lib Dems hold the balance of power between the two largest groups (Labour and Conservative).
However what Anna Klonowski’s reports doesn’t mention is that the corporate governance issue problems experienced by Wirral Council are mirrored by corporate governance problems (of varying sorts) in all the political parties on Wirral that nominate candidates who become councillors on lead Wirral Council. Until the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem parties get their own houses in order, there’s unlikely to be the impetus and political leadership for much change at Wirral Council. It suits all political parties to keep certain things about how they’re operating out of the public domain and press, yet it can entrench unfairness and injustice within their own parties.
Moving to the issues of which governance model Wirral Council should use, this was last decided on the 21st December 2009. However Cllr Tom Harney voted for the “Leader and Cabinet” model of governance along with all the Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors present. The Conservative councillors voted against.
If the current Labour Cabinet has too much power now it’s because Cllr Harney voted for such a model of governance on the 21st December 2009! However then it suited the Lib Dem and Labour councillors. Each party (then) had five seats in the Cabinet.
However there are still the powers for any group of councillors to “call-in” Cabinet decisions. They can even call in decisions by individual Cabinet members. Clearly things need to change, but there are different opinions about the way forward.