Looking back to 2014 on this blog at the 3 most popular stories for each month
The lists below are of the top three most viewed stories in each month in 2014. To be selected each story also had to be published in that particular month.
1 Why did Martin Morton call for three councillors to resign?
2 Birkenhead Market Limited Accounts: Is This The Reason Behind Neptune’s Masterplan?
3 The letter Wirral Council wrote gagging Councillor Gilchrist
The year started with a look at why Martin Morton had called on Cllr Pat Williams, Cllr Moira McLaughlin and Cllr Denise Roberts to resign. I also published the accounts for Birkenhead Market Limited (who lease Birkenhead Market from Wirral Council) and a letter gagging Councillor Gilchrist.
1 Exclusive: Incredible £88,174 loss made by Merseytravel on sale of Liverpool pub
2 Incredible: Lyndale School call in causes second constitutional crisis for Wirral Council!
3 District Judge Woodburn grants Wirral Council possession order: pony club given a year to leave Fernbank Farm
After the Merseytram matter hit the buffers, Merseytravel was left with property that it didn’t want or need. The first story is about what happened when they tried to sell it off. The second story is the first about Lyndale School and how when the first Cabinet decision got called in, the call in committee had to ask Council to add extra people to it who’d been left off in a “constitutional oversight”. The third story was about the court battle between Wirral Council and Upton Park Pony Association. Upton Park Pony Association were given a year to leave Fernbank Farm (which is owned by Wirral Council).
1 Will you comment on the government’s new public meeting filming law before consultation ends on the 12th March?
2 Wirral Council show how “open and transparent” they really are
3 Mark Latham of Wirral Street Pastors tells Wirral’s councillors graphic stories about Birkenhead’s boozy night life
Mark Latham from Wirral Street Pastors told councillors on Wirral Council’s Licensing Act 2003 Committee about his experiences of Birkenhead’s night life and alcohol (19th March 2014)
It may seem strange now, but in March the government were consulting on changes to the filming public meetings law. Some changes were made to the draft regulations and a right to live commentary during meetings was removed. Some new criminal offences were also added to the same legislation (but not to the section about filming). The “open and transparent” story was about the Chief Executive, in a 4 page letter, upholding an earlier decision at internal review to refuse a Freedom of Information Act request for the minutes of the Standards Working Group of the 17th December 2013. The last story was about the Wirral Street Pastors organisation and what Mark Latham had to say at a public meeting about Birkenhead’s night life.
1 Who are the 113 candidates in the 2014 Wirral Council elections?
2 Liverpool City Region Combined Authority choose Cllr Phil Davies as Chair
3 How much evidence does there have to be of wrongdoing at Wirral Council before an apology is given?
113 candidates stood in the Wirral Council elections and only 23 of these were later elected. However if you’re interested who they were then there’s a list of names. The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority met for the first time on April 1st and chose Cllr Phil Davies as Chair. The third story is my rebuttal of a (mainly) false complaint made about me by a Lib Dem.
1 Election results for North West Region (European Parliamentary Election 2014)
2 Election results for Wallasey (Conservative hold), West Kirby and Thurstaston (Conservative hold) and Upton (Labour hold)
3 Election results for Leasowe and Moreton East (Labour Gain), Hoylake and Meols (Conservative hold) and New Brighton (Labour hold)
May had two elections in it. The first was where one councillor to Wirral Council was elected for each ward (except one that elected two due to a recent resignation in Greasby, Frankby and Irby). The second election was for 8 Members of the European Parliament for the North West region. The Lib Dems lost their only MEP in the region Chris Davies and ended up with no Members of the European Parliament in North-West England. Brian Kenny (Labour) lost his council seat in Birkenhead and Tranmere to Pat Cleary (Green Party). Ian Lewis (Conservative) lost his council seat to Treena Johnson (Labour) in Leasowe and Moreton East. Labour also gained in Pensby and Thingwall (the seat was held by an independent formerly a Lib Dem who wasn’t standing).
So the net result was that Labour increased its number of councillors from 37 to 38 (a majority of seats on Wirral Council is one party having 34 or more councillors). The Conservatives decreased their number of councillors from 22 to 21. The Lib Dems stayed on six and the Greens increased from no councillors to one.
1 Wirral Council: It’s time for some answers over Fernbank Farm and filming!
2 Horses or 100 houses at Fernbank Farm? Liverpool City Region Combined Authority agrees to list it for housing
3 If Lyndale School closed: what might happen next?
In June I started publishing some of the court papers to do with the Fernbank Farm case including Wirral Council’s particulars of claim. During filming a public meeting of the Licensing Act 2003 Committee Cllr Steve Niblock insisted on me stopping so I moaned to Surjit Tour about it. The last story was warning about the effects on the health of the children at Lyndale School if the Lyndale School were to be closed.
1 Wirral Council takes 5 minutes to U-turn on libel threat over Graham Burgess golf email to councillors
2 Graham Burgess invites Wirral Council councillors to 5 days of the Open Golf Championship
3 Councillor Walter Smith “I must say I enjoyed lavish hospitality”
July was all about golf because of the Open Golf Championship. First the email of Graham Burgess was claimed to be “fraudulent” by Surjit Tour (who referred to it as the “Open Gold Championship”). Then five minutes later Surjit Tour tried to recall the email. Then BBC Radio Merseyside had a caller asking about the story. Wirral Council’s press office then managed to tell BBC Radio Merseyside two contradictory versions of events over a short period of time. However don’t worry Cllr Walter Smith came on the radio and told everybody how in his day job as a tailor he had enjoyed “lavish hospitality” at the golf!
1 Lyndale School Consultation branded “white-wash” & 1 officer is singled out for criticism for lack of impartiality
2 UPDATED: EXCLUSIVE: 90 Incredible Lyndale School Closure Consultation responses
3 Why did Wirral Council spend an incredible £1,872 on a London barrister to prevent openness and transparency?
Phil Ward came in for criticism for the way he’d chaired the Lyndale School consultation meetings. As part of the 2013/14 audit I made public the £1,872 Wirral Council had spent on Robin Hopkins of 11KBW to make sure that they didn’t have to give out information to a Freedom of Information Act requester in response to ICO decision notice FS50474741.
1 Expense claim forms for Councillor Tony Smith 2013 to 2014 reveal mysterious Lyndale School meeting in February 2013
2 The 25 ways in which the Wirral Council Cabinet decision about Lyndale School is flawed
3 A letter to Wirral Council about the 29 ways they allegedly got the Lyndale School decision wrong
The mileage claim forms for councillors threw up some interesting visits, including one by Cllr Tony Smith to Lyndale School back in February 2013. Once again the Cabinet decided to go ahead to the next stage of consultation on closure of Lyndale School, Surjit Tour got sent another of my letters pointing out the flaws in the decision-making process. The decision was called in.
1 Marvin the Martian returns to try to understand the incredible Lyndale School situation and the £1 million SEN budget cut
2 Whistleblowers assembled in Committee Room 1 to hear apologies from Wirral Council over a toxic whistleblowing saga involving secrecy, national, local and regional government, internal and external audit, the private sector, ££££s, senior managers, contracts and Wirral Council
3 Graham Burgess (Chief Executive) announces he will retire from Wirral Council on 31st December 2014
Marvin the Martian returned to discuss Lyndale and cuts to the SEN budget. The special Audit and Risk Management Committee meeting (twice adjourned from July 2014) finally met on 8th October 2014 to discuss the BIG/ISUS issues and hear from Nigel Hobro. Graham Burgess also gave in his three-month notice and announced his retirement from 31st December 2014.
1 Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”
2 Trade unions march on Wirral Council, only to hear how wonderful the 2014 Open Golf championship was
3 Dan Stephens answers questions at 4th public consultation meeting on Greasby, Upton & West Kirby fire station plans
A Merseytravel public meeting to discuss whistleblowing led to an interesting turn of phrase. The trade unions marched on Wallasey Town Hall, to have to first sit through a Cabinet meeting discussing how wonderful the Open Golf Championship had been. A consultation on a possible new fire station in Greasby village led to a packed public meeting in Greasby, with Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer) doing his best to answer questions from the public about Wirral Council’s involvement.
1 8 Labour councillors on Wirral Council vote to close Lyndale School from 31st August 2016
2 Wirral Schools Forum member expresses concern at proposed £600,000 cut for children with special educational needs
3 7 Wirral Council councillors, 1 appointment to be longlisted & an HR consultant from Penna PLC; what could possibly go wrong?
December’s stories start with the sad news that just before Christmas the Cabinet decided to close Lyndale School (from 31st August 2016). A member of the Wirral Schools Forum expressed concern at the scale of cuts to special educational needs and Wirral Council councillors decided on a long list for a Head of Specialist Services (the outgoing Head of Specialist Services leaves on 31st December 2014).
So that’s it for the 2014 round-up! See you in 2015!
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