So what happened each month in 2017?
2017 was such a newsworthy year it’s hard to know where to start.
The year started with councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority furious over the refusal of planning permission for a new fire station in Saughall Massie.
Former Cllr Crabtree also received a 12 month suspended sentence for a drunken death threat made to Cllr Louise Reecejones.
February saw a rare Cabinet U-turn on car parking charges and an Employment Tribunal involving Alison Mountney. The latter (reporting on an Employment Tribunal) was a first for this blog. During the Tribunal, Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour was cross-examined under oath about Wirral Council’s approach to whistleblowing which continued here.
March saw the start of a byelection in Claughton following the death of Denise Roberts. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service submitted a revised planning application for a smaller fire station, further away from the nearby properties. There was a bad-tempered Liverpool City Council Budget meeting where one councillor called another a “slimeball”. The unions blamed Merseytravel for a series of strikes over the new trains and guards. Oh and this month marked the start of the campaign to be the first Mayor for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority too.
Also this month an explosion happened in New Ferry.
April saw May call for a general election in June. 522 MPs agreed with her. My FOI request for correspondence with the government over Wirral Council’s Wirral View was answered after a 6 month wait and citizen audit rights were extended to journalists.
May saw the arrest of Liverpool City Council’s Chief Executive Ged Fitzgerald, Merseyside Fire and Rescue decided not to appeal its original planning application, I published the rest of the bundle for an EIR request associated to it. Julia Hassall resigned and Cabinet Member Cllr Tony Smith left the Cabinet. The Chair of the Improvement Board also quit. Councillors on Liverpool City Council agreed themselves a payrise.
There was an election result (in Claughton) and for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, we were the only press that applied to be at the count. However Eric Robinson refused our press accreditation. I still however filmed footage from outside the count, talking to Cllr Phil Davies, Cllr Lesley Rennie, Cllr Stuart Kelly, Cllr Matthew Patrick and Wirral Council’s Community Patrol told me to keep out.
In June, Eric Robinson was overruled and we both arrived at the count as election observers. Election observers are a category that by law have to be allowed at a count. Once again Community Patrol made sure we couldn’t go in and kept us waiting in the car park until they were overruled by Wirral Council staff.
We were also nearly prevented from going to one of Wirral Council’s public meetings in time to set up recording equipment, being allowed in to the room 30 seconds before its scheduled start time. The reason given this time was on anti-terrorism grounds!
July saw a decision on the revised planning application for a fire station in Saughall Massie. Community Patrol had to be there to deal with the angry reaction from the public to this.
The planning row over marquees at Thornton Manor continued, there were political arguments over who pays to help New Ferry and there was a 20,085 signature petition against parking charges in country parks. However the petition was ignored and Wirral Council went ahead with charges. A number of senior managers left Wirral Council, Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer) had resigned, Clare Fish retired early and a phased retirement for Tom Sault (Chief Finance Officer) was also agreed.
Merseytravel were sued over the rolling stock contract and faced a large series of legal invoices, while the strike action that Merseytravel was also paying for continued. ICO required Wirral Council to release an agreement over the Hoylake Golf Resort (Wirral Council’s response was to appeal).
Strikes continued in September over the trains, planning policy was recommended to be altered to make an approval of Hoylake Golf Resort more likely, four months after his arrest Ged Fitzgerald was suspended, Wirral Council’s auditors gave their opinion that Wirral Council didn’t provide value for money (for the second year in a row), there was a political row over the closure of Eastham Walk-in Centre, we were told we wouldn’t be allowed at a public meeting about Hillsborough (whilst in the same month Wirral Council asked for bids on a contract to film such public meetings for £275,000.
David Ball came to the opinion that Wirral Council owning the land or a councillor having an interest in adjacent land was not an interest, councillors voted themselves a payrise and there was a response over covenants to right of light on the land for the fire station. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service later made it clear it wasn’t an issue they wanted to enter into correspondence about.
A new contract worth £750,000 for Wirral Council’s newspaper Wirral View was awarded. I reported on a Judge who tried to exercise a legal power he didn’t have, Cabinet agreed a 150 year lease for the fire station and I published the reasons (Particulars of Claim) why Bombardier was suing Merseytravel over the new trains.
Councillors agreed to a further £600,000 for the new fire station and the government agreed to contribute a further £500,000, Cllr Phil Davies faced opposition over the Hoylake Golf Resort plans, followed by a demands from the public gallery above the Council Chamber that he listen to the public.
Councillors discussed a naming and shaming approach to bad behaviour, Wirral Council consulted on altering the greenbelt and finally to consult on budget options which included spending £1.4 million on departing staff to save £750,000.
I plan to be on holiday now and will resume blogging after the Christmas break.
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