Posted by: John Brace | 30 March 2020

So what’s been happening at Wirral Council in the last week (22nd March 2020 to 29th March 2020)?

So what’s been happening at Wirral Council in the last week (22nd March 2020 to 29th March 2020)?

                                     

Councillor Pat Hackett (Leader of Wirral Council) and Paul Satoor (Chief Executive of Wirral Council) 23rd December 2019

Councillor Pat Hackett (Leader of Wirral Council) and Paul Satoor (Chief Executive of Wirral Council) 23rd December 2019

By John Brace (Editor)

The House of Commons and House of Lords are now no longer sitting (due to return on the 21st April 2020) so this is an update on roughly a week of activity at Wirral Council as it is important people know what’s been decided. Due to delayed publication of decisions unfortunately this will lead to delayed reporting.

This is in chronological order starting with what would have happened at the Cabinet meeting scheduled for the 24th March 2020 that was cancelled.

Cabinet (cancelled meeting of the 24th March 2020)

As far as I can tell most of the decisions that would have happened at this meeting (plus an extra one about the contingency arrangements) were taken by the Leader of the Council Cllr Pat Hackett. Due to the sheer volume of decisions this piece is covering, I will link each mention to Wirral Council’s website if you want further information (although you can also read the public reports to the cancelled Cabinet meeting on Wirral Council’s website).

SmartBusiness (ERP) Project Update

Cllr Pat Hackett decided that Wirral Council could go out to tender for a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system (also covers progress so far).

Coronavirus Contingency Planning

Cllr Pat Hackett agreed a change to the Council’s executive priorities during the Covid-19 outbreak. The new priorities are (i) preservation of life, (ii) supporting the vulnerable; (iii) safeguarding children; and (iv) aiding the Borough’s businesses and economy. This also delegates decision-making to the Chief Executive and Directors in various areas (albeit in consultation with the Leader, relevant Cabinet Member and/or political Group Leaders).

Town Centre / High Street Funds – Birkenhead and New Ferry Future High Street Fund

Cllr Pat Hackett agreed that Wirral Council make applications to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government in respect of New Ferry and Birkenhead Town Centres in relation to the Future High Street Fund by the deadline of 30th April 2020 (the Liscard application has been withdrawn by Wirral Council). Regeneration consultants Avison Young are working with Wirral Council on the full business case and this follows Wirral Council being awarded a section 31 grant of £150,000 for both New Ferry and Birkenhead to develop the business case.

A video clip below filmed by the BBC at Wallasey Town Hall explains some of the issues regarding New Ferry.

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Inside Out North West from 26th March 2020

Highway Structural Maintenance Programme 2020/21 – Funding Allocations and Detailed Programme for Classified Roads

Cllr Pat Hackett agreed to accept the money from the Department for Transport through the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and also decided how this £2,149,000 is to be allocated on roads, footways, bridges and street lighting for the 2020-21 financial year. A list of roads, approximate limits and wards is included in appendix 1 (which covers the spend of £949,000 on the Highway Structural Maintenance Programme).

Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2020-2025

Cllr Pat Hackett agreed the five-year delivery plan, which followed a homeless review and public consultation. The plan aims to deliver lasting change to those at risk of or currently homeless in the Wirral.

Birkenhead Market Full Business Case

Cllr Pat Hackett agreed the preferred option (demolish, redesign and redevelop the current market site). A further report on proposed design, funding and financial modelling is expected. Termination of existing tenancies and other arrangements at the appropriate time was agreed.

The People’s Pool Project – Our Lido Ltd

Cllr Pat Hackett agreed the recommendations for £80,000 of funding for a feasibility project involving Our Lido Ltd for a lido (open air swimming pool) complex on a Council site in Wirral (several options for sites are under consideration). According to Wirral Council, Our Lido Limited state their intention to raise future capital funding from other external grant providers.


There were then a number of decisions taken by the Chief Executive under the coronavirus contingency arrangements (referred to above that were published).

17th March 2020 – temporary closure of the Floral Pavilion Theatre and Conference Centre in New Brighton from the 18th March 2020.

18th March 2020 – decision to cease the use of bailiffs regarding residents and unpaid council tax.

18th March 2020 – rent relief for Birkenhead Market traders for the next 3 months.

18th March 2020 – closure of the Williamson Art Gallery (Oxton) and Birkenhead Priory (and Saint Mary’s Tower).

18th March 2020 – closure of the Wirral Archives Service in Birkenhead to the public.

19th March 2020 – closure of all Wirral Council leisure centres.

19th March 2020 – closure of all Wirral Council libraries.

19th March 2020 – closure of all youth clubs and playschemes.

19th March 2020 – spend of £200,000 plus £120,000 a year thereafter on a digital solution to enable working from home.

19th March 2020 – all One Stop Shops closed (except Birkenhead that remains open).

19th March 2020 – all Visitor Centres closed (all group activities in parks and countrysides ceased).

20th March 2020 – all parking charges in parks and countrysides removed.

20th March 2020 – all school crossing patrols to cease from 23rd March 2020.

20th March 2020 – bulky waste collections ceased, new garden waste subscriptions deferred.

22nd March 2020 – loan of £100,000 a month for 6 months to Age UK to maintain critical service provision.

22nd March 2020 – loan of £95,000 to Chamber of Commerce to maintain critical business support services.

23rd March 2020 – closure of youth centres across Wirral (including the Hive in Birkenhead).

23rd March 2020 – two out of five Children’s Centres temporarily closed.

24th March 2020 – contract award for Tower Road construction contract postponed.

24th March 2020 – Northbank West Sustainable Transport project postponed.

24th March 2020 – closure of all children’s play areas.

24th March 2020 – closure of all golf courses.

24th March 2020 – non-critical road markings service in highways ceased.

24th March 2020 – Birkenhead One Stop Shop reduced service provision for critical services only.

24th March 2020 – all public toilets closed.

24th March 2020 – Youth Justice service reduced – emergency contact only.

24th March 2020 – weed control services (highways) ceased.

24th March 2020 – reduction in street cleansing to prioritise services.

24th March 2020 – removal of non-offensive graffiti and flyposting ceased.

24th March 2020 – domestic refuse and recycling collections (reduction in service due to change in priorities).

24th March 2020 – closure of the pedestrian walkway around the West Kirby Marine Lake.

24th March 2020 – scaling back of parking enforcement measures.

25th March 2020 – Mancoed (tree maintenance contractor) to provide a call out service and only essential tree maintenance works for the forseeable future.

25th March 2020 – all parking enforcement scaled back.

25th March 2020 – inspection and monitoring of non-essential Street Works activities scaled back.

25th March 2020 – suspension of planned schemes (Hose Side Road footway, Argyle Street South Merseytravel access scheme, Rolleston Drive and Grove Road crossing improvement).

25th March 2020 – reduction in maximum number of mourners able to attend a funeral at Wirral cemeteries and crematorium (from thirty to fifteen). Non-essential exhumations temporarily suspended. Staff service of witnessing the scattering of ashes and burial of ashes temporarily suspended.

25th March 2020 – allotment plot holders and site secretaries told that all ‘non-cultivation’ inspections and notices are waived for three months. Also proof of ID will not be required in person for new allotment plot applications to the end of September 2020.

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Responses

  1. One thing they should be doing is going around the streets with a loud speaker van, telling people to stay in the house as there is a killer on the streets, the way people are just walking around is silly!, and as for walking dogs, that is a joke!

    • Thanks for your comment and suggestion.

      Here is some more information below on the movement restrictions. Although walking dogs isn’t on the list, exercise is!

      However none of this applies if you are homeless.

      Anyway the legislation (regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020) states:-

      “6.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.”

      “(3) For the purposes of paragraph (1), the place where a person is living includes the premises where they live together with any garden, yard, passage, stair, garage, outhouse or other appurtenance of such premises.”

      The list of “reasonable excuses” is as follows (it’s rather long):-

      “(a) to obtain basic necessities, including food and medical supplies for those in the same household (including any pets or animals in the household) or for vulnerable persons and supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household, or the household of a vulnerable person, or to obtain money, including from any business listed in Part 3 of Schedule 2;

      (b) to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household;

      (c) to seek medical assistance, including to access any of the services referred to in paragraph 37 or 38 of Schedule 2;

      (d) to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006(1), to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;

      (e) to donate blood;

      (f) to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;

      (g) to attend a funeral of—
      (i) a member of the person’s household,
      (ii) a close family member, or
      (iii) if no-one within sub-paragraphs (i) or (ii) are attending, a friend;

      (h) to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or to participate in legal proceedings;
      (i) to access critical public services, including—
      (i) childcare or educational facilities (where these are still available to a child in relation to whom that person is the parent, or has parental responsibility for, or care of the child);
      (ii) social services;
      (iii) services provided by the Department of Work and Pensions;
      (iv) services provided to victims (such as victims of crime);

      (j) in relation to children who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children, and for the purposes of this paragraph, “parent” includes a person who is not a parent of the child, but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care of, the child;

      (k) in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship;

      (l) to move house where reasonably necessary;

      (m) to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm.”

  2. There is no definition of ‘travel’ in the legislation, nor is there a definition of ‘exercise’.

    Without specific terminology, I am wondering how legal challenges would fare, should an individual exercise their right to decline the fixed penalty fine and go to court.

    There is no mention of reasonable distances of travel either. The legislation is full of precedents waiting to happen!

    • Thanks for your comment.

      In the absence of definitions of words in legislation, aside from words and phrases that have meanings defined in other legislation (basic words like the meaning of days, calendar days, working days etc) it would be down to courts and appeal courts as to how they interpret the meaning of a particular word and its wider meaning within a particular phrase or sentence.

      A few cases involving alleged breaches of the regulations have come before various courts since it came into effect on the 26th March 2020.

      • And there in, lies the rub…..interpretation!

        • Thanks for your comment – interpretation of legislation where the word or phrase has not been narrowly defined by Parliament is what keeps a lot of different professionals in this country in paid work or public office (plus parts of the media in reporting on it).

          • Thanks to this sort of legislation being made ‘on the hoof’, I suspect a lot of law professionals to be in the continuous receipt of fresh work!

            • Thanks for your comment.

              A lot of hearings are either video or telephone hearings with the judiciary, legal professionals and others such as parties, witnesses etc just watching/participating from home.

              You may have read media reports though of people arrested for alleged breach of the regulations and the resultant court hearings/result.

              I have asked this week by email for a copy of the Wirral Magistrates Court lists following the change to Criminal Procedure Rules on Monday. The only response I have had back is from a former manager of Wirral Magistrates Court who previously worked there (but now doesn’t) who at the time blocked my request (as they weren’t sure whether I was a journalist) but is now working elsewhere in the public sector. Certainly the agreed protocol for providing the Magistrates Court listings doesn’t seem to be working at all!


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