Area Forum – 8/6/2011 Bidston & Claughton, 8/6/2011 Library, University Academy Birkenhead (formerly Park High) Part 6

Gary Cummings (Streetscene) said they could build out with chicanes and that because of the “20 is plenty” campaign sometimes a road was left for the emergency services eg police and ambulance. He would look at the alternatives, however it didn’t have to be humps. They could look at signing and speed activated signs. A … Continue reading “Area Forum – 8/6/2011 Bidston & Claughton, 8/6/2011 Library, University Academy Birkenhead (formerly Park High) Part 6”

Gary Cummings (Streetscene) said they could build out with chicanes and that because of the “20 is plenty” campaign sometimes a road was left for the emergency services eg police and ambulance. He would look at the alternatives, however it didn’t have to be humps. They could look at signing and speed activated signs.

A member of the public raised the issue of the roads in Noctorum and how dangerous it was when getting a bus. They had speed cameras, buut they didn’t seem to do anything. They had been told they can’t afford anything more. There was another slow sign and they had lived there three years. Cllr Foulkes said there had been an automated speed sign.

A member of the public asked about Park Road South. Cllr Foulkes said due to buses and ambulances there were no humps here. He referred to the lady from Sumner Road being against speed bumps and said the speed of traffic in Tollemache Road was a significant nuisance. Cllr Davies said it was a clear road.

John Brace raised about concerns raised at the Bidston Village Conservation Area committee about the speed of traffic on Bidston Village Road. Cllr Foulkes responded.

Michelle Gray said there was £200,000 for road safety, £20,000 of which would be decided by this Area Forum under You Decide. Whatever was needed in the local area, she could liase and feed back to the Forum and to councillors. Streetscene needed a list of roads and footways that needed maintenace.

Area Forum – 8/6/2011 Bidston & Claughton, 8/6/2011 starting at 6.30pm, library, University Academy Birkenhead (formerly Park High) Part 1

Present: Cllr George Davies (Claughton)
Cllr Steve Foulkes (Claughton)
Cllr Denise Roberts (Claughton)
Cllr Jim Crabtree
Also: Lucy Beed
Michelle Gray
Ian Brand
Jim Thompson
Community Patrol
Police representative
Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service
+ members of the public

The Chair Cllr Roberts welcomed those present to the Area Forum and introduced those present. Ian Brand was the lead officer, Cllr Foulkes was a Claughton councillor and Leader of Wirral Council. Cllr Davies was also a Claughton councillor. Lucy Beed was there from planning and customer engagement. Gary Cummings was there from Streetscene, Jim Thompson introduced himself. So did a person from the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service but I didn’t manage to catch their name. A sergeant from Laird Street was also there as well as Cllr Crabtree and Michelle Gray.

Apologies had been received from Jean McIntosh (community representative), Dr. Abi Mantgani (NHS), Pat Landsborough (community representative)

Cllr Foulkes said that he was going to every Area Forum and introducing himself as the new Leader of Wirral Council. He wanted people to approach him directly. The Area Forums when created had drifted away from their original aims in devolving power and resources. He wanted a good turnout at meetings and for Area Forums to be revived. Area Forums would play a huge part in owning Neighbourhood Plans. By December Bidston & St. James/Claughton Area Forum would have its own neighbourhood plan, which would influence himself as Council Leader regarding the area’s needs and priorities.

What’s happening on Wirral Council? Views from Labour and the Tories

The national print media have finally picked up on the dilemma facing the Liberal Democrat councillors on Wirral Council ahead of next Monday evenings’ adjourned Council meeting to decide.

So far all we know from part 1 on Monday evening is that the Mayor is Cllr Moira McLaughlin, the Deputy Mayor is Cllr Gerry Ellis and that Cllrs Harney, Green and Foulkes will be Wirral Council’s representatives on the Merseyside Police Authority Appointments Committee. However this was all thoroughly predictable.

Certainly the defection of Cllr Niblock from Lib Dem to Labour will upset the careful calculations by officers as to committee allocations and outside body allocations for the Labour Group and the Lib Dem Group, which will have to be revised by Monday evening.

Cllr Niblock was only the Liberal Democrat councillor from Wirral on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority last year. I have been in touch with him in the past about solutions to the problems of deliberate grass fires on Bidston Hill. Since then the Community Patrol have been issued with packs to put out small grass fires. Cllr Niblock used to live in Bidston & St. James until the house he lived in was demolished (as many have been in the last few years). For many years until he moved he was the only Lib Dem councillor living in Bidston & St. James ward (representing Bromborough) and as we lived a few blocks away we used to sometime bump into each other at the bus stop outside the bus depot from time to time.

His mother was a critic of Cllr Foulkes (Labour’s leader) on both the local Area Forum for Bidston & St. James/Claughton ward (she served as the Older People’s Parliament representative) and if I recall correctly also the Local Strategic Partnership Assembly. When she retired I remember her saying to Cllr Foulkes that she thought he would be glad, due to her robust criticism of him during meetings and that she’d been “a thorn in his side”. She was well liked and many councillors attended her funeral.

I wish Cllr Niblock all the best in his new political group and I’m sure he will follow in her footsteps as he tends to be someone that like his mother speaks from experience and enthusiasm. This is in contrast to some councillors on Wirral Council who give long, hard to follow, dreary speeches which lead to the listeners and the speakers being more confused about the issue than when they’ve started.

In 2009/2010 he received an extra £14,660 for being on Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority (and probably a similar amount in 2010/2011 in addition to the £9,094.58 he gets as a local councillor). However with the reduction in Liberal Democrat councillors, the four places representing Wirral Council on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority will go to two Tories and two Labour councillors, instead of two Tory, one Labour and one Lib Dem.

Clearly if Labour put Steve Niblock forward as one of their two representatives on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority he will face the same accusation that former Cllr. Denis Knowles did; that he is switching parties merely to do with a position on an outside body (which comes with a generous allowance). However in this case it would be Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority instead of Merseytravel.

If this is the case and he becomes one of Labour’s two representatives for Wirral Council on Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority, had he stuck with the Lib Dems he would’ve seen a drop in his income as their allocation for Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority was reduced from one to zero. We will see what happens on Monday.

More about Labour’s position including a quote from Cllr. Niblock is in this article in the Independent where it discusses the situation on Wirral.

Cllr. Jeff Green’s view (Leader of the Conservative Group) can be read in a blog post entitled “Random thoughts from the Twilight Zone”.

What happens next is anybody’s guess at this stage. Clearly after 103,162 people voted this year it comes down to nine Lib Dem councillors to decide. However with one in seven voting Lib Dem this year, over 14,000 Wirral residents, it is clear that with no party gaining a majority that the Wirral public wants parties to work together to solve Wirral’s problems over the coming year. The Lib Dems just have till next Monday evening to decide if that is Labour or the Conservatives.

What is known is that whatever party (or parties) are in control and in charge of drawing up a Budget for 2012/2013, more cuts are coming. The Budget projection given by the Council’s Director of Finance Ian Coleman on the 13th January shows that £26.5 million worth of savings need to be found by March 2012 based on the assumption that Council Tax next year will be frozen again. Around half this amount (£14.1 million) is due to a reduction in grant funding to Wirral Council by the Coalition government. The rest is due to increased requirements, such as a predicted rise in people claiming benefit (eg Housing Benefit), pay inflation, the amount to Merseytravel going up and similar items.

If Council Tax was increased next year by 5%, it would only help the Budget by £3 million due to the loss of a Council Tax Freeze Grant equivalent to a 2.5% Council Tax rise.

With a Lib Dem/Tory government and Lib Dem/Tory council for this last year the influence that Bidston & St. James Labour councillors can bring to bear on the decision makers and holders of the purse strings is less than it was under a Labour government or Labour/Lib Dem council. However at the local level some amounts of money are being delegated to the Area Forum (which locally covers Bidston & St. James/Claughton), such as the Empty Shops funding and small amounts of other money too. As Labour councillors make the decisions at the Area Forum level and appoint their own party members to other positions on the Area Forum panel, they can decide on where some money is spent.

Cabinet meeting – 14th April 2011 – Election Special Edition – Part 4 – Support for Wirral Council’s Coastal Resort Towns

Kevin Adderley introduced the report referring to the special Area Forums concerned to decide and score the proposals. He said for the Hoylake and West Kirby area that the top five successful projects had been chosen, but that Wirral Council would work with those unsuccessful applications to try and find alternative funding. He said there was a risk regarding council owned assets and that it was a significant risk. The health and safety implications were also referred to and he said they had “learnt a lot” and a further report would be coming to Cabinet on the participatory budget process.

There had been some disagreement with the proposals, stories in the local press, email and a letter from a Caroline Allsop which had been circulated to Cabinet members. Cllr Green and Cllr Elderton declared a personal interest as they had attended the West Kirby area forum. Cllr Green said letting go and inviting people to make decisions meant they had to live with the public’s choice. There had been clear guidance and presentations, however lessons would be learnt. More opportunities need to be taken to delegate decision to residents in their neighbourhoods. It was important to learn the lessons. He thanked Kevin and the engagement team.

Cllr Holbrook noted that both Area Forums chose the participatory budget route. The Cabinet resolution had not specified the method, but evidence showed it was the right decision and went well.

Cllr Lewis referring to community engagement said there had been a good attendance at the special Area Forums, however if there was no real offer at Area Forums and people there just heard the Council drone on it led to lower attendances. Involving residents in deciding how money was spent was a way to encourage them to come along.

Area Forum Bidston & St. James/Claughton 2/2/2011 Part 1

The papers and reports for last night’s Area Forum can be read here. Present were a representative from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, Mark Smith (Streetscene), Lucy Beed (to give a report on the Census), Cllr Roberts, Cllr Smith, Cllr Crabtree, Cllr Foulkes, Alastair Bardsley (representing the NHS Wirral University Teaching Hospitals (Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge), Jim Thompson (Community Safety Team), Jean McIntosh, Cllr McLachlan and Melanie from Warmer Wirral.

In the audience were about sixteen members of the public.

Apologies were received from Dr. Mantgani. No apologies were received from the police. Cllr Roberts welcomed people and asked members of the Area Forum panel to introduce themselves. Cllr Davies arrived a few minutes late during the introductions.

Warmer Wirral explained that they have a team of ten people knocking on every door in Claughton over the next month offering free loft and cavity wall insulation. Cllr Roberts then asked panel members to give their reports with a chance for the public to ask questions at 8.15pm.

The Area Forum co-ordinator Michelle Gray gave a progress report on matters that had been raised at the last Area Forum. On the subject of dog control, she had contacted other councils, the police, the community safety team and environmental health. They had told her that currently there was no bylaw on Wirral controlling dogs and there had to be full consultation before dog control orders. She would find out more and councillors could feedback through their surgeries.