Liverpool City Region Combined Authority decides to freeze Mersey Tunnels cash tolls for 2016/17 at 2015/16 levels, reduce Fast Tag tolls in 2016/17, not charge tolls on Christmas Day 2016 and no tolls for emergency vehicles

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority decides to freeze Mersey Tunnels cash tolls for 2016/17 at 2015/16 levels, reduce Fast Tag tolls in 2016/17, not charge tolls on Christmas Day 2016 and no tolls for emergency vehicles

                                                              

Councillors on the Merseytravel Committee met on Thursday afternoon to decide on a recommendation on Mersey Tunnel tolls for 2016/17. Their recommendation was accepted at a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority that met the following day on Friday morning.

You can view video of the Merseytravel Committee meeting on Youtube below (starting at agenda item 6 (Mersey Tunnel tolls).

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Merseytravel Committee meeting 4th February 2016 starting at agenda item 6 (Mersey Tunnel tolls) (1m45s)

You can view video of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting on Youtube below (starting at agenda item 10 (Mersey Tunnel tolls 2016/17) below.

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The decision made was that cash tolls would be kept the same for 2016/17 as they were in 2015/16. The cash toll levels decided for 2016/17 are shown below.






Vehicle Class2016/17 Cash toll
1£1.70
2£3.40
3£5.10
4£6.80

The price for Fast Tag tolls was reduced for 2016/17. Below is a table of 2016/17 Fast Tag tolls compared to 2015/16.






Vehicle Class2016/17 Fast Tag toll2015/16 Fast Tag toll
1£1.20£1.40
2£2.40£2.80
3£3.60£4.20
4£4.80£5.60

There were also other changes agreed for 2016/17. Tunnel tolls will be waived for all classes of traffic between 10 pm on Christmas Eve (24th December 2016) to 6 am on Boxing Day (26th December 2016). All designated emergency vehicles will no longer have to pay tolls in 2016/17.

These were the votes on the Mersey Tunnel tolls decision at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting.

FOR THE PROPOSAL (4)
Mayor Joe Anderson (Liverpool City Council) FOR
Cllr Phil Davies (Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council) FOR
Cllr Andy Moorhead (Knowsley Council) FOR
Cllr John Fairclough (Sefton Council) deputy for Cllr Ian Maher (Sefton Council) FOR

ABSTENTION (1)
Cllr Rob Polhill (Halton) ABSTAIN

Reacting to the decision, John McGoldrick representing the Mersey Tunnels Users Association stated that “the [Liverpool City Region Combined] Authority would still be making a massive profit from the Tunnels and that most users of the Tunnels would not be seeing the reductions in tolls promised last year.”;

During the meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Cllr Phil Davies (pictured below) said,

Cllr Phil Davies speaking about Mersey Tunnel tolls for 2016 17 at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting on the 5th February 2016
Cllr Phil Davies speaking about Mersey Tunnel tolls for 2016 17 at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting on the 5th February 2016
“Yeah, I’d just like to say a few things about this. I welcome the recommendations of Merseytravel yesterday and the recommendations in this report.

Errm, I think I just need to record the fact that I’ve been involved in the errm the Task Group that’s been looking at this so, this issue errm, but I clearly wanted to, to hear what the outcome of the meeting is today was and I do endorse the approach.

I mean from each err, errm, we did make a commitment in the devolution deal that we gain control of the finances of the Mersey, Mersey Tunnels, errm and certainly you know, wearing my Wirral hat, I think this is definitely a big move forward, errm.

You know, the id.., the fact that the errm the cash toll has been frozen for a further year is great news but even more importantly the Fast Tag, which is effectively a local discount, is being reduced by 20p. So that would mean that errm, there’ll be a 50%, 50p discount per a journey, using the Fast Tag which if you’re travelling, if you’re travelling each day, it could be a saving of £5 a week.

So I think this is err, you know if I can use the expression, I think this is the kind of devolution dividend deal if you like, the deal that was signed with government, I think it will help local people who use the Fast Tag and local businesses. Errm and I really think this is a good demonstration of the value we’re getting already from the devolution deal but finally Chair I’d like to say I’m hoping in future err years we can go even further.

I think we need to do err more work, err more, I know there are more discussions errm err going on with government about us gaining even greater control over the finances of the Tunnels. Certainly from a personal point of view, I’d like to see us continue to drive down the costs of the err tunnel tolls for residents particularly local users, but I do welcome the recommendations in the report. Thanks Chair.”

 

Just for clarity, the discount for Fast Tag users (compared to cash tolls) for 2016/17 is not 50% as stated by Cllr Phil Davies. It’s (to the nearest percent) 29% for class 1, 29% for class 2, 29% for class 3 and 29% for class 4.

The new tolls for 2016/17 will come into effect on Sunday 3rd April 2016. If you wish you can apply for a Fast Tag on the Mersey Tunnels website here.

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KPMG (external auditors) advise councillors that report nearly finished on objection to Merseytravel’s 2014/15 accounts

KPMG (external auditors) advise councillors that report nearly finished on objection to Merseytravel’s 2014/15 accounts

KPMG (external auditors) advise councillors that report nearly finished on objection to Merseytravel’s 2014/15 accounts

                                                   

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Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 3rd November 2015

John Fogarty speaking at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 3rd November 2015 about risk management
John Fogarty speaking at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 3rd November 2015 about risk management

Risk management was a subject John Fogarty tried very hard to be interesting about by making topical references to Thomas Cook, TalkTalk and Volkswagen, however he was completely unaware that he was being upstaged by a couple in the background flirting while waiting for the lift (as pictured above).

That is the most interesting introduction I can make to a write-up of yesterday’s Audit Committee meeting. You can read the reports for the public meeting on Merseytravel’s website.

The one Wirral Council councillor on the Audit Committee (Cllr Mike Sullivan) wasn’t present and didn’t send his apologies. The other five councillors on the Committee were there (the Chair Cllr Anthony Carr (Sefton Council), Deputy Chair Cllr Nina Killen (Sefton Council), Cllr Andy Moorhead (Knowsley Council), Cllr Rob Polhill (Halton Borough Council) and Cllr Pam Thomas (Liverpool City Council).

On the agenda were three main items a presentation by John Fogarty (Treasurer to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) on risk management, a quarterly update on internal audit work and the final item was a report from the Treasurer on the final accounts for 2014/15 (which had two appendices the draft report to those charged with governance from the external auditors KPMG and the Annual Audit Letter 2014/15.

Although one of those reports only mentions one formal objection (I referred to the objection I made here), there is still another formal objection to the accounts.

As Merseytravel and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority are audited separately (although this Audit Committee covers both bodies), I would guess that this relates to the matter discussed at Merseytravel’s meeting on the 1st October 2015 and minuted in this way (Members means councillors)Finally the Director advised of an objection raised by a member of the public in relation to a historical item from the accounts relating to the internal transfer of funds between two Merseytravel services. The outcome of this matter could be reported to Members once resolved. Councillor Abbey asked that it be placed on record that such complaints did result in a cost to council taxpayers as they required investigation by external auditors.

The external auditors (KPMG) confirmed at yesterday’s meeting that they are in the process of writing a report on that matter and hope to report back soon, however did confirm that the matter the objection related to doesn’t pass the threshold of materiality.

Due to the unresolved objection, the accounts haven’t been closed by the statutory deadline of the 30th September 2015.

There is not much else interesting I could write about the Audit Committee meeting (although video of the meeting can be watched below).

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Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 3rd November 2015

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Why did 2 missing words from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 2014/15 accounts end up costing YOU £4,755?

Why did 2 missing words from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 2014/15 accounts end up costing YOU £4,755?

Why did 2 missing words from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 2014/15 accounts end up costing YOU £4,755?

                                                  

Councillor Phil Davies (Chair) at a meeting earlier this year of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

In the interests of openness and transparency here is an email I’ve just written. We’ll see what happens tomorrow morning. You can read the objection that led to the KPMG (the external auditors for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) increasing their bill by £4,755 here.


To
Councillor Anthony Carr (Chair) anthony.carr@councillors.sefton.gov.uk
Councillor Nina Killen (Deputy Chair) nina.killen@councillors.sefton.gov.uk
Councillor Andy Moorhead andy.moorhead@knowsley.gov.uk
Councillor Rob Polhill rob.polhill@halton.gov.uk
Councillor Mike Sullivan mikesullivan@wirral.gov.uk
Councillor Pam Thomas pamela.thomas@liverpool.gov.uk

Subject: Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee meeting (3rd November 2015) item 6 LCRCA Final Accounts 2014/15

Dear all,

I have read the reports for tomorrow’s meeting and as you are the people on the Audit Committee there to represent the people of Merseyside I wish to make the following points to you.

If you wish me to explain at the public meeting itself why I made the objection I am happy to do so, but as you will understand in this email what I stated in the objection is the tip of a larger iceberg.

Firstly, the same error was also made in the Merseytravel accounts (I think since Merseytravel’s Audit and Governance Sub-Committee was disbanded you are also responsible for Merseytravel’s accounts too). I know someone else made an objection to the Merseytravel accounts (I didn’t), but had I made the same objection to the Merseytravel accounts too as this would’ve added an extra ~£5k to your audit costs.

As it’s never been made clear to me if the same error in Merseytravel’s accounts was also corrected, I would appreciate an answer to that point.

There are other points about the accounts that I did not raise in my objection, that you as the Audit Committee should be made aware of.

The accounts for 2014/15 and accompanying reports refer to the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015. However the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 only apply to financial years from 2015/16 onwards, therefore this is another error.

Finally, I am concerned that the system of internal controls at the LCRCA, the external auditor or the councillors approving the accounts did not spot this or the matters relating to my objection.

I hope at the meeting tomorrow you will exercise some scrutiny as to what happened and why and put into place controls to prevent it happening in the future.

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

P.S. I will clarify what it stated on page 11 of the auditor’s report.

The accounts in their original form didn’t comply with legal requirements. It’s been acknowledged by the auditors and officers they were wrong. The point about the external auditors applying to the court for a declaration that the accounts are unlawful is therefore moot as they’ve been changed.

However it is important that councillors consider the reasons behind the objection in a public interest report, otherwise the people tasked with corporate governance will be in the dark as to what was wrong, why it had to be changed and be aware to check for this next year. I hope I have made this clear.

P.P.S On another audit related note, as the LCRCA now has a website, the Local Government (Transparency Requirements) (England) Regulations 2015 make it a legal requirement that certain information is published on its website (such as payments over £500 for example the payment to the auditors).

Currently this is being done on Merseytravel’s website, which makes it very hard to find the LCRCA payments amongst the Merseytravel ones. I would like the Audit Committee to please find out why this information isn’t published on the LCRCA website as it would aid with better openness and transparency about what the LCRCA is doing.

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Who was paid a £150,707 salary by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority?

Who was paid a £150,707 salary by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority?

Who was paid a £150,707 salary by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority?

                                          

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Monty Python’s famous sketch about chartered accountancy (as it’s very hard to make jokes about this subject)

Councillor Phil Davies shows off the LGC award Wirral Council received for being most improved Council 12th March 2015
Councillor Phil Davies (Chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) shows off the LGC award Wirral Council received for being most improved Council 12th March 2015

As it states in the video above, accountancy can be dull. However I wrote this email below (sent the day before the meeting) about a disclosure mistake in the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority accounts for 2014/15. The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meets this morning to approve the accounts for 2014/15.

It’s quite simple really, about six years ago the law changed so that public sector employees that are paid a salary of £150,000 or more had to be named in the accounts.

For example on page 160 of the accounts for the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority approved last week Dan Stephens, the Chief Fire Officer (on a salary of £170,000) is named. In fact Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority also name the Deputy Chief Fire Officer and Deputy Chief Executive, as despite their salaries being below the £150,000 threshold it is more transparent to do so as the total they receive is over the £150,000 threshold.

The Chief Executive of Merseytravel (David Brown) on a salary of £150,707 should’ve been named in the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s accounts. The email below from myself details the reasons why (KPMG are the external auditors for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority). Hopefully this will be sorted out at the meeting and corrected.

Subject: agenda item 7 (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Final Accounts 2014/15) meeting 20th September 2015

To: Cllr Phil Davies
CC: Mayor Joe Anderson
CC: Cllr Barrie Grunewald
CC: Robert Hough
CC: Cllr Andy Moorhead
CC: Cllr Rob Polhill
CC: Cllr Ian Maher

CC: David Brown (Chief Executive/Director General, Merseytravel)
CC: Louise Outram (Monitoring Officer, Merseytravel)
CC: Angela Sanderson (Monitoring Officer, LCRCA)
CC: Stephanie Donaldson (Head of Internal Audit, Merseytravel)
CC: Tim Cutler (Partner, KPMG LLP (UK))
CC: Ian Warwick (Manager, KPMG LLP (UK))
CC: Richard Tyler (Assistant Manager, KPMG LLP (UK))

Dear all,

I am bringing this up in advance of Monday’s meeting, in the hope it can be amended. If it isn’t amended, please class this as a formal objection by a Merseyside local government elector to the accounts of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority for 2014/15.

The draft statement of accounts at note 9 (which is page 41 in the numbering of the report or page 67 of the supplementary agenda) contains details of the remuneration paid to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s senior employees.

For the year 2015 (I presume this means financial year 2014/15), the Chief Executive/Director General received a salary of £150,707.

A number of years ago the Accounts and Audit (Amendment no 2) (England) Regulations 2009, SI 2009/3322 changed the audit regulations (this change started in financial year 2009/2010) and added the paragraph below:

"(c) the remuneration, set out according to the categories listed in paragraph (d), by the relevant body during the relevant financial year of—

(i) senior employees, or

(ii) relevant police officers,

in respect of their employment by the relevant body or in their capacity as a police officer, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, to be listed individually in relation to such persons who must nevertheless be identified by way of job title only (except for persons whose salary is £150,000 or more per year, who must also be identified by name)."

This requirement was kept in The Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011, SI 2011/817 reg 7(2)(c) and the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015, SI 2015/234 (which although referred to in the draft statement of accounts will apply from the 2015/16 financial year onwards).

Clearly, the Chief Executive should’ve been explicitly named and wasn’t. I think everyone I write this email to will know he’s called David Brown, but the draft statement of accounts should be amended to state this.

It’s a basic issue of openness and transparency (which I’m sure you’d expect the press to take a viewpoint on).

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

P.S. I know Merseytravel’s accounts are audited separately to the LCRCA, has the same error been made there too?

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Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel meets for 1st public meeting

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel meets for 1st public meeting

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel meets for 1st public meeting

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel 29th October 2014 Mann Island, Liverpool
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel 29th October 2014 Mann Island, Liverpool

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (created earlier this year) now has a scrutiny panel called the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel.

As regular readers of this blog will know, Knowsley provides the administrative support for meetings of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and its calendar of meeting can be viewed on Knowsley’s website, Merseytravel (now part of the Combined Authority) sorts out its own meetings and has its own calendar of public meetings on its own website and now the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel is administered by Halton Council and you can view their calendar of its meeting here.

From a media perspective, the same public body having three different calendars for its meetings is somewhat unusual but there you go.

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Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel 29th October 2014 Part 1

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Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel 29th October 2014 Part 2

The meeting itself only lasted 24 and a half minutes (the meeting took longer than it should have due to a fire alarm test). The agenda was short so I’ll reprint it here with links to the eight reports:

1. Appointment of Chair and Vice-Chair
2. Appointment of Members to the Combined Authority’s Audit Committee

Additional documents:
Part 4 Section B Audit Committee, item 2

3. Role and Responsibility of the Combined Authority
4. Role of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel
5. Development of a Work Programme
6. Combined Authority Forward Plan
Additional documents:
Forward Plan, item 6
7.
Calendar of Meetings

One interesting matter to note of local interest is that before the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Panel had its first public meeting, one of its three (now reduced to two) representatives from Wirral Council (Cllr John Hale from the Conservative Group) had resigned.

That left Cllr Anita Leech as the only councillor from Wirral Council at its first meeting.

1. Appointment of Chair and Vice-Chair

Appointment of Chair
Cllr Kevan Wainwright (Hough Green, Halton Borough Council, Labour) was the only nomination for Chair.
Cllr Kevan Wainwright was elected as Chair.

The Chair thanked the other councillors for electing him and asked for apologies for absence. Apologies were given for Cllr Mike Sullivan (Labour, Wirral Council), Cllr Andy Burns (Labour) and Cllr Mark Dowd (Labour).

Cllr Anita Leech (Labour, Wirral Council) pointed out that Cllr John Hale (Conservative, Wirral Council) had resigned. The Chair replied that they were waiting for the [Wirral] Conservative [Group] to nominate a new councillor from Wirral [Council].

Appointment of Vice-Chair

Nobody made any nominations for Vice-Chair. So the Chair asked for nominations for Vice-Chair for a second time in saying “Come on ladies and gentlemen”. Cllr Andy Moorhead was proposed as Vice-Chair by Cllr Anita Leech and this nomination was seconded. There were no other nominations for Vice-Chair so Cllr Andy Moorhead became Vice-Chair.

The Chair congratulated Cllr Andy Moorhead on his election to Vice-Chair.

2. Appointment of Members to the Combined Authority’s Audit Committee

The Chair asked for nominations.

A councillor said, “Can I move *** councillor, *** ****?” The asterisks represent what I couldn’t hear as the councillor wasn’t close enough to their microphone. This nomination was seconded. This unknown person was appointed to the Audit Committee. They were all in favour.

The Chair pointed out that they needed a second nomination.

One of the male councillors present (that was not the Chair) nominated himself, he said, “I’ll self-nominate.” The Chair thanked him for his self-nomination. They were all in favour.

The rest of the meeting was discussion of the reports linked to above and can be watched in the two video clips above.

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