Extraordinary meeting of Wirral Council called to discuss Girtrell Court

Extraordinary meeting of Wirral Council called to discuss Girtrell Court

                                         

Cllr Chris Blakeley explaining his notice of motion on Girtrell Court to Wirral Council councillors at a public meeting 14th March 2016
Cllr Chris Blakeley talking about Girtrell Court at the Council meeting held on the 14th March 2016

Edited 24th March 2016 to add quote from Cllr Chris Blakeley.

Edited 4th April 2016 to include a link to the Labour and Lib Dem amendments.

An extraordinary meeting of all Wirral Council councillors about Girtrell Court (requested by Cllrs Chris Blakeley, Bruce Berry, Leah Fraser, Paul Hayes, Lesley Rennie and Steve Williams) is scheduled to take place starting at 6.00pm on Monday 4th April 2016. The meeting will take place in the Council Chamber at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED.

The request for the meeting relates to an article in the Wirral Globe and statements that Cllr Chris Jones made a few days before that article was published at the Council meeting on the 14th March 2016.

A copy of the Notice of Motion proposed by twenty Conservative councillors is reproduced below (I’ve linked the bit about the Wirral Globe article to the article in question).

MOTION – GIRTRELL COURT

Proposed by Councillor Chris Blakeley
Seconded by Councillor Bruce Berry

1. Council recalls that, at the Council meeting on the 14th March, 2016, the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health gave assurances that there was no timetable for closure of Girtrell Court.

2. Council noted this included a promise that Girtrell Court would remain open until such time as acceptable and alternative respite provision could be provided for users of Girtrell Court and that the Cabinet Member stated that no decision on Girtrell Court would be made until all the statutory ‘one to one’ consultations had
been completed.

3. Council is therefore deeply puzzled and disappointed that 48 hours later, in the Wirral Globe online version, the Cabinet Member announced that Girtrell Court will close at the end of August.

4. Council resolves that any budgetary decision about Girtrell Court is made in the public arena by Council as required by the Constitution of Wirral Borough Council.

Signed by:

Councillors:

Tom Anderson
Bruce Berry
David Burgess-Joyce
Chris Blakeley
Eddie Boult
Wendy Clements
David Elderton
Gerry Ellis
Leah Fraser
Jeff Green
John Hale
Paul Hayes
Andrew Hodson
Kathy Hodson
Cherry Povall
Lesley Rennie
Tracey Pilgrim
Adam Sykes
Geoffrey Watt
Steve Williams

In response to the meeting being arranged, Cllr. Chris Blakeley wrote, “In the last 14 days, we have been told, ‘yeah, but no, but maybe’ by the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health over the future of Girtrell Court.

At the same time, the Leader of the Council pledged to be open and transparent only to then delegate the decision to the Cabinet Member and Director, out of public view and with no reference to the rest of his Cabinet.

This whole sorry saga has proved to be traumatic to the staff and families; it has appalled the trade unions and ward councillors in Saughall Massie. I believe the Cabinet Member should now make it clear what, if anything, she has decided and on what evidence. Neither I, nor the families, believe the repeated claims about ‘extending choice’ – it is, in truth, about closing services.”

Both Labour and the Lib Dems have tabled amendments to the notice of motion above. The Labour amendment deletes paragraphs 3 and 4, criticises the Conservatives for calling a Council meeting about it and repeats their long running position about choice.

The Lib Dem amendment calls for the consultation findings to be shared with councillors and for greater scrutiny by councillors of any re-provision of care.

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Labour councillors vote to hold Girtrell Court closure decision behind closed doors

Labour councillors vote to hold Girtrell Court closure decision behind closed doors

                                                      

Cllr Chris Blakeley explaining his notice of motion on Girtrell Court to Wirral Council councillors at a public meeting 14th March 2016
Cllr Chris Blakeley explaining his notice of motion on Girtrell Court to Wirral Council councillors at a public meeting 14th March 2016

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The first part of the debate on Girtrell Court can be watched in the video above (starting at the 22 minutes 21 seconds point)

Councillors at yesterday evening’s meeting of Wirral Council debated a notice of motion on Girtrell Court proposed by Conservative Cllr Chris Blakeley. He asked councillors to agree that the decision on the future of Girtrell Court should be taken during a public meeting rather than behind closed doors.

The Labour councillors (in an amendment proposed by Cllr Phil Davies) disagreed with this and instead restated their previous position. Their view was that a decision on the future of Girtrell Court should be made behind closed doors by the Cabinet Member Cllr Chris Jones and the Director of Adult Social Services Graham Hodkinson.

The Lib Dem councillors (in an amendment proposed by Cllr Phil Gilchrist) agreed with the original motion, but called for all the background and supporting material to be published when Cllr Chris Jones makes her decision.

The Lib Dem amendment didn’t receive enough votes to be agreed as it was only supported by the four Lib Dem councillors. Labour’s amendment received 36 votes for, 24 votes against with one abstention.

It was also announced during the debate that bookings for Girtrell Court will be extended to the end of August 2016.

The following was agreed yesterday evening by councillors:

Girtrell Court

Council believes that it is important to offer service users and their families a choice of respite care provision. People want the ability to choose the type of care and support which is right for them. At present they are unable to do this. This is not about a building or provider, it’s about the person.

Council notes that the Leader of the Council has previously stated that he wants his Administration to be open, transparent and fair with the people of Wirral. Council welcomes this approach.

Council notes that a detailed debate on Girtrell Court took place at Budget Council on the 3rd March and a clear way forward was agreed. This involves statutory consultation with service users and their families followed by a clear new service offer and events for carers and cared for people to meet potential new providers. Services will be commissioned to meet all of the identified needs at that stage. Authority will be delegated to the Director, in conjunction with the Cabinet Member, to make decisions in order to avoid undue delays which would prolong uncertainty. We are not imposing deadlines on when this process will be complete and, in the meantime, Girtrell Court will remain open.

Council further believes that the families of those using Girtrell Court, the staff, trade unions and residents and users must be given every opportunity to influence the future of Girtrell Court through a clear and transparent decision-making process.

 

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Will councillors vote to gag a debate on whether Girtrell Court decision is made in public?

Will councillors vote to gag a debate on whether Girtrell Court decision is made in public?

                                                   

Bernard Halley (left) talking about Girtrell Court at the Wirral West Constituency Committee 11th February 2016 L to R (foreground) Bernard Halley, David L to R (background) Graham Hodkinson, Cllr Matthew Patrick
Bernard Halley (left) talking about Girtrell Court at the Wirral West Constituency Committee 11th February 2016 L to R (foreground) Bernard Halley, David L to R (background) Graham Hodkinson, Cllr Matthew Patrick

In a surprise twist, the debate on a notice of motion on Girtrell Court has become like the thought experiment Schrödinger’s cat.

The reason the debate might not be heard is because of Standing Order 17(1) in Wirral Council’s constitution (see page 162:

17. Rescission of preceding resolution


(1) No decision of the Council (including a decision taken by a committee or panel under delegated powers) may be reconsidered by the Council on a notice of motion within six months of the date of the earlier decision unless the notice of motion (under Standing Order 7) is signed by 17 members of the Council. If that motion is rejected by the Council neither it nor one to the same effect can be considered by the Council for six months.
 

However standing order 17, doesn’t apply to debates on large petitions, which are dealt with according to Wirral Council’s petitions scheme.

In the case of a petition of at the time of writing 6,593 signatures the petition scheme states “Petitions that must be considered by the Council – these must be signed by at least 3,000 people who live in the Borough”.

So in order for there to be a debate on Girtrell Court tonight either:

(a) Councillors could decide to suspend standing order 17 to allow the debate on Girtrell Court to go ahead, or

(b) Bernard Halley submits his large petition which triggers a fifteen minute debate as debates on petitions aren’t subject to standing order 17 or

(c) Councillor Blakeley finds fifteen other councillors to sign his notice of motion and therefore the debate goes ahead.

Tonight’s public meeting of Wirral Council will start at 6.00pm in the Council Chamber at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED.

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Petition against closure of Girtrell Court reaches over 5,000 signatures!

Petition against closure of Girtrell Court reaches over 5,000 signatures!

                                                 

A petition against the closure of Girtrell Court started by Bernard Halley (pictured below), who is a carer for his son who attends Girtrell Court has attracted over 5,000 signatures.

Bernard Halley (left) talking about Girtrell Court at the Wirral West Constituency Committee 11th February 2016 L to R (foreground) Bernard Halley, David L to R (background) Graham Hodkinson, Cllr Matthew Patrick
Bernard Halley (left) talking about Girtrell Court at the Wirral West Constituency Committee 11th February 2016 L to R (foreground) Bernard Halley, David L to R (background) Graham Hodkinson, Cllr Matthew Patrick

Next Monday evening, starting at 6.00pm in the Council Chamber at Wallasey Town Hall there is a public meeting of all Wirral Council councillors.

One of the items to be debated at that meeting is a notice of motion on Girtrell Court (the text of the notice of motion is below). The notice of motion calls for any decision on closure of Girtrell Court to be made in public, rather than behind closed doors by the Cabinet Member Cllr Chris Jones and the Director of Adult Social Services Graham Hodkinson.

3. GIRTRELL COURT (to be debated)

Proposed by Cllr Chris Blakeley
Seconded by Cllr Bruce Berry

Council notes that the Leader of the Council has previously stated that he wants his Administration to be open, transparent and fair with the people of Wirral. Council welcomes this approach.

Council therefore believes that the future of Girtrell Court must be decided in public and not under delegation to the portfolio holder, in conjunction with the Director of Adult Social Services.

Council further believes that the families of those using Girtrell Court, the staff, trade unions and residents and users must be given every opportunity to influence the future of Girtrell Court through a clear and transparent decision making process.

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Labour councillors vote to close Girtrell Court

Labour councillors vote to close Girtrell Court

                                                          

Protest outside Wallasey Town Hall about Girtrell Court 3rd March 2016 thumbnail
Protest outside Wallasey Town Hall about Girtrell Court 3rd March 2016 thumbnail

It is hard to know where to begin when writing about last night’s Council meeting of Wirral Council at Wallasey Town Hall to decide on the budget. Above is a photo of the demonstration outside the main entrance to Wallasey Town Hall protesting about Girtrell Court being closed.

Realising that councillors were bypassing this entrance and using the door by Committee Room 3, there was another protest outside that way in too.

The meeting started and within the first few minutes the petition item was reached. The Mayor asked Bernard Halley (pictured below with his son David) to present his petitions opposing the closure of Girtrell Court. His e-petition had 1,200 signatures (of those nearly a thousand were Wirral residents). There was also a linked paper petition with over six hundred signatories opposed too.

Bernard Halley said, “Both petitions begged this Council to keep Girtrell Court running until proper alternatives are established, costed, evaluated, consulted upon and proven to be adequate.”

Bernard Halley and his son David present a petition opposing the closure of Girtrell Court to a budget meeting of Wirral Council 3rd March 2016
Bernard Halley and his son David present a petition opposing the closure of Girtrell Court to a budget meeting of Wirral Council 3rd March 2016

There was a larger petition opposing the closure of Girtrell Court of 3,054 signatures. As this petition was of over 3,000 signatures, it gave the lead petitioner Paddy Cleary of UNISON five minutes to speak.

He gave a similar speech to the one he had made at the Cabinet meeting. Mr Cleary felt closing Girtrell Court was contrary to one of the 2020 pledges to protect the vulnerable and his opinion was that the proposed saving through closure would not save Wirral Council money but cost more money. Reference was also made by him to a proposal in 2011 proposed by Cllr Steve Foulkes and seconded by Cllr Phil Davies to stop the closure of Council-run care homes.

He expressed concern about the quality of care in the private sector and added, “At a time when users, their families, the public and staff see press stories of the frivolous use of taxpayers’ money, we implore you to look in the mirror, look into the eyes of those people in the balcony upstairs and tell them hand on heart how there is better provision out there.

We know you can’t do that and as such we urge you to fully drop this proposal. Thank you for your time.”

Although petitions of over 3,000 signatures can be debated for fifteen minutes, a decision was made to debate Girtrell Court during the budget debate instead.

Each of the political parties on Wirral Council with more than one councillor had a slightly different policy in their budget about Girtrell Court.

The Labour budget proposed closing it, subject to a later decision of the Cabinet Member Cllr Chris Jones and Director of Adult Social Services Graham Hodkinson.

The Conservative budget removed the need to close Girtrell Court by finding savings elsewhere instead. Three of the proposed areas for savings (amongst others) the Conservatives proposed were removing the free taxi service for councillors to and from the Town Hall, deleting the Executive Support Officer post held by Martin Liptrot and reducing the Council’s press, marketing and destination management team from fourteen posts to eleven and a half.

The Lib Dem budget stated this on Girtrell Court, “Council believes that the closure of the Lyndale School and the anguished debate about the re-provision of services at Girtrell Court underline the need to work closely with service users and their families. Council has a duty of care to ensure their concerns are fully addressed.

In the case of Girtrell Court, Council requests that the Director of Adult Social Services and the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health produce regular reports to Members. These must set out how a range of sufficient quality alternative services is to be achieved. Members would be failing in their duty if they were not to seek assurance about the quality, availability and capacity of the
alternatives.”

You can read each party’s budget in the supplementary agenda (Labour’s is pages 12-24, Conservative’s is pages 25-35 and the Lib Dem budget is pages 37-40).

Around three hours after the meeting had started, despite many heartfelt pleas about reversing their proposed closure of Girtrell Court, there was a vote on Labour’s budget and the amendments proposed by the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

The amendments proposed by the Conservatives and Lib Dems were lost (due to Labour councillors voting against them). The Labour budget was agreed (due to the majority of Labour councillors on Wirral Council).

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