Labour use casting vote to delay decision on Saughall Massie fire station land

Labour use casting vote to delay decision on Saughall Massie fire station land

Labour use casting vote to delay decision on Saughall Massie fire station land

                                          

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Cllr Chris Blakeley addressing Wirral Council Regeneration and Environment committee about a new fire station in Saughall Massie September 2015
Cllr Chris Blakeley addressing Wirral Council Regeneration and Environment committee about a new fire station in Saughall Massie September 2015

Wirral Council’s Regeneration and Environment Committee meeting of the 15th September 2015 (Part 1 of 4) who discussed a notice of motion about a proposed new fire station in Saughall Massie

A week ago I wrote Why did Councillor Blakeley ask councillors to block a fire station in Saughall Massie? which finished at the end of Cllr Blakeley’s speech which is only the beginning of that story.

Now as you’re reading the same blog a week later you can read what happened next, in what’s rapidly becoming a saga. If you’ve written as much on this issue as I have, you’d find it’s become a saga longer than the epic poem Beowulf (but not as exciting). Bonus marks to those leaving comments if they can tell me who the Grendel character is in this matter. However literary references aside here’s what happened next.

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): Thank you Councillor Blakeley. Is there any questions from any Members? No? No?

Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative spokesperson): Yeah, thanks Chair. As there are no questions regarding this, I’m happy to move that the three points I can only go along with to maintain the green belt, not to give, sell or lease the land and to remain to ask officers to continue to try and find an alternative solution which Councillor Blakeley’s has just said he believes that there is.

Sorry I’ll put the mike on. In view of that if I can move that the notice of motion be agreed in its entirety.

Cllr Gerry Ellis (Conservative councillor): Chair?

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): Does anybody want to …, I’d just like to say that this is a planning issue and I think if it goes to Planning [Committee], I mean I’m not, am I correct to say that it hasn’t, there’s no plans been submitted yet to planning?

Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative spokesperson): Yeah if I can assist there Chair, yes the outcome may be a planning permission and there hasn’t been any application that we’re aware of yet but this Notice of Motion is as Cllr Blakeley said prior to that and we’re asking that these three issues be taken into place which doesn’t concern planning.

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): OK Steve, I take that on board but what I’d like to suggest, just let me finish Chris and then you can come in, what I’d like to suggest is, that rather than have a Notice of Motion that Steve and Gerry has seconded, if we get the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Service to come and explain why they’ve identified this site, as opposed to any other site.

I don’t think it’s particularly fair that we have Councillor Blakeley’s, that side of the argument, without having the fire, somebody from the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority to come and explain their position.

Cllr Chris Blakeley: Why didn’t the Council invite them?

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): Well hang on, I’ll take, if you can be quiet from the floor please Councillor Blakeley, err Chris? And then I’ll take Steve and then Dave.

Cllr Chris Spriggs (Labour): Thanks err Chair. I really want to concur with that, what I was going to suggest that there has been a, so called evidence brought forward there’s just been some emails that have been flipped through. Obviously, to be fair in this situation, I think it would be about having a conversation with the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority and getting to the bottom of some of the remarks that were made rather than going through to this Notice of Motion.

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): Steve?

Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative spokesperson): Councillor, you did point before this. Bringing the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Service, had this been heard as a normal Notice of Motion in Council, it’s just this new constitutional method that we’re bringing it to here. The [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Service wouldn’t be there. We’re not discussing with it, we’ve had the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority have had their meetings, this isn’t for that. This is purely for the three points, items one, two and three which I don’t believe the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Service can answer those three anyway.

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): Dave?

Cllr Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem spokesperson): Err, thank you Chair. Apologies for being late, I was stuck in traffic outside Cammell Lairds for forty five minutes, very unfortunate, but I.. that way. I did intend to be here on time to talk through the previous minutes. Unfortunately I missed that.

All I can say is that at the present moment, like Councillor Spriggs, I need to find out more information because stuff comes to light through emails that have been released, you talk about land deals, swaps, all sorts of things. I need to know the background of all this information prior before I make any decision at all in relation to what’s here before us.

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): Thanks Dave. Rob?

Cllr Rob Gregson (Labour councillor): Thanks Chair, I mean I’m just going to reiterate what was said by comments already made. We’re talking here about response times, we’re talking about a professional judgement and really whereas I do accept the arguments about green belt and the biodiversity of the area, you know and that’s a serious issue that I take seriously Chris as well and you know I’m pleased that you’ve raised that point here but at the same time we’re talking about an emergency service that has made a decision and I really feel that they should come to us and give us the information how they’ve reached that decision and chosen one site over another. Thank you Chair.

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): John?

Chair (Cllr John Hale, Conservative): I’m about to say Chairman, that I’m absolutely surprised and amazed that there was a Notice of Motion that has been in existence now for some weeks coming before this Committee and now what someone has been unable to anticipate that there would be suggestions put forward and evidence put forward which would show that the wrong site had been chosen and that’s .. I’m absolutely amazed that nobody made any attempt to bring here tonight the fire officers from the Merseyside Fire Service and Authority which would’ve shortcutted all of this.

We’ve have had a vote which has been referred to us for a vote, a thing that we were denied at Council but it’s come here tonight and I’d certainly like an explanation if not from our fire officers but from the [Merseyside] Fire [&] Rescue Authority, that if you were aware of this why you weren’t here tonight? Because they are simply delaying the right of people to have this examined by the proper body!

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): OK, thanks John I take that on board. So, can we delay the recommendation tonight and we can get the fire officer to come to our next meeting and tell us and maybe the process has moved on from there, there’s no planning application been sent in as yet, so it’s not time that we lack, I think it’s due diligence and we are, I agree with Rob, we are talking about life and death here, it is a very important emotive subject and taking on board the amount of people who attended the meetings and the hostility if you like but I would like to hear from the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Service before we send any recommendations through and we’re not pressured by time.

Cllr Chris Blakeley: Oh we are!

Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative): Thank you Chair.

Member of the public: Sorry, Greasby was the original preferred site but that was withdrawn.

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): Can I just say that this is a private meeting held in public and I would ask you not to interrupt please, just listen please?

Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative): Thank you Chair. I think it’s importantly that we actually look at what’s being asked. I don’t think it’s beyond our remit to ask the Council to protect our green belt or to even to ask our officers to work with the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority. We’re asking them to go and deal with the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority, not for us to make the decision on behalf of the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority. We just want our council officers to go and do that on our behalf and I think that would be something that this Committee could decide tonight.

It’s not for us to decide whether the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority’s professional opinion is right or wrong, it’s just that we ask our officers to engage with them and ask them to think again, I think that’s what the spirit of the Notice of Motion is to ask them to take a look at the decision that they’ve taken and explore some alternatives and I think there’s no reason why we couldn’t make that decision without hearing the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority’s views in person.

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): Thanks for that, this motion stands and it is the duty of this Committee to look at these things and make recommendations but as I’ve said before, I think it would be wise of this Committee as well as listening to what Councillor Blakleley had to say, to listen to what the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority have got to say and then we make a recommendation. Well it is the responsibility of this Committee to make recommendations and I think it would, it wouldn’t be in our interests or the general public’s interest, or the Council’s interest to make a decision when we’ve only heard one part of the argument.

Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative): Sorry Chair, can I just come back on that? I don’t think …

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): You can, but then I’m going to wrap it up.

Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative): That’s fine, I don’t think I was saying that we’re not making a decision. I think what is in here this does not force a decision on the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority. It would still be for the [Merseyside] Fire [& Rescue] Authority to present their planning application. That was my point.

Chair (Cllr Mike Sullivan, Labour): Right well, I’m going to wrap it up now. If you want to make just a quick comment Gerry? If you’ve made a recommendation and you’ve seconded it we could have a vote on that.

Cllr Gerry Ellis (Conservative): Well I’m sure that there’s nothing in this resolution here that’s going to stop the process of going as it is. I would think that we should definitely support this resolution.

The voting was as follows.

For the resolution (5)

Cllr Gerry Ellis (Conservative)
Cllr John Hale (Conservative)
Cllr Tracey Pilgrim (Conservative)
Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative)
Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative spokesperson)

Against the resolution (5)

Cllr Michael Sullivan (Labour Chair)
Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour)
Cllr Jim Crabtree (Labour)
Cllr Rob Gregson (Labour)
Cllr Chris Spriggs (Labour)

Abstentions

Cllr Dave Mitchell (Liberal Democrat spokesperson)

It was therefore a tied 5:5 vote (with one abstention).

The Labour Chair was asked to use his casting vote. He stated that they would invite the head of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service to the next meeting to listen to him before making a recommendation.

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Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

                                                            

Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 2 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 2 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 3 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 3 of 3

Above are three photos of Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton taken on the 29th June 2015. Over the busier summer holidays this car park will be full.

Future Council Wirral logo
Future Council Wirral logo

As part of the Future Council consultation last year Wirral Council consulted the public on £2.5 million of budget cuts. In the end only £2.4 million of cuts were agreed because of savings that resulted from the extended Biffa contract.

One of the budget options as part of the Future Council consultation was to introduce car parking charges at the Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton. Councillors were told that this would bring in an estimated £25,000 in 2015/16 and £10,000 in 2016/17. A public document (that wasn’t part of the documents shared with the public as part of the Future Council consultation) estimated that the cost of providing cash payment ticket machines would be £20,000 (see section 6.2 page 9).

Last year as part of that budget consultation, there was a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee on the 4th November 2014 where councillors discussed the budget option for charging for car parking at Fort Perch Rock car park.

You can watch that discussion in the Youtube video below which should start at the point about the Fort Perch Rock car park.

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The minutes of what was agreed at the public meeting of the 4th November 2014 are included in the agenda for the Cabinet meeting that decided on the budget options.

At that meeting Cllr Jerry Williams (Wirral Council’s Heritage Champion and a Labour councillor) tried to move a recommendation that the budget option of charging at Fort Perch Rock car park be removed from the budget options. However the solicitor advising the Committee said that it couldn’t be removed, so instead it was watered down to a recommendation to Cabinet that the budget option wasn’t adopted. The recommendation was seconded by Cllr Robert Gregson (also a Labour councillor representing New Brighton ward). This is what the recommendation stated:

“The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee recommend to Cabinet that the budget option to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock Car Park, New Brighton is not adopted.”

                                                            
Cllr Irene Williams (Labour), Cllr John Salter (Labour), Cllr Anita Leech (Labour), Cllr Matt Daniel (Labour), Cllr Robert Gregson (Labour), Cllr Jim Crabtree (Labour), Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour), Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative), Cllr John Hale (Conservative), Cllr Jerry Ellis (Conservative), Cllr Andrew Hodson (Conservative) and Cllr David Elderton (Conservative) voted in favour of the recommendation.

Two councillors voted against that recommendation (Cllr Chris Carubia (Lib Dem) and Cllr Mike Sullivan (Chair, Labour)).

On the 9th December 2014 Cabinet (which is ten Labour councillors including one for New Brighton Cllr Pat Hackett) met. They didn’t agree with the recommendation from the Policy and Performance Committee and instead voted to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton. The minutes of that meeting state “We also feel that it is appropriate to introduce a modest charge for parking at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton up to 6 p.m.” .

This Cabinet budget proposal then formed the Cabinet’s proposal for Labour’s budget to the 2015/16 budget meeting of all councillors held on the 24th February 2015.

All the Labour councillors on the 24th February 2015 present at that meeting (including those who had three months earlier voted for a recommendation to Cabinet not to start charging for parking at Fort Perch Rock) voted for the Labour budget apart from Cllr Steve Foulkes (who was Mayor and Mayor’s traditionally abstain from votes on party political matters). You can see which way each councillor voted on the Labour’s budget here.

On December 22nd 2014 I wrote When Wirral Council introduces car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock, will 3 hours free parking end for a further 423 New Brighton spaces? which details how if car parking charges are brought in at Fort Perch Rock car park then under the terms of the lease that Wirral Council has for the Marine Point development at New Brighton, that charges could be introduced at two free car parks (the supermarket car park and the health & fitness car park).

Earlier this year Wirral Council had a formal consultation on introducing car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park. You can see the public notice (which has more detail as to how much they could charge for parking) for that consultation below. That consultation ended on the 3rd July 2015.

Fort Perch Rock car park public notice
Fort Perch Rock car park public notice

There is a large petition against introducing charging for car parking at Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton which at the time of writing has 3,395 signatures.

So what happens next? In September there will be a public meeting of the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel to consider objections people have made to introducing car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park.

The Chair of the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel is Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative). Cllr Mike Sullivan (Labour) and Cllr Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem) are the rest of the panel. This panel meets during the day and if any of the three councillors can’t make it to the meeting they can send a deputy in their place.

When the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel meets in September, it will make a recommendation on whether to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park to the Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee. The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee meet in public on the 15th September 2015 starting at 6.00pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall. The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee can alter any recommendation they receive from the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel.

The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee then make a recommendation to the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation Cllr Stuart Whittingham who then makes a formal decision on the matter which is published on Wirral Council’s website.

Such a large petition also grants the petition organiser for five minutes to explain their petition at a meeting of all councillors, which then triggers a debate of a maximum of fifteen minutes. However as the next meeting of Council is on the 12th October 2015 (probably after all this will be decided) this is a moot point.

Finally, what’s known now, but wasn’t known last year, is that Wirral Council had an underspend last year of £510,000 last year (which is money that is carried over to this year).

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Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”

Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”

Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”

                                                                 

ED 26/11/14 15:16 – Following a complaint from Merseytravel received on the 26th November 2014, the word “some” has been added to the headline for the purposes of clarity.

Declaration of Interest: The author of this piece was years ago involved as the Claimant in litigation against Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority (defendant) and Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive (defendant) that started and concluded in 2007 in the Birkenhead County Court. This was after first raising his concerns internally with its former Chief Executive Neil Scales and former Chair of Merseytravel Cllr Dowd. At this stage the matter could have been easily settled for £15 but Merseytravel chose at that stage not to.

Merseytravel’s legal costs in the matter were estimated at £thousands (which Merseytravel paid themselves and would have had to pay whether they won or lost). The increased legal costs of Merseytravel were partly because of what happened as detailed below.

During the case Merseytravel’s barrister (in my opinion a barrister is indeed slight overkill for a £15 claim in the small claims track in the county court, but I know now it’s common practice in the public sector to do this) had to (rather embarrassingly) ask for the permission from both the Claimant (myself) and the Birkenhead County Court to withdraw the first signed witness statement of their expert witness (a Merseytravel employee) after I pointed out a factual inaccuracy in their witness statement (that the witness (a Merseytravel employee) had indeed signed a statement of truth for).

Merseytravel also sought (initially but later changed their mind on that) in 2008 to withhold documents referred to from the Claimant that were referred to in their defence. If I remember correctly a Merseytravel employee stated to me at the time that such documents (which were details of their charging policy for lost Solo and Trio passes) were not for the public.

The final judgement in the case (by agreement by both Merseytravel and myself) was later modified by the Birkenhead County Court due to a factual error made by the Judge who had not taken into account an earlier application in the case and chosen to ignore me pointing this out to him at the time of the hearing.

Although the judge at the final hearing agreed with me that Merseytravel had discriminated against me three times because of a protected characteristic, the court accepted Merseytrave’s reliance on a statutory defence that discrimination on these three times was justified due to a “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” because of decisions by politicians.

The four councillors from Wirral Council at the time on Merseytravel (the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority) were:

Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour)
former Cllr Denis Knowles (Labour at the time but switched to the Conservatives)

It is perhaps to be noted that as is relevant to how politicians and those in the public sector relate towards protected minorities (and this point here is obviously to do with attitudes towards a different protected minority) that Denis Knowles in 2012 later faced a Wirral Council Standards Hearing Panel hearing based on a complaint of Denis Knowles after a comment he left on Facebook about members of the LGBT community who were members of the Labour Party. He was suspended at the time from the Conservative Party.

former Cllr Jacqueline McKelvie (Conservative)
Cllr Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem)

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A councillor asks a question about Merseytravel's whistleblowing policy at a public meeting of its Audit and Governance SubCommittee 24th November 2014
A councillor asks a question about Merseytravel’s whistleblowing policy at a public meeting of its Audit and Governance SubCommittee 24th November 2014

Cllr Steve Foulkes (Vice-Chair of Merseytravel’s Audit and Governance Sub-Committee) now part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority sent his apologies to a public meeting to discuss Merseytravel’s whistleblowing policy and was not present.

Officers of Merseytravel were asking councillors for their comments on a draft whistleblowing policy which included such priceless paragraphs as:

“10.2 If you do take the matter outside Merseytravel, you should ensure that you do not disclose confidential information acquired during your employment unless it falls within the qualifying criteria for protected disclosures. Premature or inaccurate media exposure or adverse publicity may cause needless reputational damage, impede a proper investigation or cause unnecessary distress to individuals.”

I will translate those two sentences in the draft policy into what my interpretation of the intention behind it is and probably in much clearer English:

“10.2 If you rat on us to the press, not only will we [Merseytravel] start spinning to the press and refer to any damaging press report as “inaccurate”, we’ll go after you (despite what the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 c.23 states as we’re more bothered with our reputation and making sure that we control the flow of information about our organisation to both to the public and politicians.”

The references made during the public meeting itself to a hypothetical whistleblower as “Mickey Mouse” (whether made in jest or not) speaks volumes about cultural attitudes that still persist at Merseytravel.

However bearing in mind my unusually long declaration of interest made at the start of this piece, I had better not let how dysfunctional Merseytravel was in 2007 influence my reporting of it in 2014 as the Merseytravel politicians of 2014 are keen to put its somewhat chequered past behind it.

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Merseytravel’s (now part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s) Audit and Governance Subcommittee public meeting of the 24th November 2014

The whistleblowing item (item 7) starts at 31m 48s into the meeting and can be watched above. The report and draft policy can be read on Merseytravel’s website.

Councillor Fulham at the meeting asked, “Thanks Chair. Errm, I appreciate that on page 48 of the agenda and at 7.4 in the policy, errm it says that this part of the that I’m looking at, I’ve found somewhere I’m looking at says this policy applies even if after investigation, disclosure is found to be incorrect or unfounded and there are statutory protections which the policy acknowledges for people who errm make a protected disclosure, that’s found out too. Well at the end of the process is found out not to be errm founded but it might be a reasonably held disclosure.

But what worries me is on page 46, where it says policy statement, under errm in chapter 4 “we will investigate all genuine and reasonable concerns”, but the way I would approach things, you can’t make an assessment whether it’s genuine or reasonable until you’ve investigated it? So it kind of precludes the investigation. So errm, why is that there?”

Stephanie Donaldson, Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit answered “OK, you’re absolutely right in so far as how can you tell that anything’s genuine or legitimate until you investigate it, so realistically everything will be investigated to a point.

However if something was found to be errm you know complete nonsense for want of a better word then that investigation would cease. We wouldn’t pursue investigating something which is you know completely unfounded or false then, but you’re right that there is the legislation requires that as long as it’s in the public interest it should still be investigated and that’s what the changes to the policy would fly at.

I suppose the purpose of that one in the policy statement and I will take some advice through you Chair from legal, is that errm, that if we received a complete nonsense of an allegation and it’s clearly complete nonsense from Mickey Mouse for example that we would not investigate that, there are boundaries aren’t there?

Errm, but you’re absolutely right to say that in a majority of I think all cases, it would be you have to undertake an investigation in order to assess its legitimacy.”

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Wirral Council's Pensions Committee agrees to create new Pensions Board for Merseyside Pension Fund

Wirral Council’s Pensions Committee agrees to create new Pensions Board for Merseyside Pension Fund

Wirral Council’s Pensions Committee agrees to create new Pensions Board for Merseyside Pension Fund

                                            

Pensions Committee 17th November 2014 Committee Room 1 Wallasey Town Hall L to R Peter Wallach Cllr Paul Doughty Colin Hughes
Pensions Committee 17th November 2014 Committee Room 1 Wallasey Town Hall L to R Peter Wallach Cllr Paul Doughty Colin Hughes

I’ll start this write-up of the Pensions Committee of 17th November 2014 by declaring an interest in the Pensions Committee (which governs the Merseyside Pension Fund administered by Wirral Council). My father is one of the retired members n the Fund and is paid a pension from it.

Just before I start, there is now a brass plaque outside Committee Room 1 (where the Pensions Committee meeting was held), referring to Committee Room 1 as the Mark Delap Room in memory of Mark Delap, who was a Wirral Council employee that took minutes at public meetings who sadly passed away this year.

Links to the agenda, supplementary agenda and reports for this meeting are on Wirral Council’s website.

Video of the first nine agenda items of the meeting can be viewed in the Youtube video below.

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Pensions Committee (Wirral Council) 17th November 2014 Committee Room 1, Wallasey Town Hall starting at 6.00pm

First a bit of background about who’s on the Pensions Committee, what it does and why. There are ten councillors from Wirral Council (6 Labour, 3 Conservative, 1 Lib Dem). Two of these couldn’t make it so sent deputies. Cllr Eddie Boult (Conservative) was deputising for Cllr Mike Hornby (Conservative) and Cllr Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem) was deputising for Cllr Chris Carubia (Lib Dem spokesperson).

The others from Wirral present were Cllr Paul Doughty (Chair, Labour), Cllr Harry Smith (Labour), Cllr Treena Johnson (Labour), Cllr Cherry Povall (Conservative), Cllr Geoffrey Watt (Conservative spokesperson), Cllr Ann McLachlan (Labour), Cllr George Davies (Labour) and Cllr Adrian Jones (Labour).

In addition to the Wirral Council councillors there are councillors representing the other councils on Merseyside. There was Councillor John Fulham (Labour) from St. Helens Council and Councillor Norman Keats (Labour) from Knowsley Council.

There are also other representatives on the Pension Committee, such as the representative for retired members, trade unions et cetera.

The Pensions Committee governs the running of the £multi-billion Merseyside Pension Fund (which is administered by Wirral Council).

The meeting started and a number of councillors declared interests.

1. Declarations of Interest
Cllr Norman Keats (Knowsley) declared a pecuniary interest as a member of the Merseyside Pension Fund.
Cllr Paul Doughty (Wirral Council) declared an interest as his wife is a member of the Merseyside Pension Fund.
Cllr George Davies (Wirral Council) declared an interest as his wife is a member of the Merseyside Pension Fund.
Others on the Pension Committee declared interests as members of the Merseyside Pension Fund.

2. Minutes

The minutes of the meeting held on the 15th September 2014 were agreed.

The Chair brought people’s attention to item 37 (Annual Employers Conference) that was being held on Thursday 27th November 2014 at Aintree Racecourse.

An officer explained that he, Peter Wallach and Yvonne Caddock would be speaking at the conference. However there would also be external speakers from industry. Lunch would be provided and he encouraged attendance. The Chair said that he was looking forward to it. No one had any questions.

3. LGPS Update

Yvonne Caddock (Principal Pension Officer) spoke to her report.

Cllr Harry Smith asked her a question about the reference in the report to the Working Party. Yvonne Caddock apologised and explained that the reference was to the Shadow Board creating a Working Party.

Cllr Ann McLachlan asked if a response was made to the consultation. Yvonne Caddock said that it hadn’t been their intention to respond because they had responded in June and the revised provisions had reflected the comments they had made in June.

She continued that part of the consultation was on cost management which had been discussed at a CIPFA conference last week and that Bob Holloway had said that there were only five people in the country that understand the cost management process so they were best placed to leave that to the actuarial firms to comment on that.

Cllr Geoffrey Watt (Conservative spokesperson) asked about 2.5 in the report for Yvonne Caddock to explain the change over who can sit on the Local Pension Board.

Yvonne Caddock explained that the published draft regulations had removed the previous requirement about majorities on the Board. It was in her view now permissible for councillors to be on the Pension Board and in her report it stated that they could as long as the councillor was not also a member of the Pension Committee or had responsibility for the discharge of any LGPS function.

It was agreed that the contents of the report were noted.

4. Creation of New Pension Board

Yvonne Caddock introduced her report on the new requirement for a Pension Board.

Cllr Dave Mitchell asked if a councillors on a “select committee” could be part of the decision making?

Yvonne Caddock answered that members of the Pension Committee were not allowed to be members of the Pension Board due to the conflict of interest. She also gave more detail as to the type and number of those who would be on the Pension Board and how they would try to balance it across the different types of employers in the Merseyside Pension Fund.

Cllr Dave Mitchell thanked Yvonne Caddock for her answer and moved the recommendations at 14.0 which were:

To note the contents of the report and in particular the requirements for the Council to establish a Pension Board by 1 April 2015.

That Members authorise fund officers to work with the Administering Authority to develop arrangements for the establishment of a Pensions Board which ensure the requirements in the guidance issued by the Secretary of State are fulfilled. Details of those arrangements will be reported to a future meeting of this Committee.

The recommendations were agreed and the meeting proceeded to item 4 (Creation of New Pension Board).

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The many reasons I'm objecting to the proposed traffic regulation order for Birkenhead Market Service Road

The many reasons I’m objecting to the proposed traffic regulation order for Birkenhead Market Service Road

The many reasons I’m objecting to the proposed traffic regulation order for Birkenhead Market Service Road

                                                   

Proposed traffic regulation order public notice (Birkenhead Market Service Road) 9th July 2014
Public notice of proposed traffic regulation order (9th July 2014) Wirral Globe Birkenhead Market Service Road

I’d better point out than along with Leonora we are both objectors to this proposed Traffic Regulation Order (TRO). This is about item three (OBJECTION: PROPOSED WAITING & LOADING RESTRICTIONS – BIRKENHEAD MARKET SERVICE ROAD, BIRKENHEAD). The report and map is already on Wirral Council’s website.

Previous articles on this matter can be read at:

Objection to Traffic Regulation Order (KO) for Birkenhead Market Service Road (25/9/14).

https://johnbrace.com/2014/09/17/a-meeting-with-2-wirral-council-officers-about-parking-behind-birkenhead-market-and-disability-issues/ (17/9/14)

The shocking tale of Wirral Council trying to scapegoat the disabled and forcing them to pay more £s for parking (8/8/14)

Below is my submission (in the interests of openness and transparency) to the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel that meets on the 21st November 2014 starting at 9.30am.

CC:
Cllr Michael Sullivan
Cllr Steve Williams
Cllr Dave Mitchell
Mark Smith
Ken Abraham
Vicky Rainsford

Subject: Agenda item 3 (OBJECTION: PROPOSED WAITING & LOADING RESTRICTIONS – BIRKENHEAD MARKET SERVICE ROAD, BIRKENHEAD) Highways and Traffic Representation Panel Friday 21st November 2014

Dear all,

As one of two objectors to the proposed TRO for Birkenhead Market Service Road, I am announcing my intention to speak at this meeting.

I have received a letter through the post detailing the date and time of the meeting. I’m also (although you may have guessed this) going to film agenda items 1, 2 and 3.

Leonora (the other objector) may wish to speak too. However as I have had time to read the report, published yesterday there were some points I wish to raise in advance of the meeting in order that officers (and councillors) are given appropriate advance notice of the points I will raise.

I refer to the original numbering of the report.

3.4 “objector’s” should read “objectors'” as there are two of us.

3.5 Although access to Birkenhead Market Service Road can travel through Birkenhead Bus Station, as you can see from the map this is one of two ways vehicles can access the Birkenhead Market Service Road. Therefore it’s misleading to imply that people in the Birkenhead Market Service Road must have come through the Birkenhead Bus Station.

It would be useful if officers could clarify which designated bays they are referring to and what specific longer observation periods they are referring to.

3.6 Both The Grange and The Pyramids (except on a Sunday) charge for parking.

Here is the detail of blue badge spaces at the other car parks referred to (total number of spaces in brackets):

Europa Square 14 blue badge (150)
Oliver Street 6 blue badge (16)
Conway Street (on street) ~6 (6)
Burlington Street unknown

Policy SPD4 (which I’m sure councillors who are currently or have been previously on Planning Committee are familiar with) state minimum numbers of spaces for vehicles carrying disabled people as follows:

1 in the first 10 spaces should be allocated for disabled people. Thereafter 1 in every 20 spaces or 6% of the total (whichever is greater).

Applied to the Europa Square car park of 150 spaces using Class A1 – Retail this is:

first ten spaces: one space
other 140 spaces: seven spaces
Total: eight

However 6% is the greater. Depending on how you calculate the 6% (whether 6% of 150 or (6% of 140)+1) it either comes out as either 9 spaces or 9.4 spaces (rounded up to 10).

However the number of blue badges issued to the Wirral population (visitors can also use their blue badges) is higher than 6% putting pressure on existing spaces in Europa Park. On the day of the site visit with officers, there were no free Blue Badge spaces available in the Europa Park car park (out of 14) and this is pretty typical of how it is during the times the shops are open.

I quote:

“Officers consider there are sufficient parking spaces within existing Council and privately owned car parks in close proximity to the Market Hall to accommodate any overspill of blue badge holder parking from Birkenhead Market Service Road.”

In order to know that you’d have to do a traffic survey of how many spaces are free in car parks in close proximity to the Market Hall, how many of those spaces are blue badge spaces and actually know how many park in the Birkenhead Market Service Road currently with a blue badge. As far as I know (although I may be wrong) this is merely based on an opinion of officers without doing a survey. Many of the “sufficient parking spaces” are unsuitable for those with disability as disabled people if they parked in the regular spaces would not have enough room around their vehicle (especially if parked adjacent to a car) to safely get in and out of their vehicle.

3.7 Of course the Birkenhead Market Hall isn’t going to object to a traffic regulation order it’s actually funding half of the cost of. Individual traders were told by officers at the site visit that the proposals wouldn’t affect their customers unloading and loading, just parking. The traders haven’t been individually consulted and unless they read the notice on the lamppost, or found out by other means they just won’t be aware of this proposed TRO. Even if they did object, they might not know how to go about it. Bear in mind the proposals weren’t available to view in the Conway Street One Stop Shop just across the road, but were a considerable distance away at Wallasey Town Hall, Seacombe.

3.8 There are various points in the Birkenhead Market Service Road (as you can see on the plan) that are much narrower than others. Cars (or other vehicles) parked there or near there (unlawfully) can be causing an obstruction to the free flow of traffic. Although Wirral’s CEOs do not have powers to remove vehicles, the police do. Wirral’s CEOs can issue tickets (which hopefully act as a deterrent).

3.9 This is an acknowledgement by officers that the draft TRO (as consulted on) cannot be decided by the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel.

It is unclear from what is put in the report exactly what modifications officers are proposing to the proposed TRO. However what is clear is that only the original TRO has been consulted on (twice) and not the modified TRO.

The requirements in regulation 9 cause a public inquiry held by an inspector to be held if the requirements in regulations 9(3) to 9(5) are met.

To summarise these are (subject to paragraphs 4 and 5) for orders if:

(3) Subject to paragraphs (4) and (5), this paragraph applies to an order if—

(a) its effect is to prohibit the loading or unloading of vehicles or vehicles of any class in a road on any day of the week–

(i) at all times;
(ii) before 07.00 hours;
(iii) between 10.00 and 16.00 hours; or
(iv) after 19.00 hours,

and an objection has been made to the order (other than one which the order making authority is satisfied is frivolous or irrelevant) and not withdrawn; or

(b) its effect is to prohibit or restrict the passage of public service vehicles along a road and an objection has been made to the order in accordance with regulation 8–
(i) in the case of a road outside Greater London, by the operator of a local service the route of which includes that road; or
(ii) in the case of a road in Greater London, by the operator of a London bus service the route of which includes that road or by London Regional Transport.

(4) For the purposes of paragraph 3(a), an order shall not be taken to have the effect of prohibiting loading at any time to the extent that it—
(a) authorises the use of part of a road as a parking place, or designates a parking place on a road, for the use of a disabled person’s vehicle as defined by section 142(1) of the 1984 Act;
(b) relates to a length of the side of a road extending 15 metres in either direction from the point where one road joins the side of another road,

unless the effect of the order taken with prohibitions already imposed is to prohibit loading and unloading by vehicles of any class at the time in question for a total distance of more than 30 metres out of 50 metres on one side of any length of road.

(5) Paragraph (3) does not apply to an order —

(a) if it is an experimental order;
(b) made under section 84 of the 1984 Act (speed limits on roads other than restricted roads); or
(c) to the extent that it relates to a road which forms part of a priority route designated by the Secretary of State pursuant to section 50 of the Road Traffic Act 1991 (designation of priority routes in London).

(6) In this regulation “public service vehicle” has the meaning given by section 1 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981.

As you can see from the above, even if the loading bays in the proposed TRO are modified to apply to all vehicles and not just goods vehicles, it’s the stretches it restricts of >30m in 50m stretches around the Birkenhead Market Services Road that are the problem. Without these being also taken out of the proposed TRO the requirement for a public inquiry by an inspector still applies.

Neither the TRO consulted on, nor the changed TRO can be decided by the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel because of Regulation 9.

3.10
The exceptions referred to in officer comments in relation to vehicles driven other than by the blue badge holder for the purposes of picking up the blue badge holder don’t as far as I can see form part of the consulted on TRO.

4.1
Even if in theory a TRO was granted, without enforcement it wouldn’t result in any change. There are plenty of loading bays and plenty of time deliveries will happen and there will be a goods vehicle already in the space they wish to load or unload. Whereas it can be inconvenient for drivers of large lorries to try and drive down the Birkenhead Market Service Road, the vast majority of vehicles there are connected to the market stalls or the Pyramids/Grange. Going one way to the Birkenhead Market Service Road, the Birkenhead Bus Station provides greater challenges to the drivers of goods vehicles than the Birkenhead Market Service Road itself in my opinion.

5.1
There are options that have not been considered these are:

A) Consulting on the modified TRO. In fact consultation is a requirement of Regulation 8 (Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996). The new proposals would also have to be published in a local newspaper (Regulation 7) and there would have to be a period for objections.

What’s interesting is the modified TRO officers propose hasn’t been consulted on, therefore can’t be decided by the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel.

B) Having a public inquiry chaired by an inspector on the proposed TRO (Regulation 9, 10 & 11). Again this would require a notice in a local newspaper and 21 days notice.

Lastly I would like to request that item 3 (which is this item on the agenda) it taken ahead of item 2 as both Leonora and I planned to attend the meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority starting at 11.00am.

In order to get to that meeting, we will be able to stay at a meeting of the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel no later than 10.15am. Therefore it is important that the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel starts promptly at 9.30am and that is part of the reason why I am submitting this information in advance so that agenda item 3 can be dealt with quickly.

I realise this may inconvenience the objector to agenda item 2, however I cannot see it as being possible to deal with both agenda items in 45 minutes based on previous experience of Highways and Traffic Representation Panel meetings.

Thank you for reading this,

John Brace

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