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