What did councillors recommend Mersey Tunnel tolls should be for 2017-18?

What did councillors recommend Mersey Tunnel tolls should be for 2017-18?

What did councillors recommend Mersey Tunnel tolls should be for 2017-18?

                                     

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In the video footage above of the Merseytravel Committee (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) Budget Meeting held on the 2nd February 2017 the Mersey Tunnel Tolls 2017-18 agenda item starts at the 1m 54s point

Cllr Jerry Williams (foreground, right) at the Merseytravel Committee meeting (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) held on the 2nd February 2017 agenda item 5 Mersey Tunnel Tolls 2017-18
Cllr Jerry Williams (foreground, right) at the Merseytravel Committee meeting (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) held on the 2nd February 2017 agenda item 5 Mersey Tunnel Tolls 2017-18

Councillors on the Merseytravel Committee of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority today met and decided on their recommendation for Mersey Tunnels tolls for 2017-18. Mersey Tunnels is the name for the two tolled road tunnels between Wirral and Liverpool under the River Mersey known as the Kingsway (Wallasey) and Queensway (Birkenhead) tunnels.

Three of the four councillors appointed by Wirral Council (Cllr Steve Foulkes (Labour), Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour) and Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour)) were at the meeting and agreed to the recommendation for Mersey Tunnel tolls. Their recommendation was made to a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority that meets tomorrow on the 3rd February 2017 to make a final decision.

The recommendation for tunnel tolls (subject to approval by the Mayor of Liverpool and Council Leaders tomorrow afternoon) will take effect from the 1st April 2017.

Tolls are agreed in four classes which are set out below.

Class 1
(a) Motor cycle with side car and 3 wheeled vehicle
(b) Motor car and goods vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes gross weight
(c) Passenger vehicle other than a motor car with seating capacity for under 9 persons

Class 2
(a) Motor car and goods vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes gross weight, with trailer
(b) Goods vehicle over 3.5 tonnes gross weight, with trailer
(c) Passenger vehicle with seating capacity for 9 or more persons, with two axles

Class 3
(a) Goods vehicle over 3.5 tonnes gross weight, with three axles
(b) Passenger vehicle with seating capacity for 9 or more persons, with three axles

Class 4
Goods vehicle over 3.5 tonnes gross weight, with 4 or more axles

Councillors recommended that all liveried emergency services vehicles (such as marked police cars, fire engines and ambulances) continue to be allowed free travel through the Mersey Tunnels in 2017-18.

Free travel for all classes of vehicle was also recommended from 10 pm on the 24th December 2016 to 6 am on the 26th December 2016.

Below is a table of the tolls recommended by councillors at the Merseytravel Committee meeting today from the 1st April 2017 to the 30th March 2018 for each class of vehicle for both the cash toll and Fast Tag toll.






 Vehicle Class  2017-18 Cash Toll  2017-18 Fast Tag Toll 
 1 £1.70£1.20
 2 £3.40£2.40
 3 £5.10£3.60
 4 £6.80£4.80

Further details of how to apply for a Fast Tag can be found on the Mersey Tunnel website.

There is also a concession scheme for Mersey Tunnel tolls for some people with a disability, again details of eligibility and how to apply can be found on the Mersey Tunnels website.

The tolls are opposed by the Mersey Tunnel Users Association who were also present at the public meeting to observe what was decided.

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Why is a Labour councillor denying a vote took place on Girtrell Court?

Why is a Labour councillor denying a vote took place on Girtrell Court?

                                                              

Cllr Moira McLaughlin voting against Girtrell Court motion at Coordinating Committee 16th February 2016 thumbnail
Cllr Moira McLaughlin (second from the left) voting against Girtrell Court motion at Coordinating Committee 16th February 2016 thumbnail

As you can see from the still from a video I took of the Coordinating Committee meeting held on the 16th February 2016 Cllr Moira McLaughlin (second from the left in the background) is quite clearly voting on Cllr Phil Gilchrist/Cllr Wendy Clements’ motion about Girtrell Court.

This was a story in a blog post I published yesterday headlined 8 Labour councillors vote against motion asking for delay in closure of Girtrell Court until alternatives are in place. That blog post contains a video of the meeting and a transcript of what was said during that the discussion and vote on the motion about Girtrell Court.

Following publication of that piece, one of my readers emailed the Labour councillors involved in the vote. The reader forwarded a copy of a response received from Cllr McLaughlin which is included below (along with the original email). Cllr McLaughlin is Vice-Chair of Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (therefore expected to lead by example when it comes to standards) but she responds in her role as Chair of the Coordinating Committee.

I have asked the reader for permission to publish this email, but at the time of publication have not heard back yet. Therefore I have removed their name, email address and signature block from both emails.

However considering Cllr McLaughlin’s denial in the email that a vote on Girtrell Court happened, I felt it was in the public interest and important that this is published before Budget Council meets on Thursday evening. Maybe Cllr McLaughlin can explain at Thursday’s meeting why she wrote this in an email (not just to the resident, but a number of other Labour councillors too)? This is one of those rare times I make a decision as editor using s.32 of the Data Protection Act 1998 to publish such material.

I have not approached Cllr McLaughlin for a right to reply to this piece as I believe her views are conveyed in publication of the email itself.

From: McLaughlin, Moira (Councillor)
Date: 29 February 2016 at 14:44
Subject: RE: GIRTRELL COURT
To: ************** <****************>, “Abbey, Ron O. (Councillor)” , “Brightmore, Phillip A. (Councillor)” , “Smith, Walter W. (Councillor)” , “Sullivan, Michael (Councillor)” , “Williams, Jerry (Councillor)” , “Williamson, Janette (Councillor)” , “Williams, Irene R. (Councillor)”
Cc: “Davies, Phil L. (Councillor)”

Dear Mr. **********,

Thank you for contacting us.

I`m afraid , though, your information is inaccurate .

We have had no vote, as yet, on the future of Girtrell Court and I`m really not sure what information you have based this email on.

I don`t think it is appropriate for me to address the other points you make in your email

Regards

Moira

Councillor Moira Mclaughlin
Councillor for Rock Ferry Ward
Tel: 0151 644 8234
Fax: 0151 652 3248

The contents of this e-mail are the personal view of the author and should in no way be considered the official view of Wirral Council

From: ****************** [mailto:******************] On Behalf Of ******************
Sent: 29 February 2016 14:07
To: Abbey, Ron O. (Councillor); McLaughlin, Moira (Councillor); Brightmore, Phillip A. (Councillor); Smith, Walter W. (Councillor); Sullivan, Michael (Councillor); Williams, Jerry (Councillor); Williamson, Janette (Councillor); Williams, Irene R. (Councillor)
Subject: GIRTRELL COURT

Dear All!

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair)
Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour)
Cllr Phillip Brightmore (Labour)
Cllr Walter Smith (Labour)
Cllr Michael Sullivan (Labour)
Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour)
Cllr Janette Williamson (Labour)
Cllr Irene Williams (Labour)

Is my interpretation correct that the above-named Councillors voted against a delay in the closure of Girtell Court until alternatives are in place?

If so, hang your heads in shame.

As a life-long Labour Party supporter, I believe in looking after the vulnerable in our society.

Since having become one of those vulnerable people (I am disabled), I had been hoping that the Party would help look after me. Now I see that it cares not one jot nor tittle. The Conservative Party looks after those able to cope with the vicissitudes of life. To whom must I turn at the next and future elections?

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8 Labour councillors vote against motion asking for delay in closure of Girtrell Court until alternatives are in place

8 Labour councillors vote against motion asking for delay in closure of Girtrell Court until alternatives are in place

                                                     

Labour councillors (except Cllr Christina Muspratt who abstained) voting against an opposition motion on Girtrell Court at the Coordinating Committee meeting on the 16th February 2016
Labour councillors (except Cllr Christina Muspratt who abstained) voting against an opposition motion on Girtrell Court at the Coordinating Committee meeting on the 16th February 2016

The two most read stories on this blog this month have been Why did Wirral Council’s Cabinet recommend closure of Girtrell Court despite a protest against closure and opposition from the trade unions? and .

However there’s been a public meeting involving Girtrell Court that I haven’t reported on yet.

In the past when there were budget options out to public consultation, Wirral Council’s overview and scrutiny committees each met in public. This gave an opportunity for backbench councillors to give their views on each budget option with an opportunity for the public to hear this. If there was a difference of opinion between councillors alternatives could be put forward and voted on. That was how scrutiny used to operate at Wirral Council all done at public meetings on camera.

However this year (in a repeat of how it was done last year), it was all done in private in “workshops”, not in public. A report was then written up for each overview and scrutiny committee, you can read the Families and Wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee workshop report here, the Regeneration and Environment overview and scrutiny committee workshop report here and the Transformation and Resources overview and scrutiny committee workshop report here.

Around a week before the Cabinet met to decide its recommendation on the budget for 2016/17 the Coordinating Committee (who coordinate the work of the overview and scrutiny committees) met on the evening of the 16th February 2016.

I thought as Wirral Council hasn’t yet met to decide the budget for 2016/17 and people associated with Girtrell Court weren’t at this meeting that a transcript of what was said in the debate on the report from the Families and Wellbeing workshop would be useful. However you can watch this item (item 5 2016/17 Budget Scrutiny Report) for yourself in the video below. The video should start at the right point but if it doesn’t this agenda item starts at the 31 minute 7 second point and the overarching report for this agenda item can be read here.

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Coordinating Committee 16th February 2016

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Chair, Labour): Right, the next item on the agenda is item 5 and it is the report of the workshops that looked at budget scrutiny.

Errm, Joe [Blott] do you want to say something on that?

OK, errm, OK, just briefly as a bit of an overview, we used the same approach the workshop approach this year as was used last year with each Committee holding its own workshop, to give an opportunity for its members to examine in more detail the proposals put forward by the officers.

Errm, the obvious intention was to better understand the service implications and the achievability of the proposals as they were presented.

Errm, I do think that members who took part found them errm helpful and the purpose tonight is really to note the process that we’ve used and perhaps comment on that and whether that could be improved upon in the future and also the character of the workshops and then forward these documents to the Cabinet. I know they’ve already been reproduced and they will form part of the Cabinet minutes for next week.

Errm, I think all members don’t know really of the Council understand the scale of the task that’s underway at the moment over the budget. Errm, and I do hope errm that errm, I mean we won’t be as I said earlier in the earlier report we won’t be debating these proposals tonight, that wouldn’t be appropriate but I do hope that, errm, the non-elected, non-Executive members of the Council, this can form a good part of the consultation, their views on the consultation and that’s what it’s intended to be.

I’m going to errm, I’ll give a brief overview of what happened at Families and Wellbeing and then I’ll ask the other chairs of the other two committees to do the same.

Errm, the session that was on, held by Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee was very well attended, I know unfortunately Wendy [Clements] was unwell, but other than that we had a full turn out.

Errm, and there was err, I think everybody contributed in some form during the discussion that we had. Obviously some of the proposals that were put forward generated more discussion and comment than others.

Errm, what the Committee didn’t attempt to do was to recommend or reject any of the proposals. We didn’t see that as our role.

Errm what we did use, err do, was to use the workshops to dig deeper than the narrative that was presented by errm around the proposal by officers and to examine in more detail the impact, whether that be a positive impact or a negative impact and errm if we thought there were negative impacts to highlight those and possibly make suggestions as to how the negative impact could be errm mitigated and also we looked at the achievability of the savings because in the past errm savings haven’t always been achieved and that’s presented problems in the year, in the following year.

Errm, following the workshop, further information was requested on errm, modelling the saving around the concessions on leisure could be done differently to perhaps protect some of the most errm disadvantaged children in the Borough and since then I’ve had back a report from Clare Fish which we actually asked if we could look at what the errm the effect on the saving would be for errm children who were in receipt of free school meals if they were still entitled to a swim. Errm and the report I’ve had back from Clare Fish indicates that out of a saving of two hundred and fifty, which and there was comment if you look at the night, there was comment about, about the errm, how that figure was errm obtained, but that we would reduce err, would reduce the saving by fifteen thousand, but we would initiate a cost of two swims annually. Errm, so that’s err, as I said will go forward as well.

Errm and one of the members asked at a later stage, raised an issue around the impact of the changes around the CAMHS contract and errm the information that was received from that has been included in the narrative of the report.

Errm, the report’s already been circulated to members, participants of the Committee which the service support and I’m sure Wendy [Clements] you’ve had a copy as well.

Errm, but if you believe that it has been accepted by them as an accurate reflection of the discussion on the night and I thank all those who’ve attended and took part.

Errm, now I think it’s probably reasonable to say that at this point, Phil [Gilchrist] has submitted an email today which I didn’t really have a chance to look at this morning because I was on grandma duties, but I have looked at it as the day’s gone on and errm, I don’t know whether members of the Committee have had, I have to say Phil [Gilchrist] errm, I do believe that the areas that you’ve highlighted were thoroughly explored at the workshop and the comments errm, of Members are included in the narrative of the report.

I don’t really errm, I wouldn’t like to see this Committee, try to change the work that came out of that workshop. So I mean I’m inclined to say thank you very much for your comment and I’m sure you’d be happy to have that email forwarded to the Cabinet directly from you, but I wouldn’t want to change the errm, narrative of the Families and Wellbeing errm workshop report.

Errm, now obviously if the other people feel differently I’ll have to put that to the vote, but as the Chair of the Families and Wellbeing and the person who signed off the report, errm that’s my view. That points were raised, they were explored, they have been commented on and other consultations that maybe have taken place since, can report in their own way and I’m sure they will, but this is the work of the members of the Families and Wellbeing Committee at that workshop, that night and therefore I don’t wish to change it.

OK, errm, but I’m happy, it was, I’ll take questions on this point.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): Just a comment, if it’s legitimate to receive information later on, which you mentioned earlier about the swimming cost issue, and members are able to get a bit more information on certain issues and they reflected on what’s submitted then it seems equally legitimate, no offence meant at all, to hear what’s been said, concerns that have been raised in other places since and then to reflect on what the Working Party heard and to try and satisfy ourselves as to whether..

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): I understand the point you’re making but I don’t agree with it. Errm, I actually, the points that were raised, one of them was raised on the night by a member of the Committee and the other was raised by a member of the Committee at a later stage. So I think we’re in a different situation to try and use this Committee to change or highlight an area where that was one of the conclusions. Those were a range of concerns that were raised on the night, errm on this issue, but other positive things were put forward as well, so just to highlight those would almost change the emphasis and I understand that you feel strongly and I’m sure that you will make representations and other consultations that are under way will also put their feedback in but that’s for them to do and for those people who are the subject of the consultation to do, not for members of the Families and Wellbeing and that’s, I haven’t got any more to say on it. If you want to put it as a proposal, I’m quite happy to put it to a vote.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): I think Chair, I’m conscious there are a couple of deputies, I’m conscious that there are members who have been working during the day and might not have seen what I circulated and what I did circulate was a fair summary I thought, plus some suggestions and therefore I’m conscious that not everyone might have seen it, but we often suggest things during a meeting that people haven’t seen.

Errm and I’m not sure perhaps if there are members who have seen what I wrote even though it was about ten to midnight last night. If there are members who agree that it’s reasonable to put it forward they might say so and then they might be able to judge the feeling of members because of course I’m sitting here happily on my own, in my own little group as it were, but…

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): As I say, Phil if you want to read out your email and then if you want to move it and get a seconder, errm then we’ll put it to a vote. So if that’s what you want to do, fine! And I’m quite happy to do that!

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): I’m getting some indications from members, some members are nodding who have read it that agree with the points that I’ve raised and I’m conscious it’s very lengthy.

For the courtesy of other members would you agree that I should read it out and then members can consider it?

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Yes, err Ron [Abbey] briefly, because I want to move on!

Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour): I can’t be brief on that because I think we should take the advice of the Chair and I don’t think we should have any email or debate on this.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): We want to be fair though don’t we? So I want to give Phil [Gilchrist], I mean I’m sure it’s very difficult for Phil [Gilchrist] managing on his own. Errm, and I want to give him the benefit of all our help if I can on this, so you read it out Phil and then if you want to move it as a proposal, put it.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): Thank you for your courtesy Chair.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): I’m always courteous with you.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): Yes, thank you. I’m always courteous. I’m going to read

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): OK, quickly!

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson):carefully and modestly.

This meeting of the Policy and Performance Coordinating Committee wishes to highlight the concerns expressed by members of the budget scrutiny working party relating to services offered at Girtrell Court.

During those deliberations it was recognised that “the key challenge is to meet the needs of individuals with what can be provided” and that “assurances were sought about availability and quality of the independent sector provision and also how each person would have their needs assessed”.

It was also reported that, “all respite will be honoured until March 2016, but provision will be continued until all reviews are complete and all users have alternative provision in place”. That’s the quote.

Then I went on to write, “In view of the concerns raised since the working party met, it’s even more important that attention is given to meeting the detailed needs of the families involved.

Services need to be offered at Girtrell Court, until it is clear that a range of providers are in place and lined up to offer services truly tailored to the physical, recreational and emotional needs of the users and are demonstrably appropriate to their ages and circumstances.

In view of the tight timescales that have caused concern the officers and Cabinet need to ensure that the transition to future provision is appropriately managed with clients able to use services at Girtrell Court until such time as alternatives are duly commissioned”.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Thank you very much Phil.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): That’s a fair read.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): and that was well read, errm, yes, Phil, I do want to move to a vote on this and then move on.

Cllr Phillip Brightmore (Labour): I just want to voice some concern that this is being attached to a report that came from the Families and Wellbeing Committee. It just strikes me that this is something that should stand on its own as a proposal if it’s going to be brought forward at all. I was on that Committee and it, I’d like the report to remain as it was.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): I’m going to put it to a vote Phil so I don’t want everybody around the room giving their opinion because I don’t think it’s needed. Wendy [Clements]? I’ll just going to take one more comment and then I’ll have a vote if Phil wants me to put it to the vote. I’ll draw people’s attention to page fifteen of the report.

Cllr Wendy Clements (Conservative): Thank you Chair. This is a report which is coming to this Committee and so its got our name on it, this particular bunch of people that’s sat here tonight and I would like to say that I will second this.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): We’ll put it to a vote and then we’ll move on. All those in favour of Phil’s suggestion that we attach that errm email,

Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour): Has he got as seconder for that Chair?

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Well Wendy [Clements]’s just seconded it! Errm, all those in favour of that, we attach it to the report from Families and Wellbeing. Please show.

6 councillors voted in favour who were:

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson)
Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative)
Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative)
Cllr David Burgess-Joyce (Conservative)
Cllr Wendy Clements (Conservative)
Cllr Tom Anderson (Conservative spokesperson)

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Right and those against?

8 councillors voted against who were:

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair)
Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour)
Cllr Phillip Brightmore (Labour)
Cllr Walter Smith (Labour)
Cllr Michael Sullivan (Labour)
Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour)
Cllr Janette Williamson (Labour)
Cllr Irene Williams (Labour)

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): So that is not carried and the report…

Cllr Christina Muspratt (Labour): Sorry, we haven’t asked for abstentions!

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Sorry ok.

Cllr Christina Muspratt (Labour): Well I’m abstaining because I haven’t had it, I don’t want to have the .. meeting.

Councillor Christina Muspratt abstained.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): OK, ok, ok, Christine!

Cllr Christina Muspratt (Labour): So I’m abstaining on all this because I’ve not been following the chain.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): OK, one abstention, but I would ask members to look at page fifteen. So now we move on to.

Cllr Christina Muspratt (Labour): Sorry could I ask a question. I’m sorry Chair but I want to ask a question on page eighteen, the CAMHS service, do we know if the money coming from the government may help with this?

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Well this is one reason Christina, why I’m saying we won’t be debating these tonight, because we haven’t got the officers here to answer those questions. So if you want to submit a question in your own right on that I suggest you do, but that’s why we’re not debating these proposals tonight and I will now ask Jeanette [Williamson] to give her report.

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Will the 20 councillors on Merseytravel mothball the Mersey Ferry terminal at Woodside?

Will the 20 councillors on Merseytravel mothball the Mersey Ferry terminal at Woodside?

                                               

MV Snowdrop (one of the iconic Mersey Ferries) on the River Mersey with Liverpool skyline in the background
MV Snowdrop (one of the iconic Mersey Ferries) on the River Mersey with Liverpool skyline in the background

One of the reasons I have had not had all twelve days of Christmas off, is because next week there are two Merseytravel public meetings.

The one on the afternoon of Thursday 7th January (starting at 2.00pm in the Authority Room, 1st floor, Merseytravel Headquarters, No. 1 Mann Island, Liverpool, L3 1BP) is a meeting of all twenty councillors on the Merseytravel Committee (which is now part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority). This committee has councillors from Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral. You might point out that although being called Merseytravel, Halton isn’t in Merseyside but Cheshire (but it is part of the Combined Authority).

The Wirral representatives on Merseytravel are Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour), Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour), Cllr Steve Foulkes (Labour) and Cllr Les Rowlands (Conservative (the two opposition councillors who aren’t in the Labour Party of which he’s one call themselves the Merseytravel Alliance)).

It’s not a long agenda and I am looking forward to the Merseyrail question and answer session, but as you’ve probably guessed this piece is going to be about the Mersey Ferries.

Somebody at Merseytravel paid consultants called Mott McDonald to write a report on the Mersey Ferries. You can read the covering report and consultant’s report on Merseytravel’s website. Mott McDonald also involved two other firms of consultants Peter Brett Associates and Graham & Woolnough.

The bit in the consultants’ report that has been causing a lot of political concern this side of the River Mersey is the part that states,

"Unfortunately, due to the extensive capital investment required in the near future, it is recommended that Woodside terminal is mothballed and the pier infrastructure removed."
 

Obviously this would mean if that was ever decided that the Mersey Ferry would just go between the Pier Head in Liverpool and Seacombe. I presume if that happened that would mean the end of the U-Boat Story tourist attraction which is part of that complex too (all about a German submarine called U-534), the cafe there and Birkenhead would lose out on visitors.

There is an emotional connection people have this side of the water to the Mersey Ferries and I’m sure there are people still alive that remember when it stopped at New Brighton and New Brighton was a bustling seaside resort.

One of the councillors on the Merseytravel Committee, Cllr Jerry Williams is the Heritage Champion and I’m sure he could wax lyrical about how important the Mersey Ferries are for Wirral’s tourism.

For the last twenty-six years the running of the Mersey Ferries has been through a company controlled by Merseytravel called Mersey Ferries Limited. I quote from its latest accounts:

"The results of the company for the year show a loss on ordinary activities before tax of £230,468 (2014 – £243,486). This loss is wholly attributable to the trading activity of the tourism-related business (Spaceport and U534) as the core transport activity continues to receive revenue support grant from its parent undertaking."
 

So, Merseytravel needs to run/market Spaceport and U534 better, whether this means asking people who buy Mersey Ferry tickets if they’d also like to purchase a ticket for Spaceport/U534 and/or just better publicity/marketing anyway Merseytravel have been criticised in the past by their auditors for the tourism side of matters.

However a more detailed look at the accounts shows that Mersey Ferries Limited employ 52 staff (an annual wage bill of £1.6 million) but Mersey Ferries Limited don’t own the Mersey Ferries or the terminals at Woodside, Seacombe and the Liverpool Pier Head.

These assets (the boats and the terminals) are owned by Merseytravel.

I am now going to make a comparison to the business I’m in as this point is raised in the consultant’s report.

As you can’t get to and from a lot of the public meetings I report on by public transport, sadly some means of private transport is vital.

Being somebody with a bit of foresight I put money aside out of what I earn in case there was a major capital expenditure on that front. Sure enough last year the car failed its MOT and I had the money to buy another at a cost of £2,500 (because I’d had the foresight to put money aside). It was only sensible from a management perspective to do this. Of course in the public sector, it would probably be a risk on a risk register.

Merseytravel (according to the consultant’s report) is in the same situation. The Mersey Ferries are getting older, so are the terminals and both are costing more to repair. However being consultants they seem to view everything through the lens of a business and the private sector, all about making money when the public sector isn’t like that.

The sensible thing would’ve been to have a reserve capital fund to pay for these types of issues. I’ll hear on Thursday afternoon more detail.

However back to the Mersey Ferries, from a political perspective Birkenhead’s politicians are united (including Rt Hon Frank Field MP) that mothballing Woodside is frankly (no pun intended) a bad idea.

Now you will probably ask, is this going to be like the annual vote on whether to put up the Mersey Tunnel tolls? Wirral’s four representatives huff and puff and say what a bad idea it will be, vote against it but are then outvoted by the rest of the Merseytravel councillors? Who knows?

However the Mersey Tunnels are why the Mersey Ferries aren’t as well used as they used to be. The Mersey Tunnels were built using borrowed money. In fact if we look at Halton, £470 million was found (who knows what the final cost will be) for a bridge over the River Mersey there.

Compared to the cost of a new bridge, the costs of keeping the ferries and terminals going seem quite small.

When there’s a political will to do something the money can be found!

Indeed the report states having the Mersey Ferries brings wider economic benefits to the City Region.

Now there will be a future, more detailed reports about the Mersey Ferries brought to a future meeting of Merseytravel.

I am going to make a point I have already made at the cost of perhaps sounding unpopular. There is a large surplus on tunnel tolls used to prop up Merseytravel’s budget and save it going cap in hand to the local councils for more money.

My view was that as the Mersey Tunnels (built on borrowed money) adversely affected the popularity and viability of the Mersey Ferries that one should subsidise the other. As I’ve already pointed out the Mersey Ferries are a big draw to tourists and bring wider economic benefits to the region.

The tunnel tolls (which are decided by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority on the recommendation of Merseytravel) have of course been a thorny political issue for a long time. Many people feeling that politicians have forever promised at election time that one day they will be scrapped but that they never are. Indeed political promises were made in the lead up to the General Election and the Combined Authority requested a report (which seems to be a long time in the writing).

However I am going to state my own personal viewpoint now. Whatever the rights and wrongs are over the Mersey Tunnel tolls, it’s one of the few things that Merseytravel/Liverpool City Region Combined Authority can control as the district council treasurers would no doubt be against an increase in the levy on the district councils (yes I realise budgets are ultimately decided by politicians). Although transport (due to the economic benefits it brings) is a priority from national government, Merseytravel can’t expect large increases in its grant.

Mersey Ferries compete against the trains, buses and other forms of transport that go through the Mersey Tunnels. However tourism is a big part of the economy in these parts. Blue Badge tourist guides take groups of people on the Mersey Ferries and transport has always been subsidised. Transport brings economic benefits.

However the consultants don’t see the big picture. They just see it like running a private business whose aim is to make a profit, the public sector ethos is not like that. The public sector runs services for the benefit of the public paid for through taxes.

It would be very sad if the Mersey Ferry terminal at Woodside was lost because of the short-sighted nature of consultants. Yes I was born in Birkenhead and most people see the Mersey Ferries at Woodside as part of the fabric of Birkenhead.

I realise what I have stated about Mersey Tunnel tolls will not be popular, I’m not advocating that they should go up. I just feel that as the Mersey Tunnels were built with borrowed money that it’s an unfair form of competition to the detriment of the Mersey Ferries. Hundreds of millions can be found to build a new bridge across the Mersey, yet much smaller amounts to keep the Mersey Ferries and terminals going can’t? It doesn’t make sense.

If you have any comments or a view on all this, please leave a comment below. If you’d like to come along to the public meeting on Thursday 7th January 2015, the meeting will start at 2.00pm in the Authority Room, 1st floor, Merseytravel Headquarters, No. 1 Mann Island, Liverpool, L3 1BP.

If you would like to write to a councillor on Merseytravel, just click on the photo of the councillor you wish to here for contact details.

There are two petitions about this you can sign.

Save Woodside Ferry Terminal (at time of writing 129 supporters) and

Save Woodside Ferry (at time of writing 367 supporters)

A report of what was said at the Merseytravel meeting starts at Cllr Foulkes on Mersey Ferries “we cherish that service and want to maintain it”.

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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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