3 video clips of councillors and Community Patrol outside the Wirral count for the Claughton byelection and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Mayoral election

3 video clips of councillors and Community Patrol outside the Wirral count for the Claughton byelection and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Mayoral election

3 video clips of councillors and Community Patrol outside the Wirral count for the Claughton byelection and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Mayoral election

                            

Councillor Stuart Kelly (Counting Agent - Claughton) 5th May 2017 outside Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre
Councillor Stuart Kelly (Counting Agent – Claughton) 5th May 2017 outside Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre

Below are three edited videos of what you could term what I was allowed to report outside the count from a public footpath at the Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre following the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Mayoral election and Claughton byelection.

I had originally planned to film the result and speeches from inside the count, but the Chief Executives of Wirral Council and Liverpool City Council decided my presence and that of Leonora would not be welcomed.

There were a variety of interviews I recorded, people weren’t just going to the local election count but also for the other use of Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre as a leisure centre.

However these are the earlier clips which I’ll list in chronological order.

First, Wirral’s Community Patrol (whose used to do dog fouling and litter enforcement which have been outsourced by Wirral Council to Kingdom under a contract Wirral Council have kept mainly secret.

Below is video of my brief one and a half minute interaction with the Community Patrol, where I compare their uniforms to the more Terry Pratchett name inspired Liverpool City Watch. However thankfully we can both laugh about the whole situation!

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Wirral Council’s Community Patrol – Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre 5th May 2017

Next is Wirral Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Communications Cllr Matthew Patrick (a Labour councillor for Upton ward) who doesn’t seem as keen to talk as Wirral Council’s Community Patrol.

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Cllr Matthew Patrick (Upton and Cabinet Member – Community Engagement and Communications)

Cllr Stuart Kelly (a Liberal Democrat councillor for Oxton ward) and Counting Agent for their candidate in Claughton ward didn’t leave as quickly as Cllr Matthew Patrick. We talked for a few minutes about both the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Mayoral election and the Claughton byelection.

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Cllr Stuart Kelly (Oxton and Counting Agent – Claughton byelection) 5th May 2017

Hopefully over the next few days I’ll publish the conversations with other councillors such as Cllr Phil Davies, Cllr George Davies and a few others!

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Planning Committee refuse Magenta Living application for 11 houses and 2 bungalows in Upton (Kenilworth Gardens)

Planning Committee refuse Magenta Living application for 11 houses and 2 bungalows in Upton (Kenilworth Gardens)

Planning Committee refuse Magenta Living application for 11 houses and 2 bungalows in Upton (Kenilworth Gardens)

                                                             

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The Kenilworth Gardens item starts at 8 minutes 19 seconds in the video clip above and continues to the video clips below of Wirral Council’s Planning Committee meeting of the 20th November 2014.

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Cllr Matthew Patrick explains to Wirral Council's Planning Committee why they should reject planning application APP 14 00951 in Kenilworth Gardens Upton 20th November 2014
Cllr Matthew Patrick explains to Wirral Council’s Planning Committee why they should reject planning application APP 14 00951 in Kenilworth Gardens Upton 20th November 2014

The long running saga of planning application of planning application APP/14/00951: Unused Land, KENILWORTH GARDENS, UPTON, CH49 4ND – proposal to develop the site with residential units for affordable housing use, providing 11 no. two storey 2 bedroom houses, and 2 no. 2 bedroom bungalows (including 1 fully disabled access unit) finally reached a decision at Wirral Council at the Planning Committee meeting of the 20th November 2014.

The applicant was Wirral Partnership Homes Limited (T/A Magenta Living) and the agent Ainsley Gommon Architects.

Wirral Council had received this planning application on the 18th July 2014. At the Planning Committee on the 25th September 2014 a site visit was agreed. After that took place it had been due to be decided at the Planning Committee on the 22nd October 2014. However at the Planning Committee meeting on the 22nd October 2014 it was deferred to the Planning Committee meeting on the 20th November 2014 (making it over 4 months for a decision on this planning application to be reached.

Wirral Council planning officers had recommended in a report that the planning application be approved with various conditions.

The Planning Committee heard from the lead petitioner Jean Robinson, Chair of the Overchurch Residents Association who spoke against the planning application being approved. She referred to heritage reasons, ecological reasons and highway reasons why she thought the planning application should be refused.

The petitioner in favour of the application did not speak.

Rob Ware of Ainsley Gommon Architects (the agent on behalf of the applicant Wirral Partnership Homes Limited T/A Magenta Living) spoke after and explained the reasons why he thought that councillors should accept the planning application. He referred during this to a 34 year old tenant of the applicant with spinal injuries that was in need of a bungalow and would benefit from such a planning application being granted. He also referred to the highway concerns.

Cllr Matthew Patrick (ward councillor for Upton ward) also addressed the Planning Committee. He referred to the petition against the planning application, the petition in favour, the protection of urban greenspace, the uses that local residents put the land which included Easter egg hunts and litter picking.

He pointed out that trees on the site were protected by tree protection orders and how he felt that the application should be rejected because of policy HS4 as in his opinion it did not meet all the criteria for new housing as it would change the character of the area as well as another criteria in HS4.

Cllr Patrick also referred to the need to reduce crime, allow emergency vehicles access and the issue of bats, in fact three different species of bat! He felt the lighting would disturb the insects that the bats feed on and referred to a letter written from Wirral Wildlife in 2007 about the bats. He referred the Planning Committee to their legal obligation with regards to species protection and went on to refer again to policy HS4.

He wondered how the proposed disabled tenant would be able to safely access the property by foot as the proposed pavement was too narrow and finished by referring to the strength of feeling from the Overchurch Residents Association as residents had contacted him by phone, email and letter about this planning application. He urged the Planning Committee to reject the application.

After much discussion over many issues to do with the planning application ranging from highway issues, disability issues, bats and wildlife, emergency vehicle access, refuse vehicle access and garages, someone asked one of Wirral Council’s solicitors for legal advice about the issue of the application needing to rely on a future decision to unadopt the highway to proceed.

The solicitor referred to the proposed condition 9 which meant approval was conditional on the access road being formally stopped up and unadopted. She referred to the other reasons (other than a development) as to why the highway might be unadopted.

After much further debate, Cllr Stuart Kelly (Lib Dem spokesperson) moved refusal. This was seconded by Cllr Denise Realey (Vice-Chair).

All thirteen councillors present on the Planning Committee voted in favour of refusal.

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The incredible £754,783.18 that Wirral Council councillors cost (plus amounts for the Mayor & Deputy Mayor)

The incredible £754,783.18 that Wirral Council councillors cost (plus amounts for the Mayor & Deputy Mayor)

The incredible £754,783.18 that Wirral Council councillors cost (plus amounts for the Mayor & Deputy Mayor)

                      

To very little fanfare (compared to the local newspaper coverage that used to go with the annual publication of MP’s expenses), Wirral Council has published on its website what it paid each of its councillors for 2013-14 with a breakdown by basic allowance, responsibility allowance, telephone rental (although this is a £NIL amount for everyone on that list), expenses, subsistence, travel expenses and car mileage. Despite replying to a FOI request and stating this was part of Wirral Council’s “openness and transparency” it is in fact a legal requirement that they publish this information annually (if you’d like to leave a comment referring to the specific Act of Parliament or regulations that require them to do this feel free).

This list includes three people who aren’t councillors but are “independent persons” and are appointed by Wirral Council councillors. These three have a role set down in law in dealing with complaints about councillors. They are also co-opted on Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (whose next scheduled meeting has been cancelled).

Unlike the councillors none of these three get a basic amount, but receive £25 for each meeting they attend of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee. In addition to this they are able to claim car mileage for meetings associated with their role. The annual amounts for these three are the smallest on the list being £90.80 (Dr. Burgess-Joyce), £122.40 (Brian Cummings) and £208.10 (RS Jones).

For the politicians, the lowest annual amount paid was to Cllr Matthew Patrick of £3,794.14. This is because he was only elected part way through that year in October 2013 in the Upton by-election. The by-election in Upton happened because of the death of Cllr Sylvia Hodrien, who also appears in the list receiving a part year amount of £4,373.84. Former Councillor Darren Dodd is the only other name to receive a part year amount of £6,019.11 as he resigned part way through the year and moved to Leeds.

The rest received the basic allowance of £8,712.48. In addition to this amount roughly half receive an extra responsibility allowance which for this financial year applied to thirty-three out of the sixty-seven councillors. An extra responsibility allowance is paid to the ten members of the Cabinet (generally an extra £9,171 although the Leader receives £22,927), chair of a committee, leader or deputy leader of a political group etc. The largest responsibility allowance paid was to Cllr Phil Davies of £22,926.96 (this is in addition to the basic allowance of £8,712.48). The smallest amount (that wasn’t £NIL) paid as a responsibility allowance was to Cllr Lesley Rennie of £203.38.

In total (the councillors and independent persons) claimed a total of £5,171.75 in car mileage payments, £490.99 in subsistence payments (this a meals allowance when they’re away from home for over four hours) and £1,684.64 in “expenses”.

The total cost (from this list) to the taxpayer for 2013-14 for the councillors and three independent persons was £754,783.18.

For some obscure reason I’m not really sure of, in earlier years the amount that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are paid is published separately. This doesn’t seem to have been done yet this year (at the time of writing), but in 2012-13 came to a total of an extra £12,228.80. I would guess that the amount for the mayoralty in 2013-14 would be a similar amount to this.

A number of councillors also represent Wirral Council on outside bodies. There are two councillors who represent Wirral Council on the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority are paid an extra £1,834 each. These amounts are paid directly by Wirral Council to these councillors.

There are other outside bodies such as Merseytravel (four councillors from Wirral Council) and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (four councillors from Wirral Council). These two pay these councillors directly extra amounts for these extra responsibilities. A list similar to the one Wirral Council produces is published on their organisation’s website annually. These amounts are not included in this list from Wirral Council as such payments are made directly to councillors by those bodies rather than through Wirral Council.

A resolution to Council in previous years required Wirral Council to publish these extra amounts received too from bodies funded through the council tax such as Merseytravel, the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority and until it was abolished and replaced with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside & Police and Crime Panel, the Merseyside Police Authority.

As with the complicated scheme in place at Wirral Council, these amounts can vary quite considerably from a basic allowance that all receive to large amounts for the Chair.

Taking one public body, the figures for Merseytravel (which is now part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) haven’t been published on Wirral Council’s website for 2013-14, but the 2012-13 figures show that Wirral Council councillors received a basic allowance each of £5,202.13 (with part year payments to Cllr Blakeley and Cllr Foulkes), an extra special responsibility allowance for three councillors ranging from £1,095.38 to £4,063.29 as well as travel & subsistence payments ranging from nothing claimed to £997.99.

So, although the “cost of democracy” at Wirral Council is at least £754,783.18, in addition to this amount is the cost of the Mayor & Deputy Mayor and the currently difficult to find amounts councillors receive for representing Wirral Council on outside bodies (which Wirral Council should following a resolution agreed by Wirral Council publish on its website but in recent years hasn’t).

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4 Nomination Papers for Candidates in Upton By-election | Davies (LD), Gubb (Con), McGinley (Green) and Patrick (Lab)

4 Nomination Papers for Candidates in Upton By-election | Davies (LD), Gubb (Con), McGinley (Green) and Patrick (Lab)

4 Nomination Papers for Candidates in Upton By-election | Davies (LD), Gubb (Con), McGinley (Green) and Patrick (Lab)

                           

As readers of this blog will know I’m a great believer in openness and transparency. Elections are already pretty open and transparent processes with many of the major documents published as a matter of course throughout the election period. One of them that isn’t though is a candidate’s nomination papers. Each candidate in a local government election for a councillor has to fill out a nomination paper, get the signatures of ten electors in the ward they’re standing in, sign another piece of paper saying they agree to the nomination (including having this witnessed) and include with their nomination papers three pieces of legislation that detail reasons why a person could be disqualified from being a councillor (and sign a declaration to say they’re not disqualified).

During the election period from when the last date for nominations has passed to polling day any member of the public can ask to inspect the nomination papers (during working hours) and ask for copies. During this period I emailed Wirral Council’s Returning Officer Graham Burgess with such a request and ten days later (on polling day) received them. Each file has a copy of each candidate’s nomination papers, candidate’s consent to nomination and the various pieces of legislation that they’re required to include.

Oh and before anyone and asks if I’m related to the proposer and one of the assentors on the Lib Dem candidate’s papers as their surname is also Brace, I am. They’re my parents. The links to the nomination papers are listed alphabetically by surname. If you see anything crossed out and initialed by the candidate, the election office at Wirral Council will (if requested) check to see if the candidate has filled it out correctly and it’s a valid nomination. If they suggest a change, the candidate is usually asked to initial it to show it hasn’t been altered by anyone else. Candidates are also required to include their date of birth on the candidate’s consent to nomination as there’s a minimum age limit that a candidate can be.

Alan Davies (Liberal Democrat candidate)
Geoffrey Ian Gubb (Conservative Party candidate)
James Bernard McGinley (Green Party candidate)
Matthew John Patrick (Labour Party candidate) now Cllr Matthew Patrick

During the election campaign there are strict limits on what each candidate can spend on their campaign, included in the limit are amounts spent by third parties such as the political party that nominated them. The limit if memory serves me correctly is set at £600 + 5p per an elector and candidates (and their agents) have about a month after the election to submit a detailed election expenses claim of money spent and where it came from. I’m not sure how much interest there would be in how much each candidate spent and the source of their funds. Once an election expenses claim has been submitted they are open to public inspection at Wallasey Town Hall for up to two years, although if you want copies Wirral Council can charge. If you’d like me to write in the future about the election spending in the Upton by-election and the source of the funds for each candidate then please leave a comment.

The winning candidate is also required to also state the source of the funds for their election campaign in the Register of Interests which is published on Wirral Council’s website in answer to the question “The name of any person, other than a relevant authority, who has made a payment to you in respect of your election or any expenses incurred by you in carrying out your duties?”. If anyone reading knows what is meant by “relevant authority” please leave a comment as I presume it is meaning that councillors don’t have to include in answer to this question the allowances they get for being a councillor? I think councillors are allowed up to a month after their election to answer the questions in the register of interests as currently (on the 12th November) Cllr Patrick’s page on Wirral Council’s website has no link to a register of interests page.

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