Why did Labour’s Cllr Foulkes gag Green Party Cllr Cleary in devolution debate and what’s happening at the next Merseytravel Committee meeting?

Why did Labour’s Cllr Foulkes gag Green Party Cllr Cleary in devolution debate and what’s happening at the next Merseytravel Committee meeting?

Why did Labour’s Cllr Foulkes gag Green Party Cllr Cleary in devolution debate and what’s happening at the next Merseytravel Committee meeting?

                                                     

Councillor Steve Foulkes (Labour) (right) speaking at a recent meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee (28th July 2016) while Councillor Pat Cleary (Green) (left) listens
Councillor Steve Foulkes (Labour) (right) speaking at a recent meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee (28th July 2016) while Councillor Pat Cleary (Green) (left) listens

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Council (Wirral Council) 6th December 2016 Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Part 1 of 2

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Council (Wirral Council) 6th December 2016 Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Part 2 of 2

In a debate of Wirral Council councillors held yesterday evening to agree changes to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Labour’s Cllr Steve Foulkes used a procedural motion to gag the Green Party councillor Cllr Pat Cleary from speaking.

Despite an intervention by Cllr Stuart Kelly, pointing out that in Cllr Kelly’s opinion no such power exists in Wirral Council’s constitution, the gag remained.

Asked after the meeting for his views on what happened, Cllr Pat Cleary stated, “Thank you Labour for gagging me and sparking unprecedented interest in my views on devolution.” and he has blogged about what he would’ve said had he not been gagged here.

In other Liverpool City Region Combined Authority news, an Extraordinary meeting of LCRCA’s Merseytravel Committee is scheduled for the morning of the 16th December, followed by a meeting of the Combined Authority later that day. Cllr Steve Foulkes is one of Wirral’s four representatives on the Merseytravel Committee. The purposes of the next Merseytravel Committee meeting is to agree a contract for new rolling stock.

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Why am I angry at Wirral Council for allegedly breaking more laws to cover up a 3 year investigation and subsequent decision by three councillors as to why Councillor Steve Foulkes broke the Code of Conduct and should apologise for leaking information about Councillor Jeff Green to the press?

Why am I angry at Wirral Council for allegedly breaking more laws to cover up a 3 year investigation and subsequent decision by three councillors as to why Councillor Steve Foulkes broke the Code of Conduct and should apologise for leaking information about Councillor Jeff Green to the press?

Why am I angry at Wirral Council for allegedly breaking more laws to cover up a 3 year investigation and subsequent decision by three councillors as to why Councillor Steve Foulkes broke the Code of Conduct and should apologise for leaking information about Councillor Jeff Green to the press?

                                        

Councillor Steve Foulkes (Labour) (right) speaking at a recent meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee (28th July 2016) while Councillor Pat Cleary (Green) (left) listens
Councillor Steve Foulkes (Labour) (right) speaking at a recent meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee (28th July 2016) while Councillor Pat Cleary (Green) (left) listens

17/8/16 Amended to correct name of Phil Goodman to Peter Goodman.

Firstly, I’m cross with Wirral Council.

What is it this time you may wonder?

Well I have a long list of grievances, but not being a Wirral Council employee no formal route (ok I could bring some of these up with my trade union) to take these to a grievance hearing, nor the time or inclination at this stage to get the judiciary involved.

I’m cross at being denied (along with my wife) to be present at what I perceive to be (in part) to be a public meeting of the Standards Panel on the 28th June 2016 in Committee Room 2 at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED starting at 6.00pm.

I’m cross at being shouted at by junior public facing employees of Wirral Council who I will gladly name here from what I remember as Shirley Hudspeth (Legal and Member Services) and Peter Goodman (whatever the facilities management side of Wirral Council is called as frankly I’ve lost track of restructures? Is it infrastructure, asset management something like that?) with their view that it was a private meeting, but I’m not cross at them in a major way because I’m more cross at what I presume are their senior manager/s or senior manager/s from another department at Wirral Council who told both of them to say this to me (even though it isn’t true) as it seems a senior manager/s at Wirral Council would stoop that low as to instruct junior employees to do what they (senior manager/s) should have the guts to do face to face themselves.

I’m cross at Wirral Council for its website not working as I write this at democracy.wirral.gov.uk so I can’t include links or refer to the details. But yeah, whoever’s job it is to fix it may be on holiday.

I’m cross at a senior manager (Joe Blott) and his external legal adviser (whose name I can’t recall without checking Wirral Council’s website that isn’t working). Yes the external legal advisor is the guy in this photo as I wasn’t allowed to be at or film him at the public bit of the Standards Panel meeting (and just as an aside this law allows me to film such public meetings even if I’m not physically in the room, which I suppose next time if I’m not allowed actually in the room for a public meeting I’ll have to do the filming either through the meeting room door or from the car park outside!)

However in Joe Blott’s defence I don’t think he understood why the legal advice he got was flawed and had the external legal advisor pointed out why it was flawed he’d have had to have criticised his client (Wirral Council) which is a big no-no if he ever wants further work from Wirral Council in the future.

I’m not cross with Surjit Tour who seems to have a conflict of interest. But if he does have one, Joe Blott is supposed to deal with it!!!

I am cross with the fact that 5 clear working days notice of the date, time, agenda and reports (if not recommended to be heard in closed session) for the Standards Panel meeting on the 28th June 2016 was not given by the 20th June 2016, but instead yesterday the 3rd of August 2016.

I’m cross that a complaint about a councillor (Cllr Steve Foulkes) as to what happened in July 2013 has taken Wirral Council around three years to resolve.

I’m cross that Patricia Thynne in her report refers to myself as having filmed a Youtube video referred to when I didn’t film it and it was indeed someone else! I’m also cross with myself that relying on Patricia Thynne’s report I then left a comment on the Wirral Leaks blog only to be embarrassed into being told it is a mistake in her report.

I’ve recently learned that Cllr Gilchrist was the Chair of the Standards Panel, I’m cross that I wasn’t allowed to go to the public bit of the Standards Panel meeting where this was decided on the 28th June 2016 to find this out and had to wait around a month to know whether it was Cllr Chris Blakeley or Cllr Phil Gilchrist.

I’m cross that in messing up what’s detailed above Wirral Council is relying on a legal power that was repealed years ago.

I’m cross that for reasons of internal capacity here I didn’t take things further over what happened to us at the meeting on the 28th June 2016 whether by letter or subsequent legal action against Wirral Council.

However, moving to the complaint itself, yes I was there in the public gallery in July 2013 in the adjournment while it happened. Yes Cllr Steve Foulkes came in and spoke with Liam Murphy (referred to as Person C). Yes, I was too far away (at the other end of the public gallery to hear what they were saying). Yes I remember Mr Nigel Hobro coming in to the public gallery at this point and wanting to speak with Liam Murphy but getting the brush off.

Yes, my opinion (not that it matters really) is that I think it is fair that Cllr Foulkes should apologise.

However, isn’t it ironic that as Cllr Foulkes previously made a complaint about Cllr Chris Blakeley talking to the Liverpool Echo about whether Cllr Foulkes should be made Mayor (a complaint that Cllr Chris Blakeley was cleared of as you can read about here) that Cllr Chris Blakeley should then be on the Standards Panel to decide about a complaint about Cllr Foulkes leaking information to a Liverpool Echo journalist? Or is that just karma?

Yes Person C in the report is Liam Murphy. Yes I feel sorry for him, yes it is a breach of journalistic ethics to reveal the source of information, but by the sounds of it he (Liam Murphy) was being used by Cllr Foulkes anyway for political gain.

As to the payoff to Emma Degg, her initial silence (prompted in part it seems by the payment of public money), followed by what I presume was a guilty conscience, well at least she finally did the right thing!

As to the allegation that witnesses “colluded” to bring down Cllr Foulkes, well Patricia Thynne feels this is not credible. I will comment however that unless you are in disguise, nobody knows what you look like or in an echo chamber, it’s frankly foolish in the extreme to bring up anything confidential (whether in conversation or by passing it to them) with a journalist when you have people watching you do it, in a public place, in a public building, in the adjournment to a high-profile public meeting.

However Cllr Foulkes’ explanation is he was under a lot of pressure.

Tip for people reading this, if you want in the future to leak something to me, there’s the post (probably the most secure method), email or telephone (if you want the intelligence agencies to read/listen to it in transit) or other ways of sending it to me online.

Yes you can talk to me or hand me things in person, but there are always people watching!

I did ask Cllr Steve Foulkes in person at the end of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee meeting on the evening of Thursday 28th July 2016 to comment on the complaint. He refused to comment directly on the matter (I presume following Mr. Tour’s advice to councillors to keep their mouth shut) and referred me to Wirral Council instead.

So yes, I’m still cross and Wirral Council is finally well dealing with what should’ve been done properly the first time!!!

By first time, I don’t just mean the original complaint (that this morphed into), but what happened at the Standards Panel meeting too.

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Why did Wirral Council spend £534.90 on catering for a meeting with Dong Energy?

Why did Wirral Council spend £534.90 on catering for a meeting with Dong Energy?

                                                                            

It’s no secret that Wirral Council have been trying to persuade businesses to create jobs on the Wirral. Last year Cammell Laird applied for planning permission (planning application APP/14/00352) for "an on shore office, warehouse building and pontoon that will serve as a marine operations and maintenance facility for off shore projects" on a car park in Alabama Way. This was so Cammell Laird could expand to the "green energy" sector such as maintenance for wind turbines such as the Dong Energy wind farm at Burbo Bank.

Below is an invoice from Carrington Catering Ltd paid by Wirral Council for catering at a meeting on the 8th May 2014 with Dong Energy. You can click on the thumbnail for a higher resolution version.

Wirral Council invoice Carringtons Catering Ltd Dong Energy Meeting 8th May 2014 catering £534.90 thumbnail
Wirral Council invoice Carringtons Catering Ltd Dong Energy Meeting 8th May 2014 catering £534.90 thumbnail

On the 23rd July 2014 it went to be decided by Wirral Council’s Planning Committee (you can watch video footage of the meeting below). The Planning Committee refused the application based on the effect it would have on the flats nearby. That refusal was appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.

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Wirral Council’s Planning Committee refuse Cammell Laird’s planning application (APP/14/00352) 23rd July 2014

Cammell Laird (before the planning appeal had been decided) submitted a revised planning application in December 2014 (APP/14/01585). This also went to Planning Committee for a decision and after nearly an hour of discussion it was refused on the 19th February 2015 (see video of the decision below).

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Wirral Council’s Planning Committee refuse Cammell Laird’s planning application (APP/14/01585) 19th February 2014.

Eventually a planning inspector on the 13th October (after informal hearings on the 25th February and the 19th May and site visits on the 18th May and 4th June 2015) issued a 29 page appeal decision overturning the earlier decisions of the Planning Committee.

I’ll point out at this stage that the planning application is in Birkenhead and Tranmere ward (currently represented by Cllr Phil Davies (Labour), Cllr Jean Stapleton (Labour) and Cllr Pat Cleary (Green)).

As detailed in the planning appeal decision, although the plans would have created an estimated sixty to sixty-five jobs, nearby LDRA Ltd had threatened to relocate to Newbury taking fifty local jobs away if the plans for expansion at Cammell Lairds were approved.

So the news reported in the Wirral Globe yesterday that an alternative site has been found at Kings Wharf in Seacombe, as the "new home of [Dong Energy’s] offshore-wind manufacturing and maintenance facility" means a compromise must have happened. The Alabama Way site is referred to in a quote in that article from Cllr Phil Davies as, "Alternative sites had been considered in Birkenhead, but were rejected by my council team responding to community concerns."

However the number of jobs created seems to have gone from sixty to sixty-five jobs (the number referred to in the planning appeal) down to forty jobs. This seems to be another example of where Wirral Council is spending Regional Growth Fund money (you can also read a story published on this blog last week on how £4 million of Regional Growth Fund money is being spent on a new Unilever building in Port Sunlight).

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Wirral Council consult on £1.1 million scheme to change Birkenhead’s Hamilton Square

Wirral Council consult on £1.1 million scheme to change Birkenhead’s Hamilton Square

Wirral Council consult on £1.1 million scheme to change Birkenhead’s Hamilton Square

                                                

Remembrance Day 2012 outside Birkenhead Town Hall. If the traffic scheme goes ahead then this area outside Birkenhead Town Hall won't be solely for pedestrians but will be open to two-way road traffic
Remembrance Day 2012 outside Birkenhead Town Hall. If the traffic scheme goes ahead then this area outside Birkenhead Town Hall won’t be solely for pedestrians but will be open to two-way road traffic

Councillor Pat Cleary (Green Party for Birkenhead and Tranmere ward) writes on his blog about a current consultation by Wirral Council proposing changes to Hamilton Square and the surrounding area.

If agreed the changes (you can view a plan of the proposals on the Wirral Green Party’s website it would mean:

  • The removal of the taxi rank outside Hamilton Square train station in Hamilton Street. The reason would be so there could be a puffin crossing outside Hamilton Square train station. This taxi rank would be relocated to two sections of Bridge Street (one for four taxis, one for five taxis).
  • A bus stop in Bridge Street would be relocated to Hamilton Street.
  • The existing bus stop outside Hamilton Square train station would be moved further down Hamilton Street.
  • The area in front of Birkenhead Town Hall which is now closed to road traffic, solely for pedestrians and protected by bollards would become part of the road and open to traffic.
  • The mini roundabout at the Hamilton Square/Hamilton Street junction (to the North-East of Birkenhead Town Hall) would be removed and replaced with a Give Way junction instead.
  • The mini roundabout at the Hamilton Square/Hamilton Street junction (to the South-West of Birkenhead Town Hall) would be removed and replaced with a Give Way junction.
  • The closure at this junction which prevents traffic going to Hamilton Square from the South-West along Hamilton Street would be removed.
  • Hinson Street (now one-way) would be made two-way between Hamilton Street and Henry Street.
  • Hamilton Street (now one-way between Hamilton Square and Conway Street) would be made two-way between Hamilton Square and Conway Street.
  • Conway Street will be closed at its junction with William Street.
  • Alterations to the traffic signals at the Bridge Street/Hamilton Street junction.

The deadline to respond to this consultation is Friday 13th November 2015.

You can respond to the consultation online by visiting this link to Wirral Council’s website (then click on “Comments and objections about new traffic schemes“).

Click Next.

Then enter your contact details and email address (twice).

Click Next again.

The Scheme name/details to enter on the next page are “Hamilton Square re-design“.

The Scheme number is “DC-STEP-1516-2

If you wish to comment or ask a question on the scheme select Comment/ask a question about the scheme from the drop down menu.

If you wish to object to the scheme select Object to the scheme and enter your reasons in the box below.

If you wish to do both select All of the above and enter your comments and objections separately.

Then click Next, followed by Submit.

There was a drop in session on Tuesday November 10th 2015 at Birkenhead Town Hall, Hamilton St, Birkenhead CH41 5EU, between 3pm and 7pm so people could view the plans.

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