Last year I made a Freedom of Information Act request for a breakdown of payments made to three taxi firms (A.P. Contract Hire Ltd, Wallasey Cars Limited and Wirral Satellite Cars Limited) for taxi journeys made by councillors paid for by Wirral Council.
Here is the breakdown for each councillor, taxi firm and total amount for that financial year.
AP Contract Hire
Cllr Irene Williams £11.20
Cllr Phil Davies (Plus 3 Staff) £54.00
Cllr Steve Niblock £51.00
AP Contract Hire Total £116.20
Cllr Bill Davies £25.00
former Cllr Brian Kenny £5.00
Cllr Christina Muspratt £10.10
Cllr Irene Williams £46.20
Cllr Joe Walsh £50.60
Cllr Moira McLaughlin £197.10
Cllr Pat Hackett £700.00
Cllr Steve Niblock £442.90
Cllr Tony Norbury £13.00
Wallasey Cars Total £1,489.90
Wirral Satellite Cars
Cllr Bill Davies £106.65
Cllr Chris Meaden £6.70
Cllr Christina Muspratt £159.40
Cllr Denise Realey £20.10
Cllr Harry Smith £25.20
Cllr Irene Williams £117.70
Cllr Joe Walsh £184.55
Cllr Moira McLaughlin £558.20
Cllr Phil Brightmore £7.30
Cllr Steve Foulkes £17.50
Cllr Steve Niblock £16.00
Cllr Tony Norbury £51.95
Wirral Satellite Cars Total £1,271.25
Grand Total £2,877.35
An amount of £10.20 for an Anne Davis for Wallasey Cars was also included in the response to my request, but as there is no councillor called Anne Davis, I have not included this amount in the figures above.
One thing to be noted is that all the councillors in this list are from the same party (Labour Party). Let’s take one councillor’s taxi expenses at random and compare them to the published list for 2013/14.
Cllr Moira McLaughlin’s taxi rides came to £197.10 with Wallasey Cars and £558.20 with Wirral Satellite Cars (total £755.30).
Taking another councillor from the list above, £700 was spent on taxi rides for Cllr Pat Hackett with Wallasey Cars. Yet when you read the published list for 2013/14 his expenses are down as £0 and travel expenses £0.
I would suspect that if I went through the list of councillors above I’d find that none of these taxi rides appear on the list that’s published each year. The response to my FOI request contains the line “The use of taxis’, and the associated costs, has been in connection with legitimate Council business.”
This all reminds me of that quote from Wirral Council’s former Chief Executive Graham Burgess of “We need to spend less on ourselves and more on services” and I wonder what the £2,877.35 spent on taxi journeys for councillors could have been spent on instead.
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Cllr Walter Smith asked, “Educational attainment of young people has been very much in the news lately. I’d like to ask the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services a question on children’s achievements in Wirral’s schools, academies and colleges. Would the Cabinet Member update the Council on children’s attainment in the academic year 2012/13?”
Cllr Adam Sykes asked, “Does the Cabinet Member welcome the Government’s additional early years funding for two-year olds, which means that just shy of £4 million will be made available enabling forty percent of Wirral’s two-year olds to access Wirral’s outstanding childcare?”
Cllr Phillip Brightmore asked, “Could the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services update Council on Wirral’s intensive family intervention project?”
Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children’s and Family Services) responded, “Thank you Cllr Smith. I’m absolutely delighted Mr Mayor to bring to the full Council the achievement in Wirral’s schools and colleges for the last academic year, I think this reflects on the whole Council. As I say once again the year that has been, over the last year there have been great successes and we’ve been hearing from children in Wirral’s schools and colleges and children, parents and school staff can be truly proud of these successes.
Some of the results include and I think that you know we should be really proud of this, the key stage one the number of children achieving level two which is the accepted level for … has increased again. In most of our constituencies we are now getting well over eighty percent of children at that level. Obviously we still want to improve that and we continue to improve it with the excellent leadership of headteachers and the excellent staff that we’ve got.
At key stage two, level four achievements again are up in our schools. Again we’re getting well over eighty percent. I’d particularly like to praise the inner city schools which are achieving absolutely magnificent results when you compare them to some other authorities in the country. Again it’s the hard work of staff and parents and the excellent leadership of headteachers.
GCSEs this year we increased our percentage by one, up to sixty-six percent of children who have achieved As to Cs including maths and English. I’ve just looked back over the last ten years and in 2003 I think it was, I think it was forty-five percent of children in this authority achieved As to Cs including maths and English. So that’s a fantastic achievement by again the schools backed up by the staff in the schools. So I’d like to also say that this year in most, throughout the whole of the country there was a decline in GCSE results and we’ve actually had an increase, so again that’s very good for the authority.
A-levels, again we had almost fifty percent of our young people achieving As to Bs in their A-level results and some 97.94% of children who achieved A-levels and that included General Studies. So you know, I would like to say I praise the work of some of the schools but also say the work that’s done by the school improvement service. We do really do challenge schools, we don’t sit back, we never get complacent and I think those Members who have been on children’s services, both on the previous overview and scrutiny committees and the policy committees now, people who do challenge what is going on from the officers and that. But we have an excellent improvement service, people who collect a lot of very robust data about what is going on in schools, hence the excellent results that we get, so I praise them for their teachers and that.
The second question from Cllr Sykes, very very much welcome that additional money. I think that we do need money for the early stages of education. It’s currently absolutely crucial that our children from the ages from nought to five get the best education possible, the best support in our children’s centres, our nurseries and that and I know the staff again focus to improve the, are looking very, very carefully at the progress that is being made and we do want children to start in our primary schools at the age of five having reached what was the expected level that they should be at when they go in there, so any money in education from these lot, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.
Finally on the question about the family intervention program from Cllr Brightmore. I’d just like to perhaps update the Council on what’s happening here. I think you probably know that Louise Casey, who happens to be the National Lead for the troubled families programme came to the Authority during September. This was a return visit to the families and workers about the impact of this service on their lives and the strengths of the workers engaging with families in this way.
Now I’d just like to give some key information about the programme to date, it’s a good opportunity at full Council to reflect on this. The program’s working or has worked with approximately four hundred families identified through various projects since the scheme began. There’s a dedicated group of key workers and the charity catch 22, who work with our local authority family support services delivering intensive family support across Wirral. Using this evidence based model, families are required to be firstly assessed including a specifically developed family assessment, then seeks … a value contract. Also the leader of this programme is a lead professional who acts as a main coordinator for each family and this is the model we intend to pursue in this Authority.
The main focus of the work is to improve school attendance and I think that covers that one really, reduce youth crime and antisocial behaviour and increase the number of parents in employment and up to date progress from the report of the work of Miss Casey is that we have made good progress, two hundred and four families were achieving positive outcomes and this programme is … top preventative services, working with our partner agencies and the voluntary sector which are strong. Obviously most people are aware of troubled families and that, so this particular project even though it is a national project, we embrace it as a project that we can develop really for the Wirral and to say many future families and that. We have excellent workers working in this particular area and I hope on a future date to come back with a more comprehensive report.”