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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INCREDIBLE: £2,877.35 spent by Wirral Council last year in previously hidden payments on taxis for Labour councillors!

INCREDIBLE: £2,877.35 spent by Wirral Council last year in previously hidden payments on taxis for Labour councillors!

INCREDIBLE: £2,877.35 spent by Wirral Council last year in previously hidden payments on taxis for Labour councillors!

                                                              

Hackney carriage by Ed g2s
Hackney carriage by Ed g2s

Hackney carriage by ed g2stalkOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Every year, a legal requirement on Wirral Council means that they have to publish for each councillor how much was spent on travelling and subsistence allowances for each councillor.

The list published for 2013/14 is on Wirral Council’s website.

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

Wallasey Cars
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).

However next to Cllr Moira McLaughlin’s name on the published list of expenses are two entries. £40.10 for “expenses” and £167.29 for subsistence. This comes to a total of £207.39 that comprises the items detailed in the blog post expense claim forms for Councillor Moira McLaughlin 2013 to 2014. The taxi rides with Wallasey Cars and Wirral Satellite cars don’t appear at all despite regulation 15 requiring that Wirral Council publish the total annual sum paid by it for each councillor’s travel and subsistence allowance.

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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Councillors discuss schools, free school meals and 4 Wirral schools in special measures

Councillors discuss schools, free school meals and 4 Wirral schools in special measures

Councillors discuss schools, free school meals and 4 Wirral schools in special measures

                                 

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Last night’s meeting of Wirral Council’s Attainment sub-committee started off well enough. Before the hour of six o’clock had even been reached, Cllr Moira McLaughlin was chomping at the bit to be made Chair. As there was only one Conservative councillor present and many, many Labour councillors, it was hardly likely she wouldn’t become Chair.

The Labour councillors then agreed to Cllr Wendy Clements being Vice-Chair.

The Chair, Cllr Moira McLaughlin pointed out that Cllr Alan Brighouse wasn’t present, but decided to continue the meeting anyway. To be perfectly honest I’m glad as if every meeting waited until Cllr Alan Brighouse was present things would never start on time as like another councillor he has a reputation for poor timekeeping.

Apologies were given for Julia Hassall who would be late. Declarations of interest were given as some councillors were school governors.

The minutes were agreed. The Chair said that the main thrust of the meeting would be a presentation from Deborah Gornik (who wasn’t there). The Chair was informed that Deborah Gornik would also be late as she (and presumably Julia Hassall) were “at another meeting”. Were they meeting each other? What was this other meeting about? Who knows?

The one officer (apart from the one taking the minutes) that had turned up on time, Sue Talbot gave her report on standards (which is not often a word you hear at public meetings of Wirral Council).

However this was about standards of education for at the Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 level, with a focus on raising standards and what happened to the education of those in local authority care (adopted or fostered). The phrase “good news story” was repeated by Sue Talbot many times.

Cllr Alan Brighouse was the first to speak and used words like “pretty fantastic improvement” followed up by a question about falls in numbers of children eligible for free school meals. The answer given was that the eligible benefits for people for apply for free school meals had changed which partly explained the drop and in answer to a further question that the officer preferred to use numbers of children rather than percentages.

The Lib Dem spokesperson (as the only Lib Dem he’s therefore the spokesperson) continued to talk about primary schools becoming academies (at this point I wondered if he was going to explicitly mention Lyndale). Sue replied that Wirral Council still had legal duties towards academies and mentioned the academy representatives on the Wirral Schools Forum and Sue went on to say the good relationship that Wirral Council has with primary schools (which if you’ve been following the Lyndale story is a matter of opinion).

Cllr Wendy Clements then asked about floor targets, the officer replied that no schools triggered all four triggers but they had banded schools (sound familiar?) and there were four schools in band four… followed up by her favourite phrase again “good news story”. Cllr Clements asked a follow up question and the answer given was that they were keen to track children who come out of care but admitted that sometimes they don’t keep an eye on those children.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin asked a question about whether children subject to care orders were monitored. The officer replied not yet, but said that once the virtual headteacher role was shared that id would help. Cllr Walter Smith asked about intervention strategies. Sue Talbot gave a detailed reply going into detail about how two of her team concentrated on early years, one on english and one on maths. She said that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate had highlighted a problem they had with British working class boys and went into detail as to what her team does.

Cllr Walter Smith asked if nursery provision had any effect on children going into primary school. The answer given was yes as long as it was good quality. Cllr Tony Norbury referred to his work as a school governor and asked how the changes to school meals in primary schools would affect free school meals? The officer answered that schools were proactive at doing this as it led to additional funding through the pupil premium for them. Cllr Tony Norbury asked two follow up questions, to which the answers were “too early to tell” and “pupil’s circumstances change”.

Cllr Phillip Brightmore asked about free school meals too. The answer given was that how they encouraged people from September could be different as all infants would get free school meals. The councillor referred to the table and referred to the Wirral West figures. Sue Talbot referred to “pockets of deprivation” in Wirral West in her answer. He then brought up the results for Pensby High. Sue Talbot said that the results might change as the school had sent the whole cohort back for remarking therefore the figures were provisional.

Cllr Tony Norbury asked about English as a second language and the strategies there. Sue Talbot referred to the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service and how they need to support schools, however kids with English as a second language seemed to be better at phonics that people who had English as their mother tongue. She referred to Polish teaching assistants and Urdu speakers.

The Chair Cllr Moira McLaughlin moved the meeting to item 8 (OFSTED reports). Sue Talbot gave a brief introduction and talked about the four schools that were being monitored by OFSTED due to previously poor inspections. One was becoming an academy so would not be in special measures due to this as special measures status disappeared when a school became an academy.

Cllr Phillip Brightmore pointed out that such things “doesn’t help the kids”. Cllr Wendy Clements referred to a “clean start” followed by a comment by Cllr Alan Brighouse.

The officer explained that new academies were given twelve months to become established. A further inspection could happen any time after twelve months. There was an academy planned to start on the 1st September, but it hadn’t happened but the school had changed its name to Kingsway Academy. The delay had been caused due to complexities caused by the PFI contract.

At this point nearly half an hour into the meeting (at agenda item 8 out of 9), the Director of Children’s Services Julia Hassall and Deborah Gornik arrived.

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Planning Committee on 8:5 vote approves plans for Tranmere Rovers training ground to move to Leasowe

Planning Committee on 8:5 vote approves plans for Tranmere Rovers training ground to move to Leasowe

Planning Committee on 8:5 vote approves plans for Tranmere Rovers training ground to move to Leasowe

                                                             

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Above you can watch what happened at the Planning Committee meeting to decide on the planning applications about Tranmere Rovers training ground.

Wirral Council’s Planning Committee yesterday voted eight votes to five on two linked planning applications to do with Tranmere Rovers Football Club. The first vote was on the application for a training ground at the Solar Campus, 235 Leasowe Road, Leasowe and the second was on a linked application for up to ninety houses on the Ingleborough Road site in Tranmere.

There were petitioners that spoke for and against the proposals. In addition to the petitioners, Jeremy Butler (Tranmere Rovers Chief Executive) made the last representation for Tranmere Rovers in support of the application. Finally ward councillors Cllr Ron Abbey (for Leasowe and Moreton East) and Cllr Paul Doughty (for Prenton) also spoke to the Planning Committee.

These representations were followed by a discussion about the linked applications by the councillors on the Planning Committee. If the applications were approved Mr Parry Davies told councillors that the plan was to move the existing plaque to the Birkenhead Old Boys who died in World War I to Hamilton Square.

David Ball referred to a letter from the Birkenhead Institute Old Boys to the Chief Executive Graham Burgess that he had received and assured councillors that they would work constructively if the applications were approved to remove the plaque to a suitable place in Hamilton Square to the men who gave their lives to the country. He also said that they would work constructively over the tree issues which were there in memory of the people who had died.

He explained that the previous approved application for Woodchurch hadn’t been able to be progressed so alternative sites had to be looked at. If approved he would make sure that the conditions were “rigorously enforced”. In discussions with Tranmere Rovers Football Club they had made a commitment to work with Wirral Council on those matters such as the men who fell in World War I.

In response to Cllr Phillip Brightmore he said that he would be sending written confirmation of this to Birkenhead Institute Old Boys that they would deal sensitively and appropriately and take all steps to make sure what he’d outlined would happen. His assurance was that the mater would be dealt with sensitively. He said he was happy to lead on it along with David Armstrong to make sure it was being dealt with at a senior level. Mr. Ball gave his assurance to councillors on these two matters.

Cllr David Elderton asked a question about heights and whether they could condition the housing planning application to reduce heights to not exceed more than two stories? Matthew Parry Davies replied that these would be considered at the reserved matters stage of any application. Cllr Denise Realey said that she lived near to Tranmere Rovers Football Club’s football ground (Prenton Park), she had heard councillors on the radio talking about it and what would be done with the money from the sale. She pointed out the five-mile distance from Birkenhead to Leasowe and didn’t think the benefits outweighed the problems.

Matthew Parry Davies replied that the National Planning Policy Framework didn’t require replacement facilities to be in the same ward or locality but just within the Borough. The section 106 agreement would make sure money from the sale of the land would be placed into an account solely for the provision of a new training ground. He then answered a question about the Leasowe site and its public transport links.

Cllr Stuart Kelly stated that it was a departure to the development plan and ought to be refused unless the circumstances outweighed the loss. He referred to the loss off the recreation ground and the heritage issues. Cllr Kelly referred to the intentions of those that built the pavilion to provide sporting facilities for young people in Birkenhead. He didn’t think that having a training ground in Leasowe was a suitable replacement. Cllr Kelly wanted a replacement in Birkenhead and referred the loss of open recreation land in Leasowe and traffic issues.

Cllr Christine Spriggs talked about the passions and emotions about these applications. She suggested that Tranmere Rovers Football Club had a real and meaningful dialogue with Birkenhead Institute Old Boys. Cllr Spriggs went on to refer to the housing built on the former site of the Birkenhead Institute School.

The Chair asked a question about the fencing, to which the reply was that the five metre fence was to prevent balls leaving the training ground. Cllr Kelly also referred to the fence and asked if they could demonstrate special circumstances for the development? Cllr Daniel referred to the issue of social housing and was told that the viability assessment for social housing had been revised but that social housing wasn’t viable at the moment. The section 106 agreement would include a contribution to affordable housing if land values changed.

Cllr Brightmore asked if it was permitted development in the greenbelt? An officer replied that as it was for recreation or sport that this was an acceptable and appropriate use of the greenbelt.

The first vote was on agenda item 5 (the Solar Campus, Leasowe application). Cllr Kelly asked why they were having that vote first? Rosemary Lyons, legal adviser to the Planning Committee stated that they were dealing with item 5 first to enable them to make a reasoned decision on item 4 as the two were linked.

Cllr Kathryn Hodson proposed approval of item 5, seconded by Cllr Matt Daniel. Eight councillors voted for, five against so the application was approved.

Cllr Stuart Kelly moved refusal of item four because it was contrary to the Unitary Development Plan and under policy RE6 failed to demonstrate an adequate replacement provision regarding the location. Cllr Denise Realey seconded this.

More councillors voted against refusal then for approval (Cllr Christine Spriggs abstained).

Cllr Kathy Hodson moved approval, seconded by Cllr David Elderton. As before eight councillors voted for and five against. So both linked planning applications were approved by an 8:5 vote.

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