Councillors on Wirral Council’s Labour Cabinet to make decision today on public consultation over changes to green bin collection and food waste collection from Wirral’s residents

Councillors on Wirral Council’s Labour Cabinet to make decision today on public consultation over changes to green bin collection and food waste collection from Wirral’s residents

Councillors on Wirral Council’s Labour Cabinet to make decision today on public consultation over changes to green bin collection and food waste collection from Wirral’s residents

                             

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Councillors on the Merseyside Recycling & Waste Authority (Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority) discussed the upcoming decision by Wirral Council’s Cabinet on Friday afternoon (24th June 2016) at item 14 (Waste Composition Analysis) which starts at 14 minutes 30 seconds into the meeting.

Left: Councillor Steve Williams (Conservative, Wirral Council) describes at a public meeting of the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority the effect on his neighbour with 6 children of proposed changes to bin collections Right: Councillor Tony Norbury (Labour, Wirral Council)
Left: Councillor Steve Williams (Conservative, Wirral Council) describes at a public meeting of the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority the effect on his neighbour with 6 children of proposed changes to bin collections Right: Councillor Tony Norbury (Labour, Wirral Council)

A meeting of Wirral Council’s Labour Cabinet this morning (if you are reading this on the 27th June 2016) will (amongst other matters) decide on whether to consult on two options to changes to how waste is collected in the future on the Wirral.

These are the two shortlisted options that look likely to be consulted on.

Continue reading “Councillors on Wirral Council’s Labour Cabinet to make decision today on public consultation over changes to green bin collection and food waste collection from Wirral’s residents”

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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12 Planning Committee councillors vote to refuse a planning application for a sports hall at Great Meols Primary School

12 Planning Committee councillors vote to refuse a planning application for a sports hall at Great Meols Primary School

12 Planning Committee councillors vote to refuse a planning application for a sports hall at Great Meols Primary School

                       

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Planning application (APP/14/00011:Great Meols Primary School, Elwyn Road, Meols, CH47 7AP: Erection of a sports hall and relocation of store buildings) starts at 2:45 in the video above

Planning Committee (Wirral Council) 20th March 2014 twelve councillors vote to refuse planning application for sports hall at Great Meols Primary School one abstains
Twelve councillors on Wirral Council’s Planning Committee (Cllr Stuart Kelly, Cllr Simon Mountney, Cllr Kathy Hodson, Cllr Phil Brightmore, Cllr Joe Walsh, Cllr Irene Williams, Cllr Bernie Mooney, Cllr Eddie Boult, Cllr Tony Norbury, Cllr David Elderton, Cllr Christina Muspratt and Cllr Paul Hayes) vote to refuse a planning application for sports hall at Great Meols Primary School

Sheila Day explained the reasons why officers were recommending this planning application was approved. She explained that it was for a sports hall and for moving a storage building. The sports hall had the potential for community use. Sports England response to being consulted on the application had been that its size with only one court and lack of changing facilities would limit its potential for use by the community.

The proposed height of the sports hall roof was seven to eight metres, however there was an amended design for the roof different to the original application. It would be at least forty-five metres away from the nearest houses with greater separation distances in other directions.

A condition proposed limited the use of the sports hall on Monday to Friday from 7am to 9.30pm, Saturdays 9am to 6pm and no use at all on Sundays or Bank Holidays without the prior approval of Wirral Council. Wirral Council’s traffic and transportation division had no objection to the application on highway safety grounds. There was a qualifying petition of fifty-three residents opposing the application being granted.

A Robert Davidson of 23 Guffets Rake, Meols addressed the Planning Committee on behalf of the petitioners. He described the area the site was in as a “residential area” and referred to policies HS15 (Non-Residential Uses in Primarily Residential Areas), RE1 (Criteria for Urban Recreation Facilities) and RE10 (Criteria for Community Centres and Facilities).

He quoted from the report which stated “The scale of the proposed sports hall is considered appropriate to surrounding two-storey dwellings” and disagreed with this opinion as in his view it was of an inappropriate scale. Mr Davidson asked the Planning Committee to look at a photo of the existing school buildings which were all at a low-level and built with traditional residential materials.

Mr Robert Davidson was also concerned about a change in ground levels between the school and housing and described the proposed sports hall as a “featureless rectangular box” with “industrial cladding” that looked like it was “straight off an industrial estate”. He did not feel it had any place in a residential landscape. Mr Davidson said that the school had started as a village school and that fourteen previous planning applications for the school were unopposed. The local residents had asked the school to compromise by reducing the height and changing the materials used. However the school had refused to do this.

Mr Davidson referred again to policy RE1 (Criteria for Urban Recreation Facilities) and quoted from section two that “the proposals would not give rise to unacceptable levels of noise or other disturbance, particularly to areas of residential property”. He referred to the proposed condition limiting its use, however access to the school would be along small residential roads. The school was surrounded by housing and was a quiet environment when the school was closed and at night there was darkness and silence.

In his view, the community use of the sports hall would be the opposite of this as it could be permanently open with noisy aerobics classes and cars coming and going. He referred to the view expressed in the report by an environmental health officer that any noise or light pollution could be dealt with under existing environmental health legislation. Mr Davidson felt however that this should be addressed as part of the planning process. He urged the Planning Committee to refuse the planning application on the grounds that it was not of an acceptable scale and design and finished with a quote from the architect for the Shard (Renzo Piano) “Architecture is a very dangerous job. If a writer makes a bad book, people don’t read it. But if you make bad architecture, you impose ugliness on a place for a hundred years.”

The applicant chose not to address the Planning Committee, however a ward councillor for Hoylake & Meols Councillor John Hale did. He referred to the “excellent summary” by the petitioner and also referred to policy HS15 (Non-Residential Uses in Primarily Residential Areas).

Councillor Hale said that HS15 allowed small scale developments in residential areas, but only ones that had no detrimental impacts on the character of the area or the amenities of the occupiers. The proposed height of the sports hall was twice the height of the existing buildings and a little higher which Cllr Hale described as an “alien feature” like the buildings found on an industrial estate. In his view it was out of character for that residential area.

He felt that the community use of the sports hall and the resulting noise meant that it couldn’t comply with policy RE1. Although the residents expected noise form the school during the day from children, noise in the evening was a different situation. The school was a local amenity appreciated by the residents but he felt that as the maximum age of the children at the school was eleven that all that was required was a single storey building as a sports hall. Cllr Hale said that very few children he knew could hit a shuttlecock higher than the height of a normal ceiling. His objection was to the Planning Committee approving an application for a “monstrosity” in a residential area.

Cllr Tony Norbury asked what the reason was for the height of the sports hall? Sheila Day replied that the height was a recommendation by Sports England as it would be used for badminton. Cllr Simon Mountney asked to see elevations of the proposed buildings. Cllr David Elderton said that he lived about half a mile away from the school and that he had lived in the area since the 1950s. In his opinion it was of a “grossly intrusive industrial style” and based on what he’d seen on the site visit would affect the visual and local neighbourhood amenities. He said he was all in favour of facilities but that it was a “bridge too far”, “too big” and that he’d prefer they go away and come back with something more sympathetic. Cllr Elderton said he would be voting against approval.

Cllr Christina Muspratt asked why they were no changing facilities? Sheila Day answered that the school had existing changing facilities elsewhere on the site. Cllr Phil Brightmore described the sports hall as “huge” compared to the surrounding buildings. Sheila Day replied that the officer’s opinion was that the height of the proposed sports hall was similar to the heights of the surrounding houses.

Cllr Eddie Boult asked what the extra height added to the existing building would be if planning application for the sports hall was approved? As it was a sloping roof on the sports hall an officer answered that it would be an extra 3.5 metres at one end and 2.5 metres at the other. Cllr Eddie Boult said he had listened to people’s point of view and was proposing refusal of the application based on his view that the height and bulk of the building was unsympathetic and that it affected the amenities of the surrounding area contrary to policy HS15. Cllr Simon Mountney seconded refusal of the application.

Twelve councillors voted to reject the application (Cllr Stuart Kelly, Cllr Simon Mountney, Cllr Kathy Hodson, Cllr Phil Brightmore, Cllr Joe Walsh, Cllr Irene Williams, Cllr Bernie Mooney, Cllr Eddie Boult, Cllr Tony Norbury, Cllr David Elderton, Cllr Christina Muspratt and Cllr Paul Hayes). No councillors voted against refusal but Cllr Anita Leech abstained. The planning application for the sports hall was refused.

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Consultation launched after police ask Wirral Council to do more about alcohol related crime in Birkenhead

Sergeant Barrigan (Licensing Sergeant, Merseyside Police) explains to Wirral Council’s Licensing Act 2003 Committee why the police want a special cumulative impact policy due to high levels of alcohol related crime in downtown Birkenhead

Consultation launched after police ask Wirral Council to do more about alcohol related crime in Birkenhead

                            

Sergeant Barrigan (Licensing Sergeant, Merseyside Police) explains to Wirral Council's Licensing Act 2003 Committee why the police want a special cumulative impact policy due to high levels of alcohol related crime in downtown Birkenhead

Sergeant Barrigan (Licensing Sergeant, Merseyside Police) explains to Wirral Council’s Licensing Act 2003 Committee why the police want a special cumulative impact policy due to high levels of alcohol related crime in downtown Birkenhead

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This item starts at 21:44 in the video above.

Merseyside Police’s Sergeant Barrigan addressed councillors on Wirral Council’s Licensing Act 2003 Committee calling for a change to their licensing policy. He told councillors about concerns raised about alcohol related antisocial behaviour in the Charing Cross area of Birkenhead and showed those present maps of street drinking reported to Merseyside Police between the 1st April 2012 and the 1st March 2013. These reports were clustered around the Charing Cross area of Birkenhead.

He also showed a map of crimes reported between November 2012 and October 2013 in this area and said that 52% had taken place on licensed premises and referring to areas of Liverpool which already had four areas covered special cumulative impact policies.

Sgt Barrigan quoted statistics on how alcohol was a reason in a high proportion of the theft offences in that area. Street drinkers were a problem in the area with people drinking on the streets for reasons such as an inability to afford heating or to avoid being evicted. The street drinking was connected to a high number of off-licences in the area. In answer to a councillor’s question he said that the boundaries of the area he wanted covered by the special cumulative impact policy would cover both sides of the road on the boundary. He asked if councillors had any questions?

A few councillors asked questions, then others spoke in support of a special cumulative impact policy in the Charing Cross area and it was agreed that a special cumulative impact policy would be consulted on. Cllr Jean Stapleton welcomed this decision.

Cllr Tony Norbury said he was concerned that it might move the problem to outside the area covered by the special cumulative impact policy. A Council officer said that they would consult on the new policy and if the committee then agreed to amend the guidance then it would be kept under review.

A special cumulative impact policy (if agreed following consultation) in the Charing Cross Area of Birkenhead would mean that there would be a special policy of rebuttal regarding licence applications in this area. This would mean that applications in that area that were likely to add to the existing problems would be refused or subject to limitations (but only if relevant representations had been made).

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