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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Wirral Council’s Standards Committee agrees recommendation on changes to notices of motion procedural rules

Wirral Council’s Standards Committee agrees recommendation on changes to notices of motion procedural rules

                                                            

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Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee meeting held on the 23rd November 2015

Surjit Tour explains to councillors the effect of proposed changes to procedural rules at a meeting of Wirral Council's Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee 23rd November 2015
Surjit Tour explains to councillors the effect of proposed changes to procedural rules at a meeting of Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee 23rd November 2015

One of the changes agreed by councillors at last night’s meeting of Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee was a change to the protocol for dealing with referred notices of motion. Referred notices of motion are notices of motion that have been sent by Wirral Council’s Mayor to one of Wirral Council’s committees to debate instead of being debated at a Council meeting.

The changes to time limits on speeches for the proposer (5 minutes) and right of reply (3 minutes) were to bring the time limits in line with new time limits proposed for Council meetings.

However an extra category of speaker has been added. This is described in the new rules as "any other person" and they will have three minutes to speak. "Any other person" is described as "at the discretion of the Chairperson, other persons with expertise on the subject of the Motion may be invited to attend the meeting at which it is to be considered"

These new rules won’t apply to next week’s high-profile Notice of Motion Proposal for a fire station on green belt land in Saughall Massie to be discussed by councillors on Wirral Council’s Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee at a public meeting starting at 6.00pm on the 2nd December 2015 in Committee Room 1, Wallasey Town Hall. This is because the recommendation by the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (if agreed by Council on the 14th December) won’t come into effect until the 15th December 2015. At a previous meeting of the Regeneration and Environment Committee councillors wanted to ask questions of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service officers about why they wanted to build a new fire station in Saughall Massie.

Instead the rules agreed earlier in the year by the Coordinating Committee will apply (the part on referred notices of motion starts at the top of page 6).

Hopefully this won’t cause a decision on the issue to be deferred yet again!

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Why am I still waiting over 6 months later for an answer to my question to Councillor Tony Smith?

Why am I still waiting over 6 months later for an answer to my question to Councillor Tony Smith?

Why am I still waiting over 6 months later for an answer to my question to Councillor Tony Smith?

                                                

Council 15th December 2014 Agenda item 4 Public Question Time John Brace asks a question of Cllr Tony Smith on Lyndale School
Council 15th December 2014 Agenda item 4 Public Question Time John Brace asks a question of Cllr Tony Smith on Lyndale School

The picture above is of myself asking a question of Cllr Tony Smith on the 15th December 2014 last year. Here is my supplementary question to Cllr Tony Smith and Cllr Tony Smith’s reply.

JOHN BRACE: Earlier this year, a further decision about Lyndale School was made by Cabinet on the 16th January. This decision was called in.

The Coordinating Committee couldn’t decide on the call in until Council in February had added two parent governors with voting rights to the Committee.

That was because it was a legal requirement to have at least two parent governors with voting rights on the committee.

Now regulation 7(5) and 7(6) of the Parent Governor Representatives (England) Regulations [2001] state that parent governors representatives cease to be qualified if they fail to attend a meeting for six months and also fail to send an apology.

Now, the Coordinating Committee has met many times over the last six months and I’ve not seen either one of the two parent governors at any public meeting, nor have the minutes reflected that they sent their apologies.

Therefore it seems logical to conclude that it doesn’t have the required two parent governor representatives.

As any decision on the future of Lyndale School could be called in to the Coordinating Committee, how do you propose as Cabinet Member including the voice of parent governors in the current decision and to remedy that situation?

CLLR TONY SMITH: OK, thank you Mr. Brace. I think I will probably have to give you a written report on that development because of the technical nature of the representatives but I will give you a report on the representatives.
 

On the 23rd March 2015, I reminded Councillor Tony Smith that I hadn’t received a response to this question. I received an email from an employee at Wirral Council on the 27th March 2015 asking for a copy of the supplementary question. I replied with a copy of the supplementary question on the 27th March 2015 but have not had a reply to that email.

The papers for the Annual Council meeting (part 2) which is to be held tomorrow evening state “The Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee currently has four co-optees – there is a statutory requirement to have representatives of the Catholic and Church of England dioceses and of parent governors – who are entitled to vote on education matters. These co-optees should also be appointed to the Coordinating Committee for those occasions when it deals with education matters”.

In a section on the Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee it lists two parent governor representatives:

Mrs H Shoebridge (until 28 October 2015)
Mrs Nicola Smith (until 8 February 2017)
 

The minutes of the Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee meetings for the last 6 months show:

23/3/15
Mrs Nicola Smith Co-Optee Absent
Mrs H Shoebridge Co-Optee Apologies

2/2/15
Mrs Nicola Smith Co-Optee Absent
Mrs H Shoebridge Co-Optee Apologies

In the six months before my question being asked on the 15th December 2014 (8/7/14, 9/9/14, 3/11/14 and 2/12/14 Mrs H Shoebridge did not attend any of the meetings of the Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee nor do the minutes show that she sent her apologies.

So, as there have been periods of six months when both of the parent governor representatives have not attended any of the meetings of the Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee nor sent their apologies it would seem that both parent governor representatives have ceased to be so.

Regulation 7 means they cease to be qualified to be a parent governor representatives and as Wirral Council is required to have at least two parent governor representatives (see regulation 3), then it should hold an election for the two vacant parent governor representatives.

So isn’t it about time that a councillor queried why elections for the parent governor representative weren’t held after I raised this point back in December 2014 and (more importantly) got officers to commit to holding elections in the near future?

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How did Councillor Tony Smith answer 2 questions about the Cabinet decision on closure of Lyndale School?

How did Councillor Tony Smith answer 2 questions about the Cabinet decision on closure of Lyndale School?

How did Councillor Tony Smith answer 2 questions about the Cabinet decision on closure of Lyndale School?

                                            

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Council (Wirral Council) 15th December 2014

Council 15th December 2014 Agenda item 4 Public Question Time John Brace asks a question of Cllr Tony Smith on Lyndale School
Council 15th December 2014 Agenda item 4 Public Question Time John Brace asks a question of Cllr Tony Smith on Lyndale School

In light of the fact that Wirral Council’s Cabinet meets tonight to make a decision about Lyndale School (amongst other matters), I thought this transcript of the public question time that includes two questions I asked Cllr Tony Smith about the upcoming decision on Lyndale School at the public meeting of Council on Monday 15th December might be of interest to some people. It starts at 31:46 in the video above.

The first question is a written question from Mr John Brace to Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services) submitted on the 4th December 2014. The second is one Cllr Tony Smith doesn’t get advance warning of until he heard it on Monday evening.

JOHN BRACE: Wirral Council recently had a four-week consultation on the closure of the Lyndale School in Eastham and there will be a special Cabinet meeting later this month on the 17th December 2014.

Can you please answer:

(a) how many responses were received by Wirral Council to the latest four-week consultation on closure of the Lyndale School,
(b) whether the text of the responses to the latest four-week consultation will be published in full (rather than a summary in a Cabinet report) and if so when,
(c) whether all Cabinet Members making a decision on the 17th December 2014 will in advance of making a decision at the meeting of the 17th December 2014 have read all the written consultation responses to the four week consultation on closure prior to making their decision on the 17th December 2014

and

(d) whether all Cabinet Members making a decision on the 17th December 2014 will in advance of making a decision at the meeting of the 17th December 2014 have read the statutory guidance for decision makers on this matter issued earlier this year by the government which is available online?

Thank you.

CLLR TONY SMITH: Thank you Mr. Brace, thank you Mr Brace.

Errm, right on question a, errm in accordance with statutory guidance there was a four-week consultation period and during that time any person could make comments or objections to the proposal to close the school, to close the school and there are twenty-one representations received.

Six from the Lyndale School, one from Stanley School and fourteen others who were mainly Members, twenty were received by email and one letter was received.

So question b, errm an acknowledgement has been given to all those who made representations. The whole set of redacted copies of the representations has been provided as appendix 4 to the Cabinet report and a full set of unredacted copies has been provided to members of the Cabinet prior to their meeting on the 17th December to inform the decision-making. The unredacted copies have been sent to Cabinet Members on a disc.

Err question c, all, as I said earlier, every Member of the Cabinet have received a disc, which contains copies of the representations, that are unredacted and which will be read prior to their meeting on the 17th December and the question d, yes is the answer.

The full guidance produced by the Department for Education, in December, or the Department for Education in 2014 called School Organisation for Maintained Schools: Guidance for proposals and decision makers has been provided at appendix 3 of the Cabinet report. The Cabinet, as the decision-maker, will have regard to the factors it will need to take into account and this is outlined in paragraph 4 onwards in the Cabinet report.

JOHN BRACE: Thank you.

MAYOR OF WIRRAL: OK, err we normally ask if you if you want a supplementary question? Have you got one? OK?

JOHN BRACE: Thank you Councillor Tony Smith for answering my first question. I do have a supplementary.

Earlier this year, a further decision about Lyndale School was made by Cabinet on the 16th January. This decision was called in.

The Coordinating Committee couldn’t decide on the call in until Council in February had added two parent governors with voting rights to the Committee.

That was because it was a legal requirement to have at least two parent governors with voting rights on the committee.

Now regulation 7(5) and 7(6) of the Parent Governor Representatives (England) Regulations [2001] state that parent governors representatives cease to be qualified if they fail to attend a meeting for six months and also fail to send an apology.

Now, the Coordinating Committee has met many times over the last six months and I’ve not seen either one of the two parent governors at any public meeting, nor have the minutes reflected that they sent their apologies.

Therefore it seems logical to conclude that it doesn’t have the required two parent governor representatives.

As any decision on the future of Lyndale School could be called in, to the Coordinating Committee, how do you propose as Cabinet Member including the voice of parent governors in the current decision and to remedy that situation?

CLLR TONY SMITH: OK, thank you Mr. Brace. I think errm I will probably have to give you a written report on that regarding the detail of your question. I’ll give you a written report.

JOHN BRACE: OK, thank you.

MAYOR OF WIRRAL: OK, thank you Mr. Brace. That was the only public question that we had to deal with. I’m moving on to item 5, which is Leader’s, Executive Member’s and Chair’s reports.

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