What were the top 10 most popular stories on this blog last month in June 2016?

What were the top 10 most popular stories on this blog last month in June 2016?

What were the top 10 most popular stories on this blog last month in June 2016?


Below are links to the ten most popular stories read on this blog last month (June 2016). Eight involve Wirral Council, one Liverpool City Council and the other Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service/Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. All except one (the one about the regeneration of Birkenhead Town Centre) were published in June 2016. Two are on the topic of the recent First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) public hearing involving myself and Wirral Council.

I’m surprised the EU Referendum stories didn’t feature higher up in the list, but as the EU Referendum was held in the last week of June, those stories have had less time to be read than articles published nearer the start of June.

Councillor Steve Foulkes (left) at a Merseytravel Committee meeting (7th January 2016)
Councillor Steve Foulkes (left) at a Merseytravel Committee meeting (7th January 2016)

1. Why has Wirral Council sunk deeper into the quagmire of poor corporate governance surrounding a complaint about Cllr Steve Foulkes? (published 29th June 2016)

2. Secrets about Wirral Council’s Birkenhead Town Centre Regeneration revealed (published 27th December 2013)

3. Labour councillors reject Green Party proposal to reduce Mayor of Liverpool’s Allowance by £89,000 over a 4 year period (published 1st June 2016)

4. Surjit Tour asks Wirral councillors to agree to changes to how complaints about councillors are dealt with (published 3rd June 2016)

5. £206,000 extra for Wirral’s potholes, £170,000 for selling “ornamental pleasure gardens” and a land swap to a body that doesn’t exist! (published 13th June 2016)

6. What did Surjit Tour answer to questions about a Freedom of Information request to Wirral Council at the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) hearing (EA/2016/0033) (continued)? (published 22nd June 2016)

7. Disclosure of 46 pages of PFI contractor’s banking details by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service described as “oversight” (published 14th June 2016)

8. What was in the 11 A4 page witness statement of Surjit Tour (Wirral Council) about a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee (EA/2016/0033)? (published 17th June 2016)

9. Where is your polling station (for Wirral voters) for the 2016 EU Referendum vote? (published 23rd June 2016)

10. Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Phil Gilchrist calls for cross-party unity on Wirral Council on issue of EU funding withdrawal (published 27th June 2016)

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Why Wirral Council’s auditors state Wirral Council doesn’t provide value for money

Why Wirral Council’s auditors state Wirral Council doesn’t provide value for money

Why Wirral Council’s auditors state Wirral Council doesn’t provide value for money

In an audit report released to the public on the 6th September written by Wirral Council’s auditors Grant Thornton, they anticipate issuing a qualified “adverse” opinion on Wirral Council’s arrangements to provide value for money.

Their report also refers to “continuing concerns raised by regulators” and how “residents also continue to raise concerns with us“. They conclude that during the financial year 2012/13 that “the Council’s arrangements for securing financial resilience were inadequate during this time” and that “the Council accepts that for 2012/13 it was less than adequate and improvements were needed in its financial management“.

The auditors went on to state that “The Council had yet to fully address the corporate governance weaknesses which have been repeatedly identified in respect of key issues such as whistleblowing, conflicts of interest, compliance with procedures, risk management, Internal Audit and providing value for money. In addition there was a high incidence of non-compliance with procedures” and that “there were weaknesses in corporate arrangements for risk management, compliance with policies, procedures and internal control.

Their final conclusion is “that the Council did not put in place proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources for the year between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2013.

Another report published today entitled Wirral Council – Review of Arrangements for Securing Financial Resilience gives more detail as to what Wirral Council’s auditors think needs to improve. Both reports will be discussed by Wirral Council councillors on 18th September at the Audit and Risk Management Committee.

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Wirral/LGA Improvement Board 22nd July 2013 Questions and Answers

A report on the Wirral Council/LGA Improvement Board meeting of the 22nd July 2013

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The meeting started with an apology for the cancelled meeting of the 22nd March (due to snow). The questions and answers that were sent in for the March meeting had been published on Wirral Council’s website so the Chair said she wasn’t going to cover them.

The Chair moved the meeting to the key messages from the Improvement Board’s meeting of the 17th May. Unfortunately there weren’t enough copies for the public, so the Chair instructed a Council officer to make copies and skipped forward to the next item on the agenda, questions. Nobody else had submitted any questions so all eight questions were those sent in by the author of this blog.

1. The LGA Wirral Improvement Board terms of reference state “Every third meeting of the Board will be held in public to report on progress and take questions”, however the public are only allowed to stay for the first half hour of the third meetings of the Board. Can you explain why seemingly in contradiction to its own terms of reference that the Board does not hold all of its third meeting in public and only the first three agenda items?


The LGA Wirral Improvement Board has a public session every third meeting in order to update members of the public on progress and respond to questions. These functions take only thirty minutes, depending on the number of questions, and allow the Board to consider other items in the later part of the meeting.

2. Considering that part of its terms of reference the Improvement Board is to “endorse decisions which impact on political and managerial leadership arrangements, corporate governance and improvement in advance of them going through Wirral’s own decision-making structures, e.g. Cabinet or Council” and that it is a joint committee of Wirral Council and the LGA, can you explain why the Wirral/LGA Improvement Board is not seen as a body covered by the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 c. 67, specifically referring to the reference in it that Act to joint committees of a principal council?


The LGA Wirral Improvement Board meetings are not meetings of the Council at which public functions are being exercised. Accordingly, the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 does not apply.

3. It’s previously been stated that the Wirral/LGA Improvement Board is time limited. When it ceases to be at some point in the future, what will there be in place at Wirral Council to prevent a repeat of the circumstances that led to it being needed in the first place?


The objective of the LGA Wirral Improvement Board is to monitor progress towards improvement, provide challenge and offer impartial advice. When the Improvement Board ceases it will be because the Board is assured that the issues around Corporate Governance and effective oversight provided by scrutiny have been resolved.

4. Due to the scale and nature of the problems at Wirral Council that led to the creation of the Improvement Board, some did call (and still do) for a public inquiry. Can you explain the advantages and disadvantages of an Improvement Board compared to a public inquiry?


The LGA Wirral Improvement Board provides challenge and advice to Wirral Council on its improvement plan. The Council’s Improvement plan is derived from a number of critical reports that Wirral Council received in the past. A public inquiry would not resolve the issues identified and would be likely to only restate information from these reports.

5. One of the problems previously identified by councillors on the Corporate Governance Committee was a lack of “Member capacity” to address the widespread corporate governance failings. Has Wirral Council ever thought of (or the Improvement Board ever suggested) of carrying out a community governance review and creating parish/community councils in the Wirral area?


One of the developments from the review of Corporate Governance, has been the creation of Constituency Committees. These committees, based upon the four constituencies of Wirral provide Councillors with the opportunity to make a real difference at the local level, in the wards they represent. The first meetings of these committees are scheduled for September 2013.

6. The recent Wirral Council constitutional changes included a presumption towards openness and a consideration of human rights when reaching decisions. When other Council’s such as adjoining Chester West and Chester webcast their public meetings, what are the Improvement Board’s views on Wirral Council’s recent bans on filming of their public meetings, which led to negative press coverage and guidance (seemingly ignored) being issued by DCLG?


The Council’s position on filming is set out in the Council resolutions of 12 December 2011 and 17 December 2012 in which the Council confirms its general consent to the filming of Council committee meetings. The Council’s position is consistent with guidance issued by the Secretary of State. However, it is a matter for the Council and each Chairperson of each Committee to determine what safeguards and other considerations are relevant and needed to ensure all rights considered and balanced.

7. As the Improvement Board meetings’ agendas are not published, its meetings are not held in public (apart from three agenda items of the third meeting) and few councillors attend the Cabinet meeting at which its key messages are reported to, how do the vast majority of Wirral councillors know what its doing or have an input into its deliberations?


The Leaders of the three political groups attend each Improvement Board meeting and are provided with the opportunity to represent the views of their Councillors. The outcome of the meetings are reported via the ‘Key Messages’ published after every Board meeting and group leaders are in a position to provide further details to their groups should the need arise.

8. Apart from a notice on an obscure page on its website, what publicity has Wirral Council undertaken to advise the Wirral public that they can inspect Wirral Council’s accounts between the 15th July and the 9th August and the arrangements for doing so?


Under the Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011 the accounts and other documents have to be made available for public inspection. The Council has to give notice by advertisement, which appeared in the Wirral Globe 26 June 2013, and on its website, in this instance they may be found under the ‘Annual Accounts’ section of the Council’s website. The contents of the advert are specified in the Regulations.

Black Boxes – Anna Klonowski – Appendix 9 – Notes of the Charging Policy Working Group 22/8/2005


Appendix 9

Notes of the Charging Policy Working Group

Charging Policy Consultation

Notes of a meeting held on 22nd August 2005

Westminster House, Birkenhead


XXXXXXXXXXXX(older people’s representative)

XXXXXXXXXX(service user/carer representative)

XXXXXXXXXXXX(service user/carer representative)

A representative of Wirral MIND gave apologies

XXXXXXXXXAdvocacy Services

Councillor Pat Williams(Lib Dem)

Councillor               (Lab)

Councillor            (Con)

XXXXXXXXXX(Assistant Director Finance & Support Services)

XXXXXXXXXXX(Business & performance Manager)

XXXXXXXXXX(Client Financial Services Manager)


The purpose of the meeting was to consult with party spokespersons and a number of representatives of users and carers on Wirral’s charging policy for social care services delivered to people in their own homes. It is intended the outcome of this and other consultations will be presented to the Health and Social Care Select Committee prior to recommending to Cabinet any revisions to the Charging Policy as directed by Cabinet in March 2005.


XXXXXXXXX (XXX) gave a presentation (attached) which outlined the type of services the Council charges for and how they are calculated. The presentation




went on to explain why the Council believed the changes to the policy were necessary and what options might be considered.

The Group asked questions during the presentation and these are recorded in the attached table. The Group did not intend to make any specific recommendations to Council but agreed to review these notes and make subsequent representations as were considered appropriate.

It was recognised that not all client groups were adequately represented and XXX gave assurance there would be other processes to ensure as many people as possible were consulted prior to Cabinet making a decision on future charges.



Council (Wirral Council) 12/12/2011 Part 4 Agenda Item 3 (Petitions), Agenda Item 4 (Minutes), Agenda Item 5 (Leader’s Announcements)

Agenda Item 3 Petitions

Cllr Lesley Rennie presented a petition of 92 residents of Wallasey who wanted improvements to road safety in reference to a primary school.
Cllr Stuart Wittingham presented a petition of 58 from Ackers Road, Woodchurch.

Edit: 20/12/2011 Apologies to Cllr Steve Williams as this blog post initially incorrectly stated that he presented the petition of 58 from Ackers Road, Woodchurch when this should have been Cllr Stuart Wittingham. [7]

Cllr Harry Smith presented a petition of approximately 600 from Pensby & Thingwall about road safety at a primary school there. He said this was a rolling petition.

Cllr Harry Smith took his petition to the one of the committee clerks.

Agenda Item 4: Minutes

The minutes of the meeting held on the 11th October 2011 were agreed and the minutes of the meeting held on the 17th October 2011 were agreed.

Agenda Item 5: Leader’s Announcements

Cllr Steve Foulkes said on a high note he thanked Madam Mayor for hosting the Queen on her recent visit and wished that more councillors could have been invited. They had invited the voluntary sector and the Armed Forces to a one hour lunch and it had been a “great day”. He thanked Cllr Tom Harney and Cllr Jeff Green and said they had not had a royal visit for some time. Cllr Foulkes was proud of what we showed the Queen and made a plea to councillors to think.

As Leader of the Council, the corporate governance reforms were proceeding. There was a deadline of April 2012, which depended on the ability of the Corporate Plan which was linked to the 2012/13 Budget. He said it hadn’t happened before that the Corporate Plan had to be taken to a Scrutiny Committee. However a compromise had been reached. There would be a special meeting of the Scrutiny Committee and a special Council meeting by the 9th January 2012. This would allow things to be read and for issues to feed back into the 2012/13 Budget.

Madam Mayor thanked Cllr Steve Foulkes.