Do Cllr Christina Muspratt’s election expenses add up (a councillor who is on Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee overseeing £billions of public money)?

Do Cllr Christina Muspratt’s election expenses add up (a councillor who is on Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee overseeing £billions of public money)?

Do Cllr Christina Muspratt’s election expenses add up (a councillor who is on Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee overseeing £billions of public money)?

                      

I’ve decided to publish the election expenses by ward alphabetically. However these are only for candidates who got over a quarter of the vote.

There was a small delay in inspecting these returns due to the pressures on the election side at Wirral Council due to the EU Referendum.


The first one is for Bebington ward and that of Christina Muspratt (the Labour candidate) who was elected as a councillor.

Cllr Christina Muspratt sits on Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee overseeing hundreds of millions of pounds of public expenditure and also (as Wirral Council is the Administering Authority) the multi-billion pound Merseyside Pension Fund Wirral Council runs (although the Pensions Committee also have oversight of the Merseyside Pension Fund)).

However her donations and spending don’t match in the pages below.

Her campaign lists £243.06 of spending (although some notional spending should’ve also been declared but mysteriously wasn’t as the printing of leaflets at Alison McGovern‘s office (the Labour MP for Wirral South) was done at below commercial rates)).

Indeed the use of taxpayer-funded resources at Wirral Council and at Alison McGovern’s office (the Labour MP for Wirral South) is odd as generally there is a bar on taxpayer-funded elements to party political activity during elections and indeed if people would like to leave comments explaining this it would be welcome.

As a general rule having the taxpayer fund elements of an election campaign (a party political matter) is seen as wrong.

There are however only £150 in donations to cover this spending though. I hope Labour aren’t applying this kind of voodoo economics to Wirral Council too!

The declarations signed by herself and her agent are also included. As she was well under the spending limit (even if you include what the notional expenditure should’ve been) of £1,456.16 it’s unlikely anything that this will result other than mild embarrassment as in future (hopefully) she will read things before signing them!

I’ve included the originals as a zipped file below, thumbnails of the return (which as a lot of it’s handwritten may be hard to read) are below that.

I’ve linked each thumbnail to a higher resolution image which should show if you click on the thumbnail.

Compressed file of all 20 original pages in election expenses return for Christina Muspratt (thumbnails below)

Bebington May 2016 Wirral Council councillor candidate Christina Muspratt agent declaration Page 1 of 1
Bebington May 2016 Wirral Council councillor candidate Christina Muspratt agent declaration Page 1 of 1

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Councillor Adam Sykes wants Wirral Council to “be a guiding light for freedom of information for other councils”

Councillor Adam Sykes wants Wirral Council to “be a guiding light for freedom of information for other councils”

Councillor Adam Sykes wants Wirral Council to “be a guiding light for freedom of information for other councils”

                        

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Video of Wirral Council’s Transformation and Resources Policy and Performance meeting of the 14th April 2014. The item on the Freedom of Information Scrutiny Review starts at 1:53

The covering report for this item and the final report of the scrutiny review can be downloaded from Wirral Council’s website.

Below is a transcript of this item as it didn’t attract much discussion.

COUNCILLOR STUART WITTINGHAM
This is the final report, despite having draft as an imprint. I’m sure that when, if this evening agrees, this report goes to Cabinet the draft will be removed. I’d like to invite Adam if you want to introduce this item.

COUNCILLOR ADAM SYKES
Thank you Chair. Building on what’s on page twenty-seven in my opening statement basically we took upon this review as the Council had been under monitoring action from the Information Commissioner and had already improved its result on FOI to over 85%.

We didn’t want to merely reach the baseline, we wanted to exceed this figure and be a guiding light for FOI for other councils. So taking on various strands of the whole process, how actually it goes through the system to how we can improve items coming in, how they’re managed once they’re here and also how we can reduce the number of requests in the first place because obviously the actual costs of these FOI requests are quite significant.

It’s quite shocking actually well when you see how much we’ve spent on a weekly basis on FOI requests that could be better spent elsewhere in the Council. So, I don’t know whether I need to go into much more detail as the recommendations are all in the pack. Obviously we’re happy taking any questions, I’m sure the other members of the group are.

I’d just like to conclude by thanking the officers for their time in the you know producing the report, Jane Corrin, Surjit and also support from the scrutiny officer Mike and it was really very helpful and an interesting review to be part of.

COUNCILLOR STUART WITTINGHAM (CHAIR)
Thank you very much. Christina, do you have anything to add?

COUNCILLOR CHRISTINA MUSPRATT
Just apologies for being late.

COUNCILLOR STUART WITTINGHAM (CHAIR)
OK, I’d like to thank Adam and thanks to the officers for this overview and scrutiny review and thank both yourself and Christina for what I really think is a …

COUNCILLOR ANDREW HODSON (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
I was going to say members of the committee were told by the effective leader of yourself, Christina and Adam of all the work you’ve put in on this, but obviously if you wasn’t aware of … so very good.

COUNCILLOR STUART WITTINGHAM (CHAIR)
Yes, thank you. Right, Phil?

COUNCILLOR PHIL GILCHRIST (LIBERAL DEMOCRAT SPOKESPERSON)
Could I say that I welcome the sort of crisp and concise way that the report was written and the recommendations but might I asking while Mr. Blott’s beaming at the moment, through you Chair, whether we can perhaps have a bit of advice on what can be done with the search facility on the website. The work the committee sought was to try and reduce requests that could be answered in any other way and clearly when I try and find things searching it always says “are you sure you’ve spelt it right?” which is about the only guidance the website gives us.

I wondered if officers rather perhaps than note the use and power of that, whilst we were noting perhaps they could give advice on how it could be progressed elsewhere and what sort of timescale.

JOE BLOTT (STRATEGIC DIRECTOR FOR TRANSFORMATION AND RESOURCES)
Yeah, thank you Chair. Thanks very much indeed, I think a couple of comments on that. Certainly in terms of a response to the particular question from Councillor Gilchrist. Yeah, certainly as part of our overarching improvements to public access and our customer channels, anything we can do to improve, that that possibility will do so. In terms of timeliness of that, we are looking, we have launched the intranet as we know at the turn of this year, so that’s been reviewed and we are about to embark on a change to the internet access points as well. So I think your point’s well made.

It’s well timed and everything within a very short space of time we’ll be able to improve on that I think and anything we can do to improve the search arrangements in terms of behind our ICT program build we’ll certainly do that. Perhaps we could, if I can, if we note that as part of a minute item which we pick up in June to see where our business is up to.

COUNCILLOR STUART WITTINGHAM (CHAIR)
Any other comments?

JOE BLOTT (STRATEGIC DIRECTOR FOR TRANSFORMATION AND RESOURCES)
Thanks Chair, just if I may. They’re contained within the report anyway but I think it really does strike me as a really positive approach for the policy and performance committees to drill down into such matters and I think that from an officer perspective, to receive the balanced report is really encouraging. I think more than anything else it demonstrates progress that we had taken. I think it demonstrates progress that we were taking in advance of the ICO’s intervention, nevertheless quite clearly we were duty bound to follow that and I think it is important to see both in terms of context which I think is helpful on page nineteen in terms of the numbers of requests we get, but in terms of page eighteen in terms of how we responded to those requests but I guess as the report sets out it’s really important that this is a journey that we’re on here and we haven’t reached our end game yet.

The end game is the consistency of response times to the FOI requests that links heavily into Councillor Gilchrist’s point that the more information we can provide upfront, then hopefully less number of FOIs we’ll have to deal with which equally comes back to the Chair’s comments around the costs of FOI enquiries which are extremely high and I was quite sure in the briefing that we can use the resources to greater effect in terms of impact on service users and our residents.

So certainly from an officer perspective regarding the report, happy to again as an officer to accept all the recommendations and ensure they will see due progress over the coming months.

COUNCILLOR STUART WITTINGHAM (CHAIR)
Thank you Joe, Surjit do you have anything to add?

SURJIT TOUR
No.

COUNCILLOR STUART WITTINGHAM (CHAIR)
OK, anyone else got any further comments or questions? OK, I’ll move onto the recommendations. 4.1 agreed? It’s on page ten. 4.1 the Committee is asked to note the contents of the report. Agreed?

COUNCILLORS
Agreed.

COUNCILLOR STUART WITTINGHAM (CHAIR)
OK, at 4.2 we’re requested to consider whether or not we wish to refer the report to Cabinet. I suggest that we do, is that agreed?

COUNCILLORS
Agreed.

COUNCILLOR STUART WITTINGHAM (CHAIR)
Thank you.

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