What do disasters, Wirral Council, Wirral Waters, an MOT test, Snowden and America have in common?

What do disasters, Wirral Council, Wirral Waters, an MOT, Snowden and America have in common?

What do disasters, Wirral Council, Wirral Waters, an MOT test, Snowden and America have in common?


Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX (the venue for First-Tier Tribunal case EA/2016/0033)
Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX

I thought it was time I wrote a piece to explain to readers why there haven’t been as many blog posts this month (bear in mind there were only six last month).

After all a lot has been going on. So where do I start?

Firstly, a bit of internal news. As people know I record a lot of video of public meetings and thanks to the slow internet speeds here on the Wirral (there’s not enough competition on high-speed internet yet unfortunately) a lot of strain had been put on the main hard drive of my laptop. Just as a quick bit of commentary, Wirral Council did at one stage have money set aside for high-speed internet access on the Wirral, but decided to spend it on something else apart from a small amount still earmarked for high-speed internet access to the Wirral Waters area.

Although I’m close enough to Wirral Waters to probably benefit, sadly there is a lack of competition on the high-speed internet front meaning prices are still high.

Those who know me, know I used to fix computers and have a disaster recovery plan in place for this scenario and backups. Thankfully IT disaster recovery (yes I realise it is rare for management for have an IT background) runs smoother here than it has in the past at Wirral Council which has had its fair share of IT fiascos.

However to cut a long story short, the internal hard drive can no longer be used (it’s too unreliable and error prone) and has being replaced by an external 1 terabyte hard drive connected via USB.

Yes, it would be nice to have replaced the faulty internal hard drive, but due to the age of the laptop I’m concerned that opening it up to do so could finish the laptop off completely. This means effectively the laptop is no longer portable and stays in my office (which is basically a spare bedroom).

However my routine had been to write blog posts elsewhere in the morning. That’s tricky now as the external hard drive and USB cable need to be somewhere flat. I will eventually replace the laptop. Public meetings held in the morning (such as the Wirral Council Cabinet meetings held on Monday morning’s) also break up this routine.

Last week, my wife’s car went it for its MOT (bear in mind a lot of the public meetings are held at times when public transport is just not possible). As we both use the car for work purposes, I cover the cost of this as a business overhead. Ultimately though when the car is unavailable, considering the criticism I’ve levelled at politicians for getting taxis (at the taxpayer’s expense) to public meetings, I didn’t want to rely on taxis and decided not to go the Licensing, Health and Safety and General Purposes Committee meeting last week (also in part because of my birthday later on in that week). In a slight twist of fate that meeting I missed was about taxis.

The cost of the MOT plus repairs, VAT etc came to about £740. As that’s a one-off expense, I have had to concentrate on commercial work (basically an advertising deal to cover the overhead).

Another factor to consider is that my original plan for this blog had been long-term to run Google Adsense ads on it. At one stage with another website I was running I was earning about £60 a day over the Christmas period from such advertising. These days however the other side of the dot com bubble, advertising rates are much, much lower.

You may have noticed this blog has minimal advertising on it. Those who keep abreast of information law, will know that the Max Schrems legal case (following Snowden’s whistleblowing revelations) led to the EU US Safe Harbour agreement being ruled as legally invalid. Although it was later replaced by the EU US Privacy Shield, it’s only recently that Google have gone through the process necessary that data can be shared with them (such as running their ads on this blog).

There is also a long running story I’ve been writing about for years that for legal reasons, I can’t write about due to legal restrictions until an outstanding matter in it is decided.

Having had a birthday (indeed this blog is now around 6 years old) and a fortnight to think about the future of this blog, feedback (including emails I get) have told me that people find the videos of public meetings useful and the publication of documents revealed during citizen audits.

There are literally boxes of information I have from the 2015-16 audits of various local public bodies (including a lot of unpublished files on councillors’ expenses), but Wirral Council still owes me a number of contracts and other documentation (an employee went on leave which seems to be the usual standard reason why in an organisation of thousands of employees work grinds to a halt when somebody goes on leave).

So, the upshot is that I’ve not vanished off the face of the earth, or got another job and just because there may be a lack of published blog posts doesn’t mean there aren’t blog posts written and yet to be published (for example I wrote one on my birthday last week about Monday evening’s set of three Wirral Council meetings that is awaiting the final touches (photo, headline etc)).

My aim is to concentrate on topical, but in-depth investigative journalism, but bearing in mind there is just myself and Leonora here, to do a good job on such matters can take years of patient reporting.

This would be made easier if certain people in the public sector locally didn’t act in the title of a book a reader kindly sent me a while back titled “Not in the Public Interest”. My job is made considerably more difficult to do and time-consuming by certain people on salaries that look more like phone numbers in politically restricted posts, who seem to get it into their head that I’m on some personal crusade to actually get them to do their job properly.

Therefore they see me as a threat and their raison d’être becomes making life difficult for me.

I’ve seen many public sector managers come and go, it’s not personal, I’m not out to get you or cause chaos.

Yet have a bit of sense and don’t deliberately go out of your way to abuse your power in ways that are unethical.

I never like having to go down the route of getting the judiciary involved, not just because it polarises matters but as it always leads to a can of worms coming out (that there are no restrictions on reporting on in the interests of open justice). As a court reporter I know how the public sector always treats judicial processes like a game, lies through its teeth, lies under oath and has for a long time abused the court and tribunal processes to get what it wants knowing there aren’t going to be consequences for doing so.

My immediate family (before retiring) worked in the criminal justice system and as a child I was told about the systems of justice in this country. I realise it may be old-fashioned to expect the public sector to adhere to the rule of law and even odder to expect councillors and local government officers to explain why they did what they did to the judiciary.

I also realise that coming from a foreign background and being married to a foreign national that my views on openness and transparency are somewhat different to what seems to be accepted as a cultural norm here (yes I was born in this country but sometimes it seems to be completely different to the one I grew up in)!

However, I would be keen to hear your views (in the form of comments) on what level of advertising you’d find acceptable (or whether you think a different way of funding running costs is better) and whether you think long form more in depth journalism is what you want to read (along with data journalism such as the publication of documents) along with any other thoughts you may have.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.

Council 9th February 2012 – Youth Parliament – Don’t mention the l word!

On Tuesday evening the Mayor welcomed young people participating in the Youth Parliament event and told everyone that he had started his career in the Council Chamber representing a youth club in New Brighton.

The first motion was calling for more sporting provision for young people on the Wirral. A Youth Parliament member called Leah explained that this was to help people with their self-confidence and team building skills. An opposer to the motion called Jessica called for a more diverse range of youth activities instead such as cooking, arts and foreign languages.

Cllr Walter Smith commented that there were more sporting opportunities now than in his youth and referred to his granddaughter at Upton Hall school. Various young people said the existing sporting provision wasn’t advertised enough. Another called Lauren referred to the Wirral Youth Theatre activities. Dylan suggested they use schools left empty during the holidays for sport.

Cllr Jerry Williams referred to the upcoming marathon and said although he was sixty, he had run thirty-six marathons.

A vote was taken and the motion was lost by 14 votes to 38.

The second motion was that all Wirral parks have either an internet cafe or wi-fi cafe so that young people could meet after school. Courtney said that she believed this would increase the number visiting the parks and would be used throughout the day by others. Hannah said that there were already youth clubs and it was pointless spending lots of money on such things.

Ricky said that more young people had internet access on their phones or at the local library and that they were “already a nation of zombies” so he disagreed with the motion.

George said that many families couldn’t afford internet access. Ffion said they could make money from refreshments but didn’t think it was well thought through. Charlotte opposed it and thought it would lead to conflict between rival groups.

Charlotte spoke saying it was a really good idea but with the cuts she couldn’t see it happening. Another young person said they could get half an hour free at their local library. Another two young people spoke against the idea.

Josh agreed with the motion, but said the youth clubs were safer. Alex thought it wouldn’t be safe and would intensify gang culture. Another young person said the wi-fi at Birkenhead Park pavilion was turned off when the cafe shuts at four.

Dylan thought it was a bad motion and Alan thought that people would just use it for playing games. Cllr Steve Williams spoke about the perception that young people had that the park was not a safe place. Cllr Patricia Glasman asked if young people would allow older people to use the internet cafes?

Josh said that older people could use the internet in work. Rosie said that no one goes to her local library and was interrupted by heckling. At the end of the debate there was a vote. Six were for, 52 were against, so the motion was lost.

The next motion was from Oldershaw school and asked for Wirral Council to guarantee employment opportunities for young people by insisting in contracts that a certain % of employment was local and a certain % apprenticeships.

Charles spoke first and thought that colleges should make the request rather than the local Council. Alex referred to young people going to university, getting into debt and coming out without a job.

Lauren thought that people at a private school received a better education than at a comprehensive. Graham talked about how if more people were in work then they would be less reliant on local government and crime would fall.

Ricky talked about how people worked hard to achieve good grades, but due to circumstances couldn’t go to university because of the expense. George spoke about kids in poverty and how youths should be a priority.

More young people spoke about qualifications. Lauren spoke about one to one sessions in her school in Maths and English. Cllr Adrian Jones said as a governor of Oldershaw how impressed he was by Megan Jones’ speech and how he did agree with the thrust of what she said. He also congratulated Charles Keeth on his speech.

Charlotte referred to how although she was hoping to go to university, she would take work in a coffee shop for eight months.

Another young person said that a young person got good grades at GCSE because of the effort that was put in.

Cllr Bernie Mooney congratulated the young people and said she wishes the adult debaters would take lessons from the discussions. She said that they had a duty that the aspirations of young people were upheld, that they had an excellent education department and she agreed that companies coming to Wirral to make their fortune should share it through an obligation to employ adults and young people as apprentices.

Cllr Cox spoke as a previous apprentice himself, he believed apprenticeships were the future, although he had gone on to university later and studied for a degree. He had done an HNC and been paid at the same time.

Ryan said it was important to give young people jobs especially when their parents didn’t have jobs. The motion went to the vote that Council contracts would guarantee 25% youth jobs. It was passed by 36 votes to 20.

The next motion was that areas of low life expectancy were due to lifestyle choices.

This sparked a debate about the differences between the West and East of Wirral and how where you were brought up affected your views, stereotypes and people’s views of poverty. This motion was lost by 8 votes to 42.

On the last motion, Cllr Watt declared a prejudicial interest and left. This motion was that councillors, MPs and officers should have their expenses cut.

Many young people spoke in favour of this. Councillor Les Rowlands spoke against, saying that he was paid less as a councillor than in his self-employed job and that some chose not to claim expenses. This motion was lost by 11 votes to 22. Cllr Blakeley asked for his abstention to be recorded.

The Mayor quipped that if the motion had passed he would’ve bought bicycle clips and a mayoral bicycle.

The last motion was that police officers should be armed with guns. There were a few speakers (mainly against) and that motion was lost by 10 votes to 40. At the end the Mayor invited the three party leaders to speak.

Cllr Tom Harney said that standards had been extremely high and that each year the standard was getting better, but that if people had any suggestions to let him know.

Cllr Wendy Clements said it had been interesting and exciting and that people had listened to each other, which she commented was rare, she congratulated everyone and on the standard of debate.

Cllr Phil Davies said it had been a fantastic evening and said he had been tempted to join in on the debate on councillor’s allowances. He said that many speeches were well researched and had a good evidence base. He thanks the staff for organising the event and said it had been a long day for those who had been there since the morning.

The Mayor thanked Maureen McDaid and the minutes of last year’s meeting were agreed. The meeting then closed.