SATIRE: What if the Saughall Massie fire station decision was a sports event?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: Next week, we’ll be seeing another thrilling political battle between Cllr Chris “Bruiser” Blakeley (in the blue corner with a picture of a Conservative whip on his chest) and Dan “The Fireman” Stephens in the flaming red corner (and a picture of a fireman’s axe on his chest). Who will win following this encounter? This is a battle that the public think both of them can’t win.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR 2: There’s a bit of history between these two characters isn’t there?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: Yes, this whole fire station issue is part of the reason Chris Blakeley lost his job working for Esther McVey in May, but since then he’s had more time for campaigning. The kudos for stopping a new fire station in Greasby went to Esther McVey’s rival Margaret Greenwood (now an MP). The two (Cllr Blakeley and Dan Stephens) have had heated exchanges at a number of public meetings and are bitterly opposed on this sensitive political issue.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR 2: But what happened last time?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: The Labour referee Cllr Mike Sullivan declared it a draw on points and decided to call it off for another night. No one had invited Dan Stephens along to that meeting so it would’ve been wrong to let Cllr Blakeley win under such circumstances.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR 2: But strictly speaking Dan Stephens wasn’t the officer behind all this?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: Yes that’s true. The man with the plan for this was Deputy Chief Executive Kieran Timmins (his line manager was Dan Stephens). However Kieran Timmins has been made redundant. So nobody can ask him questions. The land aspects of Mr. Timmins’ job are now under the remit of Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR 2: So if asked, Dan Stephens can deny all knowledge of the emails released under a Freedom of Information Act request or in fact anything to do with all this?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: His answer at an earlier public meeting was he hadn’t written the emails, then from memory a Labour councillor on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (who had released the emails) just claimed the Tories were just making it all up.
Although Dan Stephens would be aware of this matter, it would be Mr. Timmins/Phil Garrigan that would be involved in the details. I’m sure Phil Garrigan will brief him ahead of next week’s meeting with answers to questions that are likely to be asked and/or be there in person.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR 2: So what does Dan want?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: He has to work within the agreed policy. The politicians directed him to ask for the land at Saughall Massie and planning permission (or at the very least he has to find somewhere to build a new fire station if the politicians want one).
SPORTS COMMENTATOR 2: So what does Cllr Blakeley want?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: For Dan Stephens not to get the land at Saughall Massie and planning permission and if he has to build a fire station to do it somewhere else.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR 2: I see, and after over 2 years of political arguing has anything been actually decided?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: Councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority did decide to go ahead and ask Wirral Council for the land at Saughall Massie and planning permission.
An interesting twist however, is that Cllr Blakeley seems to be have been stabbed in the back twice by his own side on this issue as both the Conservative government have offered Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service a grant towards the costs of a new fire station and fellow Conservative councillor Cllr Lesley Rennie voted for it too.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR 2: So you’re saying in over 2 years and perhaps millions of words, all that’s happened is arguing, Esther McVey losing her seat and endless rounds of consultation over the £millions this could all cost?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: Yes.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR 2: And nobody thought it a good idea and value for money or sensible to just actually sit down and talk through these issues?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: Officers did that, but thought councillors would just happily rubber stamp it. Large numbers of the public getting grumpy about a political decision makes politicians nervous. Nervous politicians don’t like to make unpopular decisions unless they know the facts so they delay making a decision.
However councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority seemed quite happy to have the people pay for taxis to and from public meetings, showing that a decision by a politician is only unpopular if the public actually knows about it.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR 2: So you’re saying that endless public meetings, consultations, press coverage and over 2 years of political arguments is because no consensus or compromise has been reached?
SPORTS COMMENTATOR JOHN BRACE: Yep, but it’s been great for our viewing and circulation figures isn’t it!?
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