Wirral Council’s councillors decided on backdated pay rises for 4 councillors costing an extra £34,226 a year!

Wirral Council’s councillors decided on backdated pay rises for 4 councillors costing an extra £34,226 a year!

Wirral Council’s councillors decided on backdated pay rises for 4 councillors costing an extra £34,226 a year!

                                          

Councillor Steve Foulkes (centre) 16th October 2017 voting to give himself a backdated £10,108 pay rise
Councillor Steve Foulkes (centre) 16th October 2017 voting to give himself a backdated £10,108 pay rise

Wirral Council councillors on Monday evening voted to give four councillors a backdated pay rise costing Wirral Council an extra £34,226 a year.

Councillors from Wirral Council (Councillors Abbey, Foulkes, Rowlands and Jerry Williams) on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Transport Committee (formerly called the Merseytravel Committee) will now receive a backdated basic allowance for their work on the Transport Committee annually of £5,675 each.

On top of the basic allowance of £5,675 (backdated to May) three councillors received extra amounts too. Cllr Les Rowlands received an extra £2,660 as Opposition Spokesperson, Cllr Steve Foulkes an extra £4,433 as Lead Member for Finance and Organisational Development and Cllr Ron Abbey an extra £4,433 as Lead Member for Bus.

A report of the Independent Panel on Member’s Allowances stated that prior to May “the allowances paid to the four Wirral Members were paid by the Council and reimbursed by Merseytravel” but went on to explain that after May 2017 Merseytravel would no longer do this and it would become a decision for individual councils.

Despite a legal requirement to publish the total amounts Wirral Council pays to individual councillors as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of a year it appears from this page on Wirral Council’s website that it has not yet done so for the 2016-17 year.

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Council (Wirral Council) 16th October 2017 Agenda item 11C Members Allowance Scheme

Earlier in the same public meeting, councillors heard from UNISON trade union representative Paddy Cleary who supported a Notice of Motion that called for the “immediate end of public sector pay restraint”.

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Does Wirral Council believe that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government?

Does Wirral Council believe that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government?

Wirral Council Cabinet meeting at Birkenhead Town Hall Thursday 12th March 2015 Left to right Surjit Tour, Cllr Phil Davies and Joe Blott
Wirral Council Cabinet meeting at Birkenhead Town Hall Thursday 12th March 2015 Left to right Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer), Cllr Phil Davies (Leader of the Council) and Joe Blott (Strategic Director (Transformation and Resources))

I was planning on writing today about the implications of the Comprehensive Spending Review (however that’s something that would really benefit from a very in-depth piece), but Wirral Council have published an interesting document about Cabinet meeting report protocol.

That probably sounds rather boring, but it shows the informal arrangements that everyone knew existed behind the scenes before reports were published are being put on a more formal footing.

Although much of it is probably the rather dry nuts and bolts and let’s face it there will still be people submitting reports late and chairs not following procedures with regards to late reports, it does seem an attempt at least to make what the press and public end up reading at least not full of obvious errors (and I’m not talking about spelling mistakes).

The report does state what I knew already, that the SLT (Senior Leadership Team or senior managers at Wirral Council) see reports before they’re published and have a chance to suggest edits.

Even before each public Cabinet meeting happens, Cllr Phil Davies has a meeting of his Cabinet (called a briefing) which the officers are expected to attend (usually in what’s called the Cabinet Briefing Room behind locked doors at Wallasey Town Hall) where he goes through the entire agenda and matters are discussed in private.

Interestingly, this report shows that the Cabinet briefing is used as a filter and the Cabinet briefing can be used to change the reports that are later published. I presume this practice of writing reports by committee leads to some bits being watered down.

There are also four compulsory steps a report has to go through before the press or public see it. It seems reports have to be run by legal (which makes me laugh considering some of the legal howlers I’ve pointed out on this blog over the years), human resources (which is understandable as many of the decisions are going to have HR implications), finance (again understandable) and the Head of Service (which has been standard practice for years anyway). As there are vacant heads of service posts, in that situation the relevant strategic director signs it off.

However there is one very important group of people this all leaves out, the public. Anyone involved with politics will of course comment and say that the last group of people involved in political decisions are the public.

This is what Wirral Council’s constitution states about decision-making:

13.2 Principles of decision-making
All decisions of the Council will be made in accordance with the following principles:

(i) proportionality (i.e. the action must be proportionate to the desired outcome);
(ii) due consultation and the consideration of professional advice from officers;
(iii) respect for human rights;
(iv) a presumption in favour of openness;
(v) clarity of aims and desired outcomes; and
(vi) Wednesbury* reasonableness (i.e. the decision must not be so unreasonable that no reasonable Council could have reached it, having taken into account all relevant considerations, and having ignored irrelevant considerations).

*This piece is too short to provide an in-depth description of the legal definition but it refers to the case law definition of "unreasonable" which is a reference to a Court of Appeal case from 1947, [1947] 2 All ER 680, [1947] EWCA Civ 1, [1948] 1 KB 223, [1948] KB 223.

Every policy disaster (whether the library closure fiasco which resulted in a public inquiry or half a dozen others I could mention here) has resulted because the public weren’t involved (or were involved/consulted but politely ignored by politicians and officers who had the arrogance to think they knew better) and/or the above principles weren’t followed.

Let’s take the Fort Perch Rock car park charging U-turn as an example. Principle (ii) above states the "consideration of professional advice from officers" yet officers didn’t tell them that if they started charging at Fort Perch Rock car park then the lease the Council had for the Marine Point development would lead to charges at hundreds of spaces at the other currently free car parks.

No, it fell to a local blogger to publish the pages of the lease, a large petition against it of thousands of people and a campaign against the charges from a former Conservative councillor in the marginal seat of New Brighton. This was despite Labour’s backbench councillors warning the Cabinet at at least one public meeting not to go ahead with plans for charging.

Next week, the Transformation and Resources Committee will discuss the high-profile issue of a fire station in Saughall Massie. At the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting earlier this year where the decision was made, the petition organiser was given five minutes to speak and a delegation from the Saughall Massie Conservation Society was also given the opportunity to speak for up to five minutes.

Yes, you are probably going to say, this ties in with (iii) above, respect for human rights as article 21, which Wirral Council signed up to when Cllr Adrian Jones was Mayor quite clearly states

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
 

Notice the importance of that word directly or through freely chosen representatives (that is politicians).

The other public bodies I report on either have mechanisms written into their constitution (for example Liverpool City Council has a regular public question time slot at many of its meetings and I’ve mentioned the mechanisms that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority has), so people can exercise their rights at public meetings and have their say before the decision is made.

At Wirral Council the public at public meetings get frustrated and heckle instead (then get told to shut up by the Chair or clear off which does show some politicians’ attitude towards the public outside of elections).

The Chair at last night’s meeting (despite his wish to get home in time to watch Coronation Street) tried to let many taxi drivers have their say (some more than once) before the decision to consult on increasing hackney carriage fares was made (if a decision is made following the consultation it’ll mean fares go up in time for Christmas).

Yet if there’s one point I am trying to make from this maybe boring piece about Wirral’s politics, it’s that the public should be more involved and you don’t encourage the public to turn up by expecting them to sit through meetings in silence and not have any influence over decisions that are going to affect their lives.

At the moment taxi drivers have more influence over decisions as there is a Joint Consultative Committee that meets regularly behind closed doors than I do over say Wirral Council’s filming of public meetings policy.

Yes, this probably sounds like as to why it’s a good idea to have politicians, or for the kind of public interest journalism I spend a lot of time doing but the point I’m trying to get at is one that Wirral’s political system doesn’t seem to have quite grasped which is "the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government".

At Wirral Council this seems to have morphed in the past to "the will of the officers shall be the basis of the authority of government" (and we expect politicians to rubber stamp decisions we refer to them).

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Lyndale School Closure Consultation: Cllr Phil Gilchrist “this looks to be a set of moving goalposts”

Lyndale School Closure Consultation: Cllr Phil Gilchrist “this looks to be a set of moving goalposts”

Lyndale School Closure Consultation: Cllr Phil Gilchrist “this looks to be a set of moving goalposts”

                                        

Cllr Phil Gilchrist presented with Andy Day Memorial Cup by former Mayor Cllr Dave Mitchell
Cllr Phil Gilchrist (left) presented with the Andy Day Memorial Cup by former Mayor Cllr Dave Mitchell (right)

Councillor Phil Gilchrist (the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Wirral Council) has kindly provided this blog with his consultation response to the Lyndale School Closure Consultation. It is reproduced below. For the purpose of clarity when reading the acronyms SEN and DCSF have been expanded and this addition appears in brackets [] in bold italic text.

Ed – Updated (revision 4) 10:50 12/8/14 to replace absolute values in table 1 with relative values to fix display problem.
Ed – Updated (revision 5) 10:55 12/8/14 to replace absolute values in table 2 with relative values to fix display problem. Linked email address.

Feedback Form

 

Please let us know the main relationships you have with the school(s) by putting a tick in the appropriate box or boxes. You might be a parent and a member of staff, for example.

 

School

Parent

Member of Staff

Governor

Other Person

Elleray Park
Lyndale
Stanley
Foxfield
Meadowside
Other (Please Specify)

Cllr


I attended the consultative meeting held at Acre Lane on 10
th April and the further meeting held on 16th June.

I have also visited The Lyndale School on 27th January on a private fact finding arrangement, and, on 9th May after a request from parents.

In addition I have visited the school and Stanley, Foxfield, Meadowside and Elleray Park with other councillors on 16th and 17th June.

I was also a signatory to the ‘Call In’ considered by the Council committee.

Short fact finding visits can only provide a brief picture of how a school works day by day. In making the recent visits I formed a strong impression of the way the children at The Lyndale might be ‘compared’ with children of the same ages at Elleray Park and Stanley.

In attempting this I also need to take account of the needs that I did not see – children who are not in the school, that day, because of their poor health.

It seems to me that a high proportion of children attending Lyndale have the most serious needs.

Lyndale may not be the best laid out building but is ‘home’ and provides the atmosphere and the facilities to stimulate the children.

The financial problems flow from the formula adopted by the Council.

Consultation on changing the funding formula began in 2010, under the last Government, when the DSCF [Department for Children, Schools and Families] looked at the formula (Chapter 4) for high cost pupils.

The formula the Council adopted in 2013 arose from discussions at the Schools Forum which chose the present banding system which has added to the pressures on Lyndale’s finances.

The parents need the utmost assurances that the care and education being provided must continue to that same high standard.

Without sight of ‘the answers’ provided to parents I am aware that reference is regularly made to what the SEN [Special Educational Needs] ‘test’ should ensure.

As I mentioned at the last meeting this looks to be a set of moving goalposts.

A ‘pale imitation’ is not good enough for the children.

Some years ago parents did seek the creation of an all through school, up to the age of 19. One of the ‘drivers’ was the issue of ‘transition’ at age 11.

Councillors who visited Foxfield and Meadowside were assured that there is a very thorough process for transition – with study of the children, visits to Lyndale by staff before children move, and visits by parents to those schools.

These visits showed the differences in the buildings ‘on offer’.

The new Stanley building was ‘sparse’ and assurances were given that any new additions could be designed with needs of ‘The Lyndale’ children in mind

However this appeared to be an addition as an ‘afterthought’.

The children at Elleray Park had different needs from the children at Lyndale.

Assurances have been given that schools can adapt their teaching styles and methods to the needs of children, that parents have choice and that there is good communication between professionals.

It is apparent that the parents at Lyndale place great emphasis on the way the staff the children ‘know’ interact with them Equally the staff are able to ‘read’ the developing signs and gestures that the children are able to return.

I have asked how the ‘Lyndale’ can be completely replicated elsewhere.

The answer has not, as yet, as far as I know, been given in a way that fully satisfies the parents,

However, if the Council insists on change then it should design a setting that has the atmosphere and facilities valued by parents, several classrooms with accessible changing, a communal hall where children can fully socialise and guaranteed access to hydrotherapy. .

Please tell us your name and address, postcode, and email address if you have one. We will not use your personal information for anything other than this consultation.

Name: Phil Gilchrist
Address: 2 Gordon Avenue Bromborough
Postcode: CH62 6AL
Telephone: 0151 334 1923
E-Mail:philgilchrist@wirral.gov.uk

Please note: In order to ensure that this process is fully open and transparent, other people will be able to read all the responses to this consultation.

Please return this form to:

Email: specialreview@wirral.gov.uk

Post: The Lyndale School Consultation

Children and Young People’s Department

Hamilton Building

Birkenhead

CH41 4FD

Please make sure your response is submitted by:

Wednesday 25th June 2014.

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