Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

                                                            

Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 2 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 2 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 3 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 3 of 3

Above are three photos of Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton taken on the 29th June 2015. Over the busier summer holidays this car park will be full.

Future Council Wirral logo
Future Council Wirral logo

As part of the Future Council consultation last year Wirral Council consulted the public on £2.5 million of budget cuts. In the end only £2.4 million of cuts were agreed because of savings that resulted from the extended Biffa contract.

One of the budget options as part of the Future Council consultation was to introduce car parking charges at the Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton. Councillors were told that this would bring in an estimated £25,000 in 2015/16 and £10,000 in 2016/17. A public document (that wasn’t part of the documents shared with the public as part of the Future Council consultation) estimated that the cost of providing cash payment ticket machines would be £20,000 (see section 6.2 page 9).

Last year as part of that budget consultation, there was a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee on the 4th November 2014 where councillors discussed the budget option for charging for car parking at Fort Perch Rock car park.

You can watch that discussion in the Youtube video below which should start at the point about the Fort Perch Rock car park.

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The minutes of what was agreed at the public meeting of the 4th November 2014 are included in the agenda for the Cabinet meeting that decided on the budget options.

At that meeting Cllr Jerry Williams (Wirral Council’s Heritage Champion and a Labour councillor) tried to move a recommendation that the budget option of charging at Fort Perch Rock car park be removed from the budget options. However the solicitor advising the Committee said that it couldn’t be removed, so instead it was watered down to a recommendation to Cabinet that the budget option wasn’t adopted. The recommendation was seconded by Cllr Robert Gregson (also a Labour councillor representing New Brighton ward). This is what the recommendation stated:

“The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee recommend to Cabinet that the budget option to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock Car Park, New Brighton is not adopted.”

                                                            
Cllr Irene Williams (Labour), Cllr John Salter (Labour), Cllr Anita Leech (Labour), Cllr Matt Daniel (Labour), Cllr Robert Gregson (Labour), Cllr Jim Crabtree (Labour), Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour), Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative), Cllr John Hale (Conservative), Cllr Jerry Ellis (Conservative), Cllr Andrew Hodson (Conservative) and Cllr David Elderton (Conservative) voted in favour of the recommendation.

Two councillors voted against that recommendation (Cllr Chris Carubia (Lib Dem) and Cllr Mike Sullivan (Chair, Labour)).

On the 9th December 2014 Cabinet (which is ten Labour councillors including one for New Brighton Cllr Pat Hackett) met. They didn’t agree with the recommendation from the Policy and Performance Committee and instead voted to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton. The minutes of that meeting state “We also feel that it is appropriate to introduce a modest charge for parking at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton up to 6 p.m.” .

This Cabinet budget proposal then formed the Cabinet’s proposal for Labour’s budget to the 2015/16 budget meeting of all councillors held on the 24th February 2015.

All the Labour councillors on the 24th February 2015 present at that meeting (including those who had three months earlier voted for a recommendation to Cabinet not to start charging for parking at Fort Perch Rock) voted for the Labour budget apart from Cllr Steve Foulkes (who was Mayor and Mayor’s traditionally abstain from votes on party political matters). You can see which way each councillor voted on the Labour’s budget here.

On December 22nd 2014 I wrote When Wirral Council introduces car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock, will 3 hours free parking end for a further 423 New Brighton spaces? which details how if car parking charges are brought in at Fort Perch Rock car park then under the terms of the lease that Wirral Council has for the Marine Point development at New Brighton, that charges could be introduced at two free car parks (the supermarket car park and the health & fitness car park).

Earlier this year Wirral Council had a formal consultation on introducing car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park. You can see the public notice (which has more detail as to how much they could charge for parking) for that consultation below. That consultation ended on the 3rd July 2015.

Fort Perch Rock car park public notice
Fort Perch Rock car park public notice

There is a large petition against introducing charging for car parking at Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton which at the time of writing has 3,395 signatures.

So what happens next? In September there will be a public meeting of the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel to consider objections people have made to introducing car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park.

The Chair of the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel is Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative). Cllr Mike Sullivan (Labour) and Cllr Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem) are the rest of the panel. This panel meets during the day and if any of the three councillors can’t make it to the meeting they can send a deputy in their place.

When the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel meets in September, it will make a recommendation on whether to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park to the Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee. The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee meet in public on the 15th September 2015 starting at 6.00pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall. The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee can alter any recommendation they receive from the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel.

The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee then make a recommendation to the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation Cllr Stuart Whittingham who then makes a formal decision on the matter which is published on Wirral Council’s website.

Such a large petition also grants the petition organiser for five minutes to explain their petition at a meeting of all councillors, which then triggers a debate of a maximum of fifteen minutes. However as the next meeting of Council is on the 12th October 2015 (probably after all this will be decided) this is a moot point.

Finally, what’s known now, but wasn’t known last year, is that Wirral Council had an underspend last year of £510,000 last year (which is money that is carried over to this year).

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What are the changes next year to the public's right to inspect documents of public bodies during the audit?

What are the changes next year to the public’s right to inspect documents of public bodies during the audit?

What are the changes next year to the public’s right to inspect documents of public bodies during the audit?

                                             

Wirral Council lease Neptune Wirral Limited Neptune Developments Limited Neptune Projects Limited 20th June 2011 for New Brighton Phase II draft car parking management plan page 2 of 2
Wirral Council lease Neptune Wirral Limited Neptune Developments Limited Neptune Projects Limited 20th June 2011 for New Brighton Phase II draft car parking management plan page 2 of 2

Above is one of the documents I requested under the 2013/14 audit last year, which is a page of a lease that Wirral Council have with Neptune that states that if Wirral Council introduce car parking in the Fort Perch Rock car park, then charges can be introduced in the free car parks part of the Marine Point development.

Each year for the past few years I have exercised a right you get to exercise only for three weeks each year, which is a right under section 15 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 to inspect documents relating to the previous financial year (2014/15) during the audit.

This has in years gone past has been the only way to see such financial information and to give one example of a story that resulted in many interesting stories on this blog (ranging from councillor’s expenses and taxis to an unsigned contract for a million pounds worth of work).

This year I have exercised my s.15 right not just with Wirral Council, but with Liverpool City Council, Merseytravel, the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority and the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority.

A couple of weeks before the three-week period when the public can inspect these documents each of these bodies has to publish a public notice in a newspaper that circulates in the area covered by that body. The regulations also require each body to publish this notice on their website. Wirral Council’s notice can be found on their website here.

To save myself trekking off to Birkenhead Central library and spending an afternoon going through back issues of the local newspapers trying to find the public notices, I found this website that has a searchable database of all public notices published by the Trinity Mirror group.

All of the notices (apart from the Merseytravel one) had a name of someone at that public body who I wrote to (whether by letter or by email). In the case of Merseytravel I wrote to the Chief Executive, who passed my request on to the person at Merseytravel dealing with it.

So far the responses have been as follows:

Merseytravel – dates of Monday 27th July 2015/Tuesday 28th July 2015 agreed to come in and inspect the documents. They have a “paperless office”, but will be printing off copies of the invoices/contracts I requested so their legal department can redact parts of them.

Merseyside Waste and Recycling Authority – dates of Friday 24th July and Wednesday 29th July 2015 have been agreed to come in and inspect documents.

Liverpool City Council – email sent yesterday, no reply received yet

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority – email sent and acknowledged on the 15th July 2015, no further reply received since

Wirral Council – email sent with request for contracts & councillor expenses on 19th July 2015, reply received yesterday, list of invoices sent this morning, no reply received yet or date/s arranged

Next year, any right of access to invoices and contracts will be under the new section 26 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.

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