1 invoice and 1 letter about the secret Court application I’m not allowed to write about that cost Wirral Council £535.20

1 invoice and 1 letter about the secret Court application I’m not allowed to write about that cost Wirral Council £535.20

1 invoice and 1 letter about the secret Court application I’m not allowed to write about that cost Wirral Council £535.20


I’m going to write a story now to show you how difficult it is to do investigative journalism in this country due to the legal framework here, as there are details I know about this story which is would be unlawful for me to publish.

There are two documents associated with this story so first I have to explain the background as to what they are and why I got them. The first is an invoice dated 13th January 2014 to Wirral Council from Lees Solicitors to Wirral Council for the sum of £535.20. This is for:

36 minutes preparation for a hearing at £160/hour 36 minutes which is £96 (+ VAT of £19.20) = £115.20

Counsel’s fee £350 (+VAT of £70) = £420

Grand total: £535.20

Due to legal restrictions *(*don’t you just love this country sometimes and their restrictions on the press?) although I know the names of the parties (such as the Applicant and Respondent) in this case, I’m not allowed to publish either of them on this blog. I cannot tell you who (although I know) the Applicant or Respondent are. In fact I’d better not tell you the date of the hearing, just in case you use that to somehow figure out who the Applicant and Respondent are. As far as I can tell (maybe I’m wrong) I’m not allowed to get a copy of or publish the Court Order (if there is one) that resulted from the hearing to consider the application.

This is openness and transparency in the local courts British style.

So why are Wirral Council paying £535.20 to Lees Solicitors for the legal work outlined in the invoice below? I think I’ve gone as far as I can do in answering that question as the rest would be educated guesswork.

Ironically I get more openness and transparency from Laura Quarry of the Family Court at Birkenhead than I get from Wirral Council in this matter in her letter to me dated 27th October 2014 (also below that the Wirral Council invoice). Mind you it is not hard to be more open and transparent than Wirral Council is it?

Laura Quarry states “Thank you for your letter dated 24th October 2014. This case is a Private Law Family matter. Therefore as you are not a party to this application, we cannot provide you with the documents you have requested. The documents you have requested refer to a civil matter and the case number you have provided is not a civil case number.

If you can provide us with a civil case number we can process your request. Please find enclosed your fee.”

If anyone would like to translate exactly what that means by leaving a comment, please do! I think I understand what she means although I may be wrong!

So which department is involved at Wirral Council in Family Court matters that the press aren’t allowed to write about? Why the Children and Young Peoples Department at Wirral Council of course! Who else?

In a recent change a few years ago, the press can be present at court hearings in the Family Court, however we’re still not allowed to report the details. The Family Court run to a different set of rules to the rest of the court system you see.

redacted invoice Wirral Council £535.20
redacted invoice Wirral Council £535.20
Letter from Birkenhead County Court dated 27th October 2014
Letter from Birkenhead County Court dated 27th October 2014

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The day democracy and freedom of the press died at Wirral Council: 28th October 2014

The day democracy and freedom of the press died at Wirral Council: 28th October 2014

The day democracy and freedom of the press died at Wirral Council: 28th October 2014

Councillor Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services) at a public meeting earlier this year L to R Cllr Stuart Whittingham, Cllr Tony Smith, Cllr Bernie Mooney and Lyndzay Roberts
Councillor Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services) at a public meeting earlier this year L to R Cllr Stuart Whittingham, Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services), Cllr Bernie Mooney and Lyndzay Roberts

CORRECTION 1/11/2014: The version of this article published on 29th October 2014 contained an error. Although Cllr Chris Carubia was on the Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee this article stated he was not. It has since been corrected.

I apologise to Cllr Chris Carubia for this error. It is my fault entirely. Wirral Council’s website shows him as not being on the Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee (see screenshots below) although it does show the committee appointments for the other seven councillors on this eight person committee. I didn’t double check this incorrect information on Wirral Council’s website against the list of committee appointments made at the Annual General Meeting (Part 2) in June 2014. Hopefully this explains how the error was made and I apologise.

However I cannot blame others for my mistake and have to accept responsibility. I personally apologise both to Cllr Chris Carubia and to readers for any confusion caused.

Screenshot of Wirral Council's website for Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee meeting
Screenshot of Wirral Council’s website for Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee meeting
Cllr Chris Carubia page Wirral Council
Cllr Chris Carubia page Wirral Council


Yesterday I attended a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee and the meeting started twenty minutes late for reasons I shall go into below.

Here is a list of the councillors on this committee:

Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Labour) who refers to himself as Chair
Cllr Chris Meaden (Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture, Labour)
Cllr Walter Smith (Labour councillor who wasn’t present last night)
Cllr Paul Hayes (Conservative councillor who wasn’t present last night)
Cllr Wendy Clements (Conservative councillor who wasn’t present last night)
Cllr Cherry Povall, JP (Conservative councillor who wasn’t present last night)
Cllr Mrs Pat Williams (Liberal Democrat councillor)
Cllr Chris Carubia (Liberal Democrat councillor)

So out of that list of seven councillors, only Cllr Tony Smith, Cllr Chris Meaden, Cllr Mrs Pat Williams and Cllr Chris Carubia (four councillors) were actually present.

Also there, but not part of the committee that met that evening was Cllr Phil Gilchrist. Cllr Phil Gilchrist is a deputy for this committee, however the two Liberal Democrat councillors were both present so he was not deputising. However as he is Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, he used his ex-officio powers to speak at the meeting.

Prior to the meeting starting, the papers for the meeting which you can view on Wirral Council’s website hadn’t been published on Wirral Council’s website a week before the meeting as required by law but merely hours before the meeting was held.

I asked for a copy of the agenda and reports at the meeting itself (as is my legal right to do so). I was very reluctantly given a copy of the agenda by an officer who had a big bunch of copies of the agenda but had to check he had permission to give one to me.

Before the meeting started, I figured out they were going to show a video so asked about background music and I was told there would be background music in it, so I stated I wouldn’t be filming the twelve-minute video shown (which was agenda item five ALUMNI PROJECT – Creative Youth Development – Presentation) because of the ongoing issues I wrote about yesterday surrounding publishing video of public meetings at which video was shown containing background music.

As the video was about twelve minutes long (and I planned to film discussion of it once it was over), this left the other seven agenda items plus the rest of that one.

However Lindsay Davidson (whose job description is “Senior Locality Manager – Youth Support”) and is an employee of Wirral Council was before the meeting not happy with the prospect of me filming this public meeting of a local Council (that she worked at) at all.

Another thing to bear in mind, is that whereas the Legal and Member Services section of Wirral Council send along a trained solicitor and someone to take minutes at all other meetings, this did not happen that evening.

I pointed out that usually committees have a solicitor and a committee services officer present just to be rebutted by Lindsay Davidson with “We service our own committee.”

She carried on saying, “As far as I’m concerned it’s a safeguarding issue because we haven’t got parental consent.”

No, she wasn’t referring to councillors having to write to their parents and gain their written permission of their parents before they attend and get filmed at a public meeting. Nor was she apparently referring to Council officers (of which there were five including herself and the Head of Service (Head of Targeted Services) Deborah Gornik.

She was referring to one young person present at the public meeting called Daniel (who she told me at this point was sixteen years old but in later conversation (in front of councillors and Surjit Tour) refused to divulge what age Daniel was). Interestingly Daniel hasn’t been formally appointed by Council to this committee and isn’t (despite what Council officers may state) part of the committee.

This was my response to her “As far as I’m concerned it’s a legal issue because the regulations changed in August” and before I could even finish that sentence Lindsay started talking over me.

She said that Daniel’s parents “don’t know”. So I talked with Surjit Tour over the phone in reception, who agreed with me that it was a committee of Wirral Council that met in public.

However as far as Surjit Tour was concerned, he wanted to dissuade me from filming the meeting at all. So what does the law actually state on the issue now?

Regulation 4 changed the Local Government Act 1972 to state the following (principal council doesn’t just refer to meetings of the Council at Wirral Council but also committees and subcommittees):

“(7A) While a meeting of a principal council in England is open to the public, any person attending is to be permitted to report on the meeting.


(7C) A person attending a meeting of a principal council in England for the purpose of reporting on the meeting must, so far as practicable, be afforded reasonable facilities for doing so.

(7E) Any person who attends a meeting of a principal council in England for the purpose of reporting on the meeting may use any communication method, including the internet, to publish, post or otherwise share the results of the person’s reporting activities.

“(9) In this section “reporting” means—

(a) filming, photographing or making an audio recording of proceedings at a meeting,

(b) using any other means for enabling persons not present to see or hear proceedings at a meeting as it takes place or later, or

(c) reporting or providing commentary on proceedings at a meeting, orally or in writing, so that the report or commentary is available as the meeting takes place or later to persons not present.”

There are similar modifications also made by Regulation 3 to the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 which also apply.

So that’s the legal position, I can film the public meeting of the Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee, whether or not a sixteen year old happens to be there without his parents.

However what happened yesterday evening is bizarre.

The meeting did not start on time and a twenty minute conversation happened between Lindsay Davidson, Cllr Chris Meaden, Cllr Tony Smith, Surjit Tour, I think Deborah Gornik and myself in the corridor outside Committee Room 1.

I was basically told that by Surjit Tour that if I exercised my right (enshrined in law) to film the meeting, Surjit Tour would advise the Chair (Cllr Tony Smith) to adjourn the meeting and therefore the meeting would not take place that evening.

This is in fact why the meeting started twenty minutes late. I offered the following compromises to Wirral Council:

a) that I would only film the side of the room that the 16-year-old was not actually sitting in: REFUSED
b) that I would only audio record the public meeting: REFUSED
c) that I wouldn’t film the video shown during the meeting: REFUSED

You can tell how any other “reasonable compromises” were dealt with too.

Wirral Council were obviously not going to budge from their stubborn position until I backed down. Personally I feel sorry for employees and opposition councillors in such an organisation as the way it was dealt with was wholly unreasonable.

This is also probably why there have been strikes recently by the unions, because both Wirral Council’s management and politicians behave unreasonably.

Both Surjit Tour and I knew what the legal position was and that I could film.

Officers (including Lindsay Davidson who was “servicing the committee”) didn’t know the legal position, neither did councillors and were looking to Surjit Tour to not only offer them legal advice but to negotiate on their behalf my agreement not to film the meeting. Neither Surjit Tour or I had the text of the legislation to show them, although it takes minutes to look up these matters as Wirral Council does have both wired and wireless internet access (including in the Committee Room 1 that the meeting was being held in).

He, Surjit Tour as Head of Legal and Member Services could only advise councillors to adjourn the meeting if I tried to film it and by then the officers had got the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services/Chair involved Cllr Tony Smith (who is obviously rather cheesed off already at the moment over my reporting on Lyndale School matters). I realise officers have had safeguarding drummed into them (perhaps this is the legacy of Martin Morton), to the extent that they repeat it as a mantra when people tell them things they don’t want to hear.

However from a practical perspective, a 16-year-old in the UK at the moment is old enough to:

vote in the recent Scottish independence referendum (if he or she lived in Scotland)
join the Armed Forces
leave compulsory education
get married
have children
get arrested & probably other matters I haven’t thought of.

However according to Wirral Council, even at 16 years old you are not old enough to attend a public meeting without getting a written note from your parents first, just in case you might get filmed or recorded on tape.

In fact according to Wirral Council officers you are still treated as a child until you are eighteen.

In some ways even though I am well over eighteen and in my mid 30s some Wirral Council officers (and politicians) still treat me as if I was a child. After all, the reaction last night to me trying to film the meeting was the way you’d deal with a two or three-year old having a temper tantrum.

Although not explicitly stated by anyone, reading between the lines and based on how the discussions went, it came across as “Go outside John, we’ll tell you how you should behave, don’t you realise you shouldn’t be filming this meeting and how dare you try to do so and annoy us?”

In other words the petulant attitude I’ve come to expect from councillors and officers at Wirral Council.

So, although it sets a bad precedent, I decided yesterday evening after a twenty-minute stalemate on this issue pragmatically not to film the meeting because:

a) Wirral Council officers and councillors were unaware of the legal change caused by the The Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 coming into effect on August 6th 2014 this year

b) Surjit Tour and I have already had many exchanges of letters and verbal discussions previously about these matters and I have also had a meeting with Joe Blott.

c) This was the first meeting of the Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee since the legal change, so you can’t expect Wirral Council to know about it.

d) Wirral Council has to make decisions that don’t breach the Human Rights Act 1998 (specifically interference with my right to freedom of speech).

e) the way to deal with such matters in the past has been through negotiation and compromise although obviously the last time this happened (before August 2014) was back in June 2014 the Labour councillor Cllr Steve Niblock took a similarly militant stance against filming at a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Licensing Act 2003 Subcommittee to make a decision about an off licence to sell alcohol in Moreton, no children were present at the meeting then, but Cllr Steve Niblock (the Chair) still shouted at me not to film it.

So this leaves Wirral Council in the position now where the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP refers to such decisions on filming by local councils in a newspaper article as behaving in the past like “Putin’s Russia” and is exactly the sort of dispute the regulations are there to avoid.

Wirral Council’s way of skirting around the regulations applying is to pressure me into voluntarily agreeing not to film & or audio record a meeting before it takes place. If I say no and take a militant attitude they will make sure the meeting doesn’t actually happen.

So that is Wirral Council’s position, I am allowed to film public meetings. However if I try to do so, the public meeting won’t actually happen. It’s a bit like Schrödinger’s cat really and exactly a fortnight after this farce last night I’m sure I’ll be going over this same ground again over the Youth Parliament meeting where there will be more than one young person present.

Below are my uncorrected notes of the meeting yesterday and in a PS I will point out that I tape record meetings because I have a writing disability because of breaking my wrist in two places in 2012. This means I can no longer write shorthand so I use the audio tape recordings for the purposes of quotes.

However equality issues, disability issues and safeguarding concerns regarding myself are not considered by Wirral Council as hypothetical views of a 16 year olds parents trump the “reasonable adjustments” Wirral Council are required to take (it’s a legal duty) during meetings.

For an example of a reasonable adjustment made during the meeting, Cllr Phil Gilchrist (with hearing problems) asked for the tea/coffee machine to be turned off as no microphones were used (although three were put out nobody sat near them).

However reasonable adjustments are always made at Wirral Council for disabilities of councillors, or its own staff but its legal duties to the disabled public and press are not even thought of and if raised not considered as they should.

Below are my notes of the meeting (I will point out that some of these service changes are currently out to public consultation at the moment):

The reports published shortly before the meeting was held can be read on Wirral’s website.

Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee 28th October 2014

552 pm late start

Visual description of young person chairing meeting (Daniel) has black curly hair, wears glasses… approx 16 years old wearing .blue short sleeved shirt

Cllr Tony Smith (Chair) apologies discussion whether Mr Brace able will not do tonight resolved another

Welcome y… apologies


P Williams didnt get agenda until today cllrs missing oversight

lindsay problems server getting on to server … … reminder gpt agenda
P Giochrist attachemts council website couldnt open…
lindy resolved today wasnt resolved
daniel over to you
go round asking people’s names
Linndsay Davidson Senior locality manager Youth and Play service
Cllr tony smith

Cllr pat williams
Cllr phil gilchrist
Cllr chros meaden

South and West Wirral…
creative youth development
P Gilchrist d…matters arising from minutes hand over Lindsay…

Note Left side: 4 coucillors (CM (Lab), PW (LD), PG (LD) and CC (LD)), 2 officers
Right: Cllr Tony Smith, officers (Lindsay Davidson and two others) and Daniel (young person)

Lindsay highlight a few things senior locality manager’s report 1.1 inform latest goals project underway … following on from success under 1.2.1 lads project started in September proving to be very successful aged young men… designed to address a number issues harmful exploitative relationships… towards end program residential Oaklands outdoor education centre first project young men did have concerns drop out rate male staff working with young men retention rate high midway meeting had to get Birkenhead Youth Hub

cllr tony smith how identified
officers agencies targetted services… so agencies able identify needs young person get consent also used part working young people…
lindsay challenging young men program … its a testament program…
officer midway thing big impact groups teenage males mix in one spot … all mixed all deliberately mixed groups… a project in itself…
p gilchrist public health funded Wirral South Constituency Committee improve funding or top up… public health mentioned … has been funding South Wirral additional residential young men… under item 2 Wallasey District Wallasey Youth Hub… 12 week…
Chris Carubia…
Lindsay heavily involved partnership work police don’t know aware Flaybrick Cemetery traves outreach involved not only working with young people … perpetrators… trying divert further criminal damage also working other young people locality concerned peers done this wanted to show other young people were like that workong young people rangers cemetery cleanup positive project different aspects … South Wirral Bebington Youth Hub redesigned painted music room young women crime prevention panel… under 5 West Wirral… West Wirral Youth Hub Thursdays young people additional needs disabilities accessing Youth Hub… … good practice journals weighting oist families cross agency steering group further funding… demands that particular program item 7 7. 1 housing service new Wirral based .. … yp family… ok.. and again under 7.1 aaare response young people took part healthy eating project positive outcomes chefs Barrow in Furness healthy eating techniques homeless have been… .. ok number 8 partivipation and engagement fee days ago Youth Voice Conference make aware under 8.2 have reported framework young people brought paper previous merting champion event prior Youth Parliament 11/11 what doing champion event sign up become yp champion some activities tea young people and councillors Youth Parliament into Chamber for session… busy collecting motions majority theme conference emotional health and wellbeing number 10 beechwood supporting with homework projects creating number artifacts enable young people doing things like making models atoms sex education… huge models of sperms eggs and ovaries… extremely successful giving to curriculum Daniel end report
Daniel questions… ?
P Gilchrist detail Fender health and safety closure building
Lindsay Mark?
Mark reason closed … throw …at one windows youth club on first floor thick windows stone kind of shattered… unfortuantely quite a long time to get repaired quite blessing in disguise dealing with a lot antisocial behaviour on Woodchurch coming in to building youth workers stop doing this stop doing r ship put on hold a bit take stock go out onto streets build better relationships young people Moira liasing community looking at how involve community volunteers… running youth project … all young people… mischief night along police fire service operation banger have some music playing food fire service providing sports mobile football cage looking into having … finalising the health and safety but really positive … community more and more involved people weren’t reporting antisocial behaviour positive step community get involved yp Woodchurch
T Smith add to what Mark said engagement adults in new approach and that talking about 10-20 live on estate let someone elee do it got good leaders come forward … things move rapidly see a good future for it… hopefully lookimg at very carefully Woodchirch High … antisocial behaviour… headteacher myself working .. encouarging done a lot work
Daniel all questions
P Willaims on 6.4 kids timd ..
officer supported London project families mental health shared group session whole families particular area… work children come back together pizza… got an average … referred into it 18 months at real capacity… 15 adults quite hefty put a stop to it … 2/3 referrals a month
P Willaims very very necessary…
officer lot of good will creative ways keeping going well needed at a satge need look…
officer ward 10/12
C Meaden adult dance class
officer struggling along…
C Meaden quick step or something as long as not Zumba
Officer one
Lindsay one at momemt adult singing…
Cllr Chris Meaden leaves room…
child alumni
Officer film aums it up shown at alumni event watch that

A thirteen minute film was shown at this point in the meeting.

12m58s film

subtitles voice over alumni … participative arts youth work… interview groups individuals… alumni project … camera 40 years old .. fivus take … final stages narrow down final set of images yecgmival skill… quirks of film photography …

like u photographer chloe
music and voice over
iamges …
Liam and Gemma Chloe… blossom tree … courtyard industrial estate next Cammell Lairds…
Pacific swing Eliott
shoot taken at dusk… changing shutter speed… architectural quality capture personalities… piano calmer Cathryn… leaning on piano love music… Ben photographer Jamie Lee… learn a great deal about photographry.. using film cameras… buy one for myself focus every aspect picture … rather stunning iamges … chose photograph them so many ideas choosing wlls interesting decision… interesting shot chose photograph Ben… number shots taken courtyard… rather exciting image… … shows in photograph look like a … … with… camera… I like the light and shadows in studio phases… which gives… before the … happy that i got perfect pictures since shoot … Josh photographer Maya spoke about how … hos story how improved homself… wanted reflect in photographs noticed Josh spoke.. moved graceful way… gentle person.. shadow bigger… wanted Josh suggest to them… camera … for one shoots… shutter speed not as long enjoyed having josh … way chooses words… interesting story … would’ve gone down another lath this shoot taken as film setting photographs… dropped ueard stories how much fun has … character… all told lots of funny stories… take photograph control light noticed … decided use spotlight plesed photograph… Alice many stories how nighty… red dreadlocks started to take photos different side inner confidence … interesting places… compassionate personality… … you are in darkness this is how it should be doing job well… technical skills… chose image close bond between them spotlight … my point… cerebral palsy… interview her … outside the centre… …
educational pathway trainibg

C Meaden there that night brilliant night what came out evening young people spoke night explained … excellent evening
officer permanent display … biz cebtee Birkenhead Park some examples here hack stories

large photos put up by windows not all jazz hands through a hard time give back…
officer booking lots viewings.. takes over water a bit
P Willaims basic equipement
P Willaims learning …
officer working on Priory funded by Lottery opening event huge … projections journey take community through journey about 15 in group multiple needs.. large number people on autistic spectrum
P Williams look forward seeing in my ward at Williamson [Art Gallery]
Chair all questions hand back Lindsay Youth Voice Conference
Lindsay this is me youth voice conference on 16/10 havent really evaluated it fully didnt want to miss opportunity highlights conference aims… Youth Voice Conference explore issues important to them… a second about how identified that

628 Cllr Chris Meaden leaves..

Lindsay . again.. opportunity yp question … senior ppl partner organisations what’s imporatnt to them make sure yp truly involved… in terms conference 12th annual conference this year … approcimately 200 young people overwhelmingly wanted theme this years conference emotional health .. yes things like sex education alcohol subtance misuse important what don’t tend to talk about issues mental health wellbeing what particularly about themes look more carefully at.. looking out ourselves and each other … promoted variety invitations secondary schools… youth voice group… overarching group representative youth forums Children in care Council youth voice group planned… and developed conference consulted … identify themes young people involved every aspect conference for young people… looking at daniel involved conference too.. is about making sure young

631 Cllr Chris Meaden returns

Lindsay instrumental subject amtter sensitivity feel as workers .. some .. needed some supoort in terms of our partners plan workshops… organised steering group where yp met whole range partners… Wirral Autistic Society health services and schools whole range people workshops identified talk a little bit more approproate consultant partner agency… plan content workshops… and we again… this year hot seat panel…

Cllr Chris Meaden said she had left the room before they came to that point

Lindsay formulated questions… list some questions.. rather identifying all of them …

Cllr Tony Smith passes out a handout (1 A4 side)…

Lindsay ADHD autism… yp with autism actually wanting to express yourselves coping ooss change social isolation social media aad gaming .. Daniel you say something? putting you on spot concerned not only themselves but perr not going out picking up phone texting can only say what I do lost without my phone yp saying 100 fold real serious issues camh concerned about as well a lot wotkship enabling yp deal issue friends might be too isolated through gaming media literacy… some sterotypes yp concerned … airbrushing photographs what is a real image taking to Council real image not airburshed real people publicity final workshop topic dealing with homophobia… concerned about some issues daily basis .. ok haven’t fully evaluated this early days over 90 young ppl in attendance aktest count 96
Lindsay 96 plus 20 16 school colleges involved… a scale 1-10 and what were saying to yp said at conference theme emotional health and wellbeing themes Youth Parliament motions.. prioritised in debate.. what incraesingly want to happen Wirral Youth Conference not just standalone influences number deabtes of which Youth Parliament will be one… full evaluation to follow whistlestop tour
Debroah Gornik?.. no matter how many times consult young people cross section generally have same issues as adult population… antisocial behavior litter crime bothers young people exactly same ways articulate in terms telling us … concerns that they have concerns we would have about
C Meaden one I sat in bullying side how recognised children being bullied are kids looking after other kids as well was interesting did sneak out left after
Chair (Daniel) representative police didn’t answer single question
Officer she did
Chair hand over Steve talk about Wirral summer holiday playschemes report Wirral Play Council summer 2014 if grant give Wirral Play Council run program for us … operating since 1974 how long grant 35 years know chris received grant considerable … so as I said before restructure relook at how deliver schemes essentially meant less schemes conducted … geographical … slight increse provision… also able to get run schemes Prenton Eastham and West Kirby magenat resdents group support … West Wirral constituency spread schemes 68 schmes throught 4 districts additioanl grant smaller projects grant Love Wirral supply tomatoes strawberries growing strawberries tomatoes strawberry deadm took home flowers… cost £500 good value 4.4 again had a good return play work… 60% round about 75 playworkers fully trained qualifiaction recognsied university Gloucester intriductiry recignsied … qualified one things highlight terms program… what gone on to do over the years… lecturers.. one particular person.. deolivering training… started careers introduction work children 2-3 summers working on summer playschemes good ground how develop careers… so just moving on start slides in a second what did on playday obviously a big event … more public event about 3,000 participants what these slides are at the moment have a competition… initially artistic … again what is play asked came up all sorts ideas.. Mayor … judges competition often said won’t have want a competition who’s won really want a competition talking about cooperation climbimg being active examples one from Bebington and Woodchurch these are the plants Love Wirral… climbing wall again this year… Mayor Mayoress we also have this raet street oaijters give yp and oarehts families all get involved early in day looks like France railings Birkenhead Park paint what we want to paint… .. face painting… minim version zorbs health and safety friendly version straw bales.. football cahllenge photo with Mayor … made friends as well another photo with Mayor public heakth police all services… lot of other groups … also families themselves dont have used to supervise children… just invite ppl come down… notice that on day family day out… played and had fun… tahts it .. obviosuly appxed more detail schemes themselves 1,000 chiodren comments children parents what they think
chair question
P Willaims interesting shaped pots…
P Gilchrist dropped into met yp running scheme … from Edge Hill enthusiatsic working hard occupy actaully was … making sire things happened … bottomless pit plan now what os around … …

Officer every year
P Gilchrist ok
Lindsay proposl public consultation could affect Play Council and summer playschemes make people aware ..
Chair all question thanks Steve come back Cllr Tony Smith
Cllr Tony Smith thanks you well done quickly through meeting good experience havent notified any other business…
P Gilchrist ask something haven’t notified haer staff whats done this year’s consultation budget with young peoples views collected fed into process opportunityty committee review in time consultation important scrutiny committees as item based topic go Families and Wellbeing where go once collected?
C Meaden brought in just over 2,500 from young people yesterday and 300 or 400 today don’t know what committe go to hasn’t been discussed yet
D Gornik waiting Council decision once get that position then we look to do consultation young people staff and community users not at that stage until decision
C Meaden … all from .. play schemes quite a few boosted up numbers come into consultation yesterday
Lindsay young people harder to reach… staff comtribute either by website or paper copied
C Meaden making sure aware …
P Gilchrist be clear Deboarh where all collected process to be processed wrong word studied and examined before report to Cabinet not clear where might go to
C Meaden analysis breakdown
T Smith responses each age group
C Meaden in press how many responses staff know how many so far
T smith young people made aware … £2 million is oppty number
C Meaden what public consultation about look at it do best resolve some issues.. cash strapped authority…
P Gilchrist resolved
Chair right date next meeting
Officer next one set January beginning February…
Cllr Tony Smith thanks all Mark and Steve officers Karen and thanks very much
C Meaden Daniel back again fine…

Continues at The day democracy and freedom of the press died at Wirral Council: 28th October 2014 (part 2).

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Wirral Council takes 5 minutes to U-turn on libel threat over Graham Burgess golf email to councillors

Wirral Council takes 5 minutes to U-turn on libel threat over Graham Burgess golf email to councillors

Wirral Council takes 5 minutes to U-turn on libel threat over Graham Burgess golf email to councillors


Wirral Host of the Open Championship 2014

Yesterday’s blog post about Graham Burgess inviting councillors to the Open Golf Championship seems to have hit a raw nerve somewhere at Wirral Council as it led to an email from Wirral Council’s Head of Legal and Member Services being sent to myself this morning which in the interests of openness and transparency I include below (along with a further email from Surjit Tour five minutes later withdrawing his original email and my response to the original email).

from: Tour, Surjit
to: John Brace
date: 4 July 2014 10:06
subject: Your Blog – (A Blog about Wirral Council, Wirral Council’s Councillors and Officers) – Fraudulent Email
mailed-by: wirral.gov.uk

Dear Mr Brace

Your Blog – (A Blog about Wirral Council, Wirral Council’s Councillors and Officers) – Fraudulent Email

It has been brought to my attention that you have posted on your blog (referred to above) an entry dated 3 July titled “Graham Burgess invites Wirral Council Councillors to 5 days of the Open Gold Championship”.

The blog purports to include an email dated 12 June 2014 (timed at 11:49) from Graham Burgess to Wirral Councillors. The content of the email has been edited and is fraudulent and misleading.

This is clearly a serious matter and I formally request that you immediately remove the email and the associated commentary concerning this subject matter from your blog.

The Council would prefer to avoid taking action in respect of this entry; however, I must put you on notice that the Council will have little alternative but to consider alternative action should you refuse or fail to remove this entry from your blog forthwith.

I would be grateful if you would confirm how you came into possession of the aforementioned email and/or its content.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Surjit Tour
Head of Legal & Member Services
and Monitoring Officer

Department of Transformation and Resources
Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council
Town Hall
Brighton Street
CH44 8ED

Tel: 0151 691 8569
Fax: 0151 691 8482
Email: surjittour@wirral.gov.uk

Visit our website: www.wirral.gov.uk

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from: Tour, Surjit
to: John Brace
date: 4 July 2014 10:11
subject: Recall: Your Blog – (A Blog about Wirral Council, Wirral Council’s Councillors and Officers) – Fraudulent Email
mailed-by: wirral.gov.uk

Tour, Surjit would like to recall the message, “Your Blog – (A Blog about Wirral Council, Wirral Council’s Councillors and Officers) – Fraudulent Email”.


This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and
intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they
are addressed. If you have received this email in error please notify
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Dear Mr. Tour,

Thank you for your email. Might I take the opportunity to correct you that you have given it an incorrect title using “Open Gold Championship” instead of “Open Golf Championship” .

You state “The content of the email has been edited and is fraudulent and misleading.” yet you do not specify how the email has been edited, or is fraudulent or misleading.

You ask me to remove the associated commentary, which I presume by that you mean comments left by individuals in response to the blog post. Respectfully I direct you to The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013 in respect of the blog post and comments.

Regulation 2 requires a notice of complaint to contain the information outlined below (along with other legal requirements not specified here):

(c) set out the aspects of the statement which the complainant believes are

(i) factually inaccurate; or

(ii) opinions not supported by fact;

which your email does not.

In respect of comments that I have not written on that blog post, as a valid notice of complaint has not been received, s. 5(2) of the Defamation Act 2013 states “It is a defence for the operator to show that it was not the operator who posted the statement on the website.”

I might also point out there is existing case law which bans “The Council” starting a libel action.

I refer you to the famous case law in this matter which was decided in the House of Lords in Derbyshire County Council v. Times Newspapers Limited and others and I quote from that judgement “The same applies, in my opinion, to local authorities. In both cases I regard it as right for this House to lay down that not only is there no public interest favouring the right of organs of government, whether central or local, to sue for libel, but that it is contrary to the public interest that they should have it. It is contrary to the public interest because to admit such actions would place an undesirable fetter on freedom of speech.”

Thank you for your request asking me “I would be grateful if you would confirm how you came into possession of the aforementioned email and/or its content.”

If I was to reveal the source of the email, it would damage my reputation as the press have to protect their sources of information. I’m sorry but I cannot tell you.

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

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Blogger calls for Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP to consult public and press on local Council filming law

Blogger calls for Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP to consult public and press on local Council filming law

Blogger calls for Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP to consult public and press on local Council filming law


134 Boundary Road,
CH43 7PH

Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Department for Communities and Local Government,
Eland House,
Bressenden Place,

23rd December 2013

Dear Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP,

As it is standard protocol to write to one’s own MP if one wants a reply from a Minister, I am also emailing a copy of this letter to my MP (the Rt Hon Frank Field MP). I am also publishing it on my blog and would be happy to publish any replies I receive to this letter.

In June 2013 your department published a press release titled Lights, camera, democracy in action that referred to problems I had earlier this year filming a meeting of Wirral Council’s Pensions Committee where the reason of “health and safety” was given. Your press release also referred to the Health and Safety Executive’s Myth Busters Challenge Panel’s view that the Council was “clearly hiding behind ‘health and safety’ as a convenient excuse rather than giving the real reasons for its concerns about full openness and transparency.”

In October you issued a further press release stating that a new law will give the press and public new rights to film and report council meetings (making specific reference to the Local Audit and Accountability Bill).

Since then a new clause was added to the Local Audit and Accountability Bill called “Access to local government meetings and documents“.

Once the Local Audit and Accountability Bill becomes law, this section will come into force two months later. However this section does not immediately (as was implied in your October press release) “confer new rights to film and report council meetings” as the only power it grants is to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (currently yourself) to come up with further secondary legislation on this issue.

I quote from what was said on the 21st November 2013 when this section was discussed at the Public Bill Committee stage by Brandon Lewis MP (the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government),

“It is fair to say that people should not be able to disrupt meetings. At the same time, however, we must get the balance right, as the regulations will, and we shall talk to the LGA about that. We must make sure that an authority does not use disruption as an excuse to stop people filming a meeting in a non-disruptive sense”, later he also said,

“That is why we will liaise with partners to make sure that the regulations are correct. We want to make sure that meetings are not disrupted, but, equally, that disruption cannot be used as an excuse to block fair and proper transparency. It is the inconsistent and unjustifiable excuses that councils occasionally use to refuse public access that we want the clause to address. Our intention is to make regulations that require local government bodies, including their committees, sub-committees and joint committees, to allow people to film, photograph, tweet and blog at their public meetings.”

In reference to the future regulations he said,”They may also specify that government bodies may reasonably ask for the filming or photographing to be done in such a way that they are not disruptive to the good order and conduct of the meeting.” and also “the Government intend to work with the LGA and the National Association of Local Councils to cover the detail of the regulations.”

I am concerned that as the government has only stated they will consult with the Local Government Association and the National Association of Local Councils on the detail of the regulations, that these two bodies will have the opportunity to comment on and suggest amendments to the regulations, when there is no commitment from the government that the people these regulations will affect (such as myself) who are currently filming local government meetings are to be consulted when the regulations are in draft form.

There are those who currently film local government meetings, bloggers who use clips of local government meetings in what they write, other members of the press, the public and other bodies (such as the National Union of Journalists) that may wish to comment on the detail of any draft regulations. Unlike primary legislation when members of the public can make submissions about proposed laws at the Public Bill Committee stage, I am not aware of any similar stage to secondary legislation (also referred to as regulations).

Three aspects worry me as to what could be in the regulations (especially as you have only committed to consult bodies representing local government views). I would appreciate the courtesy of a detailed response to these concerns. These concerning sections are in s.40 of the Local Audit and Accountability Bill.

“(2)Regulations under subsection (1) may in particular make provision—

(c)about the steps to be taken by persons before carrying on such activities;”

I presume this is about informing the body being filming before filming. However if filming is a “right”, why should someone have to tell a body before exercising that right?

My experience of having the courtesy to tell my local Council before filming was that every time I did so they made a concerted effort to prevent me filming. Requiring those filming to tell the body in advance could also give the impression that the body has a non-existent legal power to prevent being filmed. I am against any regulations about there being any prior steps to be followed in advance of filming.

“(2)Regulations under subsection (1) may in particular make provision—

(d) about the circumstances in which persons may not carry on such activities, including for enabling a person specified in the regulations to prevent them from doing so in the circumstances specified in the regulations.”

Apart from preventing filming during a part of the meeting where the press and public have been previously excluded I cannot think of any other circumstances in which this would be necessary or desirable (if the aim of these regulations is greater openness and transparency)? If regulations give local Councils any discretionary power to prevent filming (that they currently don’t have) when the meeting is open to the public my concern would be that that would be seen as a regulation that was incompatible with the Article 10 rights to freedom of expression of those wanting to film.

“(3)The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision—

(d) for the creation of offences in respect of any rights or requirements conferred or imposed by the regulations.”

It is unclear about which rights or requirements this is would cover. Clearly if your intention is to extend the provisions of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 then the offences would be if people block or prevent people from exercising their rights under the regulations.

I would like a reassurance that the creation of offences does not include offences covering people exercising their right to film public bodies. Clearly if the regulations include a discretionary power (see 2(d) above) that the body can exercise to prevent filming, this could create an impasse where the body asks them to stop but they believe they have a right to film and refuse to do so.

Bearing in mind all the above, I would either like reassurance (individually on the above points) that my fears about what will be in the regulations and possible new powers granted to public bodies are either unfounded, or for the government to agree to a wider, public consultation on the principles behind the proposed regulations so that before proposing the regulations that you (and your officials) receive a balance of views on this matter rather than just the viewpoints of two bodies that solely represent local government interests on the draft regulations.

It is important that the press can easily hold local democracy in this country to account. I would not want to see either regulations that either make holding public bodies to account by the press unduly burdensome on those attempting to do so, or for public bodies to be granted new powers preventing their public meetings being recorded and the public knowing what they’re doing with their taxes.

I look forward to reading your response to this letter with interest (as I’m sure will my readers).

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

First response received 23rd December via email at 13:48.

to: john.brace@gmail.com
date: 23 December 2013 13:48
subject: Thank you for your email to the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP

Thank you for your email to the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, the Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Our aim is to consider the issues you raise and to respond within 15 working days.

If we feel that the issues raised do not fall within the Department’s responsibilities, we will try to transfer your email to the relevant government department and ask that they reply to you directly.

DCLG Contact Us Team.


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Freedom of Speech and Censorship – Time Labour said sorry for cuts

I’ve just been reading the joint statement on Wikileaks released by the UN.

Section 4 really caught my eye with regards to the pressure put on yours truly about this story. As readers may be unaware a tax-payer funded body is threatening a lawsuit on a matter that is protected in UK law from libel lawsuits.

They also threaten to "write to" the company hosting this blog and to get it deleted. Thankfully being hosted in America there are stronger legal protections on freedom of speech.

As the UN put it "Such illegitimate interference includes politically motivated legal cases brought against journalists and independent media, and blocking of websites and web domains on political grounds."

I was ready to give Labour the benefit of the doubt in this matter as generally their councillors are honest (especially Cllr Foulkes) enough to declare a prejudicial interest. In fact I mentioned this in the article I wrote.

This whole "storm in a teacup episode" has overtones of the time last year that Cllr. Harry Smith moaned to the Lib Dems (in a letter he did have the decency to copy to myself along with a Wirral Council compliment slip with the box for immediate action ticked) that I’d stated in a Focus article (which was true) that while Vice-Chair he hadn’t gone to a Pensions Committee meeting at which it had been revealed the Fund had lost ~£700 million (which leads to extra costs to Wirral Council that can’t be used to fund frontline services).

Cllr. Harry Smith was annoyed that residents were going to his surgery and talking to him about pensions. However isn’t talking to local residents at your surgery about decisions you’ve made part of being a (well-paid) local councillor Harry? In your election literature (which I still have from 2007) your promise was Give me 15 minutes of your time and I’ll give you 4 years of mine.

How do you square choosing to go on holiday (instead of representing your residents) and being suspended as a councillor for a week with this promise? How about the person you put on your election literature under a headline like "We’re voting for Harry Smith" who didn’t even vote at all? As a local resident in Bidston & St. James I would hope that Labour’s leaflet is not misleading local residents to vote for them. Isn’t it time residents got an apology and the truth?

£48 million has recently had to be cut from this year’s budget (voted for by Labour in March) due to the Labour government’s mismanagement of the country’s finances and spiralling costs on bureaucracy. These are Labour’s cuts to services (whose Minister said there was "no money left") that will next year directly affect residents harshly here in Bidston & St. James. Cllr Foulkes (Labour’s leader) has already apologised publically to the people of Wirral for mistakes the earlier Labour administration made. Isn’t it time other Labour councillors said sorry to the residents of Wirral for the mistakes they’ve made that have led to these cuts?