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Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Answers to Questions to the Leader (Cllr Phil Davies)
Cllr Phil Davies answered the seven questions as follows, “Thank you Mr Mayor. Cllr Green has asked me about rumours circulating et cetera, I’ve got nothing to add to the email from the Chief Executive issued to all Members of the Council on the 7th October.
To Cllr Denise Roberts, the visit to China, yes I was actually delighted that our Government sent out a high powered delegation of actually six politicians, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, four Government Ministers (I’m not sure who the Government Ministers are) and the Mayor of London together with civil servants and business people. And you know the serious point about this is that, and I again I applaud George Osborne, because he I think quite rightly in a speech he made this morning, did comment on the importance of increasing the links with China as a global market which is growing aggressively and we need to in Britain I think we need to be very mindful of that and try and use every opportunity we can to ensure that our residents benefit from investment, jobs which can be secured from that growing economy and I was delighted to be part of the delegation which visited China recently.
I know the Leader of the Opposition Cllr Green and the former Leader of the Liberal Democrats Cllr Harney have also been out to that country and the scale of progress is absolutely staggering. It really is the pace of the recruitment and the government there have a policy now of encouraging their companies to look at Western countries to invest in and therefore I think it’s essential actually for the local authorities to take advantage of these opportunities to secure jobs and investment. The International Trade Centre, Wirral Waters and the opportunities that exist within our offshore wind sector were two of the areas that we, I certainly focused on while I was over in China.
In terms of just while I’m on my feet, Cllr Blakeley, the reason why I didn’t mention the school links, it was literally a proposal that we handed to the Mayor of Taicang for a school teacher exchange program which they’d expressed an interest in. So it was an element of the visit but the two main reasons to go out there was one to support Peel on getting jobs and investment in the ITC and secondly to get wind power companies to look at doing a partnership with Cammell Lairds. So it wasn’t the main element but it was an element.
And the issue about gifts, again as the other leaders who’ve been out to China will testify, it is protocol that when you visit China you exchange gifts, we’ve done that on previous visits and when delegations come over here they’ve done that. We took over some gifts which unfortunately got stuck in Chinese customs, they’ve come back at no extra cost to the Council and indeed we will use them because we’re expecting a delegation from China to visit us in the next couple of months so they will be used.
Stuart Kelly asked about the the SME contractors that we use and making sure that we report back on the ten day target. Stuart I’ve not forgotten that, the report’s not been completed yet for Cabinet. It’s my intention that that will still be tabled, I’m not exactly sure when but I give you my assurance that I will check with the relevant officer and drop you a note exactly when that is expected to come to Cabinet.
OK, Stuart Wittingham, I’ve dealt with Chris Blakeley’s questions, Stuart Wittingham, yeah Stuart I think all those I’m delighted to thank all the elected Members who attended the second annual conference at the Floral Pavilion on Saturday. Obviously some groups were, some Members were unable to attend and you know I understand that there were other commitments. However, I think those people who were there, I certainly got very good feedback about the event.
We had two very good speakers, one the Chief Exec of the LGA and one the Chair of Local Government Association Improvement Board and I think we had a good debate about the future model for the full Council in the next few years. I wanted to stress that this is the start of a debate and there’ll be other opportunities, Scrutiny Committees, in individual groups before we have our policy Council at the start of December where we will revisit our Corporate Plan, so I think that was a very … day and again I’m very grateful to officers and Members and our partners in that.
Right onto Cllr Hodson, again Wirral Waters and the ITC I think I’ve emphasised how important that is for the future economic prosperity of Wirral. On his invitation to congratulate Esther McVey on her promotion … I mean clearly on a personal level I will say congratulations, however I sincerely hope her record on employment is much more successful than the horrendous cuts that’s she’s presided over.
Disabled people in this country are some of the poorest groups in this country. I hope, I sincerely hope that she uses that position to persuade George Osborne that he’s got the policy direction in terms of the economy completely and utterly wrong and he needs to rethink now. And then finally Mr Mayor, Mark Johnston asked me about the progress on the International Trade Centre scrutiny report which he was involved in when he was Chair of that particular scrutiny committee.
I can tell Mark that clearly as I’ve mentioned the ITC does remain a key priority for the Council working with our colleagues in Peel. I think we’ve offered significant support to and that continues to Peel including the use of Birkenhead Town Hall as a key visitor’s centre for overseas visitors. An internal working group of officers has been set up Mark to take forward the recommendations from the scrutiny committee’s report and various actions have been allocated across Council departments depending what each recommendations are to ensure that a rapid start can be made once the actual development has, we’re expecting construction to start in the early part of 2014.
At the moment businesses are being signed up over in China, some of the actions do have resource requirements and you know we need to look at that in the context of the Budget and I think it is more appropriate to undertake that at a point just before development starts. The trigger point for implementing the actions from the scrutiny report will be receipt of the reserved matters application, phase 1 of the ITC, but I’ve been assured, because I’ve asked a question and you’re kind enough to give me notice that you’re bringing this up tonight so thank you for that Mark.
Officers have assured me that they will pull together the cross party working group very soon indeed, in the next couple of months, so Members that were involved in that piece of work can ensure themselves that you know progress is being made against each of the recommendations in the report, that answers the