Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Questions to the Leader (Cllr Phil Davies)

Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Questions to the Leader (Cllr Phil Davies)

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Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Questions to the Leader (Cllr Phil Davies)


The Council meeting started with a one minute silence for the late Sylvia Hodrien and Jim Edwards. There were prayers for councillors after which the Mayor invited people to sit down.

1. Declarations of Interest 3:52

Cllrs Rennie, Niblock, Roberts and Stapleton declared a personal interest in item 11 (Recommendation from the Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee) as Wirral Council’s representatives on the Mersey Fire and Rescue Authority.

2. Mayor’s Announcements 5:05

The Mayor gave apologies for Cllr Pat Williams. He asked if there were any further apologies? Cllr Chris Blakeley gave apologies for Cllr Leah Fraser.

3. Petitions 5:22

Cllr Les Rowlands presented a petition of seventy-four households opposed to the proposal to sell off public land on the corner of Boundary Lane and Telegraph Road.
Cllr Stuart Kelly presented a petition of a hundred and eight residents asking for improvements to the lighting on the pathway from the Holmlands area to Woodchurch High School and Woodchurch Leisure Centre.
Cllr Philip Brightmore presented a petition of two hundred and thirty-seven households asking for something (sadly the rest of what Cllr Brightmore said about that petition was unclear).
Cllr Pat Hackett presented a petition of one hundred and eight people from the Field Road Residents Association in New Brighton objecting to the Council selling a car park.

4. Public Questions 6:20

The Mayor informed the Council that he had not received any requests from the public for questions.

5. Minutes 6:28

The minutes of the Council meetings held on the 15th July and the 19th September were agreed as correct.

6. Leader’s, Executive Members’ and Policy and Performance Committee Chairs Reports 7:30

The Mayor invited the Leader of the Council to introduce his report. Cllr Phil Davies said that his report covered five main areas. These areas were the future Council model and vision, the Budget, European funding (Wirral Council were going to submit a judicial review on this matter), the progress of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority application and his recent visit to China.

Cllr Jeff Green asked the first question to Cllr Phil Davies. His question was, “Given the Council’s Budget position, as set out in this report, is the Leader of the Council aware of the rumours circulating around a £48,000 compensation payment made to a serving Council officer and does he know what that payment was for?”

Cllr Denise Roberts asked, “Would the Leader of the Council join with me in congratulating the Chancellor of the Exchequer for following Wirral’s example by leading a trade delegation to China and declaring he wants Britain to share in China’s economic progress?”

Cllr Stuart Kelly asked, “In the Leader’s report he talks about working in partnership with strategic partners such as business. At the Council meeting on the 15th July, the Leader will recall that I asked him whether he was aware that the policy of payments to small and medium-sized enterprises within five days was being quietly abandoned by officers. In his reply to me in July, the Leader was clear that the policy had not been abandoned by him or the Administration but also does he recall in his answer saying that he had and I quote ‘asked for a report to be presented to the Cabinet by the Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment detailing what support is in place to ensure SMEs continue to survive and grow which would include information regarding payment times’? I’d ask the Leader Mr Mayor what has happened to that report and how is Council performing against the five-day payment times?”

Cllr Chris Blakeley asked, “My question is about the visit to China. Mr Mayor, we’re informed a key theme of the latest visit was to develop educational links between the young people of Wirral and the young people of China. Can the Leader of the Council tell us why that key theme does not appear in his report because he’s covered everything else (developing education links)? Mr Mayor, I think I … to update councillors on the status of the gifts that travelled halfway round the world and back.”

Cllr Stuart Wittingham asked, “Can I express my thanks to all those involved in organising the second Wirral Council annual conference which was held at the Floral Pavilion on Saturday? Can I ask the Leader of the Council to emphasise the importance of all elected Members to engage in the discussion about developing a model and vision of how the Council operates in future?”

Cllr Andrew Hodson asked, “I was delighted to read of the ongoing progress of the Wirral Waters site and will he be joining me in congratulating Esther McVey on her recent promotion as Employment Minister and place on record his thanks to her for her endeavours to secure Enterprise Zone status for Wirral Waters?”

Cllr Mark Johnston asked, “My question is in relation to point five in the report and the International Trade Centre. Firstly I would like to applaud the Council for its outward looking approach to inward investment, however I note that all three party leaders have all been out to Taicang, China on separate visits. My question relates to the progress on the recommendations made under a scrutiny review looking at the International Trade Centre, especially the agreement reached to explore a cross party working party to make sure the recommendations were carried through. I haven’t seen any progress on that yet, thank you.”

The Mayor asked the Leader of the Council, Cllr Phil Davies to answer those questions.

Continues at Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Answers to Questions to the Leader (Cllr Phil Davies).

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A roundup of Wirral Council meetings: Sustainable Communities, Council Excellence and Audit and Risk Management

Roundup of Wirral Council meetings: Sustainable Communities (Biffa and bin collections, flooding, libraries), Council Excellence (overspends, Social Services debt), Audit and Risk Management (HESPE Action Plan, gifts and hospitalities procedures)

In a change to the more detailed format, below are brief write ups of three meetings this week.

Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee 29th January 2013

There was a long presentation by Biffa, followed by questions from councillors. The meeting also discussed recycling, dog fouling enforcement, flytipping (including a recent rise in asbestos flytipping), managing highway structures (bridges, culverts etc), libraries, Wirral Heritage Strategy, food hygiene ratings, no cold calling zones and climate change.

Councillors asked Biffa about the recent missed bin collections and how the new changes (winter tyres and snow shoes) affected collections during the recent cold weather. On food hygiene the Food Standards Agency website was highlighted which shows the star rating for the 1,698 food businesses on the Wirral. A councillor was surprised at the nearly two hundred businesses on Wirral with a one star (which means major improvement necessary) or two star (which means improvement necessary) rating, however most businesses had a rating of four or five stars.

The increased use of volunteers in libraries was discussed and the problem of some households in areas at risking of flooding having problems obtaining insurance was also highlighted.

Council Excellence Overview and Scrutiny Committee 30th January 2013

Most of the meeting was a discussion about Wirral Council’s finances including measures to reduce this year’s overspend and how overspends in the past had been paid for by one-off measures that wouldn’t be available in future years. The investigation into Social Services debt was discussed also.

Audit and Risk Management Committee 31st January 2013

The HESPE Action Plan provoked discussion at this meeting. David Armstrong gave a verbal update on it and said that he’d written to all directors and acting directors for an update over the dates in the plan and had received no correspondence to say that they wouldn’t be able to stick to the timescales. The Acting Director of Technical Services had written to him stating there had been no interest from the private sector in consultancy work.

The Action Plan was being monitored by Fiona Johnstone’s department and was going to the Improvement Board and Council Excellence committee as well as being incorporated into Concerto. He assured people of the focus on it and that the actions would be followed through. Cllr Ron Abbey referred to it as a pantomime, saying “Did he or didn’t he?” and asked how much it had cost? Cllr Foulkes said that similar matters were not the remit of their committee, that there’d been two contrary reports, the Audit Commission report and the Penn report. He wanted continuing dialogue with the whistleblowers which he thought was the best way to deal with the matter. Cllr Ron Abbey said he would take that on board. Cllr Foulkes said they needed to find the common ground between the points in the Penn report and the action plan.

Cllr Green welcomed the reassurance, but wanted tests that the actions had been carried out. He said they’d had a range of reports that lessons had been learnt and a culture embedded, so it was useful to have it in writing. He referred to project management problems and who was supposed to be in charge of the Project Board and referred to issues with clarity, responsibility and project management.

Cllr Brighouse said he broadly endorsed the remarks, but the Penn report was ongoing as the recommendations and outcome were still to be resolved and agreed. He said it was appropriate to have some discussion covering the issues and whether there were any governance implications but it was “wrong to pretend there was nothing there”.

The Chair, Cllr Jim Crabtree said there’d be a further report next meeting.

There was also an update given (again by David Armstrong) on proposed changes to the gifts and hospitality/conflicts of interest procedures for officers.