What did Merseyside Police spend money on (96 pages of invoices)?

What did Merseyside Police spend money on (96 pages of invoices)?

What did Merseyside Police spend money on (96 pages of invoices)?

                                           

Continuing from yesterday’s What did Merseyside Police spend money on (112 pages of invoices)? below are a further 96 pages of invoices covering work on the Wirral Custody Suite, Airwave (emergency services communications), payments to the Home Office, payments to solicitors, charges relating to police dogs, training, the fee of Mr Jeremy Johnson QC, CRG Medical Services (medical services for detained persons), payments relating to the Merseyside Residual Debt Fund (the debt left when Merseyside County Council was abolished in the 1980s), various pieces of hardware, recharges from other areas for salaries, payments relating to pensions, amounts to do with the Operational Command Centre, payroll, the fee of Mr Gerard Boyle (Serjeants’ Inn Chambers) to do with disciplinary proceedings, the Community Safety Fund, software and expert witness opinion (£11,368.60 for reviewing a case, correspondence, reviewing literature and writing a report).

As before all invoices are connected to the 2015-16 financial year.

Tomorrow morning the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel meets to consider the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside’s Budget for 2018-19. That includes the budget for Merseyside Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside.
Continue reading “What did Merseyside Police spend money on (96 pages of invoices)?”

Expense claim forms for Councillor John Hale (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014

Expense claim forms for Councillor John Hale (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014

Expense claim forms for Councillor John Hale (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014

                                                   

Carrying on with the series of councillor’s expense claim forms we get to councillors whose surnames begin with H and the first one of those is Councillor John Hale. Councillor John Hale is a Conservative Party councillor for the ward of Hoylake and Meols (that’s the name of one ward not two different wards). He’s been a councillor since 1975 and according to Wirral Council’s website apart from a few months in 1999 has been a councillor for nearly all that time.

He’s one of Wirral Council’s representatives on the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel who earlier this year banned filming at one of their meetings in Birkenhead Town Hall. The Merseyside Police and Crime Panel most recent meeting on September 4th 2014 could be filmed (however we weren’t at it). I will however point out that Councillor John Hale was a member of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel but wasn’t present at the meeting of 24th April 2014 when that filming decision was made by Councillors Frank Prendergast (Everton, Liverpool City Council (Labour)), Peter Brennan (Old Swan, Liverpool City Council (Labour)), Doreen Kerrigan (Linacre, Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council (Labour)) and Moira McLaughlin (Rock Ferry, Metropolitan Borough of Wirral (Labour)).

However in a cunning move the “powers that be” (Knowsley is the host authority for the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel), made sure that future meetings of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel are now held in Huyton (reason given was “cost grounds” at the public meeting I wasn’t allowed to film earlier this year) which when you consider this increases the costs of many councillors’ expenses claims travelling there, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s staff travel costs etc it would seem to be a rather spurious claim as although Knowsley said they could get their own Council Chamber for “free”, it’ll still form part of the administrative costs I’m sure they’ll claim back from the Home Office.

It seems a common theme that the increased costs of doing things differently are never brought up in a public meeting (which let’s face it in many places are run for the convenience of officers and councillors not the “public” who often aren’t even there) just the supposed “savings”. After all Knowsley officers had a very long briefing (in private) with the four councillors before the meeting started and one can only guess (from what was during the public meeting that they wouldn’t allow to be filmed which is a decision that didn’t even make the official minutes) that the officers persuaded them to hold future public meetings where officers work (therefore Knowsley officers wouldn’t have to travel much to different bits of Merseyside but the many people on the Panel, whether independent members or councillors, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s staff and everyone else going to this meeting would have to travel further) and not holding it at a more central place in Merseyside. I assume it’s Wirral Council paying these travel costs (for its councillors on the Panel) because nobody has ever told me whether these expenses are recharged back to Knowsley (as the host authority).

What however is interesting to note is that Knowsley Council received £53,000 in 2013/14 for the administration costs of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel and £11,040 for those on it (which is up to £920 per panel member for expenses) from the Home Office.

Maybe Knowsley think the room hire cost for Birkenhead Town Hall is just too extortionate when you consider Knowsley are only receiving a paltry £53,000 from the Home Office!

However peering into the murk of Wirral Council councillor’s expense claims, it’s now unclear whether Councillor John Hale’s expense claim to Wirral Council for travelling to the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel are (or have been) recharged back to the host authority Knowsley or not. Certainly if Knowsley is getting “up to £920 per member for expenses” it would seem terribly unfair for Wirral residents to be footing the bill through both national and local taxes whilst Knowsley gets the money. It’s something I’ll have to ask Wirral Council’s auditor Grant Thornton about though as I’m unsure.

Its predecessor body (before the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in November 2012) the Merseyside Police Authority met in Liverpool City Centre. However from what I remember the new Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy as far as I know decided that the building the Merseyside Police Authority used to meet in wasn’t needed. Public meetings involving the Merseyside Police now happen in a variety of different locations.

Huyton, from a historical perspective is part of Lancashire and we both half wondered if this came about because in Birkenhead Town Hall (whilst waiting for the briefing to finish) we both said in earshot of a Knowsley Borough Council employee that if they had the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel as far away as Huyton that we probably wouldn’t be able to get to its public meetings.

This is just one aspect of his expenses claim though but if expenses aren’t currently being recharged back to Knowsley it may represent a small saving to Wirral Council if it was. It’s certainly a question I should ask of Wirral Council’s auditors.

Below are Councillor John Hale’s expense claim forms.

Cllr John Hale expenses claim 2013 2014 page 1
Cllr John Hale expenses claim 2013 2014 page 1
Cllr John Hale expenses claim 2013 2014 page 2
Cllr John Hale expenses claim 2013 2014 page 2
https://johnbrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/cllr-john-hale-expenses-claim-2013-2014-page-3.jpg
https://johnbrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/cllr-john-hale-expenses-claim-2013-2014-page-3.jpg
Cllr John Hale expenses claim 2013 2014 page 4
Cllr John Hale expenses claim 2013 2014 page 4
Cllr John Hale expenses claim 2013 2014 page 5
Cllr John Hale expenses claim 2013 2014 page 5

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Mark Latham of Wirral Street Pastors tells Wirral’s councillors graphic stories about Birkenhead’s boozy night life

Mark Latham of Wirral Street Pastors tells Wirral’s councillors graphic stories about Birkenhead’s boozy night life

Mark Latham of Wirral Street Pastors tells Wirral’s councillors graphic stories about Birkenhead’s boozy night life

                       

Mark Latham from Wirral Street Pastors told councillors on Wirral Council's Licensing Act 2003 Committee about his experiences of Birkenhead's night life and alcohol (19th March 2014)
Mark Latham from Wirral Street Pastors told councillors on Wirral Council’s Licensing Act 2003 Committee about his experiences of Birkenhead’s night life and alcohol (19th March 2014)

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The presentation by Wirral Street Pastors starts at 1:39 in the video above.

Councillors on Wirral Council’s Licensing Act 2003 Committee yesterday listened to a brief talk from a Mark Latham of Wirral Street Pastors about what Wirral Street Pastors do on a Friday evening and Saturday morning in Birkenhead. Mr. Latham said that he would give a quick overview of what Wirral Street Pastors do and what they are and hoped from that that the councillors would glean valuable information.

He said that his role as coordinator was to try to develop a better relationship between local government, Wirral Council and the police. So far he had had meetings with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside (Jane Kennedy), Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, Cllr Ian Lewis and Emma Degg (a couple of times). Mr Latham said that these meetings were to bridge the gap between what the Wirral Street Pastors do and what they see.

He explained that street pastors started ten years ago when they saw a need that people in the night-time economy were drinking, being drunk and that there were lots of problems relating to those things such as fighting, antisocial behaviour, violence and crime in general. Mr Latham said that Wirral Street Pastors did the same as what other street pastors across the country did and that they were out on Friday night around Birkenhead patrolling the streets, making sure people were safe and making sure particularly vulnerable individuals got home safely.

The example of a young girl on her own was given and he said that one of his team (which were made up of female and male individuals) would stay with them and either ring their parent or a friend or get them into a taxi to make sure they get home safely. Wirral Street Pastors also gave out free flip-flops to ensure that women who had taken their shoes off don’t stand on broken glass or the general filth that’s on the streets.

In addition to free flip-flops Wirral Street Pastors also give out bottles of water and space blankets to the homeless and people who’d had one too many to drink. The aim of this was to hydrate them so that the taxis would take them. He said that some people were so drunk that taxi drivers refused them rides as the taxi drivers were concerned that these people would throw up in the back of their taxi.

Mr Latham said that the average cost to the National Health Service of a drink related incident was £4,000. He said every pair of flip-flops that they gave out meant that that person wasn’t standing on broken glass requiring an X-ray which would cost the taxpayer money. For every fight that the Wirral Street Pastors had broken up, every antisocial behaviour incident that was simmered down put less of a strain on police resources.

He said that they had a standard operating procedure with the police that allowed Wirral Street Pastors to engage with people allowing the police to concentrate on what they needed to do. Mr Latham said the Wirral Street Pastors dealt with the homeless who they gave space blankets too as well as signposting them to the Wirral Churches Ark Project, ARCH Initiatives and other agencies.

Mark Latham gave an example of somebody having their head stamped on a fortnight ago was given, Wirral Street Pastors stayed with him until the ambulance turned up and that he was fortunate that Wirral Street Pastors had been with him “because he would have been dead within about half an hour” because he was losing consciousness.

He told councillors about another person who was “roaming round”, who was “suffering from mental illness” that the Wirral Street Pastors “got back on his medication” and dealt with his needs. Mr Latham said that most of the time that the Wirral Street Pastors were just there to make sure people are safe and to be a listening ear. He referred to Cllr Ian Lewis coming out with the Wirral Street Pastors recently and that Cllr Ian Lewis could relate his experiences of that to the other councillors on the Licensing Act 2003 Committee. Mr Latham said that the Wirral Street Pastors were engaging with the community, the neighbourhood and the people who were out in the night-time economy. He said that there was much more to it than he had outlined, but he was happy to take questions from councillors.

The first question was from Cllr Harry Smith asking if the Wirral Street Pastors were connected to a church and whether they wore any special gear when they were out at night. Mark Latham replied that they had a uniform that they had to wear which was a DayGlo duotone blue jacket. He said that it was a condition of their insurance that they had to wear these uniforms but also so that they were identifiable and that the police knew who they were. He said that the Wirral Street Pastors are a Christian organisation. He said there were various inter denominational churches across the Wirral that were involved.

Mr Latham said that the Wirral Street Pastors were the only recognised ministry by the police and that the reason why it was recognised was because it wasn’t proclamation, that the Wirral Street Pastors didn’t go out preaching but they were just there to help people. He added that the Wirral Street Pastors were a highly trained group of individuals that had “police training”.

Cllr John Salter asked who the Wirral Street Pastors got funding from? Mark Latham answered that they don’t and that all volunteers paid £300 each to do it. Although it was supported by the Home Office, their standard operating procedures were “signed off by Scotland Yard and the Home Office” that that was the entirety of their involvement. He said that the national statistics were fed back regularly to David Cameron, but that the only funding they got was what they received from individuals as well as grants from Christian organisations.

Cllr Andrew Hodson asked how many Wirral Street Pastors there were in total and how many were out on the streets? Mark Latham answered that there were fifteen. He said that they went out every Friday night in teams of four (two men and two women) starting at half past ten at Charing Cross and finish at four.

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Millions jam street-level crime map website

Millions jam street-level crime map website

                                          

The government often come under criticism for large amounts of money spent on websites that hardly anyone uses. However the new website for looking at crime statistics on a more local basis has ground to a grinding halt due to demand.

I run a website that has thousands of visitors in an average day. It has no problem keeping up with that kind of load and peaks in demand, despite many of the pages having graphics and being written in PHP. Despite the government spending £300,000 on the website, the main problem seems to be scalability of the database.

Clearly whoever designed the website for them wasn’t thinking of scalability, but instead of doing things cheaply rather than designing it to be robust when lots of of people visited it.

If they’d just designed it in a more logical way, where you choose your area from a drop down list by force area, or like the election maps website there wouldn’t be such problems as it seems the web server’s CPU can’t cope with all the requests. This is one of the downsides to a dynamic rather than static site and sometimes it’s best to run CPU-intensive tools on a separate server and sub domain.

Clearly there have been comments in the IT industry before that (especially under the previous Labour government) that persuading ministers to fork over large sums of money for IT projects and websites was “like taking candy from children”.

Although it is now correctly identifying my force area as Merseyside, no maps (it seems to be using an API and Google Maps) are appearing. Local residents can however view crime statistics for Bidston & St. James on Merseyside Police’s website.

I hope it’ll get sorted out soon as it’s the kind of thing that residents of Bidston & St. James are interested in knowing.