Who are the 103 candidates in the 2016 Wirral Council elections?

Who are the 103 candidates in the 2016 Wirral Council elections?

                                             

Polling card Bidston and St James ward 2016 front
Polling card Bidston and St James ward 2016 front
Polling card Bidston and St James ward 2016 back
Polling card Bidston and St James ward 2016 back

The nomination period for anyone wishing to stand as a candidate in the elections to become a councillor at Wirral Council has been closed for some time. As usual elections in each of the twenty-two wards on Wirral are all being contested (ranging from two candidates in Seacombe ward to seven in Liscard ward).

All wards except Liscard will be electing one councillor, Liscard will elect two councillors.

Continue reading “Who are the 103 candidates in the 2016 Wirral Council elections?”

Overall election results for Wirral Council elections (2014): Labour majority

Overall election results for Wirral Council elections (2014): Labour majority

Overall election results for Wirral Council elections (2014): Labour majority

                        

My polling card for the 2014 election (Bidston & St. James ward)
My polling card for the 2014 election to Wirral Council (Bidston & St. James ward)

Last month (because of the local and European elections on the same day) this blog received its highest number of monthly visitors (3,918 visitors viewing 7,597 pages) and highest daily visitors (23rd May with 694 visitors and 1,111 page views) since the blog started. The jump in visitors on 23rd May was people interested in what the results were in the local Wirral Council elections.

Although I’ve published results on a ward by ward basis, I haven’t yet published the overall result. These results differ (slightly) from the results on Wirral Council’s website. I will explain why below.

In Greasby, Frankby & Irby ward there was an election for two councillors as the former Conservative Councillor Tony Cox had resigned. The reason for his resignation is that he’d been selected as the Conservative’s candidate in the General Election for Newcastle-under-Lyme and felt that he couldn’t do this to the best of his ability and be a local councillor for Greasby, Frankby & Irby ward. Despite this seat technically being a vacancy Wirral Council include this vacancy in the numbers of Conservative councillors before the election. I’m classing it as a vacancy in the results below.

The other difference is in how you regard Liscard ward. Darren Dodd resigned as a councillor in Liscard in November of last year. Nobody requested a by-election in Liscard, so there was just an election at the end of what would have been the end of his term of office in May 2014. As there has been a vacancy for six months in Liscard before the election I’m surprised that Wirral Council don’t list it as a vacancy in the results. This also means their figure in their election results table for how many Labour councillors there were before the election started is one higher than it was.

Election Results for 2014
Overall: Labour Majority (34 seats are needed for a majority and Labour have 38)

Party (or Independent) Total Votes Council Seats Before Stood Gain Lost Overall Change Council Seats After
Labour 33,983 36 23 3 1 2 38
Conservative 25,792 21 23 1 1 0 21
Liberal Democrat 7,477 6 18 0 0 0 6
Green Party 6,835 0 22 1 0 1 1
Independent 239 1 3 0 1 -1 0
UK Independence 14,793 0 22 0 0 0 0
Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts 91 0 2 0 0 0 0
Vacancy N/A 2 N/A 0 2 -2 0

Have improvements to make Wirral Council’s decision making better got bogged down in bureaucracy?

Have improvements to make Wirral Council’s decision making better got bogged down in bureaucracy?

Have improvements to make Wirral Council’s decision making better got bogged down in bureaucracy?

                                     

The New Year is a time of looking back to the previous year and forward to the new one. So please cast your minds back to November 2013 and a meeting of the Improvement Board held in public.

Prior to this there had been a short ten-day consultation on the Improvement Board Review report.

As the Improvement Board Review report is sixty-three pages long I will quote the sections I am referring to here about changes to the Audit and Risk Management Committee (the committee referred to in the quote from section 95 is Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee):

20. Action Taken


20.4 It is proposed to strengthen the independent nature of the Audit and Risk Management Committee through the appointment of a majority of external members.” (page 15)

“PRIORITY 2: CORPORATE AND DECISION MAKING

95. It is proposed to strengthen the independent nature of the Committee through the appointment of a majority of external members.” (page 34)

“Next Steps

112. Compliance with the constitution will be through more rigorous challenge from Audit and Risk Management Committee. It is proposed that would be enhanced, by (subject to Council agreement) appointing a majority of independent members of the committee.” (page 37)

“SUMMARY OF NEXT STEPS FOR WIRRAL

167. A key challenge is to ensure compliance to the revised procedures. Compliance with the constitution will be through more rigorous challenge from Audit and Risk Management Committee. It is proposed that would be enhanced by (subject to Council agreement) appointing a majority of independent members of the committee. The Leader of the Council has indicated that he will develop a proposal for consideration by Councillors alongside the review of the Constitution.” (page 49)

Prior to the Improvement Board public meeting on the 15th November there were special meetings of both the Coordinating Committee and the Audit and Risk Management Committee to discuss the Improvement Board Review report.

The Coordinating Committee agreed this:

That this Committee welcomes the Report. It clearly states that the Authority is moving in the right direction.

This Committee pledges to play its full part in continuing that direction of travel.

All Members will be encouraged to engage in the next steps identified within the report.

We must not be complacent as we still need to improve in many areas identified in the report and embed positive changes.

We thank all members of the Improvement Board for their help.

We thank all employees and Members for their efforts in this journey of improvement.

We would recommend the approach adopted by the Local Government Association, in piloting sector led improvement, and would recommend it to others who find themselves in difficulties.

and the Audit and Risk Management Committee (by eight votes to one agreed):

(1) That this Committee welcomes the report of the Improvement Board, which draws attention to the significant progress Wirral has made in the last 20 months.

It recognises that there are still issues which need to be addressed but believes it is clear that Wirral is now an outward looking Authority – open to constructive criticism and willing to address problems when they occur.

We would recommend the sector-led approach to change and development to other authorities who find themselves in difficulty.

(2) That the thanks of the Committee be accorded to the Improvement Board, all staff and Members who have participated in the change process. It now remains for Members to continue to participate in their own development and not become complacent but ensure that change becomes embedded for the future.

(3) That the recommendations contained within the Review report be endorsed and that, subject to clarification as to the ownership of the steps required to support continued improvement, all Members be encouraged to engage in the work required in those areas.

Here is a transcript of the answer given to my question on this issue at the Improvement Board meeting of the 15th November 2013 on the issue of changes to the Audit and Risk Management Committee:

In the review report it states “it is proposed to strengthen the independent nature of the Audit and Risk Management Committee through the appointment of a majority of external members”. How many independent members of the Audit and Risk Management Committee will be appointed, who will they be appointed by and will the Audit and Risk Management Committee be chaired in future by one of these independent members?

You can watch Graham Burgess’s and Cllr Phil Davies’ reply to this question by following this link to footage of the Improvement Board meeting.

Graham Burgess replied, “In terms of the request to strengthen the independent nature of the Audit & Risk Management Committee. First of all I think it’s going to be proposed by the Leader of the Council that for the new municipal year, after the elections in May, that there should be a majority of independent people on the Audit and Risk Management Committee.

There’s only one other Council in the country that’s adopted this approach and the Leader may wish to speak for himself on this matter but I think it is, it’s got to be recognised I hope, the willingness of this Council to open itself up to external scrutiny by I don’t know the numbers yet because that’s going to be discussed, it will be and Phil’s agreed that it should be referred to the Council’s scrutiny committee to discuss the best way to do it, the best way to recruit them, the exact numbers, but certainly I think it’s really brave of him, the fact that this Council and the other one Council to open themselves up in this way.

And the sort of people who might be ?????, and again there’ll be discussions with scrutiny and looking at elsewhere and taking advice from audit. I suspect there’ll be a number of people with a financial background to challenge that.

There’ll be a number of people who can represent key community organisations and can represent individual voices on the Wirral. So there’ll be a mixture I suspect of professional and lay people who can judge whether this Council is actually operating well in terms of its audit responsibilities.

I think that’s another demonstration of the openness that Phil and all parties I suspect want going forward and to be challenged. So in theory and in practice in fact, the councillors can be out voted by the independent members on that panel.

Might I also say that the Council does intend, again this is not finalised to retain the Chair of that panel as a councillor. The majority will be non councillors and that’s because it’s still a Council committee and in terms of organising things we need the availability of a councillor to do that, but I don’t want to be drawn about that.”

Cllr Phil Davies: “Just a sentence to say I think it will enable kind of an ongoing challenge to be built into monitoring, reviewing how we go forward in terms of all of the issues that have been looked at by the Improvement Board over the last eighteen months.

So I think it’s just another kind of check going forward that we’ve got an external voice or external voices, not part of the Council to really scrutinise what we’re doing on our performance going forward and I welcome that.”

So just to go back to a quote from the Improvement Board review report “The Leader of the Council has indicated that he will develop a proposal for consideration by Councillors alongside the review of the Constitution.” Well on Monday 6th January 2014 at a special meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee councillors (and the independent members of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee) will discuss a review of Wirral Council’s constitution and a survey of councillors. The survey itself states “This feedback will inform a full review of the Constitution that will be undertaken in January 2014” asking for councillors to return the survey by the 7th January 2014 (the 7th January 2014 is stated on the survey, but the recommendation in the accompanying report states 24th January 2014).

Yet nowhere in the thirty-six proposed amendments to Wirral Council’s constitution is there even one that refers to appointing a majority of the Audit and Risk Committee as independent members. The Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee is the Council committee that proposes and scrutinises changes to Wirral Council’s constitution. So why haven’t changes to Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee appeared on the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee agenda for the meeting on the 6th January?

The Improvement Board will be returning in March 2014 to see the progress Wirral Council has made, so why the delay on this matter. Does it require the matter to be referred to the fifteen councillors on the Council’s Coordinating Committee to agree things like “the exact numbers” of independent members on the Audit and Risk Management Committee? If the intention is a majority of independent members that can outvote the councillors you merely have one more independent member than councillors and remove the casting vote of the Chair?

Where is the Leader’s “proposal for consideration by Councillors alongside the review of the Constitution” and why isn’t it included in the agenda of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee’s meeting of the 6th January? Why delay implementation of this until after the elections in May? Surely if it’s a “demonstration of openness” this could (as was indicated in the Improvement Board review report) be included in part of the January constitutional review and these changes to the constitution agreed at the Council meeting in either February or March?

At least then when the Improvement Board returned to check on progress in March (although the independent members wouldn’t have been recruited yet) the constitutional change to the Audit and Risk Management Committee could be pointed to as evidence that Wirral Council has actually implemented one of the Improvement Board’s recommendations?

If a simple recommendation to have a majority of the Audit and Risk Management Committee made up of independent people has to go to a meeting of the Coordinating Committee to be agreed in principle (November 2013), the Audit and Risk Management Committee to agree its recommendations (November 2013), then the Coordinating Committee (again to agree the details), then the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (to recommend the constitutional changes to Council), then full Council (to agree the constitutional changes), is it any wonder that the Anna Klonowski Associates report referred to the “bureaucratic machinations” of Wirral Council (which seem to still be alive and kicking) and that the Wirral public (as expressed at the public meeting of the Improvement Board in November) are sceptical that there is a political will to change Wirral Council in the direction of more openness in what most people would consider a reasonable timescale?

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Cllr Steve Foulkes “by and large the message was we got ourselves into a dark place and we needed to get out of it”

Cllr Steve Foulkes “by and large the message was we got ourselves into a dark place and we needed to get out of it” | A report on the Wirral Council/LGA Improvement Board review consultation item discussed by Wirral Council’s Coordinating Committee on the 13th November 2013

Cllr Steve Foulkes “by and large the message was we got ourselves into a dark place and we needed to get out of it”

                            

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The Coordinating Committee meeting was just so councillors could discuss one agenda item, the Wirral Improvement Board review, which is currently out (at least at the time of writing) for a rather short eleven day consultation ending on Friday 15th November.

Part one of the meeting (which you can view above) contained a rather long Powerpoint presentation from the Head of Policy and Performance/Director of Public Health (Fiona Johnstone). As usual though the more interesting comments were made by councillors and the first of those to comment was former Leader of the Council Cllr Steve Foulkes (which starts at 17:33 in the first video clip above).

He said, “Chair, I mean clearly the Council had found itself in difficult times with a number of highly critical reports. I have no intention of going back to the origin of those reports and the issues around them but needless to say it did certainly undermine confidence of the public in the Council to the degree where it felt necessary that we wanted to move and incorporate outside help and I got lots of things wrong in my position as Leader but one of the things we did get right was actually open ourselves up and suggest the sector led approach improving on what we’ve established. So I think we did the right thing at a very difficult time we felt.

We, under any circumstances a report of this nature and its independence so the people who were writing this report aren’t our people, there’s three political mentors who were signed up to the outcome of this report. If we took seriously and we did, the fact that say the Klonowski report, obviously independent was a significant issue then where reports praise us and they are also written independently then rightly we should give the praise equal value against the criticism because the fact is that’s an independent report. This isn’t us saying this about ourselves, these are people who work for us and see the change and you know from Chief Exec down to a number of officers it’s fairly unrecognisable the structure of the Authority from whence we started. So we have been able to make those changes.

I think we have made improvements to a point where we could run, be on our own and they’re saying that, so that’s to be welcomed. The one issue that is in the report that I think you I know slightly mentioned about audit and the audit committee. Certainly I know through working with Jim as Chair and the other Members who are represented on audit, we did make vast improvements to the way the audit committee functioned and its job. However this issue of independence I think alongside the world we’ve got where there are a number of independent views because we are cynical of politicians in general in the Wirral and so I think that the audit committee with an independent majority certainly should have more credibility on an ongoing basis Chair I think that’s true.

The thing is we’re by no means where we would like to be. We’ve also had an ambition to be you know a journey to excellence or whatever type of authority you want to be or an excellent Council and underneath we’re not. I think you said Fiona we’re not there. We don’t expect to be perfect and any large organisation will always make errors and we shouldn’t be castigated for a single error and that’s the way it always is because you know errors will happen in whatever work, walk of life you’re in. Mistakes do happen.

It’s how you react to those mistakes, it’s what you do about them and what the overall point of this is. At the same time making this journey against the most difficult financial background that I think anybody’s ever seen in their lifetime. It’s never been easy on local authorities, but the level of savings we’re being asked to make are of such a magnitude, it can’t be easy to this improvement, trying to do an improvement job at the same time as these other things.

So I welcome in general, I welcome the report. It’s a job half done, but half done we shouldn’t be complacent and we should try to move on. You know we’ve all had to do a little bit of sort of inward reflection. Are we doing our best as individuals, each one of us around the table and the lead officers as well and to agree with members of the public engaging in the debate. We’re doing our bit, we changed something that we do to make this Council better.

Certainly I know numbers of Members have engaged in training, taking those roles on, we’re certainly working hard on scrutiny as Alan over there will testify. I think we do need to take on board a review of scrutiny committees in the new year.

Comments that are in the report and those particularly those around health and social care scrutiny committee that’s had you know quite a number of comments made. We need to do that whether that means we supplement it by members of other committees, we need to be open-minded, imaginative in the way we approach it. So if someone throws a problem at us then we need to work together to deal with that.

There have been various levels of engagement with various Members but I think you know credit to the three party leaders who have sat in a room together on numerous occasions throughout this journey and tried and have generally seem to have been able to work together, it’s a comment made within the report.

So I think all in all if we accept the critical reports of an independent nature and basically say we take them verbatim because to do otherwise would be stupid and people would say you’re trying to hide or you’re trying to alter it. I don’t agree with every single word in the summary but by and large the message was we got ourselves into a dark place and we needed to get out of it.

I think likewise we should recognise that this is you know a journey of improvement that’s been undertaken, it’s been recognised by others outside the Council. We should be thankful for it and thank those who are part of it. As the presentation has gone on I’ve put a number of words together. I’ll see if it finds favour, it’s not particularly controversial but I think we need to accept where we are, never mind the fact that we can always improve and we shouldn’t forget those mistakes from the past and rectify those mistakes from the past as soon as we can, we just need to recognise that.

It’s been a difficult period and this is a good report, a good independent report. We should take it for what it is and use it as an encouragement, a bread and butter role in the process for Members, members of staff, Chief Officers, members of you know for every single employee we should say thanks for being involved in this. We are moving in the right direction. That’s just my take on it, you may disagree.”

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