Council (Wirral Council) 2nd December 2013 Council debates the Corporate Plan

Council (Wirral Council) 2nd December 2013 Council debates the Corporate Plan

Council (Wirral Council) 2nd December 2013 Council debates the Corporate Plan

                       

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The Mayor welcomed people to the meeting and asked for any declarations of interest. No declarations of interest were made.

Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Hodson, Sykes, Meaden, Dodd, Elderton and Muspratt.

The Mayor thanked Cllr Jim Crabtree for inviting him to the North West in Bloom awards ceremony in Southport which he had attended. He referred to the “beautiful award” to Bidston Village Green, who had been awarded both a silver medal award and had won the Best Small Village category.

He referred to the recent Youth Parliament as “one of the best that we’ve had in the years that we’ve been running those” and thanked the councillors, officers and young people who had taken part for their support.

The Mayor thanked Cllr Mike Sullivan for raising £600 for one of the Mayor’s charities by running a marathon.

He referred to various visits that he and the Deputy Mayor had made and made specific mention of a visit to Pilgrim Street Arts Centre and referred to the “brilliant music by lots of youth from the Wirral”. The Mayor wanted to put on record what a fantastic evening both he and the Mayoress had.

Moving to item three (matters requiring approval by the Council) he asked Council to consider the Corporate Plan 2014-16, which had been considered and referred to Council by Cabinet earlier that afternoon together with the feedback from councillors, Cabinet report and proposed amendments.

Cllr Jeff Green moved an amendment which was seconded by Cllr Lesley Rennie which is included below.

“Council notes the sentiments expressed in the proposed Corporate Plan 2014-2016, which it believes to be so bland as to be bordering on banal. Given the use of meaningless management jargon and this Administration’s tendency to talk to itself instead of the Wirral public it is not surprising that the proposed plan is bereft of any opportunity for Officers or Councillors to be held to account for its delivery by the public.

Council believes that any plan should have specific measures of success and is therefore disappointed but not surprised that they are missing from the Corporate Plan proposed this evening. Instead we are supposed to accept vague promises that ‘A coherent set of performance measures and targets are being developed to ensure priorities are achieved over the two year period covered by this plan’.

Council further believes that if the Administration truly want this Corporate Plan to be a blueprint for the Council’s improvement, they need to be open and honest with Wirral residents about which specific measures they are working towards before embarking on any ‘expedition’ with their money.

Council therefore defers adoption of the Corporate Plan 2014 – 2016 in its current form until a ‘coherent set of performance measures’ have been developed and discussed with elected Members for inclusion within the Corporate Plan. Council believes this approach will provide the public the opportunity of open and honest appraisal with the prospect of measuring true performance thus holding any administration to account”.

Cllr Phil Davies said, “I think it’s a shame that the Conservatives didn’t raise this last Wednesday at the all Members’ seminar. Nevertheless I would formally request given that we have a lengthy amendment that we ask for a ten minute adjournment.”

The Mayor agreed to a ten-minute adjournment.

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After the adjournment the Mayor invited Cllr Phil Davies to move accepting the Corporate Plan. Cllr Phil Davies rose to move accepting the Corporate Plan, together with the amendments.

He said, “Clearly this a plan that sets a long-term vision for the Council around those three key priorities of protecting vulnerable people and communities, attracting new investment for businesses and addressing the inequalities within the Borough. I’d particularly like to highlight the agenda around tackling those inequalities which you know we’ve discussed on many occasions in this Council Chamber and in our scrutiny committees, but for me we really need to redouble our efforts on this agenda around narrowing the gap over the next twelve months and beyond.

We clearly do have, as the plan sets out, tremendous opportunities around particularly the economic agenda with the investment with business next year, the return of the Open and the International Trade Centre coming on stream. We’re also beginning to punch above our weight in the City Region and I believe that the Combined Authority does give us the opportunity to grow our economy.

I think the fairness agenda I highlighted in the forward has been particularly important. I was very proud that last year this Council became a living wage Council and I extend this to our contractors, our suppliers and ultimately to private sector employers so Wirral becomes a living wage Borough. That’s a key priority for me.

Mr Mayor, last Friday we took a major step on our improvement journey when the Improvement Board agreed to move away from continuous oversight of our work as they believed that we now have the capacity to continue our own improvement and it’s really satisfying that the pace of improvement of Wirral Council has been the fastest in the country when compared to other local authorities in similar situations and I would just like to take this opportunity of thanking all our staff and elected Members who have been critical to the landmark decision last Friday.

I would like to say and I’ll address the amendment that Jeff Green has tabled in these comments. You know I think we’ve tried to change the culture of this place by offering more opportunities for elected Members to contribute to any debates like where the Council’s going. We’ve had a number of visioning events over the last twelve months and I was really keen that rather than just turn up tonight and table the Corporate Plan, we actually had an event where all elected Members could come along and contribute to the debate around the Corporate Plan. We had that meeting last Wednesday and I have to say you know I’m very disappointed that the group opposite come to the meeting tonight with an amendment, when they had ample opportunity to attend the Members’ seminar last Wednesday and I pay tribute to councillors Elderton and Clements who were the only two members from the group opposite that came along but at no point in the evening were these points to my recollection made and I think it’s a shame that somebody in the leadership of the Group opposite didn’t have the courtesy to come along and contribute to that debate and I really do think that’s a shame but really in addressing directly the amendment, there’s no way we could possibly support this amendment.

You know I think it’s been well accepted and recognised now that a Corporate Plan is the high level statement of the vision we want to move towards, our key corporate priorities and indications of what key actions we’re going to take over the next twelve months to achieve those high level priorities. The detail around performance measures and targets will appear once the Corporate Plan’s been agreed. If we’d have incorporated everything, we would have been discussed a kind of hundred and fifty, two hundred page document tonight and you know much more sensible to agree the overall direction of the Authority and then have a more detailed report to Cabinet and that that would be debated as well by the policy and performance committees which actually fleshes out these priorities which we are discussing tonight.

So frankly Mr Mayor, I think this a rather pathetic amendment I have to say with the great respect to the party opposite. It’s a shame that they don’t take advantage of the opportunities to engage, you know there’s an old saying ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’ . I honestly believe that we have tried to change the culture of this place, I will continue as Leader to go on providing opportunities for all parties to contribute to debates about where this Council’s going. It’s just sad, very sad in my view that the opposition party for whatever reason they may have are choosing not to engage and I think that’s very sad for democracy in this Council Chamber frankly Mr Mayor.

So, we won’t be supporting the amendment and I will move the Corporate Plan as tabled with the amendments as included in the supplementary report which Cabinet agreed this afternoon and I’ve taken on board Cllr Gilchrist’s additional amendments which he was kind enough to give me advance notice of this morning, so I so move Mr. Mayor.”

Cllr Phil Davies’ motion was seconded by Cllr Ann McLachlan.

Cllr Jeff Green responded as follows, “Thank you Mr. Mayor and I think in starting, I know Phil seems to have this idea that a plan should be a, seems to be saying should be a sort of high level thing that outlines a series of a direction of travel. Well in my mind a plan is something that clearly says what you’re going to do, why you want to do it and the actions you’re going to take to carry that through and to allow councillors and public whose money it is you’re spending to actually measure you or measure any administration whether it’s yours, ours or anyone else’s on whether you’ve been successful against those measures or not and the measures of success and measures of achievement are absolutely key to the plan.

Just to say we’re going ahead with a wish list of things we’re going to do and we’ll full in the detail of what that means to people later on, I’m afraid Phil simply doesn’t do it and I think maybe I think Phil has been spending too much time with officers because actually looking at this particular document it is full of management speak, you know stating the blindingly obvious, but certainly not accessible to people who you should be serving, ie not officers but the Wirral residents in terms of what it is you’re going to do.

Again, simply saying you’re going to ‘remodel early intervention and prevention services to ensure we manage demand efficiently and community based care effectively e.g. developing services, early help services’, well what exactly is that supposed to mean? What exactly are we doing tonight on voting on a sentence like that?

Why not just be absolutely clear as we did in previous plans that what we want to do is focus on some pretty key things such as protecting children, such as supporting and protecting frontline services and ensuring no part of Wirral is ignored? Mr Mayor it seems to me that there are certain key things that one could put into a document like this and it is very glossy and a lot of work’s gone on and no doubt a lot of money has been spent putting it together but there are certain key things we could have put in very straightforward measures as to their effectiveness.

Well this particular document I’m afraid is absolutely devoid of any specific measures of success. One, as I say in my amendment vague promises and lacking in a coherent set of performance measures and targets.

Mr. Mayor, the other thing I think we should all please remember is that this is the public’s money that is being spent in terms of these objectives and lists of things, wish lists that are included in this document and I think it would be well for the administration to actually understand that as they seem to think somehow that this is their money that they can spend however they see fit without really explaining to the public whether that money has been properly spent or not.

Mr Mayor, I believe that Council has to show itself in some fairly basic areas. It needs to show that that it can collect rubbish, it can clean streets, it can grit roads, it can people are entitled to safe streets with properly lit and so on to show there are certain things that the public expect the Council to provide and if you can’t do the simple things and the basic things correctly, I don’t believe that the public will have confidence that you can do complicated items or stitch together a set of performance criteria around these sets of issues you actually have in this particular document.

Mr Mayor, fundamentally I’ve a problem with this particular plan and I think it’s fair to say those views were made clear because we did take the opportunity to add onto the work which the Chief Executive to have a rethink and to discuss detail, some of it might be news to you Phil, but it won’t be news to the Chief Executive in terms of some of the things we’ve said we believe we should see in that is a plan must have measures of success.

It is for you know we’ll develop this, we’ll extend that, we might maximise the other thing, but what exactly do those things mean? Where is the detail? Mr Mayor, where is the beef because at the moment these are a set of well meaning words, none of which are particularly exceptional or not to be expected in all these documents.

The only sadness for me is, along with some of these words we don’t know what success looks like and it certainly hasn’t been identified by the administration. Mr. Mayor, as I say we note what it is that’s been done but actually I believe that it should be referred back so that we can all see what is actually proposed because it will only be when the measures are put in alongside some of these outputs we will know exactly what it is that the Council is driving at.

I know Phil likes to look back at previous sets of Cabinet minutes and so on, and I’m sure he will give credit to the previous administration which set the Council on its path for a living wage actually put the resources into the Budget to make that happen so I’m sure he will take that opportunity.

I’ll also hope he’ll take the opportunity as well to welcome Councillor Matthew Patrick to Council, as I understand it this is the first Council that he will have attended and congratulate him as I do on what was an excellent result and well fought out and I’m particularly pleased that the Conservatives increased our share of the vote but I also am prepared to, … and even if your Leader won’t welcome you for your contribution Matthew I certainly welcome you to the Council.”

13:33

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

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

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

                                  

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

6. Leader’s, Executive Members’ and Policy and Performance Committee Chairs Reports 15:13

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 question.”

Continues at Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Questions to the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care (Cllr Chris Jones).

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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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