Leonora Brace obituary: Beloved paramedic, campaigner & journalist

Leonora Brace obituary: Beloved paramedic, campaigner & journalist

Leonora Brace obituary: Beloved paramedic, campaigner & journalist


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Leonora talks to camera about a local flytipping hotspot

Leonora Brace (Challis Street, Bidston) campaigning against flytipping
Leonora Brace (Challis Street, Bidston) campaigning against flytipping

By John Brace (Editor)

Leonora Brace – Born – 1947
Died – 15th January 2022

First publication date: Sunday 16th January 2022, 16:20 (GMT).

Mrs Leonora Brace who died aged 74 on the Wirral was the youngest of many sisters. She grew up in a very rural part of Canada to a British mother and First Nation father & was always proud of her First Nation culture, language and roots. She was bilingual (her other main language (although not her mother tongue) was Canadian English) with a basic grasp of other languages too.

She had emigrated to the United Kingdom (UK) as a teenager and worked in the UK a variety of different healthcare roles, first as a carer (when she caught tuberculosis), then later she qualified as a paramedic (taking her paramedic exams on audio tape rather than in writing due to her dyslexia) followed by a long career as a paramedic.
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Isn’t it time the barriers in local government were removed for disabled people?

Isn’t it time the barriers in local government were removed for disabled people?


Birkenhead North Railway Station Park and Ride
Birkenhead North Railway Station Park and Ride

Although the above is not a photo of the car park mentioned below, the photo is merely to illustrate that it’s about car parking

If anyone wonders if I still do casework, I do (just a lot less than I used to). The below is casework for Leonora (although I feel strongly about it myself). She’s my wife so I’ll declare an interest now. She’s also involved in this blog too. She’s given me permission to publish it as it may be of wider interest to readers of this blog. A few typographical errors in my original email (such as Arriva Train Wales to Arriva Trains Wales) have been corrected in the version below.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP is our MP here in Birkenhead, Justin Tomlinson MP is the Minister for Disabled People, the car park is in Cllr Dixon’s ward, the reason it’s going to the two Cabinet Members should be self-explanatory, although outside of the Merseytravel area, Merseyrail trains stop at Chester and Arriva Trains Wales run Chester station. I’ve no idea what the transport authority is for this region (do any readers know)?

So far I’ve received one reply back from the personal assistant to Cllr Samantha Dixon (she has a personal assistant as she’s Leader of Chester West and Chester Council) and a bilingual reply in English & Welsh from Arriva Trains Wales.

However it’s only been two days so far and Christmas will no doubt affect how long messages take to return.

Subject: casework (public transport/equality issues in the Chester area) REF: LB

Circulation list:

CC: “Rt Hon Frank Field MP (MP for Birkenhead)”
CC: “Justin Tomlinson MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Disabled People)”
CC: “Councillor Louise Gittins (Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Wellbeing (Chester West and Chester))”
CC: “Councillor David Armstrong (Cabinet Member for Legal and Finance (Chester West and Chester))”
CC: “Cllr Liam Robinson (Chair, Merseytravel)” CC: “Councillor Samantha Dixon (councillor for Chester City ward)”
CC: “Arriva Trains Wales”
BCC: Leonora Brace

Dear All,

I have been asked by my wife Leonora Brace to write to you on her behalf. If you wish to reply to her via post rather than email her address is Jenmaleo, 134 Boundary Road, Bidston, Wirral, CH43 7PH.

On the morning of Saturday 19th December 2015 we both visited the City of Chester.

To explain why we took the car I would like to make some general comments about Chester Railway Station first. We have tried travelling to Chester by train using our Merseytravel issued public transport passes, but unfortunately she cannot go through the ticket barrier as she has a walking stick and she has to use the side barrier. As the side barrier is for passengers travelling in both directions, sadly she has suffered many accidents in the past (for instance wheeled suitcases going over her foot from passengers coming the other way) causing her injuries.

So to avoid these safety issues, this is why I suggested we travel to Chester by car.

We used to travel to Chester using the Park and Ride outside of the City, but the Park and Ride bus driver stopped accepting our Merseytravel passes, so we stopped using the Park and Ride.

However, hopefully the above explains why despite our best efforts, problems with the public transport system in the Chester area meant in my view travelling by car on Saturday morning was the only reasonable option.

I had better point out at this stage that Leonora is issued with a Blue Badge by Wirral Council and as you can guess from the above comments has limited mobility.

I might point out that although the Blue Badge Scheme is administered locally by local councils, it is an international scheme, following legislation that applies throughout England therefore there is supposed to be some consistency across different areas.

We travelled to the Chester West and Chester car park on New Crane Street opposite Chester Racecourse.

On previous visits, she has just driven into the car park, displayed her Blue Badge and clock and there have been no problems.

This time however a barrier had been erected at the entrance to the car park.

From the passenger side the writing on the machine by the barrier was too far away to read and indeed Leonora tells me that it was impossible for her to read even on the driver’s side.

So I got out of the car, walked round to the machine and tried to understand the instructions. Despite having a university-level education I didn’t see anything referring to Blue Badge users, but there were instructions to press the intercom for assistance which I did.

I explained to the disembodied voice what the problem was and explained that we had a Blue Badge.

The disembodied voice asked if the Blue Badge had been issued by Chester West and Chester Council. Obviously as we don’t live in Chester West and Chester Council’s area, it was not and was issued by neighbouring Wirral Council.

The voice then said that if our Blue Badge wasn’t issued by Chester West and Chester Council then we couldn’t park there! I was amazed at how parochial this was! After all people with Blue Badges issued by Chester West and Chester Council are welcome to park in any Wirral Council car park! It didn’t seem fair.

I then had to explain what the disembodied voice had said to my wife (who hadn’t heard what he said due to hearing difficulties).

I asked the disembodied voice if there were car parks we could use our Blue Badge in, he said the nearest one was Frodsham Street and gave long and complicated directions.

Eventually we parked in one of the the disabled spaces at the car at the junction of Grosvenor Road/Castle Drive on the other side of Chester Racecourse. Despite my wife driving for a living as a paramedic the spaces there are badly designed and very difficult to get in and out of. Exiting such spaces you then have to go the wrong way round a one-way system, in our case delaying a coach entering the car park (otherwise we’re back to the barrier problem I mentioned earlier).

I might point out that this car park is so far away from the City Centre that we ended up not spending any money in Chester’s shops (the shops that financially support Chester West and Chester Council’s running of the cark parks through business rates).

I fully appreciate the need to combat climate change and if it wasn’t for the problems I outlined earlier I would happily travel to Chester by public transport without the need for having to interact with its arcane bureacracy.

I hope this was a one-off and a mistake and would like to say how much my wife and I enjoy our visits to Chester, however the following questions arise that I would appreciate a formal response to them.

1. Were we incorrectly informed about whether those with Blue Badges issued to those who live outside the Chester and West Council area can park in the New Crane Street car park opposite Chester racecourse and if so what are the arrangements for getting through the barrier? If a mistake was made will you apologise to Leonora?

2. Are you actively trying to deter people from doing travelling to Chester and spending money there? I noticed on previous visits the car parks were nearly full, however since the barriers have been put up they’re nearly empty. Is this part of Chester’s efforts to combat climate change and encourage greater use of public transport?

3. Why doesn’t the Park and Ride bus accept the passes issued to the elderly or disabled that can be used on all other buses in England? Surely this would be an extra source of income, therefore reducing the need for any taxpayer subsidy (if that is the case) and improving the financial sustainability of the service?

4. Why the distinction between Blue Badges issued to residents in the Chester West and Chester Council area and Blue Badges issued to residents outside Chester? Doesn’t it make little sense that a Wirral issued blue badge will be accepted in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Guernsey, Iceland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland but apparently not Chester (which last time I checked was still part of the United Kingdom despite all the talk of an IN/OUT referendum)?

5. Bearing in mind my comments (and whereas I realise when it is busy a one-way system in in effect at Chester Railway Station), have you considered modifying the ticket barriers to have a side barrier on the left in addition to the one on the right? This would seem to reduce the chance of passengers colliding with each other.

6. Was there a consultation I missed on the car park changes? If so could you provide a link to the decision/report please about this?

7. There are a whole range of legal implications this raises (both national legislation and European level) and have these been properly thought through? I could probably write a further 2,000 words just on those alone.

Protected minorities being treated in this way has the potential to cause great upset (indeed that is why discrimination is unlawful) and there are times (as I’m sure we may not be the only people affected by these matters) that the public do not have the time, press and/or political connections or indeed understanding of this country’s politico-legal systems to make their voice heard. Before the above was implemented (such as the retrofitting of ticket barriers at Chester Railway Station and the barriers on the car parks) some thought should’ve been had as to the implications on society.

I look forward to reading your responses with interest. I sincerely hope that this was a one-off mistake caused by a misunderstanding, but look forward to reading your views and either proposals for changing the above problems or reasons why they cannot be changed.

Yours sincerely,

John Brace on behalf of Leonora Brace
and John Brace

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Why did Cllr Adrian “Father Christmas” Jones try to block scrutiny of £2.6 million given to Wirral Council to spend on the poor?

Why did Cllr Adrian “Father Christmas” Jones try to block scrutiny of £2.6 million given to Wirral Council to spend on the poor?


Leonora Brace and Councillor Adrian Jones in Birkenhead Christmas 2013
Leonora Brace and Councillor Adrian Jones in Birkenhead Christmas 2013

As you can see from the photo above (and let’s face it three days away from Christmas this is becoming topical), it’s well-known politician Cllr Adrian Jones dressed as Father Christmas and my wife Leonora Brace.

Yesterday (to my surprise), the Wirral Globe ran a story headlined Councillor scolds Wirral blogger over information requests about expenses. If you hadn’t guessed already, I’m the blogger (also described as online journalist) referred to in the article.

Now firstly, I’ve been taken back by all the positive comments people have left both to that article and on social media. It would probably take Christmas to respond to them all.

Firstly I will take this opportunity to wish Councillor Adrian Jones a happy Christmas. However this story isn’t really about him or myself. It’s a far more complicated saga than that. I’ve replied to a number of comments on social media to try and clarify some of it.

This story came about because of two other people who I am going to take the time to thank in this article (before I write any more about this subject).

Firstly, Heather Brooke (who indeed is somewhat of the inspiration behind the story). Heather Brooke wrote a book called Your Right to Know: a citizen’s guide to the Freedom of Information Act (available to read in Wirral Council’s libraries) and was the person that took to task the House of Commons/House of Lords over MPs’/Lords’ expenses (only to find herself scooped by a leak to the newspapers). She writes a blog here.

The second person I’d like to thank is Ted Jeory. He writes a blog here. His blog covers local politics in Tower Hamlets. He’s a former accountant, then newspaper journalist who now works for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

To be honest with you, in my opinion (although this is only an opinion) they are both far better at journalism than I am!

However back to the story (which isn’t just about Cllr Adrian Jones and myself but this is a good place to start). Before doing what we both do now, Cllr Adrian Jones and I came from the academic world (a somewhat different world to politics).

In the academic world, my question to Cllr Adrian Jones would be like the equivalent of an oral exam where I’ve challenged his more orthodox view of the political world. He’s then disagreed with me over some points and it’s all gone to peer review now and now everyones’ commenting on the merits of each sides’ arguments. Fine, fair enough, that much I can understand and yes there should be a public debate and discussion about politicians’ expenses beyond the walls of Wirral Council’s Council Chamber.

It makes more sense that instead of the Heather Brooke route of 5 years of court battles that it is much more cost-effective (as this is a worry of Cllr Adrian Jones’) to have this debate in the media instead.

The world of politics however is very different to the world of academia. Despite sharing some features in fact they’re like oil and water.

I am now going to sound terribly like an academic now and reference a tweet I wrote yesterday about the new Poor Laws (and by new I mean 1844).

The way I made the request to Wirral Council dates back to this legal right from Victorian times, but is still relevant today. It’s an important right that gives access to local voters (such as myself) on what public money is being spent on. I realise the Wirral Globe headline is about councillors’ expenses, however I will instead highlight another part of the request that probably won’t generate as many headlines in the newspapers. In fact on this topic I can only find one article written two years ago by the Wirral Globe.

I’m going to briefly mention an area that you may not have heard of, that Wirral Council was given a budget of £1,345,925 a year to spend on. It’s called the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme. The whole point of it (rather like the point of the Poor Laws) was to reduce poverty.

Wirral Council invoice Furniture Resource Centre
Wirral Council invoice Furniture Resource Centre

The thumbnail for this invoice will be hard to read (it does link to a higher resolution version), however it’s for a cooker, electric kettle and washing machine (total £778.20). This would have been given to someone who made an application under the scheme. The other invoices are for very similar items too such as microwaves. The whole point of it is to help people in need who are have emergencies. The scheme also covers basics such as food and utilities.

Admittedly there can be a lot of public debate over the best ways to help people and there is a detailed report on this on Wirral Council’s website and there are many party political aspects to this issue that I am trying very hard to avoid dwelling on

You may well say good for Wirral Council, isn’t it great that they spent £1.3 million a year on helping poor people? However this isn’t what happened. As estimated by one councillor at this meeting, Wirral Council so restricted (or didn’t publicise enough) what they were doing, that there was an estimated (this was cumulative so it was over two years) £2.1 million underspend of a £2.6 million budget.

Yes this was money given to Wirral Council for the relief of the poor, on which there was an estimated £2.1 million underspend. Bear in mind we often hear Wirral’s councillors repeat that they feel the government are not giving Wirral Council enough money!

By Cllr Adrian Jones’ logic (in answer to the request I put in), I should be restricted from enquiring and writing questions/requesting the invoices for the above matter because it costs too much (despite an estimated over £2 million underspend).

In doing so (oh dear, I’m about to make what could be construed as a party political point here so advance warning), it makes it far easier for the Conservative government to axe funding for this area (as indeed they have done so already). Why, because if Wirral Council blocks or delays press scrutiny of it, then there is little discussion of it in the media in defence of it.

Therefore national politicians think it can be cut as they look somewhat to the press as an indicator of public opinion.

I know his fellow Labour councillor Cllr Janette Williamson has spoken passionately in defence of her view that the underspend should be used for its intended purpose rather than swallowed up to be spent on something else by Wirral Council.

As it is Christmas, I’ll try and give some respite to Cllr Adrian Jones’ on the rather vexed issue of councillors’ expenses (which is the tip of massive iceberg of Wirral Council expenditure) and finish by making these points which because of the time of year probably fall into religion rather than politics.

I was brought up as a Catholic and part of those teachings are about seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. There are many good things that Wirral Council does, but if you block my queries it makes it more difficult for me to write about it. Personally, it doesn’t bother me too much if you try to block me, but it seems to be unpopular with the people that you are there to serve. To give the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme issue as outlined above, councillor scrutiny on it was done behind closed doors, not in public but as a task and finish group.

The story then sadly becomes about the secrecy (which let’s face it is the kind of story about cover ups the rest of the press like to write about). Frankly if you do this it’s very good for my career and bad for Wirral Council’s reputation (although you know this already). In three days time it will be Christmas (on the day I’m writing this). Christmas is a time of year when society concentrates on the religious and there is a break from politics.

I don’t expect politicians or those working in the public sector to be saints, but I sincerely hope they know the difference between right and wrong (and yes my view of right and wrong is probably slightly different to yours and everybody else’s as right and wrong is subjective).

Although you may not believe this, I don’t wish to quarrel with Wirral Council or its councillors, in fact believe me I try my best not to interfere in your internal affairs. I just see your world from outside the goldfish bowl that is local politics rather than inside. Happy Christmas!

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Public notice for proposed changes to parking on Birkenhead Market Service Road (deadline 26th September 2014)

Public notice for proposed changes to parking on Birkenhead Market Service Road (deadline 26th September 2014)

Public notice for proposed changes to parking on Birkenhead Market Service Road (deadline 26th September 2014)


In an update to yesterday’s story about the proposed changes to parking behind Birkenhead Market, here is the public notice about it published in the 3rd September 2014 edition of the Wirral Globe. I’d better declare again that my wife Leonora Brace regularly parks in the Birkenhead Market Service Road with her Blue Badge and is someone that will be affected by the proposed Traffic Regulation Order.

This the public notice about the proposed traffic regulation order about the Birkenhead Market Service Road published on page 61 of the Wirral Globe on the 3rd September 2014.

The tale which explains why they’ve had to re-advertise this Traffic Regulation Order (I’m sure the Wirral Globe doesn’t mind the extra money as it’s now been advertised twice) for the second time in the Wirral Globe is covered in this story from August 8th 2014.

One does wonder why they don’t make the plans available at the nearby Birkenhead One Stop Shop in Conway Street? Perhaps Wirral Council still have somewhat of a “beware of the leopard” mentality when it comes to people actually viewing the proposals!


Notice is hereby given that Wirral Borough Council in exercise of its powers intends to make the above order under Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 32, 35 and 84 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, and of all other enabling powers.

The general nature and effect of this order will be to amend the existing order Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, (Birkenhead Controlled Parking Zone) (Waiting, Loading & Parking Places) Order 2008 by prohibiting parking and loading along sections of Birkenhead Market Service Road and to allow loading and unloading for vehicles within designated bays. The effect of this order is to improve access for vehicles servicing the Market Hall and Grange Precinct.

A copy of this Notice, the proposed Order, map, the order proposed to be amended and a statement of the Council’s reasons for proposing to make the Order, may be seen during normal office hours at Cheshire Line Buildings, Canning Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 1ND and on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am to 5pm and Wednesday 10am to 5pm at the One Stop Shop, Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe CH44 8ED.

Any objections to the Order, together with the grounds on which they are made, must be sent in writing to the undersigned (quoting reference KO) by Friday 26 September 2014.

Unless otherwise stated, all Metropolitan Borough of Wirral Public Notices are published by Surjit Tour, Head of Legal and Member Services, Town Hall, Brighton Street, Wallasey, Merseyside CH44 8ED and all notices are dated this 3rd day of September 2014.

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The incredible story of the Gautby Road Play Area starring 1 press release, 1 padlock, 1 councillor and an MP

The incredible story of the Gautby Road Play area starring 1 press release, 1 padlock, 1 councillor and an MP

The incredible story of the Gautby Road Play Area starring 1 press release, 1 padlock, 1 councillor and an MP


Below is a picture of Gautby Road Play Area (owned by Wirral Council) in Bidston which is next to Gautby Road Community Centre taken on the 5th August at about two o’clock in the afternoon.

Gautby Road Play Area Bidston 5th August 2014
Gautby Road Play Area (5th August 2014)

Here is a photo of the sign (also taken the same day at around two o’clock) which is next to the only gate in and out of the Gautby Road Play Area.

Gautby Road Play Area Bidston 5th August 2014
Gautby Road Play Area sign

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed a padlock on the gate, a close up of which is below. So just to make it perfectly clear, yesterday when the photo was taken the only gate into the Gautby Road Play Area was padlocked. This is the reality of the situation.

Gautby Road Play Area padlock Bidston 5th August 2014
Gautby Road Play Area padlock

However the reality of the situation is not what Wirral Council put in a press release titled “Come and play all day!”. The press release is partly about National Play Day 2014 (which is today) but also states “Youth and Play Service also operate three full-time all year round play facilities located at Beechwood Play & Community centre, Leasowe Adventure Playground and Gautby Road, providing free play provision for children and young people aged from six to 14 years.”

At the last Birkenhead Constituency Committee held on the 24th July, my wife asked why the Gautby Road play area was being kept padlocked. Here’s a transcript of the bit of the meeting which you can also watch the video of starting here.

Leonora Brace
I’ve got two questions to ask.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP

Leonora Brace
I did ask Cllr Crabtree and [Cllr] Harry Smith about the children’s play area in Gautby Road, Bidston.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP

Leonora Brace
About it being locked all the time and two children nearly drowned in the lake at the back on the opposite side and he told me I had to ask when I came here.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP
Very good, instead of asking do you think we could actually have an answer for Mrs Brace and err can you do that?

Cllr Ann McLachlan (Cabinet Member for Governance, Commissioning and Improvement)
Chair, through you Chair. The Gautby Road Play Area which has recently just been refurbished actually, is only through the, it’s used predominantly by the Gautby Road Play and Community Centre and they kind of keep the keys and police it, but it is through the summer it’s open. The play centre’s open all through the day. So it is open.

Leonora Brace
No. Sorry it’s not. It’s locked, it’s padlocked!

Cllr Ann McLachlan (Cabinet Member for Governance, Commissioning and Improvement)
It is yes, but the play area is open all through the summer holidays. The play centre is open…

Leonora Brace
It’s the area outside where they go up and you know jumping up.

Cllr Ann McLachlan (Cabinet Member for Governance, Commissioning and Improvement)

Leonora Brace
That’s not open! I passed it again today, yesterday I passed it and it’s all padlocked!

Rt Hon Frank Field MP
Will councillors when they next pass…?

Cllr Ann McLachlan (Cabinet Member for Governance, Commissioning and Improvement)
I was down there signing some cheques for somebody yesterday and it was open! The play area was open and there were children playing there.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP
Will councillors who pass Gautby Road, would they please check?

Cllr Ann McLachlan (Cabinet Member for Governance, Commissioning and Improvement)
Well yes, it’s in my ward! Yes I will.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP
Very good.

Cllr Pat Williams responds to this story on Twitter:

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