Wirral Council in numbers: 3 senior managers leaving, 2 buildings fall down and 2 public meetings cancelled

Wirral Council in numbers: 3 senior managers leaving, 2 buildings fall down and 2 public meetings cancelled

Wirral Council in numbers: 3 senior managers leaving, 2 buildings fall down and 2 public meetings cancelled

                                                    

Employment and Appointments Committee 27th October 2014 Committee Room 2 L to R Cllr Gilchrist Lib Dem, Chris Hyams Head of HR, Cllr Adrian Jones Labour Chair, Andrew Mossop Committee Services and Graham Burgess outgoing Chief Executive
Employment and Appointments Committee 27th October 2014 Committee Room 2 L to R Cllr Gilchrist Lib Dem, Chris Hyams Head of HR, Cllr Adrian Jones Labour Chair, Andrew Mossop Committee Services and Graham Burgess outgoing Chief Executive

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You can watch the meeting of the Employment and Appointments Committee of 27th October 2014 above at which the Employment and Appointment Panels referred to below were created.

As there is so much happening at Wirral Council now, I thought it was best to write a general piece about a few different topics at Wirral Council.

The public meeting of the Coordinating Committee last week which met to decide a call in of the decision to consult on closure of Children’s Centres was unexpectedly brought to a halt and adjourned (without yet reaching a decision or hearing all witnesses) as the Wallasey Town Hall was evacuated due to the collapse of two Council-owned buildings in nearby King Street.

This story has been widely covered by the media. The main road outside where the building collapsed was closed that evening (but has since been reopened). As I was nearby that evening, I can say that there was a large emergency services response (Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and North West Ambulance Service) and also organisations such as National Grid responded to cut off the gas supply.

As Wirral Council owned the properties that fell down, questions were asked by politicians and the press as to why the buildings fell down. However I will leave that story for now and move to other matters.

Two public meetings that should have happened in the next week at Wirral Council have been cancelled. These are:

19th November 2014 5.30pm Licensing Act 2003 Committee, Committee Room 1, Wallasey Town Hall (contact: Anne Beauchamp | Chair: Cllr Bill Davies (Labour)
24th November 2014 6.00pm Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee, Committee Room 1, Wallasey Town Hall (contact: Shirley Hudspeth | Chair: Cllr Bill Davies (Labour))

Presumably standards are now so high at Wirral Council that there can be a budget saving achieved from councillors travel expenses, employee costs and the room hire for the cancelled Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee not meeting. The Licensing Act 2003 Committee’s remit is not unsurprisingly to do with the Licensing Act 2003 c.17. As everyone on Wirral knows, there are no problems whatsoever with pubs, clubs, off licences, late night refreshment or other related activities on the Wirral. Wait a sec, news just in. Seems there is a problem (according to residents). Here’s a question submitted by one of the Oxton residents to the Birkenhead Constituency Committee meeting of 30th October 2014:

Name: Alfred Lennon (Oxton Village People)
Date Received: 23rd October 2014
Query: Wirral has a problem with alcohol as detailed it its Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and requiring the recent police crackdown. Yet the Authority persists in licensing ever more premises with ever longer drinking hours. Why cannot the Authority be brave, reduce the number of licensed premises AND reduce their opening hours?

Response from Wirral Council Licensing Section:

The Licensing Application Process

When a Licensing Authority received an application for a new premises licence or an application to vary an existing premises licence, it must determine whether the application has been made in accordance with section 17 of the Licensing Act 2003 (the Act), and in accordance with regulations made under sections 17(3) to (6), 34, 42, 65 and 55 of the Act. This means that the Licensing Authority must consider among other things whether the application has been properly advertised. These requirements are different to those connected to the Planning process.

Under the licensing regime an applicant is required to display a blue notice on the premises and publish a notice in a local newspaper providing details of the application. The applicant must also serve the application on the Responsible Authorities which are: the Police, the Fire Authority, Trading Standards, Environmental Health, Planning, the Area Child Protection Board, the Licensing Authority and Public Health who are all entitled to make representations. In addition to this, the Council published details of all application on the Council’s website and circulates these details to all Councillors. Representations can also be made by any person, which can include residents and businesses whom may be affected by a premises.

The Licensing Authority may only accept relevant representations. A representation is “relevant” if it relates to the likely effect of the grant of the licence on the promotion of at least one of the four licensing objectives. In other words, representations should relate to how the licensable activities carried on from premises impact on the objectives. For representations in relations to variations to be relevant, they should be confined to the subject matter of the variation.

Four Licensing Objectives:

  • The Protection of Children from Harm
  • The Prevention of Crime and Disorder
  • The Prevention of Public Nuisance
  • Public Safety

Wirral Council’s question then goes on for a further A4 side on Cumulative Impact. Just commenting on their answer for a moment to this point from what I remember of current policy (I may be a little rusty so don’t rely on this), as a general rule (*which depends on the circumstances of the application) if there are objections to a new premises licence or application to vary a premises licence it gets decided at a public meeting of the Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee by 3 councillors.

A certain amount of other applications don’t get this scrutiny and are either decided by officers (based on a policy agreed by councillors). What’s left out of the answer is that anyone can request a licence review (if you have the time, paper and postage to do this) which results in an existing licence being reviewed.

This doesn’t happen very often (rarely is what I’d say) as either most people don’t know they can do this, or don’t want to or they don’t know how. I doubt it would be in Wirral Council’s financial interests to tell people how as it would lead to more public meetings of the Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee and then they’d have to put up the fees charged to those running premises as it costs Wirral Council £thousands (room hire, councillors travel expenses, employee time, website running costs, printing of agenda/reports, postage et cetera) each time they hold a public meeting.

However moving on from employee time to an employee leaving. On 31st December 2014 Graham Burgess (the Chief Executive leaves). There isn’t time to appoint a new Chief Executive to start on 1st January 2015 as the post hasn’t even been advertised yet.

The Chief Executive is also Wirral Council’s Head of Paid Service, Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer.

So before a new Chief Executive is appointed who will fill these important roles (the latter two especially important because there is an election for Wirral’s 4 MPs and 22 councillors in May 2015). The Head of Paid Service, Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer role are all ones Wirral Council is under a legal obligation to have someone in post for. However the decisions have to be made by Council (a meeting of Wirral Council’s councillors) before 31st December 2014.

In addition to Graham Burgess leaving on the 31st December 2014, so is Vivienne Quayle (currently Director of Resources and s.151 officer).

So these are the interim management arrangements currently down to be discussed which will then (assuming the Employment and Appointments Panel approve them) be a recommendation to Council which meets on the 8th December 2014 (this report has a typographical error and states 8th December 2015 by mistake) to decide on an Acting Chief Executive and Acting Head of Paid Service.

Also Council on the 8th December 2015 will need to appoint a Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer.

These are the following recommendations (subject to Employment and Appointments Panel agreement and Council agreement on the 8th December 2014):

Returning Officer: Surjit Tour (Head of Legal and Member Services)
Deputy Returning Officer: Joe Blott (Strategic Director of Transformation and Resources)
Acting Electoral Registration Officer: Surjit Tour (Head of Legal and Member Services)
Acting Deputy Electoral Registration Officer: Joe Blott (Strategic Director of Transformation and Resources)
Acting Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service: recommendation to be made by appointment panel on 24th November 2014 to Council meeting on the 8th December 2014

Due to Vivienne Quayle leaving, these are the proposed interim management arrangements recommended to the Employment and Appointments Panel who then have a choice whether to recommend these to Council regarding Ms Quayle leaving:

Acting Section 151 Officer: Tom Sault (Head of Financial Services) regraded from HS2 (now not the proposed railway but a salary grade at Wirral Council) to HS1 for interim period
Acting Deputy Section 151 Officer: Jenny Spick (Finance Manager)
Acting Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO) (recommendation to Council): Mike Zammit (Chief Information Officer)
Audit function and Procurement function (functional responsibility in Resources division): Tom Sault

There is also a third member of the senior management team leaving too, but arrangements won’t be decided on that until a meeting on the 10th December 2014. That person leaving is Emma Taylor (Head of Specialist Services) in the Families and Wellbeing Directorate. Emma Taylor leaves in December 2014 and the responsibilities of the Head of Specialist Services post are children’s social work, fostering, adoption and children in care.

Helping Wirral Council with the above are Penna PLC (for which they are being paid £15,000 for each post so £45,000 in total) and the Local Government Association.

The seven councillors who will be making the above recommendations to Council in the near future are the seven on the Employment and Appointments Panel who are:

Cllr Phil Davies (Labour)
Cllr Ann McLachlan (Labour)
Cllr George Davies (Labour)
Cllr Adrian Jones (Labour)
Cllr Jeff Green (Conservative)
Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative)
Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Lib Dem)

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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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