VIDEO: A round-up of local Wirral and Merseyside politics by John Brace (part 1)

VIDEO: A round-up of local Wirral and Merseyside politics by John Brace (part 1)

VIDEO: A round-up of local Wirral and Merseyside politics by John Brace (part 1)


Screenshot from Youtube video of John Brace
Screenshot from Youtube video of John Brace

Below is a transcript of a video I’ve recorded about a range of local political matters. I’ve added some extra detail which I don’t say on the video in [] brackets and of course links to more detailed stories. I realised when I finished recording that I’d been talking for nearly eighteen minutes. It’s about a variety of local political issues.

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John Brace on local Wirral and Merseyside politics (part 1)

JOHN BRACE: Hello, I hope you can hear me clearly. I’m John Brace and I’m going to be filming a series of videos as due to the half term holidays next week, there’s a shortage of public meetings.

So, I thought I’d start off by looking at one of the bigger stories on my blog this week.

That was about what I said at a meeting of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority to the Chair Cllr Dave Hanratty and his response about councillors’ expenses.

I suppose I’d better briefly explain what the situation is regarding councillors’ expenses and allowances.

Councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority are entitled to claim expenses for instance for travel to public meetings and each year they’re supposed to publish a table detailing each councillors’ name and how much has been spent over the year in expenses for that particular councillor in various categories.

In fact that’s a legal requirement, a very basic level of transparency.

However unfortunately what Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service was doing was, where they received invoices directly rather than councillors claiming back expenses they’d incurred themselves, where trips were booked through Capita, train travel that kind of thing, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service were invoiced directly but this wasn’t appearing on the actual annual lists so that about £6,000 or so of expenses were being left off. So I have been pointing this out over the past few months.

There’s also the issue that councillors get paid allowances and on this National Insurance and presumably things like income tax were paid. Now those amounts weren’t included in the annually published lists either.

I did ask Councillor Hanratty earlier, I think it was the day before yesterday whether these amounts would be included in future, didn’t get an answer.

Asked a question about this at the Birkenhead Constituency Committee, told it was a matter for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service/Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.

I think they don’t want to give me answers on this, I think they hope I’ll just stop writing about it and move on to other things. After all I think there are far less councillors getting a taxi from home to the public meetings now since I started publishing what these expenses were for.

Anyway, another news story that’s seems to be popular on the blog is that Merseytravel’s Chief Executive David Brown is leaving. I think he’s leaving from some time next month to become Chief Executive of Transport for the North. Obviously that’ll be news for people that work at Merseytravel and I suppose you’re wondering what Transport for the North is!

Well it’s a new kind of regional body that’s been set up regarding transport matters and eventually it’ll become like Merseytravel is and the Combined Authority a statutory body. So I wish him luck in his new job and I think the Deputy Chief Executive Frank Rogers will be Acting Chief Executive until councillors decide on who the permanent Chief Executive should be, which should come to a future meeting in the future.

Anyway, another thing I’ve written about on the blog recently is to do with the whole Lyndale School closure matter. Now for those who have been following this story this is probably going to repeat what you already know, but Wirral Council officers said the reason the school had to close was that from 2016/17 which is the next academic year, that funding that they’d get for education from the government would be based on pupil numbers rather than place numbers.

Now at the moment I think there are about forty places at Lyndale School and about must be a dozen or so pupils. So basically they were saying that from next year, there would be a shortfall in Lyndale School’s budget.

But this hasn’t happened!

The Cabinet still decided to close the School, but the funding changes haven’t happened, Wirral Council will get the same funding as they did the previous year.

However despite them getting the same funding, they have actually made cuts from the SEN budget because there is flexibility at Wirral Council in that they can move money around within the education budget. They’ve still got to spend it on education, but they can move money around from say that allocated for teaching assistants for special educational needs to something else within that education budget and one of the things that’s been causing pressures on the budget is that they have a massive contract, I think it’s about half way through thirty years or something.

I’ve read through the contract and it’d take too long to go into here, but it’s a contract with Wirral Schools Services Limited for basically to rebuild a number of schools, but as well as the payments that relate to that there are also payments of millions a year I think that the schools have to pay this private company for services to do with the schools. For instance I think school meals is part of it, possibly cleaning and maintenance.

So the situation had been that Wirral Council was getting a grant from the government for some of this, but the contract meant that the costs were rising each year for PFI.

What was happening was, this money was being funded outside the education budget by Wirral Council. But then a political decision was made [by Wirral Council councillors] not to do this, which meant that a few million had to be cut out of the education budget elsewhere.

Hence why special educational needs got a cut, but again one of the other interesting twists and turns that came out in the Lyndale School saga is that the whole issue of whether the School should be closed or not seemed to arise around the time there was a revaluation of the land and buildings.

Off the top of my head I think the valuation was about £2.4 million [it was actually £2.6 million]. I’d better make it clear at this stage this is a what they call a technical, what’s it called, depreciated replacement cost value. It’s not a they send in an estate agent and they say how much would would we get for this and how much would we get for the school playing fields and so on?

No, it’s more they have to have on their asset list, a list of how much their assets are because obviously as a Council they have liabilities, they have to offset that with their assets.

But it’s a great shame what happened regarding Lyndale School, it’s not closed yet, it’ll close at the end of the academic year, but I think it could’ve been handled a lot better.

Obviously there’ve been recent revelations come out that the person that chaired the consultation meetings on the Lyndale School closure wasn’t in fact a Wirral Council employee, but is a what do you call it, a temp, a temporary worker because they couldn’t recruit somebody to the post [for £775+VAT/day].

He’s called Phil Ward and the problem was that, there was quite a bit of criticism levelled at him for the way he chaired the consultation meetings. Now obviously you can criticise anybody for chairing high profile consultation meetings. I’m sure there were criticisms of how Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority did their consultation meetings.

But moving back to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, the Saughall Massie issue, it was agreed by councillors on the Fire Authority to go ahead, they’ve agreed the four or so million pounds in the capital budget and a planning application has been submitted.

Now I’ve checked on Wirral Council’s website and I can’t see a planning application there yet but obviously they have to scan it in and put it on the website for consultation so people can make their comments and so on.

The other issue is there was a vote recently on whether Wirral Council should give the land or they may get something for it I don’t know, maybe they’ll give it to them, should give this land to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority for this new fire station in Saughall Massie.

Now, that was a five for, five against vote with one abstention so it got deferred to another meeting.

Now obviously it would be better if Wirral Council could make a decision reasonably quickly but I understand the point that councillors made at the meeting, that they felt they were only hearing one side of the argument and that they hadn’t got the information in front of them regarding the emails that had been released under Freedom of Information Act requests, they hadn’t heard the Fire and Rescue Service’s point of view because nobody had been invited along from the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and basically better decisions are made by politicians when they have the facts in front of them and they don’t like making decisions if they’re going to be made fools of later when it turns out there’s something they should’ve known or was in the public domain.

An example of that New Brighton car parking Fort Perch Rock fiasco. Now that went out to budget consultation, was agreed by Cabinet, was agreed by Council but what wasn’t known at the time was that Wirral Council had a lease for the Marine Point complex and that lease said that if Wirral Council introduced car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock, that they could be introduced in the car parking elsewhere there and Liverpool Echo journalist I think it was Liam Murphy got in touch with the company that runs the Marine Point complex and they said yes they’d have to introduce charges because obviously if Wirral Council had introduced charges at Fort Perch Rock car park then it would’ve displaced some parking to the free parking elsewhere, so then they’d feel they’d have to introduce charges themselves, but once these matters came out then there was a U-turn done on it and they decided they’ll make up the budget shortfall somewhere else.

But that goes back to my point about politicians having the information in front of them so they can make reasonably informed decisions. Now the reports that go before officers, sorry politicians whether that’s at Wirral Council, Liverpool City Council, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, Merseytravel and so on are written by officers. That is employees of the particular public body that the politicians are politicians for.

But there’s a question of, officers can have a particular point of view and make a recommendation and therefore ask the councillors to approve it, but officers aren’t actually going to know everything, but where do the public fit in all this?

Because of course in an ideal world, like for instance the Planning Committee yesterday where the public gets to speak for five minutes if they’ve got a qualifying petition. In an ideal world, if you were making a decision, say a major decision about a fire station being built, well that’s two decisions really, it’s a planning decision and whether Wirral Council give them the land. When you’re making a major decision like that, then not only should you have some sort of consultation with the public and by consultation I don’t mean publishing the papers for the meeting a week before, although that does give some advance warning so people can lobby the decision makers.

I’m talking about that people who are affected by the decision should have their say at a public meeting and I know there’ve been consultation meetings, that the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service have run and that’s fine. But what I’m saying is the ball’s now in Wirral Council’s court, there has to be the usual consultation on planning applications, but it’s a very emotive issue.

And I think basically if I can sum up the positions, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service have received a grant for some of the cost of this fire station and of course with the West Kirby and Upton fire stations being closed, they’ll receive something for the sale of those but basically they want to build it now in Saughall Massie because the site in Greasby has been withdrawn.

But the problem is that this is greenbelt land and there’s a lot of resistance from the residents regarding a fire station there.

Now in the not too distant past Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service did put in a planning application for a temporary fire station in Oxton while Birkenhead Fire Station was being rebuilt. I know that was later withdrawn but that caused a similar level of fuss and outrage and politicians saying they were against it and so on.

But the problem was that was only a temporary ~12 month arrangement, eventually they found some way round finding somewhere else. But the same issues that were brought up then, have been brought up regarding this Saughall Massie issue, you know the issues regarding sirens, traffic and so on but I think the elephant in the room really for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service is that a number of the fire stations they’ve got are part of the PFI scheme, so they can’t close those without massive penalties.

I mean I think Birkenhead Fire Station is one example of one of the fire stations they’ve got under this PFI scheme.

So there are fire stations they can’t shut, so that leaves if they want to make any budget savings, for instance through cutting jobs and merging fire stations, they’ve only got the ones that aren’t the PFI fire stations that they can choose from.

And that’s part of the reason why Upton and West Kirby got chosen.

But I think one of the things that has currently got the public going, is that after there was pressure put regarding the Greasby site, that the offer of Greasby where there’s a library and community centre there was withdrawn and people are asking why Wirral Council isn’t doing the same thing with Saughall Massie?

Well basically these are decisions yet to be determined, it’s a party political matter because three political parties involved in the last decision on this voted three different ways, but I can see a problem because firstly Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service can’t keep Upton and West Kirby open. They just don’t have the budget for the amount of firefighters that would take.

Now one alternative is, just keep Upton open, now the downside to this according to the Chief Fire Officer is that this would increase response times to the Hoylake and West Kirby area, so that’s why they want somewhere roughly in between the two stations.

However then people raised the issue of Upton’s close to Arrowe Park Hospital, so it’ll take longer to get to there so wherever you have a fire station there’ll be people that have a quick response time and people that have a slow response time.

But the fire engines aren’t always at the fire station all the time, I mean about half the time they’ll be called out on a job, well maybe a bit more than that, they’ll be out somewhere else and that can’t really be predicted where they’d be at, whether they’d be fitting a smoke alarm or something like that.

So there are a lot of issues to do with the Saughall Massie fire station and basically I’ll be reporting on it, but at the same time I think it’s interesting seeing both the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meetings and the Wirral Council meetings and how this issue has been dealt with at both of them.

Of course if the government hadn’t offered Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service a large grant to build a new fire station there, then I doubt this would’ve gone ahead, admittedly they could’ve borrowed the money or found the money from somewhere but I think that what’s interesting is I did make a FOI for the grant application that they made to DCLG, was told that this information would be published in the future so I couldn’t have it now and I’d have to wait till after the consultations were finished and by that they didn’t just mean the Upton and West Kirby consultations but they meant the other consultations because this grant is not just for a fire station at Saughall Massie, there are similar consultations and mergers and closures happening elsewhere across Merseyside.

So hopefully that will sum up things and I’ll point out that tonight at the Wallasey Constituency Committee, I won’t be there but I noticed because I read through the reports and the agenda, that the Motability, they have a little place in Birkenhead that hires out wheelchairs and things like that are looking to set up a place in New Brighton, so people can hire wheelchairs and that kind of thing.

So that’s a possibly positive move for New Brighton, because I know there’s been a lot of criticism at New Brighton and a large petition over the dropped car parking plans.

Anyway I’d better finish for now, but thanks for listening.

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What are the changes to funding for special schools for the 2016/17 academic year?

What are the changes to funding for special schools for the 2016/17 academic year?

What are the changes to funding for special schools for the 2016/17 academic year?


Phil Ward (SEN Lead) who chaired the Lyndale School consultation meetings
Phil Ward (SEN Lead) who chaired the Lyndale School consultation meetings

A report that went to last night’s Wirral Schools Forum about funding for special schools makes for interesting reading. The report’s based on the operational guide (schools revenue funding 2016 to 2017) published in July 2015.

Those with long memories will remember that the reason given for closing Lyndale School by Wirral Council officers was that funding for special schools would change starting in the 2016-17 academic year. Officers confidently stated that instead of funding being based on place numbers it would instead be based on how many pupils were at a school. In their view this meant that Lyndale School not being financially viable as the large (and increasing) difference between pupils and places at Lyndale School would result in a shortfall in funding.

A report to yesterday’s Wirral Schools Forum states (EFA stands for Education Funding Agency) “In respect of High Needs Funding (funding for special schools, bases, non-maintained special schools, independent special schools, alternative provision, EMAP and the Hospital School) the EFA have indicated the allocation for place funding and other high needs funding will remain at the same level as 2015-16.

This was confirmed in the operational guide which states in a section on high needs funding starting on page 30, “The full year 2016 to 2017 allocation will therefore be based on the 2015 to 2016 academic year place numbers, and for the remainder of the high needs allocation there will be no change to what was allocated for 2015 to 2016.

More detailed reports about the changes for special schools funding were published in September.

Sadly this news arrives too late to make any difference to the Cabinet decision to close Lyndale School at the end of the 2015/16 academic year.

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16 Wirral Council invoices for temp senior managers (IT & SEN), other temps and catering

16 Wirral Council invoices for temp senior managers (IT & SEN), other temps and catering

16 Wirral Council invoices for temp senior managers (IT & SEN), other temps and catering


Below are sixteen invoices (among many) that I requested from Wirral Council during the short inspection period when local government electors can inspect and receive copies of contracts and invoices for the last financial year. Each thumbnail image links to a higher resolution copy of each invoice.

I made a trip on Friday afternoon to pick up copies and thought I would start with ones that relate to the recent story in the Wirral Globe Wirral Council freelance staff and consultants are costing taxpayers millions which follows on from my blog post in March Why has Wirral Council spent £6,003,273.07 on temporary staff over the past 10 months?. All except one of the invoices below are for agency staff.

Eleven of the sixteen invoices (various numbers below) are from Odgers Interim who describe themselves on their website as “a leading UK interim management recruitment firm”. These are for the services of an Interim Head of IT (the previous Head of IT took redundancy in March 2013 as the Head of IT post was deleted in a senior management restructure) and an Interim Strategic SEN Lead (the previous SEN Lead Paul Ashcroft left Wirral Council in December 2013, just before it was made public that Lyndale School could close).

The Interim Head of IT (bear in mind the Head of IT post was deleted in the 2012 management restructure to produce “savings”) provided by Odgers Interim cost Wirral Council a daily rate of £695+VAT/day according to the monthly invoices.

Phil Ward (SEN Lead) who chaired the Lyndale School consultation meetings
Phil Ward (SEN Lead) who chaired the Lyndale School consultation meetings

The Interim Strategic SEN Lead Phil Ward (see the photo) was also provided by Odgers Interim. He cost Wirral Council (surprisingly) more than the Interim Head of IT. Odgers Interim were charging Wirral Council £775+VAT/day for his services.

Four of the rest of the invoices (numbers 497-500) are also for agency staff. Invoices 497 to 499 are from Badenoch & Clark. Unfortunately I only have been given the first page of these two page invoices (presumably the second missing pages are timesheets). Each of the Badenoch & Clark ones are marked “STRICTLY PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL” . I presume that the rates (£348.10, £345 and £348.10) are daily rates, so these invoices are just for short-term cover mainly for a week, but the last invoice is for three and a half days.

There is also a CIPFA (invoice numbered 500) (Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy) invoice for 19 days of interim cover at £710 a day for an “associate” (total including VAT £16,188).

Finally invoice 889 is for £1,303.25 + VAT (total £1,563.90) is from Carringtons Catering Limited for the catering at the public meeting on the 2nd June 2014 at the Floral Pavilion. This was the meeting last year at which Cllr Steve Foulkes was made Mayor.

Having these long-term temporary arrangements has to be more expensive to Wirral Council than recruiting new people. I do realise that in the Wirral Globe article that Joe Blott explains that they’re had trouble recruiting to the SEN post. It also makes you wonder why in the first place in 2012 that the Head of IT post was deleted and whether the “savings” of that 2012 management restructure (slightly offset by the three new strategic directors posts) were achievable?

Wirral Council invoice 67 Odgers Interim March 2014 Interim Head of IT 19 days @ £695 + VAT £15846 thumbnail
Wirral Council invoice 67 Odgers Interim March 2014 Interim Head of IT 19 days @ £695 + VAT £15846 thumbnail

Continue reading “16 Wirral Council invoices for temp senior managers (IT & SEN), other temps and catering”

Wirral Council’s Cabinet to decide on one of 3 options for Lyndale: keep it open, close it or change it to an academy

Wirral Council’s Cabinet to decide on one of 3 options for Lyndale: keep it open, close it or change it to an academy

Wirral Council’s Cabinet to decide on one of 3 options for Lyndale: keep it open, close it or change it to an academy


Phil Ward (Wirral Council's SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014 (who chaired the consultation meeting at Acre Lane on the 16th June)

Phil Ward (Wirral Council’s SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014 (who chaired the consultation meeting at Acre Lane on the 16th June and is referred to in some of the consultation responses)

Well the papers for the special meeting of Wirral Council’s Cabinet to decide on the next steps about Lyndale School have appeared on Wirral Council’s website.

Despite an officer refusing a month ago my Freedom of Information request for the consultation responses on the basis that they would be published (which implies that they would be published as part of the papers for the special Cabinet meeting) the consultation responses (a majority of responses are against closing the school) aren’t included in the papers for the Cabinet meeting.

In an exclusive for this blog I did publish them on Tuesday, but that’s not really the point.

I hate to labour the point, but this is how consultations are “supposed to work”. An idea or policy is proposed, you have a consultation on it, you then publish the consultation responses in an open and transparent way so that the decision makers take them on board.

Not including the consultation responses with the Cabinet papers for the special meeting, gives the impression that officers don’t want material published that would lead to say “awkward questions”. Surely doing consultations isn’t rocket science, surely Wirral Council has run so many consultations they know how to do it by now?

The “bureaucratic machinations” go beyond just this “oversight” of not including the approximately three hundred pages of consultation responses. After all some of those responses are very critical of the way the consultation was actually run.

Let’s take how officers deal with the large petition. This gets a brief mention in appendix 5 on the last page.

I quote “A petition was received in support of Lyndale School containing 10,692 entries, of which 2,580 were duplicates, illegible or un-named, missing or non-existent addresses and 3,178 were resident outside Wirral. The remaining 4,935 entries comprised 702 “written” entries and 4,233 “epetition” entries.”

Last time I checked, Wirral wasn’t its own country with a big twenty-foot wall on the border and rumours of “barbarians” outside Wirral that well, you don’t have to listen to. The school is in Eastham which is on the edge of Wirral! Of course there are going to be people outside of Wirral are going to sign the petition (some of whom will probably live far nearer the school than I do living in Bidston). To callously state or imply that the views of over three thousand people don’t count because they don’t live here, I mean well doesn’t this sum up an attitude that has caused some of the problems and got Wirral nicknamed the “insular peninsula”? Family members of those attending the school could be living outside the Wirral, so could staff or other people closely associated with the school.

Moving on to duplicates, there was a written petition and an e-petition, obviously some people will have signed both versions. As to “illegible or un-named, missing or non-existent addresses”, well (I’m writing this as someone who has in the past gone door to door collecting petition signatures but I’ll point out not this petition) there are many adults in today’s society that couldn’t write their own name and address even if they wanted to (a sad reflection of our education system). It doesn’t mean their views don’t count!

The report goes on to state “Note that the Wirral Council Petition Scheme says a valid e-petition entry requires name, postcode and e-mail address. The e-petition was submitted as part of the consultation with name and postcode but without e-mail address”, so basically what this is saying is that out of 10,692 petition signatures, a Wirral Council officer only classes the 702 on a written petition as “valid” and feels happy enough to just disregard the views of the other ten thousand people.

There is a breakdown of the petition signers by ward, obviously the ward where the school is based Eastham attracts the highest number.

However moving on to the crucial question of what is the actual recommendation of officers as to what to do next (and what’s the result of the independent report into whether the options meet the SEN Improvement Test)?

Well in a U-turn from previous statements about being minded to recommend closure, page 19 states “In January 2014 Cabinet agreed to undertake a consultation on the closure of The Lyndale School, the consultation closed in June 2014. This report recommends that Cabinet considers the contents of this report and makes a decision on this matter.” which probably to most people is a recommendation that is about as clear as mud as to what officers want but at least they’re trying to be impartial.

The reason given is “The Council has a responsibility to manage resources effectively for all schools and the school population. We would like to affirm our continued intention to work positively with the children and families affected by any recommendations, and reassure parents of our continued commitment to their child’s wellbeing and education.”

I will translate these two into plainer English for those not as familiar as myself with “Council speak”:

“In January* politicians decided to ask the public for their views on closing Lyndale School. Consultation with the public happened and finished in June. This report (written from the perspective of officers) tells you what we think happened during that consultation and it’s now time for politicians to make a decision.”

* Note: since January the politicians on the Cabinet have changed as Brian Kenny lost his seat in the May elections to the Green Party and Cllr Harry Smith has also left meaning there are two different Labour councillors taking these places (Cllr Stuart Whittingham and Cllr Bernie Mooney).

“It is about money, but don’t blame us senior officers for all this as we’re trying to put children first.”

So, what’s likely to happen and which of the options have been ruled out as they don’t meet the SEN Improvement Test?

Well this is detailed in the “independent” report.

This report states in section 5.2 “In reality the only viable course of action is Option 7, to close the Lyndale
School and expand Stanley School and Elleray Park School to provide 220/230 places.”

However the report is more detailed than that. Let’s analyse each of the options in detail:

Option 7.1 which are variations on retaining Lyndale

Retain Lyndale and change funding bands

The report states that it is unlikely that the funding bands will be reviewed until after the end of financial year 2014/15, which let’s face it by the time a review and consultation is undertaken on this, Lyndale could’ve been closed down. Even though the banding decision is a political one that politicians could change their minds (if they so wished) on at any time and a final decision on next year’s school budget has yet to be made. The independent report refers to the deficit, but many schools operate with a surplus or a deficit (they don’t get earmarked for closure though). As this is “no change” option, the SEN Improvement Test is met.

Retain Lyndale School and restrict places at Elleray Park and Stanley

The report author seems to be against this option on grounds of parental choice “Restriction of places at either of the schools will restrict parental choice. This may result in appeals by parents to the SEN Tribunal. Restriction of places also goes against Government policy which encourages the expansion of popular schools.”

Retain Lyndale School and extend to full range of CLD

The report author states that if Lyndale School took on children with CLD then these would be children they would receive less money for (per a child) than the children with PMLD which would worsen their financial situation rather than improve it.

Retain Lyndale School and school commits to take full range of CLD. Stanley and Elleray Park admissions kept to place numbers

This option also includes changing the funding bands for children at Lyndale. There aren’t any major quibbles the report author seems to have with this option and quotes statistics (based on July 2014 figures) of Stanley with 100 children and ninety places, Elleray Park has 94 children and 90 places. So both schools are currently oversubscribed based on their places.

It mentions that Stanley School could take as high as 120 children and once the building work at Elleray Park is completed in September 2015, that its capacity will increase to 110.

Option 7.2 Lyndale becomes a 2-19 school

The report author goes into detail as to this option, but points out that it could take about seven years for numbers to reach about fifty. The report author sees this as a “high risk option” as it would require capital investment in the school and run the risk of not working out. Four parts of the SEN Improvement test are quoted as not being met for this option. Although this is an option parents want, it seems highly unlikely this will happen.

7.3 Federate (hard or soft) with another school with Lyndale remaining on current site

There is nobody obvious that Lyndale would federate with and this option is ruled out as not meeting three of SEN Improvement Test requirements.

7.4 Co-locate Lyndale School with another special school (which also covers co-locate and federate with another special school)

As with 7.3 there’s no-one obvious that Lyndale would federate with, this option is looked at in detail and ruled out as not meeting three of the SEN Improvement Test requirements.

7.5 Lyndale becoming an Academy/Free School

Such a decision is for the Department for Education and parents, the report author still thinks that Lyndale will have problems with funding but cannot demonstrate how it would/wouldn’t meet the SEN Improvement Test.

7.6 Close Lyndale School. Open two SLD bases in Primary schools for 6/8 pupils each. Expand
Elleray Park and Stanley schools to 100 each

This has a number of sub options which are

Close Lyndale
Close Lyndale and open SLD bases in two primary schools
Close Lyndale, open SLD places in two primary schools and expand Elleray Park and Stanley to 100 each
Close Lyndale and open a PMLD base on the new Foxfield site

However this is ruled out as it doesn’t meet four of the requirements in the SEN Improvement Test.

7.7 Close Lyndale. Expand Stanley/Elleray Park schools to provide 220/230 places

This option also contains the option “Close Lyndale and expand either Stanley or Elleray Park”.

The report author considers the first option as meeting the SEN Improvement Test (however doesn’t go into much detail). The second option is considered to not meet the SEN Improvement Test because of parental choice grounds.

7.8 Close Lyndale School but retain the site making another school a split site school. The Lyndale site would be retained for as long as felt necessary

The suboptions are “until children currently at the school had left” and “until the receiving school no longer required it”.

This is ruled out as not meeting four of the requirements of the SEN Improvement Test.

So the options Cabinet will be considering next Thursday that aren’t ruled out as they breach the requirements of the SEN Improvement Test (which can be quite subjective but this is based on the report author’s opinion are):

Option 7.1 Retain Lyndale

This is further split into sub options such as retain Lyndale and change funding bands, retain Lyndale School and restrict places at Elleray Park and Stanley, retain Lyndale School and extend to full range of CLD and retain Lyndale School and school commits to take full range of CLD. Stanley and Elleray Park admissions kept to place numbers.

Option 7.5 Lyndale becoming an Academy/Free School

The author can’t say one way or the author as to whether this option breaches any of the requirements of the SEN Improvement Test.

Option 7.7 Close Lyndale. Expand Stanley/Elleray Park schools to provide 220/230 places

This is the option that people associated with Lyndale School don’t want. However if Cabinet chose this option it would trigger a further consultation and a future decision to be made following that consultation.

So therefore the three options that aren’t ruled out by in some way breaching the SEN Improvement Test (according to the report author) are:

1) various options on the theme of keeping Lyndale,
2) the Academy/Free School option (which depends on the Department for Education agreeing to it) or
3) closing Lyndale.

Wirral Council’s Cabinet will meet in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall in Brighton Street, Seacombe starting at 6.15pm for a special meeting just to make a decision on Lyndale School (which will be a public meeting).

If you would like to contact the people who will be making the decision, contact details are below (although it is always possible that some of these people will not be able to make it to the meeting, however even if not present at the meeting they are bound by collective responsibility for decisions taken). Please note the addresses below are home addresses in case you want to write to them in advance of the meeting by post.

The papers for this meeting have been published on Wirral Council’s website and the consultation responses can be read here.

Councillor Phil Davies (he chairs the Cabinet meetings) 0151 625 3320 / 07720 073154 / 16 Westbourne Grove, West Kirby, Wirral, CH48 4DL

Cllr Ann McLachlan (she often chairs Cabinet meetings if Cllr Phil Davies is not available) / 0151 522 0299 / 27 Danefield Road, Greasby, CH49 3BP

Cllr George Davies / 0151 653 4265 / 07713 644330 / 46 Shamrock Road, Claughton, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 0EQ

Cllr Adrian Jones / 0151 638 9050 / 10 Elmswood Road, Seacombe, Wallasey, CH44 8DB

Cllr Chris Jones / 0151 638 9050 / 07853 042243 / 10 Elmswood Road, Seacombe, Wallasey, CH44 8DB

Cllr Chris Meaden / 0151 645 1729 / 07738 824130 / 19 Inglemere Road, Rock Ferry, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH42 4QL

Cllr Pat Hackett / 0151 638 1543 / 07771 972302 / 7 Wood Lane, Wallasey, Wirral, CH45 8QP

Cllr Tony Smith (he is the Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services whose portfolio Lyndale School falls under) / 0151 677 1384 / 27 South Drive, Upton, Wirral, Merseyside, CH49 6LA

Cllr Bernie Mooney / 0151 200 8089 / 07811 060891 / 30 Brompton Avenue, Liscard, Wallasey, Wirral, CH44 0BD

Cllr Stuart Whittingham / 0151 653 5539 / 16 Fender Way, Prenton, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH43 7ZJ

All of the above ten politicians are members of the Labour Party. If you wish to contact one of your three local councillors (assuming that you live on the Wirral) their contact details are here, but it will only be names listed above (assuming they can make it) who will be making the decision at the special Cabinet meeting about Lyndale School.

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The text of the emotional handwritten responses to the Lyndale School Closure Consultation

The text of the emotional handwritten responses to the Lyndale School Closure Consultation

The text of the emotional handwritten responses to the Lyndale School Closure Consultation


Phil Ward (Wirral Council's SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014 (who chaired the consultation meeting at Acre Lane on the 16th June)

Phil Ward (Wirral Council’s SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014 (who chaired the consultation meeting at Acre Lane on the 16th June and is referred to in some of the responses)

Further to the publication of the ninety responses to the Lyndale School closure consultation on this blog this morning, below is the typed text of the handwritten responses and one text response that is very hard to read because of poor contrast with the background.

The first is from pages 9-10 of the file marked Lyndale parents.

     Lyndale is a vital service to children with the most difficult lives.

     They can’t cope with moving schools, because for the most part their health is very fragile.

     I want to see a 2-19 facility at Lyndale School so that the children there can continue to receive the care they so desperately need. No other school on Wirral can provide this.

     See ‘Parents Response to the Lyndale Consultation Document’ for a further explanation of my views.

Name, address, telephone number and e-mail address is all blacked out apart from Wirral in the address field.

From Page 17 of the Lyndale parents file:



These are from the file marked Lyndale others starting at page 3.

member of the friends of Lyndale School association

Having helped with fund raising and attended events at the Lyndale School I have always been impressed by the ‘can do’ attitude of the staff and the calm and the happy atmosphere of the school.

Because of the very special and complex needs of these children I do not believe and neither do their parents that these needs can be met at the other special schools on the Wirral. I feel that the welfare or even the lives of these children may be endangered.

I would ask the Council not to sacrifice these very special children for ???? ???? of financial criteria or rationalisation process that is not in their best interests.

Surely the mark of a civilised society is the way that they care for its most vulnerable members

Contact details blacked out apart from Wirral.

From page 27:

I write this as a grandparent to my 3 year old granddaughter who has PMLD. I have witnessed the amazing progress she has made since she began attending Lyndale School. She has clearly benefitted from the range of professional skills of the staff team based there.
It seems cruel to uproot her from the school to another of two schools which appear to be oversubscribed. It is also devastating for the parents of Lyndale School, whose lives are tough enough dealing with their childrens complex needs, to have to endure the uncertainty facing their childrens schooling.
Keep Lyndale School open to maintain a geographical spread and encourage more parents to send their children there, to benefit from all the outstanding resources on offer

Contact details blacked out apart from MERSEYSIDE in address field.

From Stanley others file (page 3)

Having read the consultation document, if both Elleray Park and Stanley have the capacity to offer an additional 40+ places, then ideally, the children from Lyndale should be offered these places.

This will only be an issue if the numbers of children requiring specialist provision increases within the borough.

(Other staff section from page 7 onwards)

Member of staff ticked “THE OBSERVATORY SCHOOL” written in Other.

Whilst I understand all the reasons for the closure of Lyndale School, I would hope the opinions and feelings of the parents and carers of the pupils attending the school are listened to sensitively and with genuine regard for them.

Personally, I have real affection for the Lyndale School but also acknowledge the amazing provision offered by Stanley and Elleray Park schools.

I would love to see all three schools continuing to provide for CLD/PMLD children but understand Elleray Park and Stanley School can provide for Wirral’s children and also understand the financial implications and issues. I am confident that the correct decision will be made and know that this consultation will be well supported. I wish Wirral Cabinet well in their decision-making process.

Name is blacked out. Address: THE OBSERVATORY SCHOOL, BIDSTON VILLAGE ROAD, BIDSTON, WIRRAL Postcode: CH43 7QT. Telephone and e-mail address blacked out.

Page 9 onwards


1. Logically keeping a small school open in an area where alternative provision is available of equal quality of provision is not a feasible option. I base this judgement on financial basis, community flexibility, breadth of staff experience, staff workload.

I agree that Lyndale should close and students reallocated.

2. I agree that any financial savings must be redirected into receiving schools to ensure no detriment to student provision.

3. Other options proposed:-

– Restricting places at Elleray + Stanley would lead to possible under occupancy and therefore no financial security

– 2-19 is an interesting option worth a feasibility study.
– Federation can lead to leadership issue and lack of focus for all schools in the federation including competing agendas – not feasible
– colocation is possible but why? when alt schools can accommodate demand
– Academy or free school does not alter the facts at present re student numbers or finance. If Lyndale improved to to this change there are only so many students to go around + the issues are only deflected into alt schools
– Additional places at Elleray + Stanley + closure of Lyndale is the most sensible option financially and educationally

Name blacked out Address: Bebington High Sports College Wirral Postcode CH63 2PS Telephone and e-mail address blacked out.

From the Others file starting at page 57:


This is not a handwritten response but is very hard to read due to a lack of contrast with the background (from page 59 of the other responses):

Dear Councillor

I am writing to tell you how worried I am about the possibility that the Lyndale School in Eastham may close. This is because the children at the school are very vulnerable and need to be with people they know well. Their fragile health means they will not be able to cope with losing all that they know and adjusting to a new environment.

The staff at The Lyndale School have years of experience, knowledge and expertise in caring for and educating children with a very high level of special needs. They create a very special environment where each child is valued and given the support they need to enjoy a good quality of life and achieve their potential. Parents feels that no other school on Wirral can provide the same safe and caring environment.

The children who attend Lyndale have many challenges to face in their everyday lives and their families are there alongside them. But this threat of the Lyndale closure is a challenge too ??? and many of the families are feeling under great strain at this time, worrying about having to send their children to schools that they know won’t be suitable for them.

The Lyndale School provides a service that is really needed both now and to future generations. It supports and gives hope to children and their families through some of the most difficult times in their lives. Will you please pledge to support the school and prevent its loss as a valuable asset in our community.

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