Why has Wirral Council agreed to write to the government asking for money and for the government to meet people affected by the New Ferry explosion?

Why has Wirral Council agreed to write to the government asking for money and for the government to meet people affected by the New Ferry explosion?

Why has Wirral Council agreed to write to the government asking for money and for the government to meet people affected by the New Ferry explosion?

                                                  

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Council (Wirral Council) 10th July 2017 Part 8 of 17 (Support for New Ferry)

Usually the press outnumber the public in the public gallery above the Council Chamber at Wallasey Town Hall.

Wallasey Town Hall (public gallery) Wirral Council 10th July 2017
Wallasey Town Hall (public gallery) Wirral Council 10th July 2017

Monday evening’s meeting of Wirral Council’s councillors was different as many people (see photo above) with connections to New Ferry had turned up to listen to the debate on the notice of motion about New Ferry following the explosion earlier this year.

After around two hours of waiting, councillors rearranged the agenda so that the Support for New Ferry motion was heard first (rather than fourth). This motion was proposed by Cllr Warren Ward and seconded by Cllr Phil Davies.

A large explosion in New Ferry happened on Saturday 25 March. Many buildings in the area had to be evacuated because of structural damage (these were buildings used for both residential and business purposes), roads were closed and at least one person injured ended up in hospital. Cllr Warren Ward’s notice of motion asked for Wirral Council to write to the national government to intervene and to help.

Councillor Phil Davies (Leader) estimated that Wirral Council’s costs so far in dealing with the aftermath as around £300,000.

Cllr Warren Ward (Bromborough) criticised the government for sending a minister to visit the area some time after it happened.

He singled out a government minister for further criticism, stating that the minister had said in a local radio interview that the government had been supporting Wirral Council since day one of the explosion. Cllr Ward described this as a “kick in the teeth to all those residents affected crying out for government support only to receive nothing”.

Councillor Warren Ward thanked the “phenomenal emergency services”, “[Wirral] Council officers” and “community members”. He referred to the community members as “picking up the burden”.

He explained that Wirral Council employees had been working “15 hour days” at a cost of “hundreds of thousands of pounds” asking, “why isn’t the government playing its role in supporting the residents affected by the New Ferry disaster?”

At the end of his speech he received nearly thirty seconds of applause and a standing ovation.

Cllr Adam Sykes (Clatterbridge) moving an amendment to Cllr Warren Ward’s notice of motion started by thanking the members of public in the gallery for waiting “a long time”.

He described meetings of residents he had attended and the impact and distress the disaster had had on them. Cllr Sykes described people who had lost everything and how others had no insurance and how people were “looking for answers”.

His speech covered the cause of the blast and resident’s fears that it could happen again. Wirral Council employees were once again thanked and the community for their “hard work”. Describing Cllr Warren Ward as an “outstanding example of a councillor in our Council for all his tireless work ”, he explained that the amendment wasn’t to take anything away but sought to support by “exploring other options”.

Cllr Sykes explained that in the short-term Wirral Council should use its own funds held in reserves for emergencies and to explore financial assistance under the Bellwin Scheme as he was not sure whether that had been done yet.

He agreed that Wirral Council should work with the government to “resolve this situation” and said he had spoken to the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP (Minister for Communities and Local Government) on a number of occasions and that the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP was clear that the government “wished to help” to discuss a plan with Wirral Council officers.

During the general election (when Cllr Sykes was the Conservative candidate hoping to be MP for Wirral South after the general election in June) he said that he hadn’t wanted to bring the Rt Hon Sajid Javid to the blast site, as it would appear that Cllr Sykes was after a “photo opportunity”.

He was at this point heckled by the public gallery.

Cllr Sykes said he had told Cllr Warren Ward that he didn’t want to make the issue a “political football”, he repeated his request for Wirral Council to provide a plan to the government. Referring to a visit by the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse on the 6th of July 2017, he said that the Minister had asked during that visit for the plan to be submitted so “things could move forward”. The councillor continued by saying that it was the responsibility of “all of us” (referring to both Wirral Council and the government) “to look after our neighbours when they”re in need”. He said it was about “basic compassion and shouldn’t stop at [political] party boundaries” and that he wished to work with all Wirral Council councillors and the community to help the people of New Ferry.

He was further heckled by the public gallery.

Cllr Irene Williams (Bromborough) thanked the Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram for a contribution by the LCRCA of £20,000. She thanked Wirral Council employees and people in the community who she described as “working tirelessly”, she said that New Ferry was in need of “emergency funding”. Cllr Williams said that the government had indicated it couldn’t help because of the general election (which had now been over for a month) and referred to residents being “traumatised”. She described some residents as suffering flashbacks, how businesses will close and how some buildings would have to be demolished.

Cllr Williams described New Ferry as “struggling before the explosion” and asked for a “fair share of help from governnment”. She received applause for her speech.

Other speakers in the debate were Cllr Ian Lewis (Wallasey), Cllr Ron Abbey (Leasowe and Moreton East), Cllr Dave Mitchell (Eastham), Cllr Chris Blakeley (Moreton West and Saughall Massie), Cllr Jerry Williams (Bebington), Cllr Stuart Whittingham (Upton & Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport), Cllr Chris Carubia (Eastham), Cllr Tracey Pilgrim (Clatterbridge), Cllr Phil Davies (Birkenhead and Tranmere & Leader) and finally again Cllr Warren Ward (Bromborough).

The vote on the Conservative amendment was lost (24:36:1 (for:against:abstain)).

The vote on the original Labour motion was passed (60:0:1 (for:against:abstain)).

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Who’s leaving Wirral Council and what is a 20,085 signature petition against?

Who’s leaving Wirral Council and what is a 20,085 signature petition against?

Who’s leaving Wirral Council and what is a 20,085 signature petition against?

                                      

Mayor Cllr Ann McLachlan , Council (Wirral Council) 10th July 2017
Mayor Cllr Ann McLachlan , Council (Wirral Council) 10th July 2017

Yesterday’s email from Mr Tour, ended with “you are required to return to the public gallery”.

However when I did return to the entrance to the public gallery above the Council Chamber, after asking my question, Wirral Council’s Community Patrol unsuccessfully tried to stop me re-entering.

I have however sadly learnt in life to ignore a lot of Wirral Council employee’s more bizarre requests and slipped past him. The guy from Community Patrol tried to grab my arm to stop me but lost his grip.

Ironically as I had had a stand up protest downstairs over the nonsense over the seating arrangements, typing away notes on my iPad, in the hot weather my bare arm was so sweaty by then that his hand couldn’t grip on to me.

So I thank Surjit Tour for putting into place a chain of events that thwarted another Wirral Council employee.

As I’d forgotten to turn my tape recorder off downstairs there’s a tape of the whole matter and conversation.

Maybe Community Patrol will have better luck at the next Planning Committee?

Indeed Wirral Council losing its grip seemed to be a running theme of the evening.

The petition against the planning application for a fire station (on Council owned land) in Saughall Massie presented by Cllr Chris Blakeley has reached 4,034 signatures. The report from Wirral Council’s planning department recommends it for approval. The matter will be decided at the Planning Committee on the 20th July 2017, after a site visit on the 18th July 2017.

Another large petition, of a mere 20,805 signatures, submitted by Cllr Chris Blakeley on behalf of Cllr Jeff Green opposed the introduction of car parking charges in the country parks (which goes to a call-in meeting on the 18th July 2017).

Cllr Phil Davies (Leader) and the Labour councillors however does not agree with Cllr Chris Blakeley on many policy matters.

After questions for Cabinet Members from various councillors, there were general questions, followed by just over half an hour of debate about senior managers’ employment status.

A quick summary is Julia Hassall (Director of Children’s Services) resigned, Tom Sault (Assistant Director: Finance) is entering a “phased retirement”, Surjit Tour (Assistant Director: Law and Governance, Monitoring Officer and Senior Information Risk Officer) has resigned and Clare Fish (Executive Director for Strategy) has requested early retirement.

The Chief Executive, Eric Robinson also wants to regrade the Director for Children post to the £140-£155k band and create a new post for a senior manager (Director of Strategy and Partnerships) on a salary range of £103k-£115k. He also wants to increase the salary range for the Assistant Director: Law and Governance and Monitoring Officer post to a maximum of £93k. Those are most of the changes (there are some other ones too).

The changes to the senior management team that were recommended in a private meeting of the Employment and Appointments Committee were agreed by Council yesterday evening on a 35:25:1 vote (for:against:abstain). The 1 is the Labour councillor who is the Mayor abstaining. The other 35 are Labour councillors and the 25 were a combination of opposition councillors.

The effect is that Surjit Tour remains serving out his notice (until some point in September 2017), Clare Fish’s early retirement request is agreed, Tom Sault retires (but phased) and Penna (the external recruitment consultants) have a massive pay-day from advising Wirral Council on recruitment to all these posts (estimated by one councillor at ~£12k a post).

The senior management team was restructured last in November 2016 and at least one councillor suggested that changing again so soon implies that the previous model hadn’t worked.

Cllr Bernie Mooney referred to people being paid, “too bloody much”.

Certainly the senior management team hasn’t been changed this much since 2012, when a large number of them were suspended, then paid large sums to leave as the suspension wasn’t done properly.

There was also a short debate on wildlife sites.

Most people however were there in the public gallery (patiently waiting around two hours before the meeting got to that point) to hear debate on a Notice of Motion about the New Ferry explosion.

Cllr Warren Ward received cross-party plaudits for his work as a ward councillor for this area.

Labour councillors blamed it on the government.

Conservative councillors said that part of the response was the responsibility of Wirral Council.

In the end though, after just over 30 minutes of debate, councillors of all parties agreed a notice of motion that will result in Wirral Council writing a letter to the Prime Minister and a letter to the government minister for Communities and Local Government.

After that agreement, the Mayor called for a ten minute adjournment (which turned into a fifteen minute adjournment).

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Why am I angry at Wirral Council for allegedly breaking more laws to cover up a 3 year investigation and subsequent decision by three councillors as to why Councillor Steve Foulkes broke the Code of Conduct and should apologise for leaking information about Councillor Jeff Green to the press?

Why am I angry at Wirral Council for allegedly breaking more laws to cover up a 3 year investigation and subsequent decision by three councillors as to why Councillor Steve Foulkes broke the Code of Conduct and should apologise for leaking information about Councillor Jeff Green to the press?

Why am I angry at Wirral Council for allegedly breaking more laws to cover up a 3 year investigation and subsequent decision by three councillors as to why Councillor Steve Foulkes broke the Code of Conduct and should apologise for leaking information about Councillor Jeff Green to the press?

                                        

Councillor Steve Foulkes (Labour) (right) speaking at a recent meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee (28th July 2016) while Councillor Pat Cleary (Green) (left) listens
Councillor Steve Foulkes (Labour) (right) speaking at a recent meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee (28th July 2016) while Councillor Pat Cleary (Green) (left) listens

17/8/16 Amended to correct name of Phil Goodman to Peter Goodman.

Firstly, I’m cross with Wirral Council.

What is it this time you may wonder?

Well I have a long list of grievances, but not being a Wirral Council employee no formal route (ok I could bring some of these up with my trade union) to take these to a grievance hearing, nor the time or inclination at this stage to get the judiciary involved.

I’m cross at being denied (along with my wife) to be present at what I perceive to be (in part) to be a public meeting of the Standards Panel on the 28th June 2016 in Committee Room 2 at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED starting at 6.00pm.

I’m cross at being shouted at by junior public facing employees of Wirral Council who I will gladly name here from what I remember as Shirley Hudspeth (Legal and Member Services) and Peter Goodman (whatever the facilities management side of Wirral Council is called as frankly I’ve lost track of restructures? Is it infrastructure, asset management something like that?) with their view that it was a private meeting, but I’m not cross at them in a major way because I’m more cross at what I presume are their senior manager/s or senior manager/s from another department at Wirral Council who told both of them to say this to me (even though it isn’t true) as it seems a senior manager/s at Wirral Council would stoop that low as to instruct junior employees to do what they (senior manager/s) should have the guts to do face to face themselves.

I’m cross at Wirral Council for its website not working as I write this at democracy.wirral.gov.uk so I can’t include links or refer to the details. But yeah, whoever’s job it is to fix it may be on holiday.

I’m cross at a senior manager (Joe Blott) and his external legal adviser (whose name I can’t recall without checking Wirral Council’s website that isn’t working). Yes the external legal advisor is the guy in this photo as I wasn’t allowed to be at or film him at the public bit of the Standards Panel meeting (and just as an aside this law allows me to film such public meetings even if I’m not physically in the room, which I suppose next time if I’m not allowed actually in the room for a public meeting I’ll have to do the filming either through the meeting room door or from the car park outside!)

However in Joe Blott’s defence I don’t think he understood why the legal advice he got was flawed and had the external legal advisor pointed out why it was flawed he’d have had to have criticised his client (Wirral Council) which is a big no-no if he ever wants further work from Wirral Council in the future.

I’m not cross with Surjit Tour who seems to have a conflict of interest. But if he does have one, Joe Blott is supposed to deal with it!!!

I am cross with the fact that 5 clear working days notice of the date, time, agenda and reports (if not recommended to be heard in closed session) for the Standards Panel meeting on the 28th June 2016 was not given by the 20th June 2016, but instead yesterday the 3rd of August 2016.

I’m cross that a complaint about a councillor (Cllr Steve Foulkes) as to what happened in July 2013 has taken Wirral Council around three years to resolve.

I’m cross that Patricia Thynne in her report refers to myself as having filmed a Youtube video referred to when I didn’t film it and it was indeed someone else! I’m also cross with myself that relying on Patricia Thynne’s report I then left a comment on the Wirral Leaks blog only to be embarrassed into being told it is a mistake in her report.

I’ve recently learned that Cllr Gilchrist was the Chair of the Standards Panel, I’m cross that I wasn’t allowed to go to the public bit of the Standards Panel meeting where this was decided on the 28th June 2016 to find this out and had to wait around a month to know whether it was Cllr Chris Blakeley or Cllr Phil Gilchrist.

I’m cross that in messing up what’s detailed above Wirral Council is relying on a legal power that was repealed years ago.

I’m cross that for reasons of internal capacity here I didn’t take things further over what happened to us at the meeting on the 28th June 2016 whether by letter or subsequent legal action against Wirral Council.

However, moving to the complaint itself, yes I was there in the public gallery in July 2013 in the adjournment while it happened. Yes Cllr Steve Foulkes came in and spoke with Liam Murphy (referred to as Person C). Yes, I was too far away (at the other end of the public gallery to hear what they were saying). Yes I remember Mr Nigel Hobro coming in to the public gallery at this point and wanting to speak with Liam Murphy but getting the brush off.

Yes, my opinion (not that it matters really) is that I think it is fair that Cllr Foulkes should apologise.

However, isn’t it ironic that as Cllr Foulkes previously made a complaint about Cllr Chris Blakeley talking to the Liverpool Echo about whether Cllr Foulkes should be made Mayor (a complaint that Cllr Chris Blakeley was cleared of as you can read about here) that Cllr Chris Blakeley should then be on the Standards Panel to decide about a complaint about Cllr Foulkes leaking information to a Liverpool Echo journalist? Or is that just karma?

Yes Person C in the report is Liam Murphy. Yes I feel sorry for him, yes it is a breach of journalistic ethics to reveal the source of information, but by the sounds of it he (Liam Murphy) was being used by Cllr Foulkes anyway for political gain.

As to the payoff to Emma Degg, her initial silence (prompted in part it seems by the payment of public money), followed by what I presume was a guilty conscience, well at least she finally did the right thing!

As to the allegation that witnesses “colluded” to bring down Cllr Foulkes, well Patricia Thynne feels this is not credible. I will comment however that unless you are in disguise, nobody knows what you look like or in an echo chamber, it’s frankly foolish in the extreme to bring up anything confidential (whether in conversation or by passing it to them) with a journalist when you have people watching you do it, in a public place, in a public building, in the adjournment to a high-profile public meeting.

However Cllr Foulkes’ explanation is he was under a lot of pressure.

Tip for people reading this, if you want in the future to leak something to me, there’s the post (probably the most secure method), email or telephone (if you want the intelligence agencies to read/listen to it in transit) or other ways of sending it to me online.

Yes you can talk to me or hand me things in person, but there are always people watching!

I did ask Cllr Steve Foulkes in person at the end of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee meeting on the evening of Thursday 28th July 2016 to comment on the complaint. He refused to comment directly on the matter (I presume following Mr. Tour’s advice to councillors to keep their mouth shut) and referred me to Wirral Council instead.

So yes, I’m still cross and Wirral Council is finally well dealing with what should’ve been done properly the first time!!!

By first time, I don’t just mean the original complaint (that this morphed into), but what happened at the Standards Panel meeting too.

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