What did Bernard Halley tell Wirral councillors about a 7,000+ petition against the closure of Girtrell Court?

What did Bernard Halley tell Wirral councillors about a 7,000+ petition against the closure of Girtrell Court?

What did Bernard Halley tell Wirral councillors about a 7,000+ petition against the closure of Girtrell Court?


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Council (Wirral Council) 11th July 2016 Agenda item 4B (Petitions) Petition of over 7,000 requesting Council halt closure of Girtrell Court

Council (Wirral Council) 11th July 2016 Agenda item 4B Petitions Bernard Halley (right) speaks to a petition against the closure of Girtrell Court
Council (Wirral Council) 11th July 2016 Agenda item 4B Petitions Bernard Halley (right) speaks to a petition against the closure of Girtrell Court

As you can hear in the video above, Bernard Halley had five minutes to address Wirral Council’s councillors on the subject of his petition requesting that the closure of Girtrell Court be halted.

“….” refers to parts which are unclear due to his distance from the microphone and background noise. DASS stands for the Department of Adult Social Services.

Benard Halley said, “Thank you Mr. Mayor. I would like to take this opportunity to address the issues in this petition.

The petition that we refer to is on on change.org and it is about the closure of Girtrell Court.

The current statistics which have been very carefully balloted are 4,778 Wirral postcode signatures, 2,211 UK wide signatures and a 101 worldwide signatures, so it’s getting quite a bit of notoriety.

I would say at this stage that I have absolutely no political affiliation whatsoever, so I’m not grinding any of the traditional axes in this room.

In fact, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want, I don’t relish being regarded as a troublemaker, I would much rather support DASS in all their endeavours but this is an issue of principle that has to be followed through.

You are closing a service which whilst not perfect, enjoys the full confidence of parents and carers against their clearly expressed wishes.

Confidence that is held in Girtrell Court is vital when you ask us to entrust our loved ones to a third party.

Your process so far as carers are concerned have been flawed from the start. You decide an end product closure and then work backwards to find a solution that fits.

We find no evidence whatsoever that users called for change. We have objectively polled Girtrell Court users using an open question poll document and their data contradicts the …. . I challenge the Council to make full disclosure of their case to the scrutiny committee for independent evaluation.

Mr Phil Davies has repeatedly used the phrase, “equal or better”. That begs the question who decides what is equal or better? Surely it should be the users of the service?

Well Mr Davies you are a long way from equal to or better at the moment.

You have a potential building and a potential service provider. You do not have a service specification and terms of the contract which is absolutely vital for carers. We want to know that this is not a flash in the pan. There is no comparable staffing ratio data. There is no confirmation that users will have equal to time allocation, there is no information on the range or extent of user activities necessary to equal Girtrell or is this new service going to be just a baby sitting service?

In short you do not have or are far from the complete package which will enable anyone to evaluate equal or better.

Recent correspondence and press releases including emails from your Chief Executive claim that the closure decision has been made in partnership with carers. This is categorically untrue.

None of the carers have agreed to the closure of Girtrell Court.

Carers, including myself have often argued on the comparative virtues of three properties and provider combinations but with the sole motivation of ensuring any alternatives that originated was the best out of the limited choice available.

This was not and is not an agreement or approval for Girtrell Court closure.

The property chosen has some virtues but and this is a big but, the …. is on three floors and even with a lift there are concerns over evacuation capability in the event of a fire.

I am told that one of the principal reasons for closing Maplehome was an identical concern over evacuation capability.

Please do not use this as a Tory versus Labour slanging match which has characterised every debate on Girtrell.

Both propositions have occurred under the remit of DASS, so why is what was unacceptable then suddenly acceptable now?

I come to timescales. We were told at the start that the end of March was unachievable. My position cited the end of September as a possible appropriate date.

Now work on the property is unlikely to be completed by the end of November at best and only then can the Care Quality Commission’s approval be sought. So even with a fair wind, it might be the end of December it seems optimistic.

This ill-managed project has caused worry, distress and concern not only to service users, but to their carers. Many of whom are much older than I, have greater burdens to carry and who do not need Wirral Borough Council subjecting them to 9 months or more of added stress.

We come back to the starting point, you should have and could have used this financial year to plan and a design for a replacement service, while allowing users the confidence that Girtrell will continue seamlessly until an equal to or better than service can be constructed.

Instead, you reverse engineered a flawed solution which does this Council and its officers no credit whatsoever.

The petition has attracted over 7,000 signatures.

If you should ignore this level of public support moreover to do so by muscling your own councillors using a three line whip to stifle those points of view with compassion and conscience is a travesty of democracy for which this Administration should be truly ashamed.

(loud applause and cheers from the public gallery)

The bare minimum for the hard pressed carers should be afforded is consultation on the full package solution as I identified earlier.

If I may read a portion of the petition because it is pertinent, “Our demand is simple, retain the excellent Girtrell Court and its professional caring staff until the Council has researched carer and cared for needs, analysed, researched, costed and fully consulted on the suitability of any replacement offering.”

Solution before dissolution! Thank you for your time.

(loud applause and cheers from the public gallery)”

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Wirral Council Recruiting Solicitors


Wirral Council are recruiting a Senior Solicitor (Child/Adult Social Care), Senior Solicitor (Litigation/Governance) and Solicitor Child Care – Wallasey Town Hall.

Part of the reason I’d guess that Wirral Council is recruiting the Senior Solicitor (Litigation/Governance) is because the current Head of Legal and Member Services, Shirley Hudspeth isn’t a practising solicitor or barrister. When Wirral Council concentrates on internal promotions to fill posts, this is why you end up with anomalies like the Head of Legal and Member Services not being a practising solicitor or barrister.

Certainly there seems to be a cultural drive away from the past (subcontracting for external legal advice) to dealing with legal matters in-house. Bill Norman, Head of Law, HR & Asset Management did make the point in public meetings that he wanted more solicitors in house at Wirral Council (well just before he had to leave the room as the Tory councillors tried unsuccessfully to remove him as Monitoring Officer). It certainly would’ve led to a saving to the taxpayer as Wirral Council was at the time spending £millions/year in external legal advice. Yet for whatever reason the politicians at the time wouldn’t authorise the creation of the new posts required as corporate governance issues at Wirral Council weren’t once seen as the priority they are now.

Certainly some councillors prefer to rely on in house advisers employed by Wirral Council rather than have to spend months putting out a contract to tender before external adviser/s are agreed and appointed (and the delays can cause increased costs).


Wirral’s Future – Be a Part of It, Wirral Council’s consultation on the budget

Comment on the Wirral’s Future – Be a Part of It budget consultation and the Prenton/Oxton Area Forum meeting of the 19th October 2010

Wirral’s Future – Be a Part of It, Wirral Council’s consultation on the budget


The new Lib Dem-Conservative coalition in charge of Wirral Council as part of their aim to bring about a culture of openness and accountability started a public consultation on next year’s budget.

I asked a question of the Lib Dem leader at last night’s Prenton and Oxton Area Forum as to whether the consultation would feed into the capital budget (the money used for investment eg new schools, new pedestrian traffic lights) as well as the revenue budget (which is mentioned on the front of the questionnaire).

He confirmed it would. This gives an opportunity for the public to feed their views into the budget process and despite Labour’s criticism of the process; a chance for all voices to be heard rather than just the ruling parties.

Whatever method of consultation was used, there’d be criticism. However I am pleased that (like the You Decide consultation last year) this is also being done using an online survey.

Last night Wirral Council officers also detailed how they’ve been trying to reach hard to visit groups; whether by knocking on doors or visiting supermarkets. As was pointed out yesterday, short of an insert in the free newspaper or writing to everyone, not every member of the public can be reached but over 1% of the public have returned a questionnaire. Considering the average turnout in this year’s election was 65% and in some places only 26% of the public decide vote for their elected representative; who are there to represent all their residents (not just the ones who voted for them), I think the consultation is doing its best to gather as many people’s views as possible.

Labour have called for public meetings; as there were over the library/community centre/leisure centre closures. However at the one I attended in Birkenhead people were turned away as the venue was full. That packed meeting started with a rather long presentation on the strategic asset review leading to the audience getting more and more livid as their felt their voices weren’t being heard. At least with a questionnaire everybody’s views can be taken on board.

Public meetings are best when they involve the audience and give members of the public a real chance to influence decisions. As mentioned above, when in some areas 74% of the electors haven’t voted at all in their local council elections; how are their views taken on board when some councillors feel that people who didn’t vote for them can be ignored?

There were similar issues raised about the You Decide consultation; however I genuinely think that involving the public in decision-making can only lead to better decisions being made. As mentioned last night, ultimately it is councillors who will together be making the budget decisions for 2011/2012 next March. However I have heard at least one Labour councillor say openly in a public meeting (and one of another party privately) that they didn’t even read the budget they vote on.

After the fiasco that was the library closures; I hope the new administration has learnt lessons on public consultation and fully takes on board the views of the public (who pointed out well before the budget was set in a public meeting at Wallasey Town Hall that Wirral Council hadn’t adhered to the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964).

On a sadder note, I heard yesterday evening that Mr. Garrett had died (about a month ago). He was the secretary of the Wirral Transport Users Association and on the Merseytravel Advisory Panel. He was a staunch champion of public transport and as Cllr. Pat Williams described enthusiastic. He will be missed.

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