Why did Wirral Council’s Cabinet recommend closure of Girtrell Court despite a protest against closure and opposition from the trade unions?
There was a protest outside Wallasey Town Hall before Wirral Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday morning. One of the decisions at that Cabinet meeting was to recommend to a meeting of all councillors (which will be on the 3rd March 2016) a budget for Wirral Council for 2016-17. The protest was about a proposal to recommend to close Girtrell Court. Pictures of the protest are below (each photo should link to a higher resolution image).
Wirral Council’s Cabinet agrees to consultation on £2.498 million of cuts
There were hundreds of people at last Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.
In fact there were so many people present that the venue for the Cabinet Meeting that evening was moved from Committee Room 3 (maximum 46 people) at Wallasey Town Hall to the Civic Hall (maximum 370 people). However those maximum numbers are reduced further by about twenty if you bear in mind the ten councillors on the Cabinet plus senior management that support the Cabinet at its meetings.
Before the meeting started at 6.15pm there was a large protest outside Wallasey Town Hall.
As it was dark, at that time of the evening my photos of the protest haven’t come out very well. You should however be able to see the flags and some of the protest slogans in the pictures below (although I apologise that some are unreadable). The trade unions were protesting about the potential loss of jobs, there were those who use the Council’s services that are under threat there too.
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Prior to the Cabinet (which was rearranged from Committee Room 1 to the Civic Hall) there was a union protest outside the Town Hall and many of the hundreds of people stayed on for the meeting itself which lasted about an hour. When the Cabinet Members arrived they were booed.
No Cabinet Members declared any interests. The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed and Cllr Phil Davies asked the Interim Chief Executive Graham Burgess to talk about the proposals on the Council’s Budget from 2013 to 2016. Graham Burgess spoke for about five minutes about the issues.
Joe Taylor (the branch secretary of the local Wirral UNISON branch) then was asked to speak to the meeting. Before Mr. Taylor had even sat down, he received loud applause as well as whistling and cheering which continued even after he sat down. He started off by thanking Cllr Phil Davies for the opportunity to make a number of points. He said he would try to keep within the five minutes but not to hold him to that (he actually ended up speaking for eleven minutes).
He said after the Cabinet meeting of the 8th November the Labour Group had agreed to extend the consultation on the terms and conditions [of employment] which was welcomed, however he made it clear that UNISON was against any reduction in pay as a result of changed terms and conditions. He said it had been rumoured that the unions had agreed some savings, but that no savings had been agreed between the trade unions and Wirral Council.
Mr. Taylor said that during the ninety day consultation period they would work with the Authority [Wirral Council] to find alternatives. He said that they also welcomed the extension of the consultation on the voluntary redundancy scheme. He said that if Wirral Council did go for compulsory redundancies that UNISON and UNITE would ballot their members.
Joe Taylor then referred to the proposed senior management restructure and the budget consultation. He said they’d asked a national union officer to come down from London on the 16th January 2013 to go through the books so that the unions could come up with alternatives.
He said there should be no compulsory redundancies, but he said that the officer’s proposed savings “devastate services to the people of the Wirral”. Joe Taylor then said that the service losses would lead to job losses, that he didn’t want services to be slashed and asked the Labour Group to work with the trade unions and get something “viable for this Authority”. He told the Labour councillors “don’t smash the communities and the people who voted you in”.
The next items Mr. Taylor referred to were the special Scrutiny Committee meetings specifically the Council Excellence Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting [of the 5th December]. He said, “I was appalled, I was appalled and I was alarmed. I was alarmed on the basis that the person who came forward couldn’t quote some of the factual information that affects our members”, he went on to give three examples. The first job referred was a part-time receptionist which he claimed would lose out on £3,163 if the new terms and conditions were agreed which he said would equate to a 34% loss of pay. This prompted heckling from the audience.
The next job he referred to was an Emergency Duty Team Social Worker on £40,234, who would lose out on £8,098 if the revised terms and conditions were agreed followed by a part-time cleaner on £6,256 who he claimed would lose out on £4,175 under the revised terms and conditions. He said that those were the real facts that should be quoted and scrutinised by councillors and asked councillors to “delve into the detail”.
He said that if the revised terms and conditions were accepted that it would equate to a pay cut over the next three years. He next referred to the statement that changes to the essential car allowance in other authorities had caused a short disruption. He said, “If that’s the type of consultation that you study other authorities about car allowances and how much the disruption will be for the Authority, I can tell you now, we met with our Members, we’ve had six general meetings around the Borough and they were packed to the rafters. Packed to the rafters and they were quite clearly telling us they won’t use their cars. Social workers were saying they won’t use their cars.”
Cllr Bill Davies asked a question of Bill Norman for advice on whether councillors had to declare trade union membership as an interest and if so what type.
Bill Norman said in his opinion, it was a personal interest, (and therefore needed to be declared) unless it affected a councillor’s decision-making of deciding the public interest in such a significant way, that it became a prejudicial interest. If it became the latter the councillor would have to declare it as a prejudicial interest.
Various interests were then declared by councillors including:-
Cllr Steve Foulkes said something about safety and press inference. He declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) because of his membership of USDAW.
Cllr Phil Davies declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) because of his membership of UNISON.
??? declared declared an interest in ??? because of his/her membership of UNISON.
Cllr George Davies declared an interest in ??? with respect to ???.
Cllr Ann McLachlan declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) with respect to her membership of UNITE.
Cllr Brian Kenny declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) because of membership of UNISON.
Cllr ????, declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) because of membership of UNITE and UNISON.
Cllr Adrian Jones declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) because of membership of two trade unions.
Cllr Jeff Green declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) because of membership of PROSPECT.
Cllr ?? declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) because of membership of EQUITY.
Cllr Ian Lewis declared an interest.
Cllr Paul Doughty declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) with respect to his trade union membership.
Cllr Pat Glasman declared an interest.
Cllr ??? declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) because of his/her membership of UNISON.
Cllr Bernie Mooney declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) because of her membership of UNITE.
Cllr John Salter, declared an interest/s because of ???
Cllr Lesley Rennie, declared a personal interest in Notice of Motion 16 (CUTS TO LOCAL TRANSPORT PLAN) due to her membership of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.
Cllr Ian Lewis, declared an interest/s because of….
Cllr Sheila Clarke declared an interest/s because of…
Cllr ?? declared an interest in Notice of Motion 14 (FAIRNESS, NOT FAVOURS) because of their membership of UNISON.
There may have been other declarations of interest, but unfortunately the pen I was using was running out and from where I was sitting in the Council Chamber behind the Labour councillors also very difficult to hear those councillors who were far away.