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West Kirby and Upton Fire Stations face axe in Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority savings proposals
Last weeks Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee spent nearly thirty-four minutes discussing Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service cuts without mentioning the specifics of what has been already been agreed by the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. The debate starts about two minutes into the meeting.
On 3rd September Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (Wirral Council’s represented on this body by Cllr Denise Roberts, Cllr Lesley Rennie, Cllr Steve Niblock and Cllr Jean Stapleton) agreed the following recommendations:
1) The Authority must identify strategic mergers that allow operational response to be maintained whilst improving community and firefighter facilities and reducing costs.
Having assessed the location of the newer stations and the operational response needs of the service the Chief Fire Officer has identified that the two key geographic options where strategic mergers should be considered following consultation are:-
Merging West Kirby and Upton to create a much improved station with extensive community facilities at Greasby, which would allow response standards to be maintained whilst improving the capability for community partnerships.
In addition, consideration might be given to the opportunities for the future development of Heswall. This site is commercially attractive and working with private/public partners may create opportunities to improve facilities or relocate services.
(ii) Request the Chief Fire Officer to report back with detailed proposals on:-
(a) Options for Station mergers in Wirral
I presume by report back it means to the next meeting of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority on the 22nd October 2013. The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee did agree to invite Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens to a future meeting to “highlight the potential impact of the Government proposals on the residents of Wirral” but ultimately the decision on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s budget for next year is in the hands of the local councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (current composition fifteen Labour, two Lib Dem and one Conservative). Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority could decide to raise Council Tax to offset the need to make these kinds of cuts to Wirral’s fire cover. If Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority propose (when they set their budget in February 2014) raising the amount of Council Tax spent on fire services by more than 2% compared to last year (which is not enough to offset the decrease in government grant) then it would trigger a Council Tax referendum of Merseyside residents. Currently an assumed 2% rise is in their financial calculations so it seems likely that the proposed cuts on Wirral will go ahead unless savings are found elsewhere.
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Merseytravel agree £3.38 million of investment in disabled access at Birkenhead North station, comments from Wirral councillors and comment on the Roads v Central Trains Ltd  EWCA Civ 1541 case as well as links to the report, design work and key risks of the project
EXCLUSIVE: Merseytravel agree £3.38 million of investment in improving access for the disabled at Birkenhead North station
Last Thursday at its Annual Meeting, Merseytravel agreed £3.38 million of investment in improved disabled access at Birkenhead North train station. Merseytravel received £1 million towards the project from Network Rail’s “Access for All” fund, £1.2 million from Network Rail’s Enhancement Fund and a further £300,000 from Network Rail. The work is planned to be completed by March 2014.
Wirral councillors welcomed the news. Cllr Steve Foulkes told those present at the meeting that it was his local station and that completing the link to the car park would have a beneficial effect on residential parking at Birkenhead Park. Cllr John Salter thanked officers for coming forward with the proposals and referred to the regeneration going on in the area, such as Peel’s plans for an International Trade Centre.
John Brace, pictured in the photo who started campaigning for improved disabled access at Birkenhead North railway station in 2008 said, “The news surrounding the planned work to improve disabled access at Birkenhead North railway station by next year is welcome. Neil Scales, the former Chief Executive of Merseytravel stated in a letter to myself in 2008 that “Merseytravel’s … aim is to provide step free access at all stations on Merseyside.”
“There is a footbridge at Bidston and stepped ramps at both Upton and Birkenhead Park railway station, so there is still a long way to go before stations in the local area are accessible. A legal case in the Court of Appeal in 2004, Roads v Central Trains Ltd  EWCA Civ 1541, was brought by a wheelchair user against their local train company because of an inaccessible train station. Mr. Roads was paid £1,097 in compensation (and his legal costs) because of disability discrimination and Central Trains limited was forced (despite an estimated cost of £750,000) to improve disabled access at the train station.”
“People who certain disabilities are entitled to a free public transport pass, yet it is wrong that many disabled people have a pass that they can’t use at their local train station due to access problems. Improving disabled access also makes life easier for cyclists and people pushing pushchairs. I hope that Merseytravel and Merseyrail will take its legal responsibilities seriously not to discriminate against disabled people and improve the other inaccessible stations in the near future. Three Lord Justices agreed that the cost of adapting the train stations is not a reason to discriminate against disabled travellers.”
Although the initial proposals that the Boundary Commission drew up proposed moving Bidston & St. James ward to Wallasey constituency (from 2015), the revised proposals place Bidston & St. James ward far more sensibly in Birkenhead constituency. The consultation on the revised proposals are running until 10th December 2012.
The effect of Bidston & St. James ward staying in Birkenhead under the revised proposals, is that Upton ward is moved in the revised proposals from Birkenhead to Wallasey (it’s currently in Wirral West, which is proposed to be renamed Wirral Deeside). These changes are of course subject to a vote in the House of Commons before 2015, which the Lib Dem Party has now stated they won’t support (although they agreed to it in the Coalition Agreement in 2010) because of stalled House of Lords reforms due (in part) to a rebellion by backbench Conservative Party MPs.