Over 3,000 people sign 2 petitions against Wirral Council cuts generally and to West Kirby Marine Lake

Over 3,000 people sign 2 petitions against Wirral Council cuts generally and to West Kirby Marine Lake

Over 3,000 people sign 2 petitions against Wirral Council cuts generally and to West Kirby Marine Lake

                                               

There are two large petitions on the agenda of tonight’s Council meeting, which means each petition organiser has up to fifteen minutes to speak. The first petition of 4,042 signatures (combined across an e-petition and paper petition) is from Sue Kellett of UNISON and is titled “Save Our Services”, the front page of which can be viewed here. It’s basically an anti cuts petition.

The second petition of 3,546 signatures by Mr M Shipley is asking to remove the budget option to save money at West Kirby Marine Lake.

West Kirby Library one of the four central libraries that won't be affected by changes to opening hours
West Kirby Library one of the four central libraries that won’t be affected by changes to opening hours

Also on the budget options, the Lib Dems (see pages 3/4 of the supplementary agenda) seem to be upset at the prospect of opening hours at some Wirral libraries being reduced.

On the subject of libraries, below is some information on Wirral libraries recently given to this blog:

Wirral Community Libraries Baby Bounce and Rhyme
Wirral Community Libraries Baby Bounce and Rhyme
Wirral Community Libraries Storytime visits
Wirral Community Libraries Storytime visits
Groups at Community Libraries Page 1 of 3
Groups at Community Libraries Page 1 of 3
Groups at Community Libraries Page 2 of 3
Groups at Community Libraries Page 2 of 3
Groups at Community Libraries Page 3 of 3
Groups at Community Libraries Page 3 of 3
Community Libraries Number of PCs for public use May 2013
Community Libraries Number of PCs for public use May 2013
Community Libraries ICT Log Ins April 2014 to October 2014
Community Libraries ICT Log Ins April 2014 to October 2014
Wirral Community Libraries Summer Reading Challenge individual branch figures 2014 & 2013
Wirral Community Libraries Summer Reading Challenge individual branch figures 2014 & 2013
Wirral Community Libraries books issued and renewed August 2013 to August 2014
Wirral Community Libraries books issued and renewed August 2013 to August 2014
Wirral Community Libraries Borrowers monthly August 2013 to August 2014
Wirral Community Libraries Borrowers monthly August 2013 to August 2014
Wirral Community Libraries Total number of visitors monthly August 2013 to August 2014
Wirral Community Libraries Total number of visitors monthly August 2013 to August 2014
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 7
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 7
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 8
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 8
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 9
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 9
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 10
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 10
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 11
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 11
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 12
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 12
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 13
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 13
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 14
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 14
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 15
Panel Community Libraries budget option Wirral Council page 15

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Cllr Phil Davies agrees to £2.4 million of cuts for 2015-16 in 10 areas of Wirral Council expenditure

Cllr Phil Davies agrees to £2.4 million of cuts for 2015-16 in 10 areas of Wirral Council expenditure

Cabinet (Wirral Council) 8th December 2014 Background Shirley Hudspeth, Surjit Tour, Cllr Phil Davies & Graham Burgess foreground trade union representative Agenda item 4 Council Budget Consultation Findings
Cabinet (Wirral Council) 8th December 2014 Background Shirley Hudspeth, Surjit Tour, Cllr Phil Davies & Graham Burgess foreground trade union representative Agenda item 4 Council Budget Consultation Findings

Cabinet (Wirral Council) 8th December 2014 Background Shirley Hudspeth, Surjit Tour, Cllr Phil Davies & Graham Burgess foreground trade union representative Agenda item 4 Council Budget Consultation Findings

Cllr Phil Davies agrees to £2.4 million of cuts for 2015-16 in 10 areas of Wirral Council expenditure

                                                   

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Future Council Wirral logo
Future Council Wirral logo

                                                   

The Cabinet meeting on 8th December was well attended for the item on the recent “Future Council” budget consultation. £4 million of cuts were consulted on, of which £2.5 million would need to be chosen.

However minutes before that item was decided, Cabinet approved an ten-year extension to Biffa’s contract. This extended the contract from 2017 to 2027, which meant Cabinet then only had to find £2.4 million of cuts. This was because Biffa had offered a £500,000 reduction in 2015-16 in what they charge for services under the contract in return for the ten-year extension and changes to the contract. Yes, before anybody points it out I realise that £2.5 million – £500,000 = £2 million, not £2.4 million. As to what the other £400,000 saved on the Biffa contract will be used towards I’m unsure (maybe it’ll go towards the projected overspend this year)!

So what have the Labour Cabinet decided to cut? For the detail on what each of these budget options refers to you can read this blog post written at the start of the Future Council consultation that details what each budget options means. The West Kirby Marine Lake budget option has changed from transferring it to the private sector to an alternative budget option for it involving better marketing/increased income. These are each of the budget proposals they accepted in full, which as the Cabinet has to refer budget recommendations to Council to decide won’t be implemented yet.

Budget Options accepted in full
Council Tax Over 70s Discount £600,000
Allotments, Bowling and Football £35,000
Parking at Fort Perch Rock £25,000
Commemorations and Memorials £100,000
Litter and Dog Fouling Enforcement £70,000
All Age Disability Service £600,000
West Kirby Marine Lake £25,000
Girtrell Court £385,000

Total: £1.84 million

Budget Options accepted in part
Community Libraries £190,000 (originally £411,000)
Preventative Maintenance £370,000 (originally £570,000)

Total: £560,000

Grand Total: £2.4 million

Here’s what they chose not to cut in full (I’m leaving out the two options below of community libraries and preventative maintenance where partial savings were agreed as they are already mentioned above):

Budget options not chosen – these savings will not be made in 2015-16
Parking in Countryside Parks £50,000
Public Conveniences £140,000
Cold Calling Zones £80,000
Roadside Grit Bins £55,000
School Crossing Patrols £90,000
Pest Control £65,000
Youth and Play £450,000

Total: £930,000

+ part of savings from community libraries (£221,000) and
+ part of savings from Preventative Maintenance (£200,000)

Total: £1.351 million

So how does this compare to a prediction I made before this decision was made last night as to what would be cut?

Well I was correct on most of what the Cabinet chose. However I had to make my total reach £2.5 million as that was what was consulted on rather than the £2.4 million decided last night. The majority of the cuts (Over 70s Council Tax discount, Girtrell Court and All Age Disability Service which total about £1.5 million) I was right on.

The rest I was mainly right on with part of the error caused by having to make it total £2.5 million. However it’s still up to Council to debate them before a final decision is made. However with a Labour majority on Wirral Council it looks almost certain that Cllr Phil Davies will get his budget options approved.

Oh and in slightly related news, Cllr Phil Davies also confirmed his intention to not raise Council Tax in 2015-16 too and accept a Council Tax Freeze Grant (which is part of the reason why some of these cuts have to be made). You can answer why you think Cllr Phil Davies, with Cabinet responsibility for the budget who is up for election in May 2015 doesn’t want to put Council Tax up in 2015-16 in the comments if you wish.

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Councillors met to discuss 3 areas of Future Council consultation (Youth and Play, Gitrell Court and West Kirby Marine Lake)

Councillors met to discuss 3 areas of Future Council consultation (Youth and Play, Gitrell Court and West Kirby Marine Lake)

Councillors met to discuss 3 areas of Future Council consultation (Youth and Play, Gitrell Court and West Kirby Marine Lake)

                                                    

Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee  Wirral Council  3rd November 2014   L to R Legal adviser who was missing, Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Chair), Clare Fish and Graham Hodkinson
Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee Wirral Council 3rd November 2014 L to R Legal adviser who was missing, Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Chair), Clare Fish and Graham Hodkinson

Last night showed something that we’ve been promised for some time which is pre-decision scrutiny (of a sort). Now the Future Council consultation is over, the first of three overview and scrutiny committees met yesterday evening to discuss the proposed budget cuts in their area of responsibility.

Prior to this there had been a behind closed doors set of meetings among councillors, which explained why the public meeting itself was rather short.

The rather late reports (which included a Powerpoint presentation on the consultation results) concentrated on the following proposed budget cuts:

Youth and Play Service £450,000 cut closing 4 youth centres, reducing provision at the “hubs” from five evening a week to four, Play Schemes funding ceased, grant to Wirral Play Council stopped, Civil Award Scheme stopped and Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme stopped. If chosen this would end play schemes in Beechwood, Gautby Road (in Bidston) and Leasowe Adventure Playground in Wallasey. These three playschemes cost Wirral Council £190,000 a year but benefit about 600 children.

The Wirral Play Council (a charity on the Wirral) runs play schemes including an annual event at Birkenhead Park attended by 3,000 children, which was discussed at the Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee public meeting last week. People at that meeting were shown photos of the Mayor at this event in Birkenhead Park which I can’t show you because the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Cllr Tony Smith and Wirral Council officers decided to try to negotiate a broadcast media blackout of that public meeting and had I tried to film it, Surjit Tour would’ve advised Cllr Tony Smith to adjourn that meeting.

The detail of the effects of each proposal had been previously discussed behind closed doors by councillors who then produced a scrutiny panel report.

The other possible budget cuts involved Girtell Court (a short break respite service for adults with disabilities of £385,000), a cut to the all age disability service of £600,000 (affecting Willow Tree (overnight short breaks for children with high-level learning and physical disabilities), Children with Disabilities Team, Transition Team and the Family Support Team) and West Kirby Marine Lake (a cut of £25,000 and the possible outsourcing to a third party although an alternative option is being looked at).

Certainly these were not popular proposals (especially considering the fuss kicked up over the playschemes proposal) cuts and in not all areas did councillors agree with officers. At one point the Chair felt that the cuts were just being fitted around the amounts that had to be saved. As the budget options cover £4 million out of £2.5 million of options, some won’t happen, however you can watch the video of the meeting below to see and hear what councillors and officers said.

I will upload clearer audio of the meeting at a later date, although I felt it was important to point out the above at this point. When the overview and scrutiny committees finish (the last one is scheduled for tomorrow night), their proposals will feed into a Cabinet meeting which will make a recommendation on the budget to Council. All councillors will then meet, debate, discuss and vote on the budget, which according to the new legislation now has to be done by each councillor individually voting on each budget proposal (due to a change in legislation earlier this year). This way when it comes to election time in May, the Wirral public can look up how certain councillors standing in the election voted on the issues that matter to them if they so wish.

There are however going to be sections of society lobbying hard to make sure the Labour administration (who decide where the cuts are) spares them from the effects of the cuts. It remains to be seen how easy it will be both for councillors and political parties to deal with the public relations effects of what is proposed. As was mentioned at the meeting yesterday evening, there are large petitions opposing some of the cuts proposed. Some petitions are large enough that the petition organisers will get the right to speak at the Council meeting at which these decisions are made. The papers for this public meeting can be read on Wirral Council’s website

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Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee Wirral Council 3rd November 2014 Part 1

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Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee Wirral Council 3rd November 2014 Part 2

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Wirral Council launches Future Council consultation on 17 budget options for £2.5 million savings

Wirral Council launches Future Council consultation on 17 budget options for £2.5 million savings

Wirral Council launches Future Council consultation on 17 budget options for £2.5 million savings

                                                       

Future Council Wirral logo
Future Council Wirral logo

Ed – Update 14:55 9/9/14 to fix 6 incorrect links to the budget options that was helpfully pointed out by a reader.

Yes, it’s another annual consultation on savings from Wirral Council that began yesterday and runs from yesterday to the 31st October 2014. What’s this one on? This is on £2.5 million of cuts that Wirral Council need to make in 2015/16.

Although the documentation refers to £4 million of budget options this seems rounded to the nearest million (the options total £3.75 million). Out of these options about £2.5 million will be chosen (two-thirds by total value).

Here are the documents and links:

Final Full Consultation Pack (this is a 21 page document which covers all options).

The options are then in various “themes” and are below by theme (I’ve also included the amount in pounds next to each option for financial year 2015/16 if that option is chosen).

This means some of the larger savings options are almost certain to go ahead which are those involving community libraries, the all age disability service, youth and play, preventative maintenance (highways and parks), Council Tax Over 70s discount and Girtrell Court.

These six options total £2.566 million of the £2.5 million savings required.

The other eleven options seem less likely to meet with public approval as they will be opposed by (in some cases) large sections of Wirral’s society. Some of them have already been rejected in earlier years following consultation such as charging for car parks at the country parks, school crossing patrols etc.

With the options below I’ve briefly included a sentence or two explaining what it’s about.

Customer Contact

Reduce library opening hours to four hours (10am to 2pm) with these libraries opened either two or three days a week. This option does not seem to apply to the four central libraries or combined libraries/One Stop Shops whose opening hours remain the same.

Delivering Differently Theme

Close four satellite youth centres & end funding Play Scheme.

Managing Demand

Remove 41 school crossing patrols.

Income and Efficiency

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Cabinet (Wirral Council) 27th September 2012

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1. Declarations of Interest 00:01
2. Minutes of the last meeting

CHILDREN’S SERVICES AND LIFELONG LEARNING
3. Child and Family Poverty Budget Option

STREETSCENE AND TRANSPORT SERVICES
4. Highway and Engineering Services Contract – Value for Money and Annual Review
5. Highway and Engineering Services Contract – 2014 and Beyond
6. The Flood and Water Act 2010 – Ordinary Watercourse Consenting and Enforcement
7. West Kirby Marine Lake Refurbishment, Consultant Appointments – Contract Price Increase

REGENERATION AND PLANNING STRATEGY
8. Local Development Framework – Core Strategy – Publication of Proposed Submission Draft

HOUSING AND COMMUNITY SAFETY
9. Implementation of Local Authority Mortgage Scheme in Wirral

IMPROVEMENT AND GOVERNANCE
10. Recommendations from the Improvement Board
11. Any Other Urgent Business
12. Exempt Information – Exclusion of the Press and Public

STREETSCENE AND TRANSPORT SERVICES
13. Exempt Appendices – Agenda Item 4 Highway and Engineering Services Contract — Value for Money and Annual Review
14. Exempt Appendices – Agenda Item 5 Highway and Engineering Services Contract – 2014 and Beyond
15. Any Other Urgent Business Approved by the Chair (Part 2)