8 Labour councillors vote against motion asking for delay in closure of Girtrell Court until alternatives are in place

8 Labour councillors vote against motion asking for delay in closure of Girtrell Court until alternatives are in place                                                       The two most read stories on this blog this month have been Why did Wirral Council’s Cabinet recommend closure of Girtrell Court despite a protest against closure and opposition from the trade unions? and . … Continue reading “8 Labour councillors vote against motion asking for delay in closure of Girtrell Court until alternatives are in place”

8 Labour councillors vote against motion asking for delay in closure of Girtrell Court until alternatives are in place


Labour councillors (except Cllr Christina Muspratt who abstained) voting against an opposition motion on Girtrell Court at the Coordinating Committee meeting on the 16th February 2016
Labour councillors (except Cllr Christina Muspratt who abstained) voting against an opposition motion on Girtrell Court at the Coordinating Committee meeting on the 16th February 2016

The two most read stories on this blog this month have been Why did Wirral Council’s Cabinet recommend closure of Girtrell Court despite a protest against closure and opposition from the trade unions? and .

However there’s been a public meeting involving Girtrell Court that I haven’t reported on yet.

In the past when there were budget options out to public consultation, Wirral Council’s overview and scrutiny committees each met in public. This gave an opportunity for backbench councillors to give their views on each budget option with an opportunity for the public to hear this. If there was a difference of opinion between councillors alternatives could be put forward and voted on. That was how scrutiny used to operate at Wirral Council all done at public meetings on camera.

However this year (in a repeat of how it was done last year), it was all done in private in “workshops”, not in public. A report was then written up for each overview and scrutiny committee, you can read the Families and Wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee workshop report here, the Regeneration and Environment overview and scrutiny committee workshop report here and the Transformation and Resources overview and scrutiny committee workshop report here.

Around a week before the Cabinet met to decide its recommendation on the budget for 2016/17 the Coordinating Committee (who coordinate the work of the overview and scrutiny committees) met on the evening of the 16th February 2016.

I thought as Wirral Council hasn’t yet met to decide the budget for 2016/17 and people associated with Girtrell Court weren’t at this meeting that a transcript of what was said in the debate on the report from the Families and Wellbeing workshop would be useful. However you can watch this item (item 5 2016/17 Budget Scrutiny Report) for yourself in the video below. The video should start at the right point but if it doesn’t this agenda item starts at the 31 minute 7 second point and the overarching report for this agenda item can be read here.

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Coordinating Committee 16th February 2016

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Chair, Labour): Right, the next item on the agenda is item 5 and it is the report of the workshops that looked at budget scrutiny.

Errm, Joe [Blott] do you want to say something on that?

OK, errm, OK, just briefly as a bit of an overview, we used the same approach the workshop approach this year as was used last year with each Committee holding its own workshop, to give an opportunity for its members to examine in more detail the proposals put forward by the officers.

Errm, the obvious intention was to better understand the service implications and the achievability of the proposals as they were presented.

Errm, I do think that members who took part found them errm helpful and the purpose tonight is really to note the process that we’ve used and perhaps comment on that and whether that could be improved upon in the future and also the character of the workshops and then forward these documents to the Cabinet. I know they’ve already been reproduced and they will form part of the Cabinet minutes for next week.

Errm, I think all members don’t know really of the Council understand the scale of the task that’s underway at the moment over the budget. Errm, and I do hope errm that errm, I mean we won’t be as I said earlier in the earlier report we won’t be debating these proposals tonight, that wouldn’t be appropriate but I do hope that, errm, the non-elected, non-Executive members of the Council, this can form a good part of the consultation, their views on the consultation and that’s what it’s intended to be.

I’m going to errm, I’ll give a brief overview of what happened at Families and Wellbeing and then I’ll ask the other chairs of the other two committees to do the same.

Errm, the session that was on, held by Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee was very well attended, I know unfortunately Wendy [Clements] was unwell, but other than that we had a full turn out.

Errm, and there was err, I think everybody contributed in some form during the discussion that we had. Obviously some of the proposals that were put forward generated more discussion and comment than others.

Errm, what the Committee didn’t attempt to do was to recommend or reject any of the proposals. We didn’t see that as our role.

Errm what we did use, err do, was to use the workshops to dig deeper than the narrative that was presented by errm around the proposal by officers and to examine in more detail the impact, whether that be a positive impact or a negative impact and errm if we thought there were negative impacts to highlight those and possibly make suggestions as to how the negative impact could be errm mitigated and also we looked at the achievability of the savings because in the past errm savings haven’t always been achieved and that’s presented problems in the year, in the following year.

Errm, following the workshop, further information was requested on errm, modelling the saving around the concessions on leisure could be done differently to perhaps protect some of the most errm disadvantaged children in the Borough and since then I’ve had back a report from Clare Fish which we actually asked if we could look at what the errm the effect on the saving would be for errm children who were in receipt of free school meals if they were still entitled to a swim. Errm and the report I’ve had back from Clare Fish indicates that out of a saving of two hundred and fifty, which and there was comment if you look at the night, there was comment about, about the errm, how that figure was errm obtained, but that we would reduce err, would reduce the saving by fifteen thousand, but we would initiate a cost of two swims annually. Errm, so that’s err, as I said will go forward as well.

Errm and one of the members asked at a later stage, raised an issue around the impact of the changes around the CAMHS contract and errm the information that was received from that has been included in the narrative of the report.

Errm, the report’s already been circulated to members, participants of the Committee which the service support and I’m sure Wendy [Clements] you’ve had a copy as well.

Errm, but if you believe that it has been accepted by them as an accurate reflection of the discussion on the night and I thank all those who’ve attended and took part.

Errm, now I think it’s probably reasonable to say that at this point, Phil [Gilchrist] has submitted an email today which I didn’t really have a chance to look at this morning because I was on grandma duties, but I have looked at it as the day’s gone on and errm, I don’t know whether members of the Committee have had, I have to say Phil [Gilchrist] errm, I do believe that the areas that you’ve highlighted were thoroughly explored at the workshop and the comments errm, of Members are included in the narrative of the report.

I don’t really errm, I wouldn’t like to see this Committee, try to change the work that came out of that workshop. So I mean I’m inclined to say thank you very much for your comment and I’m sure you’d be happy to have that email forwarded to the Cabinet directly from you, but I wouldn’t want to change the errm, narrative of the Families and Wellbeing errm workshop report.

Errm, now obviously if the other people feel differently I’ll have to put that to the vote, but as the Chair of the Families and Wellbeing and the person who signed off the report, errm that’s my view. That points were raised, they were explored, they have been commented on and other consultations that maybe have taken place since, can report in their own way and I’m sure they will, but this is the work of the members of the Families and Wellbeing Committee at that workshop, that night and therefore I don’t wish to change it.

OK, errm, but I’m happy, it was, I’ll take questions on this point.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): Just a comment, if it’s legitimate to receive information later on, which you mentioned earlier about the swimming cost issue, and members are able to get a bit more information on certain issues and they reflected on what’s submitted then it seems equally legitimate, no offence meant at all, to hear what’s been said, concerns that have been raised in other places since and then to reflect on what the Working Party heard and to try and satisfy ourselves as to whether..

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): I understand the point you’re making but I don’t agree with it. Errm, I actually, the points that were raised, one of them was raised on the night by a member of the Committee and the other was raised by a member of the Committee at a later stage. So I think we’re in a different situation to try and use this Committee to change or highlight an area where that was one of the conclusions. Those were a range of concerns that were raised on the night, errm on this issue, but other positive things were put forward as well, so just to highlight those would almost change the emphasis and I understand that you feel strongly and I’m sure that you will make representations and other consultations that are under way will also put their feedback in but that’s for them to do and for those people who are the subject of the consultation to do, not for members of the Families and Wellbeing and that’s, I haven’t got any more to say on it. If you want to put it as a proposal, I’m quite happy to put it to a vote.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): I think Chair, I’m conscious there are a couple of deputies, I’m conscious that there are members who have been working during the day and might not have seen what I circulated and what I did circulate was a fair summary I thought, plus some suggestions and therefore I’m conscious that not everyone might have seen it, but we often suggest things during a meeting that people haven’t seen.

Errm and I’m not sure perhaps if there are members who have seen what I wrote even though it was about ten to midnight last night. If there are members who agree that it’s reasonable to put it forward they might say so and then they might be able to judge the feeling of members because of course I’m sitting here happily on my own, in my own little group as it were, but…

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): As I say, Phil if you want to read out your email and then if you want to move it and get a seconder, errm then we’ll put it to a vote. So if that’s what you want to do, fine! And I’m quite happy to do that!

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): I’m getting some indications from members, some members are nodding who have read it that agree with the points that I’ve raised and I’m conscious it’s very lengthy.

For the courtesy of other members would you agree that I should read it out and then members can consider it?

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Yes, err Ron [Abbey] briefly, because I want to move on!

Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour): I can’t be brief on that because I think we should take the advice of the Chair and I don’t think we should have any email or debate on this.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): We want to be fair though don’t we? So I want to give Phil [Gilchrist], I mean I’m sure it’s very difficult for Phil [Gilchrist] managing on his own. Errm, and I want to give him the benefit of all our help if I can on this, so you read it out Phil and then if you want to move it as a proposal, put it.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): Thank you for your courtesy Chair.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): I’m always courteous with you.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): Yes, thank you. I’m always courteous. I’m going to read

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): OK, quickly!

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson):carefully and modestly.

This meeting of the Policy and Performance Coordinating Committee wishes to highlight the concerns expressed by members of the budget scrutiny working party relating to services offered at Girtrell Court.

During those deliberations it was recognised that “the key challenge is to meet the needs of individuals with what can be provided” and that “assurances were sought about availability and quality of the independent sector provision and also how each person would have their needs assessed”.

It was also reported that, “all respite will be honoured until March 2016, but provision will be continued until all reviews are complete and all users have alternative provision in place”. That’s the quote.

Then I went on to write, “In view of the concerns raised since the working party met, it’s even more important that attention is given to meeting the detailed needs of the families involved.

Services need to be offered at Girtrell Court, until it is clear that a range of providers are in place and lined up to offer services truly tailored to the physical, recreational and emotional needs of the users and are demonstrably appropriate to their ages and circumstances.

In view of the tight timescales that have caused concern the officers and Cabinet need to ensure that the transition to future provision is appropriately managed with clients able to use services at Girtrell Court until such time as alternatives are duly commissioned”.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Thank you very much Phil.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson): That’s a fair read.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): and that was well read, errm, yes, Phil, I do want to move to a vote on this and then move on.

Cllr Phillip Brightmore (Labour): I just want to voice some concern that this is being attached to a report that came from the Families and Wellbeing Committee. It just strikes me that this is something that should stand on its own as a proposal if it’s going to be brought forward at all. I was on that Committee and it, I’d like the report to remain as it was.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): I’m going to put it to a vote Phil so I don’t want everybody around the room giving their opinion because I don’t think it’s needed. Wendy [Clements]? I’ll just going to take one more comment and then I’ll have a vote if Phil wants me to put it to the vote. I’ll draw people’s attention to page fifteen of the report.

Cllr Wendy Clements (Conservative): Thank you Chair. This is a report which is coming to this Committee and so its got our name on it, this particular bunch of people that’s sat here tonight and I would like to say that I will second this.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): We’ll put it to a vote and then we’ll move on. All those in favour of Phil’s suggestion that we attach that errm email,

Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour): Has he got as seconder for that Chair?

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Well Wendy [Clements]’s just seconded it! Errm, all those in favour of that, we attach it to the report from Families and Wellbeing. Please show.

6 councillors voted in favour who were:

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson)
Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative)
Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative)
Cllr David Burgess-Joyce (Conservative)
Cllr Wendy Clements (Conservative)
Cllr Tom Anderson (Conservative spokesperson)

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Right and those against?

8 councillors voted against who were:

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair)
Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour)
Cllr Phillip Brightmore (Labour)
Cllr Walter Smith (Labour)
Cllr Michael Sullivan (Labour)
Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour)
Cllr Janette Williamson (Labour)
Cllr Irene Williams (Labour)

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): So that is not carried and the report…

Cllr Christina Muspratt (Labour): Sorry, we haven’t asked for abstentions!

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Sorry ok.

Cllr Christina Muspratt (Labour): Well I’m abstaining because I haven’t had it, I don’t want to have the .. meeting.

Councillor Christina Muspratt abstained.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): OK, ok, ok, Christine!

Cllr Christina Muspratt (Labour): So I’m abstaining on all this because I’ve not been following the chain.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): OK, one abstention, but I would ask members to look at page fifteen. So now we move on to.

Cllr Christina Muspratt (Labour): Sorry could I ask a question. I’m sorry Chair but I want to ask a question on page eighteen, the CAMHS service, do we know if the money coming from the government may help with this?

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) (Chair): Well this is one reason Christina, why I’m saying we won’t be debating these tonight, because we haven’t got the officers here to answer those questions. So if you want to submit a question in your own right on that I suggest you do, but that’s why we’re not debating these proposals tonight and I will now ask Jeanette [Williamson] to give her report.

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7 invoices during Wirral Council’s “spending freeze” are they all essential spending?

7 invoices during Wirral Council’s “spending freeze” are they all essential spending?

7 invoices during Wirral Council’s “spending freeze” are they all essential spending?


Wirral Council’s Cabinet recently voted to consult on closing Lyndale School because of a projected shortfall this year in Lyndale School’s budget of £15,667 and next year of £72,000.

The Wirral Council invoices below are all for 2013, after Wirral Council instituted a freeze on “non-essential spending” in the Autumn of 2012. As usual you can click on the thumbnails for larger versions of the invoices. What is or isn’t “essential spending” is quite subjective, but if you have a strong opinion on way or the other please leave a comment.

Invoice 1

This is for £64,800 to a London-based company called The Ten Group Limited. The invoice is for answering governors questions at a one hundred and twenty Wirral schools. Surely Wirral Council could either direct governors questions to the Wirral Schools Forum or its own officers to answer? Even hiring someone full-time to answer governors questions would be cheaper than outsourcing it!

Invoice 2A/2B

The first of these two invoices is to a Rotherham based company called U-xplore Ltd for £23,256 for renewal of twenty-four full U-Explore licences. It’s for online careers advice. The company also charged £1,720.80 for “one month hosting” although what they’re hosting isn’t specified on the invoice. As part of the Greater Merseyside Connexions Partnership Wirral Council already contract with Connexions for careers advice who provide a jobs explorer database to schools and colleges, access to software, as well as face to face careers advice. So why the duplication?

Wirral Council U Xplore invoice February 2013 Wirral Council U Xplore invoice February 2013 (2)

Invoice 3A/3B

These two invoices total £10,368 to Theatre and Ltd (based in Huddersfield). It is for a four-day safeguarding think family training workshop. The money is for development, scripting, rehearsal and includes £249.60 in travel & mileage costs. Couldn’t Wirral have hired a more local company (which would’ve meant a saving on mileage) & surely everything anybody needs to know about safeguarding could be covered in a course of less than four days? I’m sure a local college or university could have put on a bespoke workshop for less than £10,000! Finally how many people actually went on this workshop?

Wirral Council Theatre and invoice January 2013 Wirral Council Theatre and invoice March 2013

Invoice 4

This invoice is from Wirral Metropolitan College for £3,240 for 27 hours of training about home based caring for up to twenty people for a course run over ten days for staff in the Wirral Council’s Surestart team. It ties in with my point about the earlier invoice that Wirral Council can get training from local providers cheaper and with the added bonus of supporting local employment!

Wirral Council Wirral Metropolitan College invoice March 2013

Invoice 5

This is for £1,194 to Veryan for a “Veryan WorkPlace annual licence”. Veryan is a Hampshire based software company and workplace is a piece of software to manage work experience placements. I don’t have a problem with using software for this, although it’s the kind of simple application based on a database that Wirral Council could easily write in-house (which would save the cost of an annual licence fee).

Wirral Council Veryan invoice February 2013

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Merseytravel: Scrutiny Committee 3rd June 2013 “Fares Review” Cllr Steve Foulkes “where you can go on a bus and you hear people say, “What’s the cheapest deal today?” you know and that shouldn’t be the case”

A report about Merseytravel’s Scrutiny Committee meeting of the 3rd June 2013: Fares Review Cllr Steve Foulkes “where you can go on a bus and you hear people say, “What’s the cheapest deal today?” you know and that shouldn’t be the case”

Merseytravel: Scrutiny Committee 3rd June 2013 “Fares Review” Cllr Steve Foulkes “where you can go on a bus and you hear people say, “What’s the cheapest deal today?” you know and that shouldn’t be the case”

Unfortunately Standing Order 61 of Merseytravel’s rules in a section marked “Confidentiality” states “No record of the proceedings (or part of the proceedings) of a meeting may be taken to enable persons not present to see or hear any such proceedings without express permission” so sadly there won’t be any accompanying photos or video footage to this report. Perhaps Merseytravel didn’t get the letter from Bob O’Neill about this issue.

Attending the meeting were the Chair, Cllr Malcolm Sharp (Labour, Knowsley), Cllr Steve Foulkes (Labour, Wirral), Cllr Liam Robinson (ex-officio, Labour, Liverpool), Cllr Anthony Carr (Labour, Sefton), Cllr Joanne Calvert (Labour, Liverpool), Cllr Hayley Todd (Labour, Liverpool), Cllr John Dodd (Merseytravel Alliance Signals Good Governance (which is what the Lib Dem/Conservative coalition calls itself on Merseytravel although Cllr John Dodd is a Liberal Democrat), Sefton as well as various Merseytravel officers.

The Chair started by welcoming their new Chief Executive, David Brown to the meeting. David Brown replaces their former Chief Executive Neil Scales after a brief stint by their current Deputy Chief Executive Frank Rogers as Interim Chief Executive. Mr. Brown gets a salary of £149,000. As he [David Brown] was attending his first meeting, the Chair (of the Scrutiny Committee surely who’s very raison d’être would be to scrutinise Merseytravel officers’ decisions?) said that Mr. Brown, the new Chief Executive was there purely as an “observer” and not to ask him “any questions” or “put him on the spot”.

The meeting started with the Chair asking for any apologies for absence. Apologies were given for Cllr Pauline Walton (Labour, Liverpool). The Chair asked for any declarations of interest. Nobody gave any. He then asked if the minutes of the meeting held on the 27th April 2013 were agreed as a true record of the last meeting? They were agreed.

An officer referred to by the Chair as Liz introduced item 4 Fares Review which also had an enclosure. She referred to a decision at an earlier Scrutiny Committee meeting on their priorities for the coming year and that the first workshop had been held in May. Liz said it had been well attended by councillors, not just those on the Scrutiny Committee and the workshop had brought up two potential topics to be considered. After it had been discussed with the Chair [of the Scrutiny Committee] the first two items for scrutiny had been decided as a Fares Review and an Operator Interface Review. These would report back in September, the appendix detailed the aims of the Fares Review and the expert witnesses. She said that at 9b (of the report) it asked for councillors to be nominated to be involved in the Fares Review, instead of deciding now this would be done after the Annual Meeting of Merseytravel on the 27th June. The Chair asked for any comments.

Mr Worry from the Mr. Men
Mr. Worry (Mr. Men) from mrmen.wikia.com/wiki/Mr._Worry

Cllr Steve Foulkes said, “Thanks Chair, I have no problem with the Terms of Reference, particularly whilst it talks about excluding us from the work that’s been going on around young people because I know that’s underway. There’s been a great deal of work on that. It would be very helpful to Scrutiny Committee for that report when that’s ready to come back to us as well as part of our overall look at fares and I think it’s an issue really that if we are in tune with the public, I think it’s something the public want us to do and I think a well documented and well thought out piece of work on scrutiny would not only be used within this organisation but be used further afield to make people recognise indeed some of the discrepancies that there are.

Certainly for the public it’s a very confusing picture outside, out there now for fares and that. I think about my own sort of various grievances I have, where you can go on a bus and you hear people say, “What’s the cheapest deal today?” you know and that shouldn’t be the case. If you’ve got an offer or there’s something that can save people money, it should be known automatically before people plan their journey. So I think we can be part of the bigger picture, I think it’s about going to areas to work on that are something that look, hopefully encourage Scrutiny [Committee] to do more pieces of work and I was thinking it’s a healthy start to our Executive/Scrutiny split so that’s what I wanted to say and thank you.”