Posted by: John Brace | 28th November 2019

Which Labour councillor described the “human cost” of welfare reform but wouldn’t propose a resolution in case it “endangered [Wirral] Council”?

Which Labour councillor described the “human cost” of welfare reform but wouldn’t propose a resolution in case it “endangered [Wirral] Council”?

                                       

Cllr Steve Foulkes (Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council)) 27th November 2019

Cllr Steve Foulkes (Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council)) 27th November 2019

The author declares at the start an interest as he is disabled and therefore directly impacted by some of the issues below. I do not agree or endorse all the viewpoints expressed below but feel it is important for these to be in the public domain during a period when people have a vote.

Roll up, roll up, you’ve paid your council tax so come on in and while the rest of the country plays “The Weakest Link” to choose their next Member of Parliament Wirral Council councillors still have to carry on well carrying on!

On Wednesday evening (27th November 2019) Lib Dem Cllr Phil Gilchrist mentioned at a meeting of the Standards Committee (yes don’t laugh too hard at the title – Wirral Council still has *some* standards) the Scottish Play.

One doesn’t have to look too far or even read the whole of the Scottish Play to see the tragedy and personal cost of political ambition playing out in epic tales of trust and betrayal – and in Committee Room 2 the boiling cauldron (tea and coffee machine) was still out of order (read into that what you will).

Yesterday however, the Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting started off with the rules (I paraphrase). The first rule was – you do not talk about the general election. The second rule was: you DO NOT talk about the general election!

Despite this rather clear warning at the start, certain councillors managed to mention and argue about the merits of one of the Green Party general election candidates who wasn’t there and engaged in plenty of anti-government rhetoric.

But you expected that didn’t you?

I will finish this piece with a quote from Labour Cllr Steve Foulkes (who in 2012 was removed from office as Leader of the Council (as well as his entire Cabinet) in a scandal involving the Council’s abuse of vulnerable adults (amongst other things)).

Cllr Foulkes said, “I mean clearly a report about Universal Credit written by [an] officer of Wirral Council during purdah time will focus on exactly the issues that affect us. The one thing that we all, I hope we all recognise, is that this system is resource intensive. It takes an awful lot of resource for us to get people through the system, so inherently as many of us do believe the system is inherently at fault and should be changed.

Obviously I’m not going to move a resolution now, I’m not going to endanger the Council in any shape or form during purdah.

But what a report on this will never have is the human cost element of this report.

We see on a daily basis, we see people fraught, we see their faces angst, we see them being ill, we see, we know people who have committed suicide, we know people who’ve been, you know with hideous sort of disabilities being refused at the first hurdle and then waiting months for that to be resolved, we see that on a daily basis and a report like this will never be able to echo that even if we weren’t in purdah it simply wouldn’t go down that element.

So there are you know without going too much into the political arena at this time, there is a human cost associated with this legislation and many of us believe it is fundamentally flawed so we have to make that point.”

However in these times of general election, it would be wrong of me merely to present only Cllr Steve Foulkes’ view of disability and not the Conservative government’s too.

So here about similar issues is a copy of a letter dated 21st October 2019 from the Conservative Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Justin Tomlinson to Birkenhead Social Justice Party candidate Frank Field.

However I will finish with this (as it is a general election) observation from made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in relation to the UK:-

“The UN Committee was concerned that there is not enough information on accessibility and reasonable adjustments to help disabled people vote, and to vote in private. The Committee also noted its concern that very few disabled people run for or hold elected public office.” – you can read further about its over 80 recommendations for the UK here.

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