The transcript below is a letter from Wirral Council Super Duper Director Clare Fish received by one of the retirees who has had their ‘Passport for Life’ leisure centre concession rescinded. An anonymised copy of the letter can be accessed here :
As we predicted when we wrote on Monday that we looked forward to receiving a copy of the letter and commenting on the tortuous explanation for this latest debacle it wasn’t long before a copy winged its way over to Leaky Towers.
And indeed there is a tortuous explanation – constrained financial circumstances blah blah blah , financial challenges blah blah blah, balanced legal budget blah blah blah . However Ms.Fish doesn’t put this in context of Chief Executive Stressed Eric Robinson’s massive pay rise or fellow ex-Super-Duper Director Kevin Adderley’s golden pension pot or indeed her own six figure salary. Oh no this explanation doesn’t apply to the likes of them it only applies to the “little people” .
The crucial line of the explanation is that It is the Council’s view that the provision of a long service award did not give rise to a contractual arrangement. It was a gift awarded in recognition of service.
Here Fish seems to want to have her fishcake and eat it too . Firstly by establishing that there was no contractual obligation to maintain ‘Passport for Life’ although some of the retirees who have contacted us maintain that it is referenced in Wirral Council’s Staff Handbook and therefore reasonable to assume as part of an employment contract. There is also the matter of consideration (essential for a valid contract) – a gift awarded in recognition of service ( 25 bloody years of it!) – would seem to fit the bill . Then if there was no contract and the ‘Passport for Life’ was a gift shouldn’t a gift be irrecoverable?. Isn’t the taking back of a gift simply an act of theft?
What worries us more generally is that Fish is claiming that the matter was consulted on . However this was part of one of those bogus consultation exercises where the entire population of Wirral are encouraged to chip in on – mostly on matters they know absolutely nothing about ( “ I don’t know what a respite care centre is Derek but shall we say yes to closing that one ?” – ” I suppose so Mavis as we said no to the last consultation question and what’s more the socio-economic , political and ideological considerations involved in making a decision which has no impact on my everyday life is giving me a migraine “).
This so called “formal” consultation exercise is being used as a get out for unilaterally withdrawing the ‘Passport for Life’ without consulting and agreeing with the 414 people who were directly affected by the move.
We’re left wondering whether if a consultation was organised to reduce the pay of Wirral Council senior managers by 50% I’m sure we all could all predict the outcome. And we’re doubly sure this would lead Robinson, Blott , Fish et al crying foul and waving their contracts of employment in our face !. But they’re different. These highly paid fly by nights matter .The long -serving and/or long suffering people who keep them in a well paid job seemingly don’t.
Thank you for your email correspondence to Sports and Recreation dated 28 Mach (sic) 2016.
I acknowledge and appreciate that the decision to remove the concessionary access to Leisure Centres is a disappointing one for you.
Unfortunately, given the current and future constrained financial circumstances affecting the Council, it was necessary to consider a number of savings options in order to meet that financial challenge. This included a decision to remove the concessionary access to Leisure Centres which was taken following formal consultation. The effect of this decision removes many of the discounts and free access to the Council’s leisure facilities which we previously offered. This includes ending free access to the facilities for former council staff, to foster carers and their families, and free swimming for under 18s during school holidays and over 65s between 9am and 12pm.
The Council has carefully considered its legal positon (sic) in relation to the removal of the concessionary access to Leisure Centres. It was a gift awarded in recognition of service.
The Council has had to make increasingly difficult decisions to meet its financial challenges. The Council has had to make savings of more than £150m over the past five years and is required to make further savings of £130m by 2020. The Council is under a legal obligation to pass a balanced legal budget each year.
The Council’s leisure centre operations currently require financial support of over £4 million every year over and above any income generated in order to meet the operating costs. The Council needed to take steps to help redress this financial position, hence the removal of the concessionary access to Leisure Centres and other discounts and free access.
A number of former employees have asked if it is possible to select one of the alternative Long Service Award options that were available at the time of leaving. Unfortunately, as you had selected the leisure pass and had the benefit of using it for a period of time, the Council is not in a position to retrospectively offer another option.
Should you require any more information regarding leisure passes, please visit our website at www.wirral.gov.uk.
Strategic Director – Families & Wellbeing