The Lights Are On But No One Is Home

wallasey-town-hall-at-night

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Following on from our ‘Where Your Money Goes’ report and anticipating tonight’s planned protests at Wallasey Town Hall about Wirral Council’s proposals to introduce parking charges the length and breadth of the borough we discuss further worrying developments when it comes to the council’s questionable income generating measures.
We have been contacted by a concerned citizen about correspondence they received from the council which they describe as ‘frightening’ :
I have just received a letter from the council asking me to verify that I do live on my own and thus still qualify for the single person allowance.
Fair enough, I have no problem with this, indeed, it even smacks of efficiency. However I note these two bullet points on the letter:
  • We will shortly be performing further and more detailed checks on household residency in order to validate claims for Council Tax Single Person Discount.
  • These residency checks will be performed in collaboration with an external agency.
What the hell does this mean? I notice that alongside the Wirral Council logo is another one for ‘northgate public services’.
Are we to have these civil police marching around our properties sniffing bed sheets and checking for extra shoes under the bed?
I am 60 and very active, but I would not like to open my door to these people if I was a frail 85 year old widower. This is really alarming.
How will these checks be carried out, what right have these people to enter my flat and if I refuse them entry! What then?
It’s like a Stalinist police state..!
Our correspondent should count themselves lucky they don’t own an empty property. There’s no Council Tax Single Person Discount there – owners have to a 100% Council Tax on an empty property if it’s been unoccupied for 6 months.  What if they can’t sell it in these desperate times ? Once again we can’t help thinking this has nothing to do with bringing empty properties back into use or about tackling homelessness. We don’t understand how Wirral Council can charge someone for services they don’t receive as there’s no-one living at the property!
Meanwhile it comes to something when two Labour MPs  ( Alison McGovern and Margaret Greenwood) speak out against the council’s car parking proposals whilst the two most prominent and headline grabbing Wirral MPs ( Angela Eagle and Frank Field) keep schtum.
We can’t help wondering with some of their punitive proposals as to whether the current Labour administration at Wallasey Town Hall have a death wish or they’ve grown so arrogant and complacent that they can impose any draconian measure on the people of Wirral – the people they’re meant to serve! Now we know that Wirral Council have made some wayward moves over recent years but some of their recent decisions are simply inexplicable! –  It really does seem to us to be a case of the lights are on but no one is home !
We have to say , as worthy as they are ,we’re getting a tad frustrated with the protests and petitions . Once again we invoke the words ‘Judicial Review’ to test the legality of Wirral Council’s actions. We think that this is where people need to get organised and direct their energies if the these proposals get the go ahead.
We suggest the grounds for ‘Judicial Review’ are set out succinctly in correspondence sent from regular Wirral Leaks correspondent Dr Robert B Smith to Eric Robinson and Cllr Phil Davies Wirral Council  CEO and ‘leader’ respectively and a response Dr Smith received from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) .

Dear Mr Robinson, Dear Cllr Phil Davies,

Please forward my email to any new councillors.

Nothing has changed since 2015 regarding the legislation prohibiting using parking charges to raise revenue leading to the defeat at Fort Perch Rock in 2015 regarding questionable budget options. From the DCLG: –

Operational Guidance, and legislation, is clear that local authorities should never use parking charges to raise revenue. Where there is surplus income local authorities must ensure that any revenue not used for enforcement is used for legitimate purposes as prescribed in Section 55 (as amended) of the RTRA 1984, and that its main use is to improve, by whatever means, transport provision in the area so that road users benefit.

Another important aspect of the function of the Monitoring Officer related to legal compliance is clearly stated by the DCLG viz.,

All local authorities have a Monitoring Officer, and it is their role to ensure that the authority complies with legislation in its operation.

I paste the reply I received from the DCLG in full, below, for those with short memories.

Dr Robert B Smith

Dear Dr Smith

Thank you for your email dated 20 July to Greg Clark concerning proposed pay and display parking in New Brighton. I work in the team in DCLG working on high streets and town centres and have been asked to reply on his behalf.

Parking is vital to modern high streets and town centres, which is why we are encouraging all local authorities to consider the impact of parking policies on the health of town centres and to adjust their policies accordingly. We want to make sure local authorities operate fair and reasonable parking strategies that are not an unnecessary disincentive to motorists who visit our high streets and town centres.

Operational Guidance, and legislation, is clear that local authorities should never use parking charges to raise revenue. Where there is surplus income local authorities must ensure that any revenue not used for enforcement is used for legitimate purposes as prescribed in Section 55 (as amended) of the RTRA 1984, and that its main use is to improve, by whatever means, transport provision in the area so that road users benefit.

I am sorry that you feel that the Wirral Borough Council is not supporting the recovery of New Brighton, Wallasey. Parking is ultimately the responsibility of local authorities; it is for them to determine what is best for their own area. You are correct therefore, to raise this issue with your MP, as Ministers have no remit to intervene in a local authorities day to day affairs, except where specific provision has been made in an Act of Parliament. All local authorities have a Monitoring Officer, and it is their role to ensure that the authority complies with legislation in its operation.

You will be interested to know that the Department for Communities and Local Government has published new statutory guidance that ensures local residents and firms can petition to initiate a formal review of parking policies in their area from the council, with Councillors then voting on the action to be taken. This guidance describes in more detail a new mechanism to use petitions to give local residents, community groups and businesses the ability to challenge parking policies, and advises local authorities on best practice. The full guidance can be found at http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-challenge-parking-policies

Yours sincerely,

Kathryn Clarke

Town Centres, High Streets and Coastal Team

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10 thoughts on “The Lights Are On But No One Is Home

  1. Everyone seems to assume that this proposal is real.
    Wirral has form for putting forward proposals similar to this so they can be withdrawn as a demonstration of “listening to the public”
    Standard PR tactic.
    What is it within budget proposals they are trying to draw fire from?

    • We hear what you’re saying……especially when the proposals seem counter-productive to their so-called pledges. Nothing but nothing would surprise us when it comes to Wirral Council.
      We await developments and political manoeuvrings with interest.

  2. Further to the correspondence you have just published in the rather alarming post above.

    Protest and petitions are only of real use if there is anybody in Wirral Council who actually cares about anything other than retaining power at any cost. Due to the machinations of the leadership, questionable constitutional changes, and the conduct of the Monitoring Officer, any decision, of any status, legal or illegal, beneficial or detrimental, can be driven through by the mindless en-bloc voting and abstention regime of the current leadership, supported by a compliant Chief Executive.

    If everyone who protests or signs petitions, banded together to demand a Judicial Review of all of Wirral Council’s many questionable activities, that would cover virtually every aspect of Council activity – a damning indictment in itself.

    This Council thrives on public apathy, and like an all-consuming parasite, will suck the life out of Wirral and its residents, while the public it is supposed to serve keep acting as an unconcerned host (or cash-cow as it has now become).

    • Amen to that.
      We’ve been singing from this hymn sheet for a while. Whilst sometimes our song might be somewhat discordant and out of tune we don’t know what else to do to get our voices heard.

    • Unless there are lawyers who would do all the work associated with a judicial review those seeking it would be a cash cow for solicitors and “experts”
      The process would take forever with smoke mirrors and legal shenanigans from the Council.

      Independent candidates for Councillor positions in 2018 should be part of any game plan. A slate of individuals with no political allegiance could break up the cabal.

  3. We attended the town hall meeting which only proved if proof were needed what a bunch of arrogant bullies the labour group are. According to one opposition councillor parking charges have consistently lost money over the last five years .The feelings of the crowd was fuming but we were not allowed to speak as the chair leader of the bullies shouted the crowd down threatening to throw them out if they dared to speak. So much for democracy it was a farce.
    Our good mate John Brace was at the forefront taking in every word so please look at his video and let me know what you think.

  4. Pingback: Parking Charges Get The Chop | Wirralleaks

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