Election Selection : Week 8

Red Braces

Labour groupies Cllr Chris Meaden and Cllr Janette Williamson admire Frankenfield’s red braces and his homage to 1980’s wankers, sorry, bankers and the glory days of Thatcherism. Pic courtesy of Wirral Globe 

We don’t know how you feel but this has seemed to be the longest 8 weeks of our lives. At last we can get back to moaning about the weather and Wirral Council.

Our interest in national politics only extends to how it affects the local political landscape. By which we mean Frank Field  – obvs. For as we know Frankenfield is the de facto political leader on Wirral. Let’s face it –  McGovern , Eagle and Greenwood are mere also-rans in Wirral’s political stakes.

With Merseyside totally in the red  when it comes to local politics – from the Metro Mayor and his cabinet to all council leaders and constituency MPs and the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy there is an unprecedented concentration of  power invested in one party. Whilst that is the democratic right of the people, it scares us to death, not only because it suggests there is no effective opposition but primarily that some of the people who wield power are just so bloody awful.

But it’s not all bad news – with a hung parliament and with fox-hunting enthusiast Theresa May now experiencing what it’s like to be hunted by the ruthless and privileged ( i.e her own party) it would appear that there could be another general election on the horizon (*sighs* all round at Leaky Towers).

This of course would mean another bumper pay day for Wirral Council’s Returning Officer Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson who as we know must be struggling on his £180K + salary which is supplemented by the bumper pay outs amounting to tens of thousands of pounds he receives for declaring the seemingly never ending round of elections.

Hey Eric – any more thoughts on donating your bonus to supporting local charities or foodbanks or the New Ferry explosion fundraising efforts like a former Wirral Council Chief Executive used to do?

No – thought not!

 

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Question Time

question-everything

Let’s draw a discreet veil over last night’s ‘Question Time’.  All we will say is that if the audience in Wallasey Town Hall is what passes for the politically aware of Wirral it explains an awful lot!

Meanwhile , it’s not like us , but we’ve been a bit ambivalent about the local debate to reduce the number of local councillors. Our take has been that fewer elected members would mean a concentration of power and reduce  opportunities to challenge the powers that be , but then we had to remind ourselves that a) that rarely happens and b) party whips and council procedures can quell all rebellion.

We think that what we ‘d really like is a reduction in the number councillors who think a Nolan Principle is the latest winner of Celebrity Big Brother.

However such discussion is purely academic as councillors decided last month – quelle surprise! – not to suffer , like the rest of us , the consequences of the squeeze on public spending and to retain their numbers.

This decision was trumpeted by Cllr  Foulkesy – of all people! –  at a meeting of Wirral Council’s Labour Cabinet last month.

The conclusion that a reduction from 66 to 44 councillors would lead to the need for ‘full -time councillors’ and would apparently inhibit opportunities for women,ethnic minorities and disabled people to hold public office.  It would also lead to what Foulkesy called ‘a different shade of councillor’ being required as opposed,we presume, to a ‘shady councillor’ like himself. And suddenly we’re sold on the idea !  – in fact let’s go all the way and do away with councillors altogether and all the party political baggage that goes with it . Think about it – wouldn’t it be great to have full time professional public servants who are not compromised by toxic politicking?  So we say less councillors and more council staff ! – we can dream can’t we?

As we’ve been anxious to find out what Cllr Janette ‘Milly Tant’ Williamson called the ‘evidence based analysis’ which led to the decision not to refer the matter to the Local Government Boundary Commission we not only read the Scrutiny Review Panel report but considered a Freedom of Information request made by John H Hutchinson which has been brought to our attention and which reads :

“In his Cabinet report “Number of Councillors Scrutiny Review” November
2016, Cllr Brightmore makes many broad statements the most vague of which
is “significant resources in terms of officer and councillor time” and,
later, to support this statement “significant amount of time and
resources”.

What, please, was the formal and recorded estimate of time and resources
to support these statements?

If no estimate was made, could Council make an estimate to complete this
FoIA request, please?”

The Council can advise that Cllr Brightmore’s statements relate to the
Scrutiny Review Panel’s estimation of the time and resources required for
the Council to prepare a submission document to the Local Government
Boundary Commission for England (the Commission), and to undergo an
electoral review (See page 9 of the report)
[1]http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents…

In reviewing a number of lengthy and detailed submission documents from
other local authorities, the Panel was able to gain an appreciation of the
time and resources likely to be required to compile a submission in
preparation for an electoral review.  Technical guidance from the
Commission, indicating an 18-24 month timescale to complete each stage of
an electoral review also informed the statements. Beyond this, no detailed
assessment or estimation of the time and resources required to make a
submission was undertaken.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/cost_of_reducing_councillor_numb

So it would seem that the  Scrutiny Review Panel Chair and rising Labour star Philip ‘Brightboy’ Brightmore –  who’s previous claim to fame was grassing up former Wirral West MP Esther Mc Vey for using House of Commons stationery and postage for Tory electioneering

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/wirral-leaks-advent-calendar-7-the-stamp-of-disapproval/

– was talking about an ‘estimation of the time and resources required for the Council to prepare a submission document to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (the Commission)’ .

So it would transpire that the Scrutiny Review Panel have basically made some comparisons with some neighbouring councils and councils with a similar profile and decided they are value for money.

It is significant there are no surveys or consultations undertaken canvassing the views of council taxpayers nor an analysis of how much additional council officer time and resources would be needed if the number of councillors were to be reduced. This was firmly put in the ‘too difficult tray’ by the Panel as follows : ‘The impact of a reduction of councillors on back office and support functions was also acknowledged by the Panel. Whilst this is difficult to quantify, it was agreed that that these functions would have to increase in order to fill the gap left by councillors, so any cost savings identified by reducing councillors would have to take account of any increase in officer workloads.’

Meanwhile Panel chair Brightboy says in the introduction :

‘I believe the findings of this investigation speak broadly for themselves. To speculate further upon those findings here risks undermining the analytical, data-led approach I and others have been careful to maintain.’

Which just about sums up some local councillors view of the local electorate.  It’s a case of : ‘We don’t want your views .We know best – even when we don’t ’cause we don’t have the data !’  

Which is why in the light of such a lack of investigative rigour we say to our readers :  keep on making those Freedom of Information requests and most important of all –  QUESTION EVERYTHING.

 

Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinet of Curiosities

Following the local elections Wirral Council “leader” Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies has had a Cabinet reshuffle. But let’s face it judged by his awkward public performances he’s always fiddling with his drawers.

However – out goes Welsh windbag Cllr Adrian Jones having mainly served his purpose of pretending to support whistleblowers and giving his former Cabinet colleagues the heads up about where the next bombshell might be  coming. He must be so proud.

Also tossed aside is Cllr Chris Meaden , who as we commented this week seems to have been thrown under the bus by Power Boy Pip over the Passport for Life leisure pass fiasco . Her (personal) involvement in the Control Room debacle probably didn’t help either….

So what are we left with when it comes to the big decision makers affecting the quality of life for people on Wirral ?.

Read this and weep:

“Leader” , Strategic Economic Development , Finance & Devolution – Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies

You know what they say about a man with a big portfolio don’t you?. Yes! –  that’s right he’s hiding behind important titles to make him sound “bigger” than he is.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Group , Transformation , Leisure & Culture – Ann McLachlan

Talk about one trick pony. If this woman says “moving forward” one more time she’s going to blow the turret off Leaky Towers (and no that isn’t a euphemism). As for “culture” – somebody needs to tell her that doesn’t mean drinking a pro-biotic yoghurt every morning.

Deputy Leader of The Council, Housing & Community Safety – George Davies 

Well,well ,well. No Cabinet would be complete without Georgie-boy would it?. Old faithful. The runaround. The go-between.The fixer.

We look forward to the day when Power Boy Pip  is indisposed and Gorgeous George has to command the authority of the Council chamber without putting on his glasses and reading from his notes (written in crayon).

Adult Social Care – Chris Jones

Sadly as her husband has been ousted from the cabinet Welsh Windbag-ess Chris Jones will no longer be able to regale us with her rendition of Amy Winehouse’s classic ” Me & Mr.Jones”.

However her continuing appointment as a cabinet member after the Girtrell Court still has us singing “what kind of fuckery is this?”.

Children & Family Services – Tony Smith

Love the Irish lilt. Hate his role in the closure of Lyndale School. He probably does too. But he’s still in the cabinet. These are the choices people make in life. Again , he must be so proud.

Highways & Infrastructure – Stuart Whittingham 

The big question is whether Stuart “Witless” Whittingham knows what “infrastructure” means. Remember this is guy who spawned a jokes about streetlights and how many people does it take a change a lightbulb on Wirral.

Answer : lots of them and and great cost and only after being highlighted (pun intended) on this blog and elsewhere.

Environment – Bernie Mooney 

Bernie sees it as her personal duty to be publicly affronted by absolutely everything from the Tory government to fly-tipping to litter to dog crap.

But mainly dog crap. Because that’s where the votes are.

Public Health – Janette Williamson

Congrats to Janette “Milly Tant” Williamson at getting a cabinet seat for being gushingly enthusiastic about absolutely everything Wirral Council does.

There is the added advantage she can advise on matters related to the elderly – such as euthanising members of the royal family and in the case of money owed to the council Jan would have no trouble recommending sending in the bailiffs mainly because that’s who she used to “work” for. So much for being a champion of the poor and oppressed!.

Community Engagement & Communications  – Matthew Patrick    Martin Liptrot

Enough said.