Unite and Divide

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 As we said – It was never gonna happen…  

We proudly present this contribution from a much respected local political insider who a) has never given us a bum steer and b) has an opinion we value.
Never have we ever wanted to get up off our sunbed and raise a glass to this coruscating analysis of local politics:
So, Tony Norbury won’t be allowed to lose his seat to a teenage Green Party member next May, he has been told by Wirral Labour that he is not a fit and proper person to represent Labour,  as an elected local representative. 
Kathy and Alan Runswick,  Dave Brennan and Paul Davies ( who now control Wirral Labour) are Unite, they are not Labour let alone Corbynites, they just used Corbyn for their own political advantage. They have got their man in Birkenhead now, Mick , and the next part of the plan is to replace Angela Eagle in  Wallasey with Margaret  Greenwood as Wirral West is going to be hard to defend. This was ALWAYS about  Unite taking control and “Tight Pants” was a well meaning if useful fool for them.  He agitated against Phil Davies and Frank Field and allowed Mick “man of the people” Whitley to stroll in and take Birkenhead. 
The word is Whitless  intends to get Norbury, John Maher, Cllr  Bird and everybody else associated with him out the party as they have served their purpose.  Mick is backing defeated ex cllr Angie Davies for  Prenton next year and is making friendly noises to the old controlling right wingers as he needs them to campaign for him, why else did the Runswick’s et al allow Claughton Cllr George Davies onto the panel and not Comrade Norbury, weird aye!
Anyway there is no route back for him as in truth  Labour are going to lose at least two seats next May and maybe as many as four and they are very unlikely to win  Rock Ferry       or  Pensby. Labour are finished on Wirral for local elections, the council is likely to adopt a “committee system” to replace the current “Strong Leader Model” they currently have which will make it impossible for Labour to control Wirral as they have for the last decade. That’s fine by Unite as they only ever cared about the parliamentary seats, condemning the residents of Wirral to a failing a council is just “collateral damage” as far as they are concerned. 
The sad part is the same union controlling tactics that allowed Frank Field to become MP back in 79 are what has been used 40 years later!!  If you create slate voting monkeys who obediently follow somebody’s list then this is what happens, it’s also how you end up with Jared O’Mara and Fiona Onasanya as (disgraced) Labour MPs. 
Labour is so broken now that Britain faces a decade of right wing governance but rest assured that Mick, Margaret and Dan (Carden) will be shouting very loudly about how terrible things are for “their communities”, though luckily for them it won’t be personally that bad as £80,000 a year will at least lessen the burden of austerity to their families.  How is it that each of these Unite stooges, NONE OF WHOM LIVE IN THEIR RESPECTIVE CONSTITUENCIES, were able to be presented as the “local choice”?  
Anyway I don’t expect We will hear or see much of  Cllr Tony “tight pants” Norbury again so we should wish him good luck with his future and hope he enjoys his remaining time as a socialist representative 😂😂

For Trees Pleas…

As they’re backing up like, well ,let’s not go there, here’s our third local campaign post of the evening from ‘For Trees’.

The campaign group met with Wirral Council’s Deputy Chief Executive David Armstrong last month (January 18 to be precise) and asked him to sign up to the requests outlined   below ,which we think would have been an excellent step forward in addressing public accountability and the balance of power. We don’t need to tell you that Armstrong didn’t sign up to the requests. As far as we’re concerned Mr Armstrong is definitely not a fan of public accountability and clearly likes to be the one with the power.

On the same day as this meeting we received information and pictures from another concerned source about what was happening at Grange Hill , West Kirby  :

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Grange Hill, West Kirby, Wirral; a site registered with Wirral Council as an SBI (Site of Biological Importance) has, over recent years been in the hands of a ‘friends of…’ group  (FoGH) who have, with the support of Council Ranger service, slashed and burned huge amounts of wildlife habitat, and felled many of the mature trees around the site of the war memorial, and well beyond this area; rendering parts of the hill unrecognisable as to what it once was. Destroying habitats of many protected species, not least; bats woodpeckers, owls and lizards.The footpaths, which were previously managed by the Council footpaths officer alone, have now been glyphosated (prior to Remembrance Day Nov 2018) which has led to such extreme soil erosion that some of the steeper paths are now expanses of bare rock.

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On Friday, January 18th, Mancoed, Council commercial contractors, felled over 20 mature trees along the lower perimeter of Grange Hill. These trees were away from any footpaths and they were felled with no notice or discussions with the local Grange Hill Biodiversity Group.
The ‘Friends of’ group still meet most Sundays, on Grange Hill, to continue their programme of slash and burn.
This is tantamount to WILDLIFE CLEANSING and should be stopped!
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‘FOR TREES’

FAO: David Armstrong (Corporate Director for Delivery Services/Assistant Chief Executive, Wirral Council.)

Meeting called by Margaret Greenwood, MP; 18/1/2019 at; Hoylake Community Centre.

In attendance:  Margaret Greenwood MP, David Armstrong, Louise Stothard, Sec. For Trees, Diane Johnson, ecologist,

The ‘For Trees’ group now has over 450 supporters on the Wirral peninsula

We are looking to invite celebrated authors to speak publicly at meetings, sharing their knowledge, and wisdom, concerning the contribution trees have made to the world we inhabit.

The Wirral peninsula now has very few trees over 200 years of age, and it is imperative that trees on the Wirral are permitted to live as long as possible…with trunks and branches being supported by ‘stays’ or ‘spars’ wherever deemed necessary.

The number one aim of the ‘For Trees’ group is to bring a halt to the Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council scheme of felling mature trees and destroying vegetation, in public parks and across the Borough.

The Council has persisted also in comprehensive applications of Glyphosate across the Borough, a known carcinogen banned in many countries.

We ask that this meeting calls to secure a halt to the tree-felling scheme currently taking place in Ashton Park, West Kirby, and the condemning/felling and dismantling trees, removing shrubs, scrub and gorse cover across the Borough. This policy degrades the environment and health and safety of residents.

It is never acceptable to fell a tree, or to pay contractors or in-house staff to present any tree as ‘a risk’ on the basis that there’s a 1 in 20 million (HSE) possibility that part of it might in falling, kill someone or to present it as a risk if it is decaying, has, or is likely to be colonised by fungi or be liable to wood decay. Trees should be left in situ.

Branches will fall occasionally in extreme winds. Tree surgeons routinely remove branches which may show some minor decay ‘back to stem’, which inevitably interrupts the wind flow, through the tree, and can render other branches and trees more vulnerable. This also applies to ‘lolli-popping’ and extreme pollarding of trees.

The Council have a legal commitment to ENHANCE bio-diversity thereby to have minimum ‘hands-on’ interference.

The Council should be saving money spent on the use of tree surgeons using chainsaws, which is an extremely dangerous procedure. Such practices amount to a gross misuse of public money, an abrogation of statutory duty and a failure of office by Wirral Council. The £16,500 spent on a recent survey would have been better spent on providing supporting ‘stays’ or ‘spars’ for long, overhanging branches, in order to protect the branches.

The litigation-minded approach to trees on public land has to change: The protection of trees and members of the public can go hand in hand, without resorting to the use of chain saws.

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, according to the Aarhus Convention, is legally obliged to EDUCATE the public on these issues: not relying on voluntary groups, such as ‘For Trees’, to share accurate and reliable information on environmental issues with members of the public.

  1. We request a halt to the felling, and proposed felling programme of, 40 trees and 65 to have branches removed, in Ashton Park, West Kirby, Wirral.
  2. We request a commitment to improved sharing of information, and a genuine dialogue with the public with respect to trees.
  3. We request that trees identified with symbiotic fungi present, are left intact.
  4. We request that trees with hollow spaces are protected; hollow trees are strong, (as are wind turbines and bones) and vital to enriching biodiversity.
  5. We request that the Council honors it’s legal commitment to environmental education by working with every school in the borough to involve them in tree preservation programmes, and planting of indigenous trees and hedgerows, whilst acknowledging that tree planting does not compensate for removal of our valuable mature trees.
  6. We request an end to threats of prosecution of local citizens exercising their rights to peaceful protest while doing their utmost to protect trees from unnecessary felling.

7.We request an end to the use of glyphosate by Wirral Borough Council; saving up to  £150,000 a year.

  1. We request a moratorium putting an end the felling of Wirral’s trees and an end to the extreme lopping, pollarding and cutting of trees and their branches be allowed to grow naturally.

 

Signed this day; 18th January 2019

 

…………………………………..

 

David Armstrong, Corporate Dir. For Delivery Services/Asst. Chief Executive.

 

Hoylake Golf Resort : ‘Wirral Local Campaign Forum reflects the views of the members which may at times differ from the Labour Group’

A  press release we have just received from the Wirral Local Campaign Forum (formerly known as the Wirral District Labour Party) is the clearest indication yet of the schism between local party members and the old guard of Labour Group . The LCF declares its opposition to the Hoylake Golf Resort – or Celtic Manor Resort as its being rebranded in certain quarters – which has been a flagship development for the ruling administration under the ‘leadership’ of council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies.

We did predict that 2019 would be an interesting year for politics on Wirral. One week in and things just got a whole lot more interesting…

 

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Universal Deceit

 

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There was an interesting debate held in the House of Commons this week which to us at Wirral Leaks explains everything you need to know about politics (and especially local politics).

Margaret Greenwood ,Wirral West MP and Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions raised the issue of ‘The Secretary of State’s Handling of Universal Credit’ 

As you know – or at least you should know – is that that the current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is Tatton MP Esther McVey who,of course was Margaret Greenwood’s predecessor as MP for Wirral West.

So everything was perfectly set for a political catfight. And as we know no catfight is complete without Birkenhead MP Frank Field getting his catty claws out. He didn’t disappoint – well he did, that’s what he always does as far as we’re concerned, but you know what we mean!

Here is our take on the debate but you can read it for yourself  here

Greenwood opens up with :

I beg to move,

That this House
censures the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the right hon. Member for Tatton, for her handling of the roll-out of universal credit and her response to the NAO report, Rolling Out Universal Credit;
notes that the Department for Work and Pensions’ own survey of claimants published on 8 June 2018 showed that 40 per cent of claimants were experiencing financial hardship even nine months into a claim and that 20 per cent of claimants were unable to make a claim online;
further censures the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for not pausing the roll-out of universal credit in the light of this evidence;
and calls on the Government to reduce the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions’ ministerial salary to zero for four weeks.

And goes on to ask :

Will the Secretary of State apologise for the two points she has failed yet to apologise for to the head of the National Audit Office?

McVey then goes on to a) show up Greenwood for the naive political amateur that she is and b) demonstrate the essential modern political prerequisite for an MP – shameless hardfacedness.

The answer is no, they will not be apologising.

As it is about apologies today—and, as I said, I made my apology straight away—let us go back to another apology. I was hoping that the shadow Chancellor would be here today, because I was waiting for years for an apology for the lynching comment against me. Of course, we never got that apology. As the Opposition spokesperson knows all about that campaign in Wirral West, perhaps she would like to apologise on behalf of her party.

McVey completely wrongfoots Greenwood by attacking Labour Party Deputy leader John McDonnell which means the Blessed Margaret can only come up with the feeble response:

The point that the Secretary of State makes had nothing to do with my campaign in Wirral West in 2015.

Of course it doesn’t and that is exactly the point! – and McVey is now allowed to plough on furrowing her own path rather than digging her own grave. However  no political pantomime is complete without a Wicked Godfather . Enter stage right Birkenhead MP Frank Field:

An apology: I was in the House when somebody repeated that campaign phrase against the Secretary of State. I was stunned by what was said, and I hope that she will forgive me for not getting up immediately to object to it. I apologise for my total failure to respond as a human being when that was said, and I hope that she forgives me if I do not actually recite what was said, because such nastiness and evil is not directed just at her; it is directed at my hon. Friend Ms Eagle, the neighbouring constituency to the one that the Secretary of State fought. What is occurring is a disgrace. How we stop it, I do not know, but we can at least apologise when it occurs. I am grateful that the right hon. Lady raised it today so that my saying that would be in order.

FFS! Frankenfield spare us the melodramatics . However what follows is a case of Esther and Frank sitting in a tree ,K-I-S-S-I-N-G …or perhaps not!

McVey responds :

I know those words are heartfelt, and I accept that apology. It took a long time for people to come forward. I would have liked those on the Opposition Front Bench to have done so, because they represent the Labour party, and I know that such a thing is not at the heart of the Labour party.

We started off with a ding-dong in the Chamber today. I do not necessarily think that we are at our best in Parliament when we have a ding-dong like that. People watching outside do not understand the real reasons why we, on both sides of the House, came into politics. I put this on the record now: let us work cross-party to get universal credit right. Let us work with third sector organisations to get it right. Let us reach out and get it right, because it affects so many millions of people. We are doing our best, and lots more people are in work, but we can do more. Let us do it together.

Meanwhile whilst Wallasey MP Angela Eagle gets completely sidelined in the debate allowing for this following lovey-dovey exchange between McVey and Field :

One last point: Back Benchers can apologise only for our own action or inaction. That is my apology.

In this debate, one wonders what truth is and what facts are. When reading the NAO report, I reached totally different conclusions to the Secretary of State. I thought the message was that the Comptroller and Auditor General was perplexed beyond belief that he could not recommend to go back or to go forward. There was a clear recommendation that we should pause, and I ask the Secretary of State for that pause—not never to resume the roll-out, but to at least to ensure that we are not inflicting unnecessary suffering, horror and hunger on our constituents, which Opposition Members have certainly registered, and which must have been registered by Members on the other side of the House.

Yes, indeed, but I am really anxious to respond to the Secretary of State’s wish that we work together. The building block of working together is to take that key sentence from the NAO report, whatever else it said, about a pause—not to scrap universal credit, but to have a pause—to make sure that in three respects we are not party to inflicting untold misery, horror and hunger on our constituents.

The first is that we do not continue the roll-out until we have universal support. We do not have universal support in the way in which all of us understand the word universal.

Secondly, on real-time information, the experience in my constituency—it must be the experience in other constituencies as well—is that real-time information is neither real nor on time. That is causing the most incredible problems with people’s claims. Might we have a pause until we make sure the Revenue can service the Secretary of State’s Department in a way that we need for a successful continuation of the roll-out of universal credit?

Thirdly, on debt, on which the Secretary of State could decide today, debts of yesteryear are being found and charged to people on universal credit. The repayment of those debts is overwhelming people. I am not saying that people should not pay their debts, but do we not think that feeding one’s children, and ensuring the rent is paid and the heating is on, ought to be at least equal in importance to the repayment of debt? Might I therefore make a plea to the Secretary of State that she looks at the rules—not to scrap the repayment of debt, but the amount that is reclaimed—on debts that most of us will have forgotten?

Photo of Esther McVeyEsther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Again, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for saying that. I want to reassure him. I have not been in post that long to get to grips with absolutely everything on UC, but debt and how it is repaid is precisely what I am focusing on at the moment.

Photo of Frank FieldFrank Field Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

That is wonderful news, but after the right hon. Lady has considered debt and decided on it there is the business about real-time information. This is not under her control as the information is supplied to her by another Department. It is not real and it is not on time, so perhaps she could look at that as the next item on the list. There is also the crucial business of universal support. I tried to claim, but I could not do it in the time. A lot of us need that support to make sure we can make a claim successfully. If we are going to work cross-party on this, there has to be give on the other side as well as on this side.

So there you have it – Greenwood’s motion gets tossed into the bog and Field and McVey carry on with their love in, with Frankenfield seemingly having no political/ideological differences with McVey about Universal Credit but merely expressing  frustration at the bureaucratic processes associated with its implementation.As far as we’re concerned he was more keen about getting his bitchy digs in about the Labour leadership than ‘the untold misery, horror and hunger’ of Universal Credit . And as for Frankenfield giving way willingly – we’re best saying nothing!

All we will say is that if Field donned a blonde wig and a pair of kitten heels would we be able to tell the difference between him and McVey when it comes to Universal Credit ?

Is it any wonder McVey gets away with it?As this Guardian article puts it  If Esther McVey’s getting away with it, things must be really bad

Community Transport – Thrown Under The Bus ?

Thrown under the bus

Community Transport on Wirral may be in last chance saloon.
Word reaches His Lordship from a supremely well-informed source that the writing is on the wall for community transport services here on Wirral.  These are the trained drivers, escorts and specially kitted out vehicles that transport disabled and vulnerable service users to their day centres, care homes, Special Educational Needs schools, etc. day in, day out, all year round.
And we don’t bring you this news lightly.  We know it’s genuine because we’ve had the information checked and double-checked.  It impacts Wirral Council, goes right to the heart of central government, to the top of the EU, and it’s a thorny issue being discussed right now at the top transport committees in the UK.
Here is a link to the Community Transport parliamentary debate of 10th May this year:
https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/082b6e02-f4ba-46dd-a581-48202804c19f
A change in EU law, Directive EC 1071/2009 to be specific, was rolled out on the statute book in 2011 and appears to be done and dusted across Europe.  But there is a frantic panic back in Blighty because the Tory government ignored it when it emerged seven years ago.
So it’s now finally caught up with them, and under the new directive, the largest council contracted charity and not for profit operators with hundreds of vehicles, right down to the smallest with half a dozen, will in future be regarded as running a ‘commercial operation’.  This will entail these organisations applying for Operators’ Licences for the business, new licences for all drivers and 35 hours of training every five years for everybody who sets foot on a vehicle.
In other words, it involves big money ……….huge money.  Money they probably ain’t got.
The impact of this change threatens to be utterly catastrophic to the many community transport services that make up the majority of  the UK charity, not-for-profit market, and if the new rules are not modified, or their impact lessened, the sheer cost of meeting the requirements will force many of them to downsize massively or be forced out of business.

As is customary, the usual suspects at basket case Wirral Council seem to be busy making a bad situation even worse.
Transport Minister Chris Grayling wrote to all local authorities two weeks ago requesting that they bide their time, await his advice and do not remove any contracts from existing operators.  What have Wirral Council been doing?  Yep, removing contracts from existing operators.  Not only this, they are forcing them to apply for Operators’ Licences (O Licences) and to set up trading arms in order to be ready to act commercially.


Wirral Leaks readers will know that Wirral Council happens to operate its own transport service, mainly to private care homes because they will recall the young disabled girl a few weeks back, who was forgotten and left locked inside a vehicle alone for two and half hours in the council depot.  Read here : Transport Trauma
Where transport rules and regs are concerned, Wirral Council really should know better, because they have a former VOSA / DVSA expert on hand in the shape of Director of Transformation, Paul Satoor (and for good measure former Tory council leader Jeff Green).
But despite this inside source of knowledge, they appear to be immune to the rules.  Rules which they enjoy applying to everyone but themselves, as they flex their muscles, throw their weight around and community transport charities under the bus !
They’re even accusing their own charity operators on Wirral of “acting illegally” whilst taking payments from private care homes in return for transporting their residents.
This conduct is potentially illegal under what are known as Section 19 permits. These were originally set up to allow the community transport charities to operate, but which clearly stipulate “for hire or reward but without a view to profit nor incidentally to an activity that is itself carried on with a view to profit”.
In fact, this is like Wirral View all over again as they’re the only council in the land prepared to defy the government on this.  But this time it’s not just powderpuff guidance being swept aside.  It’s knowingly done, whilst forcing charities (but not themselves) down the O Licence route, and whilst secretly taking money and enriching themselves, but falsely accusing others of doing the same. So the council could be in breach of statutory law.

Merseycare are the largest operator on Wirral, providing a transport service for 3,000 vulnerable and disabled service users, and are based on the old Squibbs site in Leasowe.  They have 90 staff whose jobs are imminently threatened, many of whom are disabled themselves.
Before the May 2017 local elections, they invited former Leasowe Councillor Treena Johnson to come and have a chat about this subject and to have a look at what they do.  She said as she worked with disabled children, she would be delighted.  She asked if she could bring along a second Leasowe councillor, Anita Leech.
Interestingly, a professional body known as the Bus and Coach Organisation – whose members are made up of commercial operators – have been pressurising government for many years and quoting the above EU law in order to have them declare community transport contracts illegal and to have all such council business – the length and breadth of the UK – stripped from ‘law-breaking’ not for profit, charity operators.
Presumably, this is being done with the aim of stepping into the void to enable their Bus and Coach Organisation members to make a tidy profit out of the UK’s now stranded vulnerable and disabled service users.That third Leasowe Councillor by the way is Ron Abbey.  He is a former  bus driver for ‘the Corpy’.  We wonder if he might still retain undeclared links to the Bus & Coach Organisation? What an interesting coincidence that would be… perhaps somebody out there knows…?

Nevertheless, as Merseycare Transport waited, Councillors Treena Johnson and Anita Leach suddenly fell silent ….the kettle was on and everything, but they never even turned up at the Merseycare offices. Johnson jacked it in as a councillor  before the last local elections and presumably the other two were ordered to toe the party line.

We can safely assume from Wirral Council’s pioneering activities in being the only local authority to remove contracts from charity operators that they are keen to embrace a new future – where no doubt the lowest bidders with the least experience will be transporting vulnerable people – and they want to be at the forefront of creating it. And you only have to look at the railways to see how that works out!
We’re wondering…. where does Wirral Council’s statutory obligation to look out for the wellbeing of vulnerable and disabled people within their jurisdiction figure in all of this? Notice how time and again they pay lip service and mouth the mantra ‘ protecting vulnerable people’ – but the reality is something else altogether.

When approached, Angela Eagle, the Wallasey MP who covers Leasowe seemed like a possible way forward with this issue.
However Eagle, who did nothing publicly for her own disabled constituents when they had £736,756.97 removed unlawfully from their bank accounts over 9 years by Wirral Council, once again fell in behind the council position, preferring to ignore the looming threat to her disabled constituents, and to protect her party-political friends instead.
Whereas in Wirral West, Margaret Greenwood MP has many constituents who will be adversely affected and has taken the issue up. Watch this (disabled parking) space.

 

Measure for Leisure

Shutter

Following on from our Pit of Despair story we first bring you the good news that a contractor has been out measuring up to install much needed safety measures at Woodchurch Leisure Centre . Indeed a letter from Margaret Greenwood to a local resident says : 

Further to your email last month, we have been informed that Wirral Council has made the decision to fit a rail and gates along the wall next to the drop at the side of the small pool. New signage has also been ordered to highlight the drop. 

This action is as a result of yourself and others raising concerns with the HSE and Wirral Council. In taking these steps, you have made the pool safer for other residents. 

Result ! You might saying to yourself. Well , yes and no. Whilst we received a tremendous response to our blog post from pool users who not only commented upon the long term non-compliance they also highlighted further safety issues.
Apparently when swimming sessions come to an end and all swimmers, young and old, move to the changing area shutters are required to be pulled down to stop access back to the pool area to prevent accidents and particularly drowning. Woodchurch Leisure Centre have not got any such measures despite the fact that we understand that this is a legal requirement. Moreover we understand that staff are supposed to stay in the pool area until the building is empty just in case a child or vulnerable person goes back into the pool area. Staff shortages can often mean that this ‘backstop’ safety measure is not possible and so members of the public are left even more unprotected.
We are reliably informed that all other leisure centres have these shutters but because of cost implications it’s not happened at Woodchurch . Once again it is a matter has been raised for a number of years and yet has never been resolved. This must be particularly stressful situation for leisure centre staff.
One can only wonder what were considered to be priorities when there was a 4 week closure of the leisure centre for ‘maintenance work ‘ only last year  . A lick of paint, grout a few tiles and steam clean the bogs and hope nobody notices the deadly drop at the side of the pool and that there are no shutters ?  Maintenance work – Woodchurch Leisure Centre
As one of our many sources said : “Cost of protection a few grand. It’s fine for the people of West Kirby and Bebington. Woodchurch gets no protection. And the council treat the law with contempt” 
We’re further left wondering what knowledge and involvement members of  Wirral Council’s infamous ‘Golf Club’ have had in all of this especially Health, Safety & Resilience(!) Manager , Mark Camborne  and Head of Recreation Damian Walsh ?
What needs questioning even more is the involvement or non-involvement of local councillors Matthew Patrick aka Matty Patty , Stuart ‘Witless’ Whittingham and Tony ‘Don’t mention Ofsted’ Smith  .
You’d think they’d be up in arms to hear about local residents -and especially children – in their ward being put at risk.  But not a peep ! Shame on them that it was left to concerned citizens to raise (and part- resolve) the long-standing issue. Could it be that Wirral Cabinet members , Cllr Patrick and Cllr Whittingham in particular, are less concerned about the safety of the public and causing their own staff stress than promoting the Wirral Growth Company – which was launched yesterday with the usual stage-managed dreary fanfare of backslapping BS – in the hope that this Joint Venture will pick up the tab not just at Woodchurch but at all the other leisure centres at a later date ?
Whilst we’re at it we’d like to raise the complicity of the utterly useless unions in all of this . Seemingly pacified by a small pay-rise for their members whilst oblivious to the gathering shitstorm . With early retirement being denied for some whilst others are told they’re going on less favourable terms there’s a lot of disgruntled Wirral Council staff around at the moment. But as always it’s the lowest paid and least powerful who are in the firing line.
As ever with Wirral Council there’s a bigger story which is not just about shutters and covers – it’s a case of shut ups and cover ups with staff too afraid to open their mouths , managers too busy covering their backsides…….. and politicians turning a blind eye.

Pit of Despair

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After all this week’s talk of Wirral Council’s ambitious plans we thought it be a good time to bring them down from their ivory towers/skyscrapers/ drug-fuelled (?)hallucinations and remind them they need to walk before they can run (up a big bill to be paid for by us).

We say this as we publish this salutary tale about what it’s like to try and report safety concerns about a Council run facility and ask the question as to how, as a society, did we reach the point where someone who wants to raise genuine concerns about the health and safety of children is afraid to do so in case there are repercussions for their family and reprisals for Wirral Council staff? Not for the first time – we despair!

The specific concerns are as follows were originally reported to the local press and local MP ( Margaret Greenwood) :

As a concerned parent of a two year old girl I would like to bring to your attention a concern I have had for a number of weeks now.

I use the swimming facility with my family at Woodchurch, have done for many years. I sometimes, like most parents lift my daughter out of the water and on a count of 3 she jumps into my arms.

On the occasion in question, I was stopped by the lifeguard, he came over to me, asked not to allow my daughter to stand on the side, on the grounds of Health and Safety I initially thought he was stopping me , ridiculously having my daughter jump into my arms and I took issue with the person.

He then pointed out a large drop that runs the length of the pool, highlighting that if she fell she would be seriously hurt. My stomach churned and I felt physically sick. I thanked him.On leaving we highlighted the concern to a staff member, who just stated  : ” Yes I know, its terrible isn’t it? Living local we often see staff out and about and we always exchange pleasantries. On this occasion my husband took it upon himself to further discuss the large drop at the back of the pool. The staff member confirmed it’s a problem , further offered up information that staff on duty are terrified of it also and have been complaining about it for years,also that there have been numerous incidents and accidents and still management will not do anything about it. We asked why, the reply was ” They are all D heads” and also that it will get sorted one day, but it will be too late then.Could you please warn the public of this, as it terrible, It’s just a case of finding the right vehicle to channel a public safety concern , whilst protecting yourself and we have done enough now. Hopefully something will get done.

It’s a sobering thought to think that we’re considered a right vehicle for such concerns – but it would appear we are. For obvious reasons we’re not confident that this issue will be resolved as it has now been raised by a third party as a ‘safeguarding’ concern with Wirral Council social services . However we are reassured that the external agency the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are now involved.

When we asked our source how they wanted to cover this story they replied :

It’s up to you.It’s all true and don’t want to get staff in trouble by giving too much information as they have already started asking who said what.However everyone is talking about it know . HSE have been out I am informed and condemned it also. So that’s all I can tell you really. Do it if it helps to get it sorted – run it. It’s cost I am told. Cost to protect people just by a cover. Ridiculous!.

When we asked about about our sources thoughts about how difficult it is to raise genuine concerns in the public interest they replied :

Sad society we live in I am afraid .

And so it would appear that giving a damn about children’s safety remains a problem and especially the case if you live or work on Wirral !

Pit 2

 

 

Defend Our NHS – Latest News

Group SELFIE JUSTICE (3)

Launched just over an hour ago is a Crowdfund appeal to fund a Judicial Review against NHS England’s Accountable Care Organisation contract. Set out below is everything you need to know courtesy of Leaky Awards 2017 winners Defend Our NHS – Wirral.

Also note : On SATURDAY 3RD FEBRUARY there will be a national day of action in support of the NHS with various local activities. In WIRRAL this will involve a gathering outside ARROWE PARK HOSPITAL from 1.00pm to show DONHS solidarity with NHS staff, to alert the public to what’s happening to our health service, and to continue to #DefendOurNHS.
The next PUBLIC MEETING  will be in Birkenhead on Friday 2nd March from 7.00pm. More details soon. PLEASE put the date in your diary now.

 

Defending the NHS nationally and in Wirral

A judge has granted permission for national campaign group 999 Call for the NHS to bring a Judicial Review of NHS England’s draft Accountable Care Organisation contract. The group believe this is not only unlawful under current NHS legislation, but would threaten patient safety standards and limit the range of available treatments. The case will be held in Leeds High Court at some date after 16 February.

Wirral’s NHS campaign group Defend Our NHS support the Judicial Review; they recognise that the legal challenge affects everyone – patients, public and NHS Staff.

Kevin Donovan from Defend Our NHS urged people to support the appeal to fund the Judicial Review. He noted that, “The leader of Wirral Council, Councillor Phil Davies, says he opposes the government’s so-called ‘sustainability and transformation’ plans which are the framework for the Accountable Care Systems and Organisations. Yet, behind closed doors he has been supporting the development of the whole apparatus. The documented policy of Wirral Council – in collaboration with the local clinical commissioning group (and quoting from Council papers) – is now ‘the development of a single ‘Accountable Care System’’. Wirral Council acknowledges that, ‘The STP will operate at Cheshire and Merseyside level’.”

“Defend Our NHS members are yet to find anybody in Wirral outside of a campaign group who has heard the initials ‘STP’ or ‘ACO’ or ‘ACS’, let alone understands what they will mean for our beloved National Health Service. The issue is that Accountable Care Systems and Organisations are being planned secretively, including right here in Wirral. They are a new form of local NHS and social care organisation; the intention is to cut costs by managing demand for health and social care. This will speed up the creation of a two-tier system – where those with money will use private providers and the rest will be left with reduced health and social care services.  Protecting the NHS as a fully funded public service of comprehensive healthcare is vital for us all.”

The Judicial Review and the national campaign

999 Call for the NHS and internationally recognised public law firm Leigh Day are launching the third and final stage of their ‘crowdfund’ on 12 January, in order to cover all the costs of bringing the Judicial Review, and are appealing for £12,000. This amount, when added to existing funds donated by hundreds of generous members of the public in 2017, will cover the £37,000 cost of the Judicial Review.

The link to crowdfund is: Crowd Justice Healthcare4All Stage 3

Recognising that it is in the public interest to establish if the Accountable Care Organisation contract is lawful or not, the Judge has awarded 999 Call for the NHS a capped costs order of £25K. This limits the costs that the campaign group would have to pay NHS England, were they to lose the case.

999 Call for the NHS were originally well known as the Darlo Mums who organised a 300 mile Jarrow to London People’s March for the NHS in 2014. This culminated in a rally in Trafalgar Square attended by 20,000 people.

Jo Land, one of the original Darlo Mums who marched from Jarrow to London, said,

“In 2014, 20,000 people felt so strongly about the devastating effects of marketisation on the NHS that they joined us at the end of our 300 mile march to London to take a stand against it and spread the word.

Please join us again, in marching on the courts to challenge the Accountable Care Organisations contact.  This is a big step for us and we need your support. We believe it is vital to determine if the new contract is lawful or not. We all have to fight this together for the sake of the nation’s health and democracy.”

What is an ACO?

The Judicial Review is a direct challenge to NHS England’s introduction of a model contract for use by new local NHS and Social Care organisations, known as Accountable Care Organisations (ACO).

ACOs are based on the business model used by the USA’s Medicare/Medicaid system, which only provides state-funded “managed care” for the elderly and people who are too poor to pay for private health insurance. “Managed care” involves a variety of mechanisms used by managers of American healthcare companies to get doctors to avoid expensive forms of treatment.

In granting permission for the Judicial Review, the Judge commented that it would not consider the merits or demerits of the ACO model, but would focus on the lawfulness of the method for paying Accountable Care Organisations. 

The group say that the current lack of a legal framework for Accountable Care Organisations – and in particular the way they would be paid to provide local NHS and social care services – is simply not compatible with democratic control and oversight of the resources and future of our biggest public service. And the government has backtracked from its 2017 Manifesto promise of new legislation for this radical shake up of the NHS and social care.

The Wirral campaign

Defend Our NHS has existed for seven years. It was formed in January 2011 by a small group of people concerned about the changes to the NHS proposed by the then Tory Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. The warnings given by the Group’s founder members (who included Margaret Greenwood, now MP for Wirral West) about the likely damage to the NHS have sadly come true.

Since 2011 the group has been active in informing the public about the growing local and national crisis in the NHS. It has a large mailing list and massive support for its Facebook page. Scores of people attend its public meetings and demonstrations.

In recent years Defend Our NHS in Wirral has:

  • Joined the junior doctors on their picket lines as they campaigned for safe conditions for patients;
  • Uncovered the hidden involvement of Richard Branson in Wirral general practice;
  • Challenged Wirral Clinical Commissioning group over its implementation of government health cuts;
  • Identified the now public crisis at Arrowe Park Hospital;
  • Supported the community campaign to re-open the Eastham Walk-In Clinic;
  • Revealed (in 2015) Wirral’s invitation to and involvement with Advocate Health Care, a US organisation well known for its ACO dealings; and now:
  • Exposed the secretive plans by the leaders of Wirral Council to defy their own party’s policy by implementing the STP/ACO.

Email: defendournhswirral@gmail.com 
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Notes 

1. 999 Call for the NHS is a grassroots, volunteer-run campaign organisation. It has been actively campaigning since 2014 to restore the NHS as a properly funded, publicly owned, managed and provided comprehensive health service that is free at the point of need for everyone with a clinical need. www.999callfornhs.org.uk

2. Defend Our NHS was established in Wirral in 2011 and is also entirely volunteer-run. It has attracted a large and active group of supporters. As well as concerned local residents its supporters now include a significant and growing number of doctors and nurses, outraged by what is being done to the NHS. Its Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/groups/defendournhs/

3. From 6pm on 12th January, the crowdfund will be live at: Crowd Justice Healthcare4All Stage 3

4. Campaign groups are concerned that the contract, if implemented, would threaten patient safety and force hospitals and doctors to restrict treatment, making decisions based on money not clinical judgement. They believe that this new contract is unlawful under current NHS legislation.

This is because the new ACO contract does not link payment to the number of patients treated and/or the complexity of the medical treatment they need, as required by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act,  but is based on a fixed budget for an area’s population.  This budget would be  geared to helping to meet the £22bn+ funding shortfall by 2021 that the government is imposing on the NHS in England.

5. As well as bringing this Judicial Review, 999 Call for the NHS – all unpaid volunteers – is also campaigning with other grassroots groups across England for the passage of the NHS Reinstatement Bill, the restoration of proper levels of NHS and social care funding and the protection of NHS healthcare for all – not the fragmentation and downgrade of our NHS to something resembling the USA’s Medicare.

6. A Judicial Review is a process of examining in court whether the government and/or its agencies are acting lawfully.

7. CrowdJustice is the only platform dedicated to raising funds and awareness for legal cases. CrowdJustice has established legal crowdfunding as a powerful tool for citizens to access justice and lawyers take cases that otherwise would not be heard. CrowdJustice is democratising the justice system by empowering people and communities to champion and build support for legal issues that matter to them. CrowdJustice has raised more than £4 million from over 100,000 backers to support legal action in the courts.

 

Advent Farewell 10 – Question Everything

question-everything

As we’ve commented earlier in this Advent adventure we’re lovin’ the emergence of a seemingly increasingly questioning Wirral public. It would seem that Wirral politicians relying on the supine,docile and uninformed seem to be over……and they don’t like it! Witness yesterday’s public meeting organised by Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood about the Hoylake Golf Resort proposals. An increasingly exasperated Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘ Power Boy Pip’ Davies was told to ‘stop sulking’ by a member of the public when he was repeatedly forced to halt his oft-repeated stream of BS. It’s called public accountability Pip – get used to it and quit with the titty-lip!

And we don’t know what superannuated Cllr Gerry Ellis is putting in his Horlicks – but can we have some? We couldn’t have done better than describe the dodgy housing development on the Green Belt masquerading as a ‘golf resort’ as ‘Phil’s Folly’

And apparently there’s more to come as tomorrow’s full Council meeting at Wallasey Town Hall which features more pesky members of the public wanting answers to various questions . We anticipate the BS quotient from Pip & Co will be through the Wallasey Town Hall roof. We’d like suggest that people might be better off making Freedom of Information requests  but let’s face it , they probably wouldn’t be – life’s too short.

We are also breathless with anticipation as to whether Cllr Louise Reecejones actually turns up and offers a grovelling apology to rest of the council chamber and the public gallery for previously failing to make an acceptable apology for conduct unbecoming an elected member as well as being , well  Cllr Louise Reecejones and therefore not  one of the protected Labour Party  cabal. Fortunately there are a number of attendees in the public gallery who’ve promised us some feedback on events as they unfold – so we look forward to reporting all the gory details.

Until then we’ll leave you with the petition organised  by the Hoylake & West Kirby Campaign Group which has forwarded to us. And finally remember – when it comes to Wirral Council – question everything!

A few days ago the petition, below, was delivered to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, signed by 600+ people. The Council will now go through its ‘validation process’ which means excluding any signature which was not accompanied by a full address.

People are still waiting for Margaret Greenwood, the Wirral West MP, to oppose Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s plan to devastate the NW England Greenbelt at Hoylake and West Kirby.

SAVE WIRRAL’S COUNTRYSIDE.
STOP THE HOYLAKE GOLF RESORT.
STOP THE URBANISATION OF WIRRAL’S GREENBELT.
To – PHIL DAVIES, Council Leader, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Wallasey, Wirral, CH44 8ED.

We are opposed to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s plan to build the exclusive ‘HOYLAKE GOLF RESORT’ on 285 acres of the Birket Valley, which is publicly owned greenbelt land.
The Council’s plan includes: the construction of roads; car parking; a luxury housing estate; a 250 bedroom, exclusive hotel; a spa; and a conference centre. The Hoylake Municipal Golf Course is to be relocated. There are already 17 golf courses in the Wirral Metropolitan Borough. Most Wirral residents do not play golf. Hoylake already has two golf courses, one privately owned and one publicly owned. There is no need for another, private golf course in the Hoylake/West Kirby area.
The Council has failed to act in an open, transparent and fair manner, in connection with the Hoylake Golf Resort project. . A Freedom of Information request (FOI request 827270), of August 2014, revealed that the Council had paid £237,012, of public funds, to consultants, in connection with the Hoylake Golf Resort project.
The Council failed to allow members of the public to participate at an early stage in the planning process, in an effective way, when ALL options were open. There is no evidence that the Council allowed members of the public to propose any alternative plans for the 285 acre area or for the area to remain as it is.
There is no guarantee that the exclusive Hoylake Golf Resort would be an economic success. Golf resorts, all over the world, have gone bankrupt, including several in the USA and one in Northern Ireland. The proposed, private Hoylake Golf Resort would have a detrimental impact on the Hoylake and West Kirby landscape. It would urbanise a rural area.
We, the undersigned, call on Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council to cancel its exclusive ‘Hoylake Golf Resort’ plan. Housing should be built on ‘brown field’ sites, not on valuable, much appreciated, ‘green belt’ land, in the borough.
We believe that the remaining Wirral greenbelt countryside should be protected.
The construction of the Hoylake Golf Resort would not be in the interest of the local community.

NAME SIGNATURE ADDRESS DATE

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Published by: Hoylake and West Kirby Campaign Group.

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!