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latest update 12 March 2010

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Cost of investigation and disciplinary process re senior council office-LATEST

Wirral Council has provided information regarding this FOI request:

Good Afternoon,

Further to my email below, please find detailed the costs to the Council of the Independent Investigation, carried out by North West Employers.
(Apologies that this request has been delayed until today and not responded to on the due date of 28 September 2009.)

Costs including VAT were £14,678.95

I hope the information I have supplied is of use to you.
Kind Regards

Natasha Eubank has made an annotation to the above as follows:
is there no hard copy evidence to support the amount quoted by WBC?

There should

Veridici has made an annotation with the following:

Natasha Eubank, my information from a very reliable source is that the investigation was not carried out by North West Employers.

Vic Hewitt of Vic Hewitt Consulting Ltd (Regd. No. 06490633) retired from North West Employers over nine months prior to being appointed by WBC.

He is a one-man business working from home. Around £3,000 per day (not £5,000 as stated on WDTK ) is a very nice little earner for a pensioner, isn't it?

Just when you think it can't get any worse, too!

© copyright . Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Wirral Council reveals plan to privatise parks

Liverpool Daily Post - by Liam Murphy,

WIRRAL’S parks, countryside and open spaces could be turned over to a private company to manage, under cost-cutting plans being considered by the council.

An asset review has been under way within the authority in recent months assessing all areas of outside space – along with Landican crematorium, golf courses, allotments and sports facilities – which could be included in the proposals.

Cabinet member for culture Cllr Bob Moon said the aim was to improve maintenance standards, gain a closer working relationship with park users and community groups and provide improved facilities.

The council also wants to see the plans result in improved security in parks, better marketing of the facilities and better value for money.

A report to Wirral’s ruling cabinet on the Parks and Countryside Service said the “review includes all of the Parks and Countryside service and the existing Streetscene grounds maintenance contracts, a total contract value of £7.9m per annum.”

The borough’s park rangers and beach lifeguards are among those services which could also be affected by the proposals.

Cllr Moon said the scheme, which remains in its early stages, could result in a private sector company taking on all the facilities on the council’s behalf.

It would work in much the same way that Biffa and Colas were taken on to deal with the borough’s refuse collection and highways maintenance services, respectively. The Colas contract saw many council staff transferred to the private sector company.

Cllr Moon said: “We’re doing the same for the delivery of services in the parks – that is currently done in-house [by Wirral Council], and we’re also looking at crematoria and cemeteries, allotments, golf courses and even grass cutting on verges.”

He said a review of all these assets was almost complete as part of the preparations for seeking a private sector partner.

Wirral’s Parks and Countryside Service is responsible for managing and maintaining 1,505 hectares of land at 272 sites located throughout the Borough.

This includes 60 parks, six country parks, seven local nature reserves, 27 natural areas, 24 sports grounds, 42 green spaces, nine cemeteries, four municipal golf courses and 41 allotment sites.

The cabinet member said consultants had advised the council of three options.

The first would see services kept in-house, but Cllr Moon said: “They are reluctant that we go down that path, because it’s not been very successful in the past. It’s a ‘do nothing’ approach with minimal savings.”

The second option is for some parts of the service to be put together and put out to tender as a block, but others dealt with in a different way – for example, the most profitable areas of the service such as golf courses and crematoria, which could continue to be council-run, or in separate partnerships.

Cllr Moon said the third option being looked at is to “engage a partner to oversee the whole service” although this entails a greater risk.

He said: “If we go down that route, we would have to be confident that you and the service provider are talking the same language.”

Cllr Moon pointed to Hounslow, in London, which has taken this option, and said councillors would be visiting there to see how it works.

Earlier this month, Wirral Council’s ruling cabinet agreed to press ahead with the next steps in the process, which remains in the earliest stages.

Among the areas which could be included is the historic Birkenhead Park, which is acknowledged to be the first publicly-funded park in Britain.

Birkenhead Park, which has recently undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment, was designed by Joseph Paxton and officially opened in 1847, when it was an immediate success.

It was the forerunner of the Parks Movement and its influence was far reaching both in this country and abroad – most notably on Olmstead's design for Central Park, in New York.

Wirral’s Parks and Countryside Service currently manage 70 children’s play areas, of which 45 are located in parks, and 135 soccer pitches.

There is a beach lifeguard Service covering the coast between West Kirby and Seacombe which supervises bathing and safety equipment and oversees use of slipways for the launching of boats using a permit system.

Wirral’s beaches and foreshores are managed by the ranger services in association with the beach lifeguard service and park staff.

This involves beach cleaning, treatment of invasive marsh grasses and zoning of recreational activities such as sand yachting and water skiing.

© copyright Liverpool Daily Post. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Wirral's Champion 2009

The Wirral News is asking for nominations of people
who really make a difference in the community.

We have exactly the right candidate in
Martin Morton, the Wirral Whistleblower.

What better way could there be of expressing the gratitude and
thanks of all of us to him for his bravery and perseverance,
and it would be one in the eye for the Council into the bargain!

to go direct to the nomination form.

Most of us won't know his address or telephone number, but
Martin Morton (Wirral Whistleblower)
will probably be sufficient for identification.

What about it, folks?
Vote, and get everyone who cares to vote too.


© copyright Wirral News. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Disabled driver sent parking ticket because Wirral's spy car could not see blue badge

Liverpool Daily Post - by Carrie Catterall

A DISABLED driver was hit with a parking fine – because Wirral Council’s “spy car” could not see his blue badge.

The new Smart car, which does the job of a traffic warden, uses a camera to photograph vehicles parked illegally.

The owner of the car is then sent a fine through the post.

But the council last night apologised after sending tickets to a disabled driver who was displaying a blue badge.

The camera could not see onto the dashboard of his vehicle, so did not register he was parked legally.

John Cowley, 65, of Irby, has a blue badge because he drives for his wife Cheryl, an arthritis sufferer.

He received a ticket after his car was photographed and had to appeal.

The grandfather said: “The fact this camera did not see the blue badge on my dashboard was ridiculous.

“It means other disabled people and I could get tickets again and again for parking perfectly legally.

“Luckily I won the appeal, but the letter I received said I might not win it next time.”

Wirral Council has apologised to any blue badge holders who received a ticket.

A spokesman said it has implemented new procedures to ensure tickets are not issued when a badge exempts them from parking rules.

© copyright . Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Wirral’s parking “spy car” to continue

Birkenhead News - by Liam Murphy

NEW rules are being introduced by council chiefs so they can continue using a controversial “spy car” to enforce parking laws.

The use of the Smart car, equipped with specialised CCTV camera equipment, was thrown into question after a landmark legal ruling last month.

Wirral Council had been using cameras set up in the vehicle to target illegal parking.

They photograph drivers who park wrongly and then send them a fine through the post.

Next week, the council’s audit committee will be advised of new procedures for using the vehicle.

Officials will have to put up notices in the street warning drivers the equipment is being operated in the area.

A council report said: “Before commencing enforcement, traffic signs will be erected either end of the enforcement location to advise motorists of the presence of the CCTV camera.

“This is in addition to the on-vehicle markings and the existing road markings and signs.”

Wallasey councillor Leah Fraser, Conservative spokeswoman on the audit committee, said: “The spy car was sneakily launched on an unsuspecting public without prior warning or publicity.

“If we want people to park more sensibly, it would be better if drivers knew the consequences beforehand and the spy car must be parked legally as well.”

Rachel Johnson, 34, who owns Bargain Booze off licence, in Victoria Road, New Brighton, received three £70 parking fines through the post in one week as a result of pictures taken by a “spy camera”.

But, after Ms Johnson took her case to a traffic penalty tribunal, it was ruled unless councils put up signs warning motorists the cars are being used, the tickets are invalid.

Ms Johnson’s ruling could open the floodgates for thousands of other appeals from motorists.

The periscope-mounted camera cars were first trialled in London at the beginning of 2007 before being rolled out across the UK.

It is estimated more than 30 councils now use Smart cars to supplement traffic wardens.

The council report added: “Wirral is currently one of a small number of authorities outside London with Secretary of State approval for CCTV parking enforcement”.

The vehicle has a mobile CCTV control room, including cameras, recording and playback equipment.

© copyright Birkenhead News. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting

Friday, 11 September 2009

Wirral surgery gets green light

Liverpool Echo - by Gary Stewart

A GP ‘super surgery’ will be built on greenbelt lane next to Arrowe Park after an 10 year battle.

Opponents had cited a lack of public transport, destruction of greenbelt and traffic issues as reasons to throw out the plan.

But Wirral councillors backed the move, after it was put back before them in a modified form.

The surgery at The Warrens will amalgamate surgeries from Irby, Heswall, and Thingwall.

MP Stephen Hesford said: “The struggle’s over, so now let the community come together behind the fantastic new health facilities to be built.”

© copyright Wirral News. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Wirral traders’ fury at ‘pay to display’ charges

Wirral News - by Carrie Catterall

SHOPKEEPERS are set to start a petition against Wirral Council who are charging them to put up A boards and signs in the street.

The new conditions and charges apply to all businesses who use A boards, signs or external shop displays to advertise their business.

From now on shop and business owners wanting to display A boards must pay £50 for the first year and then £40 for every subsequent year.

For those wanting a shop display licence, which allows displays to take up a maximum of five square meters outside their business, shopkeepers must pay £75 for the first year and £60 for every subsequent year.

These charges have particularly angered business owners in Banks Road, West Kirby, who have advertised their businesses with shop displays and A boards for years without having to pay a charge.

A group of business owners in the area now say they will be forming a petition against the council.

Tony Dangerfield, owner of Waverly newsagents, West Kirby, has had to apply for a shop display licence.

He said: “I don’t look at this as a licence fee but as another form of tax on small businesses.

“We work to a budget so every additional cost thrown on us in these times has to be recovered from somewhere else and labour is our only flexible cost.”

Another Banks Road businessman said: “I think this is absolutely dreadful.

“We are in the middle of a credit crunch, so surely the council should be helping us out not putting more pressure on us.”

A spokeswoman for Wirral Council said: “For many years, businesses have been using the pavements as an extension of their premises by displaying notices, A boards, signs and external shop displays.

“There have been a number of occasions where this has caused significant problems for pedestrians, wheelchair and pushchair users and people with disabilities.

“Many local authorities have adopted a hard line approach by enforcing a complete ban on such items and will seek to have them removed.

“However, Wirral Council understands the importance of advertising for local businesses, particularly in the current economic climate, so has taken a more reasonable approach by assessing each case on its own merits.

“The council sets charges to offset the costs of administrating the application and permit system and resourcing highway enforcement, which ensures that people can use the pavements safely and without obstructions.”

© copyright Wirral News. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting


Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Confidential letter from MP urges Wirral planning chief to 'do his duty' over Warrens bid

Wirral Globe - by Leigh Marles

A CONFIDENTIAL letter from a Wirral MP obtained by the Globe urges the chairman of the council's planning committee to "do his duty" over a highly controversial application.

The letter focuses on a bid by Wirral Primary Care Trust for a new GP centre on green belt land at The Warrens in Thingwall.

The application is to be considered by planning officials and councillors on Thursday night.

Written by Stephen Hesford, the constituency's MP who has campaigned for the application to be approved, the letter is addressed to Cllr David Elderton and makes clear the MP's strong views in its opening salvo: "I thought the committee’s decision to turn-down the PCT’s last application in 2007 was seriously wrong."

It goes on to say: "The PCT have sensitively moved the site and I believe that their application is even stronger than last time.

"For your convenience, I enclose a copy of my letter on this issue to the planning committee.

"Moreover, your own planning officials (again) agree with me when they state in the conclusion to their report for councillors on this application 'that the applicant has adequately demonstrated the very special circumstances in line with national and local green belt policy and there is no counter information to dispute their reasons.'

"Finally, I enclose a copy letter written by the GPs in question setting out cogently why they want the Warrens development.

"I know that you will want to respond positively to their request on behalf of their patients.

"In summary, my constituents in Pensby and Thingwall are almost unique throughout the borough in being denied up to date primary care facilities.

"They have waited too long. Please do your duty on Thursday."

The application for the development of a one-stop primary care centre on the site of the former Warrens Nursery in Thingwall Road East, Thingwall, is expected to be given approval.

If given the green light, surgeries in Irby, Thingwall and Heswall would relocate to the centre.

Petitions have been handed in to the planning committee with the names of more than 700 people objecting to the scheme.

More than 600 letters have also been received in support of the plan.

Those against are concerned that the new development would be inaccessible to many, particularly the elderly, and will lead to traffic congestion, pollution and the loss of green belt land.

The planning committee will meet at 6pm this Thursday evening at Wallasey Town Hall, when campaigners from both sides are expected to be out in force.

© copyright Wirral Globe. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting


Friday, 4 September 2009

Wirral council offers teens lessons on how to catch a bus

Birkenhead News - by Kevin Core

WIRRAL Council is offering to spend £300-a-head teaching teenagers how to catch a bus.

Wirral’s “Travel Training” service can be accessed by anyone over 16 and explains paying your fare, getting on a train or bus and of course, how to get off at the right stop.

While opponents can see the benefits for the learning impaired, questions are being asked about the use of the money by a council pushing through a programme of library closures.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “In some rare cases it may well be necessary to help people learn to use public transport, but for most kids formal lessons simply aren’t necessary.

“The vast majority know how to use the bus already, and most others could pick it up from their parents or just through common sense.

“Given Wirral Council’s financial problems, they would be well advised to cut back frivolous spending like this rather than slashing frontline services like libraries.”

The scheme was highlighted at an event held for the council’s partners and voluntary agencies this month.

The course also offers help on dealing with “what ifs” such as a bus running late or missing your stop.

Wirral Transport Users Association (WTUA) questioned why the scheme is open to over-16s without disabilities or language barriers.

John Ryan of WTUA said: “This won’t be any use to the great majority of teenagers who simply learn to use public transport when they get on with their friends or with their parents.

"You could understand it if it was intended to cater for people with learning disabilities but assistance like that would be available elsewhere.

Councillor Jean Quinn, outgoing chairman of Merseyside Strategic Transport Partnership, said: “By increasing people’s ability and confidence to use public transport, we are able to contribute to improving the quality of life and allow people to access a wider range of opportunities whether these are employment, healthcare, education or visiting family, friends or recreation and leisure facilities.”

© copyright Wirral News. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting