My latest newsletter to around 6,600 households is now being delivered. Due to a faulty printer drum (don’t ask, but the new one has cost £850!), the newsletter has been delayed by a few weeks more than I would have liked.
As well as a petition against the Town Hall’s £35 Bin Tax, I’ve also included updates on neighbourhood issues from around Moreton and Leasowe and last month’s campaign to raise awareness of bowel cancer.
I am writing to residents in Leasowe, as promised, about housing and community issues there and that will be delivered from next week onwards.
If you can help to deliver, let me know!
First thing this morning, I visited Wirral Met College for a ‘breakfast briefing’ for councillors by the College Governors and Senior Managers, including new Principal Sue Higginson, who I have known for many years, not least when we worked together on campaigns to encourage more young people into apprenticeships.
Wirral Met is the most successful college in Merseyside and is vital to the success and growth of the local economy – there are around 16,000 students, including 2,000 full time students aged 16-18 and 700 apprentices.
The College is doing a great deal of work to help people (young and not so young) get the skills that employers need. Too often, young people don’t realise their full potential because of pressure from friends or family or a fear of the unknown – I know from my time at Wirral Met in the 1980s how different college is from school and what a difference it can maketo job (and money) prospects.
Contact Wirral Met here
On Wednesday, the Chief Executive of the Council, Graham Burgess, visited Leasowe and I had the opportunity to take hime to four locations to show what’s working, what isn’t or what could be working better.
We started with a visit to the Baffin Close Play Area – this was the play area known as the ’50p Park’ until, through neglect by the council, vandalism and decay it fell into disrepair. After raising more than £30,000 for new equipment, the play area was restored to its former glory. Sadly, not for long. While some of the safety matting has, apparently, been stolen, the Council has not yet replaced the swings they removed for ‘health and safety’ reasons. Hopefully, the Chief Executive can sort that, along with the apparent inability to cut the grass.
This was followed to a flying visit to the site of the new allotments. When I first planned this ‘visit’, we were still bogged down in negotiations after three years with the Council. Fortunately, the Council’s change of senior managers resulted in a ‘new broom’ taking over and I’m pleased to report that the lease will be signed ‘any day’ now. The Council has also agreed to maintain the car parking area, improve the approach road, removed some redundant railings and tidy up the site. Hopefully, we can invite the Chief executive back to the official opening.
After that, we called into the Wirral Alternative Schools Programme (‘WASP’) based at the Solar Campus and previously a ‘pupil referral unit’. The Headteacher is, I believe, one of the best in Wirral and our visit coincided with a visit by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools.
Last on the visits was Seven Waves. In actual fact, the Station Manager had been in direct contact with the Chief Executive to organise this meeting and talk about some of the work of the station, on air and in the community.
Usually, Annual Council is a formality. One of the political groups nominates a councillor to be Mayor. Another Group nominates a councillor to be the Mayor’s Deputy, and to succeed the Mayor a year later.
Not every councillor is suited to the job of being impartial, neutral, balanced or even just ‘fair’ to his or her political opponents. Equally, not every Councillor wants to be Mayor because of the constraints the role can place on you if your politics is your priority.
There are several councillors in both Labour and Conservative Groups who would not meet the required criteria in my view.
Tonight, however, the arrogance of the ruling Administration took this to a whole new level.
Out of 37 councillors, Labour thought the best person for Deputy Mayor was Cllr. Steve Foulkes, the Leader of the Council until most members were so fed up with the scandals, the failures and the party politicking that we voted him out.
By nominating Cllr. Foulkes, Labour was basically sticking two fingers up to the Borough and telling us they are the masters now.
However, five of us had the courage of our convictions and said ‘no’. By voting against his nomination, we have, no doubt put ourselves in the frontline for the inevitable mud that Labour will now throw.
Tough. I cannot support such a divisive and polarising, yet politically driven, individual to be Wirral’s first citizen. In my view, he is the wrong person to hold that office so soon after the scandals (for which we are only now paying) during his tenure as Leader.
The Mayor’s role requires impartiality and an ability to unite. Steve Foulkes, as astute as he is, must surely see this is not the role for him. He is a street fighter. And a very good one. He was a formidable leader who had an ability to often identify with the voter through political activism.
There is also the effect his election as mayor will have on the people who have not recovered as quickly from the time he ran the council. People who I will call the ‘Martin Mortons’ of this world. What must they think of the vote tonight? If nothing else, five of us can look Martin Morton in the eye and say ‘not in our name’.
I am proud to be, along with Chris Blakeley, Lesley Rennie, Leah Fraser and Paul Hayes, one of those five.
Unlike Steve Foulkes, I do not thrive on Party political posturing or confrontation. So, having explained my reasons for voting the way I have, I shall finish by thanking the outgoing Mayor, Gerry Ellis and the Mayoress, Maggie, for their work and send my best wishes to the new Mayor, Dave Mitchell.
Following the ‘disappearance’ of Fordhill View in Moreton, the Wirral Globe and the Liverpool Echo have both picked up on the story. I’m pleased to report that Royal Mail has confirmed that the orginal addresses and postcodes will be reinstated and that this takes around 5 working days to work its way onto the national postcode database. Hopefully, that will mark a return to nomality for the residents.
I spoke to one of the managers at the Town Hall this morning and he has advised that the Council will be meeting with Royal Mail to see how existing procedures can be changed so this kind of problem does not happen again.
Interestingly, the residents of Fordhill View were still on the Council Tax database
Before we get to Wirral Council, did you know the Bedroom Tax started life in 2001? No, nor did I. Malcolm Wicks was a Labour MP and Minister in the Department for Work and Pensions. He was widely respected as an expert on ‘poverty’ until his sad death in September 2012. This is what he told Parliament on 19 December 2001 on their pilot scheme:
“The under-occupation pilot encourages housing benefit recipients living in under-occupied social housing to move to cheaper and smaller accommodation in order to make more efficient use of housing stock.”- Labour’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Malcolm Wicks MP