Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Liverpool City Council - full council meeting January 28th 2009

- and what a total shambles it was, if you cannot keep up with what follows, then don't despair, you are in very good company!

We spent hours debating the budget proposals from the ruling LibDems, then amendments from the Labour Party, Green Party and Liberal Party.

There was a total lack of clarity over some of the issues - most particularly the proposed cut in services for Lollipop men and ladies - or a realignment as the Deputy Leader insisted on calling it.

Was the list of 25 affected school crossing patrols that Labour councillors had been provided with by the Executive Director, the right list, or was there a different list?

And was it a secret list?

And who wrote it?

Were there 24 schools or 25 that might be affected?

Were primary schools to be protected from the cuts in lollipop services as Councillor Flo Clucas, the Deputy Leader of the Council kept insisting, or not?

Was the cut only applicable to schools where the children were not permitted out of school at lunchtime, or not?

Was it also applicable to a primary school where the ward councillor said that actually the children leave en mass at lunch time to go to a different venue to get their lunch?

Were these schools with no (alleged) need for a lunch time patrol, only secondary schools or also primary schools?

And if the latter, did this mean that primary schools were being protected from the cuts, or not?

Was the Council Leader's offer to call a meeting tomorrow to get to the bottom of the cuts, sorry realignment, accepted?

Why did they need such a meeting if it was as crystal clear as the Deputy Leader kept insisting?

Did the Deputy Leader really say on the TV at the weekend that the changes did not include primary schools as she insisted?

And if so, why was that not in the transcript.

Did Councillor Paul Clark, LibDem, County Ward, really guarantee that Councillor Joe Hanson, Labour, Kirkdale ward, could sleep safely in his bed because none of the schools he was worried about would be affected?

And was he in a position to make such a promise?

Why had nobody on the LibDem back-benches seen the list of affected schools that had been shared with the Labour group?

And how would moving school patrols away from schools that dont need a lunch time service save £200,000?

And does the left hand within the LibDem administration have even the slightest idea what the right hand is doing?

And most importantly, are our children safe? Who knows, certainly not the Liberal Democrats!

The council meeting began at 4pm with a special meeting that lasted 4 minutes of the hour set aside for it, which then had us all sitting around idly for 55 minutes before the substantive meeting began. That lost time meant that when we finally got into the detail of the main meeting, with a very lengthy budget debate, we ran on and on until we were staring 10pm in the face.

A really key motion was deferred to a future meeting. This was despite substantial cross-party support, as far as I understand it. It concerns the desirability of all councillors to have enhanced CRB checks, enabling us to carry out our corporate parenting role, important in the wake of the death of Baby P. This was deferred despite considerable opposition (but not enough opposition), mainly because people said they were getting tired, although I heard several say to each other that it was because they wanted to watch the football! Why would someone who supported the motion not want to debate it and get it passed? All power to the elbow of my opposite number for being the only LibDem to put our children before the footie and vote to debate the motion there and then.

We hope to debate it in March, at the budget meeting, hardly an appropriate time if today is anything to go by. I felt we were being manipulated by those who are idealogically opposed to CRB checks in the first place and just wanted to put off the inevitable and that they were being supported by football supporters, and then it became a partisan issue, with the parties voting on block which was very wrong (Paula aside).

We then had a lengthy debate about the capital of culture - and whether it was all down to the LibDems or whether it was fairer to call it a cross-party success with the people of Liverpool being the real reason why the bid was successful. Actually that might have come before the CRB motion, I cannot recall now, but obviously we had time to talk about party politics and who had the bigger Dad. Colin Eldridge was keen to get some self-praise onto the floor of the chamber, most particularly he was keen that we should know that his head is visible in the photo when the news of the success of the bid was announced.

That would not surprise me at all, that he was in the photo, you only have to look at the latest edition of the City magazine (with Cilla on the front!!! and which I dont get delivered, in common with half the residents of my ward, because the distribution is very poor) to see how often he features in photos that do not concern his ward or his portfolio (well of course he does not have one of those any more). I dont know how he muscles his way into so many photos but it is amazing how often they go on to appear in his LibDem leaflets.

Incidentally, I carefully wrote down that he asked Cllr Flo Clucas what the total contribution from the "Government in all its guises" to Capital of Culture was, and she agreed with him that it was £29.63million.

And how much did they ask for initially? I understand it was £10million

So they asked for £10 million and the Government, in all its guises, paid across £29.63 million.

And the LibDems call this contribution "measly" and only this week said on the Marc Waddington blog "What really got me was your claim about the Government's £27M contribution. Crass, if it wasn't so wide of the mark"

There are those that suggest that blog contribution came from Eldridge himself, I dont know if that is true, but whichever LibDem it was must now eat their words.

Imagine turning your nose up at nearly £30million contribution, if it was as measly as all that, if it was so ungratefully received, I wonder if they should be asked to send the money back so it can be spent somewhere where it can be appreciated.

And what a shame that I have continually underestimated the contribution by "Government in all its guises" by £2.6 million, calling it £27 million when it was closer to £30 million. Rest assured I won't make that mistake again!

We have it from Flo herself, and Paul Brant and I both made a big show of writing that answer down, and we wont forget it.

So we had time to make cheap political digs, but it seems we did not have time to talk about our responsibility for looked-after children

We had a motion on the table with total cross-party support, that we should support the idea of a Liverpool Pride, the LGBT supporters had sat for 6 hours to hear us vote on this. It should have been 90-nil (or whatever proportion of councillors were still in the chamber by now) but it was with a ripple of shock that we heard two LibDem councillors announce their opposition to the plan. It went through of course, but it was still a matter of extreme disappointment and concern that it was not unanimous (Councillors Stuart Monkcom and Phil Moffatt voted against it - both I think for religious reasons which I must call misplaced).

I am sure the shambles and the disgraces piled up in other areas, but really, you had to be there. Or then again, if you beleive in representative democracy it is probably better that you weren't.



scouseboy said...

Cllr Clucas was one of the few Lib Dems who I had time for, I felt shehad some integrity, I feel she has let herself down rather badly.
These Fib Dems could not run a p*** up in a brewery, keep on exposing the shambles for what they are.

steve faragher said...

I thought the panto season had finished, I should have took the GEARS residents to the council chamber and saved a few bob indtead of the everyman.....reason Colin eldridges head was in the COC(K) photo was because its was the biggest thing in the room, it is big but it's not clever

steve faragher said...

the reason lollipop men and women are so expensive is probably because they have been out sourced to Enterpsrise, so even though they get paid 5 zlotys an hour enterpise actually charge the council 200 times that amount for "adminstration and handling" plus each lollipop sign has to be risk assessed by 20/20 vision adding another £6000 to the cost of each signage. You can never be too safe when kids are involved. so £200,000 it's a steal.

steve faragher said...

£2.6 million thats two spiders!!!

Anonymous said...

It seems incredible to me that the City Councillors who are the Corporate Parent of the City's Looked After Children have not themselves been CRBed... I hope there is no chance of this applying to frontline staff dealing with the City's children.

Louise Baldock said...

I am quite sure that all frontline staff are vigorously checked.

All councillors who take their responsibility as a corporate parent seriously and visit children's homes, as we all should do, but sadly don't, are obliged to be checked. Those who renege on their responsibilities are not checked, nor currently obliged to be checked.

I think that is a mistake however, as all councillors have access to children and vulnerable adults when knocking on doors, sitting in surgeries, visiting schools, youth clubs etc. They are likely to be trusted by vulnerable people too.

All councillors should be checked in my view, and the insistence on the part of a few council officers to keep on saying they dont think it is necessary just shows their complete lack of understanding of what councillors actually do.

I think we will win on this

Anonymous said...

Louise, you cannot state that just because someone does not do Reg 33 visits that they have reneged on their responsibilities. corporate parenting responsibilities extend further than just visits and, as you know, not every councillor can afford the time to do them, even if they wanted to.

Louise Baldock said...

Okay, I will accede to that. Not doing Reg 33 visit is not reneging. But I would like to see councillors asked to explain how they do fulful their role, on a regular basis. With incidents like Baby P and what went on in Doncaster, we must be sure that children are safe.

I dont really believe though that an hour a month to visit a children's home is asking too much, however busy a councillor is. But I will pull back from calling it reneging.

Anonymous said...

Breaking news:
Liverpool Echo 2nd February 2009

Controversial plans to scrap 25 lollipop crossing staff at city schools were dropped today.

City leaders vetoed suggestions by officers that crossing patrols be axed as part of a scheme to save £200,000 in the coming year.

Opposition groups and road safety campaigners accused Liverpool council of putting children’s lives at risk for the sake of saving money.

But Council Leader Cllr Warren Bradley today said he would not support the scheme since officers had failed to satisfy him about the plans.

He said: “This proposal is highly emotive, with all members of our community involved.

“We have to consider all options put forward by the officers.

“The impact of implementing this decision could well have catastrophic outcomes, and it is something the Liberal Democrats will not support.”

Anonymous said...

Well done for calling attention to the issue of the Lollipop workers - I understand from an article in the Echo that the plan to cut them has scrapped. Thank goodness for that!