30 Jan 2009

How many...

….community facilities could we retain if Wirral took the same action as Liverpool which is introducing wide-ranging measures to slash town hall wages and pay-offs. Details are in this article in the Liverpool Echo.

This is the kind of action Wirral should have taken long before it even dreamt of shutting libraries and sports facilities.

27 Jan 2009

Activity report for January

Thanks to everyone who filled out my resident’s survey during the past few weeks. The feedback has been fantastic and I’ve already had almost 300 responses. As you can imagine a wide range of issues were raised which I have been following up as follows:

  • Residents on Craven Street and Paterson Street are unhappy with the repair service provided by Maritime Housing (Regenda). I have written to Regenda outlining these concerns and did receive a prompt response. They have offered to meet up and I am working on suitable times and dates and hope to get residents involved in this. However, I am concerned that Regenda is more keen to tell me about planned improvements to properties rather than addressing concerns about repairs which is the major complaint among residents.
  • On Park Road East, several residents are concerned about the accumulation of rubbish in neighbouring properties. This can be tackled by Environmental Health who will arrange an inspection if you call them on 691 8370. They can, if appropriate, serve a 21 day notice on the offending property owner and if there is no improvement in this time they will send in contractors to clean up and charge the property holder.
  • I was alerted to foul smelling drains on Hinderton Road. I have written to United Utilities and eventually received a response saying an inspection would be carried out. However, UU has been rather vague about when this will happen so I will keep chasing them.
  • Residents on Green Lane and Argyle Street South raised the difficulty in parking outside their properties. I have spoken with traffic management and you will not be surprised that this is a fairly sticky issue. Simply put, the council will not fund residents parking schemes. Therefore they have to be self-funding and the guidelines state that the cost per vehicle would be in the region of £75 with a minimum size of 300 residents. Effectively the council has washed its hands of this problem which is especially galling given the failure to tackle the problem at source by providing better and more affordable public transport.
  • Unsurprisingly, there have been quite a few comments re crime and anti-social behaviour. I am making a list of these including the problems adjacent to Hilton Close, at the rear of Baytree Road and towards the bottom of Argyle Street South. No doubt this list will grow as we survey other areas and in due course I will be taking these to the police and reporting back to you.
  • This weekend’s survey of the streets between Mersey and Victoria Parks saw a lot of complaints about dog muck and the reason wasn’t hard to spot! I’ll be making enquiries about this in the coming days.

Of course the major events of recent weeks have focused on Labour’s devastating cuts in local services and facilities with Pacific Road and Grange Road West included in the firing line. This will be covered in my door-to-door newsletter which will be delivered during February. In the meantime, you can read the official Green Party response to the cuts which includes constructive measures on cutting costs without cutting basic services.

26 Jan 2009

At last, United Utilities responds

I’ve finally heard back from United Utilities about the stinking drains on Hinderton Road. An inspection will be carried out soon. Hopefully they will do more than just inspect…

22 Jan 2009

Maritime Housing Part II

Glad to say that Maritime has responded promptly to my enquiries on behalf of residents in Craven Street and Paterson Street. They have offered to arrange a meeting and I’ll be following that up. Maritime is part of the Regenda group and if you have any comments arising from dealings with them or one of their subsidiaries I’d love to hear from you.

19 Jan 2009

Some people...

...aren't vey tidy. In fact some parts of our area are an absolute disgrace. which is a common theme on our resident's survey. If a neighbouring property to you is causing concern this can be tackled by Environmental Health. They will arrange an inspection if you call them on 691 8370. They can, if appropriate, serve a 21 day notice on the offending property owner and if there is no improvement in this time they will send in contractors to clean up and charge the property holder.

Let me know if this doesn't work and I will chase it for you.

16 Jan 2009

Labour's shameful legacy confirmed

The future now looks bleak for Pacific Road and Grange Road West. Last night’s Council meeting confirmed that both will lose Council funding along with a multitude of other local facilities. This article in the Wirral Globe provides a good summary. This is a devastating blow for many in our community and will clearly hit the poorest hardest. It certainly marks a shameful legacy for a Labour led authority.

Needless to say I and my Green Party colleagues are appalled. However, unlike the Tories, we have come up with a constructive response to this crisis which you can read here.

14 Jan 2009

Sums it up nicely

A friend passed this cartoon to me which neatly illustrates the impact of the proposed cuts in services. I don't know who penned this. If you do, let me know so I can acknowledge it appropriately. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

11 Jan 2009

What a stink!

One of the issues we encountered on today's survey was this alleyway on Hinderton Road. The drains absolutely stink so God knows what it must be like during the Summer. I'll be getting on to United Utilities about this and hopefully something can be sorted before the weather heats up.

Thanks to Joy, Perle and James for helping out with today's survey and all the residents in and around Hinderton Road who participated.

9 Jan 2009

Maritime Housing

Out and about around Craven Street last night following up with some of the residents who raised specific concerns during our survey at the weekend. Quite a list as you’d expect – litter, graffiti, anti-social behaviour. Also a lot of people in rented housing unhappy with the service provided by Maritime. I have written to them to express resident’s concerns. Interesting to see what kind of response I’ll get. Stay tuned…

7 Jan 2009

Don't forget ERIC....

The ERIC service where the Council comes and collects your bulky waste is still free but a charge is likely to apply from April so now is the time to safely dispose of any unwanted household items. Call Streetscene on 606 2004….

….but before you do remember any useful items are much better passed on to somebody else which you can do via Freecycle. You might also find something there you need for free.

6 Jan 2009

The heat is on

Last night I attended the special area forum at the Lauries Centre on the Council’s plans to slash community facilities. The venue was packed to overflowing and it was certainly a heated affair. None of the councillors and council officials present could have been left in any doubt how angry people are at these proposals.

The meeting got off to a bad start when the audience had to sit through around 30 minutes of presentations from council officials which tried to put a positive spin on the cutbacks. Even the brochure handed out to people had the misleading title “transforming Wirral”, as if life would be better when half our libraries and recreation centres have been mothballed. This only served to wind people up. They know the cuts represent a huge reduction in council services and can see through the spin. It is rather bizarre when we are told that cutbacks are essential but the end result will be an improvement. However, the culture of spin now so infects our daily lives that many in positions of authority seem to know no other way.

The leader of the council – Labour’s Steve Foulkes – had an uncomfortable evening. There was no support whatsoever from the floor. Many excellent points were raised throughout the evening and some of those that stood out for me were:
People really value their local facilities and they know that closures will have a major impact on their communities
The poorest and least mobile will be worst hit. There are major social implications here and this is the most worrying aspect of these proposals
It was made abundantly clear that the local bus service is woefully inadequate and far too expensive for the young and non car owners
People have a real affection for Birkenhead library and do not want to see it close
The same goes for Pacific Road and Grange Road West. I was really impressed by the young people who spoke with genuine passion for these facilities

Dozens of jobs will be lost at a time when unemployment is rising sharply

So, what to do….

Well firstly the council faces hard questions why it has allowed so many local facilities to deteriorate to such an extent that in its own words they are “no longer fit for purpose”. The fiasco over Birkenhead library suggests that basic maintenance of our facilities has been ignored. This issue extends across the political mainstream as it is barely 18 months since Wirral was governed by a coalition of Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dem. This meant that there was no opposition whatsoever and basic scrutiny of council operations was non-existent. This is just another reason why we urgently need a broader spectrum of representation on the council.

Secondly, there are cost savings to be made that would have no effect on local services. The Council needs to seriously examine it’s priorities. I don’t think it is acceptable in the current climate that significant sums are being allocated to promote grandiose schemes including boutique hotels and golf resorts in West Wirral while basic public services in Birkenhead are facing closure. Neither has the council got to grips with it’s own energy costs. Every council meeting I attend seems to be overheated and last night we had the ludicrous situation where a labour councillor was opening the window in the council run Lauries Centre because the room was grossly overheated.

Ultimately, we need real political change. People are rightly angry that the government can find £37bn to bail out the banking system and £12bn for a pointless VAT reduction but when it comes to local services the cupboard is bare. One has to ask what is the point in supporting a Labour led Council if it cannot secure appropriate funding from a Labour government? It is also clear that the Council Tax is an abject failure and needs urgent reform.

If you missed last night’s event you can still attend the remaining meetings all of which start at 7pm:
§ Tuesday, January 6th - Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight
§ Wednesday, January 7th - West Kirby Concourse in West Kirby
§ Thursday, January 8th - The Floral Pavilion in New Brighton

4 Jan 2009

Paterson Street area survey

Many thanks to Perle, Jim, Percy, James and Eileen who braved the icy conditions and helped out with the residents survey of the area around Paterson Street. Almost 100 residents completed the survey and I'll be following up on the issues raised in the coming days.

3 Jan 2009

Don't forget...

....Monday, January 5th 7-9pm is the date for the special area forum on the closure of community facilities. Venue is the Lauries Centre.

I'll be there and will be posting my report later in the week.