14 Dec 2014

Austerity axe strikes again


Wirral Council's latest budget proposals mark a new low for people of Wirral as a further £38 million is sucked out of the local economy with drastic effects on services and spending power.

Tory and Lib Dem councillors should hang their head in shame at the appalling impacts their disastrous state-shrinking policies are having on a borough already riven by gross inequalities.

As a result of their policies and the further deep cuts contained in these budget proposals further misery will be heaped on our most stressed communities already struggling with poverty pay, benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax and, most shameful of all, the mounting queues at food banks.


Serious Questions for Labour

But Labour have serious questions to answer if they really expect the people of Wirral to believe they are committed to protecting the vulnerable and reducing the gap in inequalities. In particular,
  • How can Labour claim a commitment to fairness having just voted through an eye-watering 30% increase in the chief executive’s salary. Not only is this an insult to the council employees facing redundancy and reduced pay, it shows a leadership out of touch with reality and missing a glorious opportunity to set an example to others and rein in excessive pay in the public sector.
  • How can Labour moan about the Tories state-shrinking agenda when they have accepted the Tory bribe to freeze council tax and shrink Wirral’s tax base which is so important in supporting and sustaining public services. Yet this is the same council that has forced the unemployed to pay council tax and has now scrapped discounts for the over 70s.
  • How can Labour cut jobs and services even as it spends seven figure sums on a Town Hall that will never be fit for purpose as most residents in Wirral find it hopelessly inaccessible due to its location?
Perhaps, most worrying of all is the nonsensical claim that a Labour government would reverse these cuts. Just this week Ed Balls has reiterated his ruthless approach promising “spending cuts every year” In other words, under Labour we will face more cuts, more austerity, more poverty, even more inequality.

Austerity is not inevitable

Austerity is a political choice supported by Tory, Lib Dem UKIP and Labour.

Only the Greens are offering an alternative to austerity based on taxing the wealthiest in our society, rolling back the cuts, ending poverty pay and investing in jobs and vital public services. Specifically the Green Party would 
  • Impose a wealth tax on the wealthiest 1% generating over £20 billion per annum.
  • Introduce a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions generating a further £20 billion per annum.
  • Replace council tax with a land value tax requiring wealthy land owners who benefit from massive Common Agricultural Policy subsidies to pay something back to society.
  • A 50% tax rate on salaries over £100,000.
  • Scrap Trident and HS2 saving over £100 billion.

5 Dec 2014

What's really the point of "Free after 3"?

Localism is at the heart of Green philosophy and it is incredibly
important that we support local shops and promote effective measures
that encourage people to use their local shopping centres all year round.

However, are Wirral council plans to introduce "free after 3" parking
during the remainder of December really the best we can do to support
the local economy?

Having read what the recent car parking scrutiny review has to say about
"Free after 3" it was revealing to learn that we have no idea how many
motorists took advantage of it in the past and therefore we have no idea
what the cost to the council was or what the benefit to local shops was.

When I enquired what the expected cost of the current proposal is I was
told a budget provision of "up to £20k" had been allowed.

But clearly we don't know the cost which is worrying in itself and leads
me to believe that this is primarily a political gesture.

Now it is instructive to me that we hear and read far more about the
cost of parking than we do about the cost of public transport which of
course has been driven upwards by the misguided policies of the current
government.

So, given that, as a council, Wirral is tasked with supporting local
business, reducing inequalities and improving our environment shouldn't
we be diverting scarce resources to help those people without private
transport access local shopping centres. It is worth remembering the
huge transport inequalities that prevail across Wirral. In Birkenhead
and Tranmere, 56% of households do not have access to a vehicle and are
therefore reliant on public transport.

So, if we are going to spend "up to £20k" on supporting local shops lets
do it in a joined up fashion that supports other key objectives. We
could use that money to reduce bus fares or increase frequency. Or we
could use it to expand 20 mph zones in our town centres and make them
more attractive places to visit. Or we could improve pedestrian/cyclist
infrastructure and achieve more long lasting benefits.

"Free after 3" is a political gesture of minuscule benefit to the local
economy. Unfortunately, it serves the interests of local politicians
more than local traders.

28 Nov 2014

Get your valuables security tagged for free

British Transport Police have contacted me about some sessions for
people to get their phones, bicycles etc. registered. Details below.
This is a really practical way to help fight crime and assist victims
whose items are subsequently recovered.

==============================================

We have a few dates now for future property recording and bike marking
dates which would be great if you could let local people know via you're
website/newsletter/tweets

6th December between 1300-1600 hours Conway Park

9th December from 0900 -1100 hours Conway Park – also Lime Street
Station on this date

17th December from 0900 – 1100 hours Conway Park.

4 Nov 2014

Yobs debate is out of control

It’s not surprising that local politicians have been holding forth about the problem of anti-social behaviour in Birkenhead. The figures speak for themselves. ASB is a huge issue for many, many people, an enormous blight on our communities and is placing a massive strain on public resources

But is comparing Birkenhead to Beirut and chastising the police and other public agencies really the answer? Or, is the approach of a general election bringing forth simplistic solutions from those our community looks to for leadership.

Looked at through the lens of relentless austerity and the rise in anti-social behaviour is surely inevitable.

For almost five years the people of Birkenhead have been subjected to a ruthless attack. Benefit cuts and welfare sanctions, massive reductions in public services and the hollowing out of local government, the perverse bedroom tax, the explosion of zero hours contracts and poverty pay, soaring tuition fees and the pernicious impact of payday lending companies, the rise in fuel poverty and the relentless drop in living standards.

Those at the sharp end can see the cumulative impacts – social workers, police, teachers, health professionals are all expected to pick up the pieces from the relentless assault on civilised society.

I know from first hand experience that the police and other services are working extremely hard to deal with incredibly challenging conditions. I’m sure they welcome constructive suggestions on how best to cooperate with other agencies. I’m also sure that the public criticism we have recently seen is counter productive and just makes dealing with anti-social behaviour even harder. It can only be negative for staff morale already battered by cuts in funding. Comparing Birkenhead to Beirut is an insult to the plight of the Palestinian people and discourages those who want to invest in our area and create badly needed employment.

If we want to seriously address anti-social behaviour we have to address the underlying causes. Austerity is a disaster and has to end. But, incredibly, it’s not just the Tories and Lib Dems who persist with austerity despite its trail of carnage. Labour too is committed to years more austerity and further cuts in benefits and public services.

No wonder people are losing hope.

The answer to rising ASB and other social ills has to include an end to austerity. We need a fair taxation system that addresses inequality and ensures the wealthy start paying their fair share. We need a reversal to public sector cuts and a fundamental reappraisal of the role of public servants and the crucial role they play in our communities. We need investment in housing to end fuel poverty and create employment. We need free and fair access to education and a renewed sense of hope for young people.

The roots of rising anti-social behaviour lie in the failed experiment that is austerity. We need politicians to wake up to that reality rather than offer simplistic solutions that dodge the real issue.

23 Oct 2014

Vote Green, Get Green #2

As expected, more silly nonsense from Labour in recent ward newsletters about our votes in council meetings. Is there any chance they could try defending their own activities rather than spewing out contrived rubbish about me voting "with the Tories".

It's a shame we have to waste peoples' time refuting this guff but here is our response as published in our latest ward newsletter:


"Some residents have asked about the smears in recent Labour party material concerning how Pat Cleary votes in the council chamber. It’s very simple. Greens always vote on principle and in the best interests of the residents we represent.
  • If that means voting to help save a special school like Lyndale then that is clearly the right thing to do.
  • If it means opposing the choice of mayor given the years of scandal under his leadership of the council then so be it.
  • If it means highlighting Labour’s failure to support residents affected by the bedroom tax then we are proud to do so.
The Green Party’s commitment to a fairer society – peace, equality and a safe environment - is based on principles the Labour party abandoned years ago. The sad fact is it is Labour that has sold out to the Tory austerity agenda where corporate interests come first, wages are squeezed and crucial public services are privatised.

And that is something Greens will continue to oppose and, yes, vote against."
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21 Oct 2014

Austerity can't end soon enough

Last night's council meeting included one of those silly motions from the Tories slagging off Labour for "warped financial decisions" and a poorly thought through proposal on the council's consultancy spend. If the motion had stuck to the issue of consultancy expenditure which is clearly worthy of debate and further scrutiny it would have had merit. However, its descent into blatant political posturing is something that turns almost everybody off, including me.

This motion wasn't debated, only voted on. It seemed to surprise the Labour side that I voted with them and against the motion but I thought it worth briefly explaining why:

Firstly, I believe it is the case that at least some consultants commissioned by Wirral Council are paid a daily rate, sometimes in excess of £500 per day. So I don’t believe that the limit of £50,000 pounds in this motion has been properly thought through.

But more fundamentally, for the Conservative group to advise anybody about “warped financial decisions” would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.

The austerity embraced with such relish by the Conservative –led government represents the most warped financial decision of our lifetime. The fall out is all around us. From the explosion in food banks, poverty pay, zero hours contracts, not to mention the Tories complete failure to eradicate the budget deficit as promised. Their bogus recovery is based on debt-fuelled bubbles in the property and financial markets while millions depend on precarious jobs with falling real wages. Savage welfare cuts sit beside ever expanding executive pay and a corporate sector that takes tax avoidance for granted.

This week we learned from the End Child Poverty campaign that 43% of children in Birkenhead and Tranmere now live in poverty. The warped financial decisions that impose austerity on these families is a shocking indictment of the malign impacts of the coalition government. Austerity is not inevitable. It has to end and it can’t end soon enough.

20 Oct 2014

HS2 should be scrapped not extended

Tonight's council meeting includes a motion supporting the "20 miles more" campaign to link Liverpool to the proposed HS2 railway line. However, when it comes to HS2 we don’t’ need 20 miles more we need 200 miles less.

The government’s own estimate of the costs of HS2 currently stand at £50 billion. That is just the financial cost and excludes numerous other costs including destruction of housing, green belt and agricultural land, disruption to local communities and damage to at least 10 sites of special scientific interest.

Moreover, £50 billion can be far better spent upgrading existing rail infrastructure, removing bottlenecks and improving intra regional links including the proposal for high speed rail linking Liverpool to Hull.

Green MEP Jean Lambert shows her opposition to HS2
HS2 will undoubtedly in my view further entrench the lopsided nature of our economy by concentrating jobs and investment in London and the South East.

Of course, it is not just the Green Party that opposes HS2. To quote Frank Field MP during the debate on HS2 in parliament earlier this year:

HS2 would negate all other major programmes. It would prevent a new route from being built from Liverpool to Hull to Newcastle.

"Further to this, I question whether HS2 will go beyond Birmingham. I totally reject the view that HS2 will take jobs and influence from London to the North: it’s much more likely to suck even more resources to the London axis.

"That’s the reason why I’m voting against the HS2 Bill today
."

These are also some of the reasons I’ll be voting against this motion.

On devolution the grey parties just don't get it


With reference to tonight's council motion on devolving more powers to local authorities.

I very much support the principle of devolution and the concept that power should flow upwards from the people rather than downwards from an over-centralised state.

However, if the Scottish referendum taught us anything it is not just that people want more power devolved but that they have been left feeling unrepresented and neglected by government policies and politics in general.

In pleading to the government for more devolution this motion ignores a key factor exposed by the massive Yes vote in Scotland. People do not want the government telling us what powers we can and cannot have. They expect government to start listening. They expect what the Green Party is calling for – a peoples constitutional convention with a broad remit encompassing meaningful electoral reform, votes for 16 year olds, a written constitution and, yes, greater powers for local and regional government. But, devolving power on its own is nowhere near sufficient and must be accompanied by fundamental reforms to local and regional government, something this motion fails to address.

13 Oct 2014

Is there space for cycling in Wirral?


Just looking at the latest road casualty stats for Wirral and they make very uncomfortable reading for the various authorities tasked with reducing carnage on the road.

2013 saw a big increase in casualties (+27%). All of that increase was accounted for by vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
The stand out figure for me is cyclist casualties and not just because a bicycle is my main mode of transport. That does give me a very real insight and I know from first hand experience that provision for cyclists in Wirral is absolutely dire. Nowhere more so than in Birkenhead where there is virtually no specialist provision to encourage cycling and reduce the number of casualties.

Whilst it is pleasing to see modest growth in the number of recorded journeys by bicycle, it is incredibly frustrating that the number of casualties is also rising:

  • Figures for reported killed or seriously injured cyclists in Wirral rose by 32% last year.
  • These casualties have doubled in less than a decade
  • Casualties have risen in five of the past six years
  • Over the same period, casualty stats for car occupants are down by 69%

It’s obviously wonderful that fewer individuals and families are suffering the trauma of road casualties. However, overwhelmingly this is as a result of improvements in vehicle standards and tougher action on drink driving. In the meantime, far too little attention has been paid to vulnerable road users like cyclists. It is absolutely no surprise to me that, with the increase in cycling, we are seeing more cyclists injured.

I was the first Wirral councillor to sign up to the CTCs Space for Cycling campaign which has the thoroughly reasonable aim of creating conditions where anyone can cycle anywhere.

Only 10 others have followed suit which leaves 55 councillors who need to reflect on why only 1.6% of journeys to work in Wirral are by bicycle. Thousands of journeys in Wirral every day could be switched from car to bicycle creating a healthier population, a cleaner environment and reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels.

That won’t happen until most adults feel that cycling is safe and that won’t happen until Wirral creates space for cycling.

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8 Oct 2014

First fly-tipping cases, the results are in

In many years of campaigning in Birkenhead and Tranmere its fair to say that no issue has annoyed residents more than fly-tipping. In particular, the failure to prosecute offenders has been a source of immense frustration.

Its fair to say the Green Party has successfully highlighted this and forced it up the political agenda. Our campaigning and electoral success have been major factors in forcing the council to devote more resources to tackling this issue.

Yesterday I attended Birkenhead Magistrates Court to listen in on the first cases arising out of the alleyway dumping programme. These all involved cases where evidence has been collected and fixed penalty notices of £75 issued. The failure to pay these penalties has led in turn to court action.

In total, five cases were up before the court, two in Birkenhead and one each in Tranmere, New Ferry and Wallasey.

Four of the five accused did not appear in court and were fined £225 each with an additional £175 in costs and a £22 victim surcharge which is used to fund victim services. That's a total fine of £422.

In the remaining case, the accused pleaded guilty by post and was fined £150 plus £175 in costs and a £22 victim surcharge.

These sums will now be pursued through the court system.

I was especially pleased that the court acknowledged my presence as an indication of the impact that fly-tipping has on the community. I was the only councillor to attend.

Enforcement can never be the full answer to fly-tipping but I am pleased that years of campaigning has led to the first significant efforts to prosecute what is extremely anti-social behaviour.

I very much hope that this will encourage individuals to think twice and manage their waste appropriately. That is surely a better option than risking a hefty fine and a criminal record.

The next batch of cases are due in a few weeks time and I anticipate more in the future.

So well done to everyone who has worked on bringing these cases to a successful conclusion.
Hopefully, this will feed through to a significant reduction in cases of fly-tipping and we can all enjoy a cleaner environment.

1 Oct 2014

More hot air from UKIP

Paul Nuttall's tirade against wind energy is further proof that UKIP never let facts get in the way of a bad argument. The reality is that, despite mixed messages from government, renewable energy is rising strongly in the UK and will continue to do so as costs fall further while fossil fuel prices inevitably rise. UK wind power generation rose by 38% last year and half of Scotland's electricity consumption now comes from renewables.

The sad fact is that the ultra free market economic policies promoted by UKIP simply cannot cope with the reality of climate change. Far easier for them to portray climate change as a myth than question their own misguided policies and accept that the state has a crucial role to play in securing a future based on clean and affordable energy for all.

The Green Party promotes investment in energy efficiency to keep bills down and tackle fuel poverty. We support renewables to generate long term employment, tackle climate change and reduce our dependence on imported energy.

29 Sep 2014

Proposed car parks on Conway Street

A recent planning application to build two new car parks on Conway Street, opposite Europa Pools, has been refused subject to appeal. I am very pleased about this and have worked hard to impress upon planning officers and members of the planning committee why this was a thoroughly bad application. You can read a summary of my arguments below. However, it is immensely frustrating that Wirral Council has been selling off various plots of publicly owned land which then come back to haunt us in the form of anti-social proposed developments. It's just another example of how austerity is undermining social fabric, nowhere more so than in Birkenhead.

========================================

As stated in the officer’s report, “there is no requirement for additional parking provision within this locality”. There are currently six council owned car parks within 500 metres and a further four privately operated car parks. In total, these provide 2,187 spaces. The site is extremely close to Birkenhead bus station and Conway Park railway station so there are clear, more sustainable alternatives. The national planning policy framework says local authorities should support a pattern of development that facilitates the use of sustainable transport. This application clearly runs counter to that objective.

This land is designated as primarily residential. Moreover, the established community on Simpson Street/Parkfield Avenue clearly benefit from the grassed area along Conway Street. This is complemented by a similar strip on the opposite side of Conway Street. This provides an important buffer against noise and pollution. This. This will change completely if this development proceeds. I cannot agree with the officer’s view that this development “would not have an adverse impact onto the character of the area or existing residential amenity,”

I am particularly concerned that vehicles exiting the Simpson Street car park will not necessarily turn right onto Conway Street. Traffic here frequently backs up from the junction with Exmouth Street. There will be a clear temptation for vehicles to exit left out of the Simpson Street car park and access Conway Street via Simpson Street and Parkfield Avenue. I therefore cannot agree, as stated in the report, that “there are no highway safety issues relating to the proposal”.


10 Sep 2014

Independence panic arrives in Wirral

The representatives of Wirral’s political establishment will be at Wallasey Town Hall today raising the Saltire to show their support for the No campaign in next week’s referendum.

 

This is great news for Scottish Independence, which the Green Party supports.

 

The more our political elite panics, the more clearly Scots can see what an opportunity independence offers. As one respected commentator has said, voting No would be an extraordinary act of self harm.

 

It shows how out of touch that elite is if they really think raising a Scottish flag in Wirral will persuade anyone to vote No.

 

The referendum is a huge opportunity for Scots to cast off the Westminster yolk and make their own decisions about their own future. Not only that, a Yes vote will cause a constitutional explosion for the rest of the UK giving hope that something approaching a real democracy could emerge in England too.

 

So well done to Cllrs Davies, Rennie and Gilchrist. Their collusion in the growing panic surrounding the No campaign will simply add fuel to the fire of independence.

Wirral's £40 million investment in big tobacco

It's Stoptober time. which if you didn't know, is a national campaign to help people quit smoking.

Wirral Council's right behind it and has some helpful advice on its website.

All well and good and a sensible initiative to promote healthier living.

And an interesting backdrop to the latest set of accounts published by the Merseyside Pension Fund.

Why you might reasonably ask? Well, Wirral manages the Merseyside Pension Fund on behalf of all the councils on Merseyside. It's a serious fund, one of the biggest of its kind in the country with assets totalling £6.4 billion.

That's the kind of money that could do some serious good if invested in those companies working in the green economy - renewable energy, sustainable homes, cleaner transport.

Unfortunately, the Merseyside Pension Fund has some very nasty habits. It's biggest share holding - £40m - is British American Tobacco.

And it's not just big tobacco.

Coming in at number two is HSBC, recently fined $2 billion by the US senate for money laundering and branded a conduit for "drug kingpins and rogue nations".

At #3 is the BG Group which is up to its neck in the push to make the UK the fracking capital of Europe. Perhaps the fund is unaware there is huge opposition to fracking in Wirral across the political divide.

#4 is notorious tax avoider Vodafone.

And, finally, at #5 comes BP, a company synonymous with environmental carnage and just this week ruled to have been grossly negligent by a US court following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

What a shocking list and an absolute stain on the whole of Merseyside but Wirral in particular.

And, with a growing movement to divest from fossil fuels, these holdings represent a huge risk to the current and future beneficiaries of the Merseyside Pension Fund.

7 Sep 2014

Lyndale: A new low for Labour

On Thursday, Wirral’s ruling Labour cabinet voted unanimously to close Lyndale School from January 2016. Several hours of presentations were followed by an extremely brief rubber stamping of a pre-printed motion to close the school.

 

You can read the official Green Party response at wirralgreenparty.org.uk and there is an excellent editorial in the Wirral Globe which castigates Labour for the whole shabby affair.

 

For me, there are a few stand-out features of this case:

 

  • The political oversight has been extremely weak. Cabinet has accepted the view of officers and external consultants without offering any visible challenge. Inevitably, those affected suspect a hidden agenda.

 

  • The official consultation yielded an incredible response, most notably from the Lyndale parents whose detailed submission was a real tour de force. When such a huge response generates zero return it is hardly surprising that the public is incredibly sceptical about such exercises.

 

  • We all know that local government finances are being squeezed but this closure won’t save a penny as funding comes from outside Wirral. Labour rightly blames the government for slashing council funding but that won’t wash in the case of Lyndale. This makes the decision all the more bizarre.

 

It certainly makes a mockery of Labour’s claims to “protect the vulnerable”. You don’t get more vulnerable than the kids who attend Lyndale. No wonder parents were left in tears and the rest of us shaking our heads with disbelief.

21 Aug 2014

Vacant land on Marquis Street

Here is an update I have received regarding the vacant plot on Marquis Street which has been a long running bone of contention in the the area.

=======================

Dear Cllr Cleary,

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the above land in Marquis street. We have received several complaints from residents dating back to 2011 regarding this land which as you mention is frequently fly-tipped. We have carried out an extensive investigation to identify the owner of the land as we can only exercise our powers regarding accumulations against the rightful owners of private land. 

Despite carrying out land searches and making enquiries relating to addresses across the UK, we have been unable to obtain a response from whom we believe is the rightful owner. We have served several legal notices on the owner to clear the land since 2011 with copies sent to all known addresses but in all cases the notices have not been complied with and we have resorted to carrying out the works in default. This has meant that the cost we have incurred, for which we have little budget for has been placed as a charge on the land. 

As Environmental Health have no means to erect a fence and currently I do not believe there is compulsory purchase process operating within the Council we are unfortunately in the position whereby we can only continue to retrospectively order for the land to cleared and carry out works in default should the owner continue in failing to maintain their land. This does however incur additional mounting costs to the Council that are unlikely to be reclaimed in the near future. 

In relation to your specific enquiry an officer from Environmental Health has visited the site to carry out a survey and noted that items have been deposited on the land. Before carrying out any further works in default we must adhere to our policy and give the owner the opportunity to clear the land. A notice will be served imminently to this effect. 

Environmental Health are always looking for solutions to problems and for new ways of effective yet efficient working to help protect the people of Wirral. We would welcome any ideas or support regarding schemes that could assist us or that require our support in achieving our common objectives. 

Whilst I understand this information does not offer a solution to the long term problem regarding this and similar pieces of land across the Borough, I trust that this information is of some benefit and if you wish to discuss this matter further please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Yours Sincerely

Environmental Health Team

4 Aug 2014

Statement re bedroom tax demonstration

The Green Party issues the following statement in response to today's anti-bedroom tax march through Birkenhead.


The Green Party has opposed the bedroom tax from the start and actively campaigns with AntiBedroom Tax groups calling for its immediate abolition

The Labour Party's pledge to abolish the bedroom tax if it wins the election in 2015 should be backed by a nationwide campaign calling for immediate abolition and by guidance to local councils on how to minimise its impact now.

Wirral Council should follow up its welcome decision not to challenge tenants who have won appeals -- a decision taken under pressure from Green  councillor Pat Cleary and ABT campaigners --, by not sending representatives to lower tribunal hearings. This would save taxpayers' money and greatly assist hard-pressed tenants.

29 Jul 2014

Bedroom tax campaign: the next front

Wirral Labour is claiming a £75,000 "bedroom tax relief fund" is being established according to this article in the Liverpool Echo.

Unfortunately, the article gives a very misleading picture and swallows Labour spin hook, line and sinker.

The £75,000 comes from a Magenta Living fund earmarked for community projects across Birkenhead. The constituency committee comprising Labour, Lib Dem and Green councillors agreed on Wednesday that this would be better used to support Magenta tenants affected by the bedroom tax.

But, has Magenta agreed to divert the community projects money towards tenants in arrears due to the bedroom tax?

The Echo article says Magenta is being "pushed" to create the relief fund. In other words, there has been no agreement yet on Magenta's part to use this £75,000 for the purposes claimed.

Moreover, £75,000 is a drop in the ocean when compared with the £2.6m annual cost to Wirral victims of the bedroom tax.

I have previously blogged about Labour's u-turn on contesting successful bedroom tax appeal - a u-turn in direct response to Green Party pressure.

But rather than prematurely claim sole credit for funds that do not yet exist and will do very little to alleviate the impact of the bedroom tax, Wirral Labour could take concrete steps itself to assist tenants hit by the bedroom tax. Specifically, Labour could follow Liverpool's example and ensure that Wirral Council desists from sending representatives to tribunal hearings. This will not only smooth the appeals process for hundreds of tenants but will save significant sums for a council that never fails to remind us how cash-strapped it is.

That is the next front in the fight against the bedroom tax and that is what the Green Party will be pushing for.

8 Jul 2014

Vote Green get Green

There is a rather silly item in the latest Labour leaflet doing the rounds in Birkenhead and Tranmere. It says "The first act of your newly elected Green councillor for Birkenhead was to vote with the Tories." It says nothing at all about what the vote concerned.

My first vote was on electing the new mayor. I explained my reasons for voting against here.

Nothing to do with the Tories or any other party. But, for the record, five of the Tories voted against, 10 abstained and the other six voted for.

I suspect over the next four years there will be a few more of these rather tedious posts refuting more nonsense like this. I'll try and keep them brief!

7 Jul 2014

Wirral Labour's bedroom tax u-turn

There was a particularly interesting item in the latest Labour leaflet for Birkenhead and Tranmere relating to the bedroom tax. It states that council leader Phil Davies "has instructed council officers to implement all tribunal successes brought by local residents".

This has since been confirmed by the relevant council officer and means Wirral Council will no longer be contesting successful bedroom tax rulings and relevant tenants should have their lawful benefit payments backdated and paid in full.

Very good news although the Department of Work and Pensions will still be able to contest tribunal rulings. However, at least, a Labour-run council supposedly opposed to the bedroom tax will no longer be doing the DWP's dirty work.

For those familiar with my previous related posting, this represents a complete u-turn by Labour. It is undoubtedly a response to Green Party pressure and the resulting media coverage that followed.

This is excellent news for those tenants affected in my ward and across Wirral. In addition, it means Wirral tax payers will no longer be funding these ludicrous appeals.

It is also a clear vindication of the Green Party and our commitment to social justice and supporting the victims of austerity.

2 Jul 2014

Par for the course

The message below from Wirral Council's Chief Executive was one of the first I received as a newly elected councillor. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised given the recent catalogue of spending scandals that have hit the headlines.

So, how much is this costing? How on earth can it be justified in the face of brutal cuts to public services? Even if someone else was paying surely the thought of councillors enjoying a jolly cup of tea at the Royal Liverpool is enough to drive their austerity afflicted residents to despair.

Hard to avoid a horrible golfing pun but this really does seem par for the course at Wirral Council.


Dear Councillor,

I am writing to invite you to a special reception for Wirral Councillors at The Open Championship on Wednesday 16th July.

As well as enjoying the final practice day’s play, the reception will provide an opportunity to inspect the Council’s corporate hospitality area over afternoon tea.

As there will be parking and security restrictions in and around the course, a park-and-ride facility will be provided.

In accordance with the traditions of the course, the dress code is smart-casual (no jeans or trainers please).

19 Jun 2014

Parking, Rodney Street

Parking is a persistent source of angst on Rodney Street. Below is the
council's position relating to this. I will be taking this up with the
police myself in the near future.


Dear Councillor Cleary,

Thank you for your email of 18 June regarding parking in Rodney Street,
Birkenhead.

As mentioned in your email, Rodney Street and Helena Street are subject
to a "prohibition of motor vehicles; except for access" traffic
regulation order (TRO).

This type of TRO cannot be enforced by the Council's Civil Enforcement
Officers, but falls under the enforcement remit of Merseyside Police.
The issue of enforcement of this TRO has been raised with the Police in
the past and I will raise it with our Police liaison officer again.

I can advise you that the Council has been approached by residents and
Ward Members previously regarding parking in the road requesting that a
resident parking scheme be implemented in the road. However, it was
clear that there was insufficient support from residents to cover the
cost of implementation and ongoing administration of the scheme which is
the current Council policy for new resident parking schemes.

Unfortunately, there is no other action available to me to deal with the
concerns residents have raised about parking in the road.

Should you have any further comments or questions regarding this, please
contact me as below.

Yours sincerely,

Traffic Network Manager (Traffic and Transportation)

Regeneration and Environment Directorate

Wirral Council

13 Jun 2014

Chairs all round for Wirral Labour


Just a few weeks into the new council year and the ruling Labour group is wasting no time showing its true colours.

Labour is exercising its majority position to assume 100% control in chairing all the committees that regulate and scrutinise council activity. Previously, these had been shared out with the other parties (Tory and Lib Dems), something that the independent improvement board had recommended.

In total there are eleven committees. Some deal with practical issues such as licensing and planning. Otheres scrutinise council policy and performance.

Labour’s rational? The opposition parties have been so rubbish at scrutiny they don’t deserve any position of responsibility.

A quick read through the comments in the relevant WirralGlobe article will give you some idea of what members of the public think about that explanation. In short, not very much. Then again, Labour’s leadership don’t seem overly bothered about what people on Merseyside might think based on Ed Milliband’s recent clanger.



A confident executive would be more than happy to open itself up to scrutiny. As things now stand, the Labour-run council is scrutinising itself and can ignore any opposition criticism irrespective of how pertinent and sensible it may be.

Of course there might be another reason why the Labour party would want to chair all council committees. Typically, committee chairs receive an allowance £4,584. Across all eleven committees, allowances amount to £45,391 annually.

1 Jun 2014

Why is Wirral Council persecuting victims of the Bedroom Tax?

In the recent local election campaign, a prominent feature of my opponent's literature was his party's opposition to the bedroom tax and Labour's commitment to abolish it if it wins the next general election.

All well and good but not much use to anyone already hit by the bedroom tax or currently facing eviction.

But, given the above, you would at least expect that a Labour-run council would do everything it legally can to assist victims of the bedroom tax and look sympathetically upon those entering appeals.

Liverpool Council, for example, adopted an early position against actively contesting bedroom tax appeals by not sending a presenting officer to tribunals.

Across the Mersey, however, things are very different.

Take the case outlined yesterday in the SPeye blog. A disabled social housing tenant from Birkenhead clearly won her appeal against the bedroom tax on the straightforward grounds that two of her so-called "bedrooms" are below 50 square feet. One of these rooms is only 36.5 square feet.

Rooms below 50 square feet cannot be classified as bedrooms. In the private sector it is illegal to rent out such a room as a bedroom.

So, that should be that. The tenant is exempt from bedroom tax and due a refund for monies already paid.

But not in Wirral where the council has written to this tenant and is seeking permission to appeal this judgement. In other words, Wirral MBC does not accept that a room of 36.5 square feet should not be classified as a bedroom.

Apart from the moral issues involved, there are also important financial issues. How much is it costing to contest these appeals? Why is Wirral doing so when it is clearly the remit of the Department for Work and Pensions?

And, is Wirral exposing itself to judicial review by classifying social housing property rooms under 50 square feet as bedrooms when it is illegal to do so in the private sector?

How Labour councillors in Wirral justify their authority's stance is up to them but their response to date has been lame to say the least. I take very seriously the impact the bedroom tax and wider welfare changes are having on the community I represent and will do everything I can to support those affected. I welcome all advice in this respect.

In particular, the Green Party continues to give strong support to the Wirral Campaign Against the Bedroom Tax and supports its drive to secure 1,000 appeals against the bedroom tax.

Anyone in Wirral seeking advice about the bedroom tax should ring 07956 458 331 or contact me directly.

30 May 2014

Why I can't support Steve Foulkes as Mayor of Wirral

One of my tasks over the coming weeks will be to decide what my
priorities as a councillor should be. Apart from being an effective ward
councillor its important I establish some clear goals and boundaries. As
a lone councillor it's easy to get swamped and I would much rather do a
few things well than a lot of things badly. Anyway, more about that in
due course.

Raking over the troubled recent history of Wirral Council is not
something I will be dwelling on excessively. Many others have done that
but I am well aware that I have been elected to a council with a
dysfunctional track record and that will be an important back drop as I
get used to how WMBC currently operates.

On Monday, Wirral elects its new Mayor. Normally, a routine vote where a
long standing councillor is elected with cross party support to chair
council meetings and carry out the ceremonial functions of the mayor
over the next 12 months.

But, this year is different as the Mayor elect is Steve Foulkes who was
council leader when Wirral became very publicly associated with
incompetence, bullying, gagging clauses, resignations and bad financial
management, all culminating in the publication of the infamous Klonowski
Report.

Wherever responsibilities lie, there is no denying that Cllr Foulkes
presided over a very dark period in the history of WMBC. This legacy
persists and I know that many people are angry and upset that Steve
Foulkes will be Wirral's mayor for the next 12 months.

In the circumstances, the reasonable course of action would have been to
forego the office of Mayor.

He hasn't chosen that option and that's why I will be voting against
Steve Foulkes as Mayor.

29 May 2014

Green Lane station

Welcome news that Green Lane station is to be refurbished. The passenger
areas will be improved with better lighting and cctv.

I also noticed recently that toilet facilities have been added which was
a very welcome addition.

28 May 2014

Licence application, Oxton Road

Recently, an application was submitted for a licence to sell alcohol on
the site of the Observatory pub on Oxton Road.

I've learned today that the applicant failed to meet one of the
conditions of such an application which is placing a notice in the local
newspaper.

As a result, the application has already failed.

I'll be keeping a careful eye out for any new applications.

26 May 2014

Success at last

Blogging has taken a back seat over the past few months but the picture suggests that was worthwhile. I am very proud to have been elected as ward councillor for Birkenhead and Tranmere. I'm also very proud to be the first Green councillor in Wirral.

There are so many people to thank and today I'll be travelling round the ward thanking people in person. The past five years have been immensely rewarding. I've met so many good people and I hope I've made some difference. Hopefully, over the next four years, I can achieve even more.

You can view the election results in full here while there are a few more happy pictures on the Wirral Green Party website.

6 Feb 2014

Bus stop Elmswood Road/Victoria Fields

I've been contacted recently by several residents concerned that the bus stop on Borough Road/Elmswood Road would be removed.

I've been on to Merseytravel and have received the following reassurance:

Dear Mr Cleary 

Stop S22014C on Borough Road at Victoria Fields

Thank you for your communication regarding the above stop.

As part of the upgrade of bus stops on the 471 and 472 bus routes, Merseytravel has undertaken comprehensive consultation with occupiers and owners of adjacent properties.  At this location a number of valid concerns and issues were brought to Merseytravel’s attention with the result that the design for this particular upgrade has been substantially changed from that originally proposed. 

An outline design incorporating these changes has been approved in principle by Wirral MBC and I am now awaiting formal approval to progress to site.  The intention is that the shelter will go back near its original position but in order to introduce a much improved overall layout, the lay-by will be narrowed and footway widened.

As the upgrade of this site has missed its slot in the original construction programme, we intend to undertake a mop up exercise towards the end of February, in which it will be included.

I apologise for the delay that has occurred, particularly as it has happened after the old shelter had already been removed.   

Yours sincerely

Highway Bus Projects Officer

5 Feb 2014

Wirral Council's response to our Greenprint for Birkenhead

Recently, Wirral Green Party published its Greenprint for Birkenhead, our vision for a rejuvenated Birkenhead.

Wirral Council has issued a response. You can read this below followed by our own thoughts in return:

MEDIA STATEMENT FROM WIRRAL COUNCIL

January 14, 2013

Subject: Birkenhead Town Centre

Cllr Pat Hackett, Wirral’s Cabinet Member for the Economy, said: ‘Many of the suggestions in this plan have been part of the Council’s vision and strategy for some time; other elements are simply not viable, particularly in view of the current economic climate, and how Birkenhead functions as a town and retail location. The Pyramids, for example, is the centre of the retail area in Birkenhead, and not viable for housing. It would be more appropriate and better for Birkenhead as a whole, to place any high quality independent retailers who want to come here in the town centre, not Argyle Street. Encouragingly, a number of new retailers have recently moved into Birkenhead and we are receiving an increasing number of enquiries for space; we intend to capitalise on these opportunities.

‘In the current challenging economic climate, we have been working with partners to support Birkenhead town centre and develop opportunities for future growth and development. It forms an integral part of our wider economic development aspirations, particularly in view of the future potential of Wirral Waters.

‘We are currently in discussions with a number of property owners and a developer to produce a masterplan, which will focus on bringing new retailers into the town by redesigning the centre and using vacant land to provide new opportunities. Our discussions include exploring options for land at Hind Street, on the edge of the town centre, which, if successful would see the re-use of land that has been vacant for many years.

‘Woodside Ferry area is hugely important in terms of heritage and tourism. Some time ago, the Council and its partners agreed a masterplan for the area which will see this unique waterfront redeveloped with offices, residential and leisure use. When economic circumstances allow, this will revitalize this area of Birkenhead, and link it to the Liverpool waterfront by means of the Mersey Ferries as well as linking back through Hamilton Square into Birkenhead Town Centre as well as into what will be Wirral Waters.

‘A team has also been looking at Hamilton Square area for some time, including improving access, traffic and parking, and a range of opportunities are being explored, including greater use of Birkenhead Town Hall and improving links to Birkenhead Park, Williamson Art Gallery, and The Transport Museum to further strengthen our cultural and heritage offer.


Wirral Green Party response:

Birkenhead Town Centre

Further responses to the Media statement from Wirral Council

We welcome Cllr Hackett's endorsement of many of the ideas in our visionary plan for Birkenhead acknowledging that we are building on the best of current ideas. Of course we welcome continuing efforts to breathe new life into the centre of Birkenhead. However, we still want to see our core ideas addressed and developed building on a number of core principles.

The river Mersey, a wonderful natural and ecological resource, is an important part of the very soul of Birkenhead. Its historic role in the life of Birkenhead makes it vital that the functional core of Birkenhead is reconnected to it. We need a world class response for this location. The proposed "offices, residential and leisure use" of the Woodside Ferry area is just the uninspired, pedestrian and standard response that is potentially a waste of a huge and real opportunity.

We may be in hard times but this makes it all the more important that we have truly visionary ideas and leadership. The Green Party is ready to promote a new vision for the people of Birkenhead who deserve the best of new green thinking - not stale old ideas. We see the need to work with all partners including, for example, Peel Holdings to find the right solutions. We need the sort of vision that has transformed Liverpool.

Gateshead, similar to Birkenhead in looking across a river to a more powerful neighbour, provides examples of the kind of exciting development that Birkenhead needs. So, come on, let's raise our vision, tap into our heritage and make downtown Birkenhead vibrant, a must-go to destination and a fantastic partner for Liverpool building a critical mass around the whole of both sides of the water.