17 Dec 2017
I argued strongly that the application was excessive and of a scale not in keeping with the restoration required. It would have created an unsustainable development of 31 new houses with no local facilities. Effectively, Storeton village would have doubled in size.
I'm pleased the committee agreed with me and rejected the application.
You can follow the debate via John Brace's website. My contribution starts here or click on the image above.
12 Dec 2017
There is also a practical imperative to dramatically reduce plastic waste. Most of our waste plastic exports go to China. Earlier this year China announced that, from January, it would no longer accept imports of waste plastic.
Consequently, for health, environmental and economic reasons we urgently need to cut our consumption of plastic and improve recycling facilities.
There are numerous examples showing how this can be achieved:
- The plastic bag tax has cut consumption in England by 85% and shows that robust public action can be highly effective
- Pub chains including Weatherspoons and All Bar One are removing plastic straws from their outlets
- Pret a Manger is installing water stations for customers to refill water bottles.
- Many local authorities are looking to reintroduce public drinking fountains, once a common feature in our towns and cities.
- France is implementing a range of measures to meet its target of being SUP free by 2020.
The motion passed reads as follows:
Council notes that, in the UK, some 2.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging is consumed annually. Only 40% of this is recycled domestically1. According to recent research, eight million tons of plastic waste ends up in the world's oceans each year, endangering marine life and entering the food chain2. In addition, there is a growing understanding of the risks posed to human health by toxic chemicals present in plastics.
Council also notes that following the introduction of the 5p bag charge in England in 2015, the use of single-use plastic bags dropped by 83% in the first six months.
Council believes that the reduction of single-use plastic would benefit health in Wirral and reduce waste. Council therefore requests the Cabinet to:
1. Develop a robust strategy to ensure Wirral Council phases out single-use plastics (SUP) in its activities within the next two years.
2. Work with partners and other large institutions e.g. the NHS to encourage them in developing similar strategies to reduce SUP.
3, Inform the public of Wirral of the reasons for phasing out SUP and encourage them to switch to alternatives.
(Labour amendment follows)
Council also agrees to:
1. Incorporate the reduction of SUP use into Wirral Council's Waste Minimisation Strategy (regarding entire Borough, not just WBC).
2. Refer all of the recommendations in this motion to Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee with a view to advising Cabinet how they can most effectively
3. Ask the Cabinet Member for Environment to write to the Conservative Minister for Environment, requesting that the reduction of SUP form part of any future
national Waste Management Strategy.
1. Wrap. Plastics Market Situation Report, Spring 2016, p9
2. Science. Plastic Waste Inputs from Land into the Oceans. Feb 13, 2015.
25 Sep 2017
The motion was discussed at a council committee meeting last Thursday. You can watch the debate courtesy of John Brace's video link.
Although six councillors backed my motion, a similar number opposed and it was voted down on the casting vote of the Chair.
First past the post is manifestly unfair and not fit for purpose. It will be replaced. It's just a question of when. Thankfully there is a growing campaign within the Labour Party to achieve this and a new report has just been published in conjunction with the Make Votes Matter campaign group to that end. It's a shame that a majority of Wirral's Labour councillors voted for the few, not the many and failed to back that campaign.
The six councillors who supported my motion were;
- Chris Carubia (Liberal Democrat)
- Adam Sykes and Bruce Berry (Conservative)
- Mike Sullivan, Anita Leech and Tony Smith (Labour)
- Ian Lewis (Conservative)
- Steve Foulkes, Tony Jones, Tom Usher, Louise Reecejones and Paul Stuart (Labour)
Below is a transcript of my address to the committee.
Notice of Motion: Fair Votes
I trust the motion speaks for itself in terms of highlighting the manifestly unfair allocation of seats in the recent general election. Once again, our outdated First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system is shown to be completely unfit for purpose for a population that is more diverse, better educated and far less tribal than in the past.
While it's easy to identify the failings of FPTP as a voting system the broader consequences for society are less well understood. I'm going to highlight some of these consequences all of which are supported by relevant academic reports:
More people vote under proportional representation (PR) systems. Turnout for PR elections is typically 5-8% higher than under FPTP. This is hardly surprising as the wasted vote syndrome synonymous with FPTP is a huge disincentive to vote. At the last local elections in Wirral, turnout was just 35%. In Scotland, where the single transferable vote system has been in use for local elections for a decade, turnout is 12% higher than in Wirral.
PR voting systems, which encourage consensual decision making, tend to reduce income inequalities. Among the 35 OECD countries the only three that use FPTP - Canada, the UK and the USA - all rank poorly on the income inequality index. The UK ranks 29 out of 35.
FPTP is the world's worst electoral system for gender balance in politics. The share of women in parliament is only 32% and falls way short of countries with proportional voting systems. Every country in the world with more than 40% female MPs uses a form of PR. Across England, only 33% of councillors and 17% of council leaders are female.
FPTP is bad for the environment. Studies have found that countries using proportional voting systems have higher environmental standards and scored, on average, six points higher on the Yale index which measures a range of environmental outcomes.
FPTP encourages conflict. Military expenditure is consistently higher for countries using FPTP and almost twice as high as for countries with fully proportional voting systems. Furthermore, countries with PR tend to have significantly less involvement in armed conflict. PR countries require broader consensus before being lead into conflict by the executive.
And finally, under FPTP, elections are determined by a small number of swing voters in a few marginal seats. Financial resources are targeted at such voters which means money talks far more loudly in our disproportionate system than under PR.
There are a few common myths about FPTP which need to be addressed:
It is promoted as leading to stable government. In fact, we have averaged one unplanned election every ten years over the last century. Countries with FPTP have elections slightly more frequently than those with PR.
Secondly, it is entirely possible to retain a constituency link under PR. The Electoral Reform Society recommends larger constituencies electing 4-6 MPs under a single transferable vote system. In this case, Wirral would be a single constituency returning four MPs.
Thirdly, the AV referendum vote in 2011 was not a referendum on proportional representation. AV is not proportional and produces similarly perverse outcomes as FPTP. In fact, opinion polls consistently show overwhelming public support for a voting system where seats match votes.
Councillors, FPTP is way past its sell-by date. It is a dead weight stifling our democracy. As the excellent Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform report into PR puts it:
"It is no exaggeration to say that proportional representation is a prerequisite of a properly functioning democracy in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few."
I hope you agree and urge you to support my Motion.
16 Sep 2017
At this stage, I have submitted the following comments to planning officers. I will be following progress on this application very closely.
- It seems that access into the shopping centre has to be made by walking through the car park which is hardly ideal.
- it would appear that vehicles would cross pedestrian routes not once but twice and this might not be clear to anyone unfamiliar with the area. I think there are highway safety issues here.
- The landscape proposals are extremely modest and could be greatly improved.
- Reallocating land from retail/pedestrians to vehicles would seem to contradict council policy in terms of sustainable/active travel. This is particularly relevant here given the proximity to rail and bus services.
- Are colleagues in regeneration being consulted on this? A development with questionable scope for linked shopping trips may not sit well with existing plans/aspirations for the area.
- There are already McDonalds outlets at Charing Cross and Rock Park. Perhaps you could clarify any cumulative impact policies that might be relevant here?
If the restaurant were to be be moved to the east side of Milton Pavement mall and mirrored so that the access faced onto the mall, the drive thro' access could then be taken from the car park roundabout and leave by the Birkenhead Market Service Road.
The building would then screen the ugly back view of the market, the waste storage would be at the back, the pedestrian mall would have no dangerous cross circulation with traffic. The proposed parking would now be sited on the present footprint of the restaurant, and would be accessed from the service area behind B&M.
Doing this avoids the poorly arranged access to the roundabout, all the nebulous and conflicting circulation, maintains Milton Pavement as a way into the Pyramids, and would allow some much better landscape detailing to enhance the maintained Mall access.
Given that there is so much parking around the Pyramids I would have thought that the surplus land would be much better used to create an attractive landscape setting for the restaurant and entrance to the shopping area. Some of the coffee houses in the precinct have used their external space for sitting outside, admittedly for smokers, but it does make the precinct look more welcoming.
13 Sep 2017
A fair voting system is essential for a healthy democracy. Everybody's vote should count equally and it is a massive injustice that Britain operates under a manifestly unfair and outdated voting system. I have therefore proposed the following motion which will be debated next week at the next meeting of the relevant scrutiny committee:
NOTICE OF MOTION: FAIR VOTES (as referred by the Civic Mayor to the
Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee)
Proposed by Councillor Pat Cleary
Seconded by Councillor Stuart Kelly
Council believes that a Parliament that more accurately reflects the views of the
nation, enabling people to feel that their votes count, is more likely to develop an
economic, social and environmental agenda that benefits Wirral's residents.
Following the recent general election, this Council agrees that the 'First Past the
Post' voting system:
has again failed to live up to its reputation to provide strong and stable
has again yielded a wildly disproportionate allocation of seats with, for example,
the Democratic Unionist Party gaining 10 seats from 292,316 votes compared
with 12 seats from 2.4 million votes for the Liberal Democrats;
has spectacularly failed to match votes to seats with 27,930 votes required to
elect one MP from the Scottish National Party compared with 525,371 votes to
elect one Green Party MP.
(a) recognises that a robust democracy must include a fair voting system and that
nobody should be disenfranchised because of where they live;
(b) applauds the many groups and organisations campaigning for fair votes including
the Electoral Reform Society, Make Votes Matter and the Labour Campaign for
(c) notes that the Single Transferable Vote system is already used for local elections
in Scotland and in both Northern Irish local elections and the Northern Ireland
Assembly while proportional electoral systems are used to elect the devolved
parliaments and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and London;
(d) therefore calls for the introduction of a proportional voting system
(i) for local elections in England and Wales;
(ii) for Westminster elections; and
(e) directs that a copy of this motion be forwarded to the Leaders of all political
parties represented in the UK Parliament.
11 Jul 2017
Re: open land bordered by Conway Street, Simpson Street and Parkfield Avenue, Birkenhead.
Since this land was sold by Wirral Council it has become a source of blight and embarrassment to the local community. We are dismayed at the council's failure to control the actions of the land owner and restore the condition of this land. We, the undersigned, therefore call upon Wirral Council to use all appropriate powers, including compulsory purchase, to bring an end to this situation.
28 Jun 2017
- insufficient size
- over intensive use of the property
- inadequate number of washing/toilet facilities
- noise and air pollution from the busy town centre junction
- anti-social behaviour hotspot
- above a take away open till 11.30pm
- complete lack of outdoor amenity space
- two small kitchens
- split level flooring which effectively separates bedrooms 3&4 from bedrooms 5-9.
- long way from the single lounge to bedrooms 6,7,8 & 9.
- bedroom 3 is an odd, irregular shape.
- also split level
- one bathroom for five bedrooms
- single kitchen open to small lounge
26 Jun 2017
|With Peter Bolt from Conservation Areas Wirral|
and Maureen Moore from the Clifton Park
Conservation and Residents Association
1. undermine the character of the area
2. make parking problems worse
3. have a negative impact on the Clifton Park conservation area
The plans included a dormer window in the roof space at the rear of 50A The Woodlands. This clearly breaks the rules that apply in conservation areas such as Clifton Park. I was pleased that a majority of councillors on the committee accepted my arguments and voted to refuse the application.
I would like to congratulate all those residents who signed the petition of objection and the Birkenhead and Tranmere Neighbourhood Planning Forum who made a strong objection to the application.
This is very good news. It sends a clear message to developers and will help protect the conservation area in future. I am very keen to see Clifton Park improved. I have been in talks with Conservation Areas Wirral about their plans to protect and enhance Clifton Park. I am supporting their calls for new "conservation area" signs at key entry points into Clifton Park.
You can read a summary of my address to the committee below.
Planning application APP/17/00126: 50A The Woodlands. Conversion of dwelling into four self-contained flats and construction of rear dormer window.
18 May 2017
buildings on Borough Road by Birkenhead Library.
It's therefore very pleasing to see that demolition has commenced on
Hopefully this area will have been transformed by the end of this year
to the benefit of everyone who lives in and visits Birkenhead.
17 Feb 2017
I have no problem with people being fined for littering but there are legitimate questions to ask about the way this policy is being enforced and whether it possibly has more to do with raising money than tackling the underlying causes of littering.
We know the overwhelming majority of fines relate to cigarette litter. The minutes from the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committe of November 30th last year confirm this (see page 5). The report states that "80-85% of fines issued were to do with cigarette litter"
The sums raised are substantial with £95,000 raised in a single month according to this report. How much of this leaks out of the borough to Kingdom's owners?
I asked for a break down of fines issued by ward. I didn't quite get that but the information below is, nevertheless, instructive. It shows Birkenhead way ahead of all other areas with over 50% of all the fines issued coming from the Birkenhead area. Wallasey comes next. This means that the overwhelming amount of money raised is coming the poorest parts of the borough. Of course these may also be the areas with the biggest litter problem. But, where is the evidence that fining predominantly low income smokers makes a meaningful contribution to reducing litter on our streets?
The figures below show the number of fines issued for littering in Wirral by Kingdom Resources since its contract with Wirral Council commenced in July 2015. The total number of fines issued is 18,047.
|Birkenhead & Tranmere 431|
|New Brighton 1549|
|New Ferry 11|
|Port Sunlight 4|
|Rock Ferry 849|
|West Kirby 244|
5 Jan 2017
Below you can read the complaint text in full as submitted by the non-political Birkenhead and Tranmere Neighbourhood Planning Forum. This was sent on December 9th. A response from Wirral Council is awaited.
STAGE 1 COMPLAINT: OPERATION OF THE LAURIES LIMITED LEASE
We, the undersigned, ask that the issues outlined below are dealt with in accordance with Wirral Council’s complaints procedure.
As this complaint contains concerns about the conduct and actions of councillors and officers of the Council we would appreciate your early response regarding how this will be investigated and, if corrective and/or disciplinary action is required, what procedures will apply.
We would also appreciate the opportunity to meet with the person appointed to deal with this complaint in order to provide any necessary clarification and to assist in the resolution of this matter at the earliest stage of the Council's complaints procedure. We consider that you are obliged to provide for this in order to meet the Councils 2020 Vision commitment to openness and transparency.
Background to complaint
Early in the year 2000 community representatives, Councillors and Council officers met in the old YMCA building to discuss which community objectives for capital expenditure under European Objective 1 (Round 2) and Single Regeneration Budget (Round 6) should be prioritised. At that meeting two headline capital projects were decided upon that would provide community meeting spaces at zero or very low cost for community groups across the Birkenhead Ward (pre 2003 boundary). These capital projects were The Lauries Project and the St James Centre. Both buildings were constructed, thereby fulfilling the principal objective of community representatives.
On 29 September 2005 the Council leased The Lauries Centre to The Lauries Limited for a period of 125 years.
The lease defines the permitted use of the building as use: “only for the purposes of a community centre, a neighbourhood college (including workshops), a café/snack bar, offices and meeting rooms, conference and events...in furtherance of the Tenant's aims and objectives as set out in its memorandum and articles of association...being in brief the promotion of any charitable purpose for the benefit of the community of Birkenhead and areas surrounding and in particular the advancement of education the promotion of good health and providing a focus for development and regeneration.”
The lease therefore specifically links its own terms with those of the memorandum and articles of association of The Lauries Limited.
Earlier this year it came to our attention that public access to the building had been curtailed, the café had been closed down and it was rumoured that the Wirral Chamber of Commerce had annexed the building. This has since been confirmed because on its website the Wirral Chamber of Commerce now promotes The Lauries Centre as one of its “unique and exclusive office centres”. This makes it clear that the building is now used exclusively for commercial purposes, rather than for the purposes that together define the permitted use of the building, as set out in the lease.
Potential breaches of the lease and company mismanagement
Companies House records show that on 31 May 2015 all of the existing directors of The Lauries Limited (including Cllr Brian Kenny) resigned en masse and two new directors, Paula Basnett and Asif Hamid, who are both closely associated with Wirral Chamber of Commerce, replaced them.
The articles of association of The Lauries Limited require only one third of the directors to resign at each annual general meeting. So, the resignation of all directors was unusual to say the least. The articles of association also require a minimum of five directors to be in post at any one time. Once this was drawn to the attention of Paula Basnett, three new directors were appointed (Patricia Crocker, Katherine Eugeni and Sharon Stanton).
According to the articles of association, those three new directors may only remain in post until the next annual general meeting, when their appointment may only be extended by a vote of members of the company. The question of membership of the company is therefore also a key issue.
On behalf of the Forum our chair wrote to the Company Secretary, Paula Basnett, on 6 November 2016 requesting membership under the provisions of Article 1.3 of the company’s articles of association. The Forum also requested other information that the company is supposed to maintain, namely:
- The company’s membership admissions policy
- A membership application form
- A list of current membership classes and their respective subscription fees
The Forum was then approached by a former member of The Lauries Limited, who showed us a letter written in 2009, in which one of the directors at the time dismissed all of the remaining 36 members of the company, offering to refund the balance of any subscriptions paid.
The available evidence indicates that the company has had no members since 30 November 2009. However, it is members of the company who elect directors at each annual general meeting. If there have been no members since 2009 then all directors appointed after 30 November 2009 were occupying those positions unlawfully, as are the current directors. If there are no members, then the company has been operating outside of its own articles of association for a substantial period of time and would therefore appear also to be in breach of its lease with the Council.
Substance of complaint
We believe that the available evidence demonstrates that The Lauries Limited is operating outside of the parameters laid down in its articles of association, which in turn means that the terms of its lease with the Council have been breached. This unlawful operation of the company appears to have been ongoing since 30 November 2009.
We assert that Cllr Jean Stapleton, who was a director of The Lauries Limited continuously from 18 May 2003 until 31 March 2015 was a party to company mismanagement and breaches of the lease that occurred during this time.
We assert that Cllr Phil Davies, who was a director of The Lauries Limited from 6 January 2005 until 18 May 2013 was a party to company mismanagement and breaches of the lease that occurred during this time.
We assert that Cllr Brian Kenny, who was a director of The Lauries Limited from 17 February 2009 until 31 May 2015 was a party to company mismanagement and breaches of the lease that occurred during this time.
In the light of the evidence obtained by the Forum and public records, it is alleged that Councillors Davies, Kenny and Stapleton were party to unlawful decisions, either knowingly or through negligence, in a manner that betrayed the commitment to community control and ownership enshrined in the memorandum and articles of association of The Lauries Limited.
It appears that Councillors and Council officers have failed:
1) in their duty to ensure that a significant public asset is managed in accordance with the terms of a lease agreement;
2) to effectively monitor the extent to which The Lauries Limited has been and is being operated in accordance with its memorandum and articles of association, and
3) to safeguard the use of public funds invested in the construction of The Lauries Centre.
Given these apparent failures we have further concerns that the sub-leases of the building, which require Council approval, may not comply with the terms of the principal lease.
In particular we are concerned if market rents are not being applied to sub-leases made to commercial companies.
We request that all of the concerns raised in the foregoing paragraphs are investigated by the Council and that arrangements are put in place to ensure that The Lauries Limited is henceforth operated fully in accordance with its memorandum and articles of association and that the lease is properly policed.
The Forum will co-operate fully with the Council’s investigation, including providing copies of the evidential documents referred to in this letter, if the Council cannot obtain them elsewhere.
Cllr Pat Cleary Birkenhead & Tranmere Ward Councillor and nine other local residents.