7 Dec 2016

Furious residents attack council leader over sale of Conway Street land

I have written previously about Wirral Council's cack-handed sale of prime land on Conway Street near Birkenhead town centre and the deliberate vandalism of the site by its new owners SIP car parks.Since then the council has failed to take any effective measures to force a clean up of the site. Unsurprisingly, local residents are disgusted at the council's behaviour. I am pleased to see that 25 local residents have signed the letter below to the leader of the council and copied in the other two ward councillors.It will be interesting to see what response, if any, they receive.

Dear Cllr Phil Davies,

We are concerned residents writing to you about the state of the land on Conway Street that borders Simpson Street and Parkfield Avenue. This land is in a completely unacceptable condition especially for such a prominent location. It has become a magnet for litter, fly-tipping and vermin. We should not have to put up with this.

As you are no doubt aware, this land was sold by Wirral Council in early 2014. It was sold to SIP Car Parks, a company that specialises in building and operating car parking facilities. It must therefore have been obvious to the council what the purchaser would want to do with this land. As subsequent planning applications and appeals have shown, this site is totally unsuitable for car parking. Why, therefore, did the council sell to such a company?

Subsequently the land has been dug up, all the surrounding trees cut down and the entire site has been left in an appallling condition. This happened over 15 months ago. Yet nothing has been done to force the owner to make good their damage to this land and maintain it in an appropriate conditiion.

We are appalled at how Wirral Council has behaved. Such a prominent site should never have been sold in the first place, should never have been sold to such an unsuitable company and should never have been allowed to deteriorate into such an appalling state.

As our ward councillor and leader of the council we hold you directly responsible.

We demand prompt and comprehensive answers to the following questions:
  • What action is being taken now to improve the condition of this site?
  • What action is being taken to secure its long term future and ensure the site is properly maintained or used for the wider benefit of the community?
We look forward to hearing from you.

6 Dec 2016

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

Arrangements for the Liverpool City Region Authority are being finalised this month and debated tonight by Wirral Council. Well, they were due to be debated but the dysfunctional outfit that Wirral Labour is they abused their majority to deliberately shut me out and refused to let me speak. How that makes them look anything other than completely ridiculous only they will know. 

Unsurprisingly, Wirral Leaks has its own unique take on this sorry affair.

Anyway, here's my take on what's wrong with the devolution arrangements and what needs to be done to put things right.

This time last year I said "It would be a huge mistake for these important decisions about local democracy to be made behind closed doors. It's vital the public in the region get a say - otherwise, these devolution plans risk floundering and becoming an unpopular mess."

That remains just as true today. Most people tell me that they don’t know the Authority exists. If they do know about it they feel they have no say in it at all.

And they’d be right – they have no directly elected representatives to talk to about it.

And its not just me saying that. The House of Commons Local Government Committee said, “There has been a significant lack of public consultation, engagement and communication at all stages of the decision-making process.

But it doesn't have to be like that.

By refusing an elected assembly to hold the Mayor to account we have, at least, the opportunity for a more direct engagement with residents as to how they would like the city region to develop and how their funds should be spent. We could use the potential offered by modern technology to engage with people in ways that other cities around the world are already pioneering.

In Madrid, for example, the mayor has ring-fenced a “participatory budget”, to be decided through online polling, with proposals submitted via local assemblies. In the latest round, €24m has been allocated on projects as varied as a centre for people with Alzheimer’s, child care, tree planting and the restoration of fountains and public toilets.

Its interesting that, when offered the choice, people tend to prioritise public spending that improves their quality of life.  What we have here is a narrow focus on economic growth that never has and never will, on its own, address the multiple challenges we face such as inequality and environmental decay.

Keeping the Mayor and Authority honest

We all know what this document represents – our city region will be run by a grand committee of the Labour party chosen by the Labour Party. It will hobble around on one economic leg when we really need four strong legs – social, environmental, economic and democratic.

So I would urge everyone to look beyond these top-down scrutiny arrangements and embrace a more inclusive model. The Green Party proposes a public forum with direct responsibility for scrutiny and spending decisions and including representation from voluntary, community, small business and trade unions to hold the mayor and Authority to account. 

That way we might actually get the kind of devolution we deserve.