To consider Members’ general questions to the Civic Mayor, Executive or Committee Chair in accordance with Standing Orders 10 (2)(b) and 11.
The Mayor asked for questions on any of the reports in the previous item. The questions and answers were recorded as follows:
Councillor Chris Blakeley asked the Leader of the Council, Councillor Pat Hackett, if he believed that the comments in the Wirral Globe regarding the Council’s response to the New Ferry Explosion to be fair and accurate.
Councillor Pat Hackett replied with details of the meetings that had taken place and the measures taken for demolition, remediation and Compulsory Purchase Orders. He also spoke about the cash to individual members of the community and applications for the Future Towns Fund from the Government, the Strategic Investment Fund from the City Region and funding from the City Region Metro Mayors fund.
Councillor Pat Cleary asked Councillor Tony Jones, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, if he felt there was a shortage of grade A office space locally as he had noticed such space available in Liverpool.
Councillor Tony Jones confirmed that businesses had informed him that there was such a shortage.
Councillor Steve Foulkes asked Councillor Liz Grey, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, for an update on progress to improve the recycling on Wirral.
Councillor Liz Grey replied that the recycling campaign was launched in January 2019 and had improved recycling rates. A comprehensive list of environmental, re-use and volunteering groups in Wirral was being developed for recycling opportunities. Re-use will be promoted, and information was be issued.
Councillor Ian Lewis asked the Cabinet Member for the Local Plan, Councillor Anita Leech, about whether the Ditton Lane Nature Reserve will be included in their deliberations on the Local Plan?
Councillor Anita Leech replied that she was seeing whether any of the trees could be given Tree Preservation Orders before any applications came forward. She noted that Ditton Lane was not an official nature reserve but residents’ views would be taken into consideration.
Councillor Alison Wright asked the Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, Councillor Liz Grey, if she believed that the authority’s response to the incident at Hilbre Island had put the authority in good light.
Councillor Liz Grey replied that she believed the response was adequate and the response to the mistake had been very positive learning experience. There had been a restructure of officers with higher level of control of beaches and coastal areas.
Councillor Paul Stuart asked Councillor Liz Grey when he could expect the report on Hilbre Island to be published.
Councillor Liz Grey replied that the report was not finalised but would be issued and shared with the public when it was.
Councillor Stuart Kelly asked the Cabinet Member for Community Services, Councillor Julie McManus, about repairs to the existing street lighting stock, whilst the roll-out of LED lights was taking place?
Councillor Julie McManus responded that lights were replaced as they were reported.
Councillor Sam Frost asked the Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change for an update climate change training for members and officers.
Councillor Liz Grey replied that a program of training on climate change had started with Cabinet and the senior leadership team and there would be further training for all elected Members. Planning colleagues were developing training workshops to ensure that our Local Plan would be one of the most robust in dealing with the climate emergency. A staff roadshow was planned and a public campaign to promote awareness of climate change and the issues using proper data and within the Council ‘Council Champions’ amongst the workforce would uphold and support the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan once it was fully established, as well as personal pledges.
Councillor Christopher Cooke asked the Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, Councillor Liz Grey, about the Recycle Right website and materials to encourage more recycling and reduce confusion in households.
Councillor Liz Grey replied that the material would be available shortly.
Councillor Kathy Hodson asked Councillor Janette Williamson, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, about the ‘no Purchase Order no pay’ policy and about invoices recently paid without a Purchase Order number.
Councillor Janette Williamson replied that she did not have figures to hand but she could respond if the request was emailed.
Councillor Steve Hayes asked Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Wellbeing, Councillor Chris Jones, about the detail of the smoking population dropping by more than a third and whether this included electronic cigarettes.
Councillor Chris Jones responded that it was just cigarettes although he was aware of the concerns over nicotine replacement therapies including vaping.
Councillor Leslie Rennie asked Councillor Julie McManus, Cabinet Member for Community Services, if she could publish the programme for replacing streetlights with LED ones.
Councillor Julie McManus replied that she had seen the programme but was reviewing it before it was released.
Councillor Les Rowlands asked the Cabinet Member for Community Services, Councillor Julie McManus, about Heswall Dales SSSI which had suffered from a lack of Rangers and equipment to preserve it.
Councillor Julie McManus responded that she believed an extra member of staff had been recruited.
Councillor Andrew Hodson asked the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, Councillor Stuart Whittingham, how much had been received from the Ministry for Housing and Local Government for disabled facilities grants.
Councillor Stuart Whittingham replied that he would provide a response in writing.
Councillor Chris Carubia asked Councillor Stuart Whittingham, Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, about the breakdown of home adaptations were this year.
Councillor Stuart Whittingham replied that he would certainly provide a written response.
Councillor Paul Hayes asked Stuart Whittingham, Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, if anything had been done about building affordable housing in the borough.
Councillor Stuart Whittingham replied that if the Government were to provide funding we could build the houses.
Councillor Tom Anderson asked the Cabinet Member for Community Services, Councillor Julie McManus, if she was still following the agreed capital program for libraries.
Councillor Julie McManus replied that there was to be a consultation on libraries in individual areas to assess need.
Councillor Steve Williams asked the Chair of the Environment and Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Tom Anderson, about the future provision of allotments.
Councillor Tom Anderson responded that a report had been requested for the next Environment Committee on the specific questions on future provision.
Councillor Michael Collins asked the Cabinet Member of Children’s Services, Councillor Tom Usher, if he knew how many new police officers would be based within Wirral?
Councillor Tom Usher replied that he did not.
Councillor Bruce Berry asked the Chair of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Wendy Clements, for an update on the announcements of a 4.2% increase in per pupil funding to schools within the Wirral.
Councillor Wendy Clements replied that she was delighted at the increase and expected more funding in the future.
Councillor Andrew Gardner asked the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, Councillor Janette Williamson, about the financial performance of the authority during quarters 1 or 2.
Councillor Janette Williamson responded that revenue capital quarter one was in her report but she was still waiting for central Government to announce spending levels.
Councillor Kate Cannon asked the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, Councillor Janette Williamson, for an update on the Community Bank.
Councillor Janette Williamson responded that they had incorporated the North West mutual and were applying for a banking license.
Councillor Chris Blakeley asked the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Growth, Councillor Tony Jones, if he believed that spending £415,000 on a plan for Birkenhead was a good use of money.
Councillor Tony Jones responded that he did.
Questions put in advance
Councillor Phil Gilchrist asked the Leader of the Council, Councillor Pat Hackett, if it was time for compulsory purchase on sites in New Ferry.
Councillor Pat Hackett replied that a draft report was being prepared seeking Member’s endorsement for the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders to secure the remaining properties.
Councillor Phil Gilchrist had asked Councillor Julie McManus Cabinet Member for Community Services, if she could get the streetlights in Tower Road working.
Councillor Julie McManus responded that there had been a fault consisting of a loss of communication to the Central Management System, which resulted in a number of lights failing. The operations team was working towards a resolution.
Councillor Stuart Kelly asked the Cabinet Member of Children, Families and Education, Councillor Tom Usher, about events in October last year at Stanley Special School.
Councillor Tom Usher responded that it was up to the governing body of the school to respond although he had been issuing confidential updates to Councillors on the issue.
Councillor Allen Brame asked the Leader of the Council, Councillor Pat Hackett, for an update on Brexit no-deal preparation.
Councillor Pat Hackett responded that Wirral’s approach had focused on a comprehensive understanding of the potential implications for residents and partners and a Wirral Brexit Plan which analysed several issues based on a no-deal scenario and suggested actions to mitigate them had been produced.