Thursday, 21 February 2008

Were we all at the same meeting

Cllr Maureen Fearn chairs the Southport area committee and commands widespread respect for her no nonsense style. It is therefore a little amazing to see some less experienced folk question her judgement-not a thing I would do lightly. Had there been any inappropriate behaviour Cllr Fearn would have slapped down the offenders and they would have known they had been slapped down. Maureen has no fear and does no favours on such matters. If you are out of order friend or for she acts.

It is also interesting that coverage of the area committee written at the time made no mention of Maureen's allegedly poor judgement.Sadly I think that what we are witnessing is an orchestrated attempt to distract us from holding the Tory leadership to account. They have spent the last year in vicious and vindictive in fighting. First former Mayor Cllr Wendy Jones, got deselected. Her crime appears to have been that she ventured that the parliamentary candidate wasn't up to the job. Les Byrom got knifed in a surprise ambush and toppled as leader. Then came the attack on a respected local man and former Mayor-David Pearson-his crimes are well documented and include having a loud voice. The Parry Porter leadership swept all before them. It seems that no dissent would be tolerated. It was widely felt that the real target was Sir Ron Watson. They acted ruthlessly and with little regard for the hurt caused to the individuals they turned on.

Anyway all the sound and fury and really unpleasant name calling of the last few days started with our failed attempt to get Mrs Porter to answer a simple question. Why did she vote to spend £600 000 on top bureaucrats’ jobs even after the chief exec had recommended that they were axed from the budget.She promised an answer at the Area Committee. Well she said she would tell everyone at the full council. She didn't. She was silent again on the issue at the next area committee and seemed genuinely offended when my colleagues invited her to make good promise.For completeness and to show that Cllr Porter can get away with pretending she doesn't know what we are talking about I reproduce the letter that Cllr Shaw wrote to her:





COUNCILLOR SIMON SHAW


Birkdale Ward



14 January 2008



Dear Brenda
You and I both attended, as observers, last Wednesday’s Scrutiny and Review Committee meeting which looked at the Chief Executive’s proposals on slimming down the senior management structure. I have to say I was very concerned that the Conservative members voted to support a Labour move which will cost local Council Tax-payers £1 million over the next two years.You were absent from the December Cabinet meeting. However you will be aware that at that meeting some Cabinet members did not support the sensible and financially-prudent proposals about the future senior management structure of the Council, although they were carried on the casting vote of the Liberal Democrat Chair of the Cabinet. I have been disappointed, that, to date, the Conservative Group on Sefton Council, in which you hold a position of leadership, has not supported the full slimming down of the bureaucracy as proposed in the report which went to Cabinet in early October. Now this matter is returning to Cabinet this Thursday.The key issue here was put clearly in a briefing note prepared for last Wednesday’s Scrutiny and Review Committee meeting. Referring to the many (less well paid) jobs recently transferred in the fields of council housing and social care, it said:“In simple terms if you lose 1000 direct employees and nearly £2.5 income it seemed reasonable to scale down management.”People often say about local authorities: “too many Chiefs, not enough Indians.” This is sometimes far too simplistic. However I hope you will agree that it is incumbent upon those who do not seize, with open arms, the opportunity to slim down the senior Council bureaucracy to explain why they are willing to waste these enormous sums of Council Tax-payers’ money.Your absence from the December Cabinet meeting means that you have not previously voted on this issue (setting aside the full Council vote which was subsequently declared to be illegal). Accordingly, the issue of a “U-Turn” would not arise in your case. Putting it bluntly, while I would welcome any influence you can exert on your two Conservative colleagues in the Cabinet in voting for prudent financial management, your vote alone can swing the decision.We are clearly not talking about trivial sums of money here and I very much hope you are willing to put the interests of those you represent above the party whip. Please think what good could be done with £1 million, or how much a saving of this amount would allow Sefton’s Council Tax to be cut


Yours sincerely


COUNCILLOR SIMON SHAW


CHAIR OF AUDIT & GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE


P.S. The figure of £1 million over two years is arrived at as follows:


Year 1Annual employment cost of 3 senior post which Labour wish to “save” £300,000


Projected cost of early retirement package of Chief Executive/Recruitment Consultants/increased pay of replacement Chief Executive £350,000


Year 2Annual employment cost of 3 senior post which Labour wish to “save” £300,000


Contingency £50,000---------------


TOTAL OVER 2 YEARS £1,000,000