The cost of Wirral Council’s collaboration with Liverpool City Council to provide a ‘River of Light’ have risen from £30,000 to £56,000.
The latest figures, provided to Councillor Chris Blakeley, following complaints that the Town Hall is promoting the event as ‘free’.
Councillor Blakeley said: “Once again, we see those at the top of the Council playing fast and loose with people’s hard-earned Council Tax. It’s bad enough that half the local community bonfires had to be scrapped to make way for this event. Now, we find the costs have spiralled and, as usual, we’ll probably find out they are even higher after the event.”
Although yesterdays Merseytravel Budget meeting was dominated by the Mersey Tunnel Tolls, there was an exempt report regarding Merseytravels bid to acquire by lease from Wirral Council the Pacific Road Arts Centre, Taylor Street Museum, and Birkenhead Tramway. This report was heard behind closed doors and without any members of the press or public present. I could not blog about it yesterday, but now it is out in the public domain, I can do so in broad terms.
Back in 2009 Wirral’s Labour-led Council decided to dispose of these assets, accordingly WMBC sought expressions of interest from suitable organisations and in July 2009 Merseytravel submitted their expression of interest. On the 9th December Labour-led WMBC nominated Merseytravel as the preferred bidder. Following that Merseytravel have spent the last 12 months working on this scheme, getting everything in place to take over the lease. A compelling business plan was presented to the members of Merseytravel two weeks ago, and yet yesterday all the 10 members of the Labour Group voted against Merseytravel aquiring this great opportunity for a £1.
A real opportunity for the future missed by the short-sighted, politically motivated Labour group on Merseytravel, apprenticeships, training, performing arts, a tramway, museum, links with University’s, LIPA, and a huge volunteer base all lost! Does this mean the end for Spaceport, the UBoat story and the Beatles Museum? One things for sure, I will continue to do all I can to preserve this asset for future generations and hope that others will join me in doing so, but for now Merseytravel are the losers not Wirral Council.
Today, along with my colleague Cllr Ian Lewis I attended the Integrated Transport Authority Budget meeting, (Merseytravel). At the meeting, having been told earlier in the week by the Director of Resources, that a 10p cut in Class One tolls was ‘Affordable’ and could be funded by ‘built in head room/Capital’ we moved an amendment accordingly, sadly although it was ‘Affordable’ it was voted down by Labour and Lib Dem Councillors.
Merseytravel is a really well run organisation and I am delighted to serve on it, however they seem intent on using the tolls, as some sort of cash cow to fund other schemes, all at the expense of the motorists.
We are of course happy that tolls have not risen this year, however, I believe that a tremendous opportunity has been missed by Labour and Lib Dems to ease the burden on the tunnel users, an opportunity that may never be available again, and the ‘Authorised’ toll for cars at £1.60, is a ticking time bomb that is likely to explode in all our faces next year.
Tomorrow, as a member of the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority (MITA) I shall be attending the full Authority meeting that will determine the budget for 2010/11. One of the items on the agenda talks about Mersey Tunnel Tolls. You can read more of my postings on that by clicking, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE
Over the last week or so, I have, and I continue to ask questions of senior Merseytravel officers, so that I can explore options that may allow the Conservative Group on Merseytravel to move amendments to the Tunnels issue, to try to minimise the toll burden, however the final decision on the tunnels and the budget is a matter for the 18 elected Members who serve on the Authority. I will keep an open mind on all the matters on the agenda and will listen to all the arguments put forward on the why’s and wherefores of the budgetry issues before I make my final decision on which way to vote.
Readers of the blog and the wider community will recall that I revealed that the Chief Exec and Director of Resorces for Merseytravel had told me that they would not be recommending to the full authority an increase in tunnel tolls this year. The final decision of course remains with the 18 elected Members who serve on the ITA. Read more on that, Here,and Here This revelation clearly upset the Lib Dems! You can read more on that HERE
I know have the Chief Execs full report before me and at 7. Summary and Conclusions, para 7.2 it states, ‘In view of the impact of the current national economy downturn, as documented in the Merseyside Economic Review 2009, it is considered that there are matters of an economic and social nature within Merseyside that make it appropriate, for a further year, to discount the tolls below their authorised levels. In terms of the amount of discount. it is considered prudent to retain for the 12 months commencing on the 1 April, 2010 both cash and AVI (fast tag) toll levels at the 2009/10 rates.’ Thats pretty clear to me, no recommendation to increase tolls, unless Labour or the Lib Dems seek to move an amendment to increase them?
It seems that because I have been letting people know the good news that the Mersey Tunnel Tolls will not be increasing this year, (read more on that HERE and HERE) that I have upset the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the Merseytravel Board, and his Wirral Lib Dem rep, with, I am told, both accusing me of Blatant Electioneering? Hey I was only pasing on good news from the Director of Resources and the Chief Exec, if thats electioneering, then they really do need to get a life. And let’s not forget that the Lib dems Voted to increase the Tunnel Tolls last year! This sort or petulant and childish behaviour shows just why I could never trust them. Watch out for low flying teddies!
I spent a couple of hours this morning with my Conservative colleagues on Merseytravel, Cllr Ian Lewis and Cllr Bob Roberts, where we met with Jim Barclay, Merseytravels Director of Resources, to look at his proposed budget figures for 2010/11. High on our agenda was the situation regarding Mersey Tunnel Tolls. We were delighted that he confirmed that his report to the full Authority meeting on the 4th February, would be recommending that there are NO increases this year, to either the ‘Authorised Tolls’ or the discounted tolls currently paid It is of course the full meeting of the Authority who will make the final decision. Anyway I have asked the Director to look at a couple of options around the tolls issue and get back to me with his findings.