For those who weren’t watching, or, let’s be honest, had better things to do, the council elections in Wirral have brought change to an organisation that, for too long, seemed immune to public opinion.
In the event, the changes are wider than many of us hoped.
Voters ensured that a Militant-style takeover of the Council was avoided, and that the increasingly diverse political views in the Borough are (mostly) represented in the Council Chamber. Most people would say this is a good thing.
As a result, and for the first time in many years, the election of the Council Leader was competitive - Cllr. Pat Hackett beating me by 31 to 25 – even if neither he nor I secured the support of the nine Liberal Democrats and Greens, who abstained.
Labour did, however, lose eight of the 10 Committee chairs, ensuring that decisions made by the new Leader and his Cabinet can be fully scrutinised, and challenged, in public.
The committees that scrutinise council’s finances and policies on the environment are now chaired by Conservatives. The Planning Committee chaired by a Liberal Democrat and the Adult Social care Committee (another ‘big’ issue that we face) is chaired by an Independent Councillor.
But it cannot be right that 97% of decisions are still taken, often behind closed doors by just 10 Labour councillors, handpicked by the Leader of the day. This was the system designed by Tony Blair (who else!) but it’s a system that is not fit for purpose.
So, Cllr. Hackett’s first Cabinet will also be the Borough’s last. The new Council has already agreed to change, ensuring that by this time next year, the 66 councillors, of all parties, will make the decisions, in public.
But rearranging the deckchairs in the Town Hall, as interesting as it is for those of us who are involved, must be the start, and not an end in itself.
Over the next 12 months, the Conservative Councillors will seek support to scrap the ‘golf resort’; get a grip on the pay of senior directors and their ‘consultants’; put the failing Wirral View newspaper out of its misery and come up with a Local Plan that protects our Borough’s Green Belt.
These are the changes people have told us they want and, in the new political circumstances, these are the things the Conservative Councillor will work with other parties to deliver.
Want to help us achieve this? Now is the time to get involved...