Liscard Hall disaster – more Tory spin

Copy of L. Hall 02As though her condemnatory comments in the Liverpool Post earlier this week weren’t enough a (local Liscard) Tory councillor has repeated her criticism in this week’s Wallasey News.  But wasn’t Liscard Hall – a magnificent Grade 2 listed building situated in Seacombe’s Central Park until it was torched and demolished – lost on Tory Leah Fraser’s watch?

Yet when Liscard resident Mr Michael McGuire raised some questions in the Wirral Globe about her scrutiny role prior to its destruction Cllr Mrs Fraser was quick to retort that she had only recently become the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee with responsibility for public buildings – including Liscard Hall.  She did not mention that she not only chaired that crucial Scrutiny Committee but she had also been its Tory spokesperson for a long time.

Being an elected representative carries responsibilities.  Looking after the interests of the people you represent should surely take precedence over publicising a litany of questions, to somebody else, that might also be directed nearer home?   Aren’t the public entitled to know whether,  during all that time when she had a leading role, she had herself tabled any of the questions she immediately fired at the Cabinet member?  Questions such as these:

  • Did she, in her crucial role as Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, raise any questions with Council Officers about the security measures in place to protect the Hall?  If so, where is it recorded for public access?
  • Did she question the cost of securing Liscard Hall, on her Scrutiny Committee?  Did she even table it for discussion?  If so, what decisions or recommendations were made and where are they minuted?
  • Did she scrutinise whether a risk assessment had ever been undertaken for potential arson attacks?
  • Did she contact the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service about the safety of Liscard Hall?  If so will she tell us on whate dates she did so and whether she took the results back to he Scrutiny Committee?
  • Did her Scrutiny Committee consider the frequency of Wirral Community Patrol visits to the site?  If not, why not?
  • Did she scrutinise the extent of flammable material left in the building?  If not, why not?
  • What steps did she take to scrutinise when the Council had last made structural assessment of the building?

She seems, on the face of it, to have thought it a handy wheeze to pop questions like these to the Cabinet Member in a letter she (rather discourtesly, a reasonable person might think) published to the world.   But mightn’t that same reasonable person also ask why she left all of this to somebody else when through her own ScrutinyCommittee she was perfectly placed to oversee and comment on the care of Council owned buildings?

Her reply to Mr McGuire said little more than that she had only recently chaired that committee.  So what?  Wasn’t she the Conservative (Tory) spokesperson on it for a long time before she chaired it, leading its Tory presence?

If she raised no such concerns on her Committee she has only to explain why she didn’t think it necessary – or provide the answers if she did.  But until then should she be condemning others?

Liscard Hall site: location for new library?

Liscard Hall - AJThis once fine public building (Pictured left with Adrian in foreground) was razed by Liscard Hall 9 320x240arsonists a year ago.  (See Cllr John Salter’s photograph of it, right, taken at the time of the disaster.)

All that now remains is the grassed area next to the War Memorial in Seacombe’s Central Park .   When the  building first came back into public hands it was immediately the subject of controversy.  At first local community organisations wanted to take it over for community use; but with no lifts and riddled with asbestos it became obvious that the cost of repairs would be prohibitive. Meanwhile Local Liscard Councillor Fraser had other ideas – she argued strongly for it to be given over on a ‘peppercorn rent’  (in otherwords all but free) to a private school.  Labour argued at the time that although we have no objection whatsoever to private schools they should be just that – private and not subsidised with peppercorn rents by the Council Tax Payers of Wirral.  

The Council’s professional officers then did excellent work in attracting interested outside parties with a commercial interest.  Our favoured outcome would have been for a developer who might have brought a quality restaurant, or some other popular amenity, to Seacombe with an agreement to also provide meeting rooms for the community organisations.  But in the time when they were working on a development that could have provided this for our own people the Hall was destroyed.  Cllr Fraser at that time immediately issued a demand that the then Cabinet member (Liberal Cllr Simon Holbrook) should answer a litany of questions about why he had not introduced security measures sufficient to prevent the disaster.  She seemed, however, to have not quite noticed that the body responsible for the care of publicly owned buildings was one of the Council’s very own scrutiny committees.  And guess who chaired that Council Committee, and had been its Tory spokesperson before that?  None other than the same Cllr Fraser who was hurling questions at somebody else!  After Labour pointed out that she in fact chaired the committee, but seemed not to have noticed that small fact when blaming somebody else, she became very quiet about it indeed for a long time.  But when a report appeared about the Hall in today’s Liverpool Post she couldn’t resist criticising the Council of which she is a member, and on which she presided over that very committee.  

091001 - Liscard Hall siteBut despite the lack of care that led to the disaster something might yet rise from the ashes.  (See Adrian’s picture, left, showing the grassed area, where the Hall stood, to the the right of the War Memorial.) 

One way or another it is likely that there may soon be a new centralisation of many services in Wirral.  We cannot yet predict the outcome of the Charteris Inquiry but if the result is that a new Super Centre goes ahead then what better location for a new state of the art library than right here in Seacombe, only a short distance from the present library?

Please let us know your views.  Should we keep it as a grassed area and spend on an expensive new site, somewhere in Liscard, or use a free site that we already own right here in Seacombe, yet within easy reach of Liscard shopping centre?