Apologies and Apologists

Apologies i have none

There was a very sorry display (or should that be ‘not sorry’ display?) at this week’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee where much of the meeting was spent discussing ” How do we solve a problem like Louise Reecejones (LRJ) ?” .

Apparently at the time of Monday’s meeting LRJ has yet to issue an acceptable apology to the whistleblowers who had made valid complaints about her but were then subject to personal attacks on social media and had to counter allegations intended to damage their careers. Furthermore doubts were raised during this week’s  meeting as to whether LRJ will comply with the requirement  to offer a  grovelling apology for her conduct to all Wirral councillors at full council meeting to be held on December 11 and whether she will actually turn up – something we had already raised as a possibility as you can read here : Standards and Measures

Having said all that it was particularly dispiriting to witness Wirral councillors flailing about and not knowing what to do if LRJ’s BSL signer is required to stick two fingers up to the sanctions imposed on her by the council’s Standards Panel . A rather excitable interim Monitoring Officer Philip McCourt seemed to get a vicarious thrill from reciting instances of appalling conduct of councillors from other areas as if to say ” and you thought you were bad!……”  

At which point Cllr Ron Abbey gormlessly  commented :   ” Just goes to show what’s going on out there . We live in a sheltered world . We’re all too good for our own  good 

Really???

Meanwhile his comedy sidekick Cllr Paul Stuart seems tickled pink by his hilariously insightful comments . They’re the Chuckle Brothers without the chuckles. All of this can be witnessed at between 18- 22 minutes of the John Brace video posted below.

We’d like to ask McCourt where he thinks councillors using racial slurs to describe his predecessor , attempting smear campaigns and trying to use public money to buy the silence of complainants would rank in the scheme of councillor misconduct?  #Wirralgate ……or whether this just confirms his prissy assertion that councillors can currently be ” naughty to a fairly large degree” without it impacting on them being fine upstanding public representatives and pillars of the community.

As far as we’re concerned it’s BY FAR the very worst behaviour ever committed by Wirral councillors . However sadly the days when  councillors could be surcharged for their  misdeeds (Tesco heiress Dame Shirley Porter’s gerrymandering  in Westminster being the most prominent example ) or even referred to inept independent body Standards for England are long gone . Would you believe that despite ex-councillor Jim Crabtree’s conviction earlier this year for his repulsive behaviour (ironically) towards LRJ  that he would still be eligible to stand again as a councillor as he did not receive a custodial sentence of more than 3 months!

It would appear the bar for decent conduct for public servants has now been set so low that is it any wonder that we have the appalling shower of public representatives that we have at Wirral Council?  What’s more when you consider that councillors have been apologists for the most appalling conduct of both favoured senior officers and fellow councillors over recent  years that they now lack any MORAL AUTHORITY when it comes to trying to censure the conduct of  others.

Not that we’re apologists for LRJ but if she’s struggling to cobble together a convincing and sincere apology here’s our humble suggestion :

As a once proud upstanding member of this council I am today detumescent before you. Before I prostrate myself  in abject shame and beg your forgiveness I offer these wholly inadequate yet heartfelt words. I realise I could never hope to meet the high standards set by former Labour councillors such as Harry Smith , with his tact, diplomacy and his use of the English language ,and especially his command of Anglo-Saxon . Nor could I ever hope to attain the high office of  Jim Crabtree .  I realise that his telephone manner left a lot to be desired but in every other respect his behaviour was exemplary – at least by Bidston & St James ward standards anyway.  

As for current Labour councillors there is our supreme leader Phil aka Power Boy Pip who has been a particular inspiration to me when it comes to delegating his powers as I have long admired how he gets other people to do his dirty work. As for his deputies what can I say ? There’s big hitter Bernie and casual racist George. And as for Foulkesy? What can I say other than I am simply unworthy to keep their company.  All that is left for me to say is that I apologise for all the wrongs that the Labour group have inflicted upon Wirral and I accept my role as a scapegoat on their behalf.  

 

 

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‘Hub’ Hubris – The ‘Defend Our NHS’ fight back opens the party season

Hunt

As the  party season arrives here is our first notification from our good friends Defend Our NHS (DONHS) Wirral that they’re organising  ‘a bit of a do’ .

Of course all we can do is sarcasm and satire so we doff our caps to those out there who actually give a damn and go out there and do something about it. They’ve also listed other dates that should interest you if you care about the future of the NHS – including a Clinical Commissioning Group meeting to be held tomorrow (see below).

We would also add that Wirral Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday 27th November is a date for the diary for anyone interested in bloody ‘hubs’ and more specifically ‘integrated commissioning hubs’. Sorry scrub that – as you can see all the interesting stuff that affects YOUR life and health will be discussed behind closed doors. Because that’s how Wirral Council roll (over all of us).

STP Hub

Dear friends of the NHS,

First the good news: we’re having a Christmas Party! We wanted to celebrate all we’ve done in the past year and give everyone a much -needed chance to relax from campaigning and to make and renew acquaintances with fellow NHS defenders.

It will be in central Birkenhead on the evening of Friday 8th December. There will be hot and cold food available. If we are to go ahead and make final arrangements, we need to know who is coming AND if you want food. (Food – something like chilli/curry with a vegetarian option – will be available at a cost of up to £10; it could be less if we have enough people. Any extra money will be used for printing leaflets and room hire.)

Only people who reply by 27th November to say they are coming will be sent the final details and ticket arrangements. Email now!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

But now the bad news – and we’re afraid there’s little else.

You will know that our campaigning this year has concentrated on Wirral Council. We wanted them to do a simple thing: to make good on the agreed policy to oppose the so-called ‘sustainability and transformation plan/partnership’ (STP).

They agreed this in December 2016 – yet it took the leader of the Council, Phil Davies, eight months to send off the letter to Jeremy Hunt.

We’ve been lobbying and briefing councillors and pointing out the wickedness of the STP and its associated ‘accountable care organisation/system’.

Only last month councillors agreed that, “This Council will, therefore, remain opposed to changes and savings which place the achievements of our NHS at risk.

The STP would involve £1bn CUTS for the Cheshire and Merseyside area.

The reduced budget will have to pay for social care AS WELL AS our NHS services.

Meanwhile the party to which most Wirral councillors belong has adopted a policy of complete reinstatement of the NHS.

So imagine our surprise when we discovered the following…

21 11 2017 - DONHS picture (1)

Guess who’s advising Wirral on this? Yes, Private Eye’s old friends, global auditing company Price Waterhouse Cooper– PwC (known in the trade as ‘profits without conscience’). 

On Wirral we have already seen how quickly cuts can be implemented. Eastham Walk-In centre was closed within days with no consultation with the public. We have already been warned about the “really big cuts to come” and everyone has evidence of long delays for appointments, staff shortages, service cuts and rationing.

Thanks to a fantastic community campaign the Eastham centre is to be re-opened. But will this be at the expense of A&E at Arrowe Park?

To compound the misery Wirral clinical commissioning group have secretly agreed to talk to Wirral partners (including the Council) and potentially to send a letter to NHSE requesting Wirral CCG join something called the ‘Capped Expenditure Programme’. If you want to know why this is terrifying read this from the BMA:

Have YOU been consulted on any of this? Does any of it meet the NHS mission of ‘no decision about me without me’?

We are simply flabbergasted – but we will fight back, and we urge you to do the same.

                        …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

What can we do if the NHS is to have a happy Christmas?

Join us and fight to reverse NHS cuts & privatisation

      Oppose the STP and ACS

      Insist that your councillors and MPs do the same

      Fight for the full restoration of an effective NHS

      Ensure that the Eastham NHS Walk-In Centre is re-opened without damage to other services (for example NO cuts to Arrowe Park A&E)

       Achieve an emergency £20m increase for Wirral NHS funding

      Come to the CCG ‘consultation’ meeting in Mayer Hall, Bebington from 6.30pm WEDNESDAY 22nd NOVEMBER

      Protest at the Wirral cabinet meeting, Wallasey town hall, 9am MONDAY 27TH NOVEMBER

      Protest at the Wirral council meeting, Wallasey town hall, 5pm MONDAY 11TH DECEMBER

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ALL Wirral councillors have been asked these three simple questions:

  1. Do you support our campaign to stop the STP/ACS and oppose the further near £1 billion cuts? YES/NO
  2. Do you support the reinstatement of our NHS? YES/NO
  3. Will you tell Wirral voters what your responses are in any forthcoming communication? YES/NO

The replies we’ve received so far are very interesting.

And note that all Wirral MPs have been asked to pledge allegiance to the NHS at https://weownit.org.uk/nhstakeback Guess how many have?

IF OUR COUNCILLORS AND MPs FAIL TO JOIN US IN DEFENDING THE NHS WE HAVE A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION.

SOME OF THEM WON’T LIKE IT.

                        ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………                        Reminder:

  1. Reply now and tell us how many tickets you want for the Christmas party.
  2. Put those meeting dates in your diary and join us.
  3. Share this email and the information as widely as you can. And finally:
  4. We have been campaigning locally to defend our NHS for almost seven years. We need some new blood in the team who will DO things. If you are as determined as us to make this a happy NHS Christmas get in touch.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………                        Best wishes on behalf of Defend Our NHS

                        defendournhswirral@gmail.com

                        https://www.facebook.com/groups/defendournhs/

                        https://twitter.com/DefendourNHS



Fail to plan, plan to fail

Fail to plan

It won’t come as any surprise to our regular readers (or indeed anyone living near some derelict wasteland or an empty building) that Wirral Council finds itself in trouble with central government for failing to have a ‘Local Plan’ under the Planning Act 2004 .

Local Plan Intervention

Accordingly Sajid Javid ,Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) , has written to Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr  Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies that   central government will take over local planning if they can’t get their act together.

Only last week Wirral Leaks pointed out the lack of any Wirral Council co-ordination when it comes to planning in our Any Old Ion story.  This leads the council – and more importantly us – to be prey to speculative developers and ultimately leads to ad-hoc, piecemeal, opportunistic building developments.

Of course this isn’t all the fault of the current administration as Wirral Council have failed to produce a ‘Local Plan’ for 13 years !!! –  13! unlucky for some, usually us who pay these incompetents to actually do their jobs and comply with central  government requirements.

Nevertheless,  isn’t it funny how the current incumbents of power at Wallasey Town Hall can come up with the window dressing of ’20 Pledges’ and then drone on about them ad nauseum and yet can’t come up with the foundations for a  legally required ‘ Local Plan’ !

Meanwhile in the absence of the ‘Local Plan’ publicly-funded fantasists can pursue the corrupt dream of fire stations, golf resorts and international trade centres – OK , NOT international trade centres ,even we admit that’s a bit far fetched – without any public accountability!

But then why have central government let them get away with it all this time? Isn’t it funny how central government can intervene when it comes to planning regulations but when it comes to failures in children’s and adult social services we’ve had to put up with with totally ineffective and utterly cosmetic ‘improvement boards’.

Perhaps it’s not so confusing when you think about it , as apparently we live in a world where everything and everyone is a commodity and obviously real estate (including the blessed green belt) has so much more worth than real people.

Reputation Protection

Reputation ProtectionReputation ProtectionReputation ProtectionReputation Protection

As we’ve previously reported a Serious Case Review (SCR) concerned with the Rajenthiram brothers Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case was due to be published in July of this year. It is now November and we now learn that that the SCR will not now be published.

SCRs should be carried out by the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) for every case where abuse/neglect is known or suspected and either ; a child has died or; a child has been seriously harmed and there are concerns about how organisations or professionals worked together to protect the child. Since 2010 there has been a requirement to publish SCRs in full . Accordingly Wirral’s LSCB website states:

Findings and recommendations from the Serious Case Review or SCR , will be published in full in a report , which will be publicly available on this website . The purpose of the SCR will be to learn from what happened in individual cases so that future tragedies can be prevented. SCR-Wirral

Whilst the National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) website says this about publishing SCRs:

The final SCR report, and the LSCBs response to the findings, must be published on the LSCB website for a minimum of 12 months and should be available on request. This is important for sharing lessons learnt and good practice in writing and publishing SCRs.

SCR reports should be written in such a way that publication will not be likely to harm the welfare of any children or vulnerable adults involved in the case.

The final report should:

  • provide a sound analysis of what happened in the case, and why, and what needs to happen in order to reduce the risk of recurrence
  • be written in plain English and in a way that can be easily understood by both professionals and the public and
  • be suitable for publication without needing to be amended or redacted.

The LSCB should send a copy of the final SCR to the National Panel of Independent Experts at least one week before publication. NSPCC

However Dr Maggie Atkinson , chair of Wirral’s LSCB said this week of the Rajenthiram case :

“This Serious Case Review examines – in great detail – the circumstances surrounding the sexual abuse of a child. It was my view, as chair of the safeguarding board and entirely independent of the council and all public agencies involved, that there was no way to publish the report which did not lead to a high risk of this child being identified.I could not countenance that risk. It would be morally wrong, and absolutely illegal, to risk identifying the victim of a sexual crime.My opinion was ratified by legal advice from barristers and my assessment on this matter was specifically sent to, and agreed by the Department for Education. I do agree that it is important the lessons which were learnt as a result of this tragic case are in the public domain and, to ensure they are, I had already requested that a report explaining the recommendations coming from the review – alongside the work which has been done since to address them – was published. This report will be published in the coming weeks.”

Whilst we agree that protecting the anonymity of victims is paramount we can’t help wondering who Dr Atkinson and the LSCB are actually protecting here. Oh and don’t come the ‘morally wrong’ and ‘absolutely illegal’ with us – this is Wirral Council we’re talking about and it’s never stopped them before – unless of course it suits them.

It should be remembered that one of the (many ) criticisms previously levelled at Wirral’s LSCB  by Ofsted in their damning  report ,which led to a rating of local Children’s Services to be rated ‘inadequate’, was that it was not sufficiently ‘independent’ from Wirral Council and other agencies involved in child protection.   What’s more isn’t talk of protecting victims of CSE a bit like closing the cornershop door after perpetrators have been convicted? Where was the protection from organisations and professionals when victims of CSE needed it ? That ,of course, should be the main theme of this secret SCR and based on what’s gone before who can blame us for thinking that this lurch to secrecy is more about protecting the reputations of the powerful than protecting the anonymity of the powerless?

 

Birkenhead MP’s Brexit Bitchfest Backfires

Birkenhead MP Frank Field ,  having moved an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal ) Bill earlier this week must be grateful that the local TV media chose a clip of Wirral South MP Alison McGovern’s contribution to the House of Commons Brexit debate for their news bulletin rather than his latest waspish display of self-aggrandizing disrespect for others. Therefore we’d particularly like to thank Old Queen TV  for posting the above footage.

Field’s innocuous amendment read : ” The UK ceases to belong to the European Union on 30 March 2019″ and  we can say one thing about Frankenfield and that he united the House during the debate  – united that is in their distaste of his sly jibes.

The most spectacular putdown was of fellow Labour MP Hilary Benn which drew gasps from benches on both sides of the House. Sitting behind Frankenfield David Lammy looks simply aghast……and who wouldn’t be as Field snipes at Benn : ” I’ve always bought my houses, I’ve never inherited them……”  . On being corrected by Benn he apologised and withdrew the comment. However the snooty, sarky tone of his statement , part Lady Bracknell/part Lily Savage, continued unabated.  

The thing is with Frankenfield is that locally he is so used to saying what he likes to who he likes – and being gifted a platform to do it – that it comes as a bit of a surprise when someone dares to challenge him on the facts.

However there were several other comments Frankenfield made during his speech which led to us sit here scratching our heads with our mouths agape. The full transcript of the debate can read here

 

Bitchfest 013

Bitchfest 018

We’re confused as to what Frankenfield is trying to say in these statements . However it  should be noted that overall 51.7% of the voters of Wirral voted to remain in the  EU Referendum , whilst  his own constituency  voted 51.7% to leave .

 

 

Public Services – ‘At Risk’

Public sector workers

Public service ‘transformers’ at work.

Today we return to a sadly familiar tale. The destruction of public services and those public servants making a killing making it happen and enabling private sector vultures to gorge on the corpse.
Let’s start appropriately enough with one of our respondents by the name of ‘P45’ who told us in a reply to an earlier post :
Won’t be reported in the glorious Wirral View how hundreds of (Wirral) council workers have just this week received ‘at risk’ letters.
Average wage of these manual workers 18k a year – the normal cuts start at the bottom.
Compare that with the obscene rates paid to fly by night municipal mercenaries in the form of external consultants and  particularly so called ‘transformers’ who seem particularly adept at transforming their bank balance if nothing else. These are dark days for public services – not just in terms of central government funding but also because of those who seek financial and /or career advantage from its demise.
No doubt the latest round  of redundancy threats will be done in the name of short term savings when we all know its more about the Council divesting themselves of direct responsibility for staff and services.  Then watch as in the long term the council wage bill rises to pay for agency workers and temporary staff on insecure short term contracts.
But then what hope do rank and file staff have when they are not only at the mercy of self serving senior managers but are also ill served by supine unions and betrayed by amoral councillors – the most sickening example being serial failure Cllr Steve Foulkes recently voting himself a rise in expenses/allowances for sitting on outside bodies alongside his day job and his council duties when council staff are at risk of losing their livelihoods.
Of course this  “I’m Alright Jack” mentality shows up the support for the likes of foodbanks and the homeless to be the phony political posturing and cynical virtue signalling that it is.  ” Oh these foodbanks are a damning indictment of modern society  ….. I know !  let’s open another foodbank so I can get my picture in the paper”.
As we know there’s not only political capital to be had at the expense of the vulnerable there is ,more pertinently,  financial capital to be gained.
Indeed we have been provided with a telling example by a well placed source who notes that we have written extensively about Change, Grow, Live  (CGL).  As we know CGL are the grateful recipients of the biggest slice of Public Health monies ( £7 million +) to provide drug and alcohol services that were previously provided by the NHS. Our source has been reliably informed that David Biddle the Chief Executive of  CGL ( formerly Crime Reduction Initiatives) will be in line for a £1 million golden handshake when he retires next year .  David Biddle – ‘stepping down’
In an interview published last year in The Guardian Mr Biddle claimed ‘what pissed people off’ was that CGL were ‘very businesslike’. Read the full story here : What pisses people off
Believe us Mr Biddle the CGL operation on Wirral has been described to us in many ways but ‘very businesslike’ certainly isn’t one of them! What’s more what we think really pisses us off is people making obscene amounts of public money that can be made out of other people’s misery . As our source says :
Surely this is public money, squeezed from LA drug budgets as CGL undercut by some way existing NHS services, like Wirral, and set up inferior and less effective services. Remember the 72 dead here in their first eighteen months? Talk about blood money.
It is because of the increasing prevalence of scenarios such as this that we applaud the work of campaign groups such as Defend Our NHS Wirral who campaign to support public services for the benefit of ALL and not just the gilded elite ‘transforming’ public services mainly for the benefit of themselves.
“Will you defend our NHS?”
Wirral campaign group Defend Our NHS has written to all councillors to find out where they stand on the destruction of the National Health Service.
The group, alongside others in Cheshire & Merseyside, is asking councillors to do more than express their admiration for the NHS and its staff.
Rather than simply share patients’ and widespread public concerns at the harm being done to our health service by cuts and closures Wirral councillors have the statutory power to STOP the damage in its tracks.
Wirral shares the same problems as other parts of the country. But the closure of the Eastham Walk-In Clinic (without adequate notice or indeed any consultation), the pressures on Arrowe Park Hospital, and the ongoing appointment difficulties are just some of the specific local concerns.
All of this, and the accelerating pace at which problems are mounting, are the inevitable result of £22 billions cut from the NHS budget. And now the so-called ‘sustainability and transformation partnership’ (STP) would produce a permanent regime of cuts (almost a further £1 billion in our region) and threats to a free national health service.
Wirral Council voted last December to oppose the STP for Cheshire & Merseyside which would inevitably (unless stopped) lead to an American-style ‘accountable care system’ (ACS).
The STP and ACS scandal is now the subject of two legal challenges.
Defend Our NHS is asking all councillors three simple questions to discover where they stand on all this.
Along with other campaign groups in the STP ‘footprint’ Defend Our NHS will be publishing the results and inviting councillors to briefing sessions to learn more about the destruction of our NHS – and how to defend and reinstate it.
1. Do you support our campaign to stop the STP and oppose the further cuts? YES/NO
2. Do you support the reinstatement of our NHS? YES/NO
3. Will you tell Wirral voters what your responses are in any forthcoming communication? YES/NO

Show ‘Inappropriate Comments’ The Red Card

 

Red Card 009

Tony tells the truth : ‘The darkness around us is very deep”   Pic : John Brace

Little did we know when we published our Sorrento Shame : Holidaymakers claim they faced ‘racist abuse’ from ex – Wirral Mayoress  story ,that with some perverse synchronicity, it coincided with the 3rd annual ‘Show Racism The Red Card’ campaign.

To mark the event at the full meeting of Wirral Council held on 16th October Cllr Tony Norbury recited a poem.  Fortunately John Brace was able to capture the recital for posterity HERE . Now we can’t say it was one of the greatest orations we’ve ever heard but for those of you with strong stomachs and no gag reflexes it’s well worth enduring – if only for the closing line. Which was :

The darkness around us is very deep 

No seriously, Cllr Norbury uttered those immortal words , seemingly without a trace of irony. Under the circumstances the assembled throng of elected members holding up red cards with ‘ Show Racism The Red Card’ emblazoned on them with different translations of the slogan on the reverse has to be a contender for the empty political gesture of the year (and that’s always a particularly strong category).

Needless to say when it comes to certain councillors we know already that the hardfaced don’t get redfaced but as far as we’re concerned nobody’s hands holding those cards were clean .

Of course whilst councillors wouldn’t know about ‘the Sorrento incident’ they can’t say they didn’t know about the ‘Wirralgate incident’ involving Cllr George Davies , which although now 4 years old still reverberates around the corridors of power at Wallasey Town Hall.

Although the racist slur that forms part of the ‘Wirralgate’ recording is by no means the only disturbing aspect of the telephone conversation between Cllr Davies and a disgruntled ex-employee of Wirral Council , we have to say we had our doubts when we heard that Cllr George Davies had been recorded saying that former Wirral Council CEO Graham Burgess had thought that his former head of law was a “bloody useless Chink” . Whilst we had no trouble accepting the “bloody useless” bit – the pejorative description of  Surjit Tour as a “Chink” didn’t seem to make any sense in terms of ethnicity, race or heritage. However the slur has subsequently been confirmed by a disparate range of sources – so who are we to dispute it? What’s more, and on reflection, it made perfect sense as a particular kind of old school casual racism which is deeply ingrained and borne out of sheer ignorance and an appreciation of Bernard Manning.

However what we have never been able to reconcile is that after hearing the ‘Wirralgate’ tape recording himself why didn’t namesake and Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies suspend Cllr George Davies and refer the matter to Wirral Council’s Standards Panel ? Instead he facilitated the means by which a racial slur becomes sanitised and minimised as an ‘inappropriate comment’ in a report written by a certain Peter Mackay that never saw the light of day.  Way to go, Pip!

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Under these circumstances  it seems to us that it’s a case of ” Show Racism the Red Card – unless it’s a well connected Bluenose”  ……and no race awareness/race equality course or waving a red card in the air is ever going to remedy that kind of hypocrisy. We just wish councillors would spare us the self righteous, sanctimonious empty political gestures when we know that certain councillors are clearly comfortable in the company of people who make racist comments.

Caption competition :

Screenshot_20171113-164701

 

 

 

 

Any Old Ion

Regen 010

Currently awaiting artist’s impression.

Have you noticed how the supposed grand plans for the regeneration of Wirral (and Birkenhead in particular) are being disseminated in the the press in exactly the same incoherent , opportunistic and uncoordinated  way.

For example we’ve already covered how the charisma free zone that is Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson chose the trade press Inside Media (who?) to tease us about future major land and property deals Double Dealers

Subsequently there then followed  an announcement in the Liverpool Echo that there were plans to convert Wirral Council’s former finance building into student flats under the title ‘ Hamilton Hub’ (groan ). Here we learned that Liverpool-based developer YPG wants to convert these offices in Cleveland Street into an ‘apartment complex’ for 200 students. Hamilton Hub

Sze Ming Yeung, managing director of YPG, said: “Our research tells us there is a real appetite for this kind of student and key worker accommodation in the centre of Birkenhead, partly because of the city region’s excellent cross-river transport links.

Since YPG were set up in 2015 have been busy  helping turn Liverpool city centre into ‘Studentland’. It also won’t surprise you to read  HERE that Asif Hamid’s  Contact Company and YPG have teamed up on the controversial Monarch’s Quay development in Liverpool about which we commented on here :  Asif Attack

Well it would now appear that another one of these landscape changing deals is now out in the open. As apparently the developer behind the controversial Lime Street redevelopment in Liverpool has bought the site of an old Birkenhead railway station – and has vowed to use the land to transform the town. Into what?  Reno? Or has that desert mirage faded before our very eyes too ? We can hardly wait for the artist’s impressions !

We learn from the Liverpool Echo that Ion Property Developments has bought the site of the former Birkenhead Town station, off Tunnel Road between Borough Road and the Rock Retail Park. Ion, formerly known as Neptune Developments, has not yet revealed what it plans for the land. But it says the site is “in a strategic position for the regeneration of Birkenhead town centre”. Read the fully story here : Old Site

Wirral Leaks readers may remember that Neptune Developments had exciting plans to redevelop Birkenhead town centre and which included (gasp!) a drive-thru McDonald’s .  Mysteriously Neptune’s plans were kicked to the kerb by Wirral Council only to be replaced by new plans for  ,er,  a drive -thru Maccy D’s !

So now that Neptune Developments have had a re-branding and changed their name to Ion Property Developments could Managing Director Steve Parry be getting in on Asif Hamid’s act and is acquiring land and sitting back and waiting for the grants of public money to enable them to develop a bit of particularly undesirable piece of derelict land ? Of course Ion don’t quite have Hamid’s position of power and influence as chair of the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Board . We await developments (pun intended) with interest.

Meanwhile Wirral Globe are gamely still referring  to ‘the Wirral Waters regeneration project’ in a story about an ‘art installation’ on the site of what perhaps should have been an ‘International Trade Centre’. Forgive us for being so cynical but after the Stella Shiu debacle we feel we’re in for a continual series of piecemeal , ad-hoc developments being heralded as part of the ‘Wirral Waters regeneration project’ rather than the comprehensive transformation we’ve been sold . As a highways feasibility study tender issued last week demonstrates it would seem that there is still a long and winding road to travel before the Wirral waters regeneration project’ becomes a reality.

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As an aside an interesting aspect of this story Wirral Waters  was the accompanying picture which included  ‘Community Arts Facilitator’ Cathy Warren alongside Birkenhead MP Frank Field. Could Ms Warren be in any way related to Frankenfield’s favoured report writer and former Judge Nicholas Warren?  I’m sure all of you who know how things work round here will know the answer to that one. 

Praise for Wirral Waters' art installation

Pic : Wirral Globe

Finally a concerned correspondent from over the Mersey has been in touch to provide us with a salutary tale and timely reminder as to what can happenwhen Due Diligence is sacrificed in favour of headline grabbing developments .

According to the Department for International Trade, ‘The UK continues to attract record levels of inward investment and remains extremely attractive to foreign investors.’ In fact George Osborne went to China with the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson to promote the ‘Northern Pitchbook’, with the £200 million New Chinatown development in Liverpool being the ‘centerpiece’ development 
In terms of Cash Only/Investor development investments, this is fast becoming a national scandal, which will have a very negative affect on UK/Chinese relations, and will seriously limit inward investment into the Northern Powerhouse. 
FACT 1 – Record numbers of Chinese and Hong Kong investors have been putting their money into northern developments, especially student accommodation and city apartments .Investors have to put 75% cash up front and the developments are usually ‘off-plan’. This means, in many cases, that not even the foundations have been built. 
FACT 2 – This has attracted the very ‘worst!’ of developers, which can be seen from the following information: 
[1] Angelgate Development- Manchester – which was developed by Pinnacle MC Global and went into liquidation in April 2015, leaving the development unfinished [foundations only]. By August, the developer told buyers the project had been “seriously undervalued” by around £14 million (HK$140.04 million), requiring additional funding in order to complete. The developer gave Angelgate [mainly Chinese/Hong Kong] investors two options: contribute more money to complete the project, or handle the construction themselves.According to a solicitor’s update from Pinnacle, a total of £13.2 million went to commissions and fees, with £7.9 million spent on “overheads, running costs and profits. [this begs the question: how can developers take profits when the development hasn’t actually been built]”An Angelgate investor said an estimated £32 million (HK$330 million) had been paid in deposit money from the buyers in the steering committee and they had filed reports with local police and fraud action groups.

 The Angelgate project was a scam and investors felt helpless, she said. One of the men involved in this development, Tony Freeman, has been arrested by the police. 
[2] Investors from around the world say they will never put money into Liverpool again after their experience of dealing with a city “landlord from hell”.

 They have been bombarding council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald [this man has also been arrested by the police for suspicion of conspiring to pervert the course of justice and intimidating witnesses.]with complaints about Nigel Russell, who runs a number of student properties around Liverpool. Investors say that if the council had carried out Due Diligence then they and fellow investors from as far away as Canada, Brunei, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines may not have had to endure what they called years of hell.

 They had to endure months without any payments, and some had put their life savings into buying units from Mr Russell. Nigel Russell has been arrested by the police 
[3] £200 million – New Chinatown development – The companies involved in this development were given ‘preferred developer ‘status by Liverpool City Council without any proper Due Diligence being carried out. There was significant investment by Chinese and Hong Kong investors. With only the foundations completed, two of the construction companies involved have gone into liquidation and the development is at a halt.

[4] Baltic House – The companies involved in this development are on the point of liquidation. There was significant investment by Chinese and Hong Kong investors. With only the foundations and a small amount of the construction completed this project is at a halt. 
[5] The Paramount – There was significant investment by Chinese and Hong Kong investors. The development is only half built with 140 Chinese students living in the built half. This building is probably dangerous and building is at a halt

[5]Berry House – There was significant investment by Chinese and Hong Kong investors. The company involved is close to liquidation-no building work completed at all.

[6] North Point – There was significant investment by Chinese and Hong Kong investors. The company involved is close to liquidation-very little building work completed .

[7] St James Court – sold to investors, but absolutely no building works even started

[8]Metalworks – sold to investors, but absolutely no building works even started

[9] Eldon Grove – sold to investors, but absolutely no building works even started

It is clear from the above information that Manchester and Liverpool City Councils [as just examples] are not carrying out Due Diligence and are leaving investors prey to criminals. It is quite evident that this is going to lead to a significant reduction in the number of foreign investors in the North West [Northern Powerhouse] and a deterioration in the Chinese/UK economic relationship. 

 

The Never-ending Story

what you allow 3

Now if there’s one area of council business we receive more complaints about than any other it’s social services (be it children’s or adult services and particularly the transition between the two). Of course this might be expected. It’s an important component of public services and is a difficult area of work as it involves the most vulnerable people in our community and the involvement of statutory services is often required at times of crisis and distress.

With the push towards more integrated working with the NHS , includes moves to create an All-Age Disability Service – which we hear is not going down too well with staff as it it as seen as another way of undermining professional expertise and status of social workers – we are left to pity the poor carers and service users out there who find themselves all at sea trying to deal with what are now called ‘care navigators’ .

Earlier this week at the Wirral Council Cabinet meeting we had councillors  Christine Spriggs, Chris Jones and Phil Davies extolling the virtues of integrated working and how it would prevent carers telling their ‘story’  over and over again in an attempt to acquire a service to which they are legally entitled. Needless to say Cllr Bernie Mooney waded in to blame everything on Tory cuts but reassured everyone she had written to everyone she could think of to protest about how unfair it all was. This included a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May. You can imagine the consternation in 10 Downing Street can’t you? as a special adviser whispers in the PM’s ear : “Psst ! Theresa – you’d better drop the Brexit negotiations and forget about that bit of bother you’ve got with Priti and Boris and Damian and Michael and whoever the next errant Tory is – Cllr Bernie Mooney is on the warpath and you wouldn’t like it when she gets angry!”

So what we’d like to do here is to provide a case study which is typical of the many complaints we receive from carers and which suggest the problems that Wirral Council have are not just about money it is, as ever ,about the CULTURE  of Wirral Council.  How about they look more closely at why they can’t recruit and retain quality staff and have to spend a fortune on consultants and agency staff.   Talking of which we hear a social services big hitter may soon be on their way out……we’ll bring you more when we get it.

Meanwhile read this never-ending story and weep :

I could fill a book about this but, in short, my severely autistic and learning-disabled son (aged 19) and I have just lost our second second social worker in 15 months.

Last August (2016) I got a call out of the blue from our social worker to say “I am going on secondment and I won’t be seeing you again.” 3 weeks earlier she had said, without prompting, that she would be “right beside you” for at least another year, as my son went through his last year at school and made crucial preparations for college and work placements. When I objected she said “Here’s the number of my immediate boss. Take up your concerns with him.” I kept phoning, over a good two weeks, only to get voice-mail. I left a message that wasn’t picked up, etc. Eventually it turns out that her immediate boss had already been on “indefinite sick leave” for quite a time already, something she must have known when she suggested I ring him.

My son still asks what happened to this social worker and wonders why she didn’t say goodbye.

A new social worker arrived from another borough in Sept 2016. (As did another person to replace the person who was on indefinite sick leave.) In January, the second of these two people gave a week’s notice and went back to South Wales, clearly defeated by Wirral Council’s complete inability to organise. . .anything. Our new social worker kept saying to me “We need to work with each other on the basis of trust.” I have tried for a year now to get my son’s respite dates guaranteed to me in writing by Wirral Social Services. I have been in contact with the MP about it, and she has tried repeatedly to be in contact with them. They are usually on voice-mail, or don’t respond to emails, hers or mine. I still have no written guarantee.

The social worker, after lots of meetings/phonecalls with me, assured me at the start of June that my son’s two work placements would start this September. September came: no work placements. It turns out that the work placements hadn’t received the necessary paperwork from the social worker to enable my son to start work; Social Worker insisted that they had the necessary paperwork. Then she and I and the work placement people (Wirral Evolutions) have a meeting in which it is agreed that my son needs one-to-one support at both of the placements. “Don’t worry, I’ll get these sorted” social worker tells me. This was at the end of September. Yesterday (November 3rd), having heard nothing, I phoned the social worker to ask what the delay is. I get a person on the phone who says “Social Worker doesn’t work for Wirral Council anymore. She left 2 weeks ago. Who are you?” This person was, apparently, a receptionist, someone I’d never dealt with before, left with the task of telling x number of people that they have been abandoned.

Wirral Council/Wirral Social Services are grossly incompetent. They are rude. They have no regard for their clients and their clients’ families. They don’t even show the most basic courtesies or consideration. In due course, I daresay I’ll get a call from whoever the replacement social worker is, and the replacement will say “We need to work with each other on the basis of trust.”

Basically, it is the same thing over and over and over: incompetence, very poor communication (with me, but also with other agencies and between themselves), rudeness, poor or non-existent note-taking, people leaving at short notice and with no proper explanation, etc etc. It just goes on and on.

When the Klonowski enquiry produced its damning report, I briefly hoped that the people found to be grossly incompetent (and, in some cases, corrupt) would be removed. Disheartening, to say the least, to see people like Steve Foulkes still in place. Where is the accountability? There simply is none.

It beggars belief that Wirral Council has not been placed in special measures. I daresay the reasons behind that are political. The Tories asking for it are being hypocritical because part of the problem is chronic underfunding from central govt but I do think that being placed in special measures would be the best thing. The only thing, actually, that would give people like me and my son the chance at least of a semi-decent service. I know special measures are not a panacea but they would be our best chance.

Apparently the new person to whom my son and I have been allotted is going to be in contact “in due course.” Big deal. The “leader” of the “integrated” (!) team for disabilities at Wirral Social Services since January is someone who clearly does not lead. When I told him at that point (no-one had told us the previous man had left, I found out by chance) that Wirral Social Services is a shambles, he replied with “But that’s just your opinion.”  No-one with a shred of conscience can stay working with these people for any length of time: they either go off sick, having had some kind of breakdown, or they are “let go.” The people there for any significant length of time are, almost by definition, dead wood.

When my son is going to get his work placements is anyone’s guess. Ever? SW who has just gone was saying to me most of the past 12 months “It’s very important that your son gets a 5-day week”. .. I know, I had never suggested otherwise!”

Standards and Measures

We promised to revisit the Cllr Louise Reecejones (LRJ)  ‘It Has To Stop’  story with our considered views on the role of Wirral Council’s Standards Panel/ Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee and the measures they have taken to sanction LRJ. As we said :

We are not giving LRJ an out here – she deserves everything she gets but it is a matter of proven fact that she has been treated markedly differently than her Labour colleague Cllr Steve Foulkes by the Standards Panel. As far as we’re concerned councillors McLaughlin, Gilchrist and Blakeley have some explaining to do. This is something we will be analysing in a later post.

So let’s briefly recap what sanctions that LRJ faced for being a bad – but by means the worst – councillor at Wirral Council

  •  suspension from the local Labour Group

The Labour Group ‘leader’ , Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies in a rare show of authority recommended permanent expulsion 

  •  referral to the Labour Party regional body ( Labour Northwest) 

Labour Northwest ,who must be heartily sick to the back teeth of Wirral Labour Party careerists, sorry members, commuted the suspension to 6 months 

  • removal of the Labour Party whip 

Thus isolating LRJ from the ‘support’ of the local Labour Party machine. Although we have to say the Labour Party whip would have to have the skills of an ex-lion tamer with a whip and a chair to keep local Labour members under control

  • removal of LRJ representing Wirral Council on outside bodies

Although we’re not sure whether this involved any loss of remuneration (our money)

  •  asked to make full apology to whistleblowers 

And look how that went! LRJ came across as an obstreberous 6 year old stamping her feet and crossing her arms in protest at being found with her hands in the cookie jar

  • asked to make a full apology to all elected members at next full Wirral Council meeting

We won’t hold our breath waiting for LRJ to humbly apologise for her misdemeanours 

As we all know the last councillor to face the Standards Panel prior to LRJ was ex- Wirral council leader and mayor Cllr Steve ‘ Don’t Mention Sorrento’ Foulkes. And what sanctions were imposed on him for being a serial liar?

  • asked to make an apology  to the then Tory leader Cllr Jeff Green

Even though by his own admission Cllr Green WAS NOT THE COMPLAINANT!

  • Er, that’s it  

Bit of a discrepancy don’t you think?, especially when the reason given by clapped out Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ McLaughlin for the local Labour group going after LRJ was her lack of ‘credibility’ and ‘reliability’ as a witness. We’re left wondering whether Matron should have been on the Standards Panel in the first place . She nearly came a cropper for declaring she put her personal friendship with Kevin Miller ,the former monumental failure of a Director of Adult Social Services, above her civic duties.

But then Matron isn’t the only errant councillor in this farrago. Where were the rest of the councillors of all parties when the first Patricia Thynne report was published and where Foulkesy said he couldn’t possibly have handed over a document attempting  to smear Cllr Jeff Green to duplicitous journalist Liam Murphy because there would have to have been an adjournment of the Council meeting when it was alleged he had done so.

Apparently neither ‘investigator’ Thynne or any Wirral councillor bothered to check the minutes because they would have found out that there had indeed been an adjournment. This was one of the reasons that a second (costly) investigation took place and enabled several witnesses to later testify that they saw Foulkesy hand over the incriminating document to Murphy. Something which he had denied in the first investigation. The only explanation we think of for this particular lack of scrutiny is that councillors must have all just sat there and said  : ”  Well, it’s Foulkesy, innit, what do you expect?”

Clearly our expectations are out of step with our local elected members and until they realise they are accountable to us we’re afraid it will remain forever thus.

So when it comes to ‘credibility’ and ‘reliability’ as a witness we’re left thinking that Foulkesy is even more lacking than LRJ – and that’s really sayin’ somethin’ ! What it doesn’t do is explain the difference in the measures made against each respective councillor.

But then those who regularly read Wirral Leaks will know exactly what the explanation is…..

Meanwhile compare and contrast these respective investigators comments :

LRJ v Foulkesy 017

LRJ v Foulkesy 019