The Hunger Games 3 : Still Blaming the Victims

 

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Following the current vogue for movie franchises Wirral Leaks proudly presents The Professor’s third instalment of The Hunger Games saga starring Frank Field. The series of hunger reports associated with  Field  including ‘Britain’s not so hidden hunger’ published in May 2016 are considered in the context of Field’s written work and his most recent (and frequent) media pronouncements.
‘The liberation from the Victorian approach – or so it is interpreted – came when the poverty debate began laying the blame for poverty on society and its institutions instead of the poor themselves’

Frank Field, Neighbours from Hell

Nearly two years has passed since Frank Field’s ‘Feeding Britain’ report appeared in a storm of media controversy. In addition to rightly condemning this government’s rabid policies towards the ‘deserving‘ poor, Frank’s team decided that the ‘undeserving’ poor, who could not budget and cook properly, who wasted their benefits on non-essentials, only
had themselves to blame for their hunger. These feckless, ungrateful people should be sent to the State Troubled Families Gulags for ‘reprogramming’. As Frank’s co-author, the posh Tory, Lady Jenkin, famously said: If they can’t cook, let them eat porridge. A bowl only costs 4p.

The issue of these ‘undeserving’ poor people was framed not as one of intellectual and social inadequacy but as a matter of personal irresponsibility and lack of moral sensibility. Frank has long had a clear and fixed view of the coping differences between the deserving and undeserving poor in the underclass

‘How can these different circumstances be explained if personal character and its view of responsibility are written out of the script?’ – Frank Field, Neighbours from Hell

Nothing has changed two years later. Frank’s second hunger report, ‘A Route Map to ending hunger as we know it in the UK’, was launched at the end of 2015 and the 3rd , interim report, ‘Britain’s not so hidden hunger’, in May 2016…and somewhat more circumspectly than the first report. The 2nd report is based on submissions from a sample of the 420 UK food banks which are now active according to the Trussel Trust. The sample evidence involved narrative observations from 115 food banks. This is a sample of 27%. Seven of the submissions were said to be anonymous. The second report still rightly sees a major factor in hunger creation as rabid government welfare policies and their deliberatively destructive implementation. However we will see that sadly, underlying attitudes to the ‘feckless’ poor in the report have not changed. Turning to page 79 of the ‘evidence’ we read that

‘A sizeable majority (is it 20, 30, 40%?) of submissions attributed the onset of, and constant vulnerability to hunger in some families to their inability to cook and budget from week to week. ‘

Several food banks are quoted. Liverpool’s HOPE+ centre allegedly said

‘while it might not be a popular observation… many people do not spend their limited budget wisely in respect of food…this is due to a lack of basic budgeting skills and an inability or unwillingness to cook.

Frank concludes that therefore, school curricula must include compulsory ‘home economics and life skills courses’. A good thing surely? Well, yes but we must be careful when Frank becomes prescribing in the area of social policy. Things may get out of hand. Consider his views on the wider state control of UK society in his book, Neighbours From Hell:

‘Moral and civic duties provide the very foundations upon which civilised life is built and are a proper area for legislative prescription and if necessary sanctions’

Moral duties? Who is to decide on these …why Frank, of course. We must therefore be careful where Frank’s nostrums are involved. Other food bank correspondents took less condemning stances on the hungry. Financial Action and Advice, Derbyshire said

‘Many people have poor budgeting skills and prioritise wrongly…some have poor literacy and numeracy and don’t understand contracts…’

The issue here is primarily one of low IQ and poor education, not moral turpitude.

On page 80 the report turns, in earnest, to the theme of waste and the irresponsible use of resources by the poor. We are told that

‘The financial benefit of being able to use one’s resources more efficiently could make a huge difference to household budgets. The average cost to all households of the food and drink they throw away each week is £9 or 14% of the average weekly shopping budget.’

Presumably we are invited to assume, without evidence, that these figures apply equally to the poorest in the UK and without any caveats. It’s hard to throw away food from an empty fridge…or preserve food when you have no electricity to run it. It is interesting that the average shopping budget implied above is £64 while job seekers allowance and employment and support allowance (in the WRA Group) for the sick and disabled, is just £69 per week. (By the way the author knows from his professional career with a large multi-national that food processing and transport losses in the supply chain are often in excess of 25%. Perhaps the well off, throw away, middle class and the food companies should be condemned rather than the, desperate, hungry poor?)

Having set up the poor as ‘wasters’ we now move on to allegedly wilful misuse of benefits. We learn according to Frank, that

‘Even if wages and benefits were high enough to provide a subsistence minimum, we fear some of our citizens still would fall below our national minimum because of the havoc wreaked on their budgets by addictions to drink, smoking and gambling.’

This is based on two condemning reports from (unidentified) food banks. One allegedly said

‘…we are anxious that by giving them food we are freeing up money for some of them to fund other habits. Most of them smoke, many of them have drug or alcohol dependency…
We are trying to cap the level of benefit which entitles clients to come to us.’

The second allegedly said

‘Fags are ever present among poor people. They [fags] hoover money out of the pocket
…the addictive and damaging aspect of smoking is awful. It is a major factor in taking money for food and spending it on addiction…’

Of course government has the power to ban addictive and health damaging products as it does with illegal drugs. But then think of the outcry if popular ‘drugs’ were banned outright …and the loss of tax revenue. No, it is easier to further raise unit costs and impose more tax, which penalises the poorest ‘addicts’ and has no effect on the middling classes, while appearing virtuous. The poor should not be smoking and drinking anyway should they?
Addiction is a ‘lifestyle choice’…but only if you are poor.

It is interesting that in comments on other ‘hunger creating factors’ in the report, the food banks are always identified…but not in this case. In other areas of concern several food banks are typically quoted. In this case only two. Is this because dependency and misuse of benefits is not a major issue and few correspondents reported it as such? Well apparently only 2 out of 115 submissions, or 1.7% of submissions, took this strong
stance. Why are these 2 not identified? Were they by coincidence, 2 of the 7 anonymous submissions received in total? Should we give equal weight to opinions which are anonymous? In other research fields, data of unknown provenance would be deleted.

In fact under the earlier ‘debt’ section of the report, the County Durham food bank takes
a directly opposite view on this matter.

‘Our debt advice service is increasingly seeing people who are simply on low incomes rather than those who have been unwise in how they spend their money. Single parents, working but on low incomes, are being seen especially [frequently].’

This view is not referenced in the ‘addictions’ and ‘benefit wasting’ section although it is clearly relevant to the issue at hand and its origin is clearly identified.

Although ‘dependency’ and ‘addiction’ are recognised medical conditions we see no discussion of accessing serious medical treatment, but we see again a concern for the risk of creating a ‘moral hazard’, implied in supplying food to the hungry. It is the same apparent ‘hazard’ which persuades many to not give money to beggars…they will only waste it.
This was an argument frequently used by Iain Duncan Smith, DWP minister, to justify cutting benefits. As the report says, we should do all we can to combat smoking and other addictions. We must not however ‘punish’ desperate people in the mean time …which clearly a small minority of food banks is ready to do…with the implicit endorsement of Frank’s report. But then Frank has long established views on ‘dependency’ and lack of moral fibre as his earlier utterances show. And as he said in the Wirral Globe on 22.05.15

‘The Victorians [or rather the evangelical Christians] were not wrong when they called alcohol the demon drink’

Of course many food banks are run by Christian church groups. Perhaps the two pro-Frank food bank quotes (out of 115 ) share his views and are able to apply them to the unfortunate hungry who come to their doors? Surely Frank and his moralising friends should be campaigning to ban the ‘demon drink’ in general …beginning by closing down the House of Commons bar and imposing sobriety checks on MPs entering the chamber.
Surely MP and peer ‘allowances’ should be reduced in case they are misspent on booze and cigars…and much worse. And what about the alcohol, tobacco and legal high infested middle class, not to mention the coke snorting metropolitan elite? Well, Frank et al, lack the levers to compel moral compliance in such groups.

The fact is the ‘hungry poor’ is the last minority where ideological governments intent on rolling back the Welfare State can justify rabid cuts by labelling powerless citizens as ‘scroungers’, ‘benefit cheats’ and addicted, moral degenerates, unworthy of support. It is doubly sad when ‘charity’ groups, supposedly opposing government benefits policy and ‘supporting’ the hungry poor, use the same moralising arguments to try to impose their views on how the poor should behave. Persuasion or rational argument and education is one thing but using hunger as a weapon for (supposedly) moral and social reform is quite another. Is this perhaps an overly harsh view of some in the ‘charity’ sector? If we examine other attitudes and recommendations in Frank’s report we will see that it is not.

Chapter 4 is about ‘rescuing Britain’s wasted food’. Frank tells us

‘Earlier in this report we outlined a series of uncomfortable findings around some families lacking skills that were once passed from one generation to the next; namely how to be good parents and be able to cook decent meals on a limited budget…the absence of these skills can impact badly upon one’s self worth.’

Hang on there…where did the issue of ‘being good parents’ sneak into the debate on
poverty and hunger? Well Frank has long had feckless, inadequate parents in his sights. That is why in the first Feeding Britain report he tried to get hungry, mentally impaired parents sent to the abusive, ineffective, Troubled Families Projects. As he has said many times

‘As an ever increasing number of families becomes dysfunctional an ever increasing supply of socially offensive individuals results’- Neighbours From Hell

Frank would like to see Citizens’ Contracts imposed by the state which would enforce his views on ‘moral and civic duties’ and behaviour …at least on the dependent poorest. Citizen ‘duties’ would be linked to ‘benefit entitlement’. As he said in NFH

‘New boundaries need to be drawn…Benefits provide such a boundary as between them they provide universal coverage for those most likely to commit antisocial behaviour [the undeserving poor]’

Frank, who has attacked the Conservative government for cutting benefits to the poor, is ready, for those who fail to abide by his model of society, to…well…cut their benefits!
Not only this, but the imposing of sanctions should be seen as a criminal justice matter!

‘The agency deciding what action should follow a repeated failure to meet a [citizen’s] contract should be the police and only the police. Once the police have the required evidence to levy a sanction…[it] should automatically come into operation on the appropriate benefit.’

The hungry poor appear to be trapped between a rock and a hard place. On the one side
a rabid government: on the other, some in the ‘charity sector’ with a moral utopian agenda. The only difference between Frank and this Conservative government on benefit sanctions is the reason for them, although in both cases those reasons are ideological as we have seen. So how will Frank use the issue of food waste to promote his utopian aims? He will use so-called Social Supermarkets along the lines of the Community Shop model. In the report he recommends, grandly that

‘A next phase in Britain’s fight back against hunger must encourage the growth and evolution of social supermarkets. Here we have an accessible source of affordable food that also comes with so much more in the way of practical and emotional support…’

The Community Shop website itself says

‘CS is a social enterprise that is empowering individuals and building strong communities by realising the social potential of surplus food’

That is some claim. The idea is to buy ‘surplus’ food from manufacturers at ‘ten pence in the pound’ and sell it at ‘thirty pence in the pound’ to a defined subset of the poor. The CS chairman has told the media

‘CS is tackling the problem of food surplus while giving it a real social purpose. Not only do we offer high quality, low cost food to people experiencing tough times, but we provide them with the chance to take up support services…because they are [then] motivated to do better.’

Surely this time Frank is correct to enthusiastically support such a positive model? The author looked more closely at the scheme some time ago. Their jolly website once listed the wide range of means tested benefits which enables ‘those on the cusp of poverty’
to access the Community Shops. The author was surprised to note that sick and disabled people on long term employment and support allowance were excluded…yet these are amongst the most disadvantaged benefit recipients in the country. Well it turns out that CS is only for those on in work benefits and the unemployed and the ‘real social purpose’ is ‘training to get them back into work’ and ‘motivated to do better’.

So these Community Shops actually, do not support the most vulnerable in the Community, nor those in a state of urgent need. No doubt the social supermarket model is worthy but it seems peripheral to the problem of immediate, urgent hunger in families. Why is Frank so keen on it then? We will see.

Surely helping the unemployed is still a good thing? Well according to The Independent there is a catch: to get the ‘cheap’ food the applicants must sign up to a compulsory development and mentoring programme called the ‘Success Plan’…nothing is left to ‘chance’ despite the chairman’s claim. This appears to be rather like many state schemes available through Job Centre Plus. So why the ‘charity sector’ duplication? Well ASDA,
the Co-op, M&S, Morrisons, Tesco, etc, who supply the food get good public relations coverage …doing their bit for the poor. What does the company get? We do not know …perhaps just a warm glow? Well in 2014 the Community Shop won the ‘Community Partner’ award of the powerful Food & Drink Federation whose members had supplied the surplus food. Warm glows all round. CS won the award in competition with famous social activists and philanthropists like General Mills, Mars Foods and Siemens. Anyway, at least the potentially hungry CS members ‘are motivated to do better’ …or they don’t get any food. Certainly Frank can’t get enough of this scheme. We might suspect it takes Frank back to those heady Victorian days when the feckless poor could be turned around in their lazy, immoral ways in return for bread or workhouse shelter. After all there is a moral imperative here as benefits ‘rot the soul’, according to Frank in 2012. As he also said about means tested benefits

‘As we now have a welfare state based on meeting need, this encourages individuals, not unreasonably, to try to ensure they qualify under this guise. It therefore pays to lie about one’s earnings, to cheat, or to be [economically] inactive. The worst side of human nature is encouraged…’ – Neighbours From Hell

‘It’s our fault as politicians to have put temptation in front of people. If the system pays people more on incapacity benefit [than job seekers allowance], it’s human nature to claim the higher amount. We have to remove the incentive’ – Guardian, 2006.

What this means is taking £30 per week off genuinely disabled and chronically sick people
rather than increasing incapacity and ESA applicant screening efficiency. Frank has forgotten that the welfare state was founded precisely to support people in need and ‘for as long as the need lasts’ according to Lord Beveridge himself. As the author suggested earlier, Frank and his like minded friends, appear to be ideologically as concerned with avoiding ‘moral hazard’ and ‘soul rot’ as feeding the urgently hungry. At the very least the above statement makes very clear what Frank really thinks about the poor he says he is championing. Is that so different from the views of rabid Tories like Eric Pickles, then Communities minister, who commanded a ‘less understanding approach’ be applied

‘ We have sometimes run away from categorising, stigmatising, laying blame…It’s time to wake up to that…to realise the state is no longer willing to subsidize a life of complete non-fulfilment on just about every level.’

In March 2015 Eric declared the supposed triumph of his Troubled Families Projects in
‘turning around’ the dysfunctional, feckless, lazy, cheating families we have discussed.
Somehow getting somebody back into work in 8.9% of the 75% of families who began the projects with all adults unemployed, and marginally reducing truancy, defined this triumph. In Frank’s home territory on Wirral just 2.6% got jobs. Even these modest results were exaggerations since Eric’s own department tells us that

‘It is likely some of the improvements in outcomes would have happened in the absence of [project] intervention’

It should be noted that the council survey data used by Eric to make his claims are not recognised as official government statistics and have not been audited by any independent body. Eric’s claims were defined by the director of the National Institute for Economic & Social Research as
‘Completely meaningless’

Some MPs expressed doubts on the veracity of the success claims in the House of Commons, including Hilary Benn MP. However Frank still rose to congratulate Eric, whose approach to dysfunctional families was clearly as policy nectar to Frank, and put in his two pence worth, based on his expert observations of the dysfunctional poor

‘There were other scallywags who could not be bothered to feed their children.’

Sounds familiar? Meanwhile in Eric’s TF projects, 33% of the families had adults with long term, debilitating, physical illnesses or disabilities and 45% had adults and 33% had children with serious mental health problems. 39% had children with special educational needs statements and 28% had children in special schools. 97% were in social housing. 27% were in rent arrears. They were very poorest. Now that’s feckless for you. Only 3% had members receiving treatment for drug or alcohol dependency. 93% of the adults had no involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour. We do not know how many families had to resort to food banks.

There is much that is worthy in the second Feeding Britain report and particularly in the dissection of the roll out of Tory government ‘welfare reforms’ in creating hunger in the UK.
Recommendations for reform of government welfare reforms are well targeted. The simple innovation of having a (hopefully independent) benefit adviser sit in the food banks to try
to resolve benefit problems is excellent : the so-called Food Bank Plus model, although
the echo of ‘Job Centre Plus’ is disturbing and mission creep should be watched carefully.

There are some recommendations, possibly, equally well meant but unlikely to be practical. The idea of budgetary advisers in JC+ encouraging desperate claimants, already in dire straits, living from hand to mouth, that they really should save for a rainy day is quaint, to be polite. It is a reasonable strategic aim but out of place in an emergency context. It very much reflects Frank’s root conviction that the feckless poor simply need reprogramming to behave more responsibly and so escape poverty. Frank’s concept of downplaying ‘relative poverty based on median income’ as the key indicator of UK poverty and substituting social or ‘life chances’ indicators has been very popular with Tories who
want to take the heat off the benefits and poverty debate. Concentrating on ‘life chances’
might correctly highlight the need for social (unlikely under Tory austerity) investment in several areas but it also turns the spotlight onto the supposedly feckless behaviour of the poor themselves. If that ploy was successful the way to a new Frankensteinian Utopia is opened!

Some of the analyses and recommendations we have examined need to be looked at very carefully and if implemented, monitored very closely. At least the ideological basis of this government’s actions is crystal clear: the reduction or elimination of the welfare state. The ideological basis of some of Frank’s proposals is not overt and should be spelled out. If one wants to try to build a new, Moral Jerusalem on the backs of the poor and hungry do so openly so that the community may debate it. But then Lady ‘Porridge’ Jenkin raised a storm of protest at the first Feeding Britain report launch when she crudely blamed the ’feckless’ poor for their own hunger. Let us hope the media and the British public will remain on the side of unconditional compassion for these vulnerable, hungry families, and particularly for their children who are indisputably innocent, and equally, be vigilant in future about damaging policy innovations by the state and by self-styled ‘do-gooders’ with an agenda.

I completely support Archbishop Welby’s key question in his introduction to the second UK hunger report

‘How can we take part in a wider debate about the nature of our society?’

We have to give Frank credit for consistency of purpose and sheer, brass balled cheek.
In May 2016 the interim Feeding Britain report, ‘Britain’s not so hidden hunger’ came out…
fairly quietly. But locally Frank could not resist using it in the press to push his socio-religious-political agenda. Under the title ‘Hunger stalking primary schools’ Frank ascribed the problem as resulting from

‘a breakdown in parenting and a rise in the number of families on low incomes.’

Given the priority position of the ‘poor parenting’ claim I expected to find significant new evidence in the report. However the only mention of poor parenting is in Frank’s report forward. The evidence and conclusion sections focus exclusively on the impact of low incomes i.e. on poverty. Yet Frank mentions irresponsible parents

‘spending too much on drink or drugs’

as one reason for hungry children, but then immediately says

‘we do not know [if this is so]’

Having then described his assumed model of parental neglect, based on what he calls ‘impressions’, he continues

’We have too few facts to give any numbers.’

This is a continuation of the evidential style of Frank et al, in the first and second hunger reports, where as we noted earlier, Lady Jenkin blamed malnutrition on poor parents not knowing how to cook. After all, as she said

‘A bowl of porridge only costs 4p.’

But what do you do if you have no money for the gas or electricity? Jenkin was blaming the victims and two years later so is Frank Field.

The Professor

July 2016
P.S. Frank is always ready to attack minority groups who lack the intellect and resources to
defend themselves. But sometimes enthusiasm carries him away and he forgets that
some people, such as traduced retail billionaires, will sue him to hell when falsely
called a ‘thief’ in the media. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the BHS scandal there
are many who will watch with interest as Saint Frank either climbs down or is ripped
apart in court for his loose talk and inaccurate claims.

Wirral’s Next Top Model

Bad Hair day 012

Entries welcome for our Eric’s bad hair day caption competition. Picture courtesy of John Brace 

 

We’ve only just caught up with Monday’s Wirral Council Employment & Appointments Committee after giving you the heads up last week that Head of Housing  Ian Platt’s tidy retirement package was being discussed.

Needless to say nothing to report on that score as prolific film-maker John Brace was politely asked to leave before that golden handshake was signed off.

However we were treated to a rare speaking engagement by reclusive CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson who introduced his “New Operating Model” to replace his predecessor Graham Burgess’s “Non Operating Model”. We say this as there seemed to be an acknowledgement that Burgess’s appointment of so-called Super Directors was an expensive and wasteful extra tier of management . Council “leader” Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies seemed keen to draw a line under Burgess’s embarrassing tenure by declaring forlornly ” we are where we are” whilst repeatedly using his Deputy Ann McLachlan ‘s catchphrase ” going forward”. No wonder she sat virtually mute for the entire meeting – the one trick pony had lost her trick.

Meanwhile Stressed Eric was proving his charisma by-pass operation had been a complete success as he appeared to be playing a game of  buzzword bingo on Mogadon. We think the term “Strategic Hub” says it all.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50035635/New%20Operating%20Model%20Report.pdf

What was dispiriting for us to observe was the way that the lurch towards a business model which prioritises putting public services into the hands of private companies was so enthusiastically received by one and all despite the fact that Wirral Council is NOT a business.

Just a thought : how about employing managers who are truly committed to public service and not to their over-inflated paypackets?.

Whilst Stressed Eric briefly mentioned the C word – “culture”  that is – he swiftly moved on to more  familiar territory and concentrated on far less problematic areas such as “structures” and “processes”.

There were a few other interesting observations to make along the way such as Department of Adult Social Services Director Graham Hobgoblinson bagging himself an  Assistant Director – as let’s face it he needs all the help he can get  despite , with the impending closure of Girtrell Court  , finally getting rid of all in-house services. Let’s hope he has better success than with previous DASS Assistant Directors!

We also noted that  Joe Blott’s exit strategy has been put on hold and he will now be slotted in to the “New Operating Model” structure despite questions being asked about his “skill set” ( I think we can read between the lines what is meant by that can’t we?) . Of course Councillors must now be aware that Blott is calling the shots as he’s recently joined the Surjit Tour Job For Life Club. It must be the aspiration of every Wirral Council senior manager to wheedle your way into a position of power by means of your knowledge – which is less about knowledge of how to do you job and more about knowing where the bodies are buried……….   

 

 

The Emperor of Dissemblance

Frank_nap

“He keeps saying he’s going to sort it out. He needs to get his chequebook out and write a cheque” – is Frank Field addressing this statement to Sir Philip Green or to Wirral Council Chief Executive Eric Robinson? 

I was awoken from my golden slumbers this morning by Her Ladyship shrieking :

” Darling , come quickly, that ghastly man is on Radio 4 again…..”  

As there seem to be so many ghastly men (and women) about at the moment it was only when I heard the familiar condescending drawl that I realised she meant dear old Birkenhead MP Frank Field (aka Frankenfield).

Whilst sat at the dining room table I settled down to listen to Frankenfield fulminate against “Sir” Philip Green   described as the “unacceptable face of capitalism ” in a report into the collapse of BHS published today by the Work and Pensions and Business, Innovations and Skills Committees . As we know Frankenfield is the chair of the former Committee and took the opportunity  to do his well worn holier than thou routine and asked :  “What kind of man is it who can count his fortune in billions but does not know what decent behaviour is?”

For the the full tawdry story : https://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2016/jul/25/damning-bhs-report-leaves-sir-philip-green-under-pressure-business-live?page=with:block-5795a8a3e4b0d75e7e5f2dcd

That was bad enough however I nearly choked on my kedgeree as Frankenfield  with breathtaking hypocrisy called Green a “Napoleon figure who orchestrated all this ” and who was “used to everyone around him doing as they’re told”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36879241

Takes a Napoleon to know a Napoleon we thought to ourselves! .

Although in this case Frankenfield ‘s Napoleon being less like Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and more like the Napoleon from Animal Farm – Our Leader,Comrade Napoleon, Father of all Animals, Terror of Mankind,Protector of the sheep-fold,Ducklings’ Friend – the Emperor of Dissemblance.

Frankenfield went on (and on and on) to demand  that Sir Green should write a cheque for “at least” £571m for the BHS pensioners……..which in comparison his demand for £48,000 x 4  from Wirral Council for his favoured recording artistes seems quite reasonable! .

But what was it about Frankenfield’s insistence that the collapse of BHS  was all down to  model -botherer and yacht-collector Green ?  (he certainly has it in for Greens doesn’t he ?- whether they’re former Wirral Council Directors or the Wirral Green Party).More objective commentators have drawn attention to the fact that the BHS Inquiry deservedly lambasted not only Green , but the buyer of BHS Dominic Chappell and their enablers.

A report in today’s Financial Times titled “BHS report lays bare failure and liability” states that  – ” Some of the report’s most withering passages are reserved for the “directors, advisers and hangers-on” who surround the two men (Green and Chappell) . They “are all culpable”, the MPs say.”

Among the advisers were  Grant Thornton, the accountancy and auditing firm . Who also strangely enough are Wirral Council’s  auditors. We were particularly drawn to the Financial Times comment that these directors,advisers and hangers-on gave the greedy Green “the lustre of credibility”.

We can’t help feeling the same “lustre of credibility” is similarly given to  Frankenfield and the Wirralgate scandal by the likes of Council directors ,advisers, hangers on and in particular Grant Thornton.

We say this as we are in possession of some astonishing correspondence between Grant Thornton and a local person of interest who has asked us to hang fire for the moment as they (and us) await further developments.

So finally we’d like to ask our readers that whilst they’re demanding “Sir ” Philip gets stripped of his knighthood that St.Frank gets stripped of his sainthood and we’ll leave the last word to Napoleon himself …….

Napoleon quote

 

 

The Eagle Has Crash Landed

Eagle private Eye 009

Picture courtesy of Private Eye magazine

Now that Wallasey MP Angela Eagle has withdrawn from the Labour leadership contest we thought we’d take some time out to reflect on what has to have been the most misbegotten overthrow attempt since Lambert Simnel was a pretender to the throne of Henry VII.

Wirral Leaks suggests there are 3 reasons why it all may have gone horribly wrong for Our Ange :

  1. Leadership 

Whilst Her Ladyship thinks she’d make a great Brown Owl for the village hall Brownie pack was anyone ever convinced that Eagle  would be a great leader of the Labour Party?. Now as you know we’re very much  from the school of thought that if you want to tell people the truth you make them laugh otherwise they will kill you. Therefore we think the Dead Ringers skit on Radio 4 absolutely nailed Eagle’s leadership qualities. From her will she ? , won’t she ? , who cares?  -just bloody get on with it!  leadership challenge to her awkward, faltering media appearances listen here from 16:40 on as Our Ange’s entire campaign is summed up in a single sketch:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07j7nvf

“I may sound like a nervous badger trying to cross a busy motorway but I’m ruthless. Dead ruthless. I’m hard as nails. If I want something I’ll take it …then I put it back . I apologise for taking it and cry when the police are called.” 

     2. Victimhood

Threats and abuse are never to be tolerated but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from observing politicos (and especially local ones) is that they sure know how to play the victim.

Witness Our Ange  whinging on Radio 4 about how she -didn’t -really- want- to- stab Jezza Corbyn- in -the- back -but- it -was- for- the- good- of- the- Labour- Party- and -to -claim- that- she- was- a -Janus-faced -political- opportunist- was- cruel -and -hurtful -and -can -she -please -have -her- teddy- and -her- dum-dum -now- please .

Now we don’t know (nor does anyone) who the perpetrator was or what the motivation behind the brick through the window of the shared premises  where Our Ange’s constituency office is based but Ange herself was very quick to lay the blame at the door of aggrieved local Corbynistas. Although listening to her you ‘d think it was Wirral’s Kristallnacht . Now we’ve never attended a Wallasey CLP meeting and it’s highly unlikely we’d ever be invited so we don’t know what went on between party members.

However what we do know is that if  but if you mislead those constituency members and tell them that everything is fine and dandy and that you support Jeremy Corbyn 100% and then next thing they know you’re mounting a leadership challenge and calling him fit to burn then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’re constituency members feel they’ve been misled and are a bit miffed.

And so after all that – not only did you not become Labour leader your constituency members wanted a vote to deselect you as their MP.  As a result we now understand that the whole of the Wallasey Constituency Labour Party has now been suspended by the Labour Party hierarchy. Way to go Ange!.

    3.  Branding

“Angela” – the brand was launched at an ill-fated press conference held to announce her leadership challenge where all the leading main political commentators had dashed off to something much more interesting – Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal from the Tory leadership contest (oh the irony!).

The pink banners ,the pink flag, the pink jacket, the pink lipstick. More TV daytime host than a potential head of state “Angela” seemed to have hired the same team responsible for the  PR car-crash that was Harriet Harman’s pink battle bus from the last General Election campaign. You’d think they’d realise that it takes more to woo women voters than the colour pink. A marketing guru overdosing on frappucinos must have been paid all kinds of crazy money to come up with the genius idea  :” I know let’s go for pink. Girlies like pink- a lighter , less threatening shade of red”.So much for making much of her female credentials it’s like feminism never happened.

Might we suggest that to keep the attention of the media and musical theatre fans she should should have gone for the full “Think Pink” production number with the built in catchphrase : “Red is dead, Blue is through, Green obscene…..”

 

 

Pay As You Go

payg

Next week’s Wirral Council Employment & Appointments Committee sees the latest money haemorrhaging merry go round known as a senior management restructure.

Can we advise that Chief Executive Eric ” Feeble” Robinson just keeps his head down and do as he’s told as history tells us that having a strong view on a particular appointment contributed to the departure of two previous CEOs (Wilkie and Burgess) and led to that notorious £48,000 pay-off which eventually set in motion a further series of spectacular bungs.

We understand that the latest recipient of Wirral Council largesse is Head of Housing and Community Safety Ian Platt who is heading off into the sunset.

Of course  we’re not allowed to know how much this golden handshake costs us before the meeting is held and we suspect it’ll be the usual arm-wrestle before the council are forced to disclose it.

However we’re led to believe the package is worth £225,000!. Which should be enough to keep Platty in pies well into what we hope is a long and happy retirement.

I suppose we should be grateful at least that , as far as we know,  this package is not linked to misconduct ,malpractice or motivated by political expedience.

As for other matters being discussed  at the Committee we note that Head of Law and Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour is in line for a pay rise. No doubt ‘for services rendered’ and which might we suggest are not always in the public interest!.

 

People Who Need People……

Einstein -People

…….are the unluckiest people in the world.

Well judging by the fact that Wirral Council have a fancy new Scrutiny Committee called “People” anyway ( the other two Scrutiny Committees are called “Business” & ” Environment”)

Yes really.

We know the first meeting of the People Overview Scrutiny Committee was held last week and we note that some of the same people involved in the biggest safeguarding failure of vulnerable people in Wirral’s history were back at the helm as  DASS Manager Amanda Kelly made a recommendation to the chair Matron Moira McLaughlin that Wirral councillors should get involved in monitoring Wirral’s care homes – because let’s face it Mother Kelly’s team haven’t been doing a great job have they? – judging by the number of home closures and a series of damning Care Quality Commission reports (yet two more homes they announced who require improvement this week are Hilbre House and Seabank House).

Also in attendance was Dr. Sue Wells. “Who’s she?”  we hear you ask.

She’s the one who appears on the leaflet that was recently pushed through your door asking you to sign up to The Wirral Care Record – a single digital confidential care record which by spring 2017 will mean that YOUR information will be shared by Wirral Community NHS Trust , Cheshire and Wirral NHS Foundation Trust and Wirral Council.

Would you trust (no pun intended) any of these  organisations to keep your personal information confidential?.Would you trust them full stop?

We wouldn’t! – we advise our readers to visit healthywirral.org.uk and submit an “opt out” request or call 0151 541 5440 and ask to be opted out.

However we were particularly drawn to the attendance of former Crime Reduction Initiative (CRI) employee  CLLR ANGELA DAVIES  who asked some innocuous question about laptops ( because laptops are so much less problematic than vulnerable people).

Hey Councillor Davies – how about asking “People” about your former employer now known as “CHANGE, GROW, LIVE”  (CGL). No,seriously – this must the  worst rebranding since Wirral Partnership Homes became “Magenta Living”.

http://www.changegrowlive.org/

According to our sources CGL appear to be having a problem with the “LIVE” bit of their acronym  based on the following messages we’ve received :

“CRI, now CGL is an absolute shambles. Broken promises to service users and 65 service user deaths since takeover. An increase of nearly 300% compared to NHS. Commissioners have a lot to answer for…..”

” (£) 24 m contract they were given. Still haven’t opened a hub in New Ferry 18 months in. Everything done on the cheap. Volunteers/ recovery champions falling off the wagon left right and centre…..”

There are many good people that work there. I wouldn’t want to cause them any problems . There are also plenty of idiots there too. Commissioners need to be grilled…..”

We’re sure that the People Overview Scrutiny Committee will want to answer these questions next time they meet in September!. Perhaps the Committee’s “Independent Person” could do us all a favour and ask them on our behalf as Cllr Davies seems curiously reluctant to perform her public duties. Yeah just keep banking the cheque and expenses Cllr Davies – what a fine exemplar of public service you seem to be.

We can’t help feeling (and not the first time) that vulnerable people deserve so much better than the people on the “People Scrutiny Overview Committee” !………….

 

 

Three Is The Magic Number

3 010

Our thanks go out to one of our keen readers who pointed out it is three years to the day that the chain of events that led to Wirralgate were shamelessly instigated.

Put out the flags! pop the corks! and the celebrate the most successful cover up in Wirral Council history !!. Yay !!!

Three bloody years !. If only they were as good at running the Council as they were in covering their arses perhaps His Lord and Ladyship could finally retire.

Here captured for posterity is the Council meeting held three years ago that the then Deputy Mayor Cllr Steve Foulkes unleashed a series of events that have potentially cost the people of Wirral hundreds of thousands of pounds. Because obviously like a L’Oreal supermodel he’s worth it (that’s a joke obviously).

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/silly-season-opens-at-leaky-towers/

DatsLibel

Whether he was relying on his own arrogance and being safe in the knowledge he was protected by some of the most powerful (and corrupt) political figures  on Wirral or the docility of the other elected members in Council chambers who think this kind of conduct is acceptable because according to Foulkes they’re “kindred” we’ll leave to our readers to decide.

What we do know is that following this unbecoming outburst in the aftermath of the appearance of whistleblowers Hobro and Morton (who we can ecstatically report are still very much on the case – bless ’em ) and which so irked Foulkes that he then resorted to these kamikaze tactics and tried to ensnare a Liverpool Echo journalist sitting in the public gallery into an amateurish smear campaign against political opportunist  Cllr Jeff Green – seen standing in the above picture and pretending to be aggrieved.

Town hall foulkes 2 008 Town hall foulkes 2 013Town hall foulkes 2 016

As you can see from the above pictures this is how some politicians think is the control they should have over local journalists.They’re there to do as they’re told and if they don’t they’re  threatened with legal action. But imagine being told what to do by Steve Foulkes ! – it’s enough to make a grown man’s scrotum retreat into his pelvic cavity at the speed of Usain Bolt.

What has intrigued us these past three years -other than the fact as to how the hell do they get away with it -is did no-one (and we’re talking Power Boy Pip here) say : So what were you doing leaving the Council chambers to hand an incriminating document stolen from the ex-Director of Law’s files in contravention of the Data Protection Act in an attempt to get back at your old rival Jeff Green?

What did Foulkes say ?. I was having a wazz?

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wazz

Probably – as let’s face it he and his ilk have been taking the piss for years….

 

 

BOGOF

BOGOF

Pat Williams                                                Harry Smith 1

As a postscript to Monday’s Wirral Council meeting we couldn’t let proceedings pass without commenting on the vote to bestow former councillors Harry Smith (Labour) and Patricia Williams (Liberal Democrats) with the title Honorary Alderman.

We particularly note that there was an attempt by opposition councillors to vote separately on the respective appointments. Needless to say the majority Labour group were having none of it.They made it clear that Smith and Williams were a package deal  – a cut price buy one get one free offer. They were lumped together as a double act – the political equivalent of The Krankies…….without the laughs.

So what could possibly be the objection to the civic honour to one of these fine upstanding former public servants?. Could it be that one of them was a foul-mouthed,belligerent and incompetent councillor?.

We’ll leave our readers to guess who we mean but we will draw your attention that ex (and X-rated) Councillor Harry Smith once publicly used a four letter word beginning with C to describe a Wirral Globe journalist. He also publicly used a four letter word beginning with T to describe a Liverpool Echo journalist . The T word being “Tory”. But then the journalist did tip off Tory leader Jeff Green about the Wirralgate recordings so that’s perfectly understandable on Smith’s part. He also once gave the person who made the Wirralgate recordings a two-fingered salute.  So at least we can say he believed in Equal Opportunities  – everyone of any political persuasion could potentially be on the receiving end of his statesmanlike behaviour.

We draw this to the attention of our dear devoted readers only to remind them that when local politicians pretend that they’ve just  graduated from a Swiss finishing school rather than being dragged up in the north end of Birkenhead and clasp their breast in feigned horror that Wirral Leaks is  “poisonous and insulting” (guilty as charged) they need to remember who they consider should be revered as a pillar of the community and worthy of civic honours and STFU.

Nevertheless Pat and Harry will be able to exchange amusing anecdotes at their joint reception over publicly funded nibbles and fizz – such as the time that Cllr Williams brought up in Council chambers how they both attended a briefing where the then Director of Adult Social Services Kevin Miller and his assistant Maura Noone repeatedly lied to them . My how they’ll laugh! – of course the trouble with Harry is that he couldn’t remember being at this particular meeting when Cllr Williams brought it up – so it makes you wonder how someone with such crippling amnesia was able to make decisions which affected the lives of Wirral people doesn’t it?………….

 

Private Sector / Public Interest

Private Sector 2

We said we’d return to the matter of the inevitable closure of Girtrell Court. And sure enough at last night’s Wirral Council meeting – despite the impassioned and eloquent appeal on behalf of the Save Girtrell Court campaign by carer Bernard Halley – the Council pressed on with their proposed “we know best” shiny new respite scheme  (with much reduced capacity ) in Tollemache Road.

Now we know nothing about the proposed housing and support provider Sanctuary Housing who are associated with this new scheme but what we’ve raised time and time again is this headlong rush by a Labour controlled Wirral Council to gleefully hand public money over to the private sector.

Perhaps when it comes to emptying the bins and mending the roads we don’t get quite so animated but we do when it comes to services for vulnerable people. We want to state for the record that we don’t think services for vulnerable people should always be subject to the vagaries of the free market. Putting profit before people is never a good thing – especially when those people are particularly vulnerable.

We have pointed out before that the same people voting to close public services are the same people wearing ‘I ♥ NHS’ badges and who wouldn’t dream of selling off health services so private enterprise could get a piece of the action . Or perhaps they would…

If history has taught us anything that when you put profit before people the result is often (if not always) that services are costly and the quality is poor. It’s a LOSE-LOSE situation – as anyone who’s keeping track of the appalling state of care homes and familiar with the news of yet another care home closure on Wirral will tell you – although judging by the following report that doesn’t include  Wirral Council’s Department of Adult Social Services  (DASS) !.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/wirral-care-home-left-elderly-11590048

A  DASS spokeswoman says of this latest closure and how it will affect elderly residents  : “Their health, wellbeing and future care is our most pressing and important priority” .

Yes , but where were you when there were allegations of abuse, that 25 residents were sharing one bathroom and untrained staff were administering medication ?. No doubt making plans to close Girtrell Court and hand services over to the private sector!. Talking of which we’d particularly like to know how that little experiment is going with the privatisation of drug and alcohol services agreed in 2014  when services were handed over to registered charity Crime Reduction Initiatives (CRI).

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/privatisation-of-nhs-drug-and-alcohol-service-in-wirral

Perhaps we should ask Cllr Angela Davies who worked for Wirral Drug and Alcohol Service before becoming a Project Manager with Crime Reduction Initiatives for 4 months in 2015 before swiftly getting back on board with Cheshire & Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

We’re being informed  that CRI  may have reduced the costs by reducing the level of input for people with drug and alcohol issues . If this is the case this could mean an increase in risk and potentially an increase in deaths and serious incidents associated with this service. We’re hearing about some worrying (if unconfirmed) statistics associated with CRI but I’m sure Cllr Angela Davies would be well placed to reassure the people of Wirral that all is well  and continuing privatisation of critical services is the way to go (even though clearly it wasn’t the case for her!).

 

A Clash of Pinks and Reds

Pink Eagle

What if they gave a press launch and nobody came?.

Angela ” I am a woman” Eagle displays fine comic timing as she has a tumbleweed moment launching her Labour leadership campaign.

https://twitter.com/i/videos/tweet/752468677950337024

Of course the real political interest in Westminster Village was Andrea “Same Old” Leadsom’s withdrawal from the Tory party leadership campaign.

Locally the real political interest was that Our Ange could face a vote of no confidence by the Wallasey Constituency Labour Party.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14611044.Angela_Eagle_could_face__no_confidence__vote_as_leadership_challenge_gets_underway/

Consequently Our Ange’s campaign launch was sidelined as a bit of a sideshow. A case of blushes all round to match her jacket. And before anyone says “you wouldn’t say that if she was a man” we would reply “Oh yes we would!”. The cynical branding of “Angela” as though she’s a bloody daytime TV host is just screaming to be satirised.

We don’t know who’s handling Eagle’s campaign but we think it’ll take more than a “softer image” makeover with lashings of pink to win over the local so called reds under the bed . Anyway in the local vernacular she comes across soft enough as it is…..