Does This Gravy Train Stop On Merseyside ?

Dear,darling Verity has the unenviable task of trawling through Wirral Council minutes which frankly,judging by John Brace’s Blog are usually a wildly inaccurate representation of  proceedings in Wallasey Town Hall.

Those who are unfamiliar with Mr.Brace’s oeuvre should be advised that he is like Wallasey Town Hall’s own Alfred Hitchcock and likes to film Council meetings for posterity (and accuracy).For some strange reason this seems to reduce some Councillors to apoplexy ( including some spectacular hissyfits from foulmouthed Councillor Harry Smith).For this alone everyone  at Leaky Towers applauds you Mr.Brace – our very own bureaucratic auteur .Cinema Verite indeed!.

Meanwhile back to those minutes – Verity informs us that a story in the Globe

triggered something about “bad debts” being buried in the sound and fury of the heated Cabinet meeting held just before Christmas.
It was here that Team GB announced that there had been a failure to recover Social Services debt which ran into millions of pounds and went back a number of years. Council Leader Pip raised his hands in mock horror and said something like “what a terrible shame,how could this have possibly happened?” and then moved swiftly on to the next agenda item completely unchallenged by the angry Council workers who seemingly didn’t make the connection that their jobs were under threat and services would be lost because Social Services Managers (and it must be said Councillors)  had clearly not been doing their jobs properly.

Team GB’s response to this is as predictable as it is dispiriting . In a verbal report to Cabinet on January 24th  titled: “Failure to Recover Social Services Bad Debt”-

“He commented that a revised system of debt collection and pursuance had been introduced to ensure that the build up of unrecoverable bad debts did not continue and that a small team of staff had been set up to pro-actively pursue all outstanding bad debts, where there was a possibility of recovery. In spite of this, the initial indication of the level of unrecoverable bad debts of approximately £10m still stood at the present time. However, with a bad debt provision of £4m, the impact on the current year’s budget would be £6m. This would probably need to be written off and would impact upon the Council’s overall budget.To establish how the level of unrecoverable bad debt had come about, the Chief Executive had appointed Eugene Sullivan, who until a month ago had been the Chief Executive of the National Audit Commission, to undertake an investigation. His brief was to look at the history of the matter, to establish the reasons for the policies that the Council appeared to have in place regarding the collection of debts, to validate the likely amount that could be recovered and to make any recommendations he felt appropriate for future action to ensure there was no repeat of the problem. Mr Sullivan had indicated that he would complete the investigation by mid February and his report would be available initially to the Cabinet and publicly shortly afterwards”

As we understand these “bad debts”  date back some 5 or 6 years  Lady Justine’s eyebrows went heavenward (well they would have done if she wasn’t so expertly Botoxed).”What the blazes were Councillors, Audit Commission,Internal Audit and  Anna Klonowski doing missing the odd £6 million ……whither scrutiny?” she implored, reaching for a sugared almond. “Fear not my good lady…” I said reassuringly “our new permanent Chief Executive has appointed just the man for the job…Mr.Eugene Sullivan is the former Chief Executive of the now defunct National Audit Commission.He sounds like a fine upstanding pillar of the establishment ”

At this point our Librarian Miss Philippa Larkin-About entered the drawing room, gave a discreet cough and sheepishly  handed me an article from our extensive archive.

And it was with a sinking heart we learned that Eugene Sullivan, the £180,000-a-year former chief executive of the Audit Commission – motto: ‘protecting the public purse’ – charged taxpayers £18,000 a year for his stays at the luxury Westminster hotel, plus more than £5,000 a year in train fares, taxis and car mileage.The former Quango chief charged with curbing wasteful public spending was being paid a £4,070-a-year ‘travel allowance’ – even though his daily commute was a one-minute walk between his office and a four-star hotel.That’s £25 a yard……Verity is now doing a quick  FOI request to check if Wirral Council are paying Mr.Sullivan by the yard or by results!…… and all for telling Wirral Council what they should have known already and for which his now former organisation failed to spot in the first place!.

Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if you’re a washed up bureaucrat.  At this point Lady J idly picking bits of confectionery from her false teeth sighed heavily and  said: “For heavens sake when are Wirral Council going to stand up and say ” The Gravy Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore”?.

At this point Eldritch popped his head round the door and unhelpfully remarked: ” Not whilst Casey fucking Jones is at the throttle of the Wirral Council Cannonball Express – it’s like a runaway gravy train fuelled by Council Tax payers money.As the theme tune goes -it seems as though every ex- Chief Executive in the land has jumped aboard when they’d heard  “the tooting of the whistle”.

3 thoughts on “Does This Gravy Train Stop On Merseyside ?

  1. My god, the VALUE you can achieve with a dozen or so compromise agreements with gagging clauses. Scrap the ‘bad debt provision’ smokescreen; shall we just do the pertinent math?

    The going rate per CA is around £250 – which multiplied by 12 (I’m being generous), on Wirral works out to a ratio of £1 ‘invested’ per £3,333 of bad, uncollected debt buried.

    That’s one hell of a good return – and great value for the council tax payer – assuming that the crookedness would not be exposed and the council accounts not shot full of holes.

    Can we put names to this, or will they stay concealed, protected and unaccountable along with the unknown power abusers, learning disabled abusers and serial bullies still hidden inside the Klonowski and Smith Reports?

    What would the LGA Improvement Board now recommend…..?

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