Election Reflection

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And so in the week following the local and Euro elections we at Leaky Towers make some observations and reflect on some of the feedback we’ve received……

“Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet…….”

One of the most depressing aspects of the local elections (other than the calibre of some of the candidates) was the appallingly low turnout. In reverse order , the percentage figures for some of our most deprived  wards were Seacombe (26.7 %) Bidston & St.James (26.6 %) and the lowest of the low –  Rock Ferry (26.5%) where the duly elected Councillor was Moira McLaughlin – upon which we make absolutely no comment.

Compare these figures with the high turnout in some of our most affluent areas – Greasby,Frankby,& Irby (43%) West Kirby & Thurstaston (42.2%) and Clatterbridge (40.5%).

No prizes for guessing which are Labour and which are Tory wards.
And right there you have a graphic illustration of the great east/west Wirral divide which typifies the fractious and divisive politics on this peninsula.
 
Returning a Nice Little Earner

After the assembled throng at the Bidston Tennis Centre had stifled their guffaws at the sight of another PR fail where Comrade Burgesski stood next to a very symbolic and decidedly phallic Moreton lighthouse there was the dawning realisation that as Returning Officer and at 2012 rates  Wirral Council’s CEO was raking in £233 per ward for announcing the results of the elections.  SEE HERE

I’m sure you’ll all agree that  two and a half grand for channelling  Miss World MC Eric Morley for the day is a nice little earner. Of course we’re sure that Comrade Burgesski will be donating his fee to a local foodbank or the Unison fighting fund and not dreaming of a leisurely  fortnight in the Algarve…..

Also benefiting from the election bonanza and receiving half of Burgesski’s fee was Monitoring Officer Surjit  “Not” Poor – which mustn’t have gone down well with certain politicians who we know are not exactly enamoured of the Council’s Official Number Two.

……And the local election largesse didn’t stop there as we hear that many staff employed by WC were paid extra for election duties as well as having ‘special paid leave’

We understand Wirral Council’s notoriously renowned nepotism ensured that one person had her whole family on election duties and they raked in a tidy sum between them working Wednesday, Thursday & Friday and then Sunday!
Trebles all round on the electoral gravy train !!!

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I Can See Cleary Now The Labour Reign Is Gone

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The most heartwarming news of the local elections was the astonishing result of the Green Party ‘s Pat Cleary taking the Birkenhead & Tranmere seat.

And so we say “Bye Bye Bri” and farewell then to Labour cabinet member Brian Kenny who was very much part of Labour group power elite.

Meanwhile a less than gracious Power Boy Pip dismissed the momentous event as a “protest vote”   Displaying his usual lack of political acumen he failed to elaborate on what this was actually a protest against and at the same time displayed his contempt for the voters of Birkenhead and Tranmere. Could it be they were voting for someone who actually bothers to be active in the community and can cogently explain the Green Party’s ideology?

Meanwhile the usually mute Alison McGovern ,who apparently is a Wirral MP ( who knew?),popped up out of hibernation and offered the unique insight that only a MP can bring to the party  by saying  “you can get funny results at elections”.
Thanks for that Ali Bongo – you can get back in your (ballot) box now.

No reaction so far from Birkenhead MP Frank Field in whose constituency this remarkable result took place in – but then this is a man so much in denial he’ll say that the outcome of the election in fact endorses the wonderful work that he and his team are doing in the area.  No, Frank dearie it’s not,it’s really,really not.

Also on the way out is pesky (former ) Councillor Ian Lewis. We can only hope that his peskiness proves to be more of a potent force outside the Town Hall than inside because we need as many people as possible who are willing to shake up the political scene on Wirral.

Finally might we suggest that the result in Birkenhead/Tranmere will do more than any damning report to rattle the ruling Labour group out of their political complacency.
Whilst it wouldn’t surprise us if the resounding result is dismissed by these golf-obsessives as the “rub of the green” (geddit) we must remember that power is what these people crave and when one of their own is taken down these people must finally sit up and take note that they can no longer rely on a docile and compliant electorate – which can only be a good thing for democracy and the people of Wirral.

Strong Bonds

BONDS

The political views of Frankenfield (aka St.Frank) are often a thing of wonderment and bewilderment but his latest public pronouncement (and there’s been quite a few lately haven’t there boys and girls?) is simply jaw-dropping.

Here we find Blessed Frank bemoaning the “strong bond” between Wirral’s health authorities

See HERE

So what has vexed Frankie-baby to throw yet another public (and perfectly timed) hissy-fit?

Here are his concerns:

* The relationships between senior members of the CCG and Arrowe Park Hospital may have dented the “independence” and “integrity” of local health services.

* The body responsible for commissioning local health services may have taken decisions that do not reflect the will of all its members or the public.

* Arrowe Park has a long history of not being able properly to manage its budget.

* Closures, sackings and loss of patient services has been its traditional negative stance.

* The failure of the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) leadership to work together.

*  The status of the chair (of CCG) and his eligibility to hold this post”.

Does this sound familiar to anyone out there? Replace Wirral health authorities with Wirral Council and we have a carbon copy of the concerns raised by much maligned and mistreated whistleblowers who didn’t have the luxury of a direct line to a government minister like Jeremy Hunt.

Did we hear Frank Incensed ever raise concerns about :

* The relationships between Wirral Business Partnership or Lairdside Communities Trust and Wirral Council?

* Decisions made by Wirral Council which fly in the face of their own “surveys”?.

* The inability of the Council to manage it’s budget ( he was conspicuously silent on the matter of £31 million of toxic debt that the Council had managed to run up)?,

*  The loss of services and redundancies at Wirral Council?

* The eligibility of Foulksey to be Mayor and the status of chairs of some of the Council committees which simply defy belief?

But the Frank Incensed has his own “strong bonds” with Wirral Council doesn’t he? Perhaps we should call for a full independent public inquiry into those…and how would we do that?

Well we’d have to go through our one of our local MPs like ,er , the Right Honourable Frank Field! ……

Vote Wirral Leaks

Citizen-Leaks

Hello Leakers, Lord Leaky here

That little “misunderstanding” over my expenses has now been resolved.

An expensive and long drawn out investigation has proved that there was “no case to answer” as it was considered to be an  “administrative error” by my manservant Eldritch, who  – as you may have noticed , has recently been subject to a “gagging clause” and is unable to discuss the matter.

A redacted report of the unfortunate “mistake” will be made available in a few years time in the hope that any wrongdoing will be long  forgotten and anyone implicated in any wrongdoing will have been paid off or “moved on”.

Furthermore I understand that the powers that be consider that it would not be in the public interest to publish this report at the present time as this would undermine public confidence in our civic dignitaries and  could possibly lead to anarchy (or a slightly peeved letter to The Times).

However this means I am now able to resume my rightful place in the House of Lords and attend to important matters of state such as snoozing,nodding off and clocking in and out without attending any of those dreary debates.

Unfortunately my status as a Lord of the Realm precludes me from standing in next weeks local elections. However this does not prevent me from musing on a fantasy manifesto should I ever fall from grace (and favour) and find myself having to glad-hand the proletariat to gain political power.

Of course the first port of call for any aspiring politician is “The Nolan Principles” – The Seven Principles of Public Life. May “The Nolan Principles” serve as a timely reminder for some Wirral Councillors that they are not about putting you in the mood for dancing,romancing and giving it all tonight when in fact they are about :

Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends. Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest. Leadership – Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example

So how would I translate these principles into practice if I were a Wirral Councillor?.
Well good people of Wirral this would be my Wirral Leaks Party manifesto:

* Never cover up malpractice
* Never agree to pay-offs for malpractice
* Always hold those guilty of malpractice to account

* Never agree to pay consultants huge payments to give us the answer we want
* Never indulge in bogus surveys and consultations
* Always make our publications transparent,free of jargon/corporate -speak/bullshit

* Never put reputation management before accountability
* Never find ways of not answering Freedom of Information requests
* Always own up if we make a mistake

* Never indulge in self serving,self aggrandizement,self promotion,self interest
* Never compromise our integrity and honesty
* Always prioritise education,caring for the vulnerable and the environment

* Never support nepotism
* Never condone horizontal promotion
* Always promote a meritocracy

* Never do sweetheart deals with unions
* Never do as we are told by local MPs
* Always remember there is more to Wirral than golf

* Never operate a culture of fear
* Never use economic circumstances as a means of controlling staff
* Always foster a culture of co-operation and mutual respect

* Never swear at or demean local journalists
* Never indulge in rambling ,incomprehensible speeches referencing Nelson Mandela and Bruce Springsteen.
* Always be available by email and don’t opt out of receiving emails from the people who elected us.

* Never say anything which I would not want to be in the public domain
* Never indulge in smear campaigns
* And most importantly ..always,always ask whether we are being recorded.

Consultants & The Encirclement of Public Services

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We at Leaky Towers have long had misgivings about the use of consultants by Wirral Council.  SEE HERE

Therefore it comes as no surprise to us at all to find out that following a Freedom Of Information request by that pesky Councillor Ian Lewis they have spent £1 million on hiring consultants.   SEE HERE

Of course we at Leaky Towers like to consider the bigger picture and our concern is not always just about the extortionate costs of consultants but the questionable “added-value” of people who seem to be quite happy to hasten the demise of the public sector as long as there’s a rise in their bank balance.

Essentially we agree with the definition that  “a consultant is someone who is brought in to find out what has gone wrong , in the  comfortable expectation that he will not bite the hand that feeds him by placing the blame where it belongs”

As reported time and time again on this blog this means that following the departure of consultants from the Wirral Council “crime scene” there usually remains more questions than answers.

Amongst many others we’ve had Richard ” Highways robbery” Penn, Rob ” Making hay out of the 4 week delay” Vickers, Joyce “Putting the earn in” Redfearn, Anna “Quids-in” Klonowski and Michael “Boiled Frog” Frater , oh and some anonymous IT Guy struggling to get by on £800 a day. SEE HERE

The latest in this inglorious trail of consultants is iMPOWER (no really – this is what these people decided to call themselves) and the recent publication of their report about the transport needs of disabled children. SEE HERE

Their 40 page graph-tastic report costing a whopping £107,000 demonstrates that you may not get much bang for your bucks but you may get the answers you want.

In their report iMPOWER identify that the problem Wirral Council faces in the rising costs of providing transport lies in the fact that too many disabled children are being assessed as having Special Educational Needs (SEN) on Wirral compared to some other local authorities ( because as anyone who has a child who has been assessed for a such a  SEN Statement – these are an absolute doddle – NOT!)

But not to worry iMPOWER have been discussing ” efficiency opportunity ideas” (!) with parents and carers of disabled children who they have identified have the “value modes” of either “settlers, prospectors or pioneers”

Is it us or do these kind of people grow up watching too many Westerns (see also our Cowboys & Indians story) ?

We would argue that the ideological basis for the dismantling of public services is known as neoliberalism  which “has taken its toll and the language of consultancy has displaced and replaced the language of conscience and commitment”

In his book ” A Brief History of Neoliberalism” David Harvey offers a clear definition of neoliberalism as a system of “accumulation by dispossession,” which has four main pillars:

  •  1) the “privatization and commodification” of public goods;
  • 2) “financialization,” in which any kind of good (or bad) can be turned into an instrument of economic speculation;
  • 3) the “management and manipulation of crises” (as above); and
  •  4) “state redistribution,” in which the state becomes an agent of the upward redistribution of wealth”.

Or in terms of consultancy -speak and using the wild west analogies of which they seem so fond, it seems to us it’s a case of the “Not OK Corral” where consultants encircle their wagons, staking a claim for the public services pot of gold.
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#Nofilter

EMAIL

We’ve let the dust settle (geddit?) before we commented on the story that filters are being used on Councillor’s emails to ensure that members of the public who are perhaps deemed to be vexatious,annoying,persistent or whose spelling is absolutely dreadful are prevented from contacting their democratically elected public servants known as Wirral Councillors. The official version from Comrade Burgesski is that it’s to ensure that the sweet little lambkins are protected from receiving emails that might cause “offence”.

SEE HERE

We first got wind of this when we were kindly copied into an email sent from Lib Dem leader Phil Gilchrist to whistleblower Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro which read:

Dear Mr Hobro

It is very useful to have this chronology.I would welcome details of the contact officer in the DCLG.

On 11th April I had sent this note to Mr Burgess…

Members have received an almost daily e mail from Mr Griffiths.

What is the current information on the police’ progress?

What information has been given to the DCLG and who in the DCLG has been looking into the series of assertions?

Have the DCLG come back with any advice on the poor systems, alleged inadequacies of staff, alleged poor quality of advice to customers?

I have not, as far as I know, received the DCLG contact details via Wirral.

Mr Burgess did send a message to Cllr Pat Williams and Party Leaders on 23rd April referring to the police and DCLG matters.

I am continuing to read Mr Griffiths observations but these are now, I understand, only forwarded to Councillors who wish to receive them.

Phil Gilchrist

Now not having seen the email which caused so much offence we can’t comment on the need for such a drastic measure other than to say that if we send an email to a Councillor we expect it to be read by the intended recipient and not some Council Officer control freak whose dead hand grips tightly round the neck of democracy and slowly throttles it to death.

We presume that the person responsible for co-ordinating this subversion of openness and transparency is particularly concerned about “hurt feelings”.

It’s strikes us here at Leaky Towers that they seem to be a bunch of wilting flowers in that there Wallasey Town Hall. They seem quite happy to dish it out but not so keen when it comes flying back! It is for this reason that Wirral Leaks will continue it’s proud tradition of taking a satirical swipe at the vanity, pomposity and hypocrisy of particular Councillors and Council Officers.

A case in point is the publication of an investigation report (costing at least £1,800 of public money ) where Foulksey had complained that his good name had been impugned (stop laughing at the back) when old adversary Cllr.Chris Blakeley had had the temerity to question his fitness to be mayor.

SEE HERE

Of course good ole Foulksey is a past master of playing the victim. Firstly when ousted as Leader of the Council in a vote of no confidence and then bemoaning that he was having to step down as Labour group leader because of “poisonous” style of personalised political attacks.

SEE HERE

Not that Foulksey would ever indulge in such unbecoming behaviour – well not when he can draw on his faithful followers and a particularly loyal lieutenant to do it for him!………

For example  (and without even bringing up the vexed question of #Wirralgate) one of our correspondents was aghast to witness Cllr.Harry “Crisp Packet” Smith going back to his old ways and haranguing a local journalist prior to a recent Council meeting by calling him by that heinous name: ” Tory” It’s a shame local cinematographer John Brace didn’t catch this exchange with his all-seeing eye. Therefore in consideration of this incident and his past history might we suggest that if Council Officers do insist on installing filters that they attach one to Cllr Smith’s gargantuan gob whilst they’re at it!

Finally we’d like to bring to everyone’s attention that this peaking at emails malarkey is old news to us at Leaky Towers. Indeed we are well aware of a case where a senior Officer made a staff team aware that they read some of their subordinates “interesting” emails as part of their late night recreation.

A case of Big Bad Brother not only watching but bragging about it!