The Maxwellisation of Wirral Council

Robert Maxwell

Never underestimate the hypocrisy of the powerful.

There were many resonances for us at Leaky Towers when we heard about the frustration of families concerned about the further delay in publishing The Chilcot Inquiry report.

Roger Bacon, whose son Major Matthew Bacon was killed in Iraq in 2005, said he was “disappointed” Sir John Chilcot has not revealed when he will publish the Iraq report, adding: “If he was in our shoes, he might well take a different view on what is going on. This process of Maxwellisation is just too much. It seems to go on and on and on. The fact he is still waiting for responses means there will be further delays.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/chilcot-inquiry-lawyers-give-sir-john-5pm-deadline-to-announce-report-publication-date-or-warn-hell-face-legal-action-10472926.html

The process of frustration,delay and kowtowing to the powerful is oh so familiar to us when it comes to Wirral Council investigations , especially when it comes to senior council officials potentially being criticised. Therefore we were particularly interested to find out that  “Maxwellisation” is a procedure in current British legal practice where individuals due to be criticised in an official report are sent details of the criticism in advance and permitted to respond prior to publication.

The process takes its name from the corrupt newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell. Maxwell was once criticised in a government report as “unfit to hold the stewardship of a public company”. Maxwell  – a man so shameless and hardfaced  he is clearly a role model for some of our local politicians  – took the matter to court where the government was said by the judge to have “virtually committed the business murder” of  poor pension-snatcher Maxwell.

Consequently official policy was altered to ensure prior notice would be given of critical findings in advance and relevant witnesses are shown the specific extracts of reports relating to them.Accordingly “Maxwellisation” will now enter the Leaky Towers lexicon to sit alongside “Machiavellian” when it comes to describing how Wirral Council conducts its business .

Maxwellisation can be said to be a feature of all the recent council investigations which seem to us to be  part of the process of ensuring that no-one is ever held accountable for failings – no matter how serious or damning they may be.

Maxwellisation becomes a means of damage limitation where the process of delay allows issues to be dismissed as historic and the watering down of words lessens the impact of the findings.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the BIG/ISUS dodgy contract debacle – yes that’s still going on folks – as the whistleblowers valiantly attempt to get the full story of what went on into the public domain.

Maxwellisation can also be said to be a feature of a startling series of Freedom of Information requests detailed on the Wirral Council section on What Do They Know website.The FOI requests are eye-watering mainly because of the fact that it makes a grown man want to cry in frustration at Wirral Council’s increasingly long list of legal exemptions.

Reasons for rejecting requests run the gamut from compromising “full and frank discussion” to “vexatious” to “can’t be arsed” .

Once more we we want to get Wirral Council by the collective scruff of the neck and say “what the bloody hell is up with you people?”  – but then that’s what should have happened in 2012 and the local government commissioners should have been sent in – but it seems to us that Frank whispered in Eric’s ear and that was the end of that !.

So much for the much lauded transformational change that Wirral Council leaders keep bleating on about.Seems to us that the only transformation that has gone on recently is that Deputy Leader of the Council George Davies has gone from a comb-over to a comb-forward.

George Comb Forward

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3 thoughts on “The Maxwellisation of Wirral Council

  1. First I would add my thanks to your indefatigable column that puts into stark relief the incapacity of our local overlords and their attempts to conceal that very incapacity.

    BIG/ISUS would , save for the obduracy of WBC, have been relatively small fry in the scale of things- my estimation of £2m defrauded over 6 years is not top of the agenda in a local authority that spends between £500m to £800m annually. Nor are the numbers of persons misinformed by a company appearing to be copper-bottomed by the logos “supported by the ERDF and by Wirral borough Council”- measured in more that 1,000 to 2,000 over 6 years, so significant in a population of adults of some 200,000.Had WBC terminated the contract in summer 2011, rounded up the guilty, prosecuted them, and prevented wirralbiz thereby from obtaining further ERDF funding, “Making Business Work”, then I would have been silent.

    The issue became not wirralbiz, the company but the strange inertness of WBC . The latter inertness raised many questions as to what did officers within WBC stand to lose should it become public that they had

    lost the main contract and nevertheless added annexures and extensions to a contract they had already lost

    failed to spot multiple infringements of contract

    despite being held out to be competent in small business advice were unable to read and understand a cashflow and projected profit and loss, the main tool of the programme

    been indifferent to the quality of advice given to vulnerable start-ups and the resultant losses these persons sustained

    The cack-handed attempt of the senior internal auditor to whitewash the affair over a protracted 13 months without ever visiting wirralbiz or looking at its raw records bespoke a contemptuous ease of running down the same track of obfuscation that he may well have practised multiple times in the past.

    the current FOI’s seek to uncover what WBC in July 2014 had redacted from a criticism of D Garry’s audit report, that there existed a well documented prior report , fully indexed, and with supporting evidence, prepared by a Local government officer who resigned in January 2012, just after completing her draft. When unredacted by the Information Commissioner the phrase that this “report should never be in the public domain” raised its head.

    This week the Information cmmissioner ruled that WBC hould publish the report within 35 days.

    The second FOI concerns the report written by the ERDF auditor who followed Grant Thornton in examining the ISUS scheme. That civil servant drew heavily on my time and knowledge and assured me that I would, without recourse to any FOI, be given a copy of his report. He finished his work in December 2013 and texted me early spring 2014 to report he had completed his report. That is now 18 months ago and still neither I nor the public can read what went wrong with £1m worth of erdf funding. What we do know is that wirralbiz, thanks in part to WBC’s silence, and my protests being completely ignored, went on to participate from early summer 2012 in “Making Business Work” under the aegis of Social enterprises North West, a private company. We know that by dDecember 2014 the DCLG had clawed back £4.5m from a spend of £6m due to “accounting irregularities”. the money will never be recovered and indeed need never have been lost!

    Thanks for your patience in this long drawn out saga which believe me that even though I myself am an accountant, and not a wit, I do find tiresome.

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