Open & Transparent

Open & Transparent

We’re proud to add another to our list of celebrated contributors to Wirral Leaks.

Here is a copy of Dr.Robert Smith’s open letter sent to Wirral Council – we seem to recall they received an another open letter about the same date last year !.Doesn’t time fly when you’re covering up ?.

Both letters are concerned with using public money to make private indiscretions in public life go away.

Not if we can help it they won’t ! – it’s called accountability and apparently it is still an alien concept at Wirral Council.

AN OPEN LETTER TO  –

Cllr Phil Davies, Eric Robinson, Surjit Tour, Chris Hyams, Wirral Council Cabinet Members, all Wirral Councillors

I have watched the sequence of events I now describe below unfold, with a great deal of concern regarding the inappropriate use of public funds when so many Wirral Council Services are under threat. There appears to be a transfer of most things public sector (ie Council) to the private and voluntary sector with little or no strategy, and this indicates that Wirral Council is in serious difficulties. I won’t bother rehearsing all of the reasons that you claim are responsible for this situation, as you articulate them ad nauseam, that is not to say that some of the factors are not true. However, significant payouts to a number of Senior Officers, which appear to be neither justified, nor justifiable, the most recent reported being around c£250,000, take us into the realms of hypocrisy and raise huge questions regarding probity. When continually pleading poverty, and reducing and/or cutting services, even £50 is a significant sum of public money.

I have undertaken my own ‘public interest test’ for the issue I have detailed below (which is only one of a number of senior staff departure concerns, amongst other concerns), which is why I have not submitted this as a Freedom of Information request, as Mr Tour will employ the usual delaying tactics and hide behind the FoI Act, whilst the Wirral Council smoke and mirrors machine bursts into life with Mr Liptrot and Mr Masterman.

Given established Council procedures regarding the vetting of organisations in receipt of public funds, for which the Council is accountable regarding contractual arrangements, local labour, sustainable materials use, value for money, discrimination and equal opportunities and recruitment practices, then Mr Adderley’s departure from Wirral Council (initially veiled in secrecy) and virtually immediate employment by Wirral Chamber of Commerce (also apparently veiled in secrecy) reaches a level of the most serious concern and questions of probity rush to the fore.

In view of the fact that Mr Adderley was, during his employment with Wirral Council, a highly-paid public servant, subject to public scrutiny, transparency, accountability (as you all claim to be), secrecy is not acceptable. Public officials and the officers they employ are subject to conflict of interest rules and declarations, and as his conduct (and yours) is governed by Council policies and procedures, a veil of secrecy can not apply in a democracy. Particularly concerning public funds paid to well-paid individuals decided behind closed doors, and hidden from the public. The fact that he departed voluntarily from his employment with Wirral Council, accompanied by c£250,000 of Wirral public’s money, makes this a time when the argument that “you will not enter into any dialogue regarding individuals and personal details and circumstances”, cannot be substantiated in any way whatsoever, as I believe, neither can the payment(s) to Mr Adderley (and others).

In my view if an individual is content to benefit from a significant salary from the public purse, and enjoy all benefits that accrue as a public official, that does carry huge responsibility in terms of conduct and accountability. If additional benefits accrue, for justifiable reasons, from the public purse then transparency, accountability and justification must be expected and the relationship between the public paying, and the officer being paid, must conform to certain standards of openness, honesty, integrity and scrutiny – this should not even have to be mentioned to you.

From the Wirral Globe 22 September 2015
A town hall representative said: “The offer of a severance payment is open to all employees who have two years or more continuous service.
“All payments made are in line with our agreed and published voluntary redundancy scheme.
“Details of all severance payments are a matter between the council and the individual.”

There is obviously a big question regarding resignation with or without severance, and of course Mr Adderley was not made redundant, but the bigger question relates to the bigger sum paid out, in addition to the severance payment. All of these issues will be at the forefront of Wirral’s residents and taxpayers’ thinking when further service reductions, more closures, further staff cuts and local and other Council Tax increases are being imposed. It is a very strange occurrence when c£250,000 of increasingly scarce public money (in addition to other previous senior officer payouts) is apparently ‘gifted’ to someone who chooses to leave of their own volition, and could just resign like anyone else at no cost to the public purse.

Wirral Council/Wirral Chamber of Commerce – sequence of events and facts:

Cllr Phil Davies – is the Leader of Wirral Council

Cllr Phil Davies – is a also Board Member of Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Kevin Adderley – was a Strategic Director; Wirral Council

Kevin Adderley – was and is a Board Member Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Kevin Adderley – chose to voluntarily leave Wirral Council ‘to pursue other interests’

Kevin Adderley’s – now previous post at Wirral Council was not deleted on his departure and is listed as vacant, not redundant, nor deleted.

Cllr Phil Davies – agrees a departure payout of £250,000 (public money) Oct 2015

Kevin Adderley – takes departure payout of £250,000 (public money) Oct 2015

…not even 2 months later…

Cllr Phil Davies – employs Kevin Adderley at Wirral Chamber of Commerce – this must be a Board appointment at Managing Director level.

Kevin Adderley – assumes the position of Group Managing Director at Wirral Chamber of Commerce.

 

Wirral Chamber of Commerce derives significant financial and in-kind benefit (ie public money and value) from various ‘arrangements’ with Wirral Council – including Egerton House, The Lauries Centre and Pacific Road.

Wirral Chamber of Commerce list 26 employees plus Kevin Adderley. For an organisation effectively ‘dead in the water’ a short time ago, that wage bill alone raises a number of issues, however, that is for the future.
Wirral Chamber of Commerce Board includes Paula Basnett, Asif Hamid,the Contact Company, Alastair Gould, McEwan Wallace; Sue Higginson, Wirral Met College; Cllr Phil Davies, Leader, Wirral Council; John Syvret, Chief Executive, Cammell Laird; Kevin Adderley, Wirral Chamber Group Managing Director; John Robinson, Scantec Personnel; Elaine Owen, Designated Associates; David Prior, Chair, Wirral Radio; Patrick McCarthy, Chief Executive, Magenta Living. 

Irrespective of Mr Eric Robinson’s developing of a new delivery/management model for Wirral Council, Mr Adderley’s departure was not as a result of any ‘previously planned, or agreed restructure’,

Most people who choose to leave their current employment, possibly, ‘to pursue other interests’, hand in their notice, resign and leave their employment at the end of as notice period. At this point Mr Adderley would have had no ‘entitlements’.

The only ‘entitlement’ which would become a legitimate legal requirement would be if Wirral Council agreed to his request for Voluntary Severance (VS).

Voluntary Severance, as distinct from Early Voluntary Retirement, follows different rules and procedures. The only time any payment would become legally required of Wirral Council, would be at the point that Voluntary Severance was agreed and signed off – if any new structure had yet to be determined, there would be no formal basis for not accepting his resignation as he chose to leave, and for Mr Adderley to have worked his notice period, as is the usual custom.

Why would Voluntary Severance be agreed, as there was no redundancy inducement for Mr Adderley to be offered it, if he had already expressed his wish to leave ‘to pursue other interests’. Why would a VS payment be agreed if Mr Adderley had voluntarily chosen to leave Wirral Council?

Obviously some kind of ‘agreement’ was reached by virtue of the fact that a VS payment was made. This particular issue was not reported accurately in the press, possibly due to limited information being made available, through an eventual press release, regarding the agreed payments (c£250,000 in total) having complied with existing Wirral Council VS policies and procedures.

Voluntary Severance accounted for c£43,000, but a large contribution, c£207,000 was made to the Merseyside Pension Fund (purely for the benefit of Mr Adderley) from Wirral Council public funds which was not subject to any legislative or mandatory policy, and was totally discretionary on the part of the Council?

The only legally required payment to Mr Adderley, as a result of Wirral Council, for some reason agreeing to Mr Adderley’s ‘Voluntary Severance’ request, rather than just accepting his resignation, would be the c£43,000. On what grounds was the payment of c£207,000 to his pension fund justifiable in these circumstances, and who was it agreed by? It makes no difference essentially that the payment was made directly to the MPF as Mr Adderley via the pension Fund will be the named beneficiary of this payment

In view of the fact that Cllr Phil Davies, Kevin Adderley and Asif Hamid travelled to China together, and Paula Basnett, Cllr Phil Davies, Kevin Adderley and Asif Hamid travelled to Reno together, plus the fact that they are all Board members of Wirral Chamber of Commerce (and other local funding and other organisations) they would all be well known to each other.

In view of the fact that Cllr Phil Davies and Chief Executive Eric Robinson, and obviously Mr Adderley’s situation were all reported extensively in the media, during the negotiations with Mr Adderley, the ‘behind closed doors’ Council meetings masked the agreement of the deal. Subsequently, at a point prior to Mr Adderley’s departure, the attempted secrecy and smokescreens did evaporate and all financial and other details became public.

Mr Adderley and Ms Basnett are not shrinking violets when it comes to self-promotion,  self-aggrandisement, photo opportunities and sound bites. It would seem to be greatly at odds with their respective natures. Also, given the incessant trumpeting of the recently- resurrected Wirral Chamber of Commerce, it is surely a ‘missed marketing opportunity’ that Mr Adderley’s ‘recruitment’ to the Chamber staff team, to such an elevated position, should go unheralded…or is it hiding in plain sight…ie just amend Adderley’s entry on the Chamber website, and hope no-one notices?

It would appear that there are a great many more questions to be asked, and a great many more answers required. When a vast amount of public money, paid out by a Council continually claiming to be ‘cash-strapped’, and running down services and losing staff hand over fist, agree to pay out in secrecy, a large sum of public money to one previously very well paid (with public money) individual, when he himself chose to leave?

It has also been reported in the media that Wirral Council has previously paid the personal tax and NI liability on senior officer payout(s) – can you advise if this is Council policy to make those payments in addition, in order for the departee to benefit from the gross payout without personally losing the value of those deductions?

I look forward to a detailed response, without any undue delay, due to Mr Tour being unable to inappropriately invoke FoI Act provisions, as this is not a request made under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. This is but a simple series of questions, requiring answers which you can provide, to demonstrate the accountability and transparency that features so regularly in the media, as ‘The Most Improved Council in Great Britain 2015’ engages with the public.

Yours sincerely

Dr Robert B Smith

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7 thoughts on “Open & Transparent

  1. Nice work if you can get it.

    But we’ve had enough local elections to have worked out by now that this Council, probably more by good luck than good management, has achieved some sort of Goldilocks Zone in which a sufficient number of voters couldn’t care less how much of their (or, more likely, other people’s) council tax this Council squanders. Short of Government intervention, we’re stuck with them.

  2. Let us hope someone listens to Dr Roberts and demands a full enquiry into these people.
    Surely this is of grave concern to all Wirral residents, after all it is OUR money they are freely apportioning to each other. What price democracy? Let’s not forget that when our Councillors could not find the funds to keep open Lyndale school, they could find nearly £1 million to re-furbish Pacific Road on behalf of the (independent!) Chamber of Commerce.

  3. How can the Council possibly justify this payment when they are closing our Libraries and planning to cut 48 School Crossing Patrols? That £250,000 would have covered the wages of those School Crossing Patrols for another few of years. Childrens’ safety of golden handshakes? I know which one I prefer!

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