An indication of how far Labour -controlled Wirral Council have fallen from the moral high ground and into the golf bunker is that their Welfare Rights Unit employing 3 people is having to make a business case to ensure its survival. Yes – you read that right – applying a business model to welfare rights . Frank Field must be so proud of his amoral protégés.
“..This Officer Option would involve the Council stopping it’s current ‘Welfare Rights’ service , due to similar services being provided by other organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau , which are also funded by the Council.”
Oh how we long for the day when the Wirral Council’s Chief Executive and his Super Duper Directors have to justify their existence and their massive salaries or are they too busy racking up massive bills buying office furniture from Jenkinson’s ?.
How does this Council reconcile the outraged soundbites and screaming headlines about “Tory cuts” whilst they desperately woo private industry and zealously dismantle public services?. Where are we living- Wirral or Tunbridge Wells?.
Let’s look beyond the rhetoric and look at the Council’s actions :-
Closure of Lyndale School for disabled children
Threatened closure of Girtrell Court respite service for disabled adults
Threatened closure of Welfare Rights Unit
Punitive implementation of the Bedroom Tax and ;
Hiking up Council Tax contributions for unemployed which wereboth local decisions
Then compare the above with the following :
Pay hike for the Chief Executive Eric “Feeble” Robinson
Appointment of PR kingpin Martin Liptrot (was there a business plan for this grace and favour appointment?)
Peppercorn rent and refurbishment grants for their friends in the Wirral Chamber of Commerce (aka the Nepotism Depot – we understand that Basnett’s bro’ has joined Basnett’s sis’ as part of the crew.It’s a family affair y’all.)
Failing to attract investors and pouring money down the Wirral Waters plughole
Relentless pursuit of establishing a golf resort in Hoylake in the face of increasing local scepticism http://www.hoylakegolfresort.uk/
This private enterprise and personal enrichment taking priority over social justice and the welfare safety net approach is reflected in Eric Feeble’s latest less than riveting ExecView newsletter which plugs the following local press coverage that spin king Liptrot(sky) has managed to secure. We were disappointed to see no mention of any stories from Wirral Leaks – as we know Liptrot is particularly keen to know more about us. Don’t be shy Marty – we’d love to hear from you directly ! :
‘Green Light for Wirral Growth Plan’ Insider Media
‘Plans for Birkenhead Kick Start Economic Regeneration’ Wirral Globe
‘Time To Wake Sleeping Giant’ Echo
‘£250m Plans To Turn Birkenhead Into ‘Major Business Capital’ Radio City
‘Council unveils plans for Downtown Birkenhead investment scheme’ BBC
We can imagine the Council licking their lips at the prospect of getting rid of the Welfare Rights Unit so they can employ Liptrot(sky) full time to spin this BS!.
No wonder the compliant Unison spokesperson Paddy Cleary safely ensconced on the Council payroll saw fit to bite the hand that feeds him recently when he said “You really don’t expect this sort of thing from a Labour Council.”
Oh we do Paddy and might we advise you read the Business Case prepared by the Welfare Rights Unit as the extracts quoted below are very reminiscent of the dodgy rationale for the proposed closure of Girtell Court. No cost benefit analysis ,no coherent financial modelling and no details of exactly how services would be re-provided.
“There are three full time welfare rights advisors who have accumulated a vast range of experience, knowledge and skills in this field though working in the community sector, local authority and Department for Work and Pensions. The annual cost of running this “in house” service is stated to be £108,606 (Summary Business Case). No detail has been given as to how the Welfare Rights Service will be “re-provided”, or how much that service will cost the local authority, although it is acknowledged in the Summary Business Case that residents would have to be directed to agreed alternative providers, and that “this may involve additional costs which would reduce the savings proposed…….
We understand the scale of the financial challenges facing Wirral Council, but we consider that the proposal does not accurately identify actual cost savings; does not acknowledge the direct impact that our service can have on generating council income; and does not address the effect of losing the current service on other departments of the local authority, as well as our external partners……..
We do not have the resources to check all gains, but recorded gains for the period January 2015 to December 2015 were £782,029.99. The great majority of gains relate to awards of benefits that are paid by central government funds. The gains achieved can directly benefit the Local authority in terms of meeting the pledge in the Wirral Plan to reduce family and child poverty.”
But who needs needs reasoned ,cogent arguments to justify the closure of services when the Council abandoned welfare for the fairway a long time ago?.
Seems like we could all be going to hell in a golf cart.
One of the main issues which has concerned our readers this week has been Wirral streetlights. Or rather the lack of them or lack of someone to turn them off when they’re on 24/7! .
The streetlights situation brings into focus once again that Wirral Council need to concentrate on getting the basics right before they start channelling resources into speculative schemes such as golf resorts or international business centres.
Having vision (20/20 or otherwise) is one thing but short-sightedness or wilful blindness is another!
Firstly we must bring to your attention a disconcerting blog post by former Wirral Council street lighting design engineer turned inveterate blogger Paul Cardin which is absolutely essential reading on the matter.
Mr. Cardin records his concerns about information provided or not provided by Wirral Council about the location of street lights that have been turned off or were not working properly. The insightful post highlights(!) how some parts of the local media work and how some parts of Wirral Council don’t work with information appearing on and off websites like, well ,Wirral’s streetlights.
Another person who has resorted to social media to spotlight (!) their concerns is Wirral Leaks reader Nick Lauro who tells us :
“Well after 3 months of waiting after reporting, including Tweets to WMBC, a letter in the Wirral Globe, a piece on the John Brace website and FINALLY, writing to my MP, they sent someone out.
The best bit is the three-way procedure between BAM Nuttall, WMBC and Scottish Power for reporting, assessing and fixing street lamps. It really does become like one of those “how many men does it take to change a light bulb?” jokes. Of course, nothing gets done – apart from the cash-cow street-furniture contract.
In this case, some £30,000,000 on a 6 year contract seems to be riding on whether we get street lamps fixed. I wonder how many honking snouts are in the money trough on that one!!!!
The more voices shouting against the bureaucracy and professional obfuscation that WMBC seem to excel in, the more chance we have of exposing their mismanagement of our public services and general poor practice. I know two people who will have to remain anonymous, who both work for the council as two of the many long suffering employees working under what they describe as a joke management team that have lost any respect from the workforce, mainly due to the pay-freezes they have to endure whilst golden handshakes are given out to the most ineffectual executives, along with obscene daily rates for outsourced consultants.”
We’d like to reassure Mr.Lauro and the growing number of people who have been contacting us that we’ll continue to shine a light on Wirral Council especially when they don’t do the same for us!
As a postscript to yesterday’s “Hasbeen Meets Queen” post there were further developments which we were oblivious to when we penned the story.
A member of the public who was willing to be named (but we’ve kept anonymous for their own protection – we know how things work round here) has told us about an incident which occurred at the Holocaust Memorial at New Brighton’s Floral Pavilion.
Our source who was in attendance at the solemn event with a friend of hers tells us that Jim “Crabby” Crabtree and a lady friend spotted them. Crabby then charmingly stated that he didn’t want to be anywhere near them and he and his companion walked past . Whilst passing Crabby’s companion apparently used an obscene phrase which suggests to us that if this is his plus one at the palace that either she learns some lessons in decorum or he takes some duct tape.
Our source claims that Crabby continued to direct hostility towards her friend : “angrily scowling at her all in front of a large group of school kids who watched as we went inside to hear him make rude angry comments about us both.Then the speeches began.The day was named : Don’t Stand By. Don’t ignore or allow bullying , or the persecution of others and there he was as a serving councillor doing it again . “
Clearly the message was lost on Crabby as apparently the continued verbal abuse was too bad to repeat. We are reassured that other people have stood up to report the incident although to whom it is unknown. All we will say it will be interesting to see whether that nice boy from West Kirby Council leader “Power Boy Pip” Davies is finally up to challenging another out of control member of NEBB (North End Bully Boys).
No wonder our source writes : ” Thanks for all you do without it no one would know what they get up to…”
Accordingly not only did we write this follow up as a means of exposing what the Wirral Council power elite really “get up to” but also to provide a forum for people who would otherwise not be heard and most pertinently circumvent the sickening notion of victimhood that these abusers of power try to project.
Buck House has sent out its usual invitations to Wirral Council for this year’s garden parties.There are three to be held between May, June and July apparently and the current Mayor Les Rowlands gets first choice. This leaves three x 2 invites per main political party.Tradition is that the longest serving councillors get to go, and so Labour have chosen…………………………….
Jim “Crabby” Crabtree, of suspension and deselection fame.
This seems rather odd as Crabby should by this time no longer be performing civic duties.Are we to deduce that he will renege on his promise to the North West Labour Party that he would not stand as an Independent councillor in the Bidston & St.James ward come May or that Labour plan to parachute the prodigal into an unsuspecting ward?.
We anticipate the Buck House beano will be a sequel to our fondly remembered satire “When Foulkesy Met Her Majesty” which imagined that fateful day when a former Wirral Mayor of ill repute graced The Queen’s immaculate lawn.
Her Majesty : How do you do .What is your name and have you come far?
Lord Jim : Hiya Queen – me mate Foulkesy calls me Jumbo. I’ve come all the way down in a mini-bus from Wirral – but I managed to dump the schoolkids I was supposed to be lookin’ after down The Mall deliverin’ copies of the “Wirral Plan : 20/20 Vision” to confused foreigners. Spreadin’ the word like.In fact here you go -here’s a copy specially signed by Martin Liptrot just for you.He’s dead clever – he went to Wolverhampton Polytechnic and writes plans and things for us.
Her Majesty : Er thank you (hands copy to courtier) .And tell me what do you do in Wirral ?.
Lord Jim: As little as possible!.No,I was havin’a laff Ma’am – I used to be the Chair of Wirral Council’s Audit & Risk Management Committee.I was dead convincin’ – I used to wear a whistle and flute , as you’d say being a cockney , and I’d read out the agenda and sign the minutes off and everythin’.But then I got suspended from the Labour party because of a bit of a misunderstandin’.It was a big stitch up and stuff and then they all had it in for me at the selection meetin’. I wuz robbed.I could have been the next leader of the Council because Our Frank likes me.He even wrote a letter to the selection committee sayin’ I was dead sound.You’ll know Our Frank – everyone’s heard of Our Frank.He’s on the telly all the time.And not just on Christmas Day like you.
Her Majesty : It’s reassuring to hear that irony has finally reached the provinces.From what my advisors tell me about Wirral – it sounds as though local business practices are very similar to certain parts of the Commonwealth. I must introduce you to the Nigerian High Commissioner .I’m sure you’ll have plenty to talk about.
Lord Jim: So this Nigerian bloke.Is he dead tall like?
Her Majesty : (sighs and whispers to courtier )…..remind me to ask my ministers whether they could change their plans forthwith from Northern Powerhouse to Northern Devolution!.
His Lordship says : remember Surjit – The “force” is always bigger than the Tour!.
Wirral Leaks proudly presents the latest instalment in the entertaining and informative exchanges between champion of public accountability Dr.Robert Smith and someone who appears to be unfamiliar with the concept – Wirral Council’s CEO Eric Robinson.
We have to say Dr.Smith’s letter is a tour de force or should that be a Surjit Tour de force as Dr.Smith valiantly tries (and fails) to get a response on a number of matters from Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer and Head of Legal & Member Services via Eric Feeble.
We wish him the best of luck with this quest, as based on information received from various sources, Tour only responds when he has to and then it’s last minute and/or dismissive. Believe us pleas for common courtesy are a complete waste of time.
But then Surji-Baby is simply beyond accountability – comfortably cosseted in a warm blanket of complicity and conspiracy.As we’ve said before the only person at Wirral council who’s job is secure.And by the way did anybody notice how he moved seamlessly from Acting Head of Legal & Member Services to , astonishingly , the actual head of Wirral Council’s legal department.Furthermore did anybody notice how this is the only department that has recently gained staff and yet still retains the services of eye-wateringly expensive external legal advisors (all the better to ward -off troublesome Freedom of Information requests!).
How long will Tour’s immunity last we ask ourselves?. There are others that have gone before who considered themselves to be untouchables who, OK,we admit couldn’t stop laying hands one way or the other , but were dispensed with once they’d served their purpose and/or were fatally compromised.
We can only hope for Tour that there isn’t anything that could possibly compromise his position because that would be a tragedy for the people of Wirral……….not!.
Dear Mr Robinson
Re Kevin Adderley’s departure (et al)
I have considered your single sentence reply to me, and in my view therein lies the entire Wirral Council issue regarding genuine accountability, or more accurately, an apparent lack of any public accountability.
I read your lengthy response to my initial query, applied it to the context of my enquiry, and replied to you on that basis. For you to send me one sentence only is a measure of the difficulty you obviously have with my queries regarding Mr Adderley, his £250,000 departure from Wirral Council, and his subsequent employment. His departure is only one of a number of costly departures from Wirral Council that I will raise with you shortly.
If all of the concerns I raised in my response were erroneous, then you would no doubt make a definitive reply, with an appropriate narrative, illustrating to me legislative, procedural, and constitutional compliance. This would allay any doubts and quell any speculation. With the entire resources of Wirral Council at your disposal, you have chosen not to refute my assertions, and by not adding any further comment, or even a partial defence of your position, you confirm that you can find no coherent argument against my assessment. If that is the case you are essentially agreeing with my interpretation of events and circumstances, and confirming that my assessment is correct. Otherwise, why would you remain silent, if compliance was not an issue, and can be adequately demonstrated?
In terms of ‘real-time’ accountability’, Cllr Phil Davies/Martin Liptrot appear to adopt the time-honoured strategy that, ‘if you repeat the same thing often enough, it eventually becomes a truth’ – 2020 Vision pledges and professed accountability, but selective and only in 2020, being the obvious issues in this case. The reality of true accountability, which is what our email exchanges have been about, cannot exist where a robust, evidenced defence will not (or cannot) be mounted, and which will stand up to scrutiny, or be the result of it.
Many requests for ‘accountability’ regarding Wirral Council are now presented as Freedom of Information requests, as a matter of course. Why should that be the case for a genuinely open and transparent organisation? Wirral Council’s appalling reputation regarding very costly FOI refusals (overseen by Mr Tour?), internal reviews, obstruction, and ICO subsequent overturns and costly redactions, goes before it. It is not the action of a ‘publicly accountable’ organisation to allow those associated with/employed by it, to attempt to frustrate, ignore or obstruct legitimate enquiries, and one has to question why should that be the case if compliance, transparency and accountability are of paramount importance?
People make mistakes, that is a human foible. The machinations of local authorities are governed by legislation, a constitution, policies and procedures, guidelines, internal & external audit, performance management, various staff reviews, etc. There should be regular monitoring, evaluation and review mechanisms integral to these structures and frameworks. With effective checks and balances in place (currently being eroded), these all form an important part of the (now paid) undertaking of responsibilities by councillors (and also officers), of representative decision-making, relevant service delivery, and upholding the democratic process.
By virtue of these concepts and the application of these mechanisms within prescribed frameworks, the possibility of mistakes, and risks associated with human error, poor judgement and scope for anything approaching criminality, is minimised in the public’s and tax payers’ interests.
With regard to my other comments, I have also contacted Mr Blott as you say. However, my enquiries are not entirely unrelated queries, as my emails to Mr Tour included queries regarding procedural, and legislative compliance issues, related to Mr Adderley’s departure. This was in addition to issues re P&D parking at New Brighton, and Mr Liptrot’s many potential conflicts of interest. Commencing with my query regarding the legality of introducing Pay & Display parking in New Brighton in July 2015, Mr Tour has ignored all of my emails, all of which have remained unacknowledged, and unanswered to date.
It is worthy of mention that my formal complaints have been ignored by you, even after you advised me to use the inappropriate complaints procedure, and then continued to ignore my complaints regarding officer (mis)conduct.
Also all of my previous emails to Cllr Phil Davies, have been studiously ignored, and Mark Smith refusing to communicate with me during enquiries about New Brighton parking, makes me wonder what standard does a local authority have to achieve to be proclaimed ‘Most Improved Council In Great Britain, 2015’ by the LGC. Through personal experience, and using Wirral Council as a datum, one can only assume that the quality of local government, particularly at the Chief and Senior Officer level across Britain, must be in an exceedingly poor state.
Given my comments above, and the behaviour of some of your officers, and presumably consultants who have contributed to/vetted your replies to me, Mr Blott makes an interesting point. With regard to my query relating to the apparent lack of management supervision, discipline, professionalism, common courtesy and capability relating to Mr Tour, Mr Blott states, and I quote, “I can confirm that I manage Mr Tour in line with our current policies and good management practice. Mr Tour is fully aware of his statutory responsibilities as the Council’s Monitoring Officer.”
For anyone, being aware of responsibilities is a very different matter from discharging them. Legislative and procedural compliance is very important, and that essentially is the basis of my enquiries of Mr Tour regarding council compliance. If Mr Tour is guided by professional and council codes of conduct, policies, procedures and governance, there should be no issue regarding compliance, and that should be easily demonstrated. That being said, with my personal experience, I would suggest that Mr Blott’s ‘good management practice’ appears to be something of a fantasy.
I look forward to receiving your response to this email, and Mr Tour’s, in his role as Monitoring Officer, to my earlier queries.
Further to your recent emails, I have considered your comments and do not have anything further to add to my previous response concerning the basis upon which Kevin Adderley left the council.
The council was not involved in the appointment of Kevin Adderley to Egerton House Community Interest Company and it is not appropriate for the council to therefore comment any further upon that appointment or his role. If you require further information on this matter, I suggest you raise your enquiry with the company/organisation directly.
As for your comments concerning a lack of response from council officers to your other unrelated queries, I am aware that you have raised matters with Joe Blott by email on 18 January. Mr Blott will respond to you in respect of those matters in due course.
Her Ladyship has always claimed psychic powers but last October we think she nailed it when she talked about how Wirral Council go about compiling their plans.She commented on the Wirral plan: 20/20 vision (aka Liptrot’s List) concocted by Wirral spin king Martin Liptrot-sky :
“…always struck us as typical Wirral Council arse about face planning by which we mean some consultant who’s never worked for the council before thinks up 20 pledges off the top of his head and the poor saps who work for the council then have to go away and make their departmental plans meet the pledges…”
And so it proves once again as we’ve been leaked a draft copy of Wirral Council’s Leisure Strategy – part of the Wirral Plan: 20/20 Vision .We know that Cllr Chris Meaden takes her leisure pursuits/public duties very seriously -often combining the two during unsociable hours.Now she enlisted the help enigmatic Super Duper Director Clare ” Wet” Fish to compare fringes and host a Chris ‘n’ Clare consultation event next week at Williamson Art Gallery (you know the one that was under threat of closure).
Quite rightly on page 14 of the draft strategy they ask : “How will we measure if we’re getting this right?”
Well first of all (like the 20/20 Vision Plan itself ) it seems it’s a case of pick something you’d like to improve and then try and find a way of measuring it – now we don’t know what the STEAM report is – but this strategy seems full of it :
• Increase the number of residents who regularly use the boroughs parks and open spaces (Resident’s Survey).
• Increase the value of visitor spend in Wirral to £450 million (STEAM Report).
• Increase the number of visitors to Wirral by xx (STEAM Report).
• Increase the number of events in Wirral’s parks, beaches and open spaces (source TBC).
• Increase the number of national quality awards for Wirral’s parks, coastal sites and open spaces (Green Flag and Blue Flag awards)
The increase in visitor numbers to Wirral has yet to be decided , the measure of how the number of events in Wirral ‘s parks,beaches and open spaces is yet to be confirmed and a survey and an estimate are supposed to do the rest.The only definitive measurable outcome seems to be a case of putting out the Green and Blue flags – but will the ruling Labour group be happy about that?!.
How Wirral Council intend to meet these measures is equally vague and seems reliant on development of yet more plans and strategies.But this is what you get when you get a spin doctor calling the shots.
Plans and strategies are all very well and we wouldn’t be quite so critical (Ok we would) but this is a Council who can’t even get the basics right – like addressing the corrosive culture that still pervades everything they do.
Alternatively we’d like to suggest that a starting point would be “Wirral Leaks Ten Commandments of Local Government” –
Thou shalt not employ highly paid consultants
Thou shalt not have any more meaningless pre-determined consultations
Thou shalt not make any more pay-offs for officer failure
Thou shalt not organise more cover ups
Thou shalt not look always look for exemptions to deny Freedom of Information requests
Thou shalt not favour PR/spin over openness and transparency
Thou shalt not favour nepotism over meritocracy ;and finally we couldn’t improve on these originals:
Thou shalt not commit adultery (especially if it leads to pay-offs – see 3)
Wirral Council finally see fit to disclose the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Nick Warren review requested by ex-Wirral Council whistleblower Martin Morton nine months ago!.
No wonder he added the annotation :
“I’m wondering whether it was the ICO Decision Notice issued on December 15th 2015 or the article published by Wirral Leaks on January 14th 2016 that was more effective in ensuring this information was disclosed!. Shameful behaviour yet again by Wirral Council.”
The title of the Terms of Reference for the Warren Commission is “Review: Allegations raised by former employees of the Council concerning their treatment” which was compiled by Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour who makes the review sound as though it could be about prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay.
First we have “Background” (of which there is very little) where Tour tells us :
” I appoint Nicholas Warren (R) to review the circumstances surrounding the allegation of a breach of confidence by four former employees of the Councils (“the complainants”).
What Tour’s motive for going along with this sleazy charade we can only hazard a guess as he seems to have a twisted symbiotic relationship with council leaders especially when he is in some ways responsible for instigating this whole sordid saga in the first place.In fact we think we may have just answered our own question!.
However we are particularly grateful that he has coined a collective term for the people at the centre of this review. ” The Complainants” seems a much more accurate description than “whistleblowers”.
“The Complainants” complaining about their treatment by Wirral Council whilst their own treatment of Wirral Councillors and council officers (including Tour) is for some reason seemingly ignored.
We also learn that despite not having a legal claim for compensation (for if they did it surely have been settled by now) Wirral Council saw fit to offer them a £ 3,000 “time and trouble payment” to “The Complainants” .Bless.
We presume the three grand bung was more for trouble they could cause rather than the time the boo hoo boys spent telling everyone how badly done to they were.
However “The Complainants” knew that what they knew or rather what they had recorded on the Wirralgate tapes was worth much more than £3,000 each.More importantly their benefactor Frank Field MP knew it was worth much more to protect himself and his political agent Cllr George Davies , who in turn was trying to protect his reckless bezzy Cllr Steve Foulkes. Meanwhile feckless Council leader Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies has had no choice but to go along with this scandalous scheming even though it has been alleged he too was recorded saying ” I can’t defend that” when he heard the Wirralgate tapes.
Enter : Nicholarse Warren.
The second part of the Tour’s TOR is ironically titled : “Principles governing the Review”.
Principles!!! . We wonder where various Code of Conduct principles fit in here?
Did Tour ever think when he was training to be a solicitor that he would be drafting something which reads to us like How To Legitimise Dodgy Payments to Complainants
Interesting to note that Nicholarse Warren is to consider all the circumstances of the matter relating to “The Complainants” and yet seemingly pre-empting his findings Tour records that : “If it came to a question of expenditure Warren would have to take soundings from the District Auditor about its scale and any recommendation made by (Warren) involving expenditure by the Council must be limited to what local authority accounts rules permit ;and be within the bounds of what the District Auditor would accept as reasonable”.
Hang on didn’t Wirral council state in a previous response (see What Do They Know FOI request above) that :” Warren has not been given any decision making powers by the Council in respect of awarding or making any compensation payments. Any decision to pay compensation would be a matter for the Council. For the avoidance of doubt, no decision has been made on whether any compensation should be paid.”
Let’s face it the decision and the amount of compensation was expected to be a formality when Frank Field “demanded” £48,000 each for “The Complainants” in October 2014.That’s nearly £200,000 of public money to cover up corruption.It is of course now January 2016 and no further compensation payment has seemingly been made – so what could possibly have happened to prevent Field getting his own way?.
However the most troubling aspect of Tour’s TOR is described thus :
” The Council will indemnify R (Warren) against the reasonable costs of defending any defamation action or threat of defamation action against R in his role as the R and any damages awarded against R in any such action.Any threat of or institution of such proceedings shall immediately notified to the Monitoring Officer and no liability shall be admitted by R”
This is a simply astonishing indemnity as it seems that Warren is given carte blanche to defame anyone he chooses in his review and (once again) Wirral Council will pick up the tab if he does so!.If we ignore as to whether Wirral Council have the authority to indemnify someone who is not an elected member or employee of the Council we have to ask ourselves as to the dubious motive for doing so? . Could it be that this allows uncorroborated allegations made by The Complainants against former Wirral Council employees who do not have a right of reply to be included in the review report?.
Although we’ve been covering this particular story since August 2013 the threat of defamation has never occurred to us as our sources can substantiate their allegations.We can only hope that The Complainants/Warren can do the same when it comes to their respective claims/findings.
We have to doff our cap to ex -Wirral Council legal head Bill Norman.This guy knows how to work the local government gravy train!.He is the very model of the modern public servant.
For those wanting to forge a lucrative career in local government this the man to follow – all around the country!.
There have been torrid times in Torbay, woeful moments in Wirral and horrible happenings in Hereford and he’s picked up sizeable lumps of public money every single time he’s ,ahem, “left” each of these councils.Now we hear he’s gone and landed on his feet again and picked a plum job in leafy Cheshire East.
We can’t help asking as to whether there are really that few a pool of local government lawyers who are prepared to do the bidding of their political paymasters. Bill Norman seems to get recycled more than a supermarket bag for life.Only Bill’s bag is stuffed with wads of cash and not cut-price food with yellow stickers on!. This guy must be strictly Waitrose home delivery as he approaches the half a million pounds mark in golden handshakes.He makes cash hungry ex Wirral Council Super-Duper Director Kevin “Addled” Adderley look like a rank amateur – well even more of an amateur than he looks already anyway.
However we wouldn’t begrudge him his bungs if he dished the dirt on his sudden departure from Wirral Council .Unfortunately we suspect a confidentiality clause or his solicitor’s code of conduct prohibits him from telling us how spineless Council “leader” Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies had to get someone else to do the dirty work to get rid of him.
Indeed it must be a welcome change that Bill finds himself working for a council where the leader resigns when he’s involved in dodgy deals involving his mates.On Wirral the leader just gets another one of his mates to write a report to get him off the hook!
Our further congratulations go to Leaky Awards winner Help Save Hamilton Square Birkenhead https://www.facebook.com/savehamiltonsquare/ as an increasingly desperate Wirral council sneak out the news on a bleak Friday afternoon in January that they’ve shelved their embarrassingly misconceived plan to turn the wondrous Hamilton Square into a not-so-merry-go-round.
We are proud to have published one of the earliest objections raised to the harebrained scheme from the ever eloquent Dr.Robert Smith https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/11/12/squaring-the-inner-circle/
We live in hope that this U-turn serves as a further example that a) Wirral Council do not know what they are doing and b) they are currently desperate to maintain their reputation at any cost.
The current administration appear to teetering on the precipice. As we have commented before they may have the electoral mandate but they don’t have the moral authority to run Wirral Council.Indeed we have our doubts that if Lyndale School were currently up for closure that Wirral Council would go through with it – massive capital receipt notwithstanding.
The increasingly desperate PR stunts point to a council in crisis and the results of that ridiculous MORI poll they published yesterday just reinforces our belief that this council is all surface and no substance
We wrote last year : “There was a collective scratching of heads and dropping of jaws at Leaky Towers when we read highly concerning local press reports about the appointment of a retired judge to undertake “an informal review ” of an infamous and seemingly neverending Wirral Council whistleblowing case. We at Leaky Towers shall henceforth be calling this review “The Warren Commission” – a title which conspiracy theorists will no doubt appreciate. We consider that Wirral Council’s press release and subsequent statements given to the media by local politicians about this review are highly dubious, open to serious question and much closer scrutiny.”
As we all know this “informal review” was opportunistically cobbled together by Birkenhead MP Frank Field in the Wirral Council Chief Executive void after Graham Burgess’s “retirement” and Eric Robinson’s “appointment” .The void in this case being the highly paid pushover David Armstrong.
However our old whistleblowing friend Martin Morton has a particular interest in this case and was having none of it. He made a particularly incisive Freedom of Information (FOI) request about what the review was all about and how it came about. Wirral Council have since sought to frustrate his request at every turn. Although Morton must be blue in the face by now at least he’s not red in the face like Wirral Council CEO Eric “Feeble ” Robinson.Indeed we believe this has been Stressed Eric’s first encounter with Juggernaut Morton and let’s face it there was only going to be one person coming out of that collision unscathed.
We know that Stressed Eric was instrumental in thwarting Morton as apparently the Chief Executive is the only person qualified at Wirral Council to be able to apply a Section 36 exemption and prevent the disclosure of information that had been requested .This was an attempt to prevent Morton or indeed anyone from accessing the Terms of Reference for the highly dubious review undertaken by former tribunal judge and close friend of prominent local politicians – Nick Warren.
However the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have now issued a Decision Notice in Morton’s favour.The Decision Notice is a salutary lesson to the likes of Welsh windbag Cllr Adrian Jones.It has been reported that Jones recently “scolded” local nose disease John Brace by publicly accusing him of wasting public money for asking for information that he shouldn’t have to ask for in the first place!.
How about the fake “whistleblowing gatekeeper” hanging his head in shame and consider the amount of public money Wirral Council wastes covering up malpractice and misconduct and much more besides!.
The Decision Notice is revealing in itself as Wirral Council try all kinds of exemptions to try and keep a lid on this not very subtle attempt at a cover up .However we gasped at the sheer chutzpah of Stressed Eric claiming that disclosing the Terms of Reference for the Frankenfield commissioned Warren stitch -up job , sorry “review” would inhibit-
“the free and frank provision of advice, or the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs.”
We all know that what Wirral Council do NOT want in this particular case is anything free and frank. The only Frank aspect to this case is the man himself and his plot to keep his favourite recording artists sweet certainly won’t be free! .As for the effective conduct of public affairs ( no we’re not talking about those public affairs which proved to be very costly to Wirral Council !) – we’d like to know how they can talk about the effective conduct of public affairs when what they’re covering up is the MISCONDUCT of public affairs!!!.
However the upshot of it all is that the ICO quite rightly came to the conclusion that the information requested should be disclosed and have upheld Morton’s appeal and published their Decision on their website:
Upon viewing the withheld information, it is the terms of reference provided to the individual appointed to carry out the inquiry from the Council. The Commissioner does not consider that disclosure of this particular information would result in the prejudice claimed based upon the arguments provided. It is the terms upon which the Council engaged Nick Warren to carry out the inquiry. It does not relate to the provision of advice or the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation, it is the Council instructing the terms of reference under which the inquiry should be carried out. Furthermore, the Commissioner considers that the qualified person has taken irrelevant arguments into account when reaching the opinion in this case, for example, in its submissions to the Commissioner, the Council said that “It is clear to the qualified person that such discussions would have been inhibited had those senior officers not believed that those discussions would be kept confidential.” There are no ‘discussions’ contained within the withheld information, it is the terms of reference on which the inquirer was engaged. The Commissioner does not therefore consider that the opinion of the qualified person is a reasonable one as it is does not appear to be based upon the specific information which is being withheld.
Even more illuminating is the original FOI request made by Morton which is freely available on the WhatDoTheyKnow website . We’ve added our comments to his questions and Wirral Council’s answers :
The Council has been in touch with the ICO and given our position in
relation to this enquiry. Please see Council’s response to your ICO
complaint below. You asked questions listed a to g and these are listed
below, along with our responses.
a) The terms of reference for the above inquiry
Response – The Chief Executive who is the qualified person in relation to
a review when Section 36 has been applied to a request, has considered
this part of your enquiry and seeks to rely on Section 36 to withhold
these terms of reference. The Chief Executive considers that 36 (2) (b)
(i) and (ii) are engaged and has relied on this exemption because it is
his reasonable view that it is appropriate in this case. He believes that
disclosure would inhibit-
(i) the free and frank provision of advice, or
(ii) the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation.
In coming to this decision, he has had regard to the guidance issued by
(Information Commissioners) Office ” Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs”,version 2.
The original response given when relying on this exemption has been
carefully considered and the Chief Executive believes it was correct to
apply this exemption. If the information requested were disclosed then
the conduct of discussions by senior officers of the Council concerning
issues of appropriate gravity would be fundamentally undermined.
It is clear to the Chief Executive that such discussions would have been
inhibited had those senior officers not believed that those discussions
would be kept confidential. The prospect of disclosure of this
information would lead to a less candid exchange of views and ideas. The
Council still contests that the likelihood of prejudice is significant and
weighty. Inhibiting the provision of advice and the free and frank
exchange of views, may impair the quality of decision making of the
Council and have a ‘chilling effect’ Paragraph 49 of the guidance states
“If the issue in question is still live, arguments about a chilling effect
on those ongoing discussions are likely to be most convincing”.
It is also still relevant to have regard to the sensitivity of the
information in question and the Council wishes to have the exemption
contained in Section 36 (b) (i) and (ii) engaged, having regard to the
issues still being live and of a sensitive nature.
The Council did originally consider the test under s.2(2)(b),of FOIA,
namely that “in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in
maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the
information”. The Chief Executive has revisited this, weighed the factors
and continues to hold the view that the Public interest factors against
maintaining the exemption are:-
Public interest in the promotion of transparency and accountability in
relation to the activities of public authorities
Public interest factors for maintaining the exemption are:-
Reduction of the ‘chilling effect’ when matters of particular sensitivity
are being discussed
Reduces the likelihood of inhibition of future discussion in respect of
issues, which are still live and of a sensitive nature.
Therefore the Council stands by its original view that the public interest
in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing
Wirral Leaks says : So now we know (as if we didn’t know already) where Stressed Eric stands on public interest !.He’s not interested in the public! As for ” chilling effect” on decision making etc;. Who are they trying to kid?.This is a group of powerful political figures and highly paid public officials digging a hole for themselves and now they want to be able to dig themselves out of it using public money and don’t want members of the public peering into the hole whilst they go about their dirty business !.
Thankfully ICO saw fit to see through all this – although we await to see whether Wirral Council will squander yet more public money appealing this decision.
b) Details of financial/contractual arrangements between Wirral Council and Nicholas/Nick Warren which relate to directly to this inquiry (including any provisions for external legal advice)
Response – There has been no remuneration paid to Mr. Warren, but please
note the review has not yet been completed.
Wirral Leaks says : Hang on! didn’t Frankenfield have a self-righteous hissyfit claiming that Warren’s review/inquiry/stitch-up had been completed in April 2015.He was complaining to Wirral Globe in July 2015:
“I am deeply troubled by this delay.It is almost ten weeks since the report was completed and filed, and we are clearly getting nowhere.”
A further six months have now passed and still no deal appears to have been struck – has Frankenfield’s grand plan become unstuck?
c) The specific legal provisions under Local Government Act 1972 s101 by which Mr. Warren is potentially able to make decisions about compensation payments by Wirral Council to whistleblowers (according to Frank Field Mr. Warren’s “findings will be binding on both parties”)
Response – Mr Warren has not been given any decision making powers by the
Council in respect of awarding or making any compensation payments. Any
decision to pay compensation would be a matter for the Council. For the
avoidance of doubt, no decision has been made on whether any compensation
should be paid. The Council has therefore no recorded information to
supply in respect of this question.
Wirral Leaks says : So are you saying Frankenfield WAS talking bollocks about Warren’s findings being binding on both parties and nobody at Wirral Council’s Legal Department sought to correct him?.
d) the specific legal provisions under Local Government Act s101 by which Frank Field MP can “demand” payments be made to whistleblowers by Wirral Council
Response – There are no specific legal provisions under which Frank Field
MP can “demand” payments to be made to whistleblowers by Wirral
Council. The Council has therefore no recorded information to supply in
respect of this question.
Wirral Leaks says: So once again did it not occur to someone to have a quiet word with Frankenfield , put him in his place tell him ” sorry to have to tell you but you can’t “demand” payments be paid to anyone because you’re not actually the Leader of Wirral Council or even an elected member”.Although it probably didn’t occur to anyone to tell him this because we all know Frankenfield IS and always has been the de facto Leader of Wirral Council anyway!.
e) The specific legal provisions under Local Government Act s101 by which Frank Field MP can appoint/recommend Nick Warren to undertake this inquiry
Response – There are no specific legal provisions under which Frank Field
MP can appoint an individual to undertake an inquiry on behalf of the
Council. Frank Field MP is entitled to recommend an individual to
undertake an inquiry but the decision to appoint Nick Warren was made by
Wirral Leaks says : Oh and he happened to recommend one of his oldest friends and long standing supporters .No conflict of interest there at all is there!?.Talking of which……
f) Any declarations relating to the inquiry made by Mr.Warren/Mr. Field relating to prior affiliation (publicly acknowledged by both Mr. Field and Council leader Phil Davies) and/or conflict of interest
Response – Nick Warren has been known to Frank Field MP for many years and
Councillor Phil Davies knows of Nick Warren. There is no known conflict
of interest and nor has any conflict of interest been brought to Council’s
attention by Mr. Warren or Mr Field.
Wirral Leaks says : “There is no known conflict of interest…” ???.Oh come on this whole arrangement is a sham.Warren was intended to be is a safe pair of hands and the means to legitimise payments to people with incriminating recordings involving Labour politicians and particularly Frankenfield’s political agent.Simple as that.
g) How the findings of the inquiry are to be publicly reported
Response – Given the nature of the inquiry and the issues being considered there are a number of factors to bear in mind before a decision is made to publish in full or a redacted version. Issues being considered include whether there has been any wrong doing by current or ex-employees and the Council needs to balance all competing issues before a decision is taken regarding publication. At this point in time the report has not been finalised and consideration may need to be given to such issues as a right of reply, before a final decision can be taken on publication, whether whole or in part.
Wirral Leaks says : Looks like to us that Wirral council are pre-empting any findings and looking for reasons NOT to publish the report.It’s the usual story of the public paying for a report that they’re not allowed to read ! .
And Wirral Council wonder why members of the public end up making FOI requests!……