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.
Dr Robert B Smith
On 20 January 2016 at 17:05, Robinson, Eric <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Dear Dr Smith
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.