Keep up the good work!
You must admit – ‘bring it on’ is an open invitation.
Keep up the good work!
You must admit – ‘bring it on’ is an open invitation.
Ladies and gentleman we proudly present this week’s enlightening email exchange between Leaky Towers and Wirral Council’s Senior Manager for Communications and Marketing Kevin MacCallum following the publication of the first edition of Wirral View . As usual we’re not lost for words. As for Kev – well he just appears lost (and not for the first time)…….
Just take the photo of the kid and the woman with the Mayor down. Come on, is it really that big a deal?
I appreciate it, thank you.
Fill your boots with any of the other stuff though, obviously. A lot of this is fair game, and you do a nice job – just try & keep ordinary people out of it.
Is your photo-desk on a go-slow? They could get a job here.
That’s the thing Kev – we have to rely on people doing their stuff voluntarily and for free. It isn’t a job.
We all know that central government are constantly dismantling opportunities for external scrutiny of our public institutions and have lately been encouraging the use of peer reviews.
Peer reviews are basically where get your mates in to give you the thumbs up to carry on as hypernormal. Astonishingly we understand that our very own ‘strong leader’ Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies goes round the country performing this task and give other local authorities the benefit of his ineptitude.
So we thought we’d redress the balance and undertake a peer review by an actual peer of the realm. Therefore as promised His Lordship will be giving a full review of the online edition of Wirral View . But remember folks ” Your publication” is NOT a newspaper !. Power Boy Pip says : “even though this is printed on recycled news-sheet this publication is not a newspaper”. So that’s all right then, thanks for clearing that up for us!.
All we can say on the matter is that if it walks like a duck , talks like a duck – it’s a f*cking duck . We’re surprised it doesn’t come with a free sachet of Hoisin sauce.
The first thing we noted (as did many of our readers) was that advertising was placed solely by Thornton Hall Hotel. Clearly that unfortunate incident involving Foulkesy’s stepson assaulting hotel staff by pulling hair , wielding a fork and doing the “do you know who my mum is?” routine must has been forgiven. But then we suppose if you want the dubious prestige of hosting the annual Mayor’s Ball it’s always best to keep in with the hosts. Which brings us to an interesting point. Isn’t there an incentive for those businesses who have contracts or who may be seeking contracts with Wirral Council to place adverts in Wirral View?. The opportunities for conflicts of interest , coercion and nepotism are a distinct possibility and based on how things work on Wirral , a near certainty. Although having said that we’re sure that Wirral Council’s contracting arrangements are beyond reproach – although those left out of the recent tendering exercise for Wirral’ Council’s taxi services may want to disagree!.
The rest of the publication is all a bit ‘meh’ tbh . It certainly doesn’t appear to be filling anyone’s ” information deficit” (whatever that is) unless of course you’ve always wanted to know how to make Spicy Tomato & Lentil Soup . We counted no less than 10 articles that reference food ,glorious,food . All very lowest common denominator stuff – we blame The Great British Bake Off . However as we’ve already commented the most interesting aspect is the Ofsted inspection report spin-a-rama and the no doubt Martin Liptrot – scripted leader’s column (insert own joke!) .
Power Boy Pip /Liptrotsky are keen to emphasise that Wirral View won’t carry breaking news , football results (!) or important information you need to know immediately and that Statutory Notices will still be placed in the local weekly papers.
The local weekly papers ,by which they obviously mean the Wirral Globe – as we all know they’ve got Wirral News /Liverpool Echo neatly boxed off on the newsfront – will still be able to hold the council and its partners to account when they get things wrong (heaven forbid!).
Of course the Wirral Globe will only be able to hold local organisations to account as long as it is not undermined and it would appear to us that Wirral View is an attempt to do exactly that . We think the true motivation behind the publication of this newspaper (for that’s what it is) was let slip by Labour councillor Ron Abbey at last week’s Extraordinary Council meeting where he said the Wirral Globe were ” too busy criticising this Council” and that they don’t send out “the right message”.
The “right message” we presume being the one personally approved by Pip’s ‘policy advisor’ Mr Liptrot and only then is it fit to grace the pages of Wirral View.
And finally can we say this : these are desperate times when we have to rely on the local press to hold our local institutions to account. Which brings us right back to where we started – we are reliant on the press because there is a lack of external scrutiny of our public institutions and as we have witnessed time and time again it is to the detriment of public accountability, the public interest and the public purse.
With very little fanfare and much controversy we’d like to warn our readers that the first edition of Wirral View will be dropping through their letterboxes any time now.The online edition is posted above. However we’ll be waiting for the paper edition before we deliver our full Wirral View review.
And yes it would appear that Wirral Council have finally decided on a title – it is definitely Wirral View . From what we can see it is very much as we all predicted with news of a River Mersey firework display providing the the bread and circuses front page (the bread bit being the foodbank news on page 26).
Wirral Council’s alleged No.1 priority is relegated to page three. The article on the damning Ofsted Inspection report is given more spin than Rapunzel on speed and has the title ” Children’s services to get major investment” !. Which we suspect will be the distorted shape of things to come.
We have to say Wirral View appears to be very slick and like an oil spill will soon be everywhere and unwanted. There are shiny ,happy people on every page. A smile is obviously compulsory. In fact – even the bloody pumpkins on page 2 are smiling. The only person not smiling is the unemployed person in her beautifully appointed home on page 28 – although she looks more as though she’s online shopping at Waitrose and she’s disappointed they’re all out of quinoa.
However only time will tell whether , in the words of Martin Liptrot , sorry Councillor leader Phil ” Power Boy Pip” Davies’ that – “Hopefully , Wirral View will become a welcome guest in your homes” or it will be Exhibit A in an expensive legal dispute. All we do know for now is that we’re breathless with anticipation for the print edition to arrive as after we’ve given it the once over we can line our cat’s litter tray with the free newspaper that we all somehow pay for!……
Is it us or does this Wirral Council business model have a feel of ‘Big Brother’s Cartel’ about it ? Not only do Wirral Council want to be the the publishers of rose-tinted news and features via Wirral Today but with their Wirral View branding arm , which we exposed on Friday , it would appear they also want to provide local advertising in public places.
And as far as we’re concerned they’ve now started a turf war with Wirral Leaks as everyone knows that exposure 24hrs a day , 7 days a week is our territory!.
Although having said that recent acquisitions and developments involving Wirral Council, Wirral Chamber of Commerce and The Contact Company have left us wondering whether there will be wasted advertising space – as the way things are going there won’t be any other businesses left out there!.
We don’t know whether you’ve had a chance to catch up on the Adam Curtis film HyperNormalisation. For those of you wanting to try and understand the madness of the modern world we suggest you do.
It shows that what has happened is that all of us in the West – not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves – have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal. Wirral Council can be said to be a microcosm of this HyperNormalisation.
Or to update that infamous phrase : Wirral Council – where the normal is HyperNormal.
For our first Word Of the Week tune in for definition of HyperNormalisation at 24 minutes : You were so much part of the system that it was impossible to see beyond it. The fakeness was hypernormal.
Our world is strange and often fake and corrupt. But we think it’s normal because we can’t see anything else. HyperNormalisation – the story of how we got here.
Our second word of the week is our first neologism and has been sent to us by one of our favourite wordsmiths Dr Robert B Smith.
CONCOUNCILLUTION (of Local Authorities)
CON (a Confidence trick) – COUNCIL (A council is a group of people who come together to consult, deliberate, or make decisions) – [So]LUTION (a means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation)
The Concouncillution of a Local Authority, is the process by which local councillors (often in concert with others) create a false, complex, mutually supportive system of non-admission of corrupt, dishonourable and mendacious behaviour. It is a near-invisible, and virtually impenetrable, method of self- and collective-protection. It primarily uses leverage associated with ‘insider’ knowledge of others’ malfeasance, mendacity, or incriminating actions.
Concouncillution is devoid of any relationship with the electorate, and solely exists in order to protect the political and personal self-interest of councillors and senior officers. The active exclusion of ‘the public’ at every opportunity reduces councillor concerns by radically minimising exposure to accountability.
Concouncillution is achieved by councillors, for councillors, with the assistance of compliant officers occupying key positions (primarily legal, HR and finance) in the bureaucracy, and in external organisations. Compliant officers who succumb thereby compromise their own status, employment and staff relations, and their integrity. Concouncillution is a progressive process which leads to a specific high-level ‘political inner-circle’ of exclusivity, concealed from the public.
Concouncillution knows no political or geographic boundaries and often unites diverse political callings through mutually beneficial (protective) arrangements, and/or relationships.
Concouncillution compromises all parties, has questionable moral and legal standing, and has apparently limitless budgetary allocations to draw upon.
We couldn’t let yesterday’s Parliamentary debate on the stripping “Sir” Philip Green of his title for alleged “asset stripping” pass without comment.
Whilst we witnessed Birkenhead MP Frank Field plough the fertile Green fields , what you don’t see below is the question raised by the Labour MP for Hartlepool who asked about the role played by Green’s advisors in the BHS debacle and specifically Grant Thornton ( who also just happen to be Wirral Council’s auditors) .
Of course Frankenfield moved swiftly on – not wanting to deflect from the pantomime villainry being played out in Parliament and pursuing the frankly lame Napoleon figure comparisons. We couldn’t help commentating that it takes one to know one .
Now I think we can all agree that “Sir” Philip Green is bad to the bone – the ugly face (and boy do we mean ugly) of capitalism. But beyond the political grandstanding is he any worse than the hypocrites in the Houses of Parliament all too ready to denounce his decadent ways?
Let’s remember , as far as we know, Green has not broken any laws . Can Frankenfield say the same ?- as far as we’re concerned he’s definitely aided and abetted one.
And let’s also remember who makes the laws – yes that’s right MPs !. So what if Green played fast and loose with the Companies Act – who’s fault is that?
It is well to remember that we live in a complex world and that traditional notions of good and evil no longer apply . It is your solemn duty to always, ALWAYS challenge the perceived notion of who are the good guys just as ‘The Professor ‘ reminds us in a postscript to his erudite report which we published earlier this week:
Just arrived in our inbox has been information about how to advertise in a new publication what we thought was called called ‘Wirral View’.
“Not another local paper in the wake of the Council’s ‘Wirral Today’” we thought to ourselves and then we looked a little closer and saw that the contact email address was email@example.com
We presumed wtads is an acronym for Wirral Today advertising and Wirral View is the advertising arm of the operation or have Wirral Council hit upon a third title for their tawdry rag after Wirral Life and Wirral Today ?. So although , curiously , the Wirral Council logo is nowhere to be seen Wirral View would appear to be the accompanying website and advertising arm of Wirral Today .
However astonishingly the blurb on the website states :
“Wirral Council is looking at ways to raise income in order to sustain its services…….”
Two words come to mind when we read this : JUDICIAL REVIEW
We say this because we’ve all been led to believe that the rationale and justification for Wirral Today or whatever the newspaper is called was to communicate with the poor folk of Wirral who don’t receive the Wirral Globe, Wirral News, don’t buy the Liverpool Echo , don’t have access to the internet and are absolutely bursting with excitement at the prospect about hearing how wonderful Wirral Council and its partners are. Who knows if they’re really lucky there might even be a word search and as IPSOS Mori identified that the Council were failing to connect with young women in particular there might even be a feature on Justin Bieber!.
We have often asked ourselves how they intended to fill 24 pages with self-promoting puff pieces and then we read that there are special mate’s rates – so no doubt we’ll reading how wonderful the Wirral Chamber of Commerce is as well.
Wirral View’s advertising policy states that all adverts must adhere to the codes of conduct laid down by the Advertising Standards Authority. This includes the requirement that marketing communications must be legal,decent, honest and truthful !.
We’re left wondering whether these standards will apply to the news content!. As this is a Wirral Council publication we won’t hold our breath!.
We also note that the first edition was due to be distributed from 17th October . As we haven’t received a copy at Leaky Towers and neither have our many sources we await the forthcoming edition of Wirral Today scheduled for 14th November.
Whilst we are looking forward to the first edition ,mainly due to the endless opportunities it will provide for satire , we can’t help shaking our head in wonderment at the warped view of Wirral Council who seem to have forgotten they are a local authority with particular statutory responsibilities……and running a newspaper business isn’t one of them!.
We don’t know whether any of you watched last night’s “Who’s Spending Britain’s Billions” documentary on BBC2. If you haven’t seen it – take a couple of beta blockers and catch up on BBC iPlayer . However just to let you know that for Wirral Leaks readers it would have been familiar territory – consultants who leech off local councils and bleed them dry ,the outsourcing of public services which don’t make the expected savings as they are swallowed up in management fees and evasive councillors trying to justify their financial ineptitude.
However we can exclusively reveal that in March of this year His Lord and Ladyship were asked to contribute to the programme by Pulse , the production team behind the programme http://www.pulsefilms.com/
Whilst we had to decline the offer we thought it would be instructive to share with our readers the email correspondence that took place between Pulse and Wirral Leaks , as it not only explains our reason for being camera shy but provides some insight into why we do what we do.Having said that we’d like to think we gave a steer to the programme makers about just how broken many of our institutions are :
I’m a documentary producer for BBC2, making a one hour prime-time documentary looking at how public bodies are managing public funds at a time of austerity. I’ve been reading your blog, and I’m wondering if we can have a quick chat over the phone. I’m trying to get a sense of what’s going on at council level all over the country – how are council’s coping during austerity? Are poor decisions being made? Have things improved? Let me know if you are available, and we can schedule in a call
Dear Julian, thanks for your reply.
I doth my hat to you and your work.
At this stage all I’m looking for is an off the record chat over the phone to understand all the things you say below. If after that we think there is something we want to follow up on, then we can cross that bridge. At this stage all is off the record, you havent signed no consent forms to say anything can be used on TV, and it’ll just be a chat over the phone. But if you’d like to only chat over the email then that’s fine as well.
The investigation is being fronted by Jacques Peretti. He wants concrete examples with evidence where money has been pissed down the drain…. Can be small bizarre stories or large scale project failures. They have to be within last 3 years or so. Anything spring to mind?
If wastefulness is still the case he wants to know why. Why is money wasted?
He is also interested in the relationship between public and private. We’re interested in the role of private consultants and the amount of money being spent, and we’re also interested in the amount of money going to private contractors in outsourcing jobs. Are they value for money?
That’s our line of enquiry. Id love to talk it through with you.
We understand that at last night’s Extraordinary Meeting of Wirral Council that there were several calls for various heads to roll in the aftermath of the Ofsted Inspection Report. Prominent among them being Cllr Tony Smith the Labour Cabinet lead for Children’s Services.
It didn’t happen of course due to both a lack of opposition votes and also seemingly a lack of shame.
It seems that much of the criticism levelled at Cllr Tony Smith is that with his soothing,lilting,lovely Irish brogue he has reassured councillors that everything was fine ,to be sure , so it is, when talking about how well the council was doing when it came to safeguarding vulnerable children.
But it clearly wasn’t doing well at all, at all – and he and others knew it!.
And so this now turns out to be a further manifestation of what Ofsted politely call “a culture of over-optimism” and what we identified almost exactly 3 years ago as ‘The Pollyanna Principle’ with its prime proponent being Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies :
How timely then that it has been brought to our attention that Cllr Tony Smith has a history of making statements that are not merely “over -optimistic” but considering his position – misleading,manipulative and irresponsible.
Our regular learned contributor ‘The Professor’ informs us that an official (leaked) report has concluded that the Troubled Family Programme delivered zero improvements in families nationally and reminds us :
Last year I reported on the false claims by the Council of a ‘huge success’ in ‘turning around’ local families from hell in the Troubled Families Programme. It turned out those claims were false. Now we learn that a leaked, independent government sponsored report by Ecorys confirms and extends these conclusions nationally. But let’s remind ourselves of the Wirral Council claims first. Cllr. Tony Smith declared in March 2015 at the TFP celebrations, that
‘we have seen a hugely successful outcome…’
What actually happened? Well initially 74% of our families had workless adults. At project end just 2.6% had gained an adult with a job, or 24 in total. The local project processed 910 families compared with 118,000 nationally. The national cost of the TFP phase 1 was ~£615 million so average cost per family was £5.2K. Our cost share would be £4.72 million. We can see that each job gained cost us ~£197,000. Is that good value? However in addition it was claimed that 77% of the Wirral troubled families had met the ‘crime / ASB / education’ target. Surely a big reduction in crime or antisocial behaviour is worth something? Except that 93.5% of adults and 89.6% of children had not been involved in ASB at project entry! 84 % of minors had not been involved in offences! Only 1.2% of the children had an ASBO or ABC!. It turns out that the 77% number is phoney and, to the extent it measures anything, that is a modest reduction in school absences, not criminality.
The Professor’s full report to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee : Troubled Families Inquiry 2016 can be read here : https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxrkIjRDgrB-ODJLNjYyY2trNVQwZThoMkxXVm1GNW5pVjBJ