Brickie On Tour

Brickie pic

The poppies, the wristbands……. all he needs is the CND logo tattooed on his forehead. And no right thinking person would think he means any of it. Not for a single second.

Whilst we all gaze adoringly at our favourite brickie gazing into the middle distance below are the details of Metro Mayor Steve ‘the Brickie’ Rotheram’s  tour of the Liverpool City Region as it reaches Wirral’s shores.

He was a brickie by the way, just in case you missed that in his lowest common denominator electioneering.  “I’m a brickie. I’m one of you”  No, you’re not you’re a career politician , and a particularly phoney one at that. 

Metro Mayor’s Question Time 

Needless to say anyone residing at Leaky Towers will be screened out during the application but if one of us was there one question we’d like to ask him is about the ongoing Merseyrail dispute.

The rather wonderful Confidentials website has an excellent analysis of the situation which you can read here : Mayors to blame

Whilst Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden highlighted the issue in the House of Commons last week and  blamed the  government decision to cut the city region’s train’s budget by millions of pounds the Rail Minister Paul Maynard pointed a finger of blame at the city region’s Labour decision makers.

He told Carden: “As Labour members will know, they have a multiplicity of local Labour politicians to discuss this matter with, including the chair of Merseytravel (Cllr Liam Robinson), the elected city Mayor in Liverpool (Joe Anderson) and the elected city region Mayor (Carden’s predecessor Steve Rotherham), all of whom have stood behind this decision. If we truly believe in devolving transport powers, we have to respect the decisions that are taken.”

It emerged during the debate that the Dutch state-owned co-operator of Merseyrail, Abellio, puts guards on its trains in Holland, but proposes to run a service without them on its Mersey franchise.

Those local Labour politicians from Wirral who influence decision making on this matter include Cllr Jerry Williams , Cllr Ron Abbey and ( God help us) Cllr Steve Foulkes – so let’s face it we’re doomed . Therefore we implore the people of Wirral – if you care about employment rights and your personal safety sign those petitions demanding that guards remain on Merseyrail trains . If that doesn’t work  – remember there are local elections on Wirral next year ,and putting party politics aside, it would be good to remember exactly who trashed over local rail travellers.

 

 

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A Repulsive Exclusive

Echo exclusive 011

We understand that Wirral Council have just agreed a 3-year £750K contract with Trinity Mirror (publisher of the Liverpool Echo) to print their appalling rag Wirral View. This new arrangement  is due to start on December 1st so we just hope that council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies , seen bopping away in a PRIVATE box in the Liverpool Echo Arena at last night’s Queen & Adam Lambert concert, paid for the dubious privilege or at least made an appropriate conflict of interest declaration. Just sayin’

However the arrangement seems to be bearing strange fruit for the Liverpool Echo as they publish an EXCLUSIVE! , presumably courtesy of Wirral Council ,on the repulsive Rajenthiram brothers Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case.

As we’ve already reported the Serious Case Review (SCR) report has not , and currently will not, be published . Instead  Liverpool Echo have today published a front page  EXCLUSIVE! under the headline  Grave Errors ‘ paved way for Wirral abuse scandal ‘. Inside on page 16 there are details of the 24 ( count’em) recommendations of the SCR.  Crime Reporter Joe Thomas chips in with the sub-heading ” Too many missed opportunities. The public should be told”  and bigs up the Echo’s role in revealing ‘concerns’. However after the bigging up comes the inevitable copping out as Joe says :

“The safeguarding situation on Wirral is said to be much different now ….”

And commenting on Wirral Safeguarding Children Board’s chair Dr Maggie Atkinson he adds :

” And she believes that improvements have already been made – and that the same failings seen in the Rajenthiram case would not be repeated today”

Yeah , whatever! Hey! Joe they said that in 2012 after the publication of a damning Independent Review about adult social services. They lie. It’s what these people do. Might we suggest you at  least check out the veracity of their claims before publishing.

Meanwhile we still think that the problem with Wirral Council is its culture and which is revealed in the 24th and last recommendation of the SCR  which reads :

To ensure the promotion of “professional curiosity” when vulnerable children seek advice 

Or in layperson’s terms – try and employ people who actually give a shit about their job and more importantly vulnerable people. Simple as that.

However isn’t it reassuring to know that the day before Wirral Council was humiliatingly yet again being called out for being crap all over the local TV and press that its ‘leader’ saw fit to play air guitar and headbang along to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ ?

WHAM ! BAM ! – Thank You Scam ?!

Bam

And so 9 years after outsourcing highways maintenance Wirral Council has suddenly -BAM! – out of the blue announced that it is to bring this area of council responsibility back ‘in house’.

Council leader Phil Davies thanked BAM Nuttall for their work but said this was the right decision for the council tax payers of Wirral.

He continued: “Wirral Council has to ensure every pound spent is wisely invested and we get the best value for our residents.This decision is the right decision at the right moment – the contract with BAM Nuttall was coming to an end and we believe we can deliver this service more effectively by taking direct control.”

Highways U-Turn

Note our emphasis on the words the right decision at the right moment. Care to explain more about that assertion Power Boy Pip? No we thought not!

We have to admit we didn’t see this one coming down the road – but then desperate times at Wirral Council call for desperate measures.  Whilst this U-turn decision may seem to fly in the face of Wirral Council’s transformation agenda , which largely consists of outsourcing as many public services as they can , for those of us with an understanding of what’s been going on behind closed doors lately and the startling developments that council insiders (and some outsiders!) have been letting on to us it all makes perfectly perverse sense. Let us explain why.

Cast your minds back to the heady days of 2008 when Wirral Council outsourced their highly lucrative highways contract out to Colas in preference to the in house Direct Labour Organisation (DLO).  Some aggrieved DLO staff , having had their employment contracts transferred to Colas , then cried foul  when it came to the tendering arrangements and ‘whistleblew’. Despite numerous subsequent investigations we don’t think it’s ever been properly explained as to what actually went on. All we do know is that it all went nuclear and the fall out is being felt within Wirral Council to this day. Colas eventually walked away from the contract and it was transferred to BAM Nuttall in 2014.

Now it seems we’ve gone right round the roundabout and highways maintenance services will be returned in-house to Wirral Council in October 2018.  All of which wants us to ask some pertinent questions as to why this is ‘the right decision’ and ‘the right moment’. The right decision for whom? How is are councillors Davies and Whittingham evidencing that this is in the best interest of council taxpayers? – that’ll be a first! and why now all of a sudden ? Will BAM Nuttall highways maintenance staff be transferred back to Wirral Council ? and if so will that include the DLO staff and particularly any of the ‘whistleblowers’ who we understand are still seeking compensation – for what exactly we’re not quite sure – from Wirral Council?

It seems to us that after a decade of dispute that would certainly get Wirral Council and , particularly some councillors, out of a deep, deep pothole they’ve dug for themselves now wouldn’t it?! #Wirralgate

The BIG Issue

Bank of Money

We understand that Dictionary.com have just decreed that ‘complicit’ is the word of 2017. Therefore it is most appropriate that we  publish whistleblower Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro’s audit of the BIG fund. A definitive account (thus far) of auditing failures written by someone who believes in public accountability and protecting the public purse about people who profit from the lack of both. 

THE BIG FUND Audit

Voluntarily and, for no pay, I have performed an audit of the BIG fund. Although I was one of two whistle-blowers I am going to trace what I would have done had I been in receipt of the data as a Council Internal Auditor.

I imagine that the Peer Improvement Board take Councillor Davies at his word, that WBC is open to learning from other councils. They arrange that a Bolton Borough Internal auditor job- swaps for a short period to bring objectivity to an investigation that, as per Cllr Philip Davies “was not fit for purpose” when performed by WBC’s own Internal Audit Service. Clearly it was not fit for purpose as both Beverley Edwards’ 350 page report, and David Garry’s 33 page report were riddled with partisanship, the main drive being to exculpate their colleagues. I am not shown their reports, let me imagine, just the gist of them lacking independence. As an internal auditor I very much welcome the freedom of not being obligated by ties of colleagueship and passage of years with any of the WBC staff I will be engaging with.

On receipt of allegations from two qualified and mature employees of a subcontractor working on a council project, I would have commenced by performing a type of SWOT analysis-Strengths Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This SWOT analysis was demanded of every application for council funds whether BIG or Intensive Start Up Scheme (ISUS).

Pictorially the matrix is represented below. I would outline in words why such fractions were given.

What are the risks to the whistle-blower’s livelihood if he be lying-100%; and if he be truthful given the hoops he must go through at an Industrial tribunal, well very significant. Thereby I have analysed his risk to livelihood, irrespective of his truth or otherwise, as being 80%

If the whistle-blower is correct then what profit might he make? The answer is very small, if any, as the Council does not pay any bounty to a whistle-blower.

If the whistle-blower be correct what threat is there to a council officer? Given the unions within the council, given the dissemination of responsibility within the council, there is little threat to any individual council officer. This operates to enhance the possibility of lying by council officers as the penalty is much mollified by group responsibility, lack of punishment and the council’s desire to keep gross error from public view. In this case already some councillors and the press’ reportage has unmasked WBC Internal audit as “unfit for purpose”.

Examination of the history of the Martin Morton case and the Colas whistle-blowers gives a trust rating very high to the whistle-blower and correspondingly low to the officers.

first chart

My preliminary conclusion therefore is that I give credence to the whistle-blower. I examine his claims with a view to progressing further, anticipating systemic failure.

I ask for a contract with wirralbiz for the BIG fund work on which they might be paid up to £1,500 per case. All six of the files examined by the whistle-blower were prepared by wirralbiz.

Since it is clear that the files were concealed from him for a long time I presume they were a random sample. His access was to them was swiftly closed down after pressure from Invest Wirral. He has shown me emails to that effect.

I ask for a full list of BIG recipients notated as to wirralbiz prepared, and as to those independently prepared.

The contract for services re BIG is unsigned! which increases the factor of systemic risk.

There are 49 recipients of which 25 were prepared by wirralbiz.

Having received the arguments of the whistle-blower on the six files he examined I retrace carefully his logic.

Lockwood Engineering Ltd –    Evidence of a criminal offence of phoenixing the company assets into Harbac UK ltd. The transfer of £30,000 worth of equipment part funded by the council, with the Head of Regeneration’s consent, raises dramatically the risk of officers being deceitful.

Prima facie the whistle-blower is correct in that the liquidation of the company could have been predicted as high risk if very significant liabilities had been included within the cashflow given to the council.

M L Engineering Ltd  –    conclusive evidence of fraudulent representation by either the Fieldcrest ltd or by the business itself. If the latter, the contractor of wirralbiz is at the very least guilty of gross negligence. Negligence  is compounded because a prior claim already had been dismissed with the claimant presenting as a sole trader, but now presenting as a limited company.

I chose the above two as the whistle-blower had made claims thereon which imperilled himself, and, his having been proven correct,  requires me to compile a new SWOT. This incorporates the fact of the skimpy and unsigned contract which must have governed up to a maximum of £500,000 of Working Neighbourhoods money, and of the criminality involved in the first two wirralbiz files. I have learnt from the whistle-blowers that Invest Wirral dismissed out of hand their allegations between May and July 2011. Invest Wirral simply cited that chief accountants in WBC had been involved and could not possibly be wrong. Having read the first two files this  rings alarm bells as it took the first whistle-blower to demand an interview with Kevin Adderley for these allegations even to reach internal audit.

chart the second

I justify this analysis based on   1. The risk the whistle-blower has taken to point to criminal activity

  1. The detection of two out of six random files containing criminal behaviour not detected ,or even perhaps sanctioned by council officers, must lead me to suspect systemic failure.

Actions: read through remaining four of the whistle-blower’s files to see if more error does exist which may raise the probability of systemic error.

Company 3       The cashflow is extremely optimistic. The company’s solvency depends upon a loan owed it by a group company with no assets, a figure of over £1m pounds!                  

Company 4          The company does start out with £60,000 net deficit. There is an allegation of connexions between Mrs Basnett and the wife of the claimant director. The claim was dismissed by the whistle-blower but then resurrected despite his advice based on the BIG fund rules that claimants be solvent. Why?

Company 5          The company already has received a BIG grant so the second should have been examined more closely. The publication does have an intimate connexion with Egerton House, owned by WBC, and does not concern itself with exporting out of the Wirral and thereby the project was and remains disallowable under the rules of BIG  

Company 6       The sole trader is a director of a company that is insolvent. Prima facie this does present an equivocation vis- a- vis the solvency rules of BIG.

Review of the above files renders a percentage of error of 100% whereby I can conclude that the wirralbiz files are highly likely to contain a very significant error ratio since 6 out of 25 files randomly chosen are wrong in one way or another. That represents 25% of the wirralbiz files which in a random sample is highly significant.

Time taken 15 hours.

I must now consider the outline of the system which previously had been marked by David Garry, WBC Internal Auditor, as more than satisfactory. How did the errors in wirralbiz’s files pass muster with the WBC accountants and the independent panel?

I will commence by researching from the list any of the independently prepared BIG successful claimants who may have gone into liquidation. I locate two as below:

New Gaming Concept limited    – into liquidation  18/03/2010 and fully dissolved  25/06/2011

Corrin Kenny ltd  – entry into liquidation 22/03/2012

I ask for the files to discover that New Gaming Concept ltd’s claim had been tagged by the Chief Accountant to as invalid unless it could find £45,000 to cover its needs for the summer of 2010. The file shows a quick exchange of emails between Invest Wirral and Brendan Ludden, the director,in February 2010, where an unsigned claim form was provided as guarantee that North West Development Agency (NWDA) would provide more funds. Highly unsatisfactory and proved by events less than a month later to be unsound. The company filed for winding-up in March 2010.

The reason for the claim was to remove from Liverpool to Birkenhead so it was not a Wirral company when it claimed!

The company was heavily geared and the Liquidator’s statement shows a loss of public money in excess of £800,000.

I email a member of the Independent Panel as to what they saw at each meeting? He confirms no accounts were shown to them just a synopsis by a WBC accountant and the business plan itself.

I conclude that the Independent Panel whether they be from Federation of Small Business or some othe small business group, are to some degree operating in the dark.

Corrin Kenny Ltd- the file showed that the council had only sight of published accounts up to 31 March 2010 which were more than 8 months old. This was in contravention to the BIG requirement to produce management accounts of no less than 6 months old. Review of Companies House records highlighted that the accounts were unreliable as the comparative figures in the March 2010 accounts do not agree with the accounts filed with Companies House for March 2009.

Secondly, the project links communities within Wirral but does not export services outside of Wirral which in effect invalidates the claim. I note that the claimant address on the application is at Egerton House where Invest Wirral is located yet its stated offices on the internet are Innovation House, Bromborough. There may be a connection between the claimant and Insiders within Regeneration department as the application is full of buzz words relating to recent council schemes, going so far as to quote the previous CEO.

Within 10 months and, as I am performing this audit in August 2012, the company entered compulsory liquidation by petition of the Inland Revenue.

I note that of the two Budgets prepared independently of wirralbiz that I have reviewed, the New Gaming application does present a balanced cashflow, a Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet. The template adopted by wirralbiz, that used  in over half the successful applications does not incorporate Projected Balance sheets. The latter omission suggests the wirralbiz template is that used in the Intensive Start Up scheme, designed for start- ups without a history of trading , and not appropriate to existing and substantial businesses.

Time taken 5 hours.

Conclusion: I must extend my sample from 8% of the non-wirralbiz files. I will choose those that prima facie seem to break the rules of BIG.

I will restate my risk matrix after reading the following files:

Aspire Trust Ltd and Aspire Creative Enterprises Ltd

Quite properly the Chief Accountant, Bob Neeld expresses a reserve shared by the independent panel that the Aspire Trust Ltd is a charity which ab initio is excluded from BIG. It is Invest Wirral that advocates for the company and, on the basis of a prior application by Merseycare ltd, granted even though it was a charity, the Panel agree to consider a revamped application by a “trading arm” , and separate company ,to Aspire Trust ltd.

Aspire Creative Enterprises Ltd

The budgets are prepared using the Fieldcrest Ltd (i.e. wirralbiz) template which does not make a balancing document. Despite the turnover exceeding VAT limits no VAT is calculated in Year 1 nor in Year 2, but no-one from the council  identified this error. The charity having planned a turnover exceeding vat limits is obliged by VAT rules to register for VAT.

No-one flexed the projections for a worst case scenario, a fault common to all the wirralbiz files and likely to be so with independently prepared files. Bob Neeld simply states he cannot comment on a new business income flows. However in contradiction the Panel is told that although BIG fund excludes new businesses with less than one year’s trading, somehow this is evited by the Aspire Trust ltd, as opposed to Aspire Creative Enterprises Limited, having operated for some 10 years?

The projections do not explain why in a digital hub Cost of sales is 50% of sales? This is not a retail but a service based enterprise so what are Cost of Sales? No-one appears to have asked? Did the Panel see the Projections or just the synopsis?

The business projections appear to be wildly optimistic and I checked what Invest Wirral were given as monitoring accounts. The turnover for one year was just in excess of £3,000, a far cry from the £100,000+ projected.

The statement given to the Panel via Bob Neeld was that “the cash indicates that without the grant there would be cash deficits for the first four months”.

I created two Budgets one including the VAT required and one without, and in neither case did the cashflow require the full £15,000 grant. With VAT as per the projections the company needed £5,500, and without Vat just under £10,000. Bob Neeld would have better served had he recreated the cashflow, balanced it with Profit and Loss and with Projected Balance sheet before ever making a glib statement as above. It took me 40 minutes which given £15,000 was being given to a start-up and a quasi- charity, the case certainly deserved.

Alternately he might have stated that a start-up achieving a Profit of 0ver £20,000 in Year 1 without VAT ,and £12,000 with VAT, was improbable. Either way his short email to Invest Wirral appears to be rather in the manner of Pontius Pilate.

Total time 2 hours.

I have now to restate my probability of systemic failure before I examine LEC lights, or decide if indeed need to do so.

I estimate the risk to be above 90%. I have spent 22 hours, and commuted for 5 days from the Bolton Metropolitan borough. The charge to WBC to date is one week of my salary some £1,250 with a mark up of 100% for travel time and costs, that is £2,500.
Conclusions:

There is a grave risk for this project that wirralbiz files some 25 of 49, represent very poor value for money.

There was always a systemic risk in the diagram of procedures viz

Two at least of these claims involved fraud

No signed contract with wirralbiz can be located

Chief accountants when advancing caveats against projects are over-ruled presumably by the occlusion of their opinions and deprival of the historic accounts to the Independent Panel.

There appears to be a rush to hand the money out even though the Chief Accountant has told me funds could be carried over almost indefinitely, year to year

Other factors troubling myself include the probability of a cover-up:-

The dismissal of a qualified accountant, one of the whistle-blowers later, was because “Nothing would get past him” quote from Invest Wirral to Wirralbiz yet he dismissed just his first two claims , one from a start-up-ineligible- and one from a company with a £60,000 deficit.

The officers have claimed to me that he was a disaffected employee of wirralbiz yet I understand he was only made redundant 11 months after he made his allegations.

The second whistle-blower claims Kevin Adderley lied to him regarding liquidations in the BIG scheme. Generally he was lying because New Concept Gaming ltd and Lockwood Engineering Ltd had both  gone into liquidation before the interview whereas he claimed no BIG fund recipient had gone bust.. The officers have used sophistry to cover his statement and subsequent statements. They have claimed “going bust” is on completion of the liquidation, which usually takes 12 months, but this represents a turning upside down of common sense.

A further troubling observation is that, however cursory councillors’ approvals may be, a significant number of grants {20} were given without seeking the consent of councillors and on the say-so merely of Kevin Adderley and/or the Chief Executive. This provides a motive to cover up.

Recommendations

The internal auditors who presided over the enquiry have both left the employ of WBC.

The Chief Executive also has resigned.

For the above no sanction may be applied.

I recommend that Invest Wirral be advised of their failings and caution be applied in running such schemes as BIG ever again.

Kevin Adderley as a senior public official ought to receive some disciplinary proceeding.

The two files M L Engineering ltd and Lockwood Engineering ltd should be referred to the Police and communication should be opened with the on-going Liquidators as to the fate of the £30,000 worth of equipment funded by BIG which I suspect was transferred prior to Liquidation to Harbac without any payment being given.

The contract with Fieldcrest ltd, now employed by Invest Wirral should be suspended whilst the Police consider the allegations with regard to M L Engineering Ltd.

The failings I have seen would never have been located without the whistle-blowers who clearly have been resisted and not rewarded. Clearly the WBC should out of common morality thank them publicly and as soon as possible. Government auditors have told local government that 80% of serious failings are discovered by whistle-blowing and only 20% by systems. WBC needs to encourage whistle-blowers and not block them.

I will return to perform the Intensive Start Up Scheme which I have learnt from Government Internal Audit agency is currently being investigated, including Wirral’s ISUS, from a serious complaint from a Supplier to the scheme in addition the allegations of the two whistle-blowers. When I commence a week of ISUS investigation I will bring to it a clear appreciation of the value I attach to the allegations and considerable caution in dealing with the local government officers.

 

Voluntary Termination

Wirral Council Twitter

Although we do have an account  @WIRRALLEAKS we really don’t do Twitter. Even 280 words would never be enough for us and the relentless self promotion on this particular platform would put us off our stroke (or give us one).

However talking of which we couldn’t help commenting on Wirral Council’s Twitter header which has winged its way to us.

Forgive us – but when some of the most self serving people on planet earth have the temerity to ask us “When was the last time ……you did something for someone else” and use, not so much a picture as a visual tick box , it makes us want to empty the brown paper bag full of fresh vegetables and throw up into it – especially when you consider how the high and mighty at Wirral Council seem to have such little regard for ethnic minorities and the vulnerable . And furthermore as Her Ladyship said about the woman in the fingerless mittens – somebody needs to call  Kingdom’s fashion police and tell them to issue a Penalty Charge Notice.

Now we’ve said this before , we know kindness is never wasted and all that , and people who do voluntary work and who don’t expect to win awards and plaudits for doing so are to be valued. However the relentless promotion by Wirral Council of doing something for someone else to make us feel good about ourselves doesn’t sit well with us when it is presented in a queasy mix of  virtue signalling and guilt tripping . Might we suggest that encouraging people to plug the gaps in what’s left of public services makes highly paid public service ‘transformers’ feel even better ? Isn’t this what David Cameron’s ‘Big Society ‘ was largely all about? He must be happy as a pig in muck that this part of his vision for Britain where voluntary work replaces paid work and which hastens the termination of hard fought public services has been lovingly embraced by Labour councils?

Furthermore isn’t there’s something a bit sickening about Wirral Council workers who are enduring pay freezes, redundancy threats and imposition of unpaid leave are encouraged to undertake further work for no pay as when Wirral Council piously launched  a Voluntary Leave Policy      earlier this year :

To support this, the Council will promote volunteering and encourage employees to volunteer their help, time and support to make a difference to their local community.

Interestingly enough we’ve had a few people who used to work for Wirral Council and who were quite happy to do voluntary work  but were put off when they discovered that they were being asked to do complex work dealing with vulnerable people that used to be undertaken by the statutory services they had previously worked for! The further irony being that Wirral Council were part funding the management of this service!

Of course we should expect that Wirral Council’s senior management would want to promote this volunteering initiative and lead by example. Shall we look forward to a picture of Wirral Council CEO Eric Robinson emptying his recyclable Waitrose bag full of ethically sourced goodies at a Wirral soup kitchen on Christmas Day ? Or failing that do as one of his predecessors , Steve Maddox,  used to do and donate his Returning Officer expenses to a worthy charity? Or will we see interim head of law Philip McCourt popping into the one stop shop to do a bit of pro bono welfare rights work when the flawed introduction of Universal Credit wreaks havoc ? Let’s hope Wirral Council’s  communications department don’t forget to obtain pictures and post on their Twitter page  – as nowadays an act of selflessness didn’t happen unless there’s a selfie!

Apologies and Apologists

Apologies i have none

There was a very sorry display (or should that be ‘not sorry’ display?) at this week’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee where much of the meeting was spent discussing ” How do we solve a problem like Louise Reecejones (LRJ) ?” .

Apparently at the time of Monday’s meeting LRJ has yet to issue an acceptable apology to the whistleblowers who had made valid complaints about her but were then subject to personal attacks on social media and had to counter allegations intended to damage their careers. Furthermore doubts were raised during this week’s  meeting as to whether LRJ will comply with the requirement  to offer a  grovelling apology for her conduct to all Wirral councillors at full council meeting to be held on December 11 and whether she will actually turn up – something we had already raised as a possibility as you can read here : Standards and Measures

Having said all that it was particularly dispiriting to witness Wirral councillors flailing about and not knowing what to do if LRJ’s BSL signer is required to stick two fingers up to the sanctions imposed on her by the council’s Standards Panel . A rather excitable interim Monitoring Officer Philip McCourt seemed to get a vicarious thrill from reciting instances of appalling conduct of councillors from other areas as if to say ” and you thought you were bad!……”  

At which point Cllr Ron Abbey gormlessly  commented :   ” Just goes to show what’s going on out there . We live in a sheltered world . We’re all too good for our own  good 

Really???

Meanwhile his comedy sidekick Cllr Paul Stuart seems tickled pink by his hilariously insightful comments . They’re the Chuckle Brothers without the chuckles. All of this can be witnessed at between 18- 22 minutes of the John Brace video posted below.

We’d like to ask McCourt where he thinks councillors using racial slurs to describe his predecessor , attempting smear campaigns and trying to use public money to buy the silence of complainants would rank in the scheme of councillor misconduct?  #Wirralgate ……or whether this just confirms his prissy assertion that councillors can currently be ” naughty to a fairly large degree” without it impacting on them being fine upstanding public representatives and pillars of the community.

As far as we’re concerned it’s BY FAR the very worst behaviour ever committed by Wirral councillors . However sadly the days when  councillors could be surcharged for their  misdeeds (Tesco heiress Dame Shirley Porter’s gerrymandering  in Westminster being the most prominent example ) or even referred to inept independent body Standards for England are long gone . Would you believe that despite ex-councillor Jim Crabtree’s conviction earlier this year for his repulsive behaviour (ironically) towards LRJ  that he would still be eligible to stand again as a councillor as he did not receive a custodial sentence of more than 3 months!

It would appear the bar for decent conduct for public servants has now been set so low that is it any wonder that we have the appalling shower of public representatives that we have at Wirral Council?  What’s more when you consider that councillors have been apologists for the most appalling conduct of both favoured senior officers and fellow councillors over recent  years that they now lack any MORAL AUTHORITY when it comes to trying to censure the conduct of  others.

Not that we’re apologists for LRJ but if she’s struggling to cobble together a convincing and sincere apology here’s our humble suggestion :

As a once proud upstanding member of this council I am today detumescent before you. Before I prostrate myself  in abject shame and beg your forgiveness I offer these wholly inadequate yet heartfelt words. I realise I could never hope to meet the high standards set by former Labour councillors such as Harry Smith , with his tact, diplomacy and his use of the English language ,and especially his command of Anglo-Saxon . Nor could I ever hope to attain the high office of  Jim Crabtree .  I realise that his telephone manner left a lot to be desired but in every other respect his behaviour was exemplary – at least by Bidston & St James ward standards anyway.  

As for current Labour councillors there is our supreme leader Phil aka Power Boy Pip who has been a particular inspiration to me when it comes to delegating his powers as I have long admired how he gets other people to do his dirty work. As for his deputies what can I say ? There’s big hitter Bernie and casual racist George. And as for Foulkesy? What can I say other than I am simply unworthy to keep their company.  All that is left for me to say is that I apologise for all the wrongs that the Labour group have inflicted upon Wirral and I accept my role as a scapegoat on their behalf.  

 

 

‘Hub’ Hubris – The ‘Defend Our NHS’ fight back opens the party season

Hunt

As the  party season arrives here is our first notification from our good friends Defend Our NHS (DONHS) Wirral that they’re organising  ‘a bit of a do’ .

Of course all we can do is sarcasm and satire so we doff our caps to those out there who actually give a damn and go out there and do something about it. They’ve also listed other dates that should interest you if you care about the future of the NHS – including a Clinical Commissioning Group meeting to be held tomorrow (see below).

We would also add that Wirral Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday 27th November is a date for the diary for anyone interested in bloody ‘hubs’ and more specifically ‘integrated commissioning hubs’. Sorry scrub that – as you can see all the interesting stuff that affects YOUR life and health will be discussed behind closed doors. Because that’s how Wirral Council roll (over all of us).

STP Hub

Dear friends of the NHS,

First the good news: we’re having a Christmas Party! We wanted to celebrate all we’ve done in the past year and give everyone a much -needed chance to relax from campaigning and to make and renew acquaintances with fellow NHS defenders.

It will be in central Birkenhead on the evening of Friday 8th December. There will be hot and cold food available. If we are to go ahead and make final arrangements, we need to know who is coming AND if you want food. (Food – something like chilli/curry with a vegetarian option – will be available at a cost of up to £10; it could be less if we have enough people. Any extra money will be used for printing leaflets and room hire.)

Only people who reply by 27th November to say they are coming will be sent the final details and ticket arrangements. Email now!

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But now the bad news – and we’re afraid there’s little else.

You will know that our campaigning this year has concentrated on Wirral Council. We wanted them to do a simple thing: to make good on the agreed policy to oppose the so-called ‘sustainability and transformation plan/partnership’ (STP).

They agreed this in December 2016 – yet it took the leader of the Council, Phil Davies, eight months to send off the letter to Jeremy Hunt.

We’ve been lobbying and briefing councillors and pointing out the wickedness of the STP and its associated ‘accountable care organisation/system’.

Only last month councillors agreed that, “This Council will, therefore, remain opposed to changes and savings which place the achievements of our NHS at risk.

The STP would involve £1bn CUTS for the Cheshire and Merseyside area.

The reduced budget will have to pay for social care AS WELL AS our NHS services.

Meanwhile the party to which most Wirral councillors belong has adopted a policy of complete reinstatement of the NHS.

So imagine our surprise when we discovered the following…

21 11 2017 - DONHS picture (1)

Guess who’s advising Wirral on this? Yes, Private Eye’s old friends, global auditing company Price Waterhouse Cooper– PwC (known in the trade as ‘profits without conscience’). 

On Wirral we have already seen how quickly cuts can be implemented. Eastham Walk-In centre was closed within days with no consultation with the public. We have already been warned about the “really big cuts to come” and everyone has evidence of long delays for appointments, staff shortages, service cuts and rationing.

Thanks to a fantastic community campaign the Eastham centre is to be re-opened. But will this be at the expense of A&E at Arrowe Park?

To compound the misery Wirral clinical commissioning group have secretly agreed to talk to Wirral partners (including the Council) and potentially to send a letter to NHSE requesting Wirral CCG join something called the ‘Capped Expenditure Programme’. If you want to know why this is terrifying read this from the BMA:

Have YOU been consulted on any of this? Does any of it meet the NHS mission of ‘no decision about me without me’?

We are simply flabbergasted – but we will fight back, and we urge you to do the same.

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What can we do if the NHS is to have a happy Christmas?

Join us and fight to reverse NHS cuts & privatisation

      Oppose the STP and ACS

      Insist that your councillors and MPs do the same

      Fight for the full restoration of an effective NHS

      Ensure that the Eastham NHS Walk-In Centre is re-opened without damage to other services (for example NO cuts to Arrowe Park A&E)

       Achieve an emergency £20m increase for Wirral NHS funding

      Come to the CCG ‘consultation’ meeting in Mayer Hall, Bebington from 6.30pm WEDNESDAY 22nd NOVEMBER

      Protest at the Wirral cabinet meeting, Wallasey town hall, 9am MONDAY 27TH NOVEMBER

      Protest at the Wirral council meeting, Wallasey town hall, 5pm MONDAY 11TH DECEMBER

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ALL Wirral councillors have been asked these three simple questions:

  1. Do you support our campaign to stop the STP/ACS and oppose the further near £1 billion cuts? YES/NO
  2. Do you support the reinstatement of our NHS? YES/NO
  3. Will you tell Wirral voters what your responses are in any forthcoming communication? YES/NO

The replies we’ve received so far are very interesting.

And note that all Wirral MPs have been asked to pledge allegiance to the NHS at https://weownit.org.uk/nhstakeback Guess how many have?

IF OUR COUNCILLORS AND MPs FAIL TO JOIN US IN DEFENDING THE NHS WE HAVE A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION.

SOME OF THEM WON’T LIKE IT.

                        ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………                        Reminder:

  1. Reply now and tell us how many tickets you want for the Christmas party.
  2. Put those meeting dates in your diary and join us.
  3. Share this email and the information as widely as you can. And finally:
  4. We have been campaigning locally to defend our NHS for almost seven years. We need some new blood in the team who will DO things. If you are as determined as us to make this a happy NHS Christmas get in touch.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………                        Best wishes on behalf of Defend Our NHS

                        defendournhswirral@gmail.com

                        https://www.facebook.com/groups/defendournhs/

                        https://twitter.com/DefendourNHS



Fail to plan, plan to fail

Fail to plan

It won’t come as any surprise to our regular readers (or indeed anyone living near some derelict wasteland or an empty building) that Wirral Council finds itself in trouble with central government for failing to have a ‘Local Plan’ under the Planning Act 2004 .

Local Plan Intervention

Accordingly Sajid Javid ,Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) , has written to Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr  Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies that   central government will take over local planning if they can’t get their act together.

Only last week Wirral Leaks pointed out the lack of any Wirral Council co-ordination when it comes to planning in our Any Old Ion story.  This leads the council – and more importantly us – to be prey to speculative developers and ultimately leads to ad-hoc, piecemeal, opportunistic building developments.

Of course this isn’t all the fault of the current administration as Wirral Council have failed to produce a ‘Local Plan’ for 13 years !!! –  13! unlucky for some, usually us who pay these incompetents to actually do their jobs and comply with central  government requirements.

Nevertheless,  isn’t it funny how the current incumbents of power at Wallasey Town Hall can come up with the window dressing of ’20 Pledges’ and then drone on about them ad nauseum and yet can’t come up with the foundations for a  legally required ‘ Local Plan’ !

Meanwhile in the absence of the ‘Local Plan’ publicly-funded fantasists can pursue the corrupt dream of fire stations, golf resorts and international trade centres – OK , NOT international trade centres ,even we admit that’s a bit far fetched – without any public accountability!

But then why have central government let them get away with it all this time? Isn’t it funny how central government can intervene when it comes to planning regulations but when it comes to failures in children’s and adult social services we’ve had to put up with with totally ineffective and utterly cosmetic ‘improvement boards’.

Perhaps it’s not so confusing when you think about it , as apparently we live in a world where everything and everyone is a commodity and obviously real estate (including the blessed green belt) has so much more worth than real people.

Reputation Protection

Reputation ProtectionReputation ProtectionReputation ProtectionReputation Protection

As we’ve previously reported a Serious Case Review (SCR) concerned with the Rajenthiram brothers Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case was due to be published in July of this year. It is now November and we now learn that that the SCR will not now be published.

SCRs should be carried out by the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) for every case where abuse/neglect is known or suspected and either ; a child has died or; a child has been seriously harmed and there are concerns about how organisations or professionals worked together to protect the child. Since 2010 there has been a requirement to publish SCRs in full . Accordingly Wirral’s LSCB website states:

Findings and recommendations from the Serious Case Review or SCR , will be published in full in a report , which will be publicly available on this website . The purpose of the SCR will be to learn from what happened in individual cases so that future tragedies can be prevented. SCR-Wirral

Whilst the National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) website says this about publishing SCRs:

The final SCR report, and the LSCBs response to the findings, must be published on the LSCB website for a minimum of 12 months and should be available on request. This is important for sharing lessons learnt and good practice in writing and publishing SCRs.

SCR reports should be written in such a way that publication will not be likely to harm the welfare of any children or vulnerable adults involved in the case.

The final report should:

  • provide a sound analysis of what happened in the case, and why, and what needs to happen in order to reduce the risk of recurrence
  • be written in plain English and in a way that can be easily understood by both professionals and the public and
  • be suitable for publication without needing to be amended or redacted.

The LSCB should send a copy of the final SCR to the National Panel of Independent Experts at least one week before publication. NSPCC

However Dr Maggie Atkinson , chair of Wirral’s LSCB said this week of the Rajenthiram case :

“This Serious Case Review examines – in great detail – the circumstances surrounding the sexual abuse of a child. It was my view, as chair of the safeguarding board and entirely independent of the council and all public agencies involved, that there was no way to publish the report which did not lead to a high risk of this child being identified.I could not countenance that risk. It would be morally wrong, and absolutely illegal, to risk identifying the victim of a sexual crime.My opinion was ratified by legal advice from barristers and my assessment on this matter was specifically sent to, and agreed by the Department for Education. I do agree that it is important the lessons which were learnt as a result of this tragic case are in the public domain and, to ensure they are, I had already requested that a report explaining the recommendations coming from the review – alongside the work which has been done since to address them – was published. This report will be published in the coming weeks.”

Whilst we agree that protecting the anonymity of victims is paramount we can’t help wondering who Dr Atkinson and the LSCB are actually protecting here. Oh and don’t come the ‘morally wrong’ and ‘absolutely illegal’ with us – this is Wirral Council we’re talking about and it’s never stopped them before – unless of course it suits them.

It should be remembered that one of the (many ) criticisms previously levelled at Wirral’s LSCB  by Ofsted in their damning  report ,which led to a rating of local Children’s Services to be rated ‘inadequate’, was that it was not sufficiently ‘independent’ from Wirral Council and other agencies involved in child protection.   What’s more isn’t talk of protecting victims of CSE a bit like closing the cornershop door after perpetrators have been convicted? Where was the protection from organisations and professionals when victims of CSE needed it ? That ,of course, should be the main theme of this secret SCR and based on what’s gone before who can blame us for thinking that this lurch to secrecy is more about protecting the reputations of the powerful than protecting the anonymity of the powerless?

 

Birkenhead MP’s Brexit Bitchfest Backfires

Birkenhead MP Frank Field ,  having moved an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal ) Bill earlier this week must be grateful that the local TV media chose a clip of Wirral South MP Alison McGovern’s contribution to the House of Commons Brexit debate for their news bulletin rather than his latest waspish display of self-aggrandizing disrespect for others. Therefore we’d particularly like to thank Old Queen TV  for posting the above footage.

Field’s innocuous amendment read : ” The UK ceases to belong to the European Union on 30 March 2019″ and  we can say one thing about Frankenfield and that he united the House during the debate  – united that is in their distaste of his sly jibes.

The most spectacular putdown was of fellow Labour MP Hilary Benn which drew gasps from benches on both sides of the House. Sitting behind Frankenfield David Lammy looks simply aghast……and who wouldn’t be as Field snipes at Benn : ” I’ve always bought my houses, I’ve never inherited them……”  . On being corrected by Benn he apologised and withdrew the comment. However the snooty, sarky tone of his statement , part Lady Bracknell/part Lily Savage, continued unabated.  

The thing is with Frankenfield is that locally he is so used to saying what he likes to who he likes – and being gifted a platform to do it – that it comes as a bit of a surprise when someone dares to challenge him on the facts.

However there were several other comments Frankenfield made during his speech which led to us sit here scratching our heads with our mouths agape. The full transcript of the debate can read here

 

Bitchfest 013

Bitchfest 018

We’re confused as to what Frankenfield is trying to say in these statements . However it  should be noted that overall 51.7% of the voters of Wirral voted to remain in the  EU Referendum , whilst  his own constituency  voted 51.7% to leave .