The Mystery of The Missing Money

 1MONEY
So let’s set the scene – a sophisticated soiree in Chester and a journalist sidles up to the then head honcho at Wirral Council and emboldened by alcohol and contempt (and tell us what journalist isn’t?) asks :
“So tell me what have you done with all the money….?”
Fast forward to a Wirral estate and a wizened Councillor who conspiratorially whispers about suspended Directors and the missing millions and click goes the record button…..
An Ode to Redundancies
Makeovers, cover ups
Piss ups and fuck ups
Toxic debts, taxi rides
Pay offs and inquiries
An improvement journey
On a runaway gravy train
Of fruitless foreign travels
‘Til the mystery unravels
They hired a consultant guru
Paid a premium to shaft you
Tell us: Is it finally understood
How you lost your livelihood ?
However as this particular roll call shows some Wirral Council staff have done rather well making “difficult decisions” when it comes to redundancies , proving once and for all there is no honour in honorariums –  it’s more about acting the part than acting up.

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS

1REDACT
“There is a purpose to journalism…It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men” – Peter Oborne – journalist resigning this week from Telegraph newspaper group

During the interminable run-up to the local and national elections we must learn to get used to PR and puff pieces and party political broadcasts masquerading as news so Wirral Leaks will continue to bring you the news that you won’t read in local newspapers or websites.
Wirral Council – please take note  below  are just some of the despairing correspondence sent to us recently by your adoring public…..

I Spy With My FOI

“Haven’t bothered for a while but seen John Braces video from the council budget proposals for the coming years and then was amazed to see my old job (only twelve months ago) with a hefty bit of investment and the promise of new staff to carry out a role deemed redundant only last March.
After many emails, F.O.I requests, meetings with councillors who soon disregarded me as soon as they realised I was talking sense and trying many other avenues to raise the point making us redundant was a stupid idea in the first place because their plan was built on lies and was quite shit also.

Now Philly boy has eventually decided that yes it was a shit idea and as he was told the Police couldn’t carry out the same role carried out by the council staff and for the amount of money invested in the cctv and repairs it was better left alone with the fully qualified staff carrying out their role much un-noticed but much admired and appreciated by Merseyside police officers and many other stakeholders. As previously stated they were all hoodwinked by our ex boss …… who is now failing to pitch for council contracts..thankfully.”

We Don’t Need No Education

“The level of misconduct, negligence and breach of the legal responsibilities of Wirral LEA (Local Education Authority) and Social Services confounds me.
I am being forced to take legal action against them as, even now, their behaviour (is) ridiculous.”

Our Source Is Outsourced

“I don’t know if you are aware that a company is being set up (extremely quickly!) by the council for all the services who trade / provide services to schools , it will run as a partnership with Cheshire and Cheshire West, like Cosocious. Staff will be type transferred across so they no longer will be council employees, they also will loose the option to take EVR /redundancy at the enhanced rate. No negotiations have been had with unions and staff have not been told t&cs (terms and conditions,) The financial information is not forthcoming to staff in relation to the ‘ business case ‘ that was drawn up by consultants ( which were apparently paid for by the government) so it makes the staff ask the question , is this company being set up to fail to rid the council of a number of staff at a reduced redundancy rate? I do wish to remain anonymous please, as repercussions do still happen within the council ”

Preaching to the Converted

‘Spect you’re v. busy with elections looming. Don’t know if the mormon councillor for Prenton’s standing for re-election in May but here’s some info about his ‘church’ & their latest efforts.

HERE 

“How he’s balanced commitment to this organisation with his role as a Labour councillor is baffling. Throw in his continued membership of XXX……well, just makes your head start to spin. Why is he still chair of a major committee? (Merseyside Pension Fund) & how does he find the time to fit everything in? His building company SDA’s got a lot of planning applications currently in process; the late (but unlamented) Dirty Food, Hoylake (prev Bej Vegetarian) restaurant’s been re-incarnated as Steak & Lobster & his day nursery (Little Angels), occupies a disused mormon meeting house in Moreton is pretty much full.”

Which brings us to …..

Alison McGovern wringing her hands –  HERE – & he’s coining it from this venture. Last OFSTED inspection (October 2012) reports 66 children in attendance. The mormons’ll conveniently overlook this one tho as all his income generates at least 10% for them so he’ll be filling their trough nicely & the good people of Wirral have helped those donations along over the last 4 years as his councillor allowance will also be available to tithe. Plus gift aid & if he is up for re-election, that’ll be another 4 years of creaming off the 10% from the long suffering citizens of Wirral.

Its WL Song Request Time

“Offshore Banking Business” anyone? by the wonderful (Unelected) Members. Now who shall dedicate this to ?  Answers on a postcard please….

Spin Me a Dream – WBC and FOI

CHUCKLE-BROTHERS

Now as you know we’ve covered some mindboggling stories about Wirral Council but this latest one can only be described in the words of Eldritch as a “complete clusterfuck”.

This story is concerned with what at first to be a fairly straightforward Freedom of Information request made by a certain I.Sevova on the always informative Whatdotheyknow website.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/martin_morton_gagging_clause_dir#incoming-361696

The original request was made in July 2012 but was eventually refused in it’s entirety by Wirral Council in February 2013, seemingly with a triumphal cry of  :”Oh give over I.Sevova” .

The annotations linked to this request (including from a certain M.Morton esq) are fascinating in themselves. However one part of the request that was refused that is particularly curious is the refusal of a copy of the infamous Martin Smith report into Bullying ,Harassment & Abuse of Power at Wirral Council.

This report has been freely available on Wirral Council’s own website at various times since February 2012 ( itself nearly 12 months after it was completed in April 2011).

So why the refusal? .

We at Leaky Towers think this story is instructive on two counts because not only does it demonstrate that Wirral Council is in dire need of an anatomy lesson as they don’t seem to know their arse from their elbow and secondly it shows exactly who wields power in the Town Hall.

Additionally, dare we suggest it isn’t the wisest move during a time that Wirral Council is the only local authority in the land to be subject to close scrutiny by the Information Commissioners Office because of their woeful response to FOI requests that they choose to mess about with people making requests in the public interest.

Consequently I.Sevova had to appeal to the ICO to get a copy of the Martin Smith report and needless to say Wirral Council caved in –  after the usual comedy of errors played out in all it’s agonising glory here:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/refused_martin_smith_report_ico#incoming-371275

However in what seems to be an inadvertent peak into how things work behind the scenes

someone has accidentally leaked the internal bureaucratic machinations leading to the report’s release . The link to which is here :

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/152812/response/370455/attach/4/FW%20604310%20Freedom%20of%20Information%20request%20Refused%20Martin%20Smith%20Report.ICO%20Case%20Reference%20Number%20FS50484498.html

However I think it is useful to print the exchange fully before it disappears and at the same time ask the following questions :

A) Why is the Head of Tourism approving the release of information to the public?

B) Who is this Turgid Wotsit person?

C) Why would anyone in their right mind want a copy of the Martin Smith report ?.There’s black marker pen all over it. Even Lady Justine (who admittedly likes the gee-gees) laughed when Eldritch said ” That report has got more black -type than fucking Frankel’s formbook”

As ever scroll down to the bottom and prepare to be gobsmacked !.

Please send this one out,

Thanks

Matthew Humble, Business & Performance Manager
Wirral Council
Telephone number: 0151 666 4513
e-mail: xxxxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxx.xxx.xx
Fax: 0151 666 4338

Visit our website: www.wirral.gov.uk
—–Original Message—–
From: Porter, Julie On Behalf Of Degg, Emma J.
Sent: 15 March 2013 09:28
To: Humble, Matthew; Tour, Surjit
Cc: InfoMgr, FinDMT; Lyon, Rosemary A.
Subject: RE: 604310 Freedom of Information request – Refused Martin Smith Report. ICO Case Reference Number FS50484498

Hi Matthew

Emma has approved this FOI.

Thanks

Julie

Julie Porter
Wirral Council
Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED
Tel: 0151 691 8235
Email: xxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxx.xxx.xx
Fax: 0151 691 8188

Visit our website: www.wirral.gov.uk

Please save paper and print out only what is necessary

—–Original Message—–
From: Humble, Matthew
Sent: 12 March 2013 16:28
To: Tour, Surjit; Degg, Emma J.
Cc: InfoMgr, FinDMT; Lyon, Rosemary A.
Subject: FW: 604310 Freedom of Information request – Refused Martin Smith Report. ICO Case Reference Number FS50484498

Hello Surjit & Emma,

Please find attached a response to an Internal Review request,

Regards,

Matthew Humble, Business & Performance Manager
Wirral Council
Telephone number: 0151 666 4513
e-mail: xxxxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxx.xxx.xx
Fax: 0151 666 4338

Visit our website: www.wirral.gov.uk

—–Original Message—–
From: O’Hare, Tracy J. On Behalf Of InfoMgr, FinDMT
Sent: 12 March 2013 14:22
To: Humble, Matthew
Cc: Corrin, Jane; InfoMgr, FinDMT; Lyon, Rosemary A.
Subject: FW: 604310 Freedom of Information request – Refused Martin Smith Report. ICO Case Reference Number FS50484498

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/refused_martin_smith_report_ico – (open on WDTK)
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/martin_morton_gagging_clause_dir#comment-36210 -(Requester has closed as refused on WDTK)

Good Afternoon

Please see request below:
Rosemary has confirmed with ICO – The internal review process is not exhausted regards this request.

Rosemary has asked if you can reply with the redacted M Smith report.

We have not issued this a new CRM number at this time.

Can you let information management, know of a time frame to complete in order for request to be acknowledged.

Many thanks, kind regards

Tracy O’Hare
FOI Co-ordinator
Information Management

TEL: 0151 691 8397
PLEASE FORWARD ALL FOI RESPONSES TO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxx.xxx.xx

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Re: ICO Case Reference Number FS50484498 Martin Smith Report

The ICO have advised me that you will conduct another internal
review regarding the following FOI request that was recently
refused, with particular reference to the redacted Martin Smith
report;

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/martin_morton_gagging_clause_dir#comment-36210

Please provide the redacted Smith report as soon as possible and
please bear in mind that I have already waited a very long time.
You appear to have erroneously refused this request as according to
commentators who added annotations, this report has previously been
in the public domain.

As well as the report, please inform me as to the reason WHY this
part of my request was refused? The refusal makes me suspect that
Wirral Council do not always conduct internal reviews with due
rigour.

***Please acknowledge this request and give me an approximate time
frame

Yours faithfully,

I. Sevova

WIRRAL WBC – DEALS ON MEALS

Deals-On-Wheels

Hello there,  Verity here – whilst doing my usual research for the Lord and Lady I came across a Freedom of Information request concerned with wining and dining expenses incurred by Wirral Council which were primarily centred on Hoylake.  This has since been reported locally: HERE

Certainly new CEO Graham Burgess was not averse in his previous position of  entertaining  North West grandees at The Clog & Billycock and Blackburn Rovers football ground (as previously reported HERE )  It strikes us that in some quarters such hospitality may be deemed necessary  to “oil the wheels ” so  to speak – but at a time of austerity,cuts and redundancies and at a time when Council staff are asked  to “bring a butty (containing Bully Beef no doubt)  “, b(u)y a Bagel to meetings and training events it seems a bit ,well, unseemly to say the least.

Even more strikingly does the Mayor of Wirral and the Leader of the Council not see the irony of “celebrating” the need for foodbanks whilst eating poached salmon at the Council’s expense? I would be interested to know if any Leakers have any information on any other watering holes or eateries favoured by the Wirral Council elite.

We’d like to think that those heady days of get-togethers in The Grosvenor Hotel,Chester and overnight stays in the Cheshire countryside and trips to Hebden Bridge are a thing of the past. One Leaker has already contacted us to tell us about an historical beano in Venezia (the Italian restaurant not the city – although nothing would surprise us)………..

As our cook is wont to say with a nod and a wink – BUON APPETITO!

Vexed Sighs And Videotape

LIES-WBC

Remember this video

http://www.wirral.gov.uk/my-services/council-and-democracy/what-really-matters/chief-executives-budget-options/transformation-and-resources/transformatio

Remember this FOI ?

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/marketing_advertising_agency_wor

Well here’s the PROOF that WBC LIED (why are we not shocked)  The information is classed as “commercially sensitive” according to our legal chap Simeon Gouchebag QC, and we have therefore removed the actual amounts, but what we can confirm is it’s a darn sight more than WBC originally suggested…..But of course it will all be a “misunderstanding”

small_THE-QUOTE

Will they apologise ?  Erm NOPE!

“A demand for a public apology from the council for apparently misleading in an FOI response was made by Cllr Chris Blakeley this week.

His call came after it emerged the authority’s reply to the request – asking for costs associated with a video it commissioned as part of the “What Realy Matters” budget cuts consultation – revealed less than half the true amount.The reply went on to say no other funding was spent on the video project. But this also turned out to be untrue.

Councillor Blakeley stormed: “To say ‘Wirral Council can confirm no other funding was spent on contracts such as this’ is a lie. “This is not about money. It’s about honesty.”

The council’s chief executive, Graham Burgess, has subsequently emailed Cllr Blakeley saying no public apology is to be issued and no further action taken over the issue.”

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/10124400.Information_Commissioner_puts_Wirral_Council_under_the_spotlight_over_FOI_failures/

Happy New Year

Love , Verity x

OH NO IT’S THE ICO!!!!!

FOI ?  FU ?

OH NO IT’S THE ICO!!!!!

Well you could have knocked us all down with a ten-ton truck at Leaky Towers when we found out that the Information Commissioners Office had singled out Wirral as the only Local Authority in the country to be subject to close scrutiny between January – March 2013 .
A statement by UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said Wirral was selected for monitoring as it had failed to respond to 85% of FOI requests within the time limit of 20 working days and had exceeded the limit “by a significant margin on numerous occasions.”.

Full story here: http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/10124400.Information_Commissioner_puts_Wirral_Council_under_the_spotlight_over_FOI_failures/

Despite valiant attempts by Wirral Council to deflect their poor performance on the pesky and persistent Wirral public – they constantly miss the point that if Wirral Council was “open and transparent” in the first place then interested parties WOULD NOT HAVE TO RESORT TO FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS !!!! (phew! – so pleased to have got that off our collective heaving bosom).

Luckily for us a transcript of a leaked tape of a conversation between a Freedom of Information Officer and a Council Manager clearly demonstrates how this regrettable situation may has arisen:

Freedom Of Information Officer (peeking round door): Coo-ee!, sorry to have to tell you but we’ve have had one of those damned annoying FOI requests and I’m afraid to say old chum but you’re in the frame for the 300th time this month –

Council Manager: Oh it’s soooo unfair!.What do they mistake me for?. A public servant?

FOI Officer: I know, I know. I do my best to ignore them and then Whatdotheyknow send me alerts and Councillors and MPs start pestering me – like they have a right to know how we run the show. I mean,really!!!!

Council Manager: Oh do come in and tell me how we can tell the blighters to bugger off.

FOI Officer: I’m not sure that we can – there’s a legal framework we have to comply with….

Council Manager: Really?,Legal requirements are not something Wirral Council usually concerns itself with, so what’s all this kerfuffle about ?.

FOI Officer: Well for a start the Information Commissioners Office says we jolly well need to pull our socks up…….

Council Manager: Well I’m sorry I don’t care who says so, they are not having the information and that’s jolly well that and they can stick that in their pipes and smoke it!…..

FOI Officer: But what excuse can I possibly give for not releasing information to which the public are legally entitled?

Council Manager: Er…. tell them my personal assistant is off sick

FOI Officer: What with?

Council Manager: Stress!

FOI Officer: Stress?.Filing her nails and making cups of tea can’t be that stressful surely ?.

Council Manager: Don’t be so insensitive!.She had to type all those redundancy notices

FOI Officer: What’s so stressful about that?

Council Manager: I fear that typing her own redundancy notice may have sent the poor dear over the edge…….. but anyway might I be so bold and say that’s a very pretty dress you’re wearing.

FOI Officer (blushing) : Why thank you kind sir, I got it in the Next sale, I queued for 4 hours on Boxing Day morning in the hope that I would get a compliment from someone as well appointed as yourself  …… (pauses pensively) ……Now hang on a minute I will not be distracted quite so easily like you did last time I asked you for information.You ended up telling me that a UFO had just landed on the steps of Wallasey Town Hall.

Council Manager: I swear it’s these bi-focals.How is it my fault if I can’t tell the difference between an empty crisp packet and an interplanetary space craft?

FOI Officer: OK,OK…. your faultless logic has worn me down and therefore in my fearless quest to serve the public good I will allow you a slight delay in responding.How long do you want?

Council Manager: Six months

FOI Officer: Six months???!….

Council Manager:  Just enough time to get a pay-off, sign a Compromise Contract and get the fuck out of here quick before I’m rumbled…….

FOI Officer: Cripes! ( Thinks: must go back to Next and see if they’ve still got that matching jacket for my dress).