Defending the Empire

Empire

Before we reveal the answers to our ‘Men of Mystery ‘ quiz we’d  like to maintain the suspense for slightly longer and mention a couple of Wirral Leaks regulars.

Firstly we ruefully note that ,  Asif ‘Massive’ Hamid ,Chair of Wirral Chamber of Commerce and CEO of The Contact Company has been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

How appropriate that someone who specialises in empire building has been awarded an MBE! – even more so when you consider the Wirral Chamber of Horrors seems to specialise in giving awards.

Needless to say as we’re the proud recipients of a hereditary title we do have a tendency to be a bit sneery about such awards dispensed to the so-called great and the good. However our main objection is that such awards seem to serve as a defence to any  criticism-  ‘I have been honoured by the Queen ergo I am a good person’  

I’m sure all us ‘unworthies’  could name a ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ or a recipient of a lesser honour who makes us want to shake our head in despair that these people are considered to be ‘worthies’.

Talking of worthies and unworthies the Wirral Council  Standards Panel involving complaints made against Cllr Louise Reecejones did take place this week.

At least John Brace was given the honour and the privilege of being allowed to film the first part of the meeting where it was decided that he should be unceremoniously chucked out for the rest of it!

This is more than be said for last year’s  farce of a Standards Panel / Cover-Up meeting where the doors were barricaded against Brace to prevent him filming Foulkesy’s shame.

As you can see from the footage it’s the same cast from Wirral Council playing their usual roles . Cllr Chris Blakeley – the British bulldog , Cllr Moira McLaughlin  – the stern matron and Cllr Phil Gilchrist – well ,being a Lib Dem, sitting on the fence and voting to exclude the public. And of course we don’t have to tell you what the  Head of Law Surjit Tour advised do we?

Cllr Gilchrist stated that this was part of an attempt to maintain ‘public confidence in our system’ .

Really? – based on the operation of the last two Standards Panel hearings and the totally ineffectual  and self serving  Councillor’s Code of Conduct we have absolutely NO CONFIDENCE in Wirral Council’s system of protecting the powerful. Indeed when we questioned a member of the Standards and Constitutional Committee last year about the Foulkesy  ‘slap on the wrist’  They replied :

The ‘sanctions’ able to be applied are limited to just a few courses of action

As we responded :

Yes and who decided that? You guys did!. 

Utterly feeble. Should be with police and you know it.
Thankfully we know people much braver and committed to public accountability than you guys and we’ll be supporting them 100%…………. 
Whilst at the moment we don’t know the full extent of the allegations made against Cllr Reecejones – although we are promised a redacted investigator’s report shortly- it wouldn’t really matter what she (or any other councillor) had been up to as they  have neatly devised and cynically approved a policy that will forever protect the powerful to defend their political empires.

Old Boy’s Network – No Girls Allowed

Northern Outhouse

Rotheram’s lot = Not a lot of ladies!

We note Liverpool Echo are late to the party yet again – as they suddenly raise questions about the newly announced male dominated Metro Mayor cabinet.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/who-metro-mayor-steve-rotherams-13110884

Not only was this picked up elsewhere beforehand

http://www.ybnews.co.uk/regional-development/metro-mayors-men-women/

but Wirral Leaks picked up that it was testosterone-a-go-go when it comes to Liverpool City Region politics a long time ago. November 2015 to be precise. Clearly the newly installed Metro Mayor Steve ‘The Brickie’ Rotheram thinks that ‘Diversity’ is a dance troupe from Britain’s Got Talent.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/northern-outhouse/

However we had to laugh that Rotheram has confirmed that Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies will be his cabinet member for ‘Economic Development and Culture’.

Although Pip seems incapable and/or unwilling to tackle the toxic culture afflicting Wirral  Council no doubt the appointment will help Pip in his attempt to box off the Hoylake Golf Resort scheme!

Needless to say a place was found in the Cabinet for  (M)Asif Hamid, who is the chair of the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) . So that’s at least one diversity box ticked !…..

Birkenhead First (Among Equals)

Paula NWT 009

Paula Basnett : Primus inter pares in action

 

In the aftermath of the New Ferry explosion over the weekend it was reassuring to see the emergency services, the local community and indeed Wirral Council working together to help the stricken people affected by the devastating event.
Also helping out were the Wirral Chamber of Commerce in the shape of their CEO Paula Basnett  who ‘popped up’ on last night’s edition of North West Tonight to tell us that the Chamber was looking for ‘pop up spaces’ for displaced local traders.
All we can say is that with all the properties the Chamber of Horrors have at their disposal ,which they’ve been gifted or are paying peppercorn rent for, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem!
However it would seem that this charitable largesse on the part of  the Basnett clan doesn’t extend to charities themselves. We’ve been contacted by Jim Barrington from local charity Wiser Solutions Ltd
Jim not only provides us with a fascinating update on a story we covered earlier in the year concerning a local business initative  co-ordinated by Wirral Chamber of Commerce known as the Birkenhead Improvement District (BID) aka ‘Birkenhead First’ , but also with a frightening insight into ‘how things work’ round here.
Here we witness the increasingly unhealthy symbiotic relationship between Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce and the political manoeuvrings of local politicians  and powerbrokers that we don’t see on TV :
Wirral Chamber of Commerce is taking charities and not for profit companies to a criminal court after introducing a BID Levy in Birkenhead then rejected appeals to exempt those affected who exist for the benefit of the community. Affected businesses are told they have to pay 1.5% of the rateable value of their property.
 
The BID Levy was introduced following a vote by firms in Birkenhead after they were told it would listen to their needs and campaign on their behalf to improve the area. In reality however it has refused to listen and change their decision not to exempt charitable firms, despite the BID Regulations allowing it and precedent already being set to by HMRC, Customs and Excise and even Wirral Council who all exempt or reduce the financial obligations of charities and not for profits regarding levies and taxes.
The BID Levy is being collected on behalf of Wirral Chamber of Commerce by Wirral Council. However this contradicts Wirral Council’s own policies and commitments to support not for profits. The small business rates relief ensures the majority of rates are paid by a contribution from the Government and Wirral Council provide a discretionary exemption for qualifying charitable firms which takes care of the rest. However Wirral Chamber of Commerce insist no exemption applies to charities and not for profits, even where they cannot afford to pay. Instead they have insisted on pursuing them through the Magistrates Court in order to obtain a liability order so they can gain access to charitable funds. The use of Magistrates Court is particularly troubling since they are predominantly used for criminal matters and even Wirral Council have admitted this is a civil matter which are usually dealt with in County Court.
Even more troubling is the fact Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce are adding £95.00 in court fees before liability has even been established in court, yet cannot provide a full and proper breakdown of how these costs have been arrived at. It is unlawful for any council to make a profit from court fees so one would expect them to be able to say exactly what it costs to take an individual or business to court. Instead however they appear to have been obstructive by providing a spreadsheet which lists the annual costs to run the entire council tax and revenues department. When asked for a per capita breakdown which takes into account economies of scale (i.e. they are taking a lot of people to court for not paying council tax and non-domestic rates on the same day and they batch process them all, plus the BID Levy collection is tagged onto the end of these), they sent the same annual totals for running their entire department. When asked again and told the costs breakdown must be BID specific they refused to send any further information.
An example of these costs would be the cost of filing fees (circa £3.00 per summons) and say an allocation of £2.00 towards staff time and other costs. An explanation therefore of what the remaining £90 costs is for has not been forthcoming. Requests to move things to the County Court, which is the proper setting for civil matters, have been ignored by Council Officers. 
Frank Field was contacted for help at least three weeks for the summons date. He responded at 5:00pm the evening before the court appearance to say his office had contacted Phil Davies who in turn had contacted Wirral Chamber of Commerce and they had refused to change their decision, despite his personal feelings and views to the contrary. So the MP for Birkenhead and the leader of Wirral Council are both being dictated to by officers at Wirral Chamber of Commerce. 
Clearly this suggests Paula Basnett, Kevin Adderley and Asif Hamid who run Wirral Chamber of Commerce are also in charge of Wirral Council. Worse still is the fact Wirral Chamber have stated they and Birkenhead BID Company (Birkenhead First) are not subject to Freedom of Information legislation so can claim everything they do is commercially sensitive and confidential. No transparency there then.
Even the officers at Wirral Council who are collecting the BID Levy do not seem to agree with the decision to criminalise charitable firms. They contacted Wirral Chamber of Commerce asking them to change their position but they were also told the it would not be changed. The attitude appears to be it is only 1.5% of the rateable value of a property so Wirral Chamber cannot understand what the fuss is about. It seems to have escaped their attention charitable firms, by definition of what they do, may have large properties on peppercorn rents and very little money, most of which is from funding or donations and some modest earned income. Which is why they have taxes reduced or are exempted entirely. But Wirral Chamber of Commerce insists everyone must pay.
The Birkenhead BID Levy purports to be there to help support firms in the Birkenhead BID district but some have argued it is instead a way to pay the high salaries of staff who, until recently had worked for Wirral Council. It claims to be there to listen to and represent business owners in the Birkenhead BID Levy District, however there is no formal complaints procedure and minutes of meetings are confidential. Clearly they are not doing a very good job of listening since they are insisting on dragging charitable firms into Magistrates Court to pay for a Levy which did not exist until recently.
To be fair, Birkenhead has been declining for years and business owners are struggling to stay afloat. But cleaning up Birkenhead is the job of the council. 
This is why people pay business rates. The BID appears to be a stealth tax method of increasing business rates without actually increasing the business rates which is the same argument successfully used by Esther McVey when the council attempted to place a levy on wheelie bins and which forced them to hastily back away and reconsider their position.
Wirral Chamber have recently released a wonderful glossy document which makes bold claims about the achievements of the Birkenhead Bid company (also known as Birkenhead First). However the majority of these are things Wirral Council would do anyway as part of their obligations to Business Rates Payers. So it seems the suggestion the BID Levy is supporting the over bloated salaries of former council employees may have some foundation.
Also since this is clearly a civil matter, why is there such a reluctance to transfer proceedings to the County Court? Clearly civil matters fall under contract law and County Court is the proper setting. The costs are similar and certainly can be itemised easier. This suggests a worrying symbiotic relationship between Wirral Council and Wirral Magistrates Court where proceedings are being led by Wirral Council and not the local Magistrates.
The subject of costs and lack of transparency surrounding these certainly raises more questions than answers and this spills over to affect every council tax payer, business rates payer and now BID Levy payer who has ever been summonsed to Magistrates Court and had liability order costs imposed. Whilst clearly Council Tax is a criminal matter, the BID Levy certainly is not and belongs in County Court not the criminal courts.
It has also been suggested the BID Levy and demands for payment would not stand up to scrutiny under contract law. This has never been tested but would certainly be in the public interest. Taking charities and not for profit firms to court in an attempt to access charitable funds is not. It does not matter if the BID Levy is a small token amount. It is still immoral. It is also grossly unfair. For example there is no way to spread the cost monthly, no refund mechanism if firms move out of the area part way through the year, no contract and no control or input on how money is spent. In short it represents an unfair contract under civil law and threats of heavy penalties and costs, bailiffs and similar from Wirral Council are tactics which could be viewed as extortion and threats in public office. Whilst we are not suggesting this is the case, it certainly could be viewed as such. All the more reason for the matter to be placed in its proper setting in the County Court and not the Magistrates Court.
Even more worrying is the notion if Wirral Chamber is not challenged, this could be the first of many BID Levy districts in Wirral and more struggling business owners and charitable firms will find themselves subject to this new stealth tax with no opt out clause, no appeal and no transparency over how their money is spent.

The Liptrot Mystery

Evans

Opposition councillors seem unusually curious about the recent controversial appointment of Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’Davies political ally , Martin Liptrot(sky) to the post of  ‘Interim’ Investment Lead .

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15173137.Special_meeting_heats_up_as_Wirral_councillors_clash_over_controversial_new_job_for_Labour_s_policy_chief/

And so they might be! The ongoing saga is worthy of an Agatha Christie murder mystery ….. but who knows where the bodies are buried !?

Of course we anticipated such an appointment long ago The Uncanny and the Corrupt

That’s not because we have second sight, it’s simply because, by now, we know all Wirral Council’s plot devices.

So before we get to the heart of the mystery, let us set out the story so far. Are you sitting comfortably? – because we guarantee you won’t be for much longer!

Remember when we exclusively announced Liptrot’s arrival at Wirral Council and questioned how his ‘Policy Advisor’ post came about?

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/all-hail-the-new-king-of-spin/

Remember when we questioned his apolitical credentials when he was appointed to a politically restricted post despite declaring his long held Labour Party affiliations all over social media ?

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/a-political-mr-liptrot/

Who can forget when Wirral Globe disclosed that leaked toecurling early morning email exchange between Liptrot and Pip?  Where the former, in full on diva mode, appears to be calling the shots – complaining about his pay and bemoaning the fact that he has to hand in time sheets to Super Duper Director  Joe Blott  – oh the shame!

“Apparently I’m supposed to work for 24 quid an hour and hand time sheets to Joe Blott [strategic director].Clearly that is both insulting and wildly unrealistic for the scope of the role we are discussing.There is no way I’m going to earn even less than I am now. We need to work out what we need to agree and you will probably have to just step up and tell everyone what you want doing in the end. Let’s talk tomorrow.’

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14306240.Emails_give_extraordinary_insight_into_Wirral_Council_s_controversial_hiring_of_former_Labour_spin_doctor/

And so having set the scene we move on to the latest chapter in the charmed life of Mr Liptrot and his latest ‘transformation'(!) as ‘Interim’ Investment Lead at Wirral Council.

An extraordinary series of extracts from leaked emails details the ‘bureaucratic machinations’ behind this latest appointment and provides us with even more plot twists……..

Firstly , we might recall that  24 councillors  issued  a ‘Notice of Motion’ in respect of, what was at the time, the creation of ‘a senior post of Investor Development Manager’ in response to the Labour Cabinet meeting held on 16 January .  This meeting was chaired by Power Boy Pip and included a report calling for the removal of ‘Call – in’ , thus denying opposition councillors the opportunity to ask any awkward questions about the post. The report stated :

‘Although this was not a key decision, in the light of the time critical nature of these activities, it was considered necessary to request that call-in be waived. This would enable the activities to progress at once and, therefore, ensure that work was completed in time to meet deadlines for key events such as MIPIM. Due to the absence of the Chief Executive, and on his behalf, the Assistant Chief Executive had recommended that call-in be waived’.

Head of Law Surjit Tour clarified the situation : ‘Cabinet agreed to waive ‘call-in’ in accordance with the Constitution and the decision is therefore implementable immediately notwithstanding the request for an extraordinary council having been made and agreed. Council at the extraordinary council meeting is being invited to scrutinise the creation of the post and decide whether it is justified – but council would only be expressing its opinion/view in respect of the post and its justification. The decision maker remains the Executive and the decision in question remains implementable.’

The post was advertised via  Wirral Council’s temporary worker system (Matrix) . Matrix passed on the job specification to recruitment agencies at an equivalent day rate of £195.

Initially six applications were received. However according to Wirral Council’s HR  : ‘none of the applicants met the specification. We  have received feedback from the agencies that the remuneration is not sufficient to attract calibre candidates.Given the urgent requirement for the additional capacity and limited budget we are sourcing an Interim role – Interim Investment Lead on an interim rate, but for a shorter period of time’

HR went on to later add :‘The agencies feedback that they could potentially source some applicants at £350 day , but the calibre we required is likely to be £500 day. Given the urgent requirement for the additional capacity and limited budget we need to increase the day rate .’

Frankly it is simply an astonishing state of affairs when so-called committed, and no doubt ‘passionate’ public servants, don’t consider it worthwhile getting out of bed for less than £350 a day!  And of course the recruitment agencies are going to advocate such a hike in the daily rate because presumably it means more money for them! All of which means that public authorities are held a hostage to fortune!

Needless to say when the post was advertised at the higher rate, 13 further applications were received !

5 candidates were shortlisted. One of the candidates was unable to make the interview date and one candidate withdrew. And in true Agatha Christie fashion :  ‘And then there were 3’. These interviews took place on 15 February 2017.

Initially we understand that Asif Hamid was due to be on the interview panel but he mysteriously withdrew to be replaced , inevitably, by Wirral Chamber of Commerce chum Paula Basnett. Clare Fish , Wirral Council’s Executive Director for Strategy was also a late absentee. This left :

  • Alan Evans, Strategic Commissioner for Growth (Chair of the Panel)
  • Stephen Butterworth, Interim Strategic Project Support
  • Sally Shah, Lead Commissioner: Place and Investment
  • Paula Basnett, Chief Executive, Wirral Chamber of Commerce
  • Ellen Cutler, Director Inward Investment, Liverpool Vision

Now as we know the successful candidate was our leading suspect Martin Liptrot who was awarded an an initial 4 month contract  @ £350 a day.

However the  mystery here is whether the panel made the appointment or was the final decision made by Power Boy Pip and his supine CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson?

The Extraordinary Council meeting held earlier this week was an attempt by some curious councillors to find the answer to this whodunnit and other mysteries surrounding the case. However the Labour group were anxious to shut this line of enquiry down with Cllr Brian Kenny squeaking up for a ‘guillotine’ thereby reducing the time available for debating the issue.

Perhaps curious opposition councillors should seek clues about the recruitment process from Alan Evans, the Strategic Commissioner for Growth, who chaired the selection panel?

We understand that Evans’ unsung team in Department of Regeneration have been doing some excellent work  behind the scenes  and we can only wonder what they must feel about the influx of Johnny-Come -Lately’s such as Liptrot  who ,under the guise of ‘transformers’ , appear to be muscling in on their act and potentially taking the credit for their work.

We await further plot developments with great interest!

Alternative Facts in a Parallel Universe

Not for the first time when it comes to the ruling administration at Wirral Council we find ourselves asking : “Is it us or are we missing something?” and then we realise we are now living in the age of of ‘alternative facts’. The current epicentre of this parallel universe when it comes to local government has to be our dear own local council.

Of course the main Wirral Council conduit for alternative facts is Wirral View –and halleluljah and praise be , as for the first time Leaky Towers actually received a printed copy of what is known variously to our sources as Liprot’s Journal/ Lost Kev’s Chronicle/Pip’s Post-Truth News .

Was it worth the wait? – hardly ! However the front page caught our attention as it demonstrates to us as to why, once and for all , the tawdry rag should be halted in its tedious tracks. Here we have the now infamous ‘Spot the Muff’ photo-op and the declaration that ‘Proposals to bring in new charges at on-street car parks across the borough have been withdrawn, following feedback from Wirral residents and businesses.’

alternative-facts-010

Oh ! it was all about Wirral Council listening to ‘feedback’ was it ?. Nothing to do with protests, petitions and the highly suspect legality of most of the proposals. Feedback ?- yeah right!

The Witless, Pip and Mr Muff picture turned up again on our Facebook page due to some weird algorithm which suggests that we’d ‘like’ Wirral Labour News. We suppose it makes a change from promos for incontinence and mobility aids and ‘Superman’ pyjamas but let us state for the record it was as equally unwelcome !

alternative-facts-3-011

Then there was further message from ‘Wirral Labour News’ which made us think it must surely be a parody account :

alternative-facts-3-013

Keep Wirral Green ? Huh?  Fernbank Farm?, the Saughall Massie Fire Station ? and the Hoylake Golf Resort?  Our heads started to hurt at Leaky Towers as to how the increasingly self righteous Labour administration could reconcile these development plans with their new found love for the Green Belt.

How ironic that Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies talked about “protecting our precious Green Belt” at  yesterday’s Cabinet meeting whilst  we understand that all the seats in the public gallery had the following flyer on them :

alternative-facts-2-011

alternative-facts-2-013

However the ne plus ultra of this week’s alternative facts emanating from Wirral Council is the controversial appointment of the increasingly divisive Martin Liptrot to the post of ‘ Interim Investment Lead’ which we not only predicted but exclusively revealed on this blog:

Pip’s Pay Pal – THAT Liptrot Appointment

The Uncanny and the Corrupt

According to a spokesperson for Wirral Council ( we assume that’ll be Liptrot’s acolyte   Kevin MacCallum)

“The post was advertised and an open recruitment process was held with external support.The panel selected the best person for the job and that person has been appointed.”

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15103854.Fury_as_Wirral_Council_hires_Labour_s_policy_adviser_to_be_their_new_investment_chief___on___350_a_day/

Really ? – so you’re going with that ‘alternative fact’ are you ? Perhaps one of the interview panel chaired by Alan Evans and including the council’s Strategic Development Manager; Stephen Butterworth, Head of Transformation ( there’s that word again  !) ; Paula Basnett, CEO of Wirral Chamber of Commerce  (a surprising late replacement for a curiously unenthusiastic Asif Hamid) and Ellen Cutler, Director of Inward Investment at Liverpool Vision could publicly endorse this statement .

Alternatively they could tell the people who fund this post exactly what went on behind the scenes and whether they decided not to appoint Liptrot (or indeed anyone) but the decision was taken out of their hands and made by an increasingly desperate Power Boy Pip and the increasingly sinister Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson.

We’re led to speculate what exactly is the Rasputin-like hold that Liptrotsky  has over Power Boy Pip? All we can say is look what happened to Rasputin and the Imperial Royal Family of Wirral, sorry , Russia.  Just sayin’ !

 

 

 

Tourism Awards : Wirral-style

tourist

Whilst talking tourism we’re not talking about Wirral Council’s Head of Law Surjit Tour and his own personal philosophy here – especially when we dread to think what that might be! No – we’re talking about tourists coming to Wirral or more accurately people who find themselves lost by taking the wrong exit on to the M53!

Now don’t get us wrong there are many lovely places to visit on Wirral but judging by recent reports some parts of the peninsula are submerged in a sea of deprivation and crime . So forgive us if we’re not taken in by the announcement of yet another glittering ceremony celebrating commercial enterprises favoured by the Wirral Chamber of Commerce. Indeed, we’re left wondering where does their CEO , pouting ‘Princess’ Paula Basnett , fit all her frocks ? The way things are going Wirral Council are going to have to hand over another building at peppercorn rent so she can store them all!

As a result of this announcement yet another correspondent joins us on the road to enlightenment to give us their considered views on the matter .

We just need to declare an interest here and let you know that we turned down a nomination for Leaky Towers in the ‘Hidden Gem’ award category as frankly we try to avoid any contact with riff-raff – no matter how well dressed or well connected! Moreover we wouldn’t want our readers to think that we received an award for the same reasons as ‘The Spotty Blue Teapot’ or ‘Mere Brook House’. Just sayin’……………..

Dear Julian,
Last night I read the Wirral Globe report on the upcoming Tourism Awards. I am
sure you are familiar with this back slapping piece of crap that appears to be
sponsored by Wirral Chamber of Commerce. (Asif in the photo, poor girl having to
pose with him!)

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15066440.Nominations_now_open_for_the_Wirral_Tourism_Awards/

What intrigued me were the financial details. £385,000,000.00 per year from
8,000,000 visitors for good old Wirral.
I ‘Googled’ tourism figures for Wirral and they appear to stand up, but only in
the greater Liverpool area and I can’t decide if the figures are for Wirral or
the greater Liverpool area!
Now I am sure you have a calculator at hand so you will see that the figures
quoted from Wirral are that 21917 people per week visited Wirral spending £43.75
each. What a load off bollocks! In the words of somebody famous ‘I don’t believe
it!’
I would suggest that these figures have been compiled from footfall figures at
bars, restaurants, soon to be closed leisure centres, Tranmere Rovers and the
odd hotel that does weddings and WCC black tie nights, pubs and anywhere else
that might have somebody pop in.
If that is the case then these are not tourism figures but local people going
about their daily business.
I leave my thoughts in your capable hands and would suggest you pop down to the
bookies and put a fiver on ‘The Wro’ in West Kirby winning ‘Bar of the Year’.
Once again, keep up the good work.

P.S. Forgot to say I didn’t realise that Tony Jones is the Wirral tourism champion,ha ha!

 

The Egerton House Mystery

egerton-house

We are grateful to yet another correspondent with an enquiring mind who has sought refuge at Leaky Towers. This instalment in the Wirral Chamber of Commerce/ Wirral Council shenanigans concerns itself with Egerton House. This is another property which somehow landed in the burgeoning Chamber portfolio .

Our correspondent asks whether he has to stick to the Wirral Leaks party line and launch into some ‘scurrilous criticism’ of certain individuals to get published. Absolutely not! there’s enough of that on here and anyway we appreciate and encourage independent thought and debate – unlike some other institutions we could name !

We just ask that you read for yourselves and make your own mind up although we do say amen and halleluljah to the view expressed about Kevin Adderley!

Egerton House – where has the cash gone?

Egerton House was the first redevelopment on the docks and was owned jointly by Wirral Business Enterprise Limited and CEWTEC, the training and enterprise council. Wirral Business Enterprise Limited owned its fifty percent outright after a grant from the rump of Wirral Task Force funds and CEWTEC’s share was in part funded by the Department for Employment. Essentially the purchase and re-development of Egerton House was publicly funded.
When the Training and Enterprise Councils were abolished the Department for Employment reluctantly agreed that its loan would be cancelled subject to assurances on board structure and activities and Egerton House could remain as a resource for Enterprise development on Wirral. To avoid a substantial tax bill the two companies then offered Egerton House to the University of Liverpool, Wirral Metropolitan College and the Local Authority with an option to lease it back. All pitched to take it over and the two boards of directors chose the Local Authority. A lease was granted back to Egerton House (Wirral) Limited – during negotiations over the lease the Local Authority sought assurances that one elected member of the authority would be on the board with an Officer as observer.
The directors of Egerton House (Wirral) Limited adopted a very cautious policy, fearful that they might lose their largest licensee and amassed very substantial cash holdings peaking at over £600,000. It is difficult to see how this caution allowed an imaginative contribution to the development of Enterprise on Wirral.
Following the ‘merger’ with Wirral Investment Network the old board left, apart from Dr David Prior and Asif Hamid became chairman and Paula Basnett joined the board along with others. At this point Wirral Leaks might require me to stick to their party line and launch some scurrilous criticism of these two individuals. I would prefer to say that Asif has managed to draw together the most credible board of directors that Wirral Chamber of Commerce has ever had and through his membership of the LEP and connections to central government strives to do the very best for Wirral. Paula Basnett has consistently worked hard to bring together the diverse players in business support and with help from Phil Davies (who I also admire) rescued the Chamber from exiting Wirral.
BUT
In its latest published accounts Egerton House (Wirral) Community Interest Company lists amongst its contributions to the community; a Dr Bike day to have ones bicycle checked out, a Macmillan bake off day, ‘Shower Grants’ in case you get a bit hot and bothered riding your bike to work and hosting a steering group on Enterprise mentoring. In fairness it also lists all the core activities at Egerton House that are in support of business and for the good of the community.
Its latest Confirmation Statement (Annual Return) notes persons with significant control as Asif Hamid and Paula Basnett. Not surprising since they are the only directors of what holds itself out to be a Community Interest Company.
What the accounts as at 31st March 2016 don’t explain is why cash at bank after so many years of being over half a million pounds is a mere £2518 down from £336,816 on 31st December 2014 with debtors up from £86k to £344k.
At the same time in the Chamber’s accounts for the same dates cash at bank has gone up from £59,734 to £302,000.
Would it be reasonable to suggest that rather than hearing about a Dr Bike day we as taxpayers who paid for Egerton House might be more interested in whether Egerton House has lent around £300,000 to the Chamber and if so on what terms and if not who has the cash?
Your correspondent has no problem with Egerton House funding the Chamber as long as it is secure and public and not spent on Kevin Adderley and no wish to call upon other busy people to volunteer more time by sitting, pro bono, on the board of Egerton House (although the Local Authority should be present on the board as required in the original negotiations on the lease).
In an ideal world Egerton House might be fully integrated into the Chamber along with its lease and the Chamber should then aim to publish the fullest possible accounts to its members and the whole Wirral community.
Until then perhaps they could make a start by explaining Egerton House’s disappearing cash at bank.

A Bit of Bovver at The Lauries

Following our concerns about the operation  of The Lauries seemingly being gifted to the Wirral Chamber of Commerce we gratifingly note that a campaign been launched to take back community control of the centre

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/the-sorry-story-of-the-lauries/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/the-sorry-story-of-the-lauries-chapter-two/

Coincidentally we’ve also been forwarded the Wirral Chamber of Commerce and Industry submission to Companies House made on 23rd December ( to take advantage of the Christmas lull?). Whilst this submission is is a legal requirement ,being classified as a small company means the Wirral Chamber of Commerce is only required to submit abbreviated accounts. Nevertheless  they still make for very interesting reading as do the details of 67 resignations.

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/00120076/filing-history

 

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Note particularly that the assets of the Wirral Chamber of Commerce rose between 1 January 2015 and 31 March 2016 from £11,754 to a whopping £981,106. This rise in assets would appear to have been purely as a result of gifting of publicly owned buildings to them by Wirral Council.

Even more interesting reading is the complaint concerning The Lauries Centre submitted to Wirral Council by Birkenhead and Tranmere Neighbourhood Planning Forum earlier in December. This is yet another campaign which we will be following with great interest.

STAGE 1 COMPLAINT: OPERATION OF THE LAURIES LIMITED LEASE

We, the undersigned, ask that the issues outlined below are dealt with in accordance with Wirral Council’s complaints procedure.

As this complaint contains concerns about the conduct and actions of councillors and officers of the Council we would appreciate your early response regarding how this will be investigated and, if corrective and/or disciplinary action is required, what procedures will apply.

We would also appreciate the opportunity to meet with the person appointed to deal with this complaint in order to provide any necessary clarification and to assist in the resolution of this matter at the earliest stage of the Council’s complaints procedure. We consider that you are obliged to provide for this in order to meet the Councils 2020 Vision commitment to openness and transparency.

Background to complaint
Early in the year 2000 community representatives, Councillors and Council officers met in the old YMCA building to discuss which community objectives for capital expenditure under European Objective 1 (Round 2) and Single Regeneration Budget (Round 6) should be prioritised. At that meeting two headline capital projects were decided upon that would provide community meeting spaces at zero or very low cost for community groups across the Birkenhead Ward (pre 2003 boundary). These capital projects were The Lauries Project and the St James Centre. Both buildings were constructed, thereby fulfilling the principal objective of community representatives.

On 29 September 2005 the Council leased The Lauries Centre to The Lauries Limited for a period of 125 years.

The lease defines the permitted use of the building as use:only for the purposes of a community centre, a neighbourhood college (including workshops), a café/snack bar, offices and meeting rooms, conference and events…in furtherance of the Tenant’s aims and objectives as set out in its memorandum and articles of association…being in brief the promotion of any charitable purpose for the benefit of the community of Birkenhead and areas surrounding and in particular the advancement of education the promotion of good health and providing a focus for development and regeneration.

The lease therefore specifically links its own terms with those of the memorandum and articles of association of The Lauries Limited.

Earlier this year it came to our attention that public access to the building had been curtailed, the café had been closed down and it was rumoured that the Wirral Chamber of Commerce had annexed the building. This has since been confirmed because on its website the Wirral Chamber of Commerce now promotes The Lauries Centre as one of its “unique and exclusive office centres”.1 This makes it clear that the building is now used exclusively for commercial purposes, rather than for the purposes that together define the permitted use of the building, as set out in the lease.

Potential breaches of the lease and company mismanagement
Companies House records show that on 31 May 2015 all of the existing directors of The Lauries Limited (including Cllr Brian Kenny) resigned en masse and two new directors, Paula Basnett and Asif Hamid, who are both closely associated with Wirral Chamber of Commerce, replaced them.

The articles of association of The Lauries Limited require only one third of the directors to resign at each annual general meeting. So, the resignation of all directors was unusual to say the least. The articles of association also require a minimum of five directors to be in post at any one time. Once this was drawn to the attention of Paula Basnett, three new directors were appointed (Patricia Crocker, Katherine Eugeni and Sharon Stanton).

According to the articles of association, those three new directors may only remain in post until the next annual general meeting, when their appointment may only be extended by a vote of members of the company. The question of membership of the company is therefore also a key issue.

On behalf of the Forum our chair wrote to the Company Secretary, Paula Basnett, on 6 November 2016 requesting membership under the provisions of Article 1.3 of the company’s articles of association. The Forum also requested other information that the company is supposed to maintain, namely:

  • The company’s membership admissions policy
  • A membership application form
  • A list of current membership classes and their respective subscription fees

To date, no reply to this letter has been received.

The Forum was then approached by a former member of The Lauries Limited, who showed us a letter written in 2009, in which one of the directors at the time dismissed all of the remaining 36 members of the company, offering to refund the balance of any subscriptions paid.

The available evidence indicates that the company has had no members since 30 November 2009. However, it is members of the company who elect directors at each annual general meeting. If there have been no members since 2009 then all directors appointed after 30 November 2009 were occupying those positions unlawfully, as are the current directors. If there are no members, then the company has been operating outside of its own articles of association for a substantial period of time and would therefore appear also to be in breach of its lease with the Council.

Substance of complaint
We believe that the available evidence demonstrates that The Lauries Limited is operating outside of the parameters laid down in its articles of association, which in turn means that the terms of its lease with the Council have been breached. This unlawful operation of the company appears to have been ongoing since 30 November 2009.

We believe that Cllr Jean Stapleton, who was a director of The Lauries Limited continuously from 18 May 2003 until 31 March 2015 was a party to company mismanagement and breaches of the lease that occurred during this time.

We believe that Cllr Phil Davies, who was a director of The Lauries Limited from 6 January 2005 until 18 May 2013 was a party to company mismanagement and breaches of the lease that occurred during this time.

We believe that Cllr Brian Kenny, who was a director of The Lauries Limited from 17 February 2009 until 31 May 2015 was a party to company mismanagement and breaches of the lease that occurred during this time.

In the light of the evidence obtained by the Forum and public records, we believe that any reasonable person would conclude that Councillors Davies, Kenny and Stapleton were party to unlawful decisions, either knowingly or through gross negligence, in a manner that betrayed the commitment to community control and ownership enshrined in the memorandum and articles of association of The Lauries Limited.

It appears that Councillors and Council officers have failed:
1) in their duty to ensure that a significant public asset is managed in accordance with the terms of a lease agreement;
2) to effectively monitor the extent to which The Lauries Limited has been and is being operated in accordance with its memorandum and articles of association, and
3) to safeguard the use of public funds invested in the construction of The Lauries Centre.

Given these apparent failures we have further concerns that the sub-leases of the building, which require Council approval, may not comply with the terms of the principal lease.

In particular we are concerned that market rents are not applied to sub-leases made to commercial companies.

We request that all of the concerns raised in the foregoing paragraphs are investigated by the Council and that arrangements are put in place to ensure that The Lauries Limited is henceforth operated fully in accordance with its memorandum and articles of association and that the lease is properly policed.

The Forum will co-operate fully with the Council’s investigation, including providing copies of the evidential documents referred to in this letter, if the Council cannot obtain them elsewhere.

Panto Season

Fairy Godmother Frank.jpg

The Fairy Godfather

Some might say it’s always panto season at Wirral Council but we think it officially kicks off at tonight’s full council meeting which features a special guest appearance from whistleblower Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro.

To join in the festive fun Wirral Leaks have been working on a pantomime production of our very own . Coming soon is ‘ Pipperella’  which is our unique take on the Cinderella story starring the following :

Pipperella – Cllr  Phil Davies aka Power Boy Pip. Will Pipperella be asked to attend the Queen’s Ball to pick up an OBE or even better a knighthood for services to the BS industry and the business community?

The Ugly Sisters –  Cllr Steve Foulkes / Cllr George Davies aka Foulkesy and Georgie . Typecasting we know  !. Will Foulkesyetta and Georgetta De Combova spoil Pipperella’s plans by their bungling incompetence and inability to tell the truth?

Wicked Stepmother – Cllr Moira McLaughlin aka Matron. Will the bossy old trout continue with her unquestioning devotion to the unworthy?

Baron Hardup – Asif Hamid aka  Massive. Will struggling millionaire get another grant of public money and bail everyone out of trouble?

Dandini – Paula Basnett aka Pouting Paula . Will the dandy highwaywoman break the budget with awards ceremonies and costume changes?.

Prince Charm Offensive   – Martin Liptrot aka Liptrotsky .  Will  Wirral Council ‘cheerleader’  ensure that Pipperella has a happy ending ?

Buttons –  Wirral Council  Chief Executive Eric Robinson aka Eric Feeble/Stressed Eric. Will the one who doesn’t get paid ‘buttons’ get out from under his desk and do the right thing?

and finally

The Fairy Godfather – Frank Field aka Frankenfield  . Will all troubles disappear with one swish of his magic wand? –  be it hunger , poverty or protecting your political agent with public money !………

Christmas Day in the Control Room

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Inspired by  Christmas Day in the Call Centre one of our many aggrieved contributors has kindly provided us with a seasonal , if dark , insight into the Wirral Council control room that is worthy of The Brothers Grimm. Read it and weep ( yet again).

It serves to reinforce our belief that Wirral Leaks serves a repository for all those people who said “NO”. The good people of the world who know the difference between right and wrong , refuse to be chess pieces and can’t be bought like chattels:

After your report on Massive Asif call centre Christmas this is a little insight into the councils still fully operational control room after the supposed closure of 2014.

5 cover staff on the same pay band as former staff doing 40% less duties as you can imagine the mood is quite festive and cheery with staff enjoying many shifts on overtime rate as the new year approaches and the rustling of sweet wrappers at the bottom of the office Quality street mix with the clunking of shoes discarded as feet are placed onto the once hectic work stations as the click of the kettle breaks the silence from the once over used telephones.
We all know those workstations have been overused on various weekends but even that was brought to a halt when the chauffeur was called back onto the road and Cindereaden wasn’t allowed there after 12.
The madness of the Christmas and New Year has gone replaced by nose picking,ball scratching and working out how much more overtime can be fitted in before the end of March.
The 40% eye in the sky is now embedded in the far away land of Bootle never to return, a ghost of Christmas past.
Happy Christmas all at Wirral Leaks
JKs Happy Elf