To Sandwell In A Handcart

Colin as Surjit 009

Less than 5 years of dedicated public service at Wirral Council seem to have taken their toll on poor Surjit Tour  pic: courtesy of John Brace

We couldn’t bring ourselves to watch video footage last week’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting as we understand Power Boy Pip et al  gave outgoing Wirral Council law lord Surjit Tour a rousing round of applause as it was his last ever council meeting – yes , even from Cllr George Davies – but then the deputy leader of Wirral Council must be relieved to see the back of this particular chink in his armour.

The plaudits were all very reminiscent of the time when the subsequently convicted criminal Jim ‘Crabby’ Crabtree chaired the the Audit & Risk Management Committee  – yes we know ! – can you believe that actually happened ? – and led the handclapping for Audit Commission/Grant Thornton gobshite Mike Thomas. We suspect the applause for both was much for the same reason – keeping a lid on Wirral Council malpractice and getting paid well to do it.

Having said that Tour must be shooting off to his new gig at Sandwell Council like shit off a shovel. And it would appear he will be right at home. As a local source commented –‘Labour controlled and crooked forever’ 

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/politics/2016/10/10/sandwell-council-shake-up-fourth-senior-officer-leave-post/

We’re sure the six figure salary was particularly enticing for this status – conscious public servant. All we can say is that you can earn as much as you like but at the end of the day you’re still Surjit Tour.

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-hubs/sandwell/2017/05/26/sandwell-council-looking-to-appoint-top-roles—one-earning-100k-pay-packet/

We’re just staggered that out of four candidates interviewed for Sandwell Council’s top legal job that Tour came out on top.  Isn’t it reassuring that our public services have such a deep well of talent to draw upon?

Sandwell Council  must be particularly dear to Tour’s heart as a legal case involving his new employer was brought to attention in 2016.  A Wirral Council whistleblower had told their senior managers that they weren’t complying with the law when it came to administrating Discretionary Housing Payments  (DHP)- which are what they say on the tin, discretionary payments made to people who are having trouble paying their rent for one reason or another and presumably some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Wirral Council seem particularly reluctant to promote this fund they have available to help people in need so we’re saying loud and clear if you find yourself struggling to pay your rent contact Wirral Council and ask about DISCRETIONARY HOUSING PAYMENTS!

Needless to say the public-spirited  whistleblower who identified that Wirral Council were acting unlawfully was cruelly hounded out of their job for showing up their managers for the bullying incompetents they were.  There will be much more to come on this story but changes to procedures and belated thanks from Tour doesn’t cut it when someone’s career is needlessly destroyed for,once again, wanting things done properly and dare we say LAWFULLY!

Is it just us who thinks that if we don’t speak up about such abuses we’re all going to hell in a handcart?

Subject: Re: Whistleblowing Matter (Case Ref: 22/2016)

Dear X

Further the above matter, I have now completed all requisite enquiries into this matter. I have received and considered the report prepared by XX (Senior Auditor) into the matter you raised in your confidential report [CRF1] dated 22nd February 2016.

The review conducted by XX showed that whilst an assessment of income was undertaken in respect of DHP applicant’s income, the assessments were not fully compliant with the post Sandwell case and revised DWP guidance (issued in August 2015) on such claims.

In light of this, supplementary guidance has issued and explained to all relevant members of the team at the Transaction Centre so that DHP claims are assessed in accordance with the Sandwell case and revised DWP Guidance. Moreover, changes to procedures have and are being implemented to ensure consistency and compliance with the Sandwell case and revised  DWP guidance.

May I take the opportunity to thank you for bringing this issue to the attention of the council.

Kind regards

Surjit Tour

Head of Legal & Member Services

and Monitoring Officer

Ministry of Truth

 

ministry-of-truth-official

Another of our valued contributors Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro provides us with the latest update on the long running saga that is the BIG cover up (both in name and by nature).

After being given the usual run around by Wirral Council a Freedom of Information request eventually provided the evidence that Hobro and co had needed to support their long held claims of malpractice.

Once again we seem to witness the closed ranks and the triumph of dishonesty over truth. Whilst Hobro rightly highlights the questionable actions of Wirral Council management in this sorry saga we would like to raise a particular concern about so called independent agencies who collude with such behaviour. In all of these Wirral Council whistleblowing cases a common denominator has been how external auditors have consistently failed to act in the public interest.

No wonder that ex – Cllr Jim Crabtree , the former Chair of the council’s Audit & Risk Management Committee , asked for a round of applause for Mike Thomas (Audit Commission/ Grant Thornton)  when he made his last appearance at an ARMC meeting. Mr Thomas appeared shocked at the tribute – we were appalled………

Wirral Borough Council management is now revealed to be a sordid manipulator of the truth. I write that buttressed by hard-won evidence. Evidence forced out of WBC by threat of contempt of court after a campaign of obfuscation lasting all the way back to 2011. In addition to the management being exposed, a reasonable man might well have grounds to write that the Leader of the Council either was fed lies, and turned a blind eye, or told them in full knowledge. As regards (former WBC CEO) Graham Burgess and his Regeneration team, Kevin Adderley, and the ever-present David Ball, the taped proceedings of the Special Audit and Risk Committee meeting of 8th October tars them with lying, or complicity with lies, and that extending to the Legal Officer, Surjit Tour, who in despite of his accustomed “legal” interventions, kept silence as untruths were reeled out.

Language is never exact and can be readily misused – “the devil wins us with honest trifles to betray us i’the deepest consequence” and such abuse of language, “tis the equivocation of the fiend”, has been practised by many. Bill Clinton “I did not have sex in the Whitehouse” or his “I smoked but did not inhale” are famous examples. The tone of delivery may help. After a night of the Long Knives in June 1934 where a former German Chancellor was murdered with his wife, and hundreds of others, Hermann Goering cheerily met Anglo-American Reporters with the quip “Boy, have I got news for you!” Naturally he personally had organised many of the assassinations himself and put a jovial face upon it. “There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”!

Why am I quoting Macbeth? Why because the play shows how small untruths may lead to monstrous acts somewhere late in the “seeds of time”. Particularly I quote Macbeth because a line spoken by the tragic hero fits this situation neatly. Macbeth says

“I am in blood steep’d in so far

That going back were as tedious as go o’er”

Surely malevolence grows steadily like a worm fed on rubbish. Let me rehearse how an Original Lie grew and grew.

14 March 2011   Minutes given to Regeneration committee of councillors include tabulation of false figures from Wirralbiz Working Wirral figures, in order to give impression that all is well

July 2011        Kevin Adderley outfaces James Griffiths, whistle-blower, by untruthfully blurting out that no BIG recipient has gone bust

January 2012     Chief Anti-Fraud officer, Beverley Edwards files a 370 page report with the Director of Law showing the phoenixing of Lockwood Engineering ltd assets into Harbac (UK) ltd, and multiple flaws in the BIG process, together with flaws and fraud in wirralbiz’s ISUS program

March 2012       

Press release by WBC as follows 23 March 2012

Re: Allegations relating to Business Grants

Director of Finance and Deputy Chief Executive, Ian Coleman said:

“The allegations raised are being investigated by the Council’s Audit Officers. Their preliminary view, having interviewed the complainants and others, and considered all relevant documentation, is that there is no evidence that substantiates the allegations made against Council officers – at that time there was only the suggestion that (the now CEO of Wirral Chamber of Commerce) Paula Basnett was a friend of the wife of the director of Cass Coaches; this among a myriad of other allegations against claimants and advisors of wirralbiz).

“The investigation has not yet concluded however it is anticipated that the report will be finalised in the next few weeks.

“The Council’s Economic Development unit has an excellent track record for the work it does to encourage investment into Wirral, support local businesses and help people into jobs. This was recognised most recently when the team won the national LGC Award for Economic Development, which praised the innovation shown by the Council.”

BY March 2012  the decision has been taken to hide Beverley Edwards’ report and substitute it with a Dave Garry report, and stretch that report out as long as possible

July 2012      the council pays £33,000 to wirralbiz regardless of allegations as the lie must be fed

September 2012   “the report will be finalised in the next few weeks” transmutes by witchcraft “ into no report will be published as it is unfit for purpose and Mr D. Garry regardless of his failure ,will leave the authority with £46,000. But what of the 370 pages of Beverley Edwards’ report?

The LIE is swelling with falsehoods and the toll and bill is mounting both for the public and for the two whistleblowers. For the public a further £50,000 will be paid to Grant Thornton. One wonders is this simply to buy time?

October 2012     to feed the lie the Council pays a further £66,000 to wirralbiz

Early December 2012    The Grant Thornton team report both that they have completed the BIG investigation within just over a month, and that WBC is putting no pressure on them to render a report till the ISUS investigation is complete.-to buy more time?

March 2013   Grant Thornton delivers its report which is hidden from view for 16 weeks

March 2013     Press release by Cllr P Davies and again the red herring is thrown into the ocean incarnadine with a “I am pleased that I am now in a position to state clearly that the ISUS report which has now been concluded does not criticise Wirral Council or its officers” WHEREAS from the off the investigation was never directed against council officers!!

July 2013        Under pressure from a question at a full council meeting Cllr Davies agrees to release just the Executive Summary of the BIG investigation. In it are new obfuscations. Grant Thornton though investigating Lockwood Engineering ltd in its sample of six files contrives not to notice or record the phoenixing issue of BIG-funded assets moved into Harbac UK Ltd without any liquidator knowing-a very strange omission indeed. Likewise the BIG LIE battens on the equivocation that a gap of 26 months passed between the August 2010 award of BIG and the dissolution of Lockwood in September 2012. Disingenuous indeed since entry into Liquidation effectively ends the company’s trading and this was only 8 months later!

July 2013     Cllr Davies in a press release, “filled top to toe with direst cruelty” wrote

“I am also pleased to note that with the exception of one, all companies that received BIG funding are still trading – creating jobs and contributing to the local economy”

THE BIG LIE and his soul is not to fly to Heaven. Here is the list of companies that were no longer trading at 1st July 2013

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

Lockwood engineering ltd                             01/04/2011                                 20/09/2012

Corrin Kenny ltd 22/03/2012 long liquidation

July 2014 A special audit and risk committee was abandoned in uproar as the Chairman Cllr Crabtree (displaced now and up before criminal court in January coming on an unrelated matter) attempted to close down the issues by a majority vote of Labour Councillors.) Cllr Davies approached me at the end threatening to sue me for linking him with the advisor preparing the defective BIG fund projections. Had I known of the connexions between Brendon Kenny (Corrin Kenny Ltd above) and the Adderley-P Davies coterie, or of the £810,000 deficit in New Gaming Concept Ltd , he would have been even more anxious.

8th October 2014 The reconvened special audit and risk committee is held and despite with-holding what the Chief Executive would submit, the WBC management pestered me many times for the content of my speech. Since the delivery of my speech to them in July 2014 meeting was a contributory cause of that meeting being aborted , I did not supply my notes to them on this ocassion. Graham  Burgess and Kevin Adderley, “twere as tedious to go o’er as go back” repeated the same untruth that now only Lockwood , Harbac and Atlantic Engineering were liquidated or in Liquidation. BIG LIE for by then the list had grown to

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

Lockwood Engineering ltd                             01/04/2011                                 20/09/2012

Corrin Kenny ltd 22/03/2012 long liquidation

With additions  

TTH Laundry Services Ltd                                  21/08/2014

Halliwell Industrial & Marine Silencers                07/03/2014       

Harbac (UK) ltd 14/08/2013

Combined Harvesters ltd 12/12/2013

Atlantic Engineering ltd 11/03/2014

Brocks Mechanical services ltd 04/02/2014

Imaginations Air travel ltd 01/09/2014

I make that ten cessations of trading as both the Chief Executive and the Super Director spake and as, the two representatives from Grant Thornton , the auditors, sat silent, and as David Ball , Manager of Regeneration was equally mute, and lastly the Monitoring Officer, Surjit Tour never corrected them.

A FARCE and a waste of all the salaries and overtime paid to the notables who were present. A personal insult to myself, to James Griffiths and to the public whose money had so flippantly been  thrown away. Throughout the Monitoring Officer refused access to the list of BIG recipients even though a cursory examination of his legal database would show him that liquidated companies have absolutely no rights to confidentiality, period. Wilfully he maintained the BIG LIE and you have only to read the directions from the Information Commissioner to understand how,  improperly, Monitoring Officer offered up a series of ridiculous objections with the purpose of concealing the BIG LIE.

There will be other commentators here and on Wirral in it together. Let me record how angry I am with these pious and aloof civil servants who in reality were hiding their own incompetence and sordid lie-telling. The reader will discover the motivators to tell such lies.

Think on the triumph of Donald Trump in the USA. So many lies were told by the Clintons that he decided to campaign with half truths and once won, row back on his campaign slogans. That is the terminus to arrive at when “ first you practice to deceive”.

A Return to Greed

Pigs 2

There’s a particularly intriguing story that keeps returning to our radar .

So we set Verity off in pursuit of  various leads in an attempt to get to the truth of the matter. First port of call was the ever informative What Do They Know website. My goodness !, there are some interesting Freedom of Information (FOI) requests concerning Wirral Council on there – but one that particularly caught our eye and appears to have disappeared under everyone’s radar was an FOI request made by perennially returning Tory councillor Ian Lewis.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/payments_to_the_returning_office

Now why would Cllr Lewis be especially interested in knowing about historical information held by Wirral Council concerning the role/responsibilities/returns of the Returning Officer ?

Could it be that his interest was piqued by a couple of posts on Wirral Leaks or does he know something we don’t?…..

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/standard-procedures/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/big-returns/

There’s certainly some interesting information to be had about the role of the Returning Officer during elections. It seems to us that this role basically involves bossing council staff to do all the running round whilst the already massively remunerated council CEO picks up a big fat fee just in case there’s an electoral cock-up and the government need someone to blame.

It’s interesting to note that between 2006-2010 the Returning Officer Steve Maddox donated all Returning Officer fees that he was supposed to receive to charity. It’s just such a shame he wasn’t so charitable when it came to bullying his own staff and setting the tone for a bullying culture at Wirral Council. His successors as Returning Officer – Bill Norman, Graham Burgess and presumably the latest incumbent Eric Robinson obviously don’t believe in such generous largesse as they are seemingly some of the greediest little piggies in local government (and that’s saying something as this a particularly crowded trough).

return-to-greed-012

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/356355/response/869178/attach/4/FOI%201087924%20Councillor%20Ian%20Lewis%20Payments%20to%20the%20Returning%20Officers.pdf

The sums on offer are eye-watering and frankly in this age of austerity, absolutely obscene. This year alone the current Wirral Council CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson has picked up just short of £30,000 on top of his £175,000 + salary for the Local, Police and Crime Commissioner elections and the EU referendum.

Verity’s forensic eye was particularly drawn to details of the Returning Officer statutory fee  of £11,362 for the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner election , paid presumably to the then Wirral Council CEO Graham Burgess (aka Burgesski) . However she has discovered the alarming anomaly that Burgesski was also the Returning Officer for the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner election in 2012 !.

return-to-greed-009

https://www.blackburn.gov.uk/Lists/DownloadableDocuments/NoticeOfElectionAgentsNamesAndOffices.pdf

How curious we thought and we’re left wondering whether Burgesski  could have picked up two fees amounting to £22, 724 in one day ?.   Now that would be beyond obscene!.

I think we should be told !  – but who to ask?.

Burgesski himself ? – we suspect the Great White Shark , former union firebrand and now champagne socialist would like to put his Wirral Council  , ahem, ‘experiences’ behind him.

Internal Audit ?- or rather Infernal Audit under the guidance of Internal Chief Auditor Mark Niblock? . Are you kidding us?. This one learned his trade under his predecessor , the disgraceful David Garry.

External Audit ?- Grant Thornton and their predecessors the Audit Commission have a shameful track record of not biting the hand that feeds them and have produced more fudge than Devon in the name of protecting a lucrative income stream.

Monitoring Officer ?- I’m sure Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour would be able to clear this one up for us as he should be well versed in the legalities and correct procedures involved.  We’re sure that Tour ,in the absence Bill Norman Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer who was suspended at the time , would have ensured that everything was above board and that those who were entitled to Returning Officer fees were paid correctly and made to the people who were properly entitled to them!………unless of course somebody knows different!.

Yet More Piss Poor “Corporate Governance” Wirral Council Style..

From the Wirral Globe

“ASTONISHING parallels have emerged between a highly critical investigation into Wirral Council’s inadequate ethics and governance in 2005 and an equally damaging inquiry conducted six years later.

A review by local government watchdog the Audit Commission published in August of 2005 found Wirral guilty of alarming errors at the most senior level as it sought to transfer its highways administration centre from Bebington to the Cheshire Lines building in Birkenhead”

Here’s the Audit Commission Report (CLICK)

We think his comment on the Wirral Globe web site sums it up best 😉

“I bet they’re Green around the gills in Canning Street.

PS. The “new chief executive Jim Wilkie” was formerly the “deputy chief executive” mentioned in this report, wasn’t he?

The highways director is STILL the highways boss.

The finance boss is STILL the finance boss.

No doubt they will all come rushing forward waving their £100k salary cheques insisting they’re the right men to investigate themselves, in a statement issued by the furious Sultaness of Spin.

And on and on – and on – we go.”


We are imagining an apoplectic Frank Field Mp running toward Town hall rather like Bishop Brennan from Father Ted 🙂