Sorrento Shame 2 : No Laughing Matter

No laughing matter

Ordinarily our lead picture would be the Foulkes’ Sorrento holiday snap which features on social media and has been forwarded to us. However after further consideration of the ‘Sorrento Shame’ story we feel the need to take a more sober approach (no pun intended) . Now is not the time for satire, sarcasm or caption competitions.

As you can see from the picture above hotel management  tried to pacify a distraught couple who allege they were subject to racial abuse on holiday and hope that one day they will find it ‘something to laugh about’. On seeing this letter it suddenly struck us that it took people from outside Wirral to point out how unacceptable some behaviours are. They’ve held a mirror up to us all and it doesn’t reflect well on any of us.

We say this , as to us and to many people, none of the allegations that have surfaced will come as a surprise. We’ve been forwarded many stories over the years which people have asked us not to publish. Frankly we’d rather not know. It’s just such a shame that people locally haven’t been prepared to speak up before now. We’re calling it the ‘Weinstein Syndrome’ – where ‘everybody knew’ about certain attitudes and behaviours but chose to succumb to pay-offs , legal threats or went along with a different kind of abuse of power because it was advantageous to their career. Additionally we understand that some people are frightened to speak up against powerful and influential people especially when they are protected by other powerful and influential people. And look what happens to those who do speak up!

Doesn’t it make you proud to live on Wirral?   But then we’ve long held that there is a dark heart at the centre of the local Birkenhead Constituency Labour Party (CLP) where racism , harassment and bullying and lying by a tiny minority of local councillors is apparently tolerated and/or condoned because they’re part of  Frank Field’s ‘Inner Ring’ .

But it’s not just the Birkenhead CLP who go along with it – it’s Wirral councillors of all political parties (with a couple of honourable exceptions) who thought it was OK for ‘Foulkesy’ to become Mayor of Wirral in 2014, two years after it was exposed he was the leader of a basket case council that was rife with bullying , nepotism , incompetence and dishonesty (but then everyone knew that as well!) Of course there was the opportunity to prevent this appointment in 2013 but an unholy alliance of middle class charlatans and working class chancers went along with it – all in the hope of career advancement, financial gain or a front page exclusive. We can’t think of anywhere else in the country where the Wirralgate cover up would have lasted this long.

Wirral councillors then went on to  (deliberately?) miss the point of the Patricia Thynne Wirralgate investigations by a country mile. Who gives a damn whether Foulkesy was part of a plot to ‘smear’  Tory collaborator Jeff Green? It was the fact that he’d lied through an investigation which necessitated a further investigation costing us £17K and throughout which he again continued to lie. Perhaps instead of an apology to the collusive Cllr Green ,  Foulkesy was instead denied the opportunity to be a Wirral Council representative on outside bodies this might have represented a meaningful sanction.

However as John Brace’s excellent blog points out ‘Foulkesy’ has this past week been allowed to vote himself an annual £10,108  pay rise  (this is not including his remuneration for sitting on the Magenta Living board alongside ………yes you guessed it, Cllr Jeff Green !)

Holiday money

But then the likes of the Local Government Association (LGA) and consultants like Anna Klonowski and Anna Hutchinson at Labour North West and Merseyside Police are no better – pussyfooting around power abusers is so much easier than confronting sordid and difficult realities.

And then there’s what we’re calling ‘Shite Privilege’  where  certain people are allowed to hold the most reprehensible views and behave in the most appalling manner because of their local connections . Of course the precedent here is the Jack Nolan case (Jack being Elaine Foulkes’ -nee Nolan’s- son ).  A classic case of the the apple not falling far from the tree. Suddenly doesn’t his assault and affray conviction at Birkenhead Magistrate’s Court in 2015 seem tragically inevitable? We could almost, but not quite, forgive him. However what we can’t forgive is the high profile protectors who turned up to provide character references at the trial. This inevitably included council leader Cllr  Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies, who’s moral compass appears to be permanently pointed to hell.

What A Load Of Testimonials!

Now we don’t know about you lot but we resent someone is allowed the opportunity to finance him and his missus’s holidays in the sun so he can allegedly stand by and watch the abuse of innocent bystanders at our expense.  We should not be funding more opportunities to ruin not just other people’s holidays but other people’ s careers and lives. This is no laughing matter.

 

 

 

 

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.

Drinking Wine With Cesare Borgia

Cesare-Borgia-(1)
We were perusing the local news sites on Monday evening and reading about the conduct of one Jack Terrence Nolan,who had just pleaded guilty to assault and affray at Birkenhead Magistrates Court. See HERE

Readers will remember that police were called to the Thornton Hall Hotel last October where Cllr Steve Foulkes and his consort fiancée Elaine Nolan were hosting a fundraising ball.

It was here that the Mayor’s future stepson tanked up on tequila,champagne and wine attacked hotel staff and uttered that immortal line:

” My mum’s the mayor, she will sort it out”.

Our first thoughts were concerned with the sickening irony of a seemingly dissolute Mayor’s Ball being held in a top hotel where tickets cost £40 a pop and yet one of the charities benefiting from the bash (no pun intended) were foodbanks ! These reflections were rudely interrupted by Her Ladyship calling us from the drawing room with the anguished cry of : ” Quick!,the ghoul and his poodle are on the gogglebox tut- tutting about anti-social behaviour”…..

And sure enough there was Frankenfield and Power Boy Pip all wrapped up in wool overcoats and scarves with a police escort cruising the badlands of Birkenhead between 7pm- 9pm last Friday night ( because as we all know unruly youths are normally tucked up in bed by the watershed).
Frank did his usual ” I blame the parents” routine whilst Pip just stood there looking gormless in Asda.  SEE HERE

We were then suddenly struck by the links between the story of the Mayor’s drunken future stepson and this particular TV appearance /PR stunt.
As we know Frankenfield is always calling for feckless parents and errant youths to start taking responsibility for their actions and being held accountable for their anti-social behaviour. However we feel this is something he needs to practice rather than preach. He needs by condemning the behaviour of some local Labour politicians rather than co-ordinating a cover up which means that it is unlikely that they will ever be held accountable for their serious misconduct. From circumventing Local Government Commissioners coming in to sort out Wirral Council out in 2012 to preventing the Wirralgate tapes ever getting an airing he’s been getting his mates out of trouble for years.

“My mate is Frank ,he will sort it out”

At least Young Mr.Nolan is being held accountable for his actions and will hopefully have learned a valuable lesson in life. It’s just a shame that his future stepfather isn’t a better role model as he still has to rely on others to get him out of trouble.

So before next time Frank starts badmouthing Birkenhead and some of his constituents he might want to consider the behaviour of some senior Wirral politicians and ask himself who’s more worthy of criticism – the mob or the yob?…….

* As an aside Verity has been undertaking some background research and brought to our attention the curious sadistic tone that runs through some of Frankenfield’s rhetoric.

From this in 1989 talking about the now newly retired lawyer Nick Warren in the House of Commons:
“I am unique in having a legal unit in my constituency which helps me with my constituents’ legal grievances. That in itself would be worth bringing to the attention of the House, but the fact that that unit is staffed by the most talented welfare rights lawyer makes it doubly so and, I am sure, a pleasurable pain in the flesh of the Government….”

….to this in 2014 talking about anti-social behaviour and that “new legislation is needed “that warmly shakes them by the throat….”

Freud would quite literally have a Field day