The Usual Crap from Wirral Council

poo bags

Still one of our favourite pics sent to us by one of our devoted readers…

We’ve been asked for our thoughts on a couple of local news stories. The first concerns the pressing issue of dog crap. Now we have to declare an interest here or more accurately a lack of interest – we hate the thought that notorious bullying former Wirral Council CEO Steve Maddox is right when he once publicly claimed in a meeting held outside Wirral that the people who paid his wages (and ‘additional pension costs’) were only interested in ‘dog crap’.

So as you can see from previous posts such as this we’ve long applauded and supported responsible pet owners and campaigners such as ‘Wirral Good Dogs’ who don’t want to subsidise Wirral Council waste via the waste that comes out of their pet’s backsides but it is still particularly dispiriting to witness this week’s packed Council meeting about the proposed introduction of Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) to combat Wirral’s dog crap problem.

If only pet owners (and indeed non-pet owners) on Wirral were equally motivated to turn out to Council meetings and express their concern about what is done (or not done) in their name perhaps the punitive measure wouldn’t have been proposed in the first place!

But hey! as long as people are exercising their democratic right to challenge the powers that be that’s OK with us. However our interest in the matter lies elsewhere and is more concerned with the potential engagement of Kingdom Security to impose PSPOs and the political/financial motivations of Wirral Council’s ruling administration.

What can we say about Kingdom Security?  Lots actually since 2015 and none of it good. But the thought of their operatives loitering around playing fields and parks in pursuit of filthy lucre (pun intended) is surely the stuff of nightmares.

Our other point of interest is the sense of deja vu that accompanied this week’s Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday where it was decided to ditch the proposal by a single vote. The committee’s decision will now come before Wirral Council Cabinet and specifically the environment spokesperson Cllr Anita Leech, who will make a final decision on PSPOs. Could this be the same Cllr Leech who voted against the fire station development in Saughall Massie before changing her mind and allowing it to go ahead?

We’re left wondering whether ,with elections coming up in May, the ruling administration are playing the game of ‘listening to the people’  when it comes to dog crap or will financial necessity override political expediency?

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Sign the petition HERE

 

Golf Gaffe

golf gaffe

We’ve long held that the Hoylake Golf Resort proposal is not so much a golf course as a Trojan horse to a housing development on the Green Belt…and we’re not the only ones who think so. A message we received this week rightly questions the Wirral Council ruling administration’s boundless passion for a sport in decline and the gaffe they’ve made in a report which highlights this fact. But then we need to remember that golf is an enthusiasm pursued by some influential people within the Council and the local business community (we’ll let you join the dots) and which inspired this lament about a senior officer who has been “spending months organising a Wallasey golf day for managers to use up their flexi to play with contractor sponsors who generously donate to your day and prizes …”

Hi Wirralleaks,

Why are the Council proposing to spend £millions of public money on building a new Golf Resort (and luxury housing estate) on Green Belt Land in Hoylake when they are proposing to “offoad” municipal courses because golf is in decline??? You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Wirral Council are reviewing their future provision of Municipal Golf Courses.

In a Golf courses Cabinet report to be presented to Cabinet next Monday, Councillor Phillip Brightmore, (cabinet Member of Leisure and Recreation) is recommending the transfer of Arrowe Park and The Warren Municipal Golf Courses to an “alternative specialist golf provider”.

Interestingly the report states “…….with the national trend in golf usage being generally down, (not just for municipal golf courses but also for the majority of private golf clubs)” and “Participation in municipal golf in Wirral is in decline and follows a national trend in that people tend to have less disposable leisure time to spend on playing a five or six hour round of golf. Those people that would have traditionally played golf in the past have migrated to a more ‘time determined’ sport (such as cycling, running,fitness) to fulfil their leisure time demands. Some smaller private member golf clubs are suffering from the same problem and it is noticeable how some ‘community’ based golf clubs have responded to this problem by reducing membership/joining fees and offering ‘pay and play’ packages which compete favourably with our existing municipal fees and charges”.

So, at a time when even the Council acknowledge that golf courses are becoming less and less financially viable – is it really the right decision to invest £millions of public money in a new Golf resort in Hoylake – or will the resort, as many believe, become just a white elephant, ripe for further housing development once the new access road and luxury housing estate has been built?

Best wishes!

Consultations and Cover Ups

We’ve been concentrating on a series of special reports but couldn’t let a few recent local news stories pass without comment.

Consultations

Tomorrow’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting will feature announcements about two upcoming consultations which have been heralded in the local press. First up we have a press release in Wirral Globe where Cllr Angela Davies tells us she’s excited. However the former short lived Change Grow Live employee is not excited that Christmas is coming. Oh no! she’s excited because there’s exciting plans and she has an artist’s impression to prove it. Generously she wants to share her excitement with us :

Wirral Growth Company's artists impression of what some of the Birkenhead town centre redevelopment could look like

Only by listening and engaging with local residents and deliver thousands of new jobs. We will be asking the question: ‘What sort of place do you want Birkenhead to be?’ and soliciting ideas about improving the public realm, establishing more residential opportunities in and around the town centre and expanding the leisure, retail and cultural offers available.After too many false dawns, Wirral residents are now looking forward to being asked to shape real plans and a concrete set of proposals to regenerate Birkenhead as the commercial and retail heart of Wirral.Wirral Growth Company is an ambitious partnership between Wirral Council and a private sector regeneration specialist, but it needs to be informed by the views of local residents and businesses across the town. This consultation will provide the qualitative and quantitative regeneration evidence base which has been missing.Wirral Growth Company has established some provisional ideas for what a rejuvenated Birkenhead could look like – a new market, improved retail and leisure offers and up to 300,000sq.ft of Grade A office space.The Council is excited by these initial ideas and feedback already received has been positive, but it’s now the turn of local residents to say what they aspire to see. Rebuilding work in Birkenhead could start as early as Spring 2019, so over the coming weeks and months I am proposing the Council and its partners conduct this wide ranging consultation, outreach and engagement to gather the views of local residents.

Full press release here : Birkenhead regeneration consultation

It’s not just the dawns that are false Angie. Are you really telling us that Wirral Growth Company was set up with NO qualitative/quantitative at evidence base ? This consultation is beginning to look like “The people who get paid huge amounts of public money to think up new ideas haven’t got any – so can you lot come up with some for us ?” So here’s one from us – how about turning Birkenhead into Dubai on the Mersey and build a skyscraper hanging from the sky as let’s face it all of these consultations and artist’s impressions are already pie in the sky anyway.

 

Next up on the consultation front is keen royalist Cllr Janette ‘Milly Tant’ Williamson who is introducing  a consultation on how Wirral Council should  spend the few quid that Wirral Council have left in the coffers with her Budget saving plan . If the Cabinet meeting wasn’t so early we’d suggest organising a drinking game for every time Williamson uses the phrase ‘Tory cuts’. Perhaps she’ll regale us with tales from her time working for the Insolvency Service. Or perhaps not …

Cover Ups

The other story we couldn’t help commenting on was  ‘Embarrassing’ council slammed after failing in 90% of complaints – with some taking YEARS to complete where we find Conservative councillors Tony Cox ( ’embarrassing’) and Chris Blakeley  (absolutely appalling’) commenting on the abject failure of ALL councillors to properly police complaints against themselves but failing to acknowledge that it was Wirral Councillors who agreed to the utterly woeful ‘Standards’ regime that is currently in place. Even Wirral Council’s leading apologist/lawyer Philip McCourt concurred the Council had ‘failed’. Inevitably Labour councillor Chris Jones chipped in that she was ‘happy’ with a 90% failure rate.Which let’s face it is a 10% improvement on most aspects of the ruling administration’s achievements.

This all comes after the recent case brought against Cllr Paul Hayes by Professor Maggie Atkinson ,the touchy Chair of the Wirral Safeguarding Board which we reported here. If somebody had just explained to Atkinson that commenting on the public perception of a cover up is a legitimate course of action for a councillor and is not the same as being accused of being part of a cover up perhaps Wirral Council could have saved a lot of time and money on this particular (non)-case.

Just a shame no-one from the Tory group (or any councillor) has seen fit to make a public comment on a notorious long running cover up involving Wirral Council . We suppose it will be down to us ,once again ,to dissect this particular one in a future ‘Special Report’ :

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Dead Wrong

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Cllr George Davies hangs his head in shame. Correction : he has no shame. 

Today’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting gave the powers that be the opportunity to respond to the criticism levelled at them by central government that they couldn’t organise a bunfight in a bakery when it comes to local planning issues with their failure to produce a ‘Local Plan’.

Unfortunately spineless council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies , in his inimitable style, delegated the task of chairing this meeting to his hapless deputy , Cllr George Davies. But where was Pip? – New York? Reno? Cannes? China? Apparently anywhere but his ward in Birkenhead or Wallasey Town Hall! Consequently we’d like to send him an early Easter present – a petri dish. Perhaps he’ll be able to grow a scrotum in it!

petri dish

Inevitably it didn’t work out well as Gorgeous George hid behind his PC screen (which makes a change from hiding behind Frank Field’s skirts) and , as usual, embarassingly read out a pre-prepared empty speech which bore a remarkable similarity to an exclusive statement issued to Wirral Globe by Pip in his belated response to Sajid Javid, the Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government,and his letter threatening government intervention which we exclusively revealed to the people of Wirral –  Making Plans For Wirral

The belated Wirral Globe story can be read here

The use of the term ‘dead wrong’ was a dead giveaway that this was a Martin Liptrot-scripted case of talking loud and saying nothing.  Watch in horror from behind the settee from 7.30 minutes in of the John Brace video as Cllr George Davies has the temerity to say that as a  government minister Sajid Javid is “entitled to his opinion” . Whereas the truth of the matter is that Javid is entitled in LAW to insist that Wirral Council abide by their statutory obligations and produce a coherent ‘Local Plan’ .

What we find to be ‘dead wrong’ in the above horrorshow is that someone who has used racist slurs and offered a sweetheart deal to scammers  in return for smearing a political opponent is deemed to have the moral authority and political gravitas to challenge the accusation that he is monumentally incompetent when it comes to fronting Wirral Council’s planning portfolio.

Just watch and tell us whether it makes you feel proud that the people above – and Cllr George Davies in particular  – are responsible for making decisions that affect you and your life.

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Wirral Council ‘leadership’ in action. These are the people who make decisions about our lives whilst avoiding the public gaze from behind their (smoke)screens .

Wirral Leaks Weekly Dispatch #5

More Money, More Troubles

This week’s Cabinet announcement concerning a council tax of 5.99% came as no surprise to anyone. Nor did Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies inevitably blaming ‘Tory cuts’ for such a hike. However where Pip outdid himself in his budget proposals was suddenly finding £20 million down the back of the metaphorical Town Hall settee  “to prevent Wirral’s young people becoming victims of Tory policies.”

Now whilst we readily acknowledge that cutting off funding streams to local authorities is very much part of a shameful central government strategy to dismantle public services – and which the Labour administration at Wirral Council seem more than happy to go along with – we baulked at the rewriting history that was going on here . The playing of party politics with children’s lives and taking no responsibility whatsoever for the dire state of Children’s Services on Wirral was a new low even for Pip . But then it’s so much easier for a Council leader, who is in a permanent state of denial, to lay bad management,  poor decision making , laziness, and incompetence on the part of public servants and poor governance on the part of local councillors at the door of  ‘Tory cuts’. It was all very reminiscent of the first edition of the Town Hall propaganda sheet Wirral View turning the damning Ofsted report into Children’s Services into a good news item. We had the foresight to write : “The article on the damning Ofsted Inspection report is given more spin than Rapunzel on speed and has the title ” Children’s services to get major investment” ! Which we suspect will be the distorted shape of things to come. Full article here : First Glance at Wirral View

The October 2016 announcement of this ‘investment’ to recruit additional social workers ,improve training and management and provide more experienced, long-term leadership for children’s social care amounted to £2 million . Could it be a measure of just how much trouble Children’s Services are really in is that the required investment has increased TENFOLD ? ! 

The Emperor’s New Impose

However we do have a good news item to report and that is the retirement of Birkenhead MP Frank Field.  Well, that got your attention didn’t it! Unfortunately it’s not imminent , which is a shame – as anyone who witnessed his tetchy performance discussing Brexit on today’s Sunday Politics TV programme will testify . There he was all flush-faced and flapping hands as Stella Creasy the Labour MP for Walthamstow accused Frankenfield of “driving the Boris bus” . Which we can only hope wasn’t a lewd euphemism. Stella stood her ground and wasn’t having any of Frank’s passive aggressive nonsense telling him ” You can talk over me all you like Frank” . Full coverage here :  Frank v Stella

During the clash of handbags Frankenfield maintained that the public should have ” the right to every bit of information going”. Which is a change of tune from someone who once objected on Radio Merseyside about the Wirral public making Freedom of Information requests to Wirral Council . We just wonder whether this new found fondness for openness and transparency extends to persuading Wirral Council to finally publish a much heralded report dating back to 2015 which was written by Frank’s mate , Nick Warren. Frankenfield was whining to the local press as far back as July 2015 as to why the report hadn’t yet been published.  Now everyone involved -including Field – apparently wants to bury the report. What’s that all about?

However let’s get back to the matter of who Frankenfield thinks should inherit his kingdom. Apparently Upton councillor Matthew Patrick (aka Matty Patty) is the nice young man that Field would like to succeed him as the MP for one of the safest parliamentary seats in the land. But then we suppose there isn’t a deep pool of talent to draw upon in Birkenhead is there? But what about Foulkesy? Georgie? Crabby?, Doughty? we hear you cry. All we can assume is that Frank would like someone more in keeping with the aspirational artist’s impressions of a future Birkenhead that have been knocking about all over the local press this week.

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Artist’s impression of a possible future MP for Birkenhead

Speer’ of Destiny 

Talking of these artist’s impressions …..there were a slew of pretty pictures accompanying such headlines as Stunning new images of how Birkenhead could look in future as billion-pound deal is agreed’  concerning the Wirral Council/Muse Developments Joint Venture which includes potential plans for glossy new Council offices. Somehow a cheeky Wirral Leaks reader was suddenly minded to recall the work of the Third Reich’s architect , Albert Speer. 

We’re sure they’re not making comparisons with a power-crazed, progaganda-obsessed regime but rather just reminding us that the self-aggrandizing plans for a People’s Hall/Great Hall/Hall of Glory were never realized.

 

More Muse Musings

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The closest we’re ever going to get to a Pre-Raphaelite joke Pic : ‘The Blessed Damozel’  Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Lady Lever Art Gallery , Port Sunlight )

What warms what’s left of the dying embers of our heart is when we set the hares running and questioning, enquiring  Wirralians come running back to share their concerns with us.

So following on from yesterday’s Muse Musings story we have yet more muse musings.

The first observation concerns a report in Place North West with whom Wirral Council seem to have struck up a special rapport.  After reading about the Wirral Council/Wirral Growth Company / Muse Developments ‘preferred development partner’ hook up what particularly caught the interest of one of our readers was something not included in the bulletpointed  list of ‘initial proposals’ and which as far as we know , is not reported elsewhere (or indeed in Council leader’s Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies’ message to  Labour Party members – see below) . Hidden in plain sight is the comment that  ‘Place North West also understands that some of the office space is earmarked as a new headquarters for Wirral Council’ . No prizes for guessing which of those currently playing ‘let’s- pretend-to-be -property magnates -with public assets’ will be earmarked for spanking new office space if this proposal comes off . However it would seem to be politically inopportune to metaphorically shout it from the top of the Wirral Waters ‘International Trade Centre’ (see any number of previously published artist’s impressions).  Read full article here : Muse chosen for £1bn Wirral regeneration

Meanwhile another switched on Wirral Leaks reader referred us to report of  next week’s Cabinet 28th February  where the Muse Developments appointment is to be rubber -stamped.   We’re sure you all know the drill by now . Pip introduces the report and talks about challenges/ Tory cuts/ budget shortfall/20 Pledges/bigs up Wirral Growth Company and then the rest of the Cabinet chip in with carefully rehearsed variations of Pip’s paean.

We can guarantee that what won’t be discussed is some of the more problematic areas in the report identified by own of our readers :

Bidder A is Muse

Bidder B is BCEGI/Scarborough

An investigative journalist such as your good selves might want to look at how Muse develop and how this agreement is to be made. (And the so called ‘Muse tax). They are stating 50/50 but Muse never put any money into schemes. They borrow. The report states that the BCEGI/Scarborough bid matched the land value with cash.

3.32 Based on the business plans submitted, Bidder A requires a Council cash injection whereas Bidder B requires land investment as security for the cash equity that it would put into the Joint Venture (JV) on the Council’s behalf. In terms of the peak exposure, Bidder B had a peak security requirement of £7.5m whereas the peak cash requirement from Bidder A is only £3.96m. Therefore, under the worst case scenario where the market crashes and the developments stall then Bidder A’s proposal has a lower peak risk exposure. 3.33 The total returns from the proposed development of the 11 priority sites assessed under Bidder A’s proposals is c£30.4m. This is broken down as follows:
· Land Value (Capital) – £17.7m
· Profit (Revenue) – £11.7m
· Loan Note Interest – £0.8m 3.34 The majority of the financial returns from Bidder A are delivered to the council in the first couple of years of the JV being established. In fact, £27.8m would be received by 2021.

 A couple of points which whiff:

 If the market crashes, what happens to land value? Presumably it rockets towards zero, whereas cash is always cash and their £3.96m loss is absolute.

  1. If Muse aren’t completing until 2022 (one year later Bidder A), how can they possibly have realised 91% of total returns by 2021?
  2. The 7.5m land value is also Bidder B’s assessment which is much more than the actual land value!!!

 Why are they happy to bear a risk of £3.96m cash against using their land intelligently! This doesn’t fit with the revenue & financial pressures that the council is under. I would have thought that an asset based investment would be more attractive to a cash poor authority.

 You may want to also look into the relationship with WBC financial analysts GVA and their relationships with MUSE in other schemes. The whole thing is a stitch up. The Bidder B development is quicker and a much more financially sound offer without the council borrowing cash. Bidder A has 2 multi storey car parks and the council are saying this is a good thing! During the bid they were telling all bidders that they can’t fill or make pay the car parks they already have! 

By the looks of it this one will run and run (and our hares are on to it). Meanwhile here’s the Pip-approved  version of the story that the Wirral Council ‘leader’ chooses to share with the Labour Party faithful (and clearly the not so faithful!) Check out the final line (which we have put in bold) which is pure Corbyn-lite Common Purpose speak . We’re just left wondering whether Frank Field approved the Jezza references?

Dear Labour Party member

In the coming weeks, Wirral’s Labour Council will be announcing a new initiative to drive economic growth across the borough in what will be the biggest public-sector led regeneration programme in the UK.

Wirral’s development story began nearly 200 years ago when investors were encouraged to choose our peninsula to build great shipyards, factories and plan new towns and villages that were the envy of the world.

Today we face new challenges – how to fund our public services, improve job opportunities for residents, provide suitable housing, and attract new investment into our borough.

As you know, in 2021 this Tory Government will stop providing councils with the Revenue Support Grant, a vital source of income for us to deliver front-line services. While wealthy London councils may be able to get by on their council tax and business rates, for authorities like ours it will be a devastating loss of nearly £30m a year.

We have to act to secure the services we know our residents rely upon. As Jeremy Corbyn made clear in our 2017 Manifesto  – “our public services must rest on the foundation of sound finances.”

Council’s Cabinet will meet on 28th February to approve a recommendation to appoint Northwest-based regeneration specialist Muse Developments as our joint venture partner to create Wirral Growth Company.

Muse has been behind a number of impressive schemes across the North West such as St. Paul’s Square in Liverpool and urban regeneration projects in Chester, Warrington and Stockport and we are impressed with their track record of working with local authorities and meeting a wide range of regeneration goals.

In what is an ambitious but responsible public-private sector partnership, the profits from the numerous developments will be split 50-50, with the Council’s share providing income to be reinvested to help compensate for the financial shortfall we face because of decisions taken by Tory Ministers in Whitehall.

This Council’s ambitions are shared by our new partner. We have enshrined in the guiding principles of the joint venture a commitment to deliver our 2020 pledges, to hire local workers, purchase materials and services from local businesses and to provide training and work experience for local residents through our relationship with Wirral Met College.

Three years ago, our administration set 2020 Pledges and I am pleased that Wirral Growth Company will play a key role in delivering these goals. We said we would create thousands of new jobs, attract 100s of millions in new investment, and provide good quality housing and protect and improve Wirral’s attractive local environment.

Wirral Growth Company will deliver:

£1bn Growth Plan
As the economy continues to flat-line under the failing, Brexit-obsessed Tories, Wirral Growth Company will be a game changer, injecting hundreds of millions of new investment in Wirral.

Buy Local, Hire Local
As our 2017 General Election manifesto stated, we understand the creation of wealth is a ‘collective endeavour between workers, entrepreneurs and investors’. That’s why I wanted to make sure Wirral got the best possible social outcomes from this deal, so have included commitments to hire locally, buy supplies from and contract with local firms, train local workers, and meet the highest environmental, health and safety standards.

New Homes
There is a housing shortage nationally, and a need for appropriate new homes to be built here in Wirral. Our plans will include the creation of more homes right across Wirral, meeting and exceeding our affordable homes targets in a way the private sector alone never could.

Extra Care Village
With health and social care services struggling to survive under the Conservatives, Wirral Growth Company will develop an Extra Care Village to look after vulnerable residents because this Labour-led authority cares for all, especially those in the greatest need.

Thousands of New Jobs
Providing work for our residents sits at the heart of any regeneration plan. We predict Wirral Growth Company will help deliver more than 3,000 new jobs within the first three years. We will also develop and strengthen local ties with Wirral Met College to train the workforce of the future as part of  a solid foundation for a local industry strategy.

With the deal being proposed, Wirral Council won’t be selling any of its assets, we will have full involvement in every development decision, we will benefit from the economic growth any regeneration creates and, as a 50-50 joint venture, the Council will benefit from the profits.

If cabinet approve the recommendation, the next steps include starting the conversation with you and local residents about what, where, when and how regeneration begins across Wirral.

I believe this is the start of an extraordinary new chapter for Wirral. Through our pioneering spirit, Wirral Growth Company can help blaze an urban regeneration trail that shapes our 21st century economic fortunes.

By using the strength of our common endeavour, I know we will able to deliver these bold plans to deliver for the many, not the few.

Members who are interested in learning more about Wirral Growth Company should visit www.wirralwellmade.com website for more details, or join the conversation on @wirralwellmade twitter account or wirralwellmade facebook page.

Cllr Phil Davies

Leader of Wirral Council

 

 

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