Wirral Council and Cheshire East Council have far more in common than anyone realises, so its little wonder that whistle blowing staff and residents are in fear of speaking out. Bill Norman left his mark at both Councils, but the blame lies with those that allowed his appointment…..and they are the ones which always keep their jobs. When Councils appoint people like Bill Norman they know exactly what they are getting. Cheshire East and Wirral Council are not alone in appointing expendable people to take the flack when wrongdoing is exposed.Corporate organisations like to appoint people who share the values of the company, but what happens when the people at the top of an organisation not only tolerate wrongdoing but potentially reward employees via promotion for allowing it to happen. With these type of organisation all employees are seen as expendable. In fact to the people at the very top of many public sector organisations the sacrificing of employees is little more than a snake sacrificing its own skin – it means nothing because its still a snake.In fact looking at Bill Normans work history at other councils I would be amazed if Cheshire East Councils didn’t provide details of the payoff and compromise agreement as part of the employment contract for new starters. Most organisations want honest consciousness employees, but Cheshire East Council see these employees as potential whistle blowers and manage (bully) them out.Sticky Change…….
I feel Cheshire East Council spending over £150,000 to bring in a consultancy firm called Sticky Change in order to help the authority tackle its ‘bullying’ culture is more about creating good PR to fool the public into believing that the leopard really wants to change its spots. It was reported that Sticky Change worked with Everton Football club and this might help explain my point.Football is a results based business, and even when the decision was made by Everton FC to bring in Sticky Change the directors knew that the manager would still be the one picking the team to play a 442 system. It wont be any different at Cheshire East Council.As Cheshire East Council seem committed to at least appear to be drag their reputation from out of the sewers then perhaps they would answer the question I made a week ago:
The real question is when did Sticky Change work with Torbay Council – before, during, or after Bill Normans employment with Torbay Council?This is very important because Cheshire East Council need to be aware that the decision to choose Sticky Change as external consultants should be open to public scrutiny.
- Sticky Change previously worked at Torbay Council and it is important to know if this was before, during, or after Bill Normans time with the council? If it was during or after Bill Normans time with Torbay Council then Bill Norman and Sticky Change may have a connection.
- The fact that CEC didn’t mention Torbay Council in their press release when naming who else Sticky Change had previously worked with seemed strange, so was it a deliberate omission to avoid drawing attention to any potential link?
- Just months after the departure of Bill Norman from Cheshire East Council it was announced that Sticky Change would be brought in to tackle the bullying culture. So how and when did CEC first look at using the services of Sticky Change and did his overlap with Bill Normans time at CEC?
- Sticky Change are based on the Wirral and whilst working at Wirral Council its believed that Bill Norman also lived on the Wirral (Bill might have continued to live on the Wirral whilst working at CEC). Given the points above and Bill Normans very close geographical relationship to Sticky Change on the Wirral there is a possibility that there is a connection/relationship between Bill Norman and Sticky Change. What steps have CEC taken to ensure that the decision to use Sticky Change (and their independence) will stand up to public scrutiny?I cant speak on behalf of other people but I don’t think I would be comfortable discussing the bullying culture at CEC with consultants from Sticky Change if the above points remain unanswered. The fact that CEC didn’t seem to carry out any due diligence when appointing Bill Norman means how can anyone be sure that it wasn’t Bill Norman that recommended CEC to bring in Sticky Change?Sticky Change (Consultants) LtdSticky Change (Partners) Ltd
And so after a previous meeting behind closed doors of the Employment and Appointments Committee it would appear that full Council on Monday 19th March will rubber stamp the permanent appointment of current interim Assistant Director : Law and Governance Philip McCourt to the new post of Director – Governance & Assurance (Monitoring Officer)
We have to doff our coronet to McCourt on this one. He sat back as Wirral Council struggled to appoint to this poisoned chalice of a post and watched gimlet-eyed as they had to bump up the pay (funny how there’s always money to be found for the upper echelons of local government isn’t it?) and upgrade the post from Assistant Director to Director enabling McCourt to sit at the top table of council chief officers. And from what we understand there was none of that tiresome psychometric testing or bothersome interview process for such a high profile post. Oh no it was a shoo-in for fêted Phil.
Canny McCourt has cleverly manoeuvred himself into a strong position by getting the lowdown – and boy do we mean lowdown – on Wirral Council. This was not only on the job – when he could fit Wirral Council business in around his other consultancy commitments that is. Checking out his LinkedIn profile this included not only work for solicitors Weightmans LLP , where no doubt he would have encountered former Wirral Council legal alumni Morris Hill and Simon Goacher, but also during a stint at Bristol City Council in 2016 where he would have compared cheques with Anna Klonowski – author of damning Independent Review and Corporate Governance reports about his latest employer. The man who took over from McCourt at Milton Keynes Council in May 2013 was a Stephen Gerrard (no, not that one) . Coincidentally enough Gerrard was Interim Head of Legal and Member Services at Wirral Council October 2012 -May 2013 during the then permanent head, Bill Norman’s suspension (Norman later went on to become involved in all kinds of shenanigans at Hereford and Cheshire East councils) . Gerrard also left somewhat hastily , whether it was because he and his deputy Surjit Tour were not the best of buddies we can only speculate. However ,as we know, Tour was later to make the most of an unguarded (and racist) comment from Deputy Leader of Wirral Council Cllr George Davies and astonishingly ascend to the top legal job at Wirral Council before escaping back to Sandwell Council. We don’t know about you but this local government merry go round makes us dizzy (and slightly nauseous).
Whether McCourt will prove to be as controversial appointment as Norman and Tour only time will tell but we do know he’s inherited some very thorny legal issues and knowing his political paymasters as we do there will no doubt be more to come. As ever the real test for a head of law at Wirral Council will be how they reconcile protecting powerful politicians with protecting the public purse and the public interest. We shall be particularly interested to see whether McCourt follows the path of least resistance trodden by his predecessors and favours the former over the latter.
As we promised we thought we’d comment on the latest instalment involving the travels and travails of infamous former Wirral Council head of law Bill Norman.
Yesterday we were flooded with gleeful emails telling us that Norman had ‘resigned’ from Cheshire East Council (CEC) . Among many of the the emails was the following attachment telling us the story : Norman Resigns
Of course this is nowhere near the full story but sounds strangely familiar to the circumstances surrounding Norman’s departure from Wirral Council . The only difference being that the usual Wirral Council cock-up gifted him a cool £146K golden handshake. You can read the full horror story here : Trick or Treat
However just to recap on the CEC situation there were reports in April of this year that Norman had asked a colleague to ‘dig the dirt’ on a CEC auditor who had previously raised legitimate concerns about CEC leader Cllr Mike Jones dodgy contract with his personal physio. Jones eventually resigned over the scandal. In July Norman was suspended pending an investigation. Full story here. The announcement of his resignation ” with immediate effect” in December leaves us , as usual, with more questions than answers. For starters we don’t know whether Norman pocketed more public money for being not so much an abject failure for his latest gig or for allegedly being a nasty piece of work. As we’ve commented before in our Comings and Goings story the ‘dig the dirt’ strategy was allegedly deployed by Norman’s successor at Wirral Council , Surjit Tour, as part of the infamous ‘ The Sex List’ probe (no pun intended)
The dirt concerned allegations of sexual impropriety involving a now departed senior council officer . So far, so sordid. However, for us , what is even more sleazy is that the approach came with the inducement that it would be beneficial to staff member’s careers if they dished the dirt. Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if you have absolutely no morals,ethics or integrity. What did we say in yesterday’s post about Wallasey Town Hall being a cesspit?
Full story here : Dirty Work
Tell us – are these the type of practices they teach in Solicitor School? It’s like the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) Code of Conduct doesn’t exist.
Consequently ,as once again, Norman’s departure from a local authority is shrouded in mystery we have to ask ourselves where will he rock up next ? You’d think after trouble in Torbay, woe in Wirral, havoc in Hereford and sleaze in Cheshire East that future potential employers might want to ask some searing questions about his employment history. However a chequered past doesn’t seem to be an impediment to high office and high salary. We often get asked for an explanation for this strange phenomena in local government where there is always,always,always public money to be found to reward failure. Our incredulous readers have often asked us whether we think this phenomena is linked to Common Purpose? , the Freemasons?, Knights of St Columba?
We don’t know the answer to that but we do know that it’s got to stop. And hopefully that explains the title of this post – we’re not suggesting a vigilante group turn up with pitchforks and torches at Norman’s no doubt beautifully appointed home. We just need to find a way to put an end to the Bills of this world making a killing and sucking the very lifeblood out of local government.
P.S. Contacts in Cheshire East are asking questions about Daniel Dickinson who is supposed to be acting director of legal services, in place of Bill Norman at CEC . Allegedly he hasn’t been seen at the CEC Westfields office in Sandbach for quite some time now and no one ‘on the ground’ seems to know where he is. Someone must know where he is and what he’s doing. Answers on a postcard please.
Now we don’t know if it’s the thought of our imminent demise but we have been flooded with leaks and links to interesting news stories these past few days including news that ‘The Curse of Leaky Towers’ has struck again as we hear that well travelled serial cheque collector Bill Norman has ‘resigned’ from Cheshire East Council. But more on that story later as they say on the TV news……….
Today’s story is concerned with another of our irregular regulars – Cllr Louise Reecejones (LRJ). As we harked and heralded LRJ was due to appear at last night’s full Council meeting. And according to a few of our sources appear she did …… somewhat like a fallen angel.
However despite being shamed into making an apology by Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ McLaughlin for being a very naughty girl – oh the irony! – no apology was forthcoming. Instead LRJ told the members in the Wirral Council chamber that she was taking legal action against the local authority in general and current and former head of law (Philip Mc Court and Surjit Tour respectively) in particular . Oh and she was also reporting these two legal bods to the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) . We understand that it’s not the first time that Tour has been reported to the SRA – but LRJ need not hold her breath that the Brotherhood of Law will take any action. They’re like the Local Government Association (LGA) for lawyers.
Exasperated elected members wailed ‘why ,oh why’ couldn’t they take any ‘meaningful sanctions against LRJ , conveniently forgetting that the Standards regime was set up BY THEM to avoid any councillor ever having to face any meaningful sanctions in the first place!!!
Meanwhile, as apparently McCourt comes and goes as he pleases and is a mere interim he clearly wasn’t prepared to be around when LRJ was having a pop at him. Therefore local Tory leader Cllr Ian Lewis asked the Council legal rep for the night (Vicki Shaw) was there anything they could do to make LRJ bend to their will ?
‘Fuck all’ was the answer.
Obviously this isn’t a direct quote from Prissy Miss Shaw , who apparently seemed to be enjoying feeling very important sitting on the podium to the left of Mayor Ann ‘Moving Forward’ McLachlan (but then most people in the Council chamber seemed to be left of McLachlan).
Indeed we hear that Shaw is currently making a name for herself among the Council power elite for being ‘a safe pair of hands’ and we don’t mean that as a compliment!
As it would seem that both within the Council and the Labour group LRJ is essentially Ellen MacNomates (the female version of Billy No Mates , and so named after lone round-the-world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacNomates ) her days as a councillor must surely be numbered .
However we are led to question as to whether LRJ deserves to be known as Wirral Council’s naughtiest elf . We’d nominate Cllrs Phil Davies, George Davies and Steve Foulkes over LRJ any day of the week. But then in the unlikely event they were ever called out publicly like LRJ has been we suppose the whole shelf would come tumbling down with all of Satan’s little helpers wouldn’t it ?
As we wind down it appears some of our long running stories are finally coming to fruition.
We’d like to thank the many readers who forwarded the latest news about the former Torbay/Wirral/Hereford (in that order) and currently ,for now anyway, head of the legal department at Cheshire East Council, the infamous Bill ‘The Bung’ Norman.
Yes , it would appear that Billyboy has been officially suspended from duties 3 months after his alleged despicable dirty work was retrieved from beneath the carpet.
We’re gratified to read Cheshire East Council have at least got things right when it comes to suspension procedures. As we should all know by now the likes of Bill Norman operate at such exalted heights they are not subject to the same rules as mere mortals such as us. Oh no, first of all , before any action is taken against these local government Gods there must be proof of a prima facie case to answer.
This of course is what Wirral Council failed to do when Bill Norman worked for them and which led to a near enough, and as far as we’re concerned, a totally unjustified £150K pay off – which of course meant that Wirral council taxpayers yet again picked up the tab for cowardice/incompetence on the part of their most senior council officers/politicians .
However the most interesting aspect of this case for us is that Bill has built up such a following during his travels (although not necessarily in a good way) that it was inevitable that his much anticipated and well deserved demise would ultimately be chronicled on this blog. One of those sources giddy with schadenfreude at Bill’s blunders reached us by a circuitous route. Our message to them is this – get in touch with us when you’re happy to explain the backstage compromise that led to to Wirral Council being the recipient of the ‘ Most Improved Council’ award at the 2015 Local Government Chronicle awards . This of course being the fig leaf behind which they have hid their corporate micro-penis ever since. Might we suggest that low cost loans from one failing council to another must have eased negotiations. Just sayin’
To which all we can say is pass the sickbag – all of these duplicitous town hall potentates make us positively bilious.
Once again we have the opportunity to report on the travels and travails of Wirral Council’s former Head of Law Bill Norman. The reason we take such an interest in this particular ‘public servant’ is because, for us, he is something of a town hall totem. Symbolising everything that is wrong with the local government gravy train. Serenely sailing from Torbay to Wirral to Hereford and now to Cheshire East Council (CEC), Norman has picked up a sizeable cheque at each port of call whilst leaving waves of controversy in his wake.
Now we hear that ‘concerns’ have been raised about his conduct in his latest role as Head of Legal Services and Montoring Officer at CEC as we learn that a special committee has recently considered potential disciplinary matters concerning CEO Mike Suarez, Monitoring Officer Bill Norman and Chief Finance Officer Peter Bates.
According to a further reports in the latest edition of Private Eye Norman has been caught up in the scandal which they dubbed ‘Physiogate’ which has startling similarities to our very own ongoing ‘Wirralgate’ scandal – of which Norman was an early casualty . Indeed he is apparently keen to explain to anyone who’ll listen that he was ‘stabbed in the back’ by Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies. However we’re sure the £146k he received (+ £10k legal fees) must’ve eased the pain somewhat.
Private Eye had exposed that valuable contracts had been awarded to CoreFit a firm owned by one Amanda Morris. Morris just happened to be the ‘close friend’ and the personal physio of CEC leader Mike Jones . However these contracts somehow bypassed usual tendering processes – oops! – and consequently ‘Physiogate’ led to the resignation of Cllr Jones in 2015. The disciplinary hearing mentioned above summoned Norman to give evidence but it is not clear as to whether he faced disciplinary measures. However we do know that CEC CEO Suarez has been suspended.
According to Private Eye Norman could be implicated in ‘Physiogate’ because of his alleged treatment of CEC’s Head of Internal Audit, Andrew North. Apparently North had reported his concerns about the CoreFit contract to Suarez and Norman . Needless to say in true local authority fashion the person wanting to do things properly was treated as the villain of the piece consequently wanted to bring a grievance against Suarez and Norman.
Private Eye understands that Norman approached the CEC Head of Communications Beverley Walkden to ‘dig the dirt’ on North – like you do. Usually in these cases senior managers close ranks but miraculously in this case ,Walkden refused and , yes you guessed it, was suspended. Even more predictably North went off sick , left CEC in February 2017 and now claims to have been ‘bullied’ and forced out of CEC. So far, so familiar – there is even a missing audio recording of the disciplinary committee meeting (more parallels with Wirralgate!).
So it would seem that the ‘dig the dirt’ tactic is a favourite approach of senior council officers when faced with a pesky employee who won’t play the corporate game, have served their purpose or they just want shut of. We’re wondering whether it was a trick that Norman picked it up at Wirral Council or it was part of his legacy that he left behind? We say this as we are reliably informed that two acting very senior officers at Wirral Council went digging for dirt from staff in an infamous case from 2015 .The dirt concerned allegations of sexual impropriety involving a now departed senior council officer . So far, so sordid. However, for us , what is even more sleazy is that the approach came with the inducement that it would be beneficial to staff member’s careers if they dished the dirt. Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if you have absolutely no morals,ethics or integrity. What did we say in yesterday’s post about Wallasey Town Hall being a cesspit?
Somehow in this crazy , mixed up world of local government we are led to believe that the people doing such ‘dirty work’ should be valued and paid silly money . To add insult to injury these are the same people who value themselves so much that think they’re better than the ‘little people’ who pay them the silly money!
We’re here to remind them that they’re not.
We have to doff our cap to ex -Wirral Council legal head Bill Norman.This guy knows how to work the local government gravy train!.He is the very model of the modern public servant.
For those wanting to forge a lucrative career in local government this the man to follow – all around the country!.
There have been torrid times in Torbay, woeful moments in Wirral and horrible happenings in Hereford and he’s picked up sizeable lumps of public money every single time he’s ,ahem, “left” each of these councils.Now we hear he’s gone and landed on his feet again and picked a plum job in leafy Cheshire East.
We can’t help asking as to whether there are really that few a pool of local government lawyers who are prepared to do the bidding of their political paymasters. Bill Norman seems to get recycled more than a supermarket bag for life.Only Bill’s bag is stuffed with wads of cash and not cut-price food with yellow stickers on!. This guy must be strictly Waitrose home delivery as he approaches the half a million pounds mark in golden handshakes.He makes cash hungry ex Wirral Council Super-Duper Director Kevin “Addled” Adderley look like a rank amateur – well even more of an amateur than he looks already anyway.
However we wouldn’t begrudge him his bungs if he dished the dirt on his sudden departure from Wirral Council .Unfortunately we suspect a confidentiality clause or his solicitor’s code of conduct prohibits him from telling us how spineless Council “leader” Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies had to get someone else to do the dirty work to get rid of him.
Indeed it must be a welcome change that Bill finds himself working for a council where the leader resigns when he’s involved in dodgy deals involving his mates.On Wirral the leader just gets another one of his mates to write a report to get him off the hook!
So don’t laugh at Bill – he’s no fool. A local government joker laughing all the way to the bank and the joke’s on us.