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
Above is a picture of the rather splendid council chamber at York Guildhall. The admirable York Mix website tells us that it will be here next week that a group of senior councillors are challenging City of York Council (CYC) leader Cllr David Carr to publish a ‘secret report’.
Regular Wirral Leaks readers will know that our interest is piqued by the fact that we understand the report follows a Local Government Association (LGA) investigation into what Stewart Halliday got up to before he landed a £200K + ‘transformer’ gig at Wirral Council.
What also interests us is the sheer persistence of CYC councillors in pursuing this matter in the public interest. Can you imagine Wirral Council’s equivalent to CYC’s Audit & Governance Committee writing a cross- party letter to the leader of the Council asking for a report to published in the name of openness and transparency?
Indeed if they were doing their jobs properly there’s a particular ‘secret report’ that Wirral Council’s Audit & Risk Management Committee should be asking to be published. The sad fact is that half of this committee don’t even know what report we’re referring to and the other half know exactly what report we are referring to and are choosing to sweep the matter under the Wallasey Town Hall carpet !
Regular Wirral Leaks readers will know that our trans -pennine correspondent Charles Nunn is most definitely on the Stewart Halliday case ( even if our local public servants haven’t been -or more accurately- don’t want to be).
Charlie Boy tells us :
As you probably know Mark Warters submitted a F.of I. request to York to try and establish whether, or not there was a conversation between Robinson and their C.E.O. about Halliday`s contract extension.You may recall my request to Wirral told me that Robinson was “comfortable” with it.
I understand that former CYC employee Mr S. Halliday currently employed by Wirral Council has had his contract/placement recently extended to the end of the year there and a conversation took place between the Wirral Chief Executive and the CYC Chief Executive that led to Wirral Council concluding that “there is no impediment to Stewart Halliday’s continued appointment with Wirral Council”
I would like to submit a FOI act request for the following;
(i) Confirmation that the conversation (s) took place and if emails were exchanged copies of the correspondence.
(ii) Copies of all correspondence between CYC and Wirral Council in relation to Mr Halliday’s employment.
Thank you for your assistance.
Cllr. Mark Warters
As I suspected. Refused on the grounds of “confidentiality” although it may well have cost the Wirral Council Tax payers over £200,000 in total for taking on a shyster.How frequently we get that response from Councils.
“And according to the people who really run the council – the senior officers – this report, even after it has been sanitised between the council’s HR department and the LGA, is to remain secret. Are you as a committee willing to condone this state of affairs? He said the committee should insist on seeing the “full, unsanitised draft report”. Otherwise it would confirm the scenario “that elected members are merely the glove puppets of the senior officers riding the local authority gravy train”.
The Local Government Association (LGA) was called in to review procurement at the council in the wake of controversy over how consultancy services were acquired in the past.
The LGA said procurement was held in high regard internally, with “many solid achievements” and delivering “good quality services”, but it was “subject to heightened scrutiny in York due to past internal control issues”.
“There remains a negative external perception of council procurement, including among members of the public,” said the report. “This negative perception needs to be addressed if the council is to secure public confidence in its procurement processes and the wider corporate governance arrangements.”
A previous audit report by Veritau in November 2016 focused on the appointment of a communications consultant and their associated company between 2013 and 2016. One particular chief officer, who no longer works for the council, was found to be mainly responsible for employing and making payments to the consultant and the company. These totalled more than £174,000.
The audit could find no material to back up claims contract procedures were followed. “At best this represents a failure to be transparent and to retain all relevant procurement documentation,” said the report. “However, it seems likely that there was a failure to follow proper procurement processes, including obtaining written quotations, ensuring sufficient potential suppliers were approached and agreeing a formal contract.”
The LGA review, carried out in June 2017, said it was “reassured to find that the council has a good corporate procurement function and that the compliance issues are being addressed”.
“However, as the council itself recognises, there is more to do in regard to procurement’s enabling role within the council’s developing commissioning framework and to address the residual negative perceptions of historical procurement issues.”
I find it somewhat ironic that the major political upheaval in York is over dodgy contracts worth £175,000. Halliday, courtesy of the ever benevolent Wirral Council Tax payer, will be bunged about £50k more than that as a result of his contract extension.
Wirral Council workers must be breathing a huge sigh of relief as the second long weekend of May beckons. Shame it’s going to piss down tomorrow . But hey folks ! – at least you’re not in work on Monday.
We thought we’d leave this story for this weekend as it neatly book-ends the first May bank holiday story we ran and because that’s how we roll at Leaky Towers !
Accordingly this follow up is prompted by indomitable Wirral citizen Charles Nunn who’s still on the Stewart Halliday case. A Freedom of Information request about who exactly has the power to sign off a £188,000 employment contract whilst leaving the background checks to a recruitment agency Matrix , who it would seem believe everything that’s written on a CV but don’t know how the interweb thingy works. This means they didn’t spot that the transformation guru had a chequered past with his previous employer – City of York Council (CYC) – before hotfooting over the Pennines for a high chequed future in the desperado haven that is Wirral Council.
Needless to say Wirral Council rather sneakily failed to answer Charles’ seemingly simple question . He asked who ‘authorised’ the shameful Halliday appointment. However they answered who had ‘overseen’ the appointment and , of course, failed to provide a name. Because we can’t upset Wirral council most senior snowflakes – after all we’re just here to pay their wages!
Consequently Charles asked us if we knew who could be the ‘ Council’s Senior Manager Transformation & Resources’ , but to be honest there are so many blighters with ‘Transformation’ in the title it could be any number of them. They’re like the ‘Transformers’ movie franchise but without the benefit of Megan Fox astride a motorbike. Children’s Services may not be able to recruit and retain staff but the ‘Transformers’ are everywhere.
We’d pin our money someone called Michele Duerden being Halliday’s authorisee as she is described as ‘Senior Manager Transformation and Improvement’ but we could be wrong . It could easily be Stephen Butterworth or Alan Evans . However we do note that Ms Duerden has just finished recruiting for a ‘Programme Manager ‘ , a post which is described thus:
This is an exciting new opportunity for an experienced programme manager to play a central role in delivering Transformation within Wirral Council. We have committed to the modernisation of services, and the delivery of improved operational efficiency and effectiveness. We are investing in digital infrastructure and capability to support business transformation as well as establishing a new change and business improvement capability.
The post-holder will be accountable for the management and development of programmes ensuring agreed outputs and outcomes are delivered. The role will ensure quality levels of delivery in line with the standards developed by the Programme Management Office (PMO).
As a PRINCE2 Practitioner you will drive an integrated, consolidated and consistent Council-wide approach to programme management, supported by the appropriate governance arrangements, processes and stakeholder engagement.
After reading that BS we’re no clearer as to what a Transformation ‘ Programme Manager’ actually does. Just as our friend Charles is none the wiser who’s signing the cheques for this latest expensive exercise in Emperor’s New Clothes. But hey ! – let’s not forget it keeps a lot of middle class no marks in gainful employment ……..and yet at the same time it’s everything that’s wrong with local government!
As the denizens of Wallasey Town Hall breath a sigh of relief that they’ve survived another week (well those not on long term sick leave anyway) and can look forward to a bank holiday weekend we provide an update on the Stewart Halliday situation.
Readers will remember Stuey ‘laughing all the way to the bank’ Halliday is the recipient of a humongous salary courtesy of Wirral Council taxpayers despite leaving his previous employer City of York Council (CYC) with questions to ask about his rather casual approach to contracting arrangements.
Indomitable local resident Charles Nunn is particularly aggrieved that his Council Tax and that of many other Wirral tax payers appears to be being spent on a series of snake oil salesmen and has pursued this matter with Wirral Council CEO (the ‘O’ seemingly standing for ostrich) Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson. Stressed Eric provided the following response:
Dear Mr Nunn
Thank you for your email dated 13 March 2017 and follow up email on 26 March 2017.
The Council’s Human Resources Team has confirmed the following:
Mr Halliday is engaged via an agency through the Council’s contract with Matrix Ltd. Under the process, Matrix require supplying agencies to supply references for the previous two years employment history.
These references were sent directly to the line manager recruiting the worker. There is no requirement for our Human Resources Team to be involved in all such engagements. The line manager also elected to seek an additional reference from the former Chief Executive of York Council and subsequently a further reference was provided to the agency by the Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods still currently working at York.
We have been advised by Mr Halliday that he refutes all the allegations which are matter of ongoing dispute between him and his previous employer. It is not appropriate for Wirral Council to comment any further on these allegations.
There’s been yet another twist in the tale of the ‘Happy Halliday’ saga :
Indomitable Wirral resident Charles Nunn has valiantly chased up queries about the appointment of controversial ex City of York Council (CYC) employee Stewart Halliday to Wirral Council and received this response from elusive (and gullible?) Wirral Council CEO Eric’ Feeble’ Robinson :
‘Thank you for your email dated 13 March 2017 and follow up email on 26 March 2017.
Here’s a couple of responses from his contacts in York which have been judiciously edited , not that we doubt the veracity of some of the statements , but we know how delicate the sensibilities of our highly paid public servants are and we don’t want to prompt another outraged response from’Blotto’! . The first goes something like this :
‘I’m utterly gobsmacked at the response from the C.E.O. of Wirral Council, but, knowing how these organisations work, perhaps I shouldn’t be? ……….The Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods was Sally Burns at the time Halliday was there, but, she has also now left…..Judge for yourself – here are the dynamic duo in action (do try not to fall asleep whilst watching their spell-binding performance:
It is laughable, and outrageous that Halliday refutes the allegations…….
‘The current holder of the grandiose title of Director of Communities and Neighbourhood did NOT provide a reference. I am certain, as are no doubt you, that it was a previous post holder Ms. Burns who, like (Kersten) England furnished a glowing testimonial.
This post predominately ( but not exclusively) celebrates the endeavours of redoubtable Wirral resident Charles Nunn.
Check out his latest Freedom of Information request here :
Mr Nunn is a bona fide local legend who makes us look like the rank amateurs that we actually are.
Let it be known it was he who discovered the definitive Wirral Council remuneration of City of York Council incompetent Stewart Halliday and justifiably commented – because he comes from a generation who knows the difference between right and wrong:
The ‘Happy Halliday’ story certainly pushed a few buttons didn’t it?
Well we’ve got some news for you – the plot thickens or should that be sickens?
Subsequent to our posts you might have read that Wirral Globe reported that the following appointments had just been made by Wirral Council:
£188,192 for a programme manager.
£181,471 for a second programme manager.
£139,080 for an interim head of transformation.
£665,760 to management consulting company Capita.
£185,000 to two companies to provide economic and legal advice to set up a joint venture property company.
The first thing to say is that we wondered how long it would be before outsourcing carrion birds C(r)apita got in on the vulturine act of picking at the emaciated cadaver of Wirral Council.
However our immediate attention was drawn to some of the eyewatering sums involved. Under the circumstances it would seem an obvious choice to assign the post of interim head of transformation to our new found friend Stewart Halliday. However we have reason to believe that ‘Happy Halliday’ may have actually been appointed to the second programme manager post on £181, 471 ! Which would mean that he could have DOUBLED his salary since fleeing City of York Council under a charcoal-coloured cumulonimbus .
Of course our sources may be mistaken and if so we would welcome Wirral Council , in the name of openness and transparency ,to put the correct names in the frames . After all it must surely be in the public interest that we should know where our money is going and who it is going to!
However, there’s more to this fast moving story. Hence the title of this blog post. So, you may be asking yourselves what kind of reference did ‘Happy Halliday’ get from his previous employer? – well , apparently he didn’t get one!
Yes that’s right ,news reaches us that Halliday was provided with a reference from the Chief Executive of Bradford City Council , one Kersten England .
Eh? – well apparently Ms England was CEO of City of York Council before moving on to Bradford City Council in the summer of 2015. So despite there being two subsequent CEOs of CoYC since her departure – the interim, Steve Stewart, and the current incumbent Mary Weastell – both of whom could surely have provided a glowing reference for the wonderful work Halliday did for CoYC, he curiously chose to seek a reference from England, along with a reference from an agency ‘outlining’ two years of Halliday’s employment history.
This wouldn’t be so bad , after all everyone ( including the agency involved), wants to present themselves in the best light when a six figure gig is up for grabs , however we understand that, shamefully, it was Wirral Council who made NO DIRECT APPROACH to CoYC for a reference for Halliday. Which makes us to want to wish that the whole of Wirral Council’s notoriously appalling Human Resources Department management team ,who’s motto seems to be ‘we were only following orders’, gets swallowed up and spat out into the gutter by C(r)apita at the earliest opportunity.
It’s all very reminiscent of the Stella Shiu debacle isn’t it? And look what happened there! It’s like the interweb thingy doesn’t exist for Wirral Council or perhaps there are darker forces at work which ensure that the current administration ‘get their man’ no matter what his credentials.
Might we suggest that whilst this situation may result in big money for Halliday it’s a kick in the holiday money for the long suffering council tax payers of Wirral!