Advent Farewell 14 – Why Wirral Leaks Speaks in Parables

PHIL_yawot

No offence meant to LRJ but Wirral Needs pleas to Pip seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. – Matthew 13:13 ( Our thanks to Mr F. Field , Oxton for the biblical quote )

We’ve found some time to catch up with our beloved John Brace’s footage of Monday’s last full Wirral Council meeting of 2017. We’ve attached part one of the meeting below (you can do the rest if you’re interested).

First thing to say is that it confirms that our sources were spot on with the Cllr Louise Reecejones (LRJ) story (part 3 of Brace’s footage)…..and secondly we were interested to see Mr Brace himself ask a question about Wirral Council’s forthcoming plans to film council meetings themselves. We just hope John keeps on filming as knowing Wirral Council if the rehearsed and scripted exchanges are anything to go by their footage is bound to be selectively edited.

So what else happened ? Hats off to young Peter Shield from the Wirral Needs campaign who spoke most eloquently whilst accompanied by the Momentum Choir in the public gallery who chanted at regular intervals :

                               LABOUR COUNCIL LISTEN TO THE PUBLIC

Good luck with that one guys and guyesses!  Although you’re singing our song – we would have added a few whistles. We’ve been at it for 7 years and they only listen to what they want to ( i.e what Frank Field tells them) . The battle for the soul of the local Labour group was clearly demonstrated by the fact that the Corbynistas applauded Tory leader Cllr Ian Lewis more than Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies. These are strange times indeed.

Looking at the agenda ( well we didn’t – life’s too short) but our faithful factotum Verity told us to look out for a question about why the Highways contract , which is currently with BAM Nuttall, is suddenly being brought back in house. Unfortunately there were endless questions about the Hoylake Golf Resort which came with the same scripted answers and added nothing to the debate and so we never discovered the rationale or details of the business case for doing so. But then the question would have been answered by Cllr Stuart ‘Witless’ Whittingham so it is highly likely we would be none the wiser if he’d had the chance to clarify this curious volte-face anyway!

Finally we publish a statement from Defend Our NHS on their take on Monday’s meeting  if only to reinforce it’s not just us who are concerned about how the Wirral Council leadership conduct their business. Wake up people!:

Massive deception of Wirral public by Council leadership

A statement from Defend Our NHS.   

12th December 2017.

For immediate release.

 At Monday’s (11th December 2017) Wirral Council meeting it was agreed to press ahead with changes to local health and care services.

Council leader Phil Davies told the meeting that the Council was implementing Labour national NHS policy by working with local NHS colleagues to integrate health and social care services.

There were angry protests as Davies refused the suggestion of meeting local anti-cuts campaigners and accused them (falsely) of advocating an ‘illegal’ budget.

The health and care changes involve deception on an industrial scale.

Why?

At the weekend Davies had emailed every single Wirral member of his party to say, “In addition, Labour Party policy nationally is to halt and review the NHS ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ (STPs), which are looking at closing health services across England, and this is fully supported by the Labour Group in Wirral. It is the Wirral Labour Group who have already led the fight to reinstate Eastham Walk-In centre after its closure.”

His statement and the changes bulldozed through last night are based on deceit, half-truths and worse:

1.     To halt and review”?  NO! At its annual conference this year the Labour Party agreed: “This Conference Calls on our Party to restore our NHS by reversing all privatisation and permanently halting STPs and ACSs.” No mention of a ‘review’. The policy is ‘permanently halting’. STPs and ACSs are acknowledged to be the government’s way to “slash, trash and privatise” the NHS with over £900 millions of cuts planned for Cheshire and Merseyside alone.

2.     Davies and all but one of his misinformed councillors have been unable to answer an unequivocal ‘yes’ to this simple question put to them by Defend Our NHS: “Do you support our campaign to stop the STP/ACS and oppose the further near £1 billion cuts?”

3.     In fact and unbelievably the leaked policy of Wirral in league with the local Clinical Commissioning Group  is now “the development of a single ‘Accountable Care System’”, while:

4.     “The STP will operate at Cheshire and Merseyside level, commissioning some specialist services. Primarily operating on the basis of a Strategic Health Authority – holding the local Wirral system to account…”

5.     In other words they are planning the very things which Davies claims to oppose.

6.     It comes as no surprise. To give just one example from recent years (there are sundry others), what was the Wirral Council Leader doing at the 9th March 2016 (yes, 2016) Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board? 
In his role as Chair, Councillor Phil Davies suggested the focus be on how, as a Board, members could add value to the whole emerging NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan agenda”.

7.     He has never replied to a single communication from Defend Our NHS – including a question (asked twice) in relation to the Vanguard project. In April 2015 (yes, 2015) we asked him, “Why has Wirral granted enhanced entry to our local health services to major US and/or US-owned corporations, especially one representing the ACO model? Surely this and “testing of a capitated budget approach” are the logical precursors to a health insurance scheme?”

8.     And, by the way, to say that, “It is the Wirral Labour Group who have already led the fight to reinstate Eastham Walk-In centre” somewhat spins the reality.

Campaigners from across the entire Cheshire and Merseyside STP ‘footprint’ have been meeting to plan their response. Davies and his like who say one thing to their members but plan the exact opposite behind closed doors – and then push it through a Council meeting – will be in for a few shocks after Christmas.

Wirral Council 11 December Part 1

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Advent Farewell 12 – LRJ : The Naughtiest Elf On The Shelf?

Elf 2 006

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 ?

 

Half the Story and Double the Average

Bernie 004.JPG

In a classic case of getting your retaliation in first and prior to tonight’s Wirral Council meeting Cllr Bernie ‘ The Bruiser’ Mooney has been all over the press bemoaning the fact that children’s services is at ‘breaking point’. Needless to say it’s all the Tories fault.

And whilst indeed there are some government austerity measures which are nothing short of heinous Mooney needs to get real and tell us the full story.  Her version of the ‘breaking point’ story slipped out yesterday on a sleepy Sunday afternoon on the Wirral Globe website.

Breaking Point (Wirral Globe)

The story was updated today with comments from Ian Lewis the leader of Wirral Council’s Tory group. Needless to say Liverpool Echo gave the Bernie’s bleatings the full front page splash – though rather spoiled Bernie’s carefully prepared narrative by mentioning that damning Ofsted report and how the authority failed to halt a campaign of child sexual exploitation by the Rajenthiram brothers which are two things that Wirral Council’s ruling administration can’t pin on the Tories.

Apparently Bernie wants £25 million of extra funding from Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond to meet “increased demand for our services”. Good luck with that one !

Bernie 007.JPG

A spokesperson for the Chancellor said : ‘the cheque’s in the post ‘

The most shocking aspect of  Mooney’s moans was the revelation that the number of Wirral children is 120 per 10,000 of the child population . This is DOUBLE the national average ! DOUBLE!!

Bernie struggles to look around for a plausible reason for this and comes up with national figures concerned with cuts in early intervention and family support services. There is no mention of the specific impact on local services and more significantly no mention of one of Frank Field’s pet projects – the discredited Troubled Families Programme (TFP) into which millions have been poured down the drain.  As one of our valued contributors ‘ The Professor’ pointed out earlier this year Wirral Council taxpayers should bear in mind that our council are taking part in the useless,discredited TFP phase 2 at a minimum cost to us of £6 million to 2020.

The Miracle Workers

So enough already of this Bernie blather , surely she now knows what we’ve known for a long time – that children’s services locally are indeed at ‘breaking point’ and it’s not just about funding it’s also about Wirral Council’s toxic culture of denial which has built up over a number of years and under various administrations.

We think that Mooney finally realises the extent of the problem she’s inherited with children’s services and knows there are more bad news stories on the way . So what better way of keeping the Ofsted ‘improvement journey’ show on the road by playing the overplayed austerity card and asking the people of Wirral to docilely accept half a story ?

 

 

Green ‘N’ Gone

 

Jeff Green

So farewell then Cllr Jeff Green as leader of the local Conservative group.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15272929.Wirral_Council_Conservative_group_has_a_new_leader___Jeff_Green_ousted_after_15_year_reign/

We won’t be shedding a tear as we were never a fan. We regularly made the observation that he was someone who seemed more comfortable being in impotent opposition than being in a position of power.

As we know Green briefly reaped the rewards of the Martin Morton whistleblowing scandal by getting the backing of the Lib Dems to oust Labour leader Steve Foulkes and to subsequently become the leader of Wirral Council.

However his tenure as leader was short lived and he seemed relieved to resume the position of a perpetual purveyor of “‘faux outrage” (to quote Labour councillor Matthew ‘Matty Patty’ Patrick) . Meanwhile the returning Labour administration, this time under Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies, went back to their bad old ways – cover ups, secrecy and cronyism – all in the name of rampant reputation management.

All of which meant that the seismic shockwaves that were supposed to result from a series of whistleblowing cases ended up being no more than mere tremors.

Of course Green should have read the writing on the wall ( or more accurately the writing in the first Patricia Thynne investigation into the Wirralgate scandal ) when Foulkesy described him as ‘kindred’.  As both are now ousted party leaders their bond can only be closer.

As far as we were concerned his apparent complicity with the Wirralgate scandal revealed in the second Thynne report is his biggest failure when it comes to trying to hold the Labour administration to account. His compliance resulted in the biggest scandal in Wirral Council’s history to be all neatly wrapped up in an unwarranted apology from Foulkesy to Green.

WIRRALGATE! – A Portrait in Green and Yellow

We shall wait and see as to whether Green’s successor as Tory leader , Cllr, Ian Lewis adopts the same collusive approach as Green and takes to winking at his oppo, Power Boy Pip, after declaring how ‘outraged’ he is about the latest Wirral Council cock up.

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!.

As You Were

As You Were

Now that we’ve had to time to reflect on yesterday’s local election our first comment has to be that with a 35% turnout the big winner on the night was voter apathy.

The ever deluded Wirral Council leader Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies somehow sees the results as a “vote of confidence” and a “mandate” and we fear that we’ll be hearing these words quite regularly over the coming months along with “leadership” “pledges” and “moving forward”.

However taking our lead from Power Boy Pip (which is a first – it’s usually him belatedly responding to what we publish) we thought we’d adopt his Pollyanna approach and be illogically optimistic about Wirral’s political status quo.

Firstly – we note the return of Tories Ian “Hokey Cokey” Lewis  and Chris “Bulldog” Blakeley and Lib Dems Phil “Persistent” Gilchrist and Stuart “Give It Some Welly” Kelly who whatever your political outlook have historically seemed to be some of the few councillors willing to effectively challenge the Wirral Council cabal (including both officers and councillors). We think that now is the time for Tory leader Jeff “Who?” Green to decide whether he actually wants to mount some effective opposition or he’s just content to sit back and be “kindred” (©Cllr  Steve Foulkes ) and watch the allowances and expenses roll in.

Secondly – we noticed that building on their success in Birkenhead & Tranmere with the previous election of Pat Cleary the Green Party  came very close to toppling Labour veteran Jean Stapleton . Ironically it seems the UKIP vote may have saved her this time. So clearly the Greens are having some impact in Labour heartlands (which means the Greens must be giving Birkenhead MP Frankenfield the palpitations again!).

Thirdly  – we noticed a few more references to “Wirralgate” in the mainstream media in the election run up . How long before the whispers turn to screams and the truth will out and voters will finally find out exactly what kind of councillors they’ve voted for ?.

Fourthly  – we were most amused by the triumph of Labour’s teen sensation Warren Ward in the Bromborough ward mainly because he defeated into second place former Lib Dem/Labour/Independent/Whatever Steve “Catweazle” Niblock .

We dug out this pic from a couple of years ago when Niblock was a Labour councillor and Warren was a budding politician and we’re minded to recall the film “All About Eve”  where the ambitious understudy plots to oust the leading lady.

Niblock and Ward

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY  – Dear Warren , Don’t let them turn you into the picture on the left.

If the film is anything to go by Cllr  Ward is destined for high office , awards and accolades. Now all he has to do is decide whether he does it on his own terms or falls in with the corrupt cabal currently running the show. Fasten your seatbelt Warren it’s going to be a bumpy ride !.

Finally , and although only indirectly related to the local elections it seems that following our story about the unseemly public spat between “Sir” Philip Green and Birkenhead MP (and de facto Wirral Council leader) Frank Field that things have got even uglier – which is probably inevitable considering the protagonists. Frankenfield has continued his “prejudiced” public criticism about Green’s role in the collapse of BHS and  Green has now hit back and called for him to resign from the Work and Pensions Committee which is tasked with getting to the bottom of the business dealings which led to the demise of the high street store. Frankenfield has since called Green a “bully” (!) and appointed two of Green’s bitterest rivals to the House of Commons Committee because as we well know -for better ,though usually worse – that’s how  Frank rolls!

As for calls for resignations we feel that the only thing that would shake up the moribund local political scene on Wirral would be for Frankenfield to go . Until such time we fear it’s always going to be a case of as you were………………………

 

Same old