Dirty Work

Norman PE 009.JPG

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.

Norman Wisdom

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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-39495102

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.

Digging in the dirt.jpg

DOLLAR-BILL

Aintree Irony

For those of you looking for a last minute topical tip for this afternoon’s Grand National Wirral Leaks  provides you with this free cut out and keep guide to some of horses that have caught our eye:

grand national 011

This one is for fans of Martin Liptrot – that’ll be Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies then. Liptrotsky is always the perfect candidate for Pip regardless of his experience or qualifications. Who needs an Equal Opportunities Policy when your mate is the Leader of the Council? This is also one for fans of Stewart ‘Happy’ Halliday  – that’ll be his preferred referees if not our friends in York ! And again this will be popular with the Basnett clan because a) if you’re related to Princess Paula or b) you’ve  lamped the former CEO of Wirral Council over a shared perk then you’re the ‘perfect candidate’ for the Wirral Chamber of Commerce !

grand national 013

No, this isn’t for fans of the current Labour administration at Wirral Council. They’re definitely (spelt correctly) NOT red! This one is for fans of current Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘the Red’ Robinson. No, we’re not referring to the fact he’s an LFC fan among all the high profile bluenoses at Wirral Council – we’re talking about his visage and his presiding over the ‘Wirral Council High Blood Pressure Club’ alongside Cllrs Phil Davies, George Davies and Steve Foulkes. Whatever could be the reason for the beta blockers?

grand national 016

It may have been a stellar notion for Wirral Council to place their bets on a Hong Kong bankrupt Stella Shiu. However we suggest looking elsewhere for a winner as this one could end up like Stella herself –  falling in the (Wirral) Waters.

grand national 015

This is one for fans of the Hoylake Golf Resort . That’ll be Power Boy Pip again – shame the response to the desecration of the Green Belt in the name of big business has been decidedly under par.

grand national 017

This one is for  Kevin ‘Lost’ MacCallum’s Communications Team at Wirral Council. Apparently they’re not averse to a tipple at our expense. Celebrating the launch of Wirral View and recently celebrating St Patricks Day. We wonder if they’ll drown their sorrows when Wirral View ends up in the recycling bin – again.

grand national 019

This one is for all fans of Wirral Leaks as we continue to expose dishonesty,incompetence and corruption and prick the pomposity of local politicians and senior council officials. But unlike Wirral Council we ask you to gamble responsibly. When the Fun Stops Stop! 

Purdah Palaver

Steve Rotheram 012

Apparently we are in ‘Purdah’ – the period prior to an election where public bodies are constrained when it comes to communications in case it adversely interferes with the democratic election process.

The ‘democratic process’ involved at this particular time is the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority ‘Metro Mayor’ election on Thursday 4th May.  We’ve had our poll cards posted through the letterbox at Leaky Towers and tossed it into the junk mail tray in acknowledgement of the sheer futility of voting in this particular political sideshow. Whilst it will provide cash-strapped Wirral Council Returning Officer Eric Robinson with another bumper payout it will be , as far as we’re concerned , just another stepping stone on the road to political oligarchy. The People’s Socialist Republic of Merseyside –  only not for the people and without the socialism obviously.

However ‘Purdah’ gives Wirral Council the excuse to be even less forthcoming with the public than they usually are. But it’s not all bad news – it means the publication of Wirral View has been suspended.  Which surely is a tacit admission that the truly terrible rag is indeed a political tool and was never intended to address anyone’s ‘information deficit’.

Talking of which – some of you may have had the privilege and honour of having the Labour Party leaflet in support of Labour candidate Steve Rotheram shoved through your letterbox.

As you can see from our above picture it tells you everything you need to know as to why a once great party is now appealing to the lowest common denominator.  Steve’s big selling point apparently is that he is a ‘brickie’ and therefore ‘one of us’. Although he’s not a brickie – he’s an ex-brickie and now very much part of the political elite. The only way being an ex-brickie is a selling point when it comes to being the ‘Metro Mayor’ is if Steve is going to personally help build new homes to meet government housing targets!

Sadly for us it’s a further demonstration that the once great Labour Party (and particularly some elements of the local party ) have become in the words of a memorable phrase we picked up this week ,  ‘the pitiers of the poor’.   Witness the evangelical zeal (and we use the term advisedly ) with which local foodbanks are promoted whilst one of their political leader jets off to Cannes and stays in £407 a night hotels. This one to be precise :

Marriott cannes 2

Of course Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies’ rationale would be that he’s there to ensure international investors will flock to the insular peninsula to ensure future prosperity of Wirralians forevermore.  However after the many past fruitless excursions around the world have resulted in rotten tomatoes we’d be forgiven for waiting until something actually comes to fruition. And then if it does why do we get the impression that the beneficiaries will be big business and the political / council officer elite setting themselves up nicely for when Wirral Council becomes merely a ‘local commissioning hub’ for the Liverpool City Region?

Birkenhead First (Among Equals)

Paula NWT 009

Paula Basnett : Primus inter pares in action

 

In the aftermath of the New Ferry explosion over the weekend it was reassuring to see the emergency services, the local community and indeed Wirral Council working together to help the stricken people affected by the devastating event.
Also helping out were the Wirral Chamber of Commerce in the shape of their CEO Paula Basnett  who ‘popped up’ on last night’s edition of North West Tonight to tell us that the Chamber was looking for ‘pop up spaces’ for displaced local traders.
All we can say is that with all the properties the Chamber of Horrors have at their disposal ,which they’ve been gifted or are paying peppercorn rent for, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem!
However it would seem that this charitable largesse on the part of  the Basnett clan doesn’t extend to charities themselves. We’ve been contacted by Jim Barrington from local charity Wiser Solutions Ltd
Jim not only provides us with a fascinating update on a story we covered earlier in the year concerning a local business initative  co-ordinated by Wirral Chamber of Commerce known as the Birkenhead Improvement District (BID) aka ‘Birkenhead First’ , but also with a frightening insight into ‘how things work’ round here.
Here we witness the increasingly unhealthy symbiotic relationship between Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce and the political manoeuvrings of local politicians  and powerbrokers that we don’t see on TV :
Wirral Chamber of Commerce is taking charities and not for profit companies to a criminal court after introducing a BID Levy in Birkenhead then rejected appeals to exempt those affected who exist for the benefit of the community. Affected businesses are told they have to pay 1.5% of the rateable value of their property.
 
The BID Levy was introduced following a vote by firms in Birkenhead after they were told it would listen to their needs and campaign on their behalf to improve the area. In reality however it has refused to listen and change their decision not to exempt charitable firms, despite the BID Regulations allowing it and precedent already being set to by HMRC, Customs and Excise and even Wirral Council who all exempt or reduce the financial obligations of charities and not for profits regarding levies and taxes.
The BID Levy is being collected on behalf of Wirral Chamber of Commerce by Wirral Council. However this contradicts Wirral Council’s own policies and commitments to support not for profits. The small business rates relief ensures the majority of rates are paid by a contribution from the Government and Wirral Council provide a discretionary exemption for qualifying charitable firms which takes care of the rest. However Wirral Chamber of Commerce insist no exemption applies to charities and not for profits, even where they cannot afford to pay. Instead they have insisted on pursuing them through the Magistrates Court in order to obtain a liability order so they can gain access to charitable funds. The use of Magistrates Court is particularly troubling since they are predominantly used for criminal matters and even Wirral Council have admitted this is a civil matter which are usually dealt with in County Court.
Even more troubling is the fact Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce are adding £95.00 in court fees before liability has even been established in court, yet cannot provide a full and proper breakdown of how these costs have been arrived at. It is unlawful for any council to make a profit from court fees so one would expect them to be able to say exactly what it costs to take an individual or business to court. Instead however they appear to have been obstructive by providing a spreadsheet which lists the annual costs to run the entire council tax and revenues department. When asked for a per capita breakdown which takes into account economies of scale (i.e. they are taking a lot of people to court for not paying council tax and non-domestic rates on the same day and they batch process them all, plus the BID Levy collection is tagged onto the end of these), they sent the same annual totals for running their entire department. When asked again and told the costs breakdown must be BID specific they refused to send any further information.
An example of these costs would be the cost of filing fees (circa £3.00 per summons) and say an allocation of £2.00 towards staff time and other costs. An explanation therefore of what the remaining £90 costs is for has not been forthcoming. Requests to move things to the County Court, which is the proper setting for civil matters, have been ignored by Council Officers. 
Frank Field was contacted for help at least three weeks for the summons date. He responded at 5:00pm the evening before the court appearance to say his office had contacted Phil Davies who in turn had contacted Wirral Chamber of Commerce and they had refused to change their decision, despite his personal feelings and views to the contrary. So the MP for Birkenhead and the leader of Wirral Council are both being dictated to by officers at Wirral Chamber of Commerce. 
Clearly this suggests Paula Basnett, Kevin Adderley and Asif Hamid who run Wirral Chamber of Commerce are also in charge of Wirral Council. Worse still is the fact Wirral Chamber have stated they and Birkenhead BID Company (Birkenhead First) are not subject to Freedom of Information legislation so can claim everything they do is commercially sensitive and confidential. No transparency there then.
Even the officers at Wirral Council who are collecting the BID Levy do not seem to agree with the decision to criminalise charitable firms. They contacted Wirral Chamber of Commerce asking them to change their position but they were also told the it would not be changed. The attitude appears to be it is only 1.5% of the rateable value of a property so Wirral Chamber cannot understand what the fuss is about. It seems to have escaped their attention charitable firms, by definition of what they do, may have large properties on peppercorn rents and very little money, most of which is from funding or donations and some modest earned income. Which is why they have taxes reduced or are exempted entirely. But Wirral Chamber of Commerce insists everyone must pay.
The Birkenhead BID Levy purports to be there to help support firms in the Birkenhead BID district but some have argued it is instead a way to pay the high salaries of staff who, until recently had worked for Wirral Council. It claims to be there to listen to and represent business owners in the Birkenhead BID Levy District, however there is no formal complaints procedure and minutes of meetings are confidential. Clearly they are not doing a very good job of listening since they are insisting on dragging charitable firms into Magistrates Court to pay for a Levy which did not exist until recently.
To be fair, Birkenhead has been declining for years and business owners are struggling to stay afloat. But cleaning up Birkenhead is the job of the council. 
This is why people pay business rates. The BID appears to be a stealth tax method of increasing business rates without actually increasing the business rates which is the same argument successfully used by Esther McVey when the council attempted to place a levy on wheelie bins and which forced them to hastily back away and reconsider their position.
Wirral Chamber have recently released a wonderful glossy document which makes bold claims about the achievements of the Birkenhead Bid company (also known as Birkenhead First). However the majority of these are things Wirral Council would do anyway as part of their obligations to Business Rates Payers. So it seems the suggestion the BID Levy is supporting the over bloated salaries of former council employees may have some foundation.
Also since this is clearly a civil matter, why is there such a reluctance to transfer proceedings to the County Court? Clearly civil matters fall under contract law and County Court is the proper setting. The costs are similar and certainly can be itemised easier. This suggests a worrying symbiotic relationship between Wirral Council and Wirral Magistrates Court where proceedings are being led by Wirral Council and not the local Magistrates.
The subject of costs and lack of transparency surrounding these certainly raises more questions than answers and this spills over to affect every council tax payer, business rates payer and now BID Levy payer who has ever been summonsed to Magistrates Court and had liability order costs imposed. Whilst clearly Council Tax is a criminal matter, the BID Levy certainly is not and belongs in County Court not the criminal courts.
It has also been suggested the BID Levy and demands for payment would not stand up to scrutiny under contract law. This has never been tested but would certainly be in the public interest. Taking charities and not for profit firms to court in an attempt to access charitable funds is not. It does not matter if the BID Levy is a small token amount. It is still immoral. It is also grossly unfair. For example there is no way to spread the cost monthly, no refund mechanism if firms move out of the area part way through the year, no contract and no control or input on how money is spent. In short it represents an unfair contract under civil law and threats of heavy penalties and costs, bailiffs and similar from Wirral Council are tactics which could be viewed as extortion and threats in public office. Whilst we are not suggesting this is the case, it certainly could be viewed as such. All the more reason for the matter to be placed in its proper setting in the County Court and not the Magistrates Court.
Even more worrying is the notion if Wirral Chamber is not challenged, this could be the first of many BID Levy districts in Wirral and more struggling business owners and charitable firms will find themselves subject to this new stealth tax with no opt out clause, no appeal and no transparency over how their money is spent.

‘The Lauries’ Lingers

The lauries desperation

All of our best stories rely on sheer persistence .

God only knows what Wirral Council would get away with if we weren’t here to shove that thorn forcibly in their side.

So following on from ‘Wirralgate’ , BIG/ISUS/Working Neighbourhoods ,  ‘Crabby’ Crabtree , ‘Happy Halliday’etc; etc; we proudly present the latest development in ‘The Lauries’ debacle.

Well, not proudly actually , shamefully is the word. To think that the garbage at Wirral Council/Wirral Chamber of Commerce can just get away with their usual abuse of power, because, well they just can,are not over. If nothing else they are subject to our critical eye.

The latest development in this sorry saga is the tawdry press release above , where Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘ Power Boy Pip’ Davies  joins fellow human melting wax candles Cllr Jean Stapleton and sideshow MP Frank Field in a desperate attempt to defend their indefensible position when it comes to the annexing of ‘The Lauries’.

‘The Green Party’ will do anything to get publicity” claims Power Boy Pip. To which we can only say that’s a bit rich coming from someone who employed their own ‘Policy Advisor’ at our expense and then enabled his neighbour to get a further gig because let’s face it this inept fraud couldn’t run a bath let alone a toxic and dysfunctional council !

What Power Boy Pip doesn’t mention ( perhaps because he has to check with his personal handholder, Martin Liptrot, first ) is that he has FAILED (and not the first time) to reply a complaint that is now with the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) about ‘The Lauries’.

As local Green Party Councillor Pat Cleary states:

‘Wirral Council has failed to respond to the complaint and completely ignored emails from me to address the matter. As a result, the issue was taken up with the local government ombudsman. It will not investigate yet but has promised to contact the Council to ensure that our complaint is progressed properly through the Council’s procedures.’

http://patcleary2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/we-want-our-lauries-back.html

‘Progressed properly ?’– Good luck with that one, Pat!

The Liptrot Mystery

Evans

Opposition councillors seem unusually curious about the recent controversial appointment of Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’Davies political ally , Martin Liptrot(sky) to the post of  ‘Interim’ Investment Lead .

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15173137.Special_meeting_heats_up_as_Wirral_councillors_clash_over_controversial_new_job_for_Labour_s_policy_chief/

And so they might be! The ongoing saga is worthy of an Agatha Christie murder mystery ….. but who knows where the bodies are buried !?

Of course we anticipated such an appointment long ago The Uncanny and the Corrupt

That’s not because we have second sight, it’s simply because, by now, we know all Wirral Council’s plot devices.

So before we get to the heart of the mystery, let us set out the story so far. Are you sitting comfortably? – because we guarantee you won’t be for much longer!

Remember when we exclusively announced Liptrot’s arrival at Wirral Council and questioned how his ‘Policy Advisor’ post came about?

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/all-hail-the-new-king-of-spin/

Remember when we questioned his apolitical credentials when he was appointed to a politically restricted post despite declaring his long held Labour Party affiliations all over social media ?

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/a-political-mr-liptrot/

Who can forget when Wirral Globe disclosed that leaked toecurling early morning email exchange between Liptrot and Pip?  Where the former, in full on diva mode, appears to be calling the shots – complaining about his pay and bemoaning the fact that he has to hand in time sheets to Super Duper Director  Joe Blott  – oh the shame!

“Apparently I’m supposed to work for 24 quid an hour and hand time sheets to Joe Blott [strategic director].Clearly that is both insulting and wildly unrealistic for the scope of the role we are discussing.There is no way I’m going to earn even less than I am now. We need to work out what we need to agree and you will probably have to just step up and tell everyone what you want doing in the end. Let’s talk tomorrow.’

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14306240.Emails_give_extraordinary_insight_into_Wirral_Council_s_controversial_hiring_of_former_Labour_spin_doctor/

And so having set the scene we move on to the latest chapter in the charmed life of Mr Liptrot and his latest ‘transformation'(!) as ‘Interim’ Investment Lead at Wirral Council.

An extraordinary series of extracts from leaked emails details the ‘bureaucratic machinations’ behind this latest appointment and provides us with even more plot twists……..

Firstly , we might recall that  24 councillors  issued  a ‘Notice of Motion’ in respect of, what was at the time, the creation of ‘a senior post of Investor Development Manager’ in response to the Labour Cabinet meeting held on 16 January .  This meeting was chaired by Power Boy Pip and included a report calling for the removal of ‘Call – in’ , thus denying opposition councillors the opportunity to ask any awkward questions about the post. The report stated :

‘Although this was not a key decision, in the light of the time critical nature of these activities, it was considered necessary to request that call-in be waived. This would enable the activities to progress at once and, therefore, ensure that work was completed in time to meet deadlines for key events such as MIPIM. Due to the absence of the Chief Executive, and on his behalf, the Assistant Chief Executive had recommended that call-in be waived’.

Head of Law Surjit Tour clarified the situation : ‘Cabinet agreed to waive ‘call-in’ in accordance with the Constitution and the decision is therefore implementable immediately notwithstanding the request for an extraordinary council having been made and agreed. Council at the extraordinary council meeting is being invited to scrutinise the creation of the post and decide whether it is justified – but council would only be expressing its opinion/view in respect of the post and its justification. The decision maker remains the Executive and the decision in question remains implementable.’

The post was advertised via  Wirral Council’s temporary worker system (Matrix) . Matrix passed on the job specification to recruitment agencies at an equivalent day rate of £195.

Initially six applications were received. However according to Wirral Council’s HR  : ‘none of the applicants met the specification. We  have received feedback from the agencies that the remuneration is not sufficient to attract calibre candidates.Given the urgent requirement for the additional capacity and limited budget we are sourcing an Interim role – Interim Investment Lead on an interim rate, but for a shorter period of time’

HR went on to later add :‘The agencies feedback that they could potentially source some applicants at £350 day , but the calibre we required is likely to be £500 day. Given the urgent requirement for the additional capacity and limited budget we need to increase the day rate .’

Frankly it is simply an astonishing state of affairs when so-called committed, and no doubt ‘passionate’ public servants, don’t consider it worthwhile getting out of bed for less than £350 a day!  And of course the recruitment agencies are going to advocate such a hike in the daily rate because presumably it means more money for them! All of which means that public authorities are held a hostage to fortune!

Needless to say when the post was advertised at the higher rate, 13 further applications were received !

5 candidates were shortlisted. One of the candidates was unable to make the interview date and one candidate withdrew. And in true Agatha Christie fashion :  ‘And then there were 3’. These interviews took place on 15 February 2017.

Initially we understand that Asif Hamid was due to be on the interview panel but he mysteriously withdrew to be replaced , inevitably, by Wirral Chamber of Commerce chum Paula Basnett. Clare Fish , Wirral Council’s Executive Director for Strategy was also a late absentee. This left :

  • Alan Evans, Strategic Commissioner for Growth (Chair of the Panel)
  • Stephen Butterworth, Interim Strategic Project Support
  • Sally Shah, Lead Commissioner: Place and Investment
  • Paula Basnett, Chief Executive, Wirral Chamber of Commerce
  • Ellen Cutler, Director Inward Investment, Liverpool Vision

Now as we know the successful candidate was our leading suspect Martin Liptrot who was awarded an an initial 4 month contract  @ £350 a day.

However the  mystery here is whether the panel made the appointment or was the final decision made by Power Boy Pip and his supine CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson?

The Extraordinary Council meeting held earlier this week was an attempt by some curious councillors to find the answer to this whodunnit and other mysteries surrounding the case. However the Labour group were anxious to shut this line of enquiry down with Cllr Brian Kenny squeaking up for a ‘guillotine’ thereby reducing the time available for debating the issue.

Perhaps curious opposition councillors should seek clues about the recruitment process from Alan Evans, the Strategic Commissioner for Growth, who chaired the selection panel?

We understand that Evans’ unsung team in Department of Regeneration have been doing some excellent work  behind the scenes  and we can only wonder what they must feel about the influx of Johnny-Come -Lately’s such as Liptrot  who ,under the guise of ‘transformers’ , appear to be muscling in on their act and potentially taking the credit for their work.

We await further plot developments with great interest!

Transformers 2

We need to thank our lucky stars that Wirral Council ‘leader’ ( ha!ha!ha!) Cllr Phil Davies aka Power Boy Pip yesterday authorised a Wirral representative to attend a ‘Transformation’ beano in Manchester today.

Unfortunately that representative was his namesake Cllr Angela Davies.

Although it must be said that whilst ‘Our Ange’ knows all about the ‘public sector transformational journey’, it would appear she didn’t like it much. Whilst working for the NHS she was quite happy to enjoy the transformation of the drug and alcohol services over into the private sector in the guise of ‘Crime Reduction Initiatives/ Change, Grow, Live’ but then it all got a bit messy for the poor lass. And whilst she was quick to criticise her new employer on the QT she soon hotfooted back to secure employment within the  NHS when she realised just exactly how they meant to ‘transform’ services.

And so the moral of this story would appear to be that ‘transformation’ is alright for us plebs but not for those with a secure pension plan – and the opportunity to enjoy free lunch and refreshments at the Manchester Hilton!

Transformers

Transformer

Take a walk on the mild side.

A frightened and downtrodden Wirral Council employee has written to us to throw some light of the ‘transformation agenda’ and throw some shade on those responsible for it :
“I’m a regular reader of your blog and would like to say congratulations on the good work you do. I am also a Wirral Council minion so although I have often wanted to contribute I kept quiet.  But I am moved to write by reading all about the amounts the council is spending on ‘Transformation’ consultants. In your blog you asked if anyone knew about the ‘interim head of transformation’.  I can tell you some things that might help. The interim head of transformation is called Stephen Butterworth.  He previously worked in Staffordshire with Eric Robinson, and has been working at Wirral since Eric got him in in the summer of 2015…….. He certainly makes sure everyone knows how close he is to Eric.  I would reckon that the amount mentioned in the  (Wirral) Globe has to be a tiny fraction of what he has pocketed so far.
The council have just appointed a Director of Transformation and already have a Senior Manager of  Transformation, they are now trying to recruit a temporary Head of Business Change as well as the ‘interim head of transformation’, not to mention Stewart Halliday and Jane Clayson – the programme managers all with their noses in the trough. 
Butterworth’s achievements so far in Wirral appear to be absolutely nothing but spending tax money on overpaid consultants.  I think he is the one driving all this crap about ‘alternative delivery models’, but nobody dares to argue with him because he’ll just run off to Eric.  
I read that he was on the interview panel for Liptrot’s job.  No wonder Eric couldn’t stop Phil Davies employing his mate, as Eric has brought his own mate in in the same way just not with as much publicity. 
  
It is disgusting that the council is spending so much on these vultures when services are being cut.
Our source did indeed call it correct when they said that they read somewhere that Butterworth sat on the interview panel that ‘appointed’ Liptrot to the post of ‘Investor Development Manager’
We reported it here first : Alternative Facts in a Parallel Universe
Indeed Conservative councillor Lesley Rennie damned us with faint praise at last night’s Extraordinary Council meeting to discuss ‘The Liptrot Affair’ by revealing that she only found about who was on the Liptrot appointment panel  : ‘ via Wirral Leaks. Thank goodness for them in some ways, but that’s no way to run an open and transparent Council ‘ (cue muffled jeers from the Labour benches).
You can see footage of this revelation at 20.50 of John Brace’s recording here :
However just to clarify we understand the panel didn’t actually appoint Liptrot(sky) – Cllr Davies aka Power Boy Pip did – but let’s not split heirs (to a fortune)!
We also note from last night’s meeting how Pip and co were doing the ‘affronted maiden aunt’ routine – a trick no doubt picked up from Auntie Frank Field’s repertoire – a man who has feigned outrage down to a fine art – and were bemoaning the ‘ lambasting’ of poor ,defenceless public servant Liptrot(sky).
However if the ruling Wirral Council administration continue to make a series of dubious high cost appointments, what do they expect?  Public scrutiny and ‘distasteful’ criticism comes with the territory and if Liptrot doesn’t like it he can fly off back to Florida!

That Riviera Touch

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Private Eye magazine tells us in the latest edition, and appropriately enough on the same page as their previously reported ‘Happy Halliday’ story, that ‘ Council bigwigs across the land can barely contain their excitement as they prepare to fly to Cannes (this) week for what is for many the highlight of the year – the international property bash , Marché International des Professsionels d’Immobilier , aka MIPIM.

Thousands of public officials from all over Europe to gather to be plied with drink for four days by property developers eager to get their hands on publicly owned assets. Aptly ,the event also attracts hundreds of prostitutes’ 

Now we know this spring break has been heavily pencilled in on the calendars of Wirral Council’s very own ‘bigwigs’ for quite some time.

A Cabinet meeting held on 8th December  2016 included a report written by one Stewart Halliday (who he?) and stated as follows :

‘It is imperative the council has an emerging proposition for investors by early 2017 and that by March 2017, when the MIPIM Conference takes place, is able to set out its offer to investors. This annual conference for investors is the key opportunity to meet and pitch to the world’s major development investors and banks’

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50038045/Delivering%20Wirrals%20Growth.pdf

Moreover as we reported  in  our An Extraordinary Council report Cabinet resolved at the meeting held on 16th January to create the post of ‘Investor Development Manager’ especially for Wirral Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies’ left hand man Martin Liptrot (aka Liptrotsky).

The justification for fast-tracking the appointment and waiving the call in process was as follows :

‘Although this was not a key decision, in the light of the time critical nature of these activities, it was considered necessary to request that call-in be waived. This would enable the activities to progress at once and, therefore, ensure that work was completed in time to meet deadlines for key events such as MIPIM. Due to the absence of the Chief Executive, and on his behalf, the Assistant Chief Executive had recommended that call-in be waived’.

Subsequently a request for an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council was called by 24 opposition councillors as  ‘we believe that the creation of this post requires further scrutiny, to enable council to decide whether it is justified’.

However as we observed  :’ …… the Extraordinary Meeting has been called for 6th March – AFTER the appointment has been made! Which rather suggests to us that the matter was NOT ‘urgent’ in the first place and in fact the waiver was a means of preventing anyone asking any awkward questions as to why , at a time of cuts and punitive charging measures , that the council taxpayers of Wirral are being asked to fund Council leader Power Boy Pip’s special friend to hobnob in the South of France at their expense’

Unfortunately opposition councillors seem not to have kept their eye on the road and subsequently steered down a cul-de-sac , as the Extraordinary Meeting to discuss the Liptrot’s Investor Development Manager appointment was parked in favour of another Extraordinary Meeting concerning car parking charges.

We understand that Liptrotsky’s dodgy £350 a day gig will now be discussed next week:

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=123&MId=5937

This of course allows (presumably) Pip and Liptrotsky (and whoever else is in the Wirral entourage) to fly off this week to the French Riviera – no questions asked. No doubt this means that next week’s Extraordinary Meeting will now be all about the mega-deals that were struck as a result the Pip and Liptrotsky double act (somewhat like bungling Morecambe and Wise in that creaky comedy ‘That Riviera Touch’ only without the laughs). Shall we look forward to hearing that Wirral Waters will no longer be marketed as ‘Shanghai-On -The- Mersey’ but as ‘Côte d’Azur-On -The -Docks’ ?!

Meanwhile Wirral Leaks welcomes any news on Wirral Council’s entourage and hopes that Pip and Liptrotsky have taken a hat, as even at this time of the year, it can get very hot in Cannes……………………….

 

 

The Blind Leading The Blindfolded

blind_followers

We are grateful, once again , for the following submission from another of our regular followers and contributors , Mr Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro.

Hobro brings his forensic eye to Wirral Council’s  failings in relation to funding which they were responsible for administering. What Hobro dissects may be esoteric to some but the failings he identifies will be familiar to Wirral Leaks readers – a failure of due diligence , a failure of openness and transparency , a failure of accountability and , damn it, a failure to do things ‘properly’ – and all in the name of reputation management (and no doubt other base motives) . We invite you to open your eyes before they take us all over the precipice:

The public are blinded as to the workings within Wirral Borough Council as the corporation seeks to keep its failings from open view. The issue regarding ISUS and BIG seems hackneyed except if one considers that the revelations have deliberately been kept in deep-freeze by the Council Leader and by top officers. They are as new as the date of release of data, usually forced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under threat of contempt of court. Certainly I asked for the names of companies in receipt of BIG funding that were liquidated as early as 2013, to be refused, even though liquidated companies have no protection under the Data Protection Act. The latter was conclusively attested to in summer last year with a ruling from the ICO, and most surely had been known all along by the Council’s monitoring Officer, Mr Surjit Tour.

Those who have been blind seem reluctant to accept criticism from the illuminati despite thin vows of transparency and of accountability. When Grant Thornton reported on the multi-fold failings in the BIG process vis -a -vis 6 files nevertheless despite a disclaimer from Grant Thornton of the Councils italicized statement, the Council claimed no wrong-doing and pointed out that only Lockwood Engineering had gone bust. On forced release of the Executive Summary re BIG in July 2013 the Leader of the Council issued a press release stating the success of the program and that of all Big fund recipients (sic) only one had gone bust. Yet time and erosion of the whitewash reveal that in fact two companies further had entered into liquidation with connexions to the Leader even at that early date. The council chief executive blatantly lied on 8th October 2014 saying only three were bust whereas the true total was eleven by then. I am not sure that Braille can distinguish between entering liquidation and finally being liquidated though these blinders did insist on a difference that to all intents and purposes is valueless. When the sexton prepares the grave there are very few lazarus’ indeed.

I do claim that the BIG process was so flawed in its arrangements that it opened a clear vista for fraud. Due diligence would not involve a coach and blinkered horses being driven through the benevolent intentions of the grants.

Last week I received data re Corrin Kenny Limited a company that received £13,250 of BIG money sometime soon after 4th May 2011 when Councillor Andrew Hodgson approved the award. The file given me contained no accounts later than 31st March 2010 which represents a poor basis indeed for processing future projections.

The friar Pacioli who invented double entry intended that all debits and credits equate to zero otherwise his system collapses applying to historic and equally to projected accounts. Due diligence compelled me to reconstruct from the entries in the projections an opening Balance Sheet. It proved impossible to do leaving a creditor of £7,000 which clearly had not been run through the projected cash flow. Surely any business applying for £20,000 of free money should at the very least offer up a clear set of projections, and any civil servant intending to give out public money should expect a clear Business Plan budget. Without the budget being sound the reins of the coach are fraying.
BLIND, Wilfully blind or just complaisant officers?

The officer who produced a short page of recommendations for the “Independent Panel” to consider was a Mr Stone of the Regeneration Department. He did not look for a balanced model ( in Cashflows that do not balance as to Cash flow, Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet one can always find errors that invalidate the proposal) and did not remark on the £26,600 cost that was not included in the Total for Cost of Sales. This was plain as a pikestaff for any but the purblind. I imagine therefore that Mr Stone did not attempt to analyse the formulae within the Excel model-I did, unpaid!, and with my having to reconstitute the Excel from a Adobe Acrobat file. I observed with my clear vision that, to check the validity of the assumptions, I would need to recreate the file. If I had been paid it would have been 2 hours of WBC time . Mr Stone may have had the benefit of the original Excel file in which case half an hours work would have sufficed. They have eyes to see but do not wish to see!

Mr Stone or Gemma Henry had access to a reporting suite from Companies House. They might have discovered that the Company Secretary whose name headed the application was involved already with seven companies of which three at that contemporaneous time were entered into the London Gazette to be dissolved. This was not a chequered flag to go ahead with the grant but a chequered past to prompt more questions.

I checked the full accounts for March 2010 and noted from a minds eye memory going back 6 years that the requirement to produce accounts not less than 6 months old had not been enforced, or perhaps in April 2011 the officers did not see that accounts to 31st March 2010 were more than a year old. I noted as a kestrel hovering at several hundred feet the balance of Other Debtors at £52,989 and wondered if Ms Gemma Henry quartered in Invest Wirral’s offices in Egerton House asked of Mr Kenny, giving his address as Egerton House, of what that was composed. Could it be an illegal Directors Current account because it most definitely was not a Trade Debtor, and if it were that, then what business has WBC advancing money to a company that was already sitting on an unrecognised liability of up to £30,000 of PAYE/NI? I began to see into the future (see below.)

COACH AND HORSES

Then to the Minutes of the Meeting at 9:30am of 21st April 2011 (with next meeting at foot of page for 27th May 2010(sic)) attended by the blind Invest Wirral who blind-folded the independents from Business Link and from the Federation of Small Business by, per Grant Thornton, giving them no accounts, and just the précis by Mr Stone, Finance Manager. The précis ran to just 320 words which recommended that only £20,000 would do the job. After a discussion “in great detail” all voted save one independent to award the grant. Dissension was met by the compromise of awarding just £13,250 even though Mr Stone had written only £20,000 would do. Blind, blind, blind or perhaps the diligence drivers ( an 18th century coach) whipping through what they could for an individual close indeed to the Regeneration Manager, Mr Kevin Adderley.

All seemed unconcerned that the award would be the same contravention of rules as was the award – that never should have been given per Grant Thornton-to The Edge magazine of Lets Go Publishing ltd. Both sought to advertise in the Wirral just as had Thinklocal and indeed Wirral View in direct competition with non-funded newspapers. The blindfolded independents would not know only the wilfully blind officers knew.

THAT WHICH WAS VISIBLE TO THE DISCERNING EYE THEN AND CAME TO PASS

Hindsight reveals that far from Corrin Kenny having £93,266 reserves in March 2012, by July 2013 the Liquidator reported a deficiency of (£75,000 ) which for four years he has been trying to recoup from the director who had had an overdrawn current account (see above and £52,000).

HM Tax Inspectorate began calling in its debt in March 2012 .The officers did not see at March 2010 that the debt to Taxes had been £40,481. The did nt see the warnings from the filings at Companies House where the figures quoted as prior year balance sheet in the 31st March 2010 accounts were different from the 2009 Balance sheet as filed. It is the business of Local Authorities to ensure before parting with our taxes that the grantees have paid their dues and observe laws and regulations and not to encourage tax defaulters! The debt to the Revenue finally was recognised as being £70,646 and the Liquidator (see above) noted the debt owed by the director to the company. To this date the Liquidation is open five years later as the Revenue seek to enforce the debt. So the ‘diligence’ reached the river and unloaded £13,250 of tax-payers money to sail down the Swanee to the accompaniment of the blind harmonica players from the Council.

OBFUSCATION AFTER THE EVENT

What we can see is that Mr P Davies Councillor was not anxious that these details be released on Corrin Kenny Ltd since he did accompany Mr B Kenny on trade missions to the Isle of Man and, though I have not seen the photograph, allegedly to Reno. I guess the sad story of New Concept Gaming Ltd, some £845,000 of public money including some BIG, going down the same river was another musical score that the blind players did not want you to read. Of “all BIG recipients” these two were certainly in liquidation when Mr P Davies issued his press release in July 2013.

SOURCES
The sources for my article are Companies House, data which is now free and at the time would only have cost Invest Wirral a maximum of £5 to see; and What do they know.com at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/corrin_kenny_ltd_big_fund_award?nocache=incoming-948560#incoming-948560