Birkenhead First (Second Coming)

Birkenhead First Balloon

Is the balloon about to burst on the BID levy scam? Or are Wirral Chamber of Commerce still allowed to give Tourism Awards to one of their belligerent Director’s former love nest in exchange for screwing over local charities?

Apologies for the disrespectful Easter title – but it’s what we do best. Iconoclastic and sarcastic at the same time.

This post is a follow up to one of our most popular recent stories

Birkenhead First (Among Equals)

Continuing the Biblical theme , readers will remember this was the David v Goliath story of charity boss Jim Barrington taking on the might of Wirral Chamber of Commerce (or rather their enforcers Wirral Council).

Gallant Wirral Councillor Lib Dem Stuart Kelly followed up our story , asking pertinent questions of Wirral Council CEO Eric’ Feeble’ Robinson who in time honoured tradition passed it on to some highly paid underling who passed it on to a less than highly paid underling.

The answers to the questions that Cllr Kelly posed are as follows . Needless to say it starts with apologies, because apparently this is what we do , we pay public servants to apologise profusely and at regular intervals

Apologies for the delay in responding to you.  Please find below my response.

1.Is it the case that Birkenhead First have the ability under regulations to exempt not for profit charitable business from the levy ?   

Schedule 1, Paragraph 1 (e) of the Business Improvement Districts (England ) Regulations 2004 provide that BID proposals shall include “a statement of the specified class of non domestic ratepayer (if any) for which and the level at which any relief from the BID levy is to apply”. This could include charitable rate relief. The Birkenhead BID proposal did not include this optional relief. The BID levy of 1.5% applies to all hereditaments located within the Birkenhead BID boundary area. Businesses with a rateable value that is below £6000 are not liable to pay the BID levy.

2. Is it the case that the BID Levy is being collected on behalf of Wirral Chamber of Commerce by Wirral Council.

Yes we bill and collect on behalf of the BID.

3. Is it the case that none payment is being pursued through the magistrates courts when the liability is a civil matter which are usually dealt with in County Court, if so what is the reason for using magistrates court?

Schedule 4 of the 2004 Regulations deals with enforcement and application for liability orders if the levy is not paid. It applies Part 3 of the Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Local Lists) Regulations 1989. Regulation 12 (2) provides that:-
“The application is to be instituted by making complaint to a justice of the peace, and requesting the issue of a summons directed to that person to appear before the court to show why he has not paid the sum which is outstanding.”
The correct jurisdiction for enforcement is the magistrates court.

4. Is it the case that Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce are adding £95.00 in court fees before liability has been established in court, is there a breakdown of how these costs have been arrived at.

No costs are awarded by the Court upon application by the Council. They are shown on the summons document. The cost make up is shown on the attached. The costs are the Council’s and not passed on to the Chamber.   

5. What is the relationship between Wirral Council and the Chamber with regard to the BID.

The chamber pays for the Council to administer the Billing and Collection of the BID.  

Thankfully our original source Jim Barrington was able to breakdown this BS response as follows :

This looks promising. Excellent work. I did not see the attachment they used to justify their court costs but I am assuming it is the same excel spreadsheets they sent to me. If so here are a few things to consider:
1) They provide the cost to run the entire revenue and benefits department. These staff are already in place so providing these costs as evidence of what it costs in court fees is a deliberate tactic to avoid providing a per capita breakdown. The staff perform other roles and functions including allocation of housing benefits, council tax benefits and enquiries, non-domestic rates and so on. As such one would need to know the total number of different activities each officer undertakes, how many hours are involved and how much of this is actual spent processing and compiling court actions. Then one needs to add the known £3 court processing fee (taking into account economies of scale) and know precisely how many people are being taken to court on any given submission. Then, since the fees must be BID specific, this must be narrowed down to a per capita cost for each BID summons. I doubt this would cost more than £3 per processing fee plus an average of £2 per individual summons for staff time. Even if this cost is more, it would be difficult indeed to justify £95 per capita.
2) The reply was this is a civil matter and the correct setting is Magistrates court. The reason for this did not seem clear to me despite a verbose explanation. 
3) If the matter is a civil matter as agreed by the Council Officer then it clearly falls under Contract Law. As such the proper setting is County Court. It would also likely represent an unfair contract due to no opt out procedure, lack of written contract, no appeal or clear complaints procedure, no refund policy or part refund policy if a person vacates their premises within the year and total lack of accountability or say over how the money is spent. This applies to all businesses affected by the BID.
4) I am still not clear why charitable organisations have not been exempted. No explanation has been given. I asked the Steering Group to consider this exemption prior to the BID vote and again after the BID vote. I have been told they did but the minutes of the meeting are confidential. So a tax is being levied on the promise it represents businesses to improve the area, but the same businesses are not allowed to see the minutes of the meetings. This is despite the BID brochure clearly stating it will listen and respond to small businesses and their needs.
5) Birkenhead First (or is it the BID Company? or is it Wirral Chamber of Commerce?) are claiming to have spent the money on activities which fall under the remit of Wirral Council and for which business rates are paid. So if Birkenhead First are now doing these things should there not be a reduction in Business Rates within the BID District? If so then perhaps this should equal the cost of the BID Levy so there is no additional cost to the small business.
6) They are claiming only businesses with a rateable value of £6000 or over are affected by the BID, whilst conveniently ignoring the fact most charitable organisations occupy larger premises on a peppercorn rent and could not afford to exist without this goodwill. Precedent for exemption of levies and taxes has been set by notable organisations such as HMRC, Customs & Excise and even Wirral Council themselves. So what justification is being given by Wirral Chamber who insist charitable firms must pay? They are strangely silent on this matter.
7) It seems unclear who is taking responsibility for these decisions. Wirral Council say speak to Wirral Chamber and they say speak to Wirral Council. 
8) I am not certain the magistrate “summons” is actually being dealt with by the court system. If you phone the court on the to enquire about the summons on the day they actually have no record of it. Could it be true the council is hiring a room in the court and hiring a judge who is not acting under oath on behalf of the courts? Surely not. Yet this is being muttered in cafes and corners of the Wirral by those being summonsed who have said the Magistrates courts have no official record of these summons. Some have even called the legality of the summons into question because it does not follow the proper form. If true, then the liability hearing may as well be heard in the Town Hall by a council officer because it has the same legal standing. The implications of this are wide reaching and expensive and could affect everyone. 
9) I suspect the Birkenhead BID is a pilot and Wirral Chamber / Wirral Council are working in concert. If this is allowed to go unchallenged then I predict further BID districts popping up all over Wirral.
10) The challenge needs to be:
– justification of court costs and fees. The Council is being evasive on this matter
– the proper setting for the liability hearing. I maintain civil matters should be heard in County Court not Magistrates.
– the legality of the contract under civil contract law. Anything less is extortion by public officials
– the lack of exemption for charitable organisations
– the lack of transparency or accountability over how money is being spent (see earlier comment re: unfair contract)
– the fact Wirral Chamber claims Birkenhead First is not subject to Freedom of Information laws. I contend they inherit the obligations of Wirral Council because they are working in concert with Wirral Council.
We are increasingly grateful that it is not just us who are concerned about the increasingly dubious relationship between Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce. Believe us ,and thankfully for once , these concerns spread beyond the insular peninsula.
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The Uncanny and the Corrupt

transparency-014

Lib Dem councillor Stuart Kelly called it correctly last night when he posted the above tweet.

Of course what he didn’t do was go into detail – so as ever it’s up to us to fill in the blanks.

The blank space in this case being the appointment of Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies personal hand-holder Martin Liptrot (aka Liptrotsky) to the post of ‘Investment Development Manager’ on approximately £127K  pa (and not the previously reported £80K) . So the just-so-happens appointment comes just in time for Pip’s cheerleader to accompany him on a jaunt to Cannes – at our expense. Quelle surprise!

An Extraordinary Council

Needless to say (and what Cllr Kelly alludes to) is that we predicted this appointment way back in January when we reported:

Wirral Leaks regulars Wirral Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive  ‘ Princess’ Paula Basnett and Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies clearly see themselves as local power brokers. Unfortunately we’ve been around too long and seen too much that troubles us  and which leads us to conclude they’re more aptly described as power abusers.

This view is reinforced by  a couple of stories that have come our way over the weekend. Firstly the frightening news that Pip ‘urgently’ needs to appoint an ‘Investor Development Manager’ on £80K  – like you do when it appears you can do what the bloody hell you like with public money . Talk about out of the blue and into the red!

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15022687.Wirral_Council_in_rush_to_create_new___80k_management_job___with_no_questions_asked_/

So what’s the problem with this we hear you cry ?  – well , firstly the fact that opposition councillors are being prevented from asking any awkward questions (or in Wirral Council – speak ‘the call in’ procedure should be waived) and more significantly from what we hear that the main name in the frame for this personal appointment is current ‘policy advisor’ Martin Liptrot aka Liptrotsky . This would make sense as Liptrotsky  now needs to supplement his measly £45K for two days ‘work’ at Wirral Council after Mayor Joe Anderson failed to get the Metro Mayor gig . We ‘ll be particularly interested  to see how this ‘politically restricted post’ plays out and whether this insider tip -off actually comes to pass.

The Power Abusers

Inevitably it transpires that once again that what we predicted did come to pass. Now we’ve reported on some appalling Wirral Council machinations over the years but we can’t tell you how much we think this is absolutely disgusting – beyond nepotism and into the realms of corruption . Perhaps Power Boy Pip could explain the recruitment process to the people who fund his personal appointments ? But then we have to accept that this is Wirral – so what do you expect? It’s how things work round here!

PS – Oh by the way Cllr Kelly if we did have the lotto numbers the first thing we’d do is cash the cheque and get out of Wirral as fast as we could and we’d advise all decent, honest people to do the same.

LIPROT

Public Accountability Wirral-Style

Constituency Committee 024.JPG

We were looking forward to reporting from tonight’s Birkenhead Constituency Committee but we understand it’s been cancelled again – although we should be grateful that they’ve set up a meeting in November as originally they were due to meet next in  January 2017 – meaning  that would have been more cancellations than meetings this past year. We can only guess that they call it a  ‘Special  Meeting’ because it’s a special occasion when they actually meet!.

Now we don’t want to be seen to be singling out Birkenhead Constituency Committee but we really would like to know what these mockeries of  local democracy actually achieve?. Wallasey seem to be the only one of the 4 constituency committees that actually meets regularly and achieves anything.

However we do have a particular interest in Birkenhead Constituency Committee because let’s face it that’s where most of the absolute worst local politicians -and it has to be said a couple of the best- Cllrs Kelly and Cleary take a bow – who besmirch our blog can be seen up close and personal. The council “leader”  Power Boy Pip can be found there with both of his deputies  Cllr Ann “Going Forward” McLachlan and Cllr George “Combing Forward” Davies  along with Cllr  Angela “CGL who?” Davies , Cllr Matron McLaughlin and of course who could forget ex-council leader Foulkesy ?. Although we have to say we owe an apology to Foulkesy as we claimed in a previous post that he was not renowned for anything. That’s simply not true. He’s renowned for being a LIAR!.

Now that Birkenhead MP Frankenfield has given up the chair to spend more of his valuable time backstabbing Jezza Corbyn and badmouthing “Sir” Philip Green  he’s handed over the reins of the committee to his political agent and bumbling , mumbling go -between –  Cllr George Davies. And we think that in the light of the Thynne 2 report and the Ofsted report that those who were due to attend the Birkenhead Constituency Committee and who were implicated in various failings and misconduct have decided to keep a low profile and which may explain why tonight’s meeting was cancelled.

We’re particularly disappointed  that tonight’s meeting is off as we’d advised one of disgruntled sources to show up and shame them after they’d written to us in desperation to say  : “Why are they allowed to mismanage things so consistently.  As for my local councillor S Foulkes all I’ve received from him (and this was after two requests for acknowledgement of my emails) was an email telling me that council would resume on 1st September, useless is the kindest word I can use.  That said that is more of a reply than I got from Coun Davies, I never even got that from him…..”

That’s why we advise our readers to attend these meetings if only to hold these no-marks to account and remind them they are ACCOUNTABLE TO US.

This is something to which most councillors and the officer class of Wirral Council seem to be oblivious to. This is demonstrated once again by the fact that council sources inform us that :

A Spotlight session has been arranged at which Julia Hassall will lead a briefing for members regarding the outcomes of the recent Ofsted inspection of children’s services in Wirral. The purpose of the session will be to outline the key findings of the Ofsted inspection and the Council’s planned response. There will then be the opportunity for a question and answer session. All members of the Council are invited to attend the session, which will not be open to the public.

The session will be held on Tuesday 11th October, commencing at 6:00pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall. 

Under the circumstances all we can do is advise our readers to contact their local councillors and ask them to ask pertinent questions on their behalf . http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1

It maybe not the way that public accountability should work but at least we can point to an example as to how it should work :

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/data_protection_breach_4

As following our exposure of a serious data protection breach by Wirral Council they were compelled to report their failing to the Information Commissioner’s Office . It’s just a shame that the person who picked up the documents from the pavement had already beaten them to it!.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/environmental-disaster/

NOW THAT IS HOW PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY SHOULD WORK!

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