More Muse Musings

Muse

The closest we’re ever going to get to a Pre-Raphaelite joke Pic : ‘The Blessed Damozel’  Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Lady Lever Art Gallery , Port Sunlight )

What warms what’s left of the dying embers of our heart is when we set the hares running and questioning, enquiring  Wirralians come running back to share their concerns with us.

So following on from yesterday’s Muse Musings story we have yet more muse musings.

The first observation concerns a report in Place North West with whom Wirral Council seem to have struck up a special rapport.  After reading about the Wirral Council/Wirral Growth Company / Muse Developments ‘preferred development partner’ hook up what particularly caught the interest of one of our readers was something not included in the bulletpointed  list of ‘initial proposals’ and which as far as we know , is not reported elsewhere (or indeed in Council leader’s Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies’ message to  Labour Party members – see below) . Hidden in plain sight is the comment that  ‘Place North West also understands that some of the office space is earmarked as a new headquarters for Wirral Council’ . No prizes for guessing which of those currently playing ‘let’s- pretend-to-be -property magnates -with public assets’ will be earmarked for spanking new office space if this proposal comes off . However it would seem to be politically inopportune to metaphorically shout it from the top of the Wirral Waters ‘International Trade Centre’ (see any number of previously published artist’s impressions).  Read full article here : Muse chosen for £1bn Wirral regeneration

Meanwhile another switched on Wirral Leaks reader referred us to report of  next week’s Cabinet 28th February  where the Muse Developments appointment is to be rubber -stamped.   We’re sure you all know the drill by now . Pip introduces the report and talks about challenges/ Tory cuts/ budget shortfall/20 Pledges/bigs up Wirral Growth Company and then the rest of the Cabinet chip in with carefully rehearsed variations of Pip’s paean.

We can guarantee that what won’t be discussed is some of the more problematic areas in the report identified by own of our readers :

Bidder A is Muse

Bidder B is BCEGI/Scarborough

An investigative journalist such as your good selves might want to look at how Muse develop and how this agreement is to be made. (And the so called ‘Muse tax). They are stating 50/50 but Muse never put any money into schemes. They borrow. The report states that the BCEGI/Scarborough bid matched the land value with cash.

3.32 Based on the business plans submitted, Bidder A requires a Council cash injection whereas Bidder B requires land investment as security for the cash equity that it would put into the Joint Venture (JV) on the Council’s behalf. In terms of the peak exposure, Bidder B had a peak security requirement of £7.5m whereas the peak cash requirement from Bidder A is only £3.96m. Therefore, under the worst case scenario where the market crashes and the developments stall then Bidder A’s proposal has a lower peak risk exposure. 3.33 The total returns from the proposed development of the 11 priority sites assessed under Bidder A’s proposals is c£30.4m. This is broken down as follows:
· Land Value (Capital) – £17.7m
· Profit (Revenue) – £11.7m
· Loan Note Interest – £0.8m 3.34 The majority of the financial returns from Bidder A are delivered to the council in the first couple of years of the JV being established. In fact, £27.8m would be received by 2021.

 A couple of points which whiff:

 If the market crashes, what happens to land value? Presumably it rockets towards zero, whereas cash is always cash and their £3.96m loss is absolute.

  1. If Muse aren’t completing until 2022 (one year later Bidder A), how can they possibly have realised 91% of total returns by 2021?
  2. The 7.5m land value is also Bidder B’s assessment which is much more than the actual land value!!!

 Why are they happy to bear a risk of £3.96m cash against using their land intelligently! This doesn’t fit with the revenue & financial pressures that the council is under. I would have thought that an asset based investment would be more attractive to a cash poor authority.

 You may want to also look into the relationship with WBC financial analysts GVA and their relationships with MUSE in other schemes. The whole thing is a stitch up. The Bidder B development is quicker and a much more financially sound offer without the council borrowing cash. Bidder A has 2 multi storey car parks and the council are saying this is a good thing! During the bid they were telling all bidders that they can’t fill or make pay the car parks they already have! 

By the looks of it this one will run and run (and our hares are on to it). Meanwhile here’s the Pip-approved  version of the story that the Wirral Council ‘leader’ chooses to share with the Labour Party faithful (and clearly the not so faithful!) Check out the final line (which we have put in bold) which is pure Corbyn-lite Common Purpose speak . We’re just left wondering whether Frank Field approved the Jezza references?

Dear Labour Party member

In the coming weeks, Wirral’s Labour Council will be announcing a new initiative to drive economic growth across the borough in what will be the biggest public-sector led regeneration programme in the UK.

Wirral’s development story began nearly 200 years ago when investors were encouraged to choose our peninsula to build great shipyards, factories and plan new towns and villages that were the envy of the world.

Today we face new challenges – how to fund our public services, improve job opportunities for residents, provide suitable housing, and attract new investment into our borough.

As you know, in 2021 this Tory Government will stop providing councils with the Revenue Support Grant, a vital source of income for us to deliver front-line services. While wealthy London councils may be able to get by on their council tax and business rates, for authorities like ours it will be a devastating loss of nearly £30m a year.

We have to act to secure the services we know our residents rely upon. As Jeremy Corbyn made clear in our 2017 Manifesto  – “our public services must rest on the foundation of sound finances.”

Council’s Cabinet will meet on 28th February to approve a recommendation to appoint Northwest-based regeneration specialist Muse Developments as our joint venture partner to create Wirral Growth Company.

Muse has been behind a number of impressive schemes across the North West such as St. Paul’s Square in Liverpool and urban regeneration projects in Chester, Warrington and Stockport and we are impressed with their track record of working with local authorities and meeting a wide range of regeneration goals.

In what is an ambitious but responsible public-private sector partnership, the profits from the numerous developments will be split 50-50, with the Council’s share providing income to be reinvested to help compensate for the financial shortfall we face because of decisions taken by Tory Ministers in Whitehall.

This Council’s ambitions are shared by our new partner. We have enshrined in the guiding principles of the joint venture a commitment to deliver our 2020 pledges, to hire local workers, purchase materials and services from local businesses and to provide training and work experience for local residents through our relationship with Wirral Met College.

Three years ago, our administration set 2020 Pledges and I am pleased that Wirral Growth Company will play a key role in delivering these goals. We said we would create thousands of new jobs, attract 100s of millions in new investment, and provide good quality housing and protect and improve Wirral’s attractive local environment.

Wirral Growth Company will deliver:

£1bn Growth Plan
As the economy continues to flat-line under the failing, Brexit-obsessed Tories, Wirral Growth Company will be a game changer, injecting hundreds of millions of new investment in Wirral.

Buy Local, Hire Local
As our 2017 General Election manifesto stated, we understand the creation of wealth is a ‘collective endeavour between workers, entrepreneurs and investors’. That’s why I wanted to make sure Wirral got the best possible social outcomes from this deal, so have included commitments to hire locally, buy supplies from and contract with local firms, train local workers, and meet the highest environmental, health and safety standards.

New Homes
There is a housing shortage nationally, and a need for appropriate new homes to be built here in Wirral. Our plans will include the creation of more homes right across Wirral, meeting and exceeding our affordable homes targets in a way the private sector alone never could.

Extra Care Village
With health and social care services struggling to survive under the Conservatives, Wirral Growth Company will develop an Extra Care Village to look after vulnerable residents because this Labour-led authority cares for all, especially those in the greatest need.

Thousands of New Jobs
Providing work for our residents sits at the heart of any regeneration plan. We predict Wirral Growth Company will help deliver more than 3,000 new jobs within the first three years. We will also develop and strengthen local ties with Wirral Met College to train the workforce of the future as part of  a solid foundation for a local industry strategy.

With the deal being proposed, Wirral Council won’t be selling any of its assets, we will have full involvement in every development decision, we will benefit from the economic growth any regeneration creates and, as a 50-50 joint venture, the Council will benefit from the profits.

If cabinet approve the recommendation, the next steps include starting the conversation with you and local residents about what, where, when and how regeneration begins across Wirral.

I believe this is the start of an extraordinary new chapter for Wirral. Through our pioneering spirit, Wirral Growth Company can help blaze an urban regeneration trail that shapes our 21st century economic fortunes.

By using the strength of our common endeavour, I know we will able to deliver these bold plans to deliver for the many, not the few.

Members who are interested in learning more about Wirral Growth Company should visit www.wirralwellmade.com website for more details, or join the conversation on @wirralwellmade twitter account or wirralwellmade facebook page.

Cllr Phil Davies

Leader of Wirral Council

 

 

House of Bamboo

bamboo lettings 2
It’s made of sticks.
Sticks and bricks,
But you can get your kicks
In the house of bamboo.
If you consider the ‘personalities’ involved and the issues it raises it might strike you as surprising that we’ve only just caught up the curious case of Bamboo Lettings. Furthermore if you ever wanted to know about how things work on Wirral and in the wider world of networking – here it is laid out for you in this deeply worrying story.
We were prompted to pursue this story by a recent correspondent who asked us:
Also can you advise re Magenta Living being a Social non profit org. starting up a subsidiary called Bamboo Lettings which is a joint venture with Torus Group (St Helens – Graham Burgess) which will increase the returns on some formerly social-rented stock by letting them at market rates for a period of five years.
At 31st March 2017, Magenta Living had transferred 5 properties into Bamboo Lettings, with the intention being that a further 95 properties will be transferred into Bamboo by the end of 2017-18. Magenta Annual Report 2016/17
It might be legal but who decides property A is Social – Property B next door is commercial and charges more? 100 now ,how many in future years? Still classed as a Charity? Stinks to high heaven……………..
However it should be noted it was a brave and curious Wirral resident who first raised the issue courtesy of a Freedom of Information request in May 2016 . You might be surprised to know this local housing development wasn’t lauded with a press release featuring fat felines grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. Maybe that’s because some deeply troubling questions might have been asked at the time – Bamboo Lettings – FOI request
It was left to Joe Halewood and his excellent welfare rights blog SPeye blog to pick up on the issues with this post in February 2017 where Joe writes :
Bamboo Lettings is owned by Magenta and Torus.  Magenta was the former council housing department of Wirral Borough Council, and Torus is the former council housing departments of Warrington and St Helens.  It has offices in Wirral and even its own Facebook page here and there you can see the strap line Bamboo Lettings is a private lettings company, with properties in Wirral, Warrington and St Helens.  Such contrived and opaque constructs are no longer needed reader!
Then belatedly, but God love him ,  Lib Dem Cllr Stuart Kelly tried to raise the profile of this dodgy development and introduced a Notice of Motion at a Wirral Council meeting in July 2017
LOSS OF SOCIAL HOUSING TO BAMBOO LETTINGS LLP (to be debated)
Proposed by Councillor Stuart Kelly
Seconded by Councillor Chris Carubia
Council notes the establishment of a private lettings company known as Bamboo
Lettings LLP between Magenta Living and a housing organisation called Torus.
Council notes that Magenta are planning to transfer under a lease arrangement up to100 social housing homes to Bamboo Lettings company for them to be let at full market rents.
Council notes that a three bedroom house offered for let by Bamboo in the
Woodchurch area will cost a prospective tenant £137 per week against the social
rent charged by Magenta of circa £97 per week in the same area (and against an
‘affordable’ rent level of £110).
In addition, Council is concerned that Bamboo Lettings also charge private sector
style ‘fees’; an example of these fees for a three bedroom house in the Woodchurch
area is:
 Application fee – £50
 Administration fee – £75
 Guarantor fee – £50
 Check out fee – £60
 Additional deposit for a pet – £100
Council believes that these fees are not linked to the service provided, are
unacceptable and extortionate and requests a justification for this regime.
Council notes the Cabinet Member for Housing has told Magenta that Wirral Council would not want to see larger 4 bedroom accommodation, those for older people and those adapted properties being transferred; and has highlighted to Magenta concerns about a number of disposals occurring in the same popular locations, thus reducing availability of social housing stock.
Council notes that there are currently 9643 people registered on the Choice Based
Lettings System, of which 2348 have a housing priority need.
Council has objections to the use of social housing in this way and requests (through the Council’s Managing Director for Delivery to Magenta Living) that the relationship with Torus/Bamboo be suspended to allow the Council the opportunity to fully investigate the use of social housing stock as de facto private rented houses https://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50042720/Council%20NoMs%20-%2010-7-17.pdf8
Cllr Kelly elaborated further on his concerns about this development in this Wirral Globe article  – Councillor slams ‘unacceptable and extortionate transfer of former council houses’
Needless to say nobody took a blind bit of notice of the ‘Notice of Motion’ and that’s not just because Cllr Kelly is a Lib Dem with – let’s face it – no power or influence over Wirral Council whatsoever.
So let’s join the dots and explain why that might be the case and look at the interested parties who do have that kind of power and influence. First of all can we say that any joint venture between Magenta Living and Torus should have been called Red Bull(shit)- geddit?
First of all here’s the Torus Group Board or more accurately the Torus COMMON PURPOSE Board TORUS COMMON PURPOSE BOARD
We first highlighted the connections here : Where Are They Now? Part 4- Emma Degg
Torus 032
Wirral Leaks readers may recall the candy floss- haired one on the left is former Wirral Council CEO Graham Burgess who’s main claim to fame is that he once shared a hole at the ‘The Open’ with former Wirral Council Super Duper Director Kevin Adderley when it was last held in Hoylake. The man on the right is Rob’ Narcissist’ Young – a former Assistant Director of Wirral Council’s Housing Department.
Although surprisingly for such egomaniacs they’re quite shy about their involvement in this money-making racket masquerading as Tory housing policy : Companies House Officers
See how this works yet ? If you don’t , you need to realise that Magenta Living Board includes such Wirral Council  luminaries as Cllr Steve ‘Foulkesy’ Foulkes , Cllr Jeff ‘Kindred’ Green and Cllr Stuart ‘Witless’ Whittingham Magenta Living Board
Which raises the question as to why they were appointed in the first place – could it be they are the last people who’d raise questions in the best interests of those who need social housing?  Ever felt you’ve been bamboozled by bureaucrats?

Advent Farewell 13 – Kill Bill

Vampire

Has Bill made another killing ? 

As we promised we thought we’d comment on the latest instalment involving the travels and travails of infamous former Wirral Council head of law Bill Norman.

Yesterday we were flooded with gleeful emails telling us that Norman  had ‘resigned’ from Cheshire East Council (CEC) . Among many of the the emails was the following attachment telling us the story :  Norman Resigns

Of course this is nowhere near the full story but sounds strangely familiar to the circumstances surrounding Norman’s departure from Wirral Council . The only difference being that the usual Wirral Council cock-up gifted him a cool £146K  golden handshake. You can read the full horror story here : Trick or Treat

However just to recap on the CEC situation there were reports in April of this year that Norman had asked a colleague to ‘dig the dirt’ on a CEC auditor who had previously raised legitimate concerns about CEC  leader Cllr Mike Jones dodgy contract with his personal physio. Jones eventually resigned over the scandal. In July Norman was suspended pending an investigation. Full story here. The announcement of his resignation ” with immediate effect” in December leaves us , as usual, with more questions than answers.  For starters we don’t know whether Norman pocketed more public money for being not so much an abject failure for his latest gig or for allegedly being a nasty piece of work. As we’ve commented before in our  Comings and Goings story the ‘dig the dirt’ strategy was allegedly deployed by Norman’s successor at Wirral Council , Surjit Tour, as part of the infamous ‘ The Sex List’ probe (no pun intended)

The dirt concerned allegations of sexual impropriety involving a now departed senior council officer . So far, so sordid. However, for us , what is even more sleazy is that the approach came with the  inducement that it would be beneficial to staff member’s careers if they dished the dirt. Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if you have absolutely no morals,ethics or integrity. What did we say in yesterday’s post about Wallasey Town Hall being a cesspit? 

Full story here : Dirty Work

Tell us – are these the type of practices they teach in Solicitor School? It’s like the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) Code of Conduct doesn’t exist.

Consequently ,as once again, Norman’s departure from a local authority is shrouded in mystery we have to ask ourselves where will he rock up next ?  You’d think after trouble in Torbay, woe in Wirral, havoc in Hereford and sleaze in Cheshire East that future potential employers might want to ask some searing questions about his employment history.  However a chequered past doesn’t  seem to be an impediment to high office and high salary. We often get asked for an explanation for this strange phenomena in local government where there is always,always,always public money to be found to reward failure. Our incredulous readers have often asked us whether we think this phenomena is linked to Common Purpose? , the Freemasons?, Knights of St Columba?

We don’t know the answer to that but we do know that it’s got to stop. And hopefully that explains the title of this post – we’re not suggesting a vigilante group turn up with pitchforks and torches at  Norman’s no doubt beautifully appointed home. We just need to find a way to put an end to the Bills of this world making a killing and sucking the very lifeblood out of local government.

P.S. Contacts in Cheshire East are asking questions about Daniel Dickinson who is supposed to be acting director of legal services, in place of Bill Norman at CEC . Allegedly he hasn’t been seen at the CEC Westfields office in Sandbach for quite some time now and no one ‘on the ground’ seems to know where he is. Someone must know where he is and what he’s doing. Answers on a postcard please.

 

Where Are They Now ? Part 4 – Emma Degg

new-job

Following on from yesterday’s ‘ Where Are They Now?’ story we follow up with perhaps the most successful trio ever to emerge, seemingly unscathed, from the wreckage of Wirral Council.

Yes,  once again we’re talking about the Graham Burgess/ Kevin Adderley/Emma Degg er,’triangle’ . As we have previously reported they snaffled over £500,000 between them as they parted company with their former employer under circumstances that in any other normal organisation might have led to their dismissal. But as we know Wirral Council are far from normal and the ‘conduct unbecoming’ of senior officers went without sanction , and was instead , rewarded with public money .

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/dearly-departed/

As we know Adderley walked down the road to the Wirral Chamber of Commerce with a cool quarter of a million . As far as we know Burgess got about half of that (although he’d only been at Wirral for about five minutes) and went on to chair both Blackburn & Darwen’s Clinical Commissioning Group , and the housing group Torus Common Purpose Board –  yes you read that right, the Torus COMMON PURPOSE Board!

http://www.wearetorus.co.uk/theteam/torus-group-board/

Not bad for someone who’d ‘retired’ from  Wirral Council……or more accurately ousted by Birkenhead MP and Victorian moralist Frank Field who feigned outrage at Burgess’s ‘unseemly conduct’ but was really rather more concerned that Burgess wouldn’t bend to his will over the ‘Wirralgate’ scandal.

And so finally having failed to be appointed the de facto Chief Executive of Wirral Council – and being prevented from doing so by Cllr Steve Foulkes and his use of some rather dubious tactics which led to Degg’s first bung  – the irresistible rise of that modern phenomenon/curse , the ‘Policy Advisor’ has struck again (see also Degg’s spin doctor successor at Wirral Council – Martin Liptrot).

For, as from tomorrow (March 1st), Degg takes up the position of Chief Executive of North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT). Degg must laughing into her Uggs/Rocket Dogs as having snaffled not one ,  but two pay-outs from Wirral Council she now lands a plum regional job.

It’s all worked out rather well hasn’t it ?- as it always seems to do with these kind of people. Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if you’ve got the ‘right’ people to give you a good reference!

 

 

Wirral Council – Where Transformation Means More Of The Same

york-010

A shout out to one of our many Wirral Council watchers who has sent us some news all the way from the charming city of York.

Here we pick out some of the most pertinent points from the following newspaper article published by The York Press ( who are like our own dear Wirral Globe only a little bit posher). Whilst the issues raised read like our back catalogue – serious failings, procedural breaches,cover ups, procurement issues, dodgy contracts, lack of monitoring, culture of fear , leaked reports and how City of York Council are more concerned about reputation management than exposing malpractice. Bear with us , there is a punchline :

The Press revealed yesterday, council bosses have been criticised for paying tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money without proper monitoring, and told to take “robust action” to avoid a repeat of serious failings.

The council refused to publish one of two auditors’ reports, but a copy has now been seen by The Press and adds more detail to the published report.

It alleges that another £150,000 was paid out, and a catalogue of other failures including the council official responsible not getting proper tenders, quotes or contracts for work commissioned, and not drawing up business cases or monitoring the work that was paid for.

According to the report, there was a series of policy breaches, but auditors have made clear there is no evidence of fraud or criminality.

It states:

  • Stewart Halliday, who held senior roles with the council, authorised a raft of payments to communications consultant Stuart Goulden without obtaining quotes
  • Mr Halliday sent council information to his own personal email address, and the personal email addresses of one serving and one former councillor
  • Contracts were awarded to other companies Mr Goulden was involved with, as well as to him personally
  • There was a “lack-of-recognition” in the council that Mr Goulden was being paid so much
  • Procurement staff and a former chief executive tried to challenge the troublesome contracts, but failed “possibly due to the culture within the area at the time”.

The auditors’ investigation included checking Mr Halliday’s email account after he had left the council, trying to check historic entry logs at the council headquarters, and exploring potential personal links between Mr Halliday and Mr Goulden. None were found.

The auditors said they could see Mr Goulden had carried out the work, but they could not find any evidence Mr Halliday had followed procurement rules by looking for other quotes, drawing up contracts and putting them on the council register, or monitoring the work.

Instead, the report lists ten alleged breaches including no paperwork being retained; no quotes or contracts for the work; one payment in advance of work being carried out; and a lack of contract monitoring.

Furthermore, auditors say they found emails containing council information which had been sent from Mr Halliday’s work account to non-council email addresses, including some information marked “confidential”.

The auditors raised concerns about the potential data protection implications of that.

Mr Halliday was the council’s assistant director for transformation and change in 2014, and had also held the title of head of strategy, partnerships and communications.

Mr Goulden and his company Like No Other worked for the council between 2013 and 2016.

A spokeswoman for City of York Council said: “The report was exempt from publication and our employees identities kept private because it identified individuals by name and this information related specifically to their financial or business affairs. As a responsible employer we have a fundamental duty to protect the privacy of our employees and former employees. We are taking this matter very seriously. An investigation into how this confidential report was released is being conducted and this will involve North Yorkshire Police.

The Press has made efforts to contact Mr Halliday, without success.”

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/15098444.Council_payments_row__what_the_secret_report_said___/

Perhaps  The Press could contact a certain Mr  Stewart Halliday at Wirral Council  – stewarthalliday@wirral.gov.uk

Could this be the same  Mr Halliday  who is now responsible for Wirral Council’s  ‘Transformation Programme’ ?. I think we should be told!

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

If so Wirral Council were clearly impressed that Halliday can do a powerpoint presentation and utter council-speak at the same time.

Moreover we can almost guarantee he used the word ‘passionate’ if he had an interview. But then again we can’t understand how many of these people get appointed in the first place. Is it a Masonic thing ? Common Purpose? Knights of St Columba? or do they just have to like playing golf and support Everton FC?.

As for this bogus ‘transformation agenda’ it comes to something when even enriched municipal mandarins tell us it’s ‘time to stop the lies ‘. Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy chief executive, Rob Whiteman, and chief executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority, Martin Reeves say that local government should stop lying about its financial problems and give up pretending transformation will solve the massive underfunding it faces.

https://www.themj.co.uk/EXCLUSIVE-Time-to-stop-the-lies/206737

As far as we’re concerned at Wirral Leaks the ‘transformation agenda’ is nothing more than opportunists setting themselves up to benefit from the demise of public services. The hope being  that one day they will get a cushy number sitting on a trustee or management board. Locally one only has to check out the Wirral Chamber of Commerce and Magenta Living . Nationally there are Arm’s Length Organisations (ALO’s) and private enterprises which are awash with local government failures supplementing their engorged pension pots by picking at the corpse of local government.

So remember when you see or hear the word ‘transformation’ – be afraid, be very afraid.