Oh no it’s a LOBO!

 

Image result for debt resistance ukImage result for Debt Resistance UK

With all this Labour Party conference talk of Private Finance Initiative ( PFI) schemes we thought we’d turn our attention to the Local Authority (LA) equivalent of the never-never and and return to an old story concerned with LOBO loans.

LOBO-tomy Loans

For those unfamiliar with the concept -although you might not know you’re paying through the nose for one –  a LOBO stands for Lender Option Borrower Option.

The Lender Option means that periodically the lender can impose a new interest rate.

The Borrower Option is to agree to new interest rate or pay loan back in full.

However if the local authority chooses to pay the loan back in full there are punitive ‘break penalties’ which can cost the local authority (and more specifically the council taxpayer) an arm and a leg.

Last night’s Audit & Risk Management Committee confirmed that Wirral Council have taken out a LOBO loan and the reason that the annual accounts have not been fully signed off by external auditor Grant Thornton is that a member of the public has raised an objection to the LOBO loan situation.

Indeed we understand  from the excellent Debt Resistance UK website that Wirral Council is one of  46  councils that are subject to such a legal objection (see below). Full details can be read here : LOBO legal objections

LOBO Debt & “Fair (repayment) Value” for financial liabilities at 46 UK Councils where objections were lodged in 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years.

As you can see Wirral have taken out an eyewatering  LOBO loan of £157+ million and it is estimated that they will be paying back £295 + million .  The loan repayments represent 10.2% of council tax income and debt per person on Wirral is £924 .

Furthermore latest figures Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) indicate that Wirral is the 13th (unlucky for us) overall highest LA borrower in the UK. No doubt part of that that is to cover pay-offs to council managers,  contracts for consultants and salaries for ‘transformers !

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Consultant Insults – Continued

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The long running saga involving Wirral Council’s love of costly external consultants continues.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/consultant-insults/

As following on from our interims story – The £Million Interims – we understand that there are full details knocking about of consultants performing an interim role for Wirral Council.

However the people who actually pick up the DAILY tab of £8,404 – that’s us folks! – apparently aren’t allowed to know who we are paying, what we’re paying and what we’re paying them for – go figure!

This is because Wirral Council consider the information to be confidential and the poor downtrodden consultants that are not directly employed by the Council will have confidentiality preserved when it comes to cold hard cash.

Huh ?! – not at Wirral Council it won’t, especially when much of the information is rightly already in the public domain. We think that whoever  made up this diktat on the hoof realises that someone who does work for a local authority and is paid with Council taxpayers money somehow has a right to keep their paypacket a secret is not a particularly convincing argument.

That might explain why they usually throw in ‘commercial confidentiality’ as an additional back up as to why the Council need to keep a lid on the gory details of their expensive consultancy habit.  Apparently it could inhibit the Council from recruiting future interims. Whaaaat?! – can we therefore assume that the remuneration listed on recruitment sites will just henceforth state : ‘ Fill yer boots !’

It’s such a shame that the information about the 18 interims that are currently on the Council payroll is not more readily available as we’re sure that Wirral Council taxpayers would find it most illuminating/infuriating . Indeed we’re sure that one of Wirral Leaks’ regular contributors , Charles Nunn, will be particularly pleased to hear that we understand that Stewart Halliday’s contract , at a daily rate of £705 , and which was due to end in August has now been extended to the end of 2017.

However it should be noted that ‘Happy’ Halliday is not the highest paid interim on the list. We understand that accolade goes to Surjit Tour’s replacement . Philip McCourt ,the interim Assistant Director – Law & Governance has to get by on a mere £800 a day …….making him pro rata , at £200K + per annum, on more than Wirral Council’s CEO, Eric Robinson.

Wirral Council watchers may find some consolation in knowing that one of the 5 ‘transformers’ on the list , Martin Liptrot, finds himself ranked 16th out of the 18 interims listed in terms of his day rate – a paltry £350!

And finally before we go we’d just like to inform our readers that we’ll be taking a long overdue summer break throughout August – unless of course THAT story breaks . In the interim (!) we’ll  be considering how we co-ordinate the ‘managed decline’ of Wirral Leaks when we return in the autumn.

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The £Million Interims

 

Interim

We’re sure you can appreciate that we’re still processing the fall out from the full Council meeting held earlier this week as it was a very long meeting !

However we are aware Lib Dem councillor Phil Gilchrist asked Council leader Phil Davies the following  question about ‘interim appointments’ that had been made during Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson tenure to assist with the implementation of his New Operating Model (or Non Operating Model as we like to call it)…….
How many interim officers are currently in post and what, typically, are the daily rates that are being paid?
What expenditure has been incurred on interim posts between 30th June 2015 and
30th June 2017?

Apparently it transpires there are currently 12 interims/consultants in place across Wirral Council. Their daily rate of pay varies between £350 and £720  – once again , nice work if you can get it and you can get it even working for a cash-strapped local authority ! In terms of expenditure incurred since June 2015, the total gross spend was revealed to be approximately £2,530,556.
However it has been explained  that where interims have been covering a vacant post, a proportion of this will have been funded by the budget for that post. Officers were not able to check exact figures but they estimated that  £1.5  million was paid for from monies attached to these vacant posts.

This would appear to mean that there has been an additional ONE MILLION POUNDS spent on interim appointments over the last two years for which seemingly there wasn’t a budget. And we thought the drive behind the ‘New Operating Model’ was that Wirral Council should be more sustainable and business like !

With news that another interim appointment has been made to replace the outgoing Head of Law, Surjit Tour (about which more another time) and yet more senior management restructuring we’re getting the impression that Stressed Eric and his million pound fly by nights are flying by the seat of their pants!

Cool Million

Help!

Help

We like to peer behind the veneer of Wirral Council’s Most Improved Council tag and deflate the hype behind their 20/20 Vision and bring you the reality behind the fantasy wish fulfilment.

With this end we bring to your attention Cllr Adrian “Windbag” Jones’s performance at Monday’s Council meeting and his praise for the all new , all singing , all dancing Wirral Council website.As far as we can tell it just uses a bigger font but hey Her Ladyship and I aren’t complaining as we’ve mislaid our pince-nez and monocle respectively. So currently at Leaky Towers it’s not so much 20/20 vision as blurred vision !.

However Cllr Jones was keen to reassure councillors that the improvements to the website were made out of existing council resources – well except for 10 grand from the Local Government Association –  which makes us wonder as to whether this money just goes back and forth in a brown envelope between both organisations.This statement was no doubt made to stress that none of those cash-hungry consultants were involved in the miraculous transformation.

Jones did the obligatory praise the staff routine – although from what they tell us they don’t want praise they’d just prefer not to have to live in fear of redundancies, pay cuts , bullying managers and clueless councillors.

However it has been made clear to us that all is not well when it comes to some of the IT crowd.

We’re talking specifically here about the IT Helpdesk on which , according to our sources , Wirral Council has spent £400,000 +  on hiring consultants over the past 3 years.

This consultancy work included a survey undertaken asking other council departments what they thought of the IT Helpdesk.
Subsequently another consultant by the name of Tracey was brought in – this was the one who we have previously reported was struggling to get by on £900 a day ! – yes , not only £900 a day but she was paid this princely sum by our cash -strapped council over a period of two years!.
Once she left (probably after going into tax exile) it was another 12 months before staff were sent on a two day training event to help put the IT Helpdesk back on track (or should that be back online?).
Now we hear that the IT Helpdesk have the help of yet another consultant who are now doing the highly paid hand-holding and advising the IT Helpdesk on how to ask staff have they tried switching their computer off and switching it back on again.
Along the way we’re hearing the usual tales of nepotism,bullying,incompetence and grievances and the usual Wirral Council response of not tackling the underlying problems and questioning the calibre of their managers.
But why deal with all that unpleasantness when you can just squander public money hiring consultants ?!.

Marty’s Got A Brand New Gig

Spin and Marty 2

What were we saying last week about consultants “auditioning” first before they got a lucrative gig with Wirral Council?.

We assume West Kirby dwelling  Martin Nipslip ,sorry Liptrot successfully “auditioned” for his latest gig during Margaret Greenwood’s West Wirral election campaign.

We were wryly amused to read that the final line of Executive Support Officer to the Leader of Wirral Council Role Description below is that this appointment is a “Politically Restricted Post” .This means that self-proclaimed Labour lover Martin Tripup ,sorry Liptrot should remain politically neutral at all times –  just like his recently departed Wirral Council PR predecessor Emma Degg ,  who just happened to be a former Labour councillor at Cheshire Council.

Finally can someone explain to us here at Leaky Towers why some local politicians are outraged at what they claim is a politically motivated appointment on the part of the Labour council leader and yet didn’t bat an eyelid when another staunch Labour supporter Nick Warren got the Wirralgate cover up investigation gig , which in our eyes was a much more blatant example of politically bias and conflict of interest  ?.

Anyway here is what you get for your money :

ROLE DESCRIPTION
Executive Support Officer to the Leader of Wirral Council

Background

The role of Executive Support Officer is a new position providing in-depth support to the Leader of Wirral Council, one of the largest authorities in England and Britain’s most improved council.

Wirral, like other local authorities, is in a period of unprecedented change. The authority is looking to secure new devolved powers, manage significant reductions in budgets and grants and respond to the needs of its growing, diverse population with innovative and efficient service delivery.

To continue the progress made to date, Wirral has developed a five year plan – 2020 Vision, and the delivery of this will require the authority to work in close collaboration with existing partners and build new relationships with public and private sector organisations to meet these objectives.

The role will:

  •  Work closely with the Leader of the Council (and Cabinet Members as appropriate/required).
  • Work closely with the Council’s Chief Executive Strategic Leadership Team (’SLT’) in the provision of provision of high level strategic and delivery advice to support the policy development and implementation of the Leader’s vision, goals, priorities and responsibilities.
  •  In conjunction with SLT provide high level advice and guidance on the development and implementation of the wider Wirral council policy agenda.
  • Manage the overall work and business management of the Leader’s office.
  • Support the effective development and implementation of timely communications from the Leader of the Council.

The responsibilities include:

  •  In conjunction with SLT, provide day-to-day strategic and operational management support to the Leader, ensuring his policy priorities and initiatives are reflected in the work of the council.
  • · Assist with the coordination of the delivery of Leader’s long term policy objectives as identified in 2020 Vision, liaising with Cabinet, SLT and officers to provide insight and government affairs guidance to facilitate collective policy decision-making and delivery of corporate strategies.
  •  Act as a flexible resource to the Leader of the Council, Cabinet and SLT to aid understanding of leader’s policy priorities, support the development of cross-cutting policy initiatives to help effectively deliver the council’s top priorities as reflected in the plan 2020 Vision.
  •  Work with the Council’s communications team to ensure that there is a communications strategy in place to support the leader to engage effectively with residents, members, partners and key influencers locally, regionally and nationally.
  •  Assist with championing initiatives across the council that reflect the Leader’s priorities and drive coherent, consistent and impactful outcomes in the council and borough’s best interest.
  •  Support the facilitation of productive management team interactions within cabinet, council, combined authorities and other groups. Support the Leader and SLT drive influence in the City Region through the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Local Enterprise Partnership and North West and national agendas to the benefit of Wirral.
  •  Attend leadership meetings, monitor leader’s agenda, prepare briefings, reports and recommendations (as required).
  •  Attend meetings in the community and as liaison at partner and stakeholder meetings, including special meetings on urgent issues in the community, and others of a variable nature.

Martin Liptrot Person Specification

  •  A clear ability to act in an inspirational leadership role in support of the Leader and SLT in relation to policy development, advocacy and stakeholder relations.
  •  A successful track record of giving high level policy and strategy advice on complex or sensitive issues in a political environment at senior level.
  •  Track record of leading high profile strategic projects successfully and delivering outcomes in a challenging and demanding environment.
  •  Extensive experience of working within a political environment and liaising with local government officials, government ministers, senior business leaders and the ability to influence relevant outcomes.
  •  Significant experience of promoting policy messages via engagement with a variety of media including print media, radio and television.
  •  Excellent understanding of the most significant issues facing Wirral, with knowledge about how these may be tackled through development of the various policy areas applicable to this role.

This is a Politically Restricted Post.