Happy Halliday

 

Happy Halliday

Spookily, we were about to follow up our story about one of Wirral Council’s new ‘transformation’ gurus , Stewart Halliday,  when we were sent the above story from Private Eye with exactly the same title that this ‘excellent local blog’ was about to run with ( great minds etc;). We say ‘one of’ as we understand there have been two new highly paid ‘interim transformation ‘ council appointments to push through the further dismantling  of public services.

Astonishingly it has been suggested to us that ‘Happy Halliday’ could be in line for a significant  increase on the estimated £90K salary that he received at City of York Council despite leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.Talk about rewarding failure!

We’ve already reported on his previous involvement in a series of irregularities at City of York Council involving procurement and contract procedures and the use of consultants.  Among the allegations made against Halliday were that he failed to get proper tenders, quotes or contracts for £174K worth of work that he commissioned and he didn’t draw up business cases or monitor the work that was paid for.

Wirral Council – Where Transformation Means More Of The Same

Halliday had previously also been implicated in criticism that City of York Council had not been very good at publishing its data according to a report compiled by Spend Network, which forms part of the Spend Small campaign by the Centre for Entrepreneurs :.

“They ( City of York Council) are bad at publishing data that we could use to analyse what they are doing. It’s obvious they don’t think anyone is going to run the data against an algorithm. They have got dirty data, and manage it in a poor way. It’s not very helpful for people to use the data, and not helpful for people to read it as a human, it’s very hard to interpret.”

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/11463826.Council_criticised_over____dirty_data________report/

And so with Wirral Council pleading poverty at every turn and imposing a 4.99% rise in Council Tax it doesn’t sit well with us that they are potentially appointing two further people on six figure ‘interim’ contracts,one of whom at least , has a chequered past. This of course hasn’t prevented Halliday securing a big cheque future at the rogue’s paradise that is Wirral Council. As we know all too well Halliday follows a trail of local government garbage who have cleaned up at our expense.Who can forget Rob Vickers – the social care consultant who was paid £180K for 18 months ‘work’ which essentially involved helping to cover up two Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) scandals (‘the 4 week delay’ disgrace and, a thus far unreported, further unlawful overcharging of vulnerable people). And there have been plenty of others just like him, jumping on and off the endless money-go-round that is the Wirral Council consultant carousel.

We can only predict that one day we will look back and reflect that these were the darkest days in the history of public services – not just in terms of public finance, but in respect of the calibre of people who are running them and/or running them down.

 

smug-halliday

A compiler of an illustrated dictionary may find a use for this picture of Stewart Halliday next to the word ‘smug’.

 

The Morton ‘Incident’ – Revisited

overcharging-008

Whilst our focus was on the Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro question raised at the Wirral Council meeting on 19th December – and to which we presume he is still awaiting an answer from council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies – we missed this seemingly innocuous little question from Tory leader  Cllr Jeff Green.

As you can see he , all other councillors and the Strategic Leadership Team  were given an answer to his question about ‘overcharging for care services’ which was directed at the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care Cllr Chris Jones earlier today.

Now we don’t know – yet anyway – what was behind Cllr Green’s question but we suspect he’ll be making a media statement shortly about how ‘outraged’ he is about a case of ‘overcharging for care services’ that has been brought to his attention.

We know he certainly knows of one already – as do many councillors and council officers who have chosen to cover up a quite scandalous case of overcharging.

We know this because we forwarded this email to Wirral Council whistleblower Martin Morton himself (and we were quite amused to hear he’d already received a copy !)

Morton must be so relieved that as he rots on the dole unable to find a job and with very little prospect of ever getting another job again his experience has now been redefined as an ‘incident’. That’s if you can call systemic bullying and harassment , cover ups , lies , £1 million pay offs,  £31 million toxic debts, the council  doing business with drugs money launderers, turning a blind eye to the abuse of vulnerable people , covering up of a death and the paying back of £736,000 to disabled people as an ‘incident’.

Morton maintains there is an outstanding case of over charging and that money was not paid back ‘as soon as possible’ as Cllr Jones claims or indeed at all. This allegation   follows the publication of the ‘Independent Review of Allegations Made by Martin Morton ( & Others)’ cobbled together by compromised consultant Anna Klonowski in 2012. Now we don’t know whether this is what Cllr Green is hinting at (and frankly we’re not that interested in his political point scoring) but we do have a mountain of material from Morton evidencing this further allegation of overcharging and which was not reported on his now sadly defunct blog.

We are currently working through this simply astonishing archive and will be bringing you all the tawdry details of this long running and ongoing cover up and the names of all those involved. From what we’ve seen already it makes a monumental lie of the claim that ‘lessons following the Martin Morton incident were learned and implemented’.

We will also be reflecting on the fact that almost exactly 5 years after its publication that the  so-called shockwave of Klonowski’s Independent Review can now be more accurately described as a slight tremor and failed miserably to drain the poison from the body politic on Wirral.

Oh No ! – It’s The LGO!

 

lgo

An interesting and disturbing case has arrived at Leaky Towers via a source on Twitter which we think gives a telling insight into how Wirral Council’s Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) still works when it comes to the way they treat people with disabilities  – despite their repeated cries of ‘lessons have been learned’ ‘transformation’ and ‘ choice’

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) made a ruling on a case involving a disabled woman from Wirral in February of this year. Publishing the report on their website some time later they found that :

The Council was at fault in reducing Ms B’s care hours without a reassessment of her needs. It has now agreed that she can receive care again from her previous (preferred) provider, and will restore her care hours to the previous level assessed to meet her needs. The Council agrees to reimburse Ms B’s representatives for the costs they have incurred in paying privately for care for some hours she has missed, and make a payment to them in acknowledgement of their time and trouble in pursuing the complaint. It will also offer Ms B a payment in acknowledgement of the distress this matter has caused her, which will equal the cost of the care hours she has missed.

http://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/adult-care-services/other/15-003-163#point1

This is a particularly significant ruling and testimony to the perseverance and determination of those seeking justice in this case. We stress this as it should not be under-estimated just how hard historically it has been for a complainant to get a ruling of maladministration from the LGO . Written evidence submitted by LGO Watch and Public Service Ombudsman Watchers to the Communities and Local Government Committee in 2012  is particularly critical of the LGO’s poor record on rulings in favour of complainants and cites Wirral Council as a case study. Although we do need to acknowledge that this was 4 years ago and it was the year that saw the publication of the damning Independent Review of Wirral Council , unfortunately there is very little to suggest that the conclusions reached about how Wirral Council operated then are any different now (see below).

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmcomloc/431/431vw12.htm

Talking of which we were particularly interested to see the reference in the LGO ruling to Wirral Council having to make a payment amounting to £500 for the ‘time and trouble’ of the complainants. The phrase reminded us of a story we published earlier this year where we made reference to the Wirralgate complainants being offered a much more generous £3,000 (presumably x 4) by Wirral Council for their ‘time and trouble’ despite the fact that there has been no published report upholding their complaints.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/time-and-trouble/

Surely this begs the following questions : Firstly, if the Wirralgate complainants were not happy with a 3 grand bung , why weren’t they advised to take their complaint to the LGO ?  and secondly ,  why instead did they get a bespoke inquiry which is seemingly concerned primarily with a potentially even larger compensation payment?.

We suppose the answer to these questions  brings us back to the conclusion submitted in written evidence to the CLG Committee referenced above : No wonder councils like Wirral can get away with cover-ups and maladministration for years….until of course someone else does the LGO’s job and exposes council cover ups and maladministration.

 

 

 

Private Sector / Public Interest

Private Sector 2

We said we’d return to the matter of the inevitable closure of Girtrell Court. And sure enough at last night’s Wirral Council meeting – despite the impassioned and eloquent appeal on behalf of the Save Girtrell Court campaign by carer Bernard Halley – the Council pressed on with their proposed “we know best” shiny new respite scheme  (with much reduced capacity ) in Tollemache Road.

Now we know nothing about the proposed housing and support provider Sanctuary Housing who are associated with this new scheme but what we’ve raised time and time again is this headlong rush by a Labour controlled Wirral Council to gleefully hand public money over to the private sector.

Perhaps when it comes to emptying the bins and mending the roads we don’t get quite so animated but we do when it comes to services for vulnerable people. We want to state for the record that we don’t think services for vulnerable people should always be subject to the vagaries of the free market. Putting profit before people is never a good thing – especially when those people are particularly vulnerable.

We have pointed out before that the same people voting to close public services are the same people wearing ‘I ♥ NHS’ badges and who wouldn’t dream of selling off health services so private enterprise could get a piece of the action . Or perhaps they would…

If history has taught us anything that when you put profit before people the result is often (if not always) that services are costly and the quality is poor. It’s a LOSE-LOSE situation – as anyone who’s keeping track of the appalling state of care homes and familiar with the news of yet another care home closure on Wirral will tell you – although judging by the following report that doesn’t include  Wirral Council’s Department of Adult Social Services  (DASS) !.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/wirral-care-home-left-elderly-11590048

A  DASS spokeswoman says of this latest closure and how it will affect elderly residents  : “Their health, wellbeing and future care is our most pressing and important priority” .

Yes , but where were you when there were allegations of abuse, that 25 residents were sharing one bathroom and untrained staff were administering medication ?. No doubt making plans to close Girtrell Court and hand services over to the private sector!. Talking of which we’d particularly like to know how that little experiment is going with the privatisation of drug and alcohol services agreed in 2014  when services were handed over to registered charity Crime Reduction Initiatives (CRI).

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/privatisation-of-nhs-drug-and-alcohol-service-in-wirral

Perhaps we should ask Cllr Angela Davies who worked for Wirral Drug and Alcohol Service before becoming a Project Manager with Crime Reduction Initiatives for 4 months in 2015 before swiftly getting back on board with Cheshire & Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

We’re being informed  that CRI  may have reduced the costs by reducing the level of input for people with drug and alcohol issues . If this is the case this could mean an increase in risk and potentially an increase in deaths and serious incidents associated with this service. We’re hearing about some worrying (if unconfirmed) statistics associated with CRI but I’m sure Cllr Angela Davies would be well placed to reassure the people of Wirral that all is well  and continuing privatisation of critical services is the way to go (even though clearly it wasn’t the case for her!).

 

Navigators

Dass on the rocks

DASS on the rocks

Last night Wirral Council confirmed the predictable outcome of postponing the closure of disabled respite centre Girtrell Court until  a “consultation ” process had been completed. Whilst this may primarily serve the purpose of avoiding adverse publicity in the run up to the local elections might we suggest that the Save Girtrell Court campaigners won’t be going away any time soon.

The Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) are allegedly helping disabled people and their carers through this stressful “consultation” period by engaging the services of Penderel’s Trust http://www.penderelstrust.org.uk/ who are providing a “brokerage” service assisting people towards the brave new world of “choice”.

Whilst Penderel’s Trust may be a not-for- profit organisation it should be remembered that they are in receipt of money for work that used to be done by social workers (or at least should have been) and however good their intentions the fact is that it is another example of public money being spent on external consultants.

The process of steering disabled people and their carers to where Wirral Council want them to go is further assisted by Council staff known as “navigators”.

We swear we are not making this up.

“Navigators”  – we’ll leave that there on the page for you to ponder for a moment.

However the problem is that some of these navigators are feeling a bit sea-sick and have been expressing the view to carers that Girtrell Court shouldn’t close . However the sad fact is that these unqualified social workers know they’d be back flipping burgers if they expressed this view to DASS managers as what’s left of DASS has very much returned to the bad old days.

Of course DASS have a long and inglorious record of undermining the professional status of social workers by hiring people to the work of social workers without the qualifications , experience  and knowledge. It’s cheaper and comes with the added bonus of staff not being concerned with having to comply with a professional code of conduct.

Might we suggest that the powers that be at Wirral Council could do with their own set of navigators over the next few weeks as they’re heading for choppy waters.

Everything Must Go

FLOG-IT

The mystery of why the privatisation of public services has been embraced  so enthusiastically by the current Wirral Council administration – despite it being ideologically against everything a Labour administration should stand for – has puzzled us for sometime.

However we had a Homer Simpson ” D’oh” moment  when we realised exactly why outsourcing is the perfect solution for an organisation wracked  with incompetence , dishonesty and corruption.

Consider this :

  • No more Freedom of Information requests – it’s commercially sensitive and exempt from FOI legislation !
  • No  more whistleblowers  – malpractice has nothing to do with us guv!
  • No more direct public accountability – private businesses become accountable to their shareholders and profit always takes precedence over the public !

Now consider these recent Wirral Council tenders. Firstly :

IMG_0014 (2).PNG

Now wouldn’t it be handy if the Wirral Chamber of Commerce continued their empire building ways by bidding for this contract at Cheshire Lines Building ?. They’re only round the corner and Chief Executive Princess Paula  Basnett could send one of her rellies in to keep an eye on facilities. Win- Win !.

Meanwhile another source asks us about a tender that has gone well under the radar. Wirral Council have outsourced their cash in transit services to G4S based in Bootle, they gave the long serving and loyal staff no notice of this decision and they  didn’t even know their jobs had been put out to tender !.

This service was actually in profit and apparently G4S are the costliest cash services provider around . As the council are in such a financial mess it would seem a very odd choice if you didn’t consider the position we have set out above

However by far and away the most intriguing is this “Due Diligence” tender for consultants to cross the i’s and dot the t’s when it comes  “to the integration of Adult Social Care services into NHS Community Services” .

 

IMG_0018

 

Wirral Council leadership must be licking their lips in anticipation at the prospect of finally offloading the toxic , dysfunctional and perennially overspent Department of Adult Social Services onto the NHS.

If it does go ahead we can only hope that the provision of Adult Social Care services adhere to the principles of the NHS and that they should be free at the point of delivery.

This should mean no more punitive charges should be placed on vulnerable people for essential services – but you can bet your life that when it comes to “due diligence” that the consultants will be asked to find a way to continue with these charges.

We shall be observing developments with great interest and we advise those who believe that public services do not belong in private hands should do the same.

Court of Public Opinion

You be the judge

We’ve not really covered Wirral Council’s proposed closure of Girtrell Court because no one had really sought to bring it our attention.

But my- oh -my has has that situation changed with the impending decision to close the respite centre for disabled adults going to Wirral Council Cabinet on Monday (22 February).

Suddenly the heat is on and we’ve been contacted by not only those directly affected by the closure but by some social care insiders with some particularly trenchant views !.

The Leaky Towers viewpoint is that we think the cause is lost.It’s a done deal no matter how many impassioned pleas carers might make. It’s over. The last in-house adult social care service will be  gone forever and it will be a dark day for Wirral Council…..unless of course they perform a spectacular volte-face!.

However the clues have always been there – hidden in plain sight.

Listen to the Director of Adult Social Services Graham Hodkinson at last week’s West Wirral Constituency Committee explain that the closure of Girtrell Court would be a “natural progression” and that the care of vulnerable people is about the  “market”.

Might we suggest that there is nothing “natural” about making vulnerability and disability subject to market forces but then when you’re on a six figure salary the social care market economy clearly works for some people !.

It also strikes us at Leaky Towers that whilst we agree that the NHS is a wonderful thing there has been many a time we’ve sighed as self-righteous politicians of all persuasions brandish their “We Love the NHS” credentials, complain about creeping privatisation and yet think it’s not only OK but desirable to subject our most vulnerable to the mercies of the market. And as we’ve reported previously we’re reliably informed that the social care marketplace on Wirral is dire.

Carers and parents of those who benefit from respite services have been given reassurances that if (or rather when) Girtrell Court closes alternative services will  be an improvement. It’s all about “choice” –  rather like the choice  about having  a personal budget whether you want one or not !. Might we suggest that those reassurances should be considered in the context of Meadowcroft – the last in-house respite service for the elderly which was outsourced to Age Concern.

We think it is particularly significant that only this very week a Care Quality Commission inspection rated the service at Meadowcroft to be INADEQUATE

http://www.cqc.org.uk/directory/1-669976514 <http://www.cqc.org.uk/directory/1-669976514>

Furthermore and just so we don’t get accused of Labour-bashing the fact that not one but two local union reps ( take a bow Paddy Cleary and Dave Jones) have publicly opposed the closure of Girtrell Court  and have expressed incredulity that a Labour controlled Council would contemplate such a measure points to a wider political debate that needs to be had about what exactly should be the priorities of  the Council.

Now is the time to have a long hard look at the reality behind the rhetoric . A prime example is contained within the flagship Wirral Plan and specifically the pledge about  “…..Ensuring the most vulnerable among us are safe, and feel safe, is perhaps our most important responsibility. We will work across Council and agency boundaries to promptly identify and tackle problems before they develop ” .

How does Wirral Council reconcile “our most important responsibility”  with the closure of Girtrell Court and the courting of celebrity golfers, the feteing of of the Wirral Chamber of Commerce , the wooing of Wirral Waters investors ???.

The proposed closure of Girtrell Court is an ideological decision it is not an economic necessity. An  alleged  annual saving  of £155,000 –  a figure which appears to have been plucked out of thin air as no cost benefit analysis work was undertaken – is nothing in the scheme of things when it comes to council expenditure. This proposal is just the latest instalment by Wirral Council of a relentless campaign to privatise public services.

Forget the 20 pledges in the Wirral Plan. In the court of public opinion there seems to be but one choice for the people of Wirral to make about what should be the Council’s priority – protecting public services or pandering to the private sector. You be the judge as to whether you think they’ve got the balance right.

IF THE HEADLINE IS BIG ENOUGH, IT MAKES THE NEWS BIG ENOUGH

PISS

BIG TOP

There has been local consternation that a circus has recently set up camp on Wirral which features live animals.

SEE HERE

There appears to be some dismay that the council should have intervened and put a stop to it. To which we can only say that considering that Wirral Council have a chequered past when it comes to the treatment and welfare of vulnerable people that it was highly unlikely that the treatment and welfare of animals should concern them.

Moreover we think circuses and Wirral Council have a natural affinity as jugglers,illusionists and clowns appear to be responsible for running the show.

BIG REPORT/BIG DELAY

As our follow up to our Lessons Have Been Adjourned story just to let you know that the Audit & Risk Management meeting has gone from being reconvened for this week to tba (to be arranged) / cba ( can’t be arsed) to now being held October.
“Yes but did they specify October of which year ” sniped Her Ladyship.

This decision was taken backstage by Councillors and carefully concealed from public scrutiny after what a number  of sources describe as “bullying”.
“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…” sighed Her Ladyship.

Now we know it’s a big report but are Councillors hoping that they can pull the traditional  “Star Wars Card” out of the pack and claim the shenanigans all happened  “a long time ago in a galaxy far,far away” ?.

As a public service to assist Councillors with their deliberations Miss Snoop has applied her forensic skills to the report and we will be publishing ” BIG/ISUS For Dummies” shortly.

BIG OVERSPEND

We understand that Lib Dem Councillor Stuart Kelly has called in a Council decision concerning cuts to funding of projects in other departments as a result of yet another Department of Social Services (DASS) projected big overspend.

Although it must be said that the Council cabinet minutes are an absolute masterclass in obfusaction so it becomes a case of when is a £3 million projected overspend not a £3 million projected overspend?.

The minutes record that DASS Director Graham “Son of Bill” Hodgkinson “set out that there was a projected potential budget variance reported on behalf of Adult Social care in the finance report of £3M .
The figure of £3M that had been reported was not as yet an overspend. It was derived primarily from a financial perspective that all of the benefits of the projects may not be deliverable in year”.

Meanwhile the Cabinet resolution states:  ” it be noted that at Month 2 (May 2014), the full year forecast projects a gross General Fund overspend of £3,137,000…”

SEE HERE

And so it’s a case of robbing Peter to pay DASS to reduce the projected overspend which Cllr.Kelly (and other Councillors) have objected to.
At least DASS should be congratulated in ‘fessing up and not rolling over the toxic debt into the next financial year and the one after that and the one after that etc; etc; as low friends in high places allowed them to do for many years.

Talking of which and finally ……….

BIG HITTERS

News filters through of a recent incident involving a high ranking civic dignitary and their companion who were involved in a very public “difference of opinion” when seemingly “tired and emotional” after a civic reception.  We understand that conduct unbecoming of people of such high standing has been the talk of Hurst’s Bakery and Houlihans…….

What exactly has the new Director of Wirral DASS DONE ?

The only tangible thing we can see that new Wirral Social Services director Graham “Tom Sawyer”  Hodkinson has achieved since his arrival is to completely whitewash the truth.   So yet another false dawn disappears as Mr H dances to the same old WBC tune. “Nothing to see here” “time to move on” which actually means no accountability for these overpaid fuckwits