The BIG Issue

Bank of Money

We understand that Dictionary.com have just decreed that ‘complicit’ is the word of 2017. Therefore it is most appropriate that we  publish whistleblower Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro’s audit of the BIG fund. A definitive account (thus far) of auditing failures written by someone who believes in public accountability and protecting the public purse about people who profit from the lack of both. 

THE BIG FUND Audit

Voluntarily and, for no pay, I have performed an audit of the BIG fund. Although I was one of two whistle-blowers I am going to trace what I would have done had I been in receipt of the data as a Council Internal Auditor.

I imagine that the Peer Improvement Board take Councillor Davies at his word, that WBC is open to learning from other councils. They arrange that a Bolton Borough Internal auditor job- swaps for a short period to bring objectivity to an investigation that, as per Cllr Philip Davies “was not fit for purpose” when performed by WBC’s own Internal Audit Service. Clearly it was not fit for purpose as both Beverley Edwards’ 350 page report, and David Garry’s 33 page report were riddled with partisanship, the main drive being to exculpate their colleagues. I am not shown their reports, let me imagine, just the gist of them lacking independence. As an internal auditor I very much welcome the freedom of not being obligated by ties of colleagueship and passage of years with any of the WBC staff I will be engaging with.

On receipt of allegations from two qualified and mature employees of a subcontractor working on a council project, I would have commenced by performing a type of SWOT analysis-Strengths Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This SWOT analysis was demanded of every application for council funds whether BIG or Intensive Start Up Scheme (ISUS).

Pictorially the matrix is represented below. I would outline in words why such fractions were given.

What are the risks to the whistle-blower’s livelihood if he be lying-100%; and if he be truthful given the hoops he must go through at an Industrial tribunal, well very significant. Thereby I have analysed his risk to livelihood, irrespective of his truth or otherwise, as being 80%

If the whistle-blower is correct then what profit might he make? The answer is very small, if any, as the Council does not pay any bounty to a whistle-blower.

If the whistle-blower be correct what threat is there to a council officer? Given the unions within the council, given the dissemination of responsibility within the council, there is little threat to any individual council officer. This operates to enhance the possibility of lying by council officers as the penalty is much mollified by group responsibility, lack of punishment and the council’s desire to keep gross error from public view. In this case already some councillors and the press’ reportage has unmasked WBC Internal audit as “unfit for purpose”.

Examination of the history of the Martin Morton case and the Colas whistle-blowers gives a trust rating very high to the whistle-blower and correspondingly low to the officers.

first chart

My preliminary conclusion therefore is that I give credence to the whistle-blower. I examine his claims with a view to progressing further, anticipating systemic failure.

I ask for a contract with wirralbiz for the BIG fund work on which they might be paid up to £1,500 per case. All six of the files examined by the whistle-blower were prepared by wirralbiz.

Since it is clear that the files were concealed from him for a long time I presume they were a random sample. His access was to them was swiftly closed down after pressure from Invest Wirral. He has shown me emails to that effect.

I ask for a full list of BIG recipients notated as to wirralbiz prepared, and as to those independently prepared.

The contract for services re BIG is unsigned! which increases the factor of systemic risk.

There are 49 recipients of which 25 were prepared by wirralbiz.

Having received the arguments of the whistle-blower on the six files he examined I retrace carefully his logic.

Lockwood Engineering Ltd –    Evidence of a criminal offence of phoenixing the company assets into Harbac UK ltd. The transfer of £30,000 worth of equipment part funded by the council, with the Head of Regeneration’s consent, raises dramatically the risk of officers being deceitful.

Prima facie the whistle-blower is correct in that the liquidation of the company could have been predicted as high risk if very significant liabilities had been included within the cashflow given to the council.

M L Engineering Ltd  –    conclusive evidence of fraudulent representation by either the Fieldcrest ltd or by the business itself. If the latter, the contractor of wirralbiz is at the very least guilty of gross negligence. Negligence  is compounded because a prior claim already had been dismissed with the claimant presenting as a sole trader, but now presenting as a limited company.

I chose the above two as the whistle-blower had made claims thereon which imperilled himself, and, his having been proven correct,  requires me to compile a new SWOT. This incorporates the fact of the skimpy and unsigned contract which must have governed up to a maximum of £500,000 of Working Neighbourhoods money, and of the criminality involved in the first two wirralbiz files. I have learnt from the whistle-blowers that Invest Wirral dismissed out of hand their allegations between May and July 2011. Invest Wirral simply cited that chief accountants in WBC had been involved and could not possibly be wrong. Having read the first two files this  rings alarm bells as it took the first whistle-blower to demand an interview with Kevin Adderley for these allegations even to reach internal audit.

chart the second

I justify this analysis based on   1. The risk the whistle-blower has taken to point to criminal activity

  1. The detection of two out of six random files containing criminal behaviour not detected ,or even perhaps sanctioned by council officers, must lead me to suspect systemic failure.

Actions: read through remaining four of the whistle-blower’s files to see if more error does exist which may raise the probability of systemic error.

Company 3       The cashflow is extremely optimistic. The company’s solvency depends upon a loan owed it by a group company with no assets, a figure of over £1m pounds!                  

Company 4          The company does start out with £60,000 net deficit. There is an allegation of connexions between Mrs Basnett and the wife of the claimant director. The claim was dismissed by the whistle-blower but then resurrected despite his advice based on the BIG fund rules that claimants be solvent. Why?

Company 5          The company already has received a BIG grant so the second should have been examined more closely. The publication does have an intimate connexion with Egerton House, owned by WBC, and does not concern itself with exporting out of the Wirral and thereby the project was and remains disallowable under the rules of BIG  

Company 6       The sole trader is a director of a company that is insolvent. Prima facie this does present an equivocation vis- a- vis the solvency rules of BIG.

Review of the above files renders a percentage of error of 100% whereby I can conclude that the wirralbiz files are highly likely to contain a very significant error ratio since 6 out of 25 files randomly chosen are wrong in one way or another. That represents 25% of the wirralbiz files which in a random sample is highly significant.

Time taken 15 hours.

I must now consider the outline of the system which previously had been marked by David Garry, WBC Internal Auditor, as more than satisfactory. How did the errors in wirralbiz’s files pass muster with the WBC accountants and the independent panel?

I will commence by researching from the list any of the independently prepared BIG successful claimants who may have gone into liquidation. I locate two as below:

New Gaming Concept limited    – into liquidation  18/03/2010 and fully dissolved  25/06/2011

Corrin Kenny ltd  – entry into liquidation 22/03/2012

I ask for the files to discover that New Gaming Concept ltd’s claim had been tagged by the Chief Accountant to as invalid unless it could find £45,000 to cover its needs for the summer of 2010. The file shows a quick exchange of emails between Invest Wirral and Brendan Ludden, the director,in February 2010, where an unsigned claim form was provided as guarantee that North West Development Agency (NWDA) would provide more funds. Highly unsatisfactory and proved by events less than a month later to be unsound. The company filed for winding-up in March 2010.

The reason for the claim was to remove from Liverpool to Birkenhead so it was not a Wirral company when it claimed!

The company was heavily geared and the Liquidator’s statement shows a loss of public money in excess of £800,000.

I email a member of the Independent Panel as to what they saw at each meeting? He confirms no accounts were shown to them just a synopsis by a WBC accountant and the business plan itself.

I conclude that the Independent Panel whether they be from Federation of Small Business or some othe small business group, are to some degree operating in the dark.

Corrin Kenny Ltd- the file showed that the council had only sight of published accounts up to 31 March 2010 which were more than 8 months old. This was in contravention to the BIG requirement to produce management accounts of no less than 6 months old. Review of Companies House records highlighted that the accounts were unreliable as the comparative figures in the March 2010 accounts do not agree with the accounts filed with Companies House for March 2009.

Secondly, the project links communities within Wirral but does not export services outside of Wirral which in effect invalidates the claim. I note that the claimant address on the application is at Egerton House where Invest Wirral is located yet its stated offices on the internet are Innovation House, Bromborough. There may be a connection between the claimant and Insiders within Regeneration department as the application is full of buzz words relating to recent council schemes, going so far as to quote the previous CEO.

Within 10 months and, as I am performing this audit in August 2012, the company entered compulsory liquidation by petition of the Inland Revenue.

I note that of the two Budgets prepared independently of wirralbiz that I have reviewed, the New Gaming application does present a balanced cashflow, a Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet. The template adopted by wirralbiz, that used  in over half the successful applications does not incorporate Projected Balance sheets. The latter omission suggests the wirralbiz template is that used in the Intensive Start Up scheme, designed for start- ups without a history of trading , and not appropriate to existing and substantial businesses.

Time taken 5 hours.

Conclusion: I must extend my sample from 8% of the non-wirralbiz files. I will choose those that prima facie seem to break the rules of BIG.

I will restate my risk matrix after reading the following files:

Aspire Trust Ltd and Aspire Creative Enterprises Ltd

Quite properly the Chief Accountant, Bob Neeld expresses a reserve shared by the independent panel that the Aspire Trust Ltd is a charity which ab initio is excluded from BIG. It is Invest Wirral that advocates for the company and, on the basis of a prior application by Merseycare ltd, granted even though it was a charity, the Panel agree to consider a revamped application by a “trading arm” , and separate company ,to Aspire Trust ltd.

Aspire Creative Enterprises Ltd

The budgets are prepared using the Fieldcrest Ltd (i.e. wirralbiz) template which does not make a balancing document. Despite the turnover exceeding VAT limits no VAT is calculated in Year 1 nor in Year 2, but no-one from the council  identified this error. The charity having planned a turnover exceeding vat limits is obliged by VAT rules to register for VAT.

No-one flexed the projections for a worst case scenario, a fault common to all the wirralbiz files and likely to be so with independently prepared files. Bob Neeld simply states he cannot comment on a new business income flows. However in contradiction the Panel is told that although BIG fund excludes new businesses with less than one year’s trading, somehow this is evited by the Aspire Trust ltd, as opposed to Aspire Creative Enterprises Limited, having operated for some 10 years?

The projections do not explain why in a digital hub Cost of sales is 50% of sales? This is not a retail but a service based enterprise so what are Cost of Sales? No-one appears to have asked? Did the Panel see the Projections or just the synopsis?

The business projections appear to be wildly optimistic and I checked what Invest Wirral were given as monitoring accounts. The turnover for one year was just in excess of £3,000, a far cry from the £100,000+ projected.

The statement given to the Panel via Bob Neeld was that “the cash indicates that without the grant there would be cash deficits for the first four months”.

I created two Budgets one including the VAT required and one without, and in neither case did the cashflow require the full £15,000 grant. With VAT as per the projections the company needed £5,500, and without Vat just under £10,000. Bob Neeld would have better served had he recreated the cashflow, balanced it with Profit and Loss and with Projected Balance sheet before ever making a glib statement as above. It took me 40 minutes which given £15,000 was being given to a start-up and a quasi- charity, the case certainly deserved.

Alternately he might have stated that a start-up achieving a Profit of 0ver £20,000 in Year 1 without VAT ,and £12,000 with VAT, was improbable. Either way his short email to Invest Wirral appears to be rather in the manner of Pontius Pilate.

Total time 2 hours.

I have now to restate my probability of systemic failure before I examine LEC lights, or decide if indeed need to do so.

I estimate the risk to be above 90%. I have spent 22 hours, and commuted for 5 days from the Bolton Metropolitan borough. The charge to WBC to date is one week of my salary some £1,250 with a mark up of 100% for travel time and costs, that is £2,500.
Conclusions:

There is a grave risk for this project that wirralbiz files some 25 of 49, represent very poor value for money.

There was always a systemic risk in the diagram of procedures viz

Two at least of these claims involved fraud

No signed contract with wirralbiz can be located

Chief accountants when advancing caveats against projects are over-ruled presumably by the occlusion of their opinions and deprival of the historic accounts to the Independent Panel.

There appears to be a rush to hand the money out even though the Chief Accountant has told me funds could be carried over almost indefinitely, year to year

Other factors troubling myself include the probability of a cover-up:-

The dismissal of a qualified accountant, one of the whistle-blowers later, was because “Nothing would get past him” quote from Invest Wirral to Wirralbiz yet he dismissed just his first two claims , one from a start-up-ineligible- and one from a company with a £60,000 deficit.

The officers have claimed to me that he was a disaffected employee of wirralbiz yet I understand he was only made redundant 11 months after he made his allegations.

The second whistle-blower claims Kevin Adderley lied to him regarding liquidations in the BIG scheme. Generally he was lying because New Concept Gaming ltd and Lockwood Engineering Ltd had both  gone into liquidation before the interview whereas he claimed no BIG fund recipient had gone bust.. The officers have used sophistry to cover his statement and subsequent statements. They have claimed “going bust” is on completion of the liquidation, which usually takes 12 months, but this represents a turning upside down of common sense.

A further troubling observation is that, however cursory councillors’ approvals may be, a significant number of grants {20} were given without seeking the consent of councillors and on the say-so merely of Kevin Adderley and/or the Chief Executive. This provides a motive to cover up.

Recommendations

The internal auditors who presided over the enquiry have both left the employ of WBC.

The Chief Executive also has resigned.

For the above no sanction may be applied.

I recommend that Invest Wirral be advised of their failings and caution be applied in running such schemes as BIG ever again.

Kevin Adderley as a senior public official ought to receive some disciplinary proceeding.

The two files M L Engineering ltd and Lockwood Engineering ltd should be referred to the Police and communication should be opened with the on-going Liquidators as to the fate of the £30,000 worth of equipment funded by BIG which I suspect was transferred prior to Liquidation to Harbac without any payment being given.

The contract with Fieldcrest ltd, now employed by Invest Wirral should be suspended whilst the Police consider the allegations with regard to M L Engineering Ltd.

The failings I have seen would never have been located without the whistle-blowers who clearly have been resisted and not rewarded. Clearly the WBC should out of common morality thank them publicly and as soon as possible. Government auditors have told local government that 80% of serious failings are discovered by whistle-blowing and only 20% by systems. WBC needs to encourage whistle-blowers and not block them.

I will return to perform the Intensive Start Up Scheme which I have learnt from Government Internal Audit agency is currently being investigated, including Wirral’s ISUS, from a serious complaint from a Supplier to the scheme in addition the allegations of the two whistle-blowers. When I commence a week of ISUS investigation I will bring to it a clear appreciation of the value I attach to the allegations and considerable caution in dealing with the local government officers.

 

Video Nasties

Psycho Sullivan 009

One of the advantages of the nights drawing in is the opportunity to hunker down under the duvet and review the prolific output of esteemed local videographer John Brace.

What will we do when Wirral Council start filming their own meetings next year and we can no longer view the unedited, unexpurgated and unrehearsed proceedings that ,laughably, are held in the name of local democracy?

Talking of laughing, my how we laughed at Leaky Towers at the sight of the chair of the Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee , Cllr  Michael  ‘Wild-Eyed’ Sullivan, having a pop at fellow Labour councillor Ron Abbey  (and Cllr Jerry Williams) for contemptuously putting his coat on, throwing his agenda in the bin and walking away before this particular meeting had finished.  Of course we know that Cllr Abbey is a graduate of the Cllr Harry Smith Charm School so we expect nothing less from this bellicose bruiser. However it’s a high five from Wirral Leaks to Cllr Sullivan, who Her Ladyship describes as a looking like a ‘ Dapper Psychopath’ , and that’s a compliment by the way. You can view the hilarity here from 6:38 – Sullivan v Abbey spat

On a rather more serious note we’d like to ask Mark ‘ Nodding Dog’ Niblock   (astonishingly) Wirral Council’s Head of Infernal Audit  – do you think it is appropriate to give Robin Baker the thumbs up when it is announced by  Cllr Adrian ‘ Welsh Windbag’ Jones , the chair of the Audit & Risk Management Committee,that the Grant Thornton external audit contract has been renewed for another 5 years  – for ‘services (not) rendered’. Niblock and Baker – a sweetheart contract made in hell. And unfortunately we’re paying for it!

The full googly-eyed horrorshow can be viewed here at 0.50 –  Grant Thornton Thumbs Up

Video Nasties 018

And at this juncture we’d like like to ask Niblock – ‘ It worked out well for you but are you proud of being David Garry’s bitch?’  Just sayin’ !

And finally here’s Cllr Moira ‘ Matron’ McLaughlin chairing the latest Adult Care & Health Overview Scrutiny Committee

Video Nasties 020

Don’t have nightmares.

Ministry of Truth

 

ministry-of-truth-official

Another of our valued contributors Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro provides us with the latest update on the long running saga that is the BIG cover up (both in name and by nature).

After being given the usual run around by Wirral Council a Freedom of Information request eventually provided the evidence that Hobro and co had needed to support their long held claims of malpractice.

Once again we seem to witness the closed ranks and the triumph of dishonesty over truth. Whilst Hobro rightly highlights the questionable actions of Wirral Council management in this sorry saga we would like to raise a particular concern about so called independent agencies who collude with such behaviour. In all of these Wirral Council whistleblowing cases a common denominator has been how external auditors have consistently failed to act in the public interest.

No wonder that ex – Cllr Jim Crabtree , the former Chair of the council’s Audit & Risk Management Committee , asked for a round of applause for Mike Thomas (Audit Commission/ Grant Thornton)  when he made his last appearance at an ARMC meeting. Mr Thomas appeared shocked at the tribute – we were appalled………

Wirral Borough Council management is now revealed to be a sordid manipulator of the truth. I write that buttressed by hard-won evidence. Evidence forced out of WBC by threat of contempt of court after a campaign of obfuscation lasting all the way back to 2011. In addition to the management being exposed, a reasonable man might well have grounds to write that the Leader of the Council either was fed lies, and turned a blind eye, or told them in full knowledge. As regards (former WBC CEO) Graham Burgess and his Regeneration team, Kevin Adderley, and the ever-present David Ball, the taped proceedings of the Special Audit and Risk Committee meeting of 8th October tars them with lying, or complicity with lies, and that extending to the Legal Officer, Surjit Tour, who in despite of his accustomed “legal” interventions, kept silence as untruths were reeled out.

Language is never exact and can be readily misused – “the devil wins us with honest trifles to betray us i’the deepest consequence” and such abuse of language, “tis the equivocation of the fiend”, has been practised by many. Bill Clinton “I did not have sex in the Whitehouse” or his “I smoked but did not inhale” are famous examples. The tone of delivery may help. After a night of the Long Knives in June 1934 where a former German Chancellor was murdered with his wife, and hundreds of others, Hermann Goering cheerily met Anglo-American Reporters with the quip “Boy, have I got news for you!” Naturally he personally had organised many of the assassinations himself and put a jovial face upon it. “There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”!

Why am I quoting Macbeth? Why because the play shows how small untruths may lead to monstrous acts somewhere late in the “seeds of time”. Particularly I quote Macbeth because a line spoken by the tragic hero fits this situation neatly. Macbeth says

“I am in blood steep’d in so far

That going back were as tedious as go o’er”

Surely malevolence grows steadily like a worm fed on rubbish. Let me rehearse how an Original Lie grew and grew.

14 March 2011   Minutes given to Regeneration committee of councillors include tabulation of false figures from Wirralbiz Working Wirral figures, in order to give impression that all is well

July 2011        Kevin Adderley outfaces James Griffiths, whistle-blower, by untruthfully blurting out that no BIG recipient has gone bust

January 2012     Chief Anti-Fraud officer, Beverley Edwards files a 370 page report with the Director of Law showing the phoenixing of Lockwood Engineering ltd assets into Harbac (UK) ltd, and multiple flaws in the BIG process, together with flaws and fraud in wirralbiz’s ISUS program

March 2012       

Press release by WBC as follows 23 March 2012

Re: Allegations relating to Business Grants

Director of Finance and Deputy Chief Executive, Ian Coleman said:

“The allegations raised are being investigated by the Council’s Audit Officers. Their preliminary view, having interviewed the complainants and others, and considered all relevant documentation, is that there is no evidence that substantiates the allegations made against Council officers – at that time there was only the suggestion that (the now CEO of Wirral Chamber of Commerce) Paula Basnett was a friend of the wife of the director of Cass Coaches; this among a myriad of other allegations against claimants and advisors of wirralbiz).

“The investigation has not yet concluded however it is anticipated that the report will be finalised in the next few weeks.

“The Council’s Economic Development unit has an excellent track record for the work it does to encourage investment into Wirral, support local businesses and help people into jobs. This was recognised most recently when the team won the national LGC Award for Economic Development, which praised the innovation shown by the Council.”

BY March 2012  the decision has been taken to hide Beverley Edwards’ report and substitute it with a Dave Garry report, and stretch that report out as long as possible

July 2012      the council pays £33,000 to wirralbiz regardless of allegations as the lie must be fed

September 2012   “the report will be finalised in the next few weeks” transmutes by witchcraft “ into no report will be published as it is unfit for purpose and Mr D. Garry regardless of his failure ,will leave the authority with £46,000. But what of the 370 pages of Beverley Edwards’ report?

The LIE is swelling with falsehoods and the toll and bill is mounting both for the public and for the two whistleblowers. For the public a further £50,000 will be paid to Grant Thornton. One wonders is this simply to buy time?

October 2012     to feed the lie the Council pays a further £66,000 to wirralbiz

Early December 2012    The Grant Thornton team report both that they have completed the BIG investigation within just over a month, and that WBC is putting no pressure on them to render a report till the ISUS investigation is complete.-to buy more time?

March 2013   Grant Thornton delivers its report which is hidden from view for 16 weeks

March 2013     Press release by Cllr P Davies and again the red herring is thrown into the ocean incarnadine with a “I am pleased that I am now in a position to state clearly that the ISUS report which has now been concluded does not criticise Wirral Council or its officers” WHEREAS from the off the investigation was never directed against council officers!!

July 2013        Under pressure from a question at a full council meeting Cllr Davies agrees to release just the Executive Summary of the BIG investigation. In it are new obfuscations. Grant Thornton though investigating Lockwood Engineering ltd in its sample of six files contrives not to notice or record the phoenixing issue of BIG-funded assets moved into Harbac UK Ltd without any liquidator knowing-a very strange omission indeed. Likewise the BIG LIE battens on the equivocation that a gap of 26 months passed between the August 2010 award of BIG and the dissolution of Lockwood in September 2012. Disingenuous indeed since entry into Liquidation effectively ends the company’s trading and this was only 8 months later!

July 2013     Cllr Davies in a press release, “filled top to toe with direst cruelty” wrote

“I am also pleased to note that with the exception of one, all companies that received BIG funding are still trading – creating jobs and contributing to the local economy”

THE BIG LIE and his soul is not to fly to Heaven. Here is the list of companies that were no longer trading at 1st July 2013

New Gaming Concept ltd   into liquidation  18/03/2010 and fully dissolved  25/06/2011

Lockwood engineering ltd                             01/04/2011                                 20/09/2012

Corrin Kenny ltd 22/03/2012 long liquidation

July 2014 A special audit and risk committee was abandoned in uproar as the Chairman Cllr Crabtree (displaced now and up before criminal court in January coming on an unrelated matter) attempted to close down the issues by a majority vote of Labour Councillors.) Cllr Davies approached me at the end threatening to sue me for linking him with the advisor preparing the defective BIG fund projections. Had I known of the connexions between Brendon Kenny (Corrin Kenny Ltd above) and the Adderley-P Davies coterie, or of the £810,000 deficit in New Gaming Concept Ltd , he would have been even more anxious.

8th October 2014 The reconvened special audit and risk committee is held and despite with-holding what the Chief Executive would submit, the WBC management pestered me many times for the content of my speech. Since the delivery of my speech to them in July 2014 meeting was a contributory cause of that meeting being aborted , I did not supply my notes to them on this ocassion. Graham  Burgess and Kevin Adderley, “twere as tedious to go o’er as go back” repeated the same untruth that now only Lockwood , Harbac and Atlantic Engineering were liquidated or in Liquidation. BIG LIE for by then the list had grown to

 New Gaming Concept ltd   into liquidation  18/03/2010 and fully dissolved  25/06/2011

Lockwood Engineering ltd                             01/04/2011                                 20/09/2012

Corrin Kenny ltd 22/03/2012 long liquidation

With additions  

TTH Laundry Services Ltd                                  21/08/2014

Halliwell Industrial & Marine Silencers                07/03/2014       

Harbac (UK) ltd 14/08/2013

Combined Harvesters ltd 12/12/2013

Atlantic Engineering ltd 11/03/2014

Brocks Mechanical services ltd 04/02/2014

Imaginations Air travel ltd 01/09/2014

I make that ten cessations of trading as both the Chief Executive and the Super Director spake and as, the two representatives from Grant Thornton , the auditors, sat silent, and as David Ball , Manager of Regeneration was equally mute, and lastly the Monitoring Officer, Surjit Tour never corrected them.

A FARCE and a waste of all the salaries and overtime paid to the notables who were present. A personal insult to myself, to James Griffiths and to the public whose money had so flippantly been  thrown away. Throughout the Monitoring Officer refused access to the list of BIG recipients even though a cursory examination of his legal database would show him that liquidated companies have absolutely no rights to confidentiality, period. Wilfully he maintained the BIG LIE and you have only to read the directions from the Information Commissioner to understand how,  improperly, Monitoring Officer offered up a series of ridiculous objections with the purpose of concealing the BIG LIE.

There will be other commentators here and on Wirral in it together. Let me record how angry I am with these pious and aloof civil servants who in reality were hiding their own incompetence and sordid lie-telling. The reader will discover the motivators to tell such lies.

Think on the triumph of Donald Trump in the USA. So many lies were told by the Clintons that he decided to campaign with half truths and once won, row back on his campaign slogans. That is the terminus to arrive at when “ first you practice to deceive”.

A Return to Greed

Pigs 2

There’s a particularly intriguing story that keeps returning to our radar .

So we set Verity off in pursuit of  various leads in an attempt to get to the truth of the matter. First port of call was the ever informative What Do They Know website. My goodness !, there are some interesting Freedom of Information (FOI) requests concerning Wirral Council on there – but one that particularly caught our eye and appears to have disappeared under everyone’s radar was an FOI request made by perennially returning Tory councillor Ian Lewis.

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

Now why would Cllr Lewis be especially interested in knowing about historical information held by Wirral Council concerning the role/responsibilities/returns of the Returning Officer ?

Could it be that his interest was piqued by a couple of posts on Wirral Leaks or does he know something we don’t?…..

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/standard-procedures/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/big-returns/

There’s certainly some interesting information to be had about the role of the Returning Officer during elections. It seems to us that this role basically involves bossing council staff to do all the running round whilst the already massively remunerated council CEO picks up a big fat fee just in case there’s an electoral cock-up and the government need someone to blame.

It’s interesting to note that between 2006-2010 the Returning Officer Steve Maddox donated all Returning Officer fees that he was supposed to receive to charity. It’s just such a shame he wasn’t so charitable when it came to bullying his own staff and setting the tone for a bullying culture at Wirral Council. His successors as Returning Officer – Bill Norman, Graham Burgess and presumably the latest incumbent Eric Robinson obviously don’t believe in such generous largesse as they are seemingly some of the greediest little piggies in local government (and that’s saying something as this a particularly crowded trough).

return-to-greed-012

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/356355/response/869178/attach/4/FOI%201087924%20Councillor%20Ian%20Lewis%20Payments%20to%20the%20Returning%20Officers.pdf

The sums on offer are eye-watering and frankly in this age of austerity, absolutely obscene. This year alone the current Wirral Council CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson has picked up just short of £30,000 on top of his £175,000 + salary for the Local, Police and Crime Commissioner elections and the EU referendum.

Verity’s forensic eye was particularly drawn to details of the Returning Officer statutory fee  of £11,362 for the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner election , paid presumably to the then Wirral Council CEO Graham Burgess (aka Burgesski) . However she has discovered the alarming anomaly that Burgesski was also the Returning Officer for the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner election in 2012 !.

return-to-greed-009

https://www.blackburn.gov.uk/Lists/DownloadableDocuments/NoticeOfElectionAgentsNamesAndOffices.pdf

How curious we thought and we’re left wondering whether Burgesski  could have picked up two fees amounting to £22, 724 in one day ?.   Now that would be beyond obscene!.

I think we should be told !  – but who to ask?.

Burgesski himself ? – we suspect the Great White Shark , former union firebrand and now champagne socialist would like to put his Wirral Council  , ahem, ‘experiences’ behind him.

Internal Audit ?- or rather Infernal Audit under the guidance of Internal Chief Auditor Mark Niblock? . Are you kidding us?. This one learned his trade under his predecessor , the disgraceful David Garry.

External Audit ?- Grant Thornton and their predecessors the Audit Commission have a shameful track record of not biting the hand that feeds them and have produced more fudge than Devon in the name of protecting a lucrative income stream.

Monitoring Officer ?- I’m sure Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour would be able to clear this one up for us as he should be well versed in the legalities and correct procedures involved.  We’re sure that Tour ,in the absence Bill Norman Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer who was suspended at the time , would have ensured that everything was above board and that those who were entitled to Returning Officer fees were paid correctly and made to the people who were properly entitled to them!………unless of course somebody knows different!.