A Lack of Discretion

Finance 014
Five years ago, we were a local authority in crisis: focused on cuts and on the verge of government intervention. Since then, we’ve been recognised as the Local Government Chronicle’s ‘Most Improved Council’, experiencing the fastest turnaround of any council in the UK. So what’s changed? In a nutshell, we refuse to give up; we never stop moving. Our pragmatic, innovative and bold plan, ‘2020 Vision’ will ensure that we’re getting the basics right; that we’re achieving more; that we’re changing the way we do things. In this role, you’ll take us to the next level and create a legacy for yourself in the process.
As you can see from Wirral Council’s positively vomitous advert they’ve been trying to recruit a Director of Finance and Investment claiming that five years ago they were a local authority in crisis. Of course they fail to omit to say why they were in crisis. ‘So what’s changed?’ they ask. Fuck all  as far as we’re concerned and particularly in the Department of Finance and Investment!
We state this, as following on from our last story where we referenced the Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) whistleblowing scandal we are proud to publish the first hand account of the whistleblower involved.
It gives a clear indication of what it must be like to work in such an oppressive atmosphere where management is rammed with those types – yes, we mean the likes of  Trish, Nicky and Lisa – who want to get through Monday to Friday without pesky staff making their job difficult whilst they’re busy advancing their careers/income. Read it and weep:
Payments (DHP) budget never attempted to manage it in terms of need/  demand etc. She took no interest and just left me to it , if I raised any concerns , she was verbally abusive . 
I was the Team Leader responsible for DHP’s . Once HvS  ( Hardy v Sandwell ) case law came in ( I was responsible for reading and interpreting the case law  and suggesting changes to procedures , which I did)  it became impossible to do my job , because my manager instructed me to ignore it . As I said myself and the appeals manager raised concerns from March 2015 . Nothing changed until mid 2016 , as a result of my WB (whistleblow). The council were in breach of the Equality Act . 
Success with an application depended on the time of year you applied . So in April when the money was put in the pot , there was plenty of money , so your application stood a good chance of success , later on in the year they would decide to be more careful , usually at the end of the year instructions would be issued to get it spent. Most years the budget was not spent . The surplus could not be carried over to the next year , and of course if you did not spend all your budget , this affected how much you received the following year .
I believe it was mostly an abuse of power . She used to repeatedly say ” well they have more disposable income” I am the parent of a disabled son , plus I run a small group for families who have a family member with Down’s Syndrome and I know how much they struggle financially . 
As an example of her abuse of power , I attended a meeting with her at the request of the Housing Options Team . Basically Housing Options wanted us to start refusing DHP for people in 4 bed houses so they would be free for larger families . When I raised objections / concerns the Housing Options Manager said “my violin is this big” and made the gesture of playing a tiny violin on his shoulder . 
My manager made me write new guidance for people in 4/5 bed homes. Myself and the appeals manager voiced our concerns , as this was not in line with DHP guidance etc.
Myself and my team ignored the new guidance and continued to make awards in accordance with the DWP  (Department of Work & Pensions) rules . 
I did raise another Whistle blowing , as she instructed the IT section to remove a question of the online DHP application form which allowed people to apply for rent in advance . (People should be able to apply for rent in advance ) . She said ” I am not paying rent twice”. There were three witnesses to this, they were interviewed by (internal) audit . 

This meant very vulnerable people could not secure homes. She would only pay it for Housing Options applications . 

Yes, folks  – these are the lovely people who are in charge of local government and responsible for spending your hard earned money – mainly it would appear on themselves and not on the people who keep them in well paid jobs!

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To Sandwell In A Handcart

Colin as Surjit 009

Less than 5 years of dedicated public service at Wirral Council seem to have taken their toll on poor Surjit Tour  pic: courtesy of John Brace

We couldn’t bring ourselves to watch video footage last week’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting as we understand Power Boy Pip et al  gave outgoing Wirral Council law lord Surjit Tour a rousing round of applause as it was his last ever council meeting – yes , even from Cllr George Davies – but then the deputy leader of Wirral Council must be relieved to see the back of this particular chink in his armour.

The plaudits were all very reminiscent of the time when the subsequently convicted criminal Jim ‘Crabby’ Crabtree chaired the the Audit & Risk Management Committee  – yes we know ! – can you believe that actually happened ? – and led the handclapping for Audit Commission/Grant Thornton gobshite Mike Thomas. We suspect the applause for both was much for the same reason – keeping a lid on Wirral Council malpractice and getting paid well to do it.

Having said that Tour must be shooting off to his new gig at Sandwell Council like shit off a shovel. And it would appear he will be right at home. As a local source commented –‘Labour controlled and crooked forever’ 

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/politics/2016/10/10/sandwell-council-shake-up-fourth-senior-officer-leave-post/

We’re sure the six figure salary was particularly enticing for this status – conscious public servant. All we can say is that you can earn as much as you like but at the end of the day you’re still Surjit Tour.

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-hubs/sandwell/2017/05/26/sandwell-council-looking-to-appoint-top-roles—one-earning-100k-pay-packet/

We’re just staggered that out of four candidates interviewed for Sandwell Council’s top legal job that Tour came out on top.  Isn’t it reassuring that our public services have such a deep well of talent to draw upon?

Sandwell Council  must be particularly dear to Tour’s heart as a legal case involving his new employer was brought to attention in 2016.  A Wirral Council whistleblower had told their senior managers that they weren’t complying with the law when it came to administrating Discretionary Housing Payments  (DHP)- which are what they say on the tin, discretionary payments made to people who are having trouble paying their rent for one reason or another and presumably some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Wirral Council seem particularly reluctant to promote this fund they have available to help people in need so we’re saying loud and clear if you find yourself struggling to pay your rent contact Wirral Council and ask about DISCRETIONARY HOUSING PAYMENTS!

Needless to say the public-spirited  whistleblower who identified that Wirral Council were acting unlawfully was cruelly hounded out of their job for showing up their managers for the bullying incompetents they were.  There will be much more to come on this story but changes to procedures and belated thanks from Tour doesn’t cut it when someone’s career is needlessly destroyed for,once again, wanting things done properly and dare we say LAWFULLY!

Is it just us who thinks that if we don’t speak up about such abuses we’re all going to hell in a handcart?

Subject: Re: Whistleblowing Matter (Case Ref: 22/2016)

Dear X

Further the above matter, I have now completed all requisite enquiries into this matter. I have received and considered the report prepared by XX (Senior Auditor) into the matter you raised in your confidential report [CRF1] dated 22nd February 2016.

The review conducted by XX showed that whilst an assessment of income was undertaken in respect of DHP applicant’s income, the assessments were not fully compliant with the post Sandwell case and revised DWP guidance (issued in August 2015) on such claims.

In light of this, supplementary guidance has issued and explained to all relevant members of the team at the Transaction Centre so that DHP claims are assessed in accordance with the Sandwell case and revised DWP Guidance. Moreover, changes to procedures have and are being implemented to ensure consistency and compliance with the Sandwell case and revised  DWP guidance.

May I take the opportunity to thank you for bringing this issue to the attention of the council.

Kind regards

Surjit Tour

Head of Legal & Member Services

and Monitoring Officer