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

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Pond Life

Fish 2 010Fish 2 012

You may remember a recent post about a Wirral Council  Employment and Appointments Committee held on June 28th where we referenced a particular agenda item and commented  : Curiously there was (inevitably) an exempt item on the agenda which we understand involved discussions about yet another high profile departure who has been allowed to slip the net (if you get our drift). Suffice to say there’ll be more on that particular catch of the day at a later date.   

Comings and Goings

As we alluded to last week we can now confirm it’s farewell then to cartoon character Dolly Pond lookalike and Wirral Council Super-Duper Director Clare Fish.

We’ll miss her. Mainly because of the endless punning opportunities this overpaid failure provided – wet fish, fish out of water , out of her depth etc; It really was like shooting Fish in a barrel.

It always struck us that Clare was content to be a small fish in a stagnant pond and suddenly found herself swimming with sharks who were either screwing each other or screwing each other over.

Inevitably she found herself to be yet another Wirral council senior officer responsible for social care who has been thrown overboard having netted a big fat cheque – think Miller, Webb, Noone, Fowler ,Hassall . Meanwhile  the overseer of a series of failures, Cllr Moira McLaughlin, sails serenely on like an ocean going tanker full of toxic waste.

In this particular case Fish netted £105,000 . Wirral Council will have you believe with some financial jiggerypokery that they didn’t splash out another six figure sum to reward failure – but they did. It’s what they do, because they don’t know any other way. We say try sacking people or let them resign – that’s how it works in the business world that Wirral Council seem so determined to replicate.

However the most curious aspect of this hasty departure , and a demonstration of Wirral Council’s usual commitment to openness,transparency and accountability is the fact that having applied an exemption, thus excluding press and public from the Employment and Appointments Committee where the pay-off was discussed, they then had to refer the matter for approval at last night’s full Council meeting as Ms Fish swam through the magic six figure mark meaning it needed to be agreed by elected members.

Outgoing Head of Law Surjit Tour seems to have forgotten to tell Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson how this council business works as Stressed Eric merrily revealed in his ExecView  internal newsletter ( which is a bit like Wirral View but without soup recipes and pictures of smiling tots)  that Fish had already slipped through the net .

Fish 009

As you can see ExecView  was dated July 4th and the CEO revealed that Fish had already left the previous week ! So what was the point of even bringing the matter to the Council meeting to agree Fish’s leaving terms ? None whatsoever! But it appears the pond life who are our local elected representatives get along swimmingly and don’t like to make too many ripples when it comes to spending our money on rewarding failure!

Fish 012

 

LRJ Confidential

FOI

It was so dispiriting and yet so predictable that roving reporter John Brace was hastily chucked out of yet another Wirral Council meeting yesterday. This time it was the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee. Oh the irony!

Not as ironic as the fact the Committee is chaired by serial failure/ bossy old trout Cllr Matron McLaughlin. Oversight? – don’t make us laugh !

No doubt the reason was the fact they were about to discuss the fallout from last week’s Standards Panel aka as ‘Jeez Louise!’ where Louise Reecejones proved to be, well , your average local Labour councillor , ‘ inconsistent , vague and misleading‘ – and they were her good points!

Sanction Distinction

However we have to say that Wirral Leaks don’t like to kick someone when they’re down . But we’ll make an exception in this case as LRJ is yet another local representative who we feel is clearly unfit for public office. Having said that we do feel she was badly done to in one respect and that was the ruling that she breached confidentiality in contacting us !.

Oh FFS – half of Wirral Council would be before the Standards Panel if that were the case! LRJ did not breach confidentiality by telling us that there was an investigation being undertaken. However by imposing sanctions on a councillor who contacted us in the public interest clearly imposes a ‘chilling effect’ on all those who might be considering it, doesn’t it? Thankfully we can always rely on Wirral Council’s oppressed staff for information and not politically motivated councillors.

LRJ’s position is now being considered by Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies. Once again we have to declare – ‘Oh the irony!’

Power Boy Pip is the last person to pass judgement on councillor conduct and LRJ knows it!

We know this because we had the following exchange with LRJ on the 25 March 2016 :

Dear Wirral leaks,
The Story you have received is not true, I am fully reinstated as a Labour Party Councillor, I am also completely cleared of any wrong doing.
I was treated terribly by most of Wirral Labour group with only a few who were decent.
I have faced abuse by a group of parents who have tried to discredit me and make up false, slanderous statements including one post by a person who is a governor at Kingsway academy, chair of Merseyside Autistic Children’s society were you can only receive support if you agree with her, she is also and more worryingly working with WIRED the Carers charity commissioned by Wirral Council to support Parents in education who have SEND.
I have enclosed a screen shot of her post.
I only want to make a difference, I don’t stand on parade nor do I ask for thanks, I never want another young person go through what mine has. That’s my motivation nothing else.
 

Kind Regards,

Cllr Louise Reecejones
Proud trustee at TLC Network charity

Everything in our story is true. You were reinstated yesterday.

Read it again. Believe us – you got off lightly.We didn’t print all of the email because they couldn’t provide the evidence.
“I was treated terribly by most of Wirral Labour group…”  and ” I never want another person go through what mine has”  
Don’t play the victim –  do something about it!.
I have a right to play the victim after receiving what I have. 
We understand the suspension still stands and suspect the council will be taking matters further as well as dealing with the public spat with outgoing councillor Jim “Crabby” Crabtree.

Yehuda Bauer – the respected authority on the holocaust said : ‘Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.’ The choice is yours

The bold part makes it sound like it still relates to me, I have been fully cleared because I am completely innocent, I gave full accounts and documentation to the police, no money was ever missing but false invoices had been created when I was in hospital very poorly, this was an attempt to discredit me, nothing else and it hasn’t worked because unlike other I am not up to no good.

As for Crabby well he is one vile disgusting bully who goes around picking on women.

His words to me were, ” your a f@@@ing Deaf, Fat Bitch”

This was I front of school children at the holocaust memorial service.

Crabby refuses to answer to the complaint and will slope off as he has been deselected.

There is another one you may be interested in but I will give you her next week after I’ve met with the whip, some interesting times ahead with key people leaving the group at May’s elections, positions are up for grabs and scary times ahead for who will become chair of the group etc.

And I haven’t I have had him suspended and took him to task, I’m not an easy push over I just don’t believe this man should be near politics or vulnerable people.

You need to look higher up. Crabtree is a nonentity.

Oh I have stuff from a high up, all in good time xx
It’s prob worth noting that if I did as I was told over this case Labour would not of took it any further and I would not of been suspended. I was given an ultimatum and they were willing to brush over the accusation. I knew 100% I had done nothing so refused the offer with no hesitation. 
I had no idea what it was over until October when I went to see the CEO so that’s a lot of time to set me up.
First mistake – you put your trust in Burgess.
Oh no I’ve never put my trust in him at all, nor have I in the leadership of the group.

You do surprise me.Actually you don’t.Without being oppressive ,anyone with half a brain cell can see they’re winging it.  

Of course LRJ will never came up with the goods and Power Boy Pip won’t take her on because it’s mutually assured destruction. Moreover we’re sick to death of being told Crabtree had an incriminating file on the Labour group  if he ‘went down’ or that a file had been passed to the former wife of a former leader of Wirral Council as a negotiating tool during their acrimonious divorce.
And yet these pieces of crap are still allowed to make decisions about our lives and frankly we’ve had enough of it.
But we’ll leave the last word to someone in the know who tells us :
The police investigation had been underway for some time without LRJ’s knowledge and they were ready to arrest her Autumn 2015 when she presented herself at a police station after being tipped about the investigation by none other than the CEO Eric Robinson. We only found out a few weeks ago as they were trying their best to stop us finding out. 
So LRJ was sanctioned for breach of confidentiality and Stressed Eric wasn’t?
How does that work?  Perhaps the Standards and Constitutional Committee can explain?

Comings and Goings

Pit 011

If you want to play the Wirral Council  corporate game be prepared to get down and dirty!

Last night’s Employment and Appointments Committee officially confirmed our previous reports that Wirral Council’s Head of Law / Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour is leaving Wirral Council.

There were no glowing eulogies from committee members at the announcement that Wirral Council was engaging a recruitment agency to find his replacement. Furthermore Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson ran through further proposals for senior management personnel changes to implement his New Operating Model – or should that be Non -Operating Model?  This included the appointment of a Director of Children’s Services on an increased salary of £115,000. This was justified with the usual excuse that we have to pay top whack to get the very best. To which we can say it hasn’t worked in the past so why will it work now? What has clearly been demonstrated by previous CEO Graham Burgess’s appointment of Super Directors which has been an abject and costly failure. And let’s not get on to Stressed Eric himself!

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=6003&Ver=4

Of course we know that Tour was on his merry way  but curiously there was (inevitably) an exempt item on the agenda which we understand involved discussions about yet another high profile departure who has been allowed to slip the net (if you get our drift).  Suffice to say there’ll be more on that particular catch of the day at a later date.

As Surjit didn’t exit to rapturous appreciation for all he’s done for the people of Wirral we thought we’d do the decent thing and give him the eulogy he deserves.

However we’ll leave it to a clearly well placed source to provide a fitting tribute to Tour which consists of a comment from ‘ Whatever’ that is far too good to languish in our replies section. For those who may have missed it we reproduce that comment in full  below. What it demonstrates to us yet again is that Wallasey Town Hall is the absolute pits. Whilst we’ve known about the infamous ‘Sex List’ for sometime and referenced it previously it stands as the epitome of how low senior managers will go to get their man (or woman). As we commented :

So it would seem that the ‘dig the dirt’ tactic is a favourite approach of senior council officers when faced with a pesky employee who won’t play the corporate game, have served their purpose or they just want shut of. We’re wondering whether it was a trick that Norman picked it up at Wirral Council or it was part of his legacy that he left behind? We say this as we are reliably informed that two acting very senior officers at Wirral Council went digging for dirt from staff in an infamous case from 2015 .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?

Dirty Work

We can only hope that the next victim of the ‘Curse of Leaky Towers’ is slimy Deputy CEO David Armstrong ( and we know how upset he gets being badmouthed on social media). He can boo-hoo all the way the bank as as far as we’re concerned as in his own way, he’s absolutely everything that’s wrong with Wirral Council. In another time and another place and where the get out was ‘ I was only following orders’ he’d be a very dangerous man indeed.

Meanwhile courtesy of ‘Whatever’ here’s ‘Surjit’s Eulogy’ :

I hope we can send to Mr Tour’s new employer a list of Wirral tax payers issues as the tax payers of York did with Mr Halliday.

Mr Tour’s replacement will have a long list of “things to do” which he/she should read asap –

For example perhaps, whatever happened to the letter signed by Mr Foulkes (probably written by labour policy adviser and Labour scrutiny support) sent to Mr Wilkie outlining in a way not appropriate for public office ( yet more training needs) just what Mr Foulkes et al thought about Mr Wilkies staff structure which included the promotion of none other than Ms Degg to deputy CEO ?

Indeed what happened to those 2 people (Adviser and Scrutiny) from Leeds way *  (* Hebden Bridge actually) ?- well whatever you say about Norman, he was the only one who at least tried to tackle them. Norman left and Mr Tour picks up the rotten dirty baton and title. Did Mr Tour prevent the “not in line with guidelines” payments made to one of those women – er, no and has he closed this case or as he let it drift into obscurity, a key feature of Tour is drift, drift long enough and it will be forgotten.

These 2 women were loyal supporters of Foulkes, (nothing wrong with that other than inconsequent personal opinions on bad judgement) when Mr Foulkes was told to get legal advice after his letter writing. Cllr Foulkes stood down as forever leader and up popped Mr Davies, who was told to drop the supporters or no leadership role for him. Mr Davies did as he was told for the sake of group or himself and his awaiting career of leadership.

Can’t quite remember the figure of toxic debt written off, in the high millions, these 2 women summoned the Council directors separately to go to Leeds (or wherever it is up that way) where they would “tell” the directors what their budgets were. Everyone knew it was these 2 women running WMBC for years Foulkes was the willing puppet and the Directors racking up excessive mileage claims for Wirral Tax payers to pay.

Mr Davies had to be trained in fist clenching and smoke screens, up pops Mr Field with some tale of whistleblowers and Hespe contracts (Labour group hated with a passion anyone who was perceived to work too closely with Cllr Green .. Ms Degg and Mr Green to name 2). Did Mr Tour ever write a letter to Frank Field telling him that WMBC is not his private purse to pursue his smoke screens with payments to non whistleblowers ?

So back to Ms Degg, well we have all read and heard enough about Ms Degg and what we consider to be un sound judgement on the men in her life but that is of no concern to us unless it prevented her from carrying out her paid function, whatever that was. However when it does become our business is when 2 members of staff are paid off one via the ever helpful EVR (normally given to failed directors without spine and employee jumpers) and the other a recent settlement. These 2 members of staff were hauled in by Mr Armstrong Ms Hyams and of course the ever present in the shadows “it wasn’t me” Tour, this trio on our behalf felt compelled to get to the bottom of £48k payment made to Ms Degg by one of the too many ex chief execs as an apology again on our behalf for not becoming the deputy chief exec and for the hurt feelings caused by the school ground tactics of certain Labour councillors and senior officers (including the Trio). If only they wouldn’t but again on our behalf this highly paid Trio (with the knowledge of Cllr Phil Davies) asked, no demanded to know the ins and outs of Ms Degg’s sex life, asked for rumours anything these 2 members had on Ms Degg.
Thank the lord these 2 members of staff stuck two fingers up to the bullying trio .

“list of things to do”; clearly through actions Mr Tour thought this payment made to Ms Degg (although he must of agreed it in the first place) was unlawful in some way.

The 2 well liked members of staff wouldn’t play ball and you didn’t get your own underhand way, Tour, Hyams (who really didn’t like Degg and the feeling was mutual) and Armstrong (who once was a nice bloke I hear) even though 2 of the trio pulled out the appalling and should be left for the movies, tactic ” signing the statements would / would not help their careers”

The poor person going round asking for money for Tour’s leaving present probably stopped saying “awww he’s a nice man its a shame” pdq. I don’t think it was his match made in heaven (how many grievances !!) PA who accepted her redeployment to Tour’s PA role with “I’m not working for him” but soon shut up when she realised she was onto a good thing, the amount she read and helped shred would, like her boss keep her in a job as long as she wanted it.”

 

Gutter Press

Media 017

Wirral News Goes AWOL ,Wirral Life Goes Warhol

So farewell then Wirral News. As reported in the press trade papers it now finds itself in the gutter :

http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2017/news/publisher-cites-crowded-market-for-bi-weekly-closure-after-council-newsletter-launch/

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/trinity-mirror-to-close-wirral-news-in-july-in-the-wake-of-council-newspaper-launch/

As we predicted a while ago , the writing was on the wall for this woeful rag a long time ago. Never more so than when Wirral Council launched the print edition of Wirral View. Whilst it won’t be missed , mainly because it appeared to have given up being a credible news outlet a loooooong time ago , it is a worrying development for Wirral’s independent press when publishers Trinity Mirror consider :

 “The Wirral marketplace has become increasingly crowded with free print products with now even Wirral Borough Council producing a monthly free print publication themselves.

“We believe that there is no longer a viable, scalable or long-term future for free/giveaway print products within the Wirral marketplace….. “

What made us want to snort with derision and shake our head in disbelief was the quote in the Press Gazette article from Wirral Council’s head of communications Kev ‘Lost Boy’ MacCallum :

 “We are disappointed to see a well-loved local title like the Wirral News close.
“For many years, we have seen its circulation reduce significantly and frequency fluctuate between weekly, monthly and recently bi-weekly.
“It’s been clear throughout this time that the title has been trying and struggling to find an effective place in the market where it could be competitive.
“We must make it clear however, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest Wirral View had any commercial impact on the Wirral News.
“We have deliberately not sought to compete with the local media for advertising revenue, and we have ensured Wirral View is a completely different product to the existing local free-sheets…..”
Yeah right! – as we have previously reported Wirral View  have actively sought to compete with the local media for advertising revenue and it was an intention that was expressly stated by Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson! It’s just that they have been spectacularly unsuccessful in attracting any advertising. Well the last time we looked anyway, as we have still only received one print copy at Leaky Towers and we can’t muster enough enthusiasm to peruse the online edition.
However even keen Wirral View enthusiasts such as MacCallum and Robinson must know that its commercial viability in a crowded marketplace is under threat when even the Wirral Chamber of Commerce prefer to choose the June edition of Wirral Life for a glossy four page spread in the hilariously aspirational ‘premium lifestyle magazine’. We particularly enjoyed the beyond parody interview with Simon Nixon founder of Moneysupermarket.com ( don’t get us started on those Godawful TV ads) . The permatanned entrepreneur is asked :
Have you ever spent any time on the Wirral, what do you think of it? He replies:
I haven’t spent a lot of time on the Wirral but I think it’s beautiful – especially around Parkgate  and Caldy.
We’re just surprised he didn’t mention the delights of Birkenhead and how he enjoys drinking in Spud Murphy’s on Charing Cross before nipping over to the Pound Bakery for a pasty!
Chamber CEO Paula Basnett obviously feels more at home in this more upmarket publication. All dolled up in white lace we find her promoting this week’s Wirral Chamber Corporate Cup golf tournament ( you too can enter a team for £500+ !) , The Lauries and its recently launched @142 bistro and er , The Sheds at Pacific Road which apparently is the perfect place to ‘dream, dare,create and share’ and has ‘reignited the atmosphere of industrious innovation’ . Oh give over, love ,they’re sheds.
Media 2 021

The dreaded Davies duo scheme rather than dream! But doesn’t Gorgeous George look lovely in lilac?!

Talking of sheds another publication in the crowded media marketplace that has been brought to our attention is Wirral !nspirations .
Media 027
The summer edition features the illuminating article titled : ‘We shed some light on the man cave’. Among the helpful tips is the advice to  ‘ PRETTIFY YOUR SPACE’  – Hang some pictures – but before you put up the Playboy calendar up, remember your wife may occasionally venture into the  shed, unless you keep it locked  and ‘BE SIGNAGE SAVVY’  – put a ‘Man Cave’ sign on the door so the rest of the family understand this is your territory, and yours alone’ .
Shed 016
Whilst mindlessly reading features on former Eastenders actor Larry Lamb , wedding dresses, sun cream, ukeleles, lawns, listed buildings and swollen ankles we felt as though we’d been transported back to 1953 . Nevertheless we still think Wirral !nspirations addressed our ‘information deficit’ more effectively than Wirral View ever could . What’s more it is rammed with advertising and therefore has obviously been more successful in attracting business than Wirral Council. So place your bets now as to which one of the two will go the way of Wirral News and be kicked to the kerb and into the gutter!

Election Selection : Week 8

Red Braces

Labour groupies Cllr Chris Meaden and Cllr Janette Williamson admire Frankenfield’s red braces and his homage to 1980’s wankers, sorry, bankers and the glory days of Thatcherism. Pic courtesy of Wirral Globe 

We don’t know how you feel but this has seemed to be the longest 8 weeks of our lives. At last we can get back to moaning about the weather and Wirral Council.

Our interest in national politics only extends to how it affects the local political landscape. By which we mean Frank Field  – obvs. For as we know Frankenfield is the de facto political leader on Wirral. Let’s face it –  McGovern , Eagle and Greenwood are mere also-rans in Wirral’s political stakes.

With Merseyside totally in the red  when it comes to local politics – from the Metro Mayor and his cabinet to all council leaders and constituency MPs and the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy there is an unprecedented concentration of  power invested in one party. Whilst that is the democratic right of the people, it scares us to death, not only because it suggests there is no effective opposition but primarily that some of the people who wield power are just so bloody awful.

But it’s not all bad news – with a hung parliament and with fox-hunting enthusiast Theresa May now experiencing what it’s like to be hunted by the ruthless and privileged ( i.e her own party) it would appear that there could be another general election on the horizon (*sighs* all round at Leaky Towers).

This of course would mean another bumper pay day for Wirral Council’s Returning Officer Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson who as we know must be struggling on his £180K + salary which is supplemented by the bumper pay outs amounting to tens of thousands of pounds he receives for declaring the seemingly never ending round of elections.

Hey Eric – any more thoughts on donating your bonus to supporting local charities or foodbanks or the New Ferry explosion fundraising efforts like a former Wirral Council Chief Executive used to do?

No – thought not!

 

Where’s Wally?

Denial

Hopefully readers will be pleased to hear that Dr Robert B Smith is still on Wirral Council’s case. This time he’s trying to elicit a response from their CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson to queries he made via email over 6 months ago. Dr Smith has contacted all 66 councillors in asking whether Stressed Eric’s conduct was a) acceptable or b) unacceptable.

As far as we know the only councillor to respond was Cllr Walter Smith. We’ll leave you to read his email and Dr Smith’s meticulously researched riposte. However we would comment that as far as we’re concerned it’s a case of  ‘Walter by name , Wally by nature’. Indeed Cllr Smith has recently been observed on the campaign trail wearing a red fleece with his name printed on the back. Presumably to help him remember who he is if he get’s lost.  However if we were ever asked the question –  ‘Where’s Wally ?’ we’d have to say  : ‘In denial’……..

Dear Dr Smith,

I presume that there must be a reason for a failure to respond to your request. I suggest that you involve your local councillor. By the way WBC has never been better run than it is today. The officers do a good job, and we councillors have received the award of ‘The Most Improved Council’.

Kind regards,

Walter Smith.

Dear Cllr Walter Smith

It was my intention to circulate all Wirral Councillors with the results of my earlier survey, and reply  to you individually. I only asked for ‘unacceptable’ or ‘acceptable’ as a response. However, given your more expansive response to me, it would seem apposite to circulate my response more broadly.

Firstly, given your response, and the fact that you are a collective employer, why don’t you ask Mr Robinson what is his ‘reason for a failure to respond’? My assessment would be that he is unable to put anything in writing that would not seriously compromise his position.

Shall we take the latest development in the appalling situation regarding the Wirral Safeguarding Board, as a starting point?

The Government’s intervention by installing Eleanor Brazil to endeavour to address the numerous failings, speaks volumes regarding capability. As does Mr Robinson’s claim in the Wirral Globe given his background;

Eric Robinson, chief executive, said: “We have made some changes in terms of social care and I will now work with Julia Hassall”.
“My background is in Children’s Services so I will oversee the work”. (Wirral Globe 20 Sep 2016
)

The press coverage of the sentencing of Brothers Vinothan and Ilavarasan Rajenthiram, jailed for 40 years for grooming and sexual exploitation of vulnerable young girls in Wirral, included the following comment – “Over a five-year campaign Ilavarasan and Vinothan Rajenthiram groomed and sexually abused vulnerable young girls from Wirral, all known to Wirral Council”. That would go back to 2012 and doesn’t support the assertion of your 3rd sentence. Actually, it also blows a considerable hole ‘, in the claims made in your 4th sentence as well as in the credibility of the fantasy ‘The Most Improved Council 2015′ award.

Now, with regard to ‘The Most Improved Council’ award. I have discussed this award, and its credibility with Dr Gill Taylor of the Local Government Association (LGA). You will remember her from the ‘LGA Improvement Board’. I have also corresponded with the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) and Government Ministers. It was actually a Local Government Chronicle Award, one of a range of local government awards given by a local government subscription periodical. This ‘Most Improved’ award was apparently never awarded prior to 2015, and it has never been awarded since – too many burned sponsors fingers, I suspect.

You may remember Graham Burgess? Yes, he who breezed into the ‘Improvement Board’ in 2012/13 as a peer reviewer (at the request of the LGA and Michael Frater). At the time Graham Burgess was CEO of Blackburn & Darwen Council (which incidentally had won the LGC ‘Council of the Year’ award in 2011).

The recruitment of Graham Burgess as ‘interim’ CEO of Wirral Council was an ‘interesting’ process. And as for the permanent position – 8 applications…1 successful interviewee?

Quite like self-proclaimed Labour activist Mr Liptrot and his published email thread to Cllr Phil Davies. Not to mention Mr Liptrot’s numerous conflicts of interest. It was fortunate that Mr Tour felt absolutely compelled to ‘remind him about’ occupying a ‘politically restricted’ post whilst it was reported he had several contracts across Merseyside. With Wirral Council’s plummeting reputation, and no Joe Anderson metro-mayor bandwagon to ride on, it appears that a side-step to promote unattainable investment ‘opportunities’ matches a mythical skillset. So we witness a frenetic appointment ‘crucial’ before the Cannes visit to MIPIM. Expedience which truly stretches credulity.
But back to Graham Burgess.
Wirral Council’s own press release described him as a ‘leading light’ of the LGA. He was also a regular contributor to, and endorser of the LGC. For the 2015 ‘Most Improved’ award, the ‘live panel’ presentation was made by Graham Burgess and Cllr Phil Davies to assessors comprising mainly LGA member Chief Executives. (Doncaster Council, the 2015 award runner-up is an interesting study. Even more so if you add WBC, LGA, SOLACE, ex-WBC staff and very low interest loans into the mix.)

It is a shallow exercise in massaging political egos, and self-promotion for the LGA (and the LGC) to promote the ‘LGA Sector-led Improvement programme’ and the ‘peer review’ mechanism. If you achieve some supposed ‘improvement’, by some supposed ‘measure’ or ‘other’ and provide the tea and biscuits, the LGA will bask in the glory, and parade an individual (in Wirral’s case Cllr Phil Davies) around the country, as a ludicrous example, of a ‘success story’.

It is evident that aspiring to mediocrity underpins the peer review process, and serial under-achievement is the benchmark of ‘improvement’. This is displayed in pyrotechnic fashion in Wirral Council, where documents by both the LGA and Anna Klonowski quote wording proclaiming ‘…in her report, of 2012 Ms Klonowski highlights how at Wirral Council “the abnormal has become the norm”.’

That is 5 years ago. The ‘LGA Improvement Board’ covered the period March 2012 until November 2013 and then, its job done, disbanded. The LGA produced a glossy brochure detailing Wirral’s ‘improvement journey’. The summary introducing the document makes interesting reading and includes this claim.

Eighteen months after Wirral developed and implemented their action plan with the LGA, the Improvement Board that provided advice and oversight of Wirral’s improvement journey reported that sector-led improvement had “transformed” the Council to one that was “stable, well-led, open and far more inclusive.” If you don’t recognise that description, and I certainly don’t, here is the link. http://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/wirral-councils-sector-le-40f.pdf

An interesting comment in the Liverpool Echo published 8th May 2013 from Cllr Harney at the time of establishing the ‘LGA Improvement Board’ Cllr Harney said the council needs “a great deal more openness and much more rigorous performance management”.
He added: “People, councillors, senior managers and the public, have not been aware of what has been going on.”

One aspect of the withdrawal agreement with the Improvement Board, was that Opposition Councillors would occupy the Chairs of Scrutiny Committees. Is that still the case Cllr Smith? No of course it isn’t. All scrutiny committee chairs were taken by Labour councillors in 2014. That casting vote, as required to achieve the prescribed outcome, is crucial to driving unopposed decision-making, but also negates independent scrutiny, accountability and transparency.

Coupled with other constitutional changes giving sweeping new powers to Cabinet members, and a forthcoming fallow year for elections in 2017, any prescribed outcome is attainable. Add to that heady mix the ruling group en-bloc voting and abstention regimes, and what results? Mythical resident’s surveys aside, and resident ‘information deficit’, party-political voting which mostly ignores constituents’ wishes e.g. Girtrell Court and Lyndale School thrives. As you will know, these deliberate changes effectively create the situation where power rests solely with Cllr Phil Davies. How would you describe that model of administration?

Graham Burgess’ apparently effortless ‘soft-shoe shuffle’ into Wirral’s CEO position preceded the 2015 LGC ‘Award’. The Guardian newspaper published, on 10 Apr 2014, the 3rd in the series ‘Public Service Tango’ – Headlined ‘One leader, one chief executive – and a joint vision for their council’s future’ – a far from enlightening piece by Graham Burgess and Cllr Phil Davies. A good journalist would normally extract a ‘riveting quote’, or an ‘earth-shattering insight’ from the article to draw the reader into this revelatory discourse.

This must be the best available. “Wirral council’s leader and chief executive attend each other’s meetings and welcome ideas from all employees”. An absolutely breath-taking insight you must agree – but does it actually matter? Well yes, and, no.

Actually it doesn’t in this specific case as one learns nothing, but of more interest is this extract from a paragraph beneath the published article.
Phil Davies is leader of Wirral council; Graham Burgess is the council’s chief executive. This collection of articles on the relationship between public managers and politicians is supported by SOLACE and is running on the Guardian Public Leaders Network from March to June 2014.

I know that you will be on the edge of your seat by now, Cllr Smith, but what happens next? You will take solace from what happens next.

The very, very low-key publishing of the November 2015 ‘peer review’ follow-up, of Wirral Council, by the LGA. You may not know the then-Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, but you should. His name is Mark Rogers – http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/birmingham-city-council-chief-executive-12625426

Mark Rogers was the CEO of Birmingham City Council, a member of the LGA and SOLACE, which if you don’t know is the Society Of Local Authority Chief Executives. It is most likely that Eric Robinson (from neighbouring Staffordshire) and Graham Burgess, and Cllr Phil Davies would know him. Not only was he a member of SOLACE (supporting the Guardian article), but he was its President until October 2016.

Birmingham CEO Mark Rogers (LGA member and SOLACE President) was one of the ‘experts’ who undertook the ‘peer review’ of 2015 which unlike the ‘sector-led improvement journey’, and the farcical ‘Most Improved Council 2015’ award, was unleashed on an unwitting public without fanfare and illustrates regression, not improvement. I would imagine that even Mark Rogers would struggle signing that review off, with his background in children’s social care?

Does that look familiar, given Eric Robinson’s previous employment?
At this point, the question for me is where do I stop ‘joining the dots’?
I have only scratched the surface of the machinations of Wirral Council above, but you will get a flavour of why I have some difficulty taking your response seriously.

Wirral Council ruling administration is in serious trouble, and using great swathes of public money to defend the indefensible, is actually indefensible.

I look forward to receiving your response,
Your sincerely

Dr Robert B Smith FCMI

ps I would be making these observations and comments whatever the political colour of any Council administration conducting itself in this manner.

Blank Halliday

Blank Halliday 011

Wirral Council – experts in blanking the people who pay their wages/expenses/allowances

As the denizens of Wallasey Town Hall breath a sigh of relief that they’ve survived another week (well those not on long term sick leave anyway) and can look forward to a bank holiday weekend we provide an update on the Stewart Halliday situation.

Readers will remember Stuey ‘laughing all the way to the bank’ Halliday is the recipient of a humongous salary courtesy of Wirral Council taxpayers despite leaving his previous employer City of York Council (CYC) with questions to ask about his rather casual approach to contracting arrangements.  

Indomitable local resident Charles Nunn is particularly aggrieved that his Council Tax and that of many other Wirral tax payers appears to be being spent on a series of snake oil salesmen and has pursued this matter with Wirral Council CEO (the ‘O’ seemingly standing for ostrich) Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson. Stressed Eric provided the following response:

Dear Mr Nunn

Thank you for your email  dated 13 March 2017 and follow up email on 26 March 2017.

The Council’s Human Resources Team has confirmed the following:

Mr Halliday is engaged via an agency through the Council’s contract with Matrix Ltd.  Under the process, Matrix require supplying agencies to supply references for the previous two years employment history.

These references were sent directly to the line manager recruiting the worker.  There is no requirement for our Human Resources Team to be involved in all such engagements.  The line manager also elected to seek an additional reference from the former Chief Executive of York Council and subsequently a further reference was provided to the agency by the Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods still currently working at York.

We have been advised by Mr Halliday that he refutes all the allegations which are matter of ongoing dispute between him and his previous employer. It is not appropriate for Wirral Council to comment any further on these allegations.

Regards

Eric Robinson
Chief Executive
Wirral Council

Charles tells us that in his opinion , of the three statements made in Robinson’s response, which is presumably based on from information supplied by Halliday, ‘one at least is certainly untrue, one probably untrue and another open to conjecture……’
He added further :
‘Halliday may “refute” the allegations but anyone who has read the damning report from York will scratch their heads in wonder  at such a statement………..
That the CURRENT holder of the exalted title of Director of Communities and Neighbourhood at York would not have supplied a reference and indeed the post holder would not have been the right person so to do as Halliday did not report to that person.
I have suggested that Robinson must be very embarrassed (I doubt it to be so) at passing on duff information and await his reply with interest.
I should also have asked why a Line Manager has the authority to dish out such highly paid posts.’
Charles has based his assertions on information he has received from contacts in York. Most notably CYC Cllr Mark Warters who was rather more robust in his enquiries than our very own Stressed Eric.
A blameless CYC  underling contacted Cllr Warters to explain :
‘Mary (Weastall – CYC CEO) asked me to apologise for the delay in responding but to confirm,  as far as the council is concerned we do not have a dispute with Stewart Halliday’
Indeed councillors seem to be made of sterner stuff than our own when it comes to questioning what’s has been going on with taxpayer’s money and now that the Local Government Association (LGA) has been called in to carry out a ‘peer review of the Council’s approach to procurement, including governance’ Cllr Warters remains undaunted by the  LGA’s dilly-dallying  to ‘identify suitably qualified and experienced people who could investigate specific issues and events at CYC.’   Which as Wirralians know means appointing a ‘safe pair of hands ‘ such as the likes of  LGA alumna Dr Gill Taylor  or Joyce Redfearn who shake their heads, give a slap on the wrists, take the money and run to another lucrative gig……..and make NO DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER.
Cllr Warters asks of LGA  : ‘Without knowing the answers to the questions I posed to you it is hard to assess whether waiting for your investigation to conclude is reason to hold off any longer taking the matter to the police.’
Isn’t it a shame that our own dear councillors don’t take this more rigorous approach and report what we regard to be much more serious concerns to the local police ?

His Lordship Makes An Announcement

Citizen-Leaks

Live from Leaky Towers we proudly present an important  press statement from His Lordship :

‘After serious consideration and stumping up the £500 election deposit by selling some of the family silver I have resolved to stand as the Leaky Party candidate at the next General Election.

Of course this will mean I will have to relinquish my title and forego the afternoon snoozes in the House of Lords – not to mention the expenses.

Newly appointed Wirral Leaks Press Officer Ms. McCalamity whispers in ear : ‘ I thought we agreed it would be best if you didn’t actually mention your expenses at all ! Remember that little problem you had explaining the gold-plated trouser press and the appointment of your own personal nobbler, sorry ,cobbler claiming you were only trying to emulate the incumbent MP for Birkenhead ?’ – https://order-order.com/2009/10/19/is-frank-field-really-so-saintly/

However from now I will be a commoner and appropriately enough I will be standing in the Birkenhead Constituency. For the duration of my campaign I will be known simply as Julian ( McCalamity whispers in ear) . Oh yes , we’ve agreed on a bit of rebranding and that to maximise the youth vote I will be going by name ‘Joolz’ and my election tagline will be ‘Joolz 4 Birko’ .

Her Ladyship is already busily preparing to become Birkenhead’s First Lady – as opposed to Wirral Chamber of Commerce CEO Paula Basnett who is Birkenhead First’s Lady . Because as everyone knows behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes and running the show!

The Leaky Party will be standing on a platform of  investing and supporting public services , promoting openness,transparency and accountability, refusing to reward failure with public money, preventing the appointment of overpaid consultants, promoting meritocracy and rejecting cronyism , barring BS and spurning spin. Oh and whilst we’re at it stopping ‘Returning Officer’ payments at elections – if ever there is case of the undeserving rich it is Eric ‘ Feeble’ Robinson pocketing another 15 grand just before the summer hols. C’mon Eric – do as one of your predecessors once did and donate this unwarranted perk to charity . Might we suggest adding this election windfall to fundraising efforts for victims of the New Ferry  gas explosion. Put OUR money where the need is!

So in conclusion as I launch our campaign I say to the people of Wirral ( and particularly Birkenhead)  – let’s all rise up together and be something more than pitiers of the poor and do something more than promote ourselves,our friends and our own personal agendas.

Let the political games begin……’

 

Birkenhead First (Second Coming)

Birkenhead First Balloon

Is the balloon about to burst on the BID levy scam? Or are Wirral Chamber of Commerce still allowed to give Tourism Awards to one of their belligerent Director’s former love nest in exchange for screwing over local charities?

Apologies for the disrespectful Easter title – but it’s what we do best. Iconoclastic and sarcastic at the same time.

This post is a follow up to one of our most popular recent stories

Birkenhead First (Among Equals)

Continuing the Biblical theme , readers will remember this was the David v Goliath story of charity boss Jim Barrington taking on the might of Wirral Chamber of Commerce (or rather their enforcers Wirral Council).

Gallant Wirral Councillor Lib Dem Stuart Kelly followed up our story , asking pertinent questions of Wirral Council CEO Eric’ Feeble’ Robinson who in time honoured tradition passed it on to some highly paid underling who passed it on to a less than highly paid underling.

The answers to the questions that Cllr Kelly posed are as follows . Needless to say it starts with apologies, because apparently this is what we do , we pay public servants to apologise profusely and at regular intervals

Apologies for the delay in responding to you.  Please find below my response.

1.Is it the case that Birkenhead First have the ability under regulations to exempt not for profit charitable business from the levy ?   

Schedule 1, Paragraph 1 (e) of the Business Improvement Districts (England ) Regulations 2004 provide that BID proposals shall include “a statement of the specified class of non domestic ratepayer (if any) for which and the level at which any relief from the BID levy is to apply”. This could include charitable rate relief. The Birkenhead BID proposal did not include this optional relief. The BID levy of 1.5% applies to all hereditaments located within the Birkenhead BID boundary area. Businesses with a rateable value that is below £6000 are not liable to pay the BID levy.

2. Is it the case that the BID Levy is being collected on behalf of Wirral Chamber of Commerce by Wirral Council.

Yes we bill and collect on behalf of the BID.

3. Is it the case that none payment is being pursued through the magistrates courts when the liability is a civil matter which are usually dealt with in County Court, if so what is the reason for using magistrates court?

Schedule 4 of the 2004 Regulations deals with enforcement and application for liability orders if the levy is not paid. It applies Part 3 of the Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Local Lists) Regulations 1989. Regulation 12 (2) provides that:-
“The application is to be instituted by making complaint to a justice of the peace, and requesting the issue of a summons directed to that person to appear before the court to show why he has not paid the sum which is outstanding.”
The correct jurisdiction for enforcement is the magistrates court.

4. Is it the case that Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce are adding £95.00 in court fees before liability has been established in court, is there a breakdown of how these costs have been arrived at.

No costs are awarded by the Court upon application by the Council. They are shown on the summons document. The cost make up is shown on the attached. The costs are the Council’s and not passed on to the Chamber.   

5. What is the relationship between Wirral Council and the Chamber with regard to the BID.

The chamber pays for the Council to administer the Billing and Collection of the BID.  

Thankfully our original source Jim Barrington was able to breakdown this BS response as follows :

This looks promising. Excellent work. I did not see the attachment they used to justify their court costs but I am assuming it is the same excel spreadsheets they sent to me. If so here are a few things to consider:
1) They provide the cost to run the entire revenue and benefits department. These staff are already in place so providing these costs as evidence of what it costs in court fees is a deliberate tactic to avoid providing a per capita breakdown. The staff perform other roles and functions including allocation of housing benefits, council tax benefits and enquiries, non-domestic rates and so on. As such one would need to know the total number of different activities each officer undertakes, how many hours are involved and how much of this is actual spent processing and compiling court actions. Then one needs to add the known £3 court processing fee (taking into account economies of scale) and know precisely how many people are being taken to court on any given submission. Then, since the fees must be BID specific, this must be narrowed down to a per capita cost for each BID summons. I doubt this would cost more than £3 per processing fee plus an average of £2 per individual summons for staff time. Even if this cost is more, it would be difficult indeed to justify £95 per capita.
2) The reply was this is a civil matter and the correct setting is Magistrates court. The reason for this did not seem clear to me despite a verbose explanation. 
3) If the matter is a civil matter as agreed by the Council Officer then it clearly falls under Contract Law. As such the proper setting is County Court. It would also likely represent an unfair contract due to no opt out procedure, lack of written contract, no appeal or clear complaints procedure, no refund policy or part refund policy if a person vacates their premises within the year and total lack of accountability or say over how the money is spent. This applies to all businesses affected by the BID.
4) I am still not clear why charitable organisations have not been exempted. No explanation has been given. I asked the Steering Group to consider this exemption prior to the BID vote and again after the BID vote. I have been told they did but the minutes of the meeting are confidential. So a tax is being levied on the promise it represents businesses to improve the area, but the same businesses are not allowed to see the minutes of the meetings. This is despite the BID brochure clearly stating it will listen and respond to small businesses and their needs.
5) Birkenhead First (or is it the BID Company? or is it Wirral Chamber of Commerce?) are claiming to have spent the money on activities which fall under the remit of Wirral Council and for which business rates are paid. So if Birkenhead First are now doing these things should there not be a reduction in Business Rates within the BID District? If so then perhaps this should equal the cost of the BID Levy so there is no additional cost to the small business.
6) They are claiming only businesses with a rateable value of £6000 or over are affected by the BID, whilst conveniently ignoring the fact most charitable organisations occupy larger premises on a peppercorn rent and could not afford to exist without this goodwill. Precedent for exemption of levies and taxes has been set by notable organisations such as HMRC, Customs & Excise and even Wirral Council themselves. So what justification is being given by Wirral Chamber who insist charitable firms must pay? They are strangely silent on this matter.
7) It seems unclear who is taking responsibility for these decisions. Wirral Council say speak to Wirral Chamber and they say speak to Wirral Council. 
8) I am not certain the magistrate “summons” is actually being dealt with by the court system. If you phone the court on the to enquire about the summons on the day they actually have no record of it. Could it be true the council is hiring a room in the court and hiring a judge who is not acting under oath on behalf of the courts? Surely not. Yet this is being muttered in cafes and corners of the Wirral by those being summonsed who have said the Magistrates courts have no official record of these summons. Some have even called the legality of the summons into question because it does not follow the proper form. If true, then the liability hearing may as well be heard in the Town Hall by a council officer because it has the same legal standing. The implications of this are wide reaching and expensive and could affect everyone. 
9) I suspect the Birkenhead BID is a pilot and Wirral Chamber / Wirral Council are working in concert. If this is allowed to go unchallenged then I predict further BID districts popping up all over Wirral.
10) The challenge needs to be:
– justification of court costs and fees. The Council is being evasive on this matter
– the proper setting for the liability hearing. I maintain civil matters should be heard in County Court not Magistrates.
– the legality of the contract under civil contract law. Anything less is extortion by public officials
– the lack of exemption for charitable organisations
– the lack of transparency or accountability over how money is being spent (see earlier comment re: unfair contract)
– the fact Wirral Chamber claims Birkenhead First is not subject to Freedom of Information laws. I contend they inherit the obligations of Wirral Council because they are working in concert with Wirral Council.
We are increasingly grateful that it is not just us who are concerned about the increasingly dubious relationship between Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce. Believe us ,and thankfully for once , these concerns spread beyond the insular peninsula.