It’s been the week of the Wirral hard sell.
The figure £1 billion has been bandied about about how much investment is heading to Wirral (or rather ,Birkenhead ,which is being branded ‘the capital of Wirral’) with slavish Liverpool Echo screaming headlines ‘£1 BILLION VISION FOR WIRRAL’
Wirral’s ‘leaders’ touting their tawdry wares in the South of France and Downing Street and according to the newly launched ‘Wirral. Well made.’ ( who thought that branding was a good idea?) aspiring that Wirral become the ‘Brooklyn of the North West’ – is that to Liverpool’s Manhattan?- with the dullest promotional launch ever. This would appear to be the brainchild of Sally Shah who apparently is ‘Lead Commissioner: Place and Investment’ – so yes, yet another highly paid public asset stripper on the Wirral Council payroll.
And then we have the Peel Holdings (up) gegging in with its ‘university of the sea’ plans for Wirral Waters with hundreds of jobs and sunshine,lollipops and rainbows for everyone!- again accompanied with the obligatory artist’s impression and yet more Echo headlines
And it doesn’t end there here comes the ‘asset transformation strategy’ and the formation of the Wirral Growth Company.
The hard sell meets the big sell off.
An email has been sent to all Members of the Council concerning an extraordinary meeting to take place to discuss the urgent appointment to the soon to be notorious/infamous ‘Investor Development Manager’ post
To all Members of the Council
Would you please note that the Mayor has called an extraordinary meeting of the Council to be held on Monday, 6 March, 2017, at 5.30pm.
This extraordinary meeting has been called at the request of 24 Members, in accordance with Standing Order 1(4), to consider a Notice of Motion in respect of the creation of ‘a senior post of Investor Development Manager’ (requisition notice attached).
This extraordinary meeting will precede the Budget Council meeting which will be held at 6.00pm, or upon the rising of the 5.30pm meeting, whichever is the later.
A summons for the meeting will be published nearer the time.
The story has already been reported here:
And previously a report to Cabinet on 16 January 2017 dealt with the appointment as follows…
‘Although this was not a key decision, in the light of the time critical nature of these activities, it was considered necessary to request that call-in be waived. This would enable the activities to progress at once and, therefore, ensure that work was completed in time to meet deadlines for key events such as MIPIM. Due to the absence of the Chief Executive, and on his behalf, the Assistant Chief Executive had recommended that call-in be waived’.
A request for the extraordinary meeting of the Council was called by 24 opposition councillors as ‘we believe that the creation of this post requires further scrutiny, to enable council to decide whether it is justified’.
However the extraordinary meeting has been called for 6th March – AFTER the appointment has been made! Which rather suggests to us that the matter was NOT ‘urgent’ in the first place and in fact the waiver was a means of preventing anyone asking any awkward questions as to why , at a time of cuts and punitive charging measures , that the council taxpayers of Wirral are being asked to fund Council leader Power Boy Pip’s special friend to hobnob in the South of France at their expense as apparently one of the ‘key events’ is described as follows : ‘MIPIM Cannes is the premier event in the European Real Estate calendar and has become Europe’s showcase for major cities, property developments, investment opportunities and international networking’
Nice work if you can get it and you can get it – even when it’s a politically restricted post and you’re part of a corrupt political cabal!
We’re also becoming increasingly concerned by the role of the Assistant Chief Executive David Armstrong’s enabling role and his very dodgy decision making in the absence of the Chief Executive Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson. Stressed Eric seems to have abdicated all responsibility when it comes to decisions which may come back and bite him on his plushly upholstered backside. Meanwhile Armstrong seemingly sails serenely towards a sizeable pension pot and is quite happy to acquiesce to whatever his political paymasters ask of him. Witness also his decision to commission Nick Warren to stitch up the council taxpayers over the ‘Wirralgate’ scandal in the power/moral vacuum that followed Graham Burgess’s hasty departure and proceeded Stressed Eric’s appointment.
All of which leads us to conclude that ‘bureaucratic machinations’ doesn’t come close to describing how Wirral Council operates and what makes it truly ‘ an extraordinary council’ for all the wrong reasons!
It must be this time of year, as we’ve been musing on money matters (or rather lack thereof). Clearly Wirral Council have been doing the same as they gear up to set their forthcoming budget and pursue a number of punitive charging regimes to offset central government funding cuts.
Yeah,yeah, yeah – we get it when they drone on about how badly they’ve been done to by central government and they have to make tough choices and priorities. But that’s what we take issue with Wirral Council here at Leaky Towers – it’s the choices that they make which indicate to us that their priorities are all wrong. Consequently they lose all moral authority when they start bleating about lack of finances.
So let’s take a quick look at where that money comes from and where it goes :
As we all know Wirral Council’s income stream is increasingly going to be us via Council Tax and any supplementary fund raising scams they can come up with.We look forward to their budget proposals now that they’ve been given the go ahead by central government to put up Council Tax by 3% to pay for the rising costs of social care. Rather frighteningly they also have the the opportunity to raise even more money via this route.Surrey County Council are looking at a total Council Tax rise of 15% but to do so they would have to put it to the local vote. We suggest that this is not something that the ruling group at Wirral Council wouldn’t risk but nothing ,nothing would surprise us about this shower of chancers.
So , down to business – we’ve previously discussed the charming operatives from Kingdom Secrurity and their cash for trash extortion agency for the Council. As anyone who has seen a Kingdom Security in action – they go after vulnerable people who don’t have the means to retaliate . Much like the people they get their contract off.
It’s not about caring for the environment. Neither are other money-making scams devised by an increasingly desperate council. Similarly their car park charging proposals have absolutely nothing to do with maintaining the roads or traffic measures. It’s all about the moolah. Your moolah! – so cash cows out there prepare your teats for action as they’re going to be bled dry.
We’ve already reported the squandering of £80,000 on the appointment of an Investor Development Manager – rumoured to be a shoo-in for current leading Wirral Council puppet master Martin Liptrot.
Which again begs the question as to why there isn’t someone on a humongous salary with the requisite skills at Wirral Council – because well ,apparently there just isn’t ! Let’s not even mention what the likes of David Armstrong, Clare Fish and Joe Blott get paid – if you throw in Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson that’s half a million big ones per annum between them.
Never mind the recent ridiculous ‘Are Wirral’s 66 councillors Value For Money?’ exercise conducted by themselves and to which the unsurprising answer was a resounding YES! – how about we have a VFM consultation on the above gang of four/flaw? – especially when we consider the damning Ofsted report into Children’s Services.
This has necessitated the appointment of troubleshooter Eleanor Brazil and former Children’s Commissioner for England Professor Maggie Atkinson as the new ‘independent’ chairwoman of Wirral Safeguarding Children’s Board. The appointment of such big hitters suggests us to that Children’s Services is in an even bigger mess than the Ofsted report indicated. Not that we’ll ever know because the Children’s Services Improvement Board meets behind closed doors. Lessons have obviously been learned from the last Improvement Board – no openness, no transparency, no public accountability suits the powers that be. We’re just asked to stump up the bill.
These consultants seem to be mainly tasked with finding out why Wirral Council can’t recruit and retain staff in Children’s Services. We can tell them free of charge : because it’s rammed with poor calibre middle managers who bully their staff on the instructions of passive/aggressive senior managers who earn a nice wedge spouting platitudes and duping councillors.Plus the fact that who in their right mind would want to do Child Protection work in Birkenhead. Think about that for a moment – beyond grim.
Another drain on resources that we never to get to hear about are the court cases that Wirral Council get ensnared in because they simply don’t know the difference between right and wrong….but they’ve got plenty of well paid people particularly in the HR and Law Departments who are prepared to blur the lines between the two in return for a big fat salary. We understand that there’s a court case coming up at the end of this month that could prove to be the defining moment of how Wirral Council chooses to ‘move forward’.
We’ll keep you posted.
Some might say it’s always panto season at Wirral Council but we think it officially kicks off at tonight’s full council meeting which features a special guest appearance from whistleblower Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro.
To join in the festive fun Wirral Leaks have been working on a pantomime production of our very own . Coming soon is ‘ Pipperella’ which is our unique take on the Cinderella story starring the following :
Pipperella – Cllr Phil Davies aka Power Boy Pip. Will Pipperella be asked to attend the Queen’s Ball to pick up an OBE or even better a knighthood for services to the BS industry and the business community?
The Ugly Sisters – Cllr Steve Foulkes / Cllr George Davies aka Foulkesy and Georgie . Typecasting we know !. Will Foulkesyetta and Georgetta De Combova spoil Pipperella’s plans by their bungling incompetence and inability to tell the truth?
Wicked Stepmother – Cllr Moira McLaughlin aka Matron. Will the bossy old trout continue with her unquestioning devotion to the unworthy?
Baron Hardup – Asif Hamid aka Massive. Will struggling millionaire get another grant of public money and bail everyone out of trouble?
Dandini – Paula Basnett aka Pouting Paula . Will the dandy highwaywoman break the budget with awards ceremonies and costume changes?.
Prince Charm Offensive – Martin Liptrot aka Liptrotsky . Will Wirral Council ‘cheerleader’ ensure that Pipperella has a happy ending ?
Buttons – Wirral Council Chief Executive Eric Robinson aka Eric Feeble/Stressed Eric. Will the one who doesn’t get paid ‘buttons’ get out from under his desk and do the right thing?
The Fairy Godfather – Frank Field aka Frankenfield . Will all troubles disappear with one swish of his magic wand? – be it hunger , poverty or protecting your political agent with public money !………
It’s been a week since we published our heartfelt preview of what was then the upcoming Ofsted inspection report of Wirral Council’s Children’s Services
And now in the aftermath of the publication of the latest in a long line of damning reports it would appear Wirral Council are adopting the timeworn tactic of denial and damage limitation.
As an antidote to these machinations we’re bringing you our further thoughts on the Ofsted report and subsequent developments.
Once again Council leader Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies demonstrates his renowned strong leader powers and makes plans to bog off to China with his new BFF – Metro Mayor reject Joe Anderson – in the aftermath of the Ofsted report crisis. At least his predecessor as council leader Steve Foulkes , who was not renowned for his political insight or indeed renowned for anything , had the good sense to abandon plans to jet off to the far east when the equally damning Independent Review threw Wirral Council into chaos in 2012.
However it seems Power Boy Pip is undeterred by the fact his leadership is in question and the Council is yet again in turmoil as he embarks on yet another junket. What we’d like to know is what exactly is his “number one priority” – small children or big business? and what have any of these many trips achieved for the people of Wirral?. Perhaps Pip can also tell us whether the Wirral Chamber of Commerce Queen Paula Basnett and Contact Company King Asif Hamid are also on the trip and if so – why?.
We think the first casualty (and we hope not the last) of the Ofsted inspection was Bernard Walker the ‘independent’ chair of Wirral Safeguarding Boards for both adults and children . Walker must have known the writing was on the wall and walked out when Ofsted walked in (allegedly at the end of his “tenure”). Subsequently Ofsted judged Wirral Safeguarding Children Board as “inadequate” and that it was “not discharging all of its statutory functions ….and the running of board business are not sufficiently independent of the local authority”. As we know from the Standards & Constitutional Oversight Committee an ‘independent’ person for Wirral Council is usually a safe pair of hands who won’t rock the boat and won’t ask any awkward questions . And at £500 a day for Walker’s services it would seem it’s the usual consultancy trick of taking the money but not taking the flak. Seems like Walker could talk the talk but couldn’t walk the walk. Under the circumstances might we suggest to Bernard that in the light of the Ofsted report findings that he may want to tinker with his LinkedIn profile – just sayin’.
“From the brink of intervention, to the pinnacle of local government” (Eric Robinson CEO Wirral Council).
So in the light of the Ofsted report how is that statement standing up Eric? . It’s all sounding a bit hollow isn’t it?. An empty Martin Liptrot -penned soundbite. Ain’t it a shame that the people of Wirral are not buying what you’re selling? . Although they are being asked to stump up another £2 million to help put things right!.
Unfortunately though the supine Department of Education suits think Wirral Council can be entrusted to set up their own improvement board and everything will be tickety-boo in no time. Of course long suffering Wirralians know better as we’ve all been here before . It is less than 3 years ago that the Local Government Association – led improvement board made a premature evacuation .
We all knew at the time that Wirral Council was nowhere near being “improved”. Self improvement is not the way forward with this lot- we all know that Wirral Council has long needed external intervention.
“Oh but they’ve got an action plan……leave them alone” bleats Frank Field . To which we’d like to say to him – “You , sunshine have a lot to answer for – it was you who stopped the Local Government Commissioners intervening in 2012 . You must be so proud of your politically motivated control-freakery. This Ofsted report is part of your legacy Frankenfield – so please that’ll be no more headline grabbing , fake- emoting over the plight of starving mites in Birkenhead from you thank you very much!……”
Now that we’ve had time to fully absorb Ofsted’s less than flattering inspection report of Wirral’s Children’s Services we thought we’d wade in with our thoughts.
The horrorshow of a report speaks for itself :
So having last week made our position on the latest Wirral Council car crash clear we’d particularly like to concentrate on the debris .
Inevitably Frank Field has melodramatically (if belatedly) entered the fray saying that the report is “simply devastating” . However for a man who in the past has been quick to condemn he’s treating those responsible for the manifest failings in the report with kid gloves (no pun intended).
“Now is not the time for scapegoating” he magisterially declares taking time out from calling for public accountability and monstering panto villains like former BHS boss “Sir” Philip Green. Which is a bit of a surprise from someone who makes such a public show of his deep concern about Wirral’s kiddiewinks. Although it’s perhaps not so surprising when you consider that one of the main people who should be driven into the desert is People Overview and Scrutiny Committee chair and long-time Frankenfield acolyte Cllr Moira “Matron” McLaughlin , who having failed spectacularly when she steered a totally out of control adult social services department has been given the opportunity to fall asleep at the wheel again and fail to ensure the proper scrutiny of children’s services under the stewardship of Labour cabinet lead Cllr Tony Smith . That’s quite a track record – it can only be a matter of time before she’s awarded an OBE.
But then what constantly perplexes us at Leaky Towers is that the people who are responsible for Council failures are given the responsibility to clear it up. We are not re-assured by the fact that Wirral Council Chief Executive Eric “Feeble” Robinson has informed us that will be holding Head of Children’s Services Julia Hassall’s hand whilst they clear up a mess partially of their own making. Stressed Eric described the Ofsted report as “painful” – but then we’re sure that the near £300,000 per annum of public money that Eric and Julia earn between them must go some way to easing that pain.
Has anyone noticed that Clare Fish the Strategic Director for Families & Wellbeing has been conspicuous by her absence from the public eye?. Whilst we always considered Fish to be out of her depth we wouldn’t like to think that this particular Super Duper Director has become yet another big fish who’s been let off the hook and been rewarded for their failure.
However it’s not all bad news as we’re particularly gratified, alongside a former Wirral Council head of safeguarding, that the current incumbent of the post – simpering Simon Garner – has been rumbled.
And finally with reference to the Ofsted report we think that whoever thought up the acronym MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) needs to be put out of their misery.
Before we return to dissecting the Wirralgate saga we couldn’t help commenting on a couple of developments on Planet Wirral.
Firstly we were delighted to hear that ‘Mayor’ Joe Anderson was ‘heartbroken’ (snigger) not to get the Labour nomination for the Metro Mayor election . The nomination went to Walton MP Steve Rotheram . Of course we were backing Luciana Berger – but it would appear that when it comes to Metro Mayors – the progressive Labour Party prefers all their candidates across the country to have a penis and just like the Liverpool City Region leaders it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit limp.
We were especially delighted that Mayor Joe’s ambitions come unstuck as we suspect that there were others on this side of the River Mersey who were anticipating riding on the coat tails of his mayoral robes.
Gleeful sources are commenting to us that Martin Liptrot’s masterplan to be the power behind the throne and Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies exit strategy to be Mayor Joe’s Deputy Mayor have sunk in the River Mersey. Once again we note how “The Curse of Pip” comes into play – a ringing endorsement from him – as Pip did for Joe’s Metro Mayor nomination – is invariably the kiss of death.
Oh well never mind Liptrotsky ( the self proclaimed”cross river power broker”) will have to be content with being the de facto Chief Executive of Wirral Council as further demonstrated by the fact that supposed CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson is left to front the justification for yet another appointment to Liptrotsky’s growing public relations empire . The new appointment of a ‘Public Affairs Manager’ (it has been reliably estimated that there are currently 14 – yes 14 Wirral Council officers already involved in aspects of this work) is justified by Stressed Eric thus:
“The Public Affairs Manager will support the delivery of the Wirral Plan through leading the development and delivery of a public affairs and outreach strategy for the organisation. In addition they will be responsible for developing and maintaining effective connections with policymakers and key influencers regionally, nationally and internationally to help shape policies, decisions and legislation for the benefit of Wirral.”
This appointment will leave Liptrotsky more time to run Wirral Council and tells you everything you need to know about Wirral Council’s priorities – less public services, more public relations.
We asked our faithful factotum Verity Snoop whether she was going to apply , she told us she was suffering from severe personal integrity and therefore didn’t meet the essential criteria of being a complete and utter professional arselicker.
We’ve only just caught up with Monday’s Wirral Council Employment & Appointments Committee after giving you the heads up last week that Head of Housing Ian Platt’s tidy retirement package was being discussed.
Needless to say nothing to report on that score as prolific film-maker John Brace was politely asked to leave before that golden handshake was signed off.
However we were treated to a rare speaking engagement by reclusive CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson who introduced his “New Operating Model” to replace his predecessor Graham Burgess’s “Non Operating Model”. We say this as there seemed to be an acknowledgement that Burgess’s appointment of so-called Super Directors was an expensive and wasteful extra tier of management . Council “leader” Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies seemed keen to draw a line under Burgess’s embarrassing tenure by declaring forlornly ” we are where we are” whilst repeatedly using his Deputy Ann McLachlan ‘s catchphrase ” going forward”. No wonder she sat virtually mute for the entire meeting – the one trick pony had lost her trick.
Meanwhile Stressed Eric was proving his charisma by-pass operation had been a complete success as he appeared to be playing a game of buzzword bingo on Mogadon. We think the term “Strategic Hub” says it all.
What was dispiriting for us to observe was the way that the lurch towards a business model which prioritises putting public services into the hands of private companies was so enthusiastically received by one and all despite the fact that Wirral Council is NOT a business.
Just a thought : how about employing managers who are truly committed to public service and not to their over-inflated paypackets?.
Whilst Stressed Eric briefly mentioned the C word – “culture” that is – he swiftly moved on to more familiar territory and concentrated on far less problematic areas such as “structures” and “processes”.
There were a few other interesting observations to make along the way such as Department of Adult Social Services Director Graham Hobgoblinson bagging himself an Assistant Director – as let’s face it he needs all the help he can get despite , with the impending closure of Girtrell Court , finally getting rid of all in-house services. Let’s hope he has better success than with previous DASS Assistant Directors!
We also noted that Joe Blott’s exit strategy has been put on hold and he will now be slotted in to the “New Operating Model” structure despite questions being asked about his “skill set” ( I think we can read between the lines what is meant by that can’t we?) . Of course Councillors must now be aware that Blott is calling the shots as he’s recently joined the Surjit Tour Job For Life Club. It must be the aspiration of every Wirral Council senior manager to wheedle your way into a position of power by means of your knowledge – which is less about knowledge of how to do you job and more about knowing where the bodies are buried……….
We’ve received a couple of further leaks this past week which indicate that Wallasey Town Hall is very much the sleazepit it ever was.
Firstly we hear the news that Super-Duper Director Clare “Wet” Fish has failed to follow the golden rule of Wirral Council – “Use what you know to get what you want” as we’re reliably informed that :
“Cabinet in secret threw out Eric’s restructure proposal which would have allowed Clare Fish to go with big pension and severance payment ahead of pension changes later this year……..”
So not only does Eric “Feeble” Robinson finally find out where he stands in the scheme of things – basically he does as he’s told and his reward for fronting the Wirral Council charade is £ 175K + perks. Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if you (don’t) try and change things.
Similarly do we have any sympathy for Ms.Fish ? – absolutely not!. Have you seen what she’s been on these past few years?. And how exactly have the people of Wirral benefited from her six figure salary?! . What’s more we know she’s threatened to resign in a fit of pique well before now but obviously the lure of filthy lucre proved too much. She could have done so much better financially if she threatened to spill the beans on what she knows – but a well brought up gal like Fish is obviously out of her depth (!) when it comes to dealing the Birkenhead Boot Boys.
Indeed Ms.Fish would be advised to have some regard for our second leak on how things work at Wirral Council :
“First officer – 30 years of unblemished service,professional and respected by staff. Second officer investigated for fraud, assaulted colleague but ex mayors chauffeur and late night control room host for Cllrs. You can only guess who got the job!