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.

Is There Anything Wrong With This Page?

Is there anything wrong 009.JPG

We notice that the Taxpayer’s Alliance have published their annual list of the highest paid, so called, public servants . You know , the ones we pay through the nose so they can keep their noses in the trough – purely because they can speak BS and do a powerpoint presentation AT THE SAME TIME! Glory be! we need to grovel in admiration!

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15216874.Wirral_Council_bosses_back_on_the_Town_Hall_Rich_List___and_one_earns_more_than_the_PM/

Needless to say Wirral Council features on the list.

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/taxpayersalliance/pages/6911/attachments/original/1491491587/Town_Hall_Rich_List_Master.pdf?1491491587

To which a couple of our commentators responded as follows :

‘Good to know town hall fat cats across the country are doing their bit in the face of savage guvmint cuts by awarding themselves massive pay rises. 
Funny that Wirral Council is cutting adult social care at the same time it’s introducing an adult social care precept. 
Not hard to guess which adults it is providing care for…..Step forward Blotto and Feeble.’
As they stole ‘Blotto’ and ‘Feeble’ from us . We’re stealing ‘guvmint’ . Genius!
Meanwhile someone who seems to have spent some time at the newly opened, glorified ‘yoof club’ that is ‘The Hive’ says :
‘Forget ASBOs – it’s these MOFOs that have caused downfall of society. 4 real! ‘
Who are we to disagree?

Meanwhile an exasperated Wirral Council officer shakes their head and with hands on their hips says:

“This information is published by the Taxpayers’ Alliance every year, and every year is inaccurate.

In this particular case, the salary quoted for the chief executive is wrong – and there are no council officers earning more than £300,000.”

Might we humbly suggest that the £371,848 remuneration to an ‘unknown strategic director’ best known for smoking, shagging and fighting included a £250,000 bung for him to slither off to the Wirral Chamber of Commerce?  We may be wrong, but let’s face it, we very rarely are!

The deeply aggrieved Wirral Council mouthpiece helpfully points us towards the Wirral Council website for clarification:

http://www.wirral.gov.uk/about-council/performance-and-spending/chief-officer-pay

It is interesting to note that at the end of the page it asks the pertinent question:

IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG WITH WITH THIS PAGE?

To which we at Leaky Towers can only reply : ‘Hell, yes!, where do we begin?’

For starters – Eric ‘ Feeble’ Robinson is on £178K ? – everything that is wrong with the world right there when that elusive mediocrity is on that kind of money.

As for Blott/Armstrong/Hassall – they were put on God’s green earth to be despised by us. They have succeeded. They now need to take their pensions and disappear.

We reserve judgement on Fish as apparently she had a bit of beef with Emma Degg and the former unexpectedly won. Go Clare!

Paul Satoor as Transformation Director is a new one on us. Jeezus his Department must be bigger than Dr Jekyll’s laboratory. But with the same results – full of havoc-wreaking, cash guzzling monsters like Mr Halliday, sorry Mr Hyde.

The rest of the list is a dispiriting roll call of overpaid nonentities but we were particularly drawn to the name Nicola Butterworth. Any relation to ‘Stressed Eric’ acolyte Stephen Butterworth? Or shall we just rejoice in the influx of Butterworths to Wirral that make all our lives just so much better?

Is there anything wrong 010

Reference Point 2 : A Halliday Hullabaloo!

Truth Sounds

There’s been yet another twist in the tale of the ‘Happy Halliday’ saga :

Happy Halliday  Nous Sommes Charlie Reference Point

Indomitable Wirral resident Charles Nunn has valiantly chased up queries about the appointment of controversial ex City of York Council (CYC) employee Stewart Halliday to Wirral Council and received this response from elusive (and gullible?) Wirral Council CEO Eric’ Feeble’ Robinson :

‘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.’
However  Charles ‘ trans-pennine contacts were having Nunn of it (geddit?).

Here’s a couple of responses from his contacts in York which have been judiciously edited , not that we doubt the veracity of some of the statements , but we know how delicate the sensibilities of our highly paid public servants are and we don’t want to prompt another outraged response from’Blotto’! . The first goes something like this :

‘I’m utterly gobsmacked at the response from the C.E.O. of Wirral Council, but, knowing how these organisations work, perhaps I shouldn’t be? ……….The Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods was Sally Burns at the time Halliday was there, but, she has also now left…..Judge for yourself – here are the dynamic duo in action (do try not to fall asleep whilst watching their spell-binding performance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_C47mc1m1U

It is laughable, and outrageous that Halliday refutes the allegations…….

The front this man has, beggars belief…
Halliday hasn’t “refuted” anything.
He has “denied” it.
There is a big difference in the meaning of these words.
There is NO ongoing dispute twixt Halliday and CYC.’
The second comment is no less compromising :

‘The  current holder of the grandiose title of  Director of Communities and Neighbourhood did NOT provide a reference. I am certain, as are no doubt you, that it was a previous post holder Ms. Burns who, like (Kersten) England furnished a glowing testimonial.

In order to “refute” something one must put forward evidence and argument to conclusively demonstrate that the allegations are invalid.  Halliday has NOT done this.  Indeed he cannot. 
We know for an indisputable fact what the procurement rules are – and also for a fact that he has failed to comply with them.
Ergo – he is guilty as charged.
His denials are worthless; but he is hardly likely to openly admit wrongdoing is he?  Or accept responsibility for it all? ‘
In an attempt to resolve the matter CYC Councillor Mark Warters has waded in (geddit?) in an attempt to address the discrepancies seemingly raised in Stressed Eric’s email and has asked current CYC CEO Mary Weastall the following questions :
Dear Mary,
Following the receipt of an FOI response forwarded to me from a concerned Wirral resident penned by the Wirral Council CEO that Stewart Halliday is in “ongoing dispute” with CYC;
Please confirm that Mr. Halliday is in “dispute” with CYC and what the nature of the dispute is.
Please also confirm the origin of the second reference provided to Wirral Council from the Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods “still currently working at York”, I assume that was the former Director Sally Burns who departed under a reorganisation some time ago.
If this was the case why was the reference provided from this directorate as Mr Halliday was working for the Chief Executives Directorate.
I understand that a reference was obtained from former CYC CEO Kersten England, was a reference ever sought from the CYC CEO at the time, I assume that was Steve Stewart?
I look forward to the LGA investigation into the 22nd February A&G meeting and wonder in relation to the “ongoing dispute” with CYC if the LGA brief should be extended to cover all aspects of this sorry saga including the procurement fails at CYC, the relationships between CYC officers, including Mr. Halliday and the external communications ‘consultants’ and Mr. Halliday’s subsequent employment at Wirral Council.
I am sure the LGA would be keen to operate across two local authorities to get to the bottom of these matters if only to prevent further reputational risk to member local authorities.
Thank you in anticipation of your assistance in these matters.
To which we at Leaky Towers would’ve been ready to heartily cheer ‘here!,here!’,  if only the Local Government Association(LGA) were not involved!
However I’m sure we’d all like to know who’s telling the truth don’t we ? – place your bets now on the ‘Stewart Halliday Sweepstakes’. Which is a bit like this week’s upcoming ‘Grand National Sweepstakes’ which involves the public losing a lot of money on something that should have have put out to grass a long time ago.

The Liptrot Mystery

Evans

Opposition councillors seem unusually curious about the recent controversial appointment of Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’Davies political ally , Martin Liptrot(sky) to the post of  ‘Interim’ Investment Lead .

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15173137.Special_meeting_heats_up_as_Wirral_councillors_clash_over_controversial_new_job_for_Labour_s_policy_chief/

And so they might be! The ongoing saga is worthy of an Agatha Christie murder mystery ….. but who knows where the bodies are buried !?

Of course we anticipated such an appointment long ago The Uncanny and the Corrupt

That’s not because we have second sight, it’s simply because, by now, we know all Wirral Council’s plot devices.

So before we get to the heart of the mystery, let us set out the story so far. Are you sitting comfortably? – because we guarantee you won’t be for much longer!

Remember when we exclusively announced Liptrot’s arrival at Wirral Council and questioned how his ‘Policy Advisor’ post came about?

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/all-hail-the-new-king-of-spin/

Remember when we questioned his apolitical credentials when he was appointed to a politically restricted post despite declaring his long held Labour Party affiliations all over social media ?

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/a-political-mr-liptrot/

Who can forget when Wirral Globe disclosed that leaked toecurling early morning email exchange between Liptrot and Pip?  Where the former, in full on diva mode, appears to be calling the shots – complaining about his pay and bemoaning the fact that he has to hand in time sheets to Super Duper Director  Joe Blott  – oh the shame!

“Apparently I’m supposed to work for 24 quid an hour and hand time sheets to Joe Blott [strategic director].Clearly that is both insulting and wildly unrealistic for the scope of the role we are discussing.There is no way I’m going to earn even less than I am now. We need to work out what we need to agree and you will probably have to just step up and tell everyone what you want doing in the end. Let’s talk tomorrow.’

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14306240.Emails_give_extraordinary_insight_into_Wirral_Council_s_controversial_hiring_of_former_Labour_spin_doctor/

And so having set the scene we move on to the latest chapter in the charmed life of Mr Liptrot and his latest ‘transformation'(!) as ‘Interim’ Investment Lead at Wirral Council.

An extraordinary series of extracts from leaked emails details the ‘bureaucratic machinations’ behind this latest appointment and provides us with even more plot twists……..

Firstly , we might recall that  24 councillors  issued  a ‘Notice of Motion’ in respect of, what was at the time, the creation of ‘a senior post of Investor Development Manager’ in response to the Labour Cabinet meeting held on 16 January .  This meeting was chaired by Power Boy Pip and included a report calling for the removal of ‘Call – in’ , thus denying opposition councillors the opportunity to ask any awkward questions about the post. The report stated :

‘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’.

Head of Law Surjit Tour clarified the situation : ‘Cabinet agreed to waive ‘call-in’ in accordance with the Constitution and the decision is therefore implementable immediately notwithstanding the request for an extraordinary council having been made and agreed. Council at the extraordinary council meeting is being invited to scrutinise the creation of the post and decide whether it is justified – but council would only be expressing its opinion/view in respect of the post and its justification. The decision maker remains the Executive and the decision in question remains implementable.’

The post was advertised via  Wirral Council’s temporary worker system (Matrix) . Matrix passed on the job specification to recruitment agencies at an equivalent day rate of £195.

Initially six applications were received. However according to Wirral Council’s HR  : ‘none of the applicants met the specification. We  have received feedback from the agencies that the remuneration is not sufficient to attract calibre candidates.Given the urgent requirement for the additional capacity and limited budget we are sourcing an Interim role – Interim Investment Lead on an interim rate, but for a shorter period of time’

HR went on to later add :‘The agencies feedback that they could potentially source some applicants at £350 day , but the calibre we required is likely to be £500 day. Given the urgent requirement for the additional capacity and limited budget we need to increase the day rate .’

Frankly it is simply an astonishing state of affairs when so-called committed, and no doubt ‘passionate’ public servants, don’t consider it worthwhile getting out of bed for less than £350 a day!  And of course the recruitment agencies are going to advocate such a hike in the daily rate because presumably it means more money for them! All of which means that public authorities are held a hostage to fortune!

Needless to say when the post was advertised at the higher rate, 13 further applications were received !

5 candidates were shortlisted. One of the candidates was unable to make the interview date and one candidate withdrew. And in true Agatha Christie fashion :  ‘And then there were 3’. These interviews took place on 15 February 2017.

Initially we understand that Asif Hamid was due to be on the interview panel but he mysteriously withdrew to be replaced , inevitably, by Wirral Chamber of Commerce chum Paula Basnett. Clare Fish , Wirral Council’s Executive Director for Strategy was also a late absentee. This left :

  • Alan Evans, Strategic Commissioner for Growth (Chair of the Panel)
  • Stephen Butterworth, Interim Strategic Project Support
  • Sally Shah, Lead Commissioner: Place and Investment
  • Paula Basnett, Chief Executive, Wirral Chamber of Commerce
  • Ellen Cutler, Director Inward Investment, Liverpool Vision

Now as we know the successful candidate was our leading suspect Martin Liptrot who was awarded an an initial 4 month contract  @ £350 a day.

However the  mystery here is whether the panel made the appointment or was the final decision made by Power Boy Pip and his supine CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson?

The Extraordinary Council meeting held earlier this week was an attempt by some curious councillors to find the answer to this whodunnit and other mysteries surrounding the case. However the Labour group were anxious to shut this line of enquiry down with Cllr Brian Kenny squeaking up for a ‘guillotine’ thereby reducing the time available for debating the issue.

Perhaps curious opposition councillors should seek clues about the recruitment process from Alan Evans, the Strategic Commissioner for Growth, who chaired the selection panel?

We understand that Evans’ unsung team in Department of Regeneration have been doing some excellent work  behind the scenes  and we can only wonder what they must feel about the influx of Johnny-Come -Lately’s such as Liptrot  who ,under the guise of ‘transformers’ , appear to be muscling in on their act and potentially taking the credit for their work.

We await further plot developments with great interest!

Transformers

Transformer

Take a walk on the mild side.

A frightened and downtrodden Wirral Council employee has written to us to throw some light of the ‘transformation agenda’ and throw some shade on those responsible for it :
“I’m a regular reader of your blog and would like to say congratulations on the good work you do. I am also a Wirral Council minion so although I have often wanted to contribute I kept quiet.  But I am moved to write by reading all about the amounts the council is spending on ‘Transformation’ consultants. In your blog you asked if anyone knew about the ‘interim head of transformation’.  I can tell you some things that might help. The interim head of transformation is called Stephen Butterworth.  He previously worked in Staffordshire with Eric Robinson, and has been working at Wirral since Eric got him in in the summer of 2015…….. He certainly makes sure everyone knows how close he is to Eric.  I would reckon that the amount mentioned in the  (Wirral) Globe has to be a tiny fraction of what he has pocketed so far.
The council have just appointed a Director of Transformation and already have a Senior Manager of  Transformation, they are now trying to recruit a temporary Head of Business Change as well as the ‘interim head of transformation’, not to mention Stewart Halliday and Jane Clayson – the programme managers all with their noses in the trough. 
Butterworth’s achievements so far in Wirral appear to be absolutely nothing but spending tax money on overpaid consultants.  I think he is the one driving all this crap about ‘alternative delivery models’, but nobody dares to argue with him because he’ll just run off to Eric.  
I read that he was on the interview panel for Liptrot’s job.  No wonder Eric couldn’t stop Phil Davies employing his mate, as Eric has brought his own mate in in the same way just not with as much publicity. 
  
It is disgusting that the council is spending so much on these vultures when services are being cut.
Our source did indeed call it correct when they said that they read somewhere that Butterworth sat on the interview panel that ‘appointed’ Liptrot to the post of ‘Investor Development Manager’
We reported it here first : Alternative Facts in a Parallel Universe
Indeed Conservative councillor Lesley Rennie damned us with faint praise at last night’s Extraordinary Council meeting to discuss ‘The Liptrot Affair’ by revealing that she only found about who was on the Liptrot appointment panel  : ‘ via Wirral Leaks. Thank goodness for them in some ways, but that’s no way to run an open and transparent Council ‘ (cue muffled jeers from the Labour benches).
You can see footage of this revelation at 20.50 of John Brace’s recording here :
However just to clarify we understand the panel didn’t actually appoint Liptrot(sky) – Cllr Davies aka Power Boy Pip did – but let’s not split heirs (to a fortune)!
We also note from last night’s meeting how Pip and co were doing the ‘affronted maiden aunt’ routine – a trick no doubt picked up from Auntie Frank Field’s repertoire – a man who has feigned outrage down to a fine art – and were bemoaning the ‘ lambasting’ of poor ,defenceless public servant Liptrot(sky).
However if the ruling Wirral Council administration continue to make a series of dubious high cost appointments, what do they expect?  Public scrutiny and ‘distasteful’ criticism comes with the territory and if Liptrot doesn’t like it he can fly off back to Florida!

The Hard Sell

Cannes Shah

Sitting in the shadow of Liverpool – here’s Wirral Council’s chief this week in Cannes.That’s him – the one in the blue shirt on the bottom right. Surely you didn’t think we meant that useless sack of potatoes top left?

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.

Wirral Growth 011

The hard sell meets the big sell off.

An Extraordinary Council

an-extraordinary-council-010

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

Dear Councillor,

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:

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15056994.Twist_in_the_tale_as_special_meeting_called_after_Wirral_councillors_are_banned_from_asking_questions_over_new_business_chief/

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’

http://www.liverpoolvision.co.uk/MIPIM/

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!