Men of Mystery : The Big Reveal Part 2

Speak-NO

Apologies for the delay on this one but there’s been a few glitches on the website this week . As it’s fashionable to do so we blame those pesky Russkies !

All we can say it’s a case of delayed gratification for our readers as we optimistically declare  : So, farewell then, Surjit Tour .

As yes indeed , we’re hoping that it’s the case that Wirral Council’s Head of Law is going back to where he came from. And we don’t mean that in a casual racist way a la  Cllr George Davies.  We mean that we understand that Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer (no laughing at the back) could be returning to Sandwell Council.  Could it be that Tour goes back to Sandwell and leaves the people of Wirral to go to hell in a handcart?

So what positive things can we say about Surjit as a future send off?

Er, not a lot.

Whilst we acknowledge that being Wirral Council’s legal guru is a tough gig we couldn’t imagine anyone less equipped to fulfil the role. Apologies, no actually we can – his chinless predecessor, Bill Norman!

As far as we’re concerned , during his inglorious tenure Tour steered the difficult terrain that being the pinnacle of local government legal probity involves by prioritising political and personal interests over the public interest.

This was a so called public servant who it seemed to us (and to many of our readers and contributors ) to continually thwart Freedom of Information requests,  somehow didn’t know how electoral expenses worked , circumvented due legal process and natural justice at every turn and yet who prostrated himself before people who held him in complete contempt . He was ‘ bloody useless’ according to Deputy Leader of Wirral Council Cllr George Davies (once again – no laughing at the back) . And yet he was prepared to accept a handshake,a feigned apology,  a promotion (and a cheque for hurt feelings?) to carry on as abnormal .

As for Surjit himself  – he must be counting the days before he finally drives his thoroughly vulgar personalised numberplates out of Wirral and back to the West Midlands for the last time.

But not as much as us.

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Bank Holiday Bonus

Brucey Bonus
A much valued Wirral resident has sent us the following message. We’d like to think the bank holiday bonus tale they’ve been told is bogus – but then again this is Wirral Council and as everyone knows they’d pay anything to shovel up their shite!
‘I was talking to a bin crew today who tell me that for every bank holiday they work they get 7x normal pay per day.  And as we know there are a quite few bank holidays each year…..I was almost 100% SURE that the guys were telling me the truth…FFS who on earth would agree to that ! Talk about money to burn….
On a separate note Blue Flag inspectors are looking at parks next week hence every green space in Hoylake, West Kirby has had all the crews thrown at them to make them look good!
You might also investigate that over £125,000 has been spent on Dee Lane toilets in last 3 months!! But now they are considering selling the lot! What a f waste of our money!
Am sure FOI will confirm.
Enjoy.’
We’d like to enjoy but we can’t…..mainly because we’re paying for it! And we leave FOI requests to others – as life is far too short to wait for Wirral Council to respond in a timely manner!
However we’d appreciate any spotters who witnessed the Blue Flag inspectors in motion! Or indeed anyone who’s been hanging round the Dee Lane toilets!

Nous Sommes Charlie

Nous Sommes Charlie

This post predominately ( but not exclusively) celebrates the endeavours of redoubtable Wirral resident Charles Nunn.

Check out his latest Freedom of Information request here :

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

Mr Nunn is a bona fide local legend who makes us look like the rank amateurs that we actually are.

Let it be known it was he who discovered the definitive Wirral Council remuneration of City of York Council incompetent Stewart Halliday and justifiably commented – because he comes from a generation who knows the difference between right and wrong:

So Halliday landed the top job of No: 1 Programme Manager at £188,192. which is about £30,000 more than the P.M. is paid.
It makes Liptrot`s salary look like mere petty cash!
So between August 2016 to September 2017 it can be confirmed that ‘Happy Halliday’ will cost us just over £188,000.
People of Wirral , just think about this statement for a minute  – a man who didn’t fulfil even the basic requirements of public service at City of York Council – and might we suggest his conduct borders on the criminal-  will be paid eye- watering and gut-wrenching amounts of public money by us! Because that is apparently what we deserve.
Unsurprisingly we have a recurring dream about putting Charles Nunn and Stewart Halliday in the same room and making the latter justify his salary to the former on our collective behalf.
Following on from the ‘Halliday Affair’ we had a tittylipped reply from someone who proudly proclaims themselves as ‘CYC Employee’  and who commented on our Reference Point story:
I think you will find this story is factually incorrect. I can tell you as a CYC employee …..who is sick of the York Trolls their lies and hatred of anyone who has ever said no to them…… that Halliday left in March 2016 before the new CEX started in June 2016. So it seems he started his new job after the Interim CEX had left….so as anyone would you would get your reference form your last line manager. CYC staff are sick and tired of Ms Swinburn
A message to ‘CYC Employee’ : The only thing that we were incorrect about is that Halliday is on even more than we originally reported ! Our bad ! Next thing you know ‘CYC Employee’ will be telling us Halliday’s referee , Ms Kersten England, knew nothing about his nefarious activities before she gave him a reference! Good luck with that one!
Note to ‘CYC Employee’, we’d have Ms Swinburn as a witness as to how City of York Council, and indeed how modern local government works, over anything you have to say any day of the week!
However we are grateful that the foolhardy ‘CYC Employee’ has provided us with a name , which will be from here on in , be the Wirral Leaks collective name for apologists of local government malpractice . I name thee :  ‘Brenda White’.
And just to remind the ‘Brenda Whites’ out there –  the good people of the world are not responsible for your mortgage payments just because you are prepared to defend the indefensible. Got that?
And finally, just to clarify – not only do we love Charlie , we also adore Gwen.
And indeed all those who say on our collective behalf who say :  ” NO!, this is not good enough”

Redact and Be Damned

 

Returning Officer  Money 011

After a false start (with emphasis on the false) Wirral Council initially responded to a recent Freedom of Information request with the wrong information.They have now got round to responding to friend of Wirral Leaks , Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro , about his enquiry pertaining to the Police and Crime Commissioner election of 2012.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/police_crime_commissioner_electi_3

Now as you can see the response below comes with the obligatory redactions and with the excuse that what lies behind the black marker pen is somehow ‘personal information’.

Yes , that’s right folks- public money paid to a public servant in the course of their public duties is ‘personal information’. Go figure!

Talking of figures – there’s some juicy figures on display and we’re not talking about Wirral Council’s Head of Law Surjit Tour –  here identified as the recipient of significant sums of money on top of his salary ( for doing what exactly!?)

Of course we flagged up the significance of this election long ago ( May 2014 to be precise) and anticipated it would feature in a recent Tribunal hearing featuring Wirral Council.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/election-reflection/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/a-return-to-greed/

As far as we’re concerned the use of redactions in Wirral Council’s response is as mysterious as the ‘Milk Tray Man’ – but instead of a black polo neck we get a black marker pen.

Unfortunately , from what we can gather, there appears to be a difference of opinion between Wirral Council’s Returning Officer at the time , former CEO Graham Burgess  (aka Burgesski) and Surjit Tour as to who did what for the money and how the figures were arrived at. However we’re sure that these fine upstanding public servants would, in the public interest, like to clarify what information lies behind the redactions. Otherwise, might we suggest,  they will be damned to further speculation as to exactly what happened on that fateful election night in 2012 and as to whether everything added up – and we’re not talking about the voting!foiextract20170303-10000-1v16phh-1_1

foiextract20170303-10000-1v16phh-2_1-b

 

foiextract20170303-10000-1v16phh-3_1-c

Question Time

question-everything

Let’s draw a discreet veil over last night’s ‘Question Time’.  All we will say is that if the audience in Wallasey Town Hall is what passes for the politically aware of Wirral it explains an awful lot!

Meanwhile , it’s not like us , but we’ve been a bit ambivalent about the local debate to reduce the number of local councillors. Our take has been that fewer elected members would mean a concentration of power and reduce  opportunities to challenge the powers that be , but then we had to remind ourselves that a) that rarely happens and b) party whips and council procedures can quell all rebellion.

We think that what we ‘d really like is a reduction in the number councillors who think a Nolan Principle is the latest winner of Celebrity Big Brother.

However such discussion is purely academic as councillors decided last month – quelle surprise! – not to suffer , like the rest of us , the consequences of the squeeze on public spending and to retain their numbers.

This decision was trumpeted by Cllr  Foulkesy – of all people! –  at a meeting of Wirral Council’s Labour Cabinet last month.

The conclusion that a reduction from 66 to 44 councillors would lead to the need for ‘full -time councillors’ and would apparently inhibit opportunities for women,ethnic minorities and disabled people to hold public office.  It would also lead to what Foulkesy called ‘a different shade of councillor’ being required as opposed,we presume, to a ‘shady councillor’ like himself. And suddenly we’re sold on the idea !  – in fact let’s go all the way and do away with councillors altogether and all the party political baggage that goes with it . Think about it – wouldn’t it be great to have full time professional public servants who are not compromised by toxic politicking?  So we say less councillors and more council staff ! – we can dream can’t we?

As we’ve been anxious to find out what Cllr Janette ‘Milly Tant’ Williamson called the ‘evidence based analysis’ which led to the decision not to refer the matter to the Local Government Boundary Commission we not only read the Scrutiny Review Panel report but considered a Freedom of Information request made by John H Hutchinson which has been brought to our attention and which reads :

“In his Cabinet report “Number of Councillors Scrutiny Review” November
2016, Cllr Brightmore makes many broad statements the most vague of which
is “significant resources in terms of officer and councillor time” and,
later, to support this statement “significant amount of time and
resources”.

What, please, was the formal and recorded estimate of time and resources
to support these statements?

If no estimate was made, could Council make an estimate to complete this
FoIA request, please?”

The Council can advise that Cllr Brightmore’s statements relate to the
Scrutiny Review Panel’s estimation of the time and resources required for
the Council to prepare a submission document to the Local Government
Boundary Commission for England (the Commission), and to undergo an
electoral review (See page 9 of the report)
[1]http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents…

In reviewing a number of lengthy and detailed submission documents from
other local authorities, the Panel was able to gain an appreciation of the
time and resources likely to be required to compile a submission in
preparation for an electoral review.  Technical guidance from the
Commission, indicating an 18-24 month timescale to complete each stage of
an electoral review also informed the statements. Beyond this, no detailed
assessment or estimation of the time and resources required to make a
submission was undertaken.

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

So it would seem that the  Scrutiny Review Panel Chair and rising Labour star Philip ‘Brightboy’ Brightmore –  who’s previous claim to fame was grassing up former Wirral West MP Esther Mc Vey for using House of Commons stationery and postage for Tory electioneering

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/wirral-leaks-advent-calendar-7-the-stamp-of-disapproval/

– was talking about an ‘estimation of the time and resources required for the Council to prepare a submission document to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (the Commission)’ .

So it would transpire that the Scrutiny Review Panel have basically made some comparisons with some neighbouring councils and councils with a similar profile and decided they are value for money.

It is significant there are no surveys or consultations undertaken canvassing the views of council taxpayers nor an analysis of how much additional council officer time and resources would be needed if the number of councillors were to be reduced. This was firmly put in the ‘too difficult tray’ by the Panel as follows : ‘The impact of a reduction of councillors on back office and support functions was also acknowledged by the Panel. Whilst this is difficult to quantify, it was agreed that that these functions would have to increase in order to fill the gap left by councillors, so any cost savings identified by reducing councillors would have to take account of any increase in officer workloads.’

Meanwhile Panel chair Brightboy says in the introduction :

‘I believe the findings of this investigation speak broadly for themselves. To speculate further upon those findings here risks undermining the analytical, data-led approach I and others have been careful to maintain.’

Which just about sums up some local councillors view of the local electorate.  It’s a case of : ‘We don’t want your views .We know best – even when we don’t ’cause we don’t have the data !’  

Which is why in the light of such a lack of investigative rigour we say to our readers :  keep on making those Freedom of Information requests and most important of all –  QUESTION EVERYTHING.

 

He Wouldnt’ Let It Lie

BOB

News reaches us that Bob Mortimer  (wacky sidekick to Vic Reeves) lookie-likie Martin Morton has been whistleblowing again.

” That man’s cheeks must look like Kim Kardashian’s arse” piped up Eldritch rather ungraciously.

Apparently there’s an email doing the rounds detailing further calamities at Wirral Council.  Astonishingly we’ve been told it has absolutely nothing to do with this gobsmacking Freedom Of Information request:

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

It just makes us want to ask – what exactly is up with these people at Wirral Council?

Are they just living in hope that the guy spontaneously combusts?

Fear not dear readers – it’s only a matter of time before the email gets leaked…….

The Mayor Reacts

The Mayor Reacts

Consultants & The Encirclement of Public Services

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We at Leaky Towers have long had misgivings about the use of consultants by Wirral Council.  SEE HERE

Therefore it comes as no surprise to us at all to find out that following a Freedom Of Information request by that pesky Councillor Ian Lewis they have spent £1 million on hiring consultants.   SEE HERE

Of course we at Leaky Towers like to consider the bigger picture and our concern is not always just about the extortionate costs of consultants but the questionable “added-value” of people who seem to be quite happy to hasten the demise of the public sector as long as there’s a rise in their bank balance.

Essentially we agree with the definition that  “a consultant is someone who is brought in to find out what has gone wrong , in the  comfortable expectation that he will not bite the hand that feeds him by placing the blame where it belongs”

As reported time and time again on this blog this means that following the departure of consultants from the Wirral Council “crime scene” there usually remains more questions than answers.

Amongst many others we’ve had Richard ” Highways robbery” Penn, Rob ” Making hay out of the 4 week delay” Vickers, Joyce “Putting the earn in” Redfearn, Anna “Quids-in” Klonowski and Michael “Boiled Frog” Frater , oh and some anonymous IT Guy struggling to get by on £800 a day. SEE HERE

The latest in this inglorious trail of consultants is iMPOWER (no really – this is what these people decided to call themselves) and the recent publication of their report about the transport needs of disabled children. SEE HERE

Their 40 page graph-tastic report costing a whopping £107,000 demonstrates that you may not get much bang for your bucks but you may get the answers you want.

In their report iMPOWER identify that the problem Wirral Council faces in the rising costs of providing transport lies in the fact that too many disabled children are being assessed as having Special Educational Needs (SEN) on Wirral compared to some other local authorities ( because as anyone who has a child who has been assessed for a such a  SEN Statement – these are an absolute doddle – NOT!)

But not to worry iMPOWER have been discussing ” efficiency opportunity ideas” (!) with parents and carers of disabled children who they have identified have the “value modes” of either “settlers, prospectors or pioneers”

Is it us or do these kind of people grow up watching too many Westerns (see also our Cowboys & Indians story) ?

We would argue that the ideological basis for the dismantling of public services is known as neoliberalism  which “has taken its toll and the language of consultancy has displaced and replaced the language of conscience and commitment”

In his book ” A Brief History of Neoliberalism” David Harvey offers a clear definition of neoliberalism as a system of “accumulation by dispossession,” which has four main pillars:

  •  1) the “privatization and commodification” of public goods;
  • 2) “financialization,” in which any kind of good (or bad) can be turned into an instrument of economic speculation;
  • 3) the “management and manipulation of crises” (as above); and
  •  4) “state redistribution,” in which the state becomes an agent of the upward redistribution of wealth”.

Or in terms of consultancy -speak and using the wild west analogies of which they seem so fond, it seems to us it’s a case of the “Not OK Corral” where consultants encircle their wagons, staking a claim for the public services pot of gold.
encircle