Good Advice

Wilde 732

Such is the sage advice we receive on a daily basis we really should do a ‘ Wirral Leaks’ self  help book.

Chapter 1 would be about the ruling administration at Wirral Council taking themselves down the steps at the back of Wallasey Town Hall and throwing themselves into the River Mersey. If this is a hate crime we are proud to say we are guilty as charged.

However in the mean time we publish the recent contributions we have received that we feel the need to share in the public interest.

First off we follow up our Wirral Council Have Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two… with this pertinent advice :

Dear Sirs,
I have as well as many other businesses received a letter stating that I will be fined if I do not process my business waste via their channels.
I urge all businesses to send the letter back minus their name and address to the sender of the letter stating that in future we do not want their waste!
Regards
Next up we have some advice from down south (not a euphemism) as we know when something is kicking off when we get loads of hits on a long lost post.On this particular occasion it is our updates on the progress of infamous local government cheque collector Anna Klonowski . You know the one , she flew in to Wirral ,made a killing telling us what we already knew  that Wirral Council was a basket case and offering absolutely nothing to rectify the situation she moved on to her next lucrative gig ticking the boxes of mutual mediocrity along the way – for cold hard cash of course.

However it has been revealed that another pay-off of almost £100,000 made by Bristol City Council to its former chief executive ‘the Blessed Anna’ was not a contractual obligation, according to auditors.

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees insisted Anna Klonowski was entitled to the cash when she left in September 2017.

But the council’s auditors said it was “inappropriate” for the authority to say the payment was contractual. Read full story here : Bristol council’s £98k payout to chief exec ‘not obligatory’

So can we advise when Wirral Council wants to pay off the likes of  Webb, Noone, Fowler, Maddox, Coleman, Wilkie,Adderley ,Burgess, Degg ( we always put these 3 together – we can’t think why!) , Fish, Hassall, Blott, Norman, Lyon  etc; etc; they need to act in the public interest and remember the words :

NOT OBLIGATORY 

However we’ll leave the last word to ‘our betters ‘ at Wirral Chamber of Commerce  and particularly their Chair, Sandra Kirkham aka ‘Our San’, who advises us lesser mortals in a Tweet from last month:

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 21.53.35

Whilst is looks as though San has also attended the ‘Sybil Fawlty School of Statin’ The Bleedin’ Obvious’, along with Anna Klonowski, it would also appear her message about skills and what we do in schools is somewhat undermined by the fact that she (or whoever writes Wirral Chamber of Commerce’s tweets) doesn’t seem to know the difference between ARE and OUR…

 

 

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Summer Shorts : The Heat is On

Green Belt Eric 008

In the absence of His Lordship we are titling this series of brief posts as ‘Summer Shorts’!

This truncated story comes courtesy of several readers who were startled to see a picture of shy and (hopefully) retiring Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson on the front page of this week’s print edition of Wirral Globe .

Whilst most of our readers were startled to belatedly discover the identity of our reclusive ‘Council chief’ (no laughing at the back!) especially when the mischievous Globe dug out the infamous picture that introduced the charismatic ‘Stressed Eric’ to us all when he got the top job at Wallasey Town Hall.

However one particularly perceptive blog follower reader asked us whether this ‘exclusive’ was the death knell to Stressed Eric’s ‘Reign of Error’ as having kept a profile lower than a rattlesnake’s belly he suddenly finds himself thrust into the public gaze.

Feebly pointing the finger at ‘guvmint’ for threats to the local Green Belt because Wirral Council’s failure to meet the statutory  requirement to have a ‘Local Plan’  is somehow the fault of Whitehall mandarins (huh?) , Stressed Eric appears to be dubiously entering the political arena in which local authority CEOs are required to remain resolutely neutral.

With the increasingly unpopular ruling Labour administration currently being under fire from the Wirral public over parking charges and their retention of litter Hitlers Kingdom Security, the cowardly bullies seem to be reverting to type . Historically, when the heat is on they like to throw a CEO and sundry senior officers into the furnace. From Maddox to Wilkie to Coleman to Burgess – especially Burgess who had the temerity to try and mark his territory and stand up to leader of Wirral Council Frank Field, sorry , we mean  Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies  –  there has been a scorched earth policy where highly paid public officials are burned at the stake and the politicians rise up like a phoenix from the flames.

We are left asking ourselves how long can Stressed Eric stand the heat before he’s all burnt out?……..

Eric Gut

Living off the fat of the land : Is Eric Robinson morphing into Eric Pickles?

 

Advent Farewell 9 – Out of Sight , Out of Mind

Maddox & Morton 2

Two Deputy Lieutenants of Merseyside are of one mind.

From time to time we like to check up on the progress on some of the Wirral Council charlatans and chancers that have (dis)graced our pages over the years in our special ‘ Where Are They Now?’ feature.

Whilst we readily acknowledge that we featured former Wirral Council CEO  Steve ‘ Mad Dog’ Maddox in such a post earlier this year we feel the original post needs enhancing mainly because we believe that in many ways it is most instructive on the ways of Wirral.

If ever there was an example of how to evade accountability and manage your reputation then Maddox is the ultimate case study. He saw the writing was on the wall when so called independent investigator Anna Klonowski was brought in by the Tories to find out what whistleblower Martin Morton was blathering on about . On the very day Maddox was due to meet with Klonowski  , Maddox took the coward’s way out and suddenly announced he was going to spend more time with his long suffering family. This followed over two years of Wirral Council senior management covering his expansive arse . Of course Maddox didn’t even need to work his 3 month notice period and swiftly pissed off to the golf course with additional pension payments made up to when he would have retired – about which we can only ask – why?

The panicked leader of Wirral Council at the time Cllr Steve Foulkes provided this farewell quote :

“Steve is essentially a self effacing and modest man who probably has no idea of the very real and extensive legacy he will be leaving behind.We know, and are grateful for it. I wish him all the best for the future and hope that he will continue to be involved with the people of Wirral, for whom he has always been an eloquent and passionate advocate.” Steve 2 Steve

This translates as Maddox did as he was told and his greatest quality is that he could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on .  But oh what a legacy he left behind!  Whilst Maddox secured himself a tidy six figure bung , collected the Freedom of the Borough of Wirral to add to his OBE and was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside to stand alongside Birkenhead MP Frank Field, his swift departure meant his hapless and hopeless sidekick Jim ‘Wee Willie’ Wilkie was to reap the wild wind of what his former boss had created – a toxic,corrosive culture of bullying,incompetence and deceit which was soon to be (partly) revealed in the Independent Review in  January 2012 . Needless to say shortly after Wilkie ended up being escorted from Wallasey Town Hall premises a broken man.

What’s more when the furore over the Independent Review had died down Maddox reappeared on the local scene and within the year was appointed as a Director of  mental health organisation Wirral Mind in December 2012 .

This appointment has always intrigued us ,  primarily because it is with some irony that Wirral Mind were seemingly gifted the management of the learning disability service that was a significant feature of Morton whistleblowing case that led to the Independent Review that in turn was the impetus for  Maddox’s ‘retirement’ !

It has long been thought that Wirral Mind, with no significant track record of supporting people with learning disabilities, were rewarded  the contract for keeping a lid on the unlawful charging scandal when they were appointed as advocates on behalf of those who couldn’t speak up for themselves when the scandal blew up . Unfortunately this ‘advocacy’ service didn’t actually extend to advocating on behalf of those who had been financially abused.  An appalled Wirral Leaks reader once recalled attending a  Wirral Council meeting  where Sandra Gilbert Wirral Mind CEO , said that the tenants who had been financially abused ‘lived in the lap of luxury’ . Perhaps if  we put aside the issue of illegality and equality Ms Gilbert might appreciate that if she had £100 + a WEEK taken out of her salary over a number of years she might have fought a bit harder on behalf of disabled people instead of leaving it to Morton and others.

All the Independent Review report had to say on the matter was that there was

” a need for the Council to refresh its contractual arrangements with (Wirral Mind) in the context of EU procurement requirements.”

Funny how Frank Field wasn’t jumping up and down about this proven case of Wirral Council flouting EU procurement regulations isn’t it ? Or getting Merseyside Police and the Serious Fraud Office involved as he did with the Highways contract complainants that apparently he is still ‘gallantly’ supporting 9 years after their alleged whistleblowing exploits !

Since our report we note that in August 2017 there was a  cessation of Maddox  being ‘a person with significant control’ of Wirral Mind  August 2017.   However he still remains a Director – presumably because of the lustre and prestige that someone with his impeccable track record brings to an organisation.

 

Critical Condition

Wirral logocritical-condition

 

As you must know by now we are (and have been) fierce critics of Wirral Council and their uncritical friends ( Local Government Association , Frank Field etc;) for some time.

However it is reassuring that some parts of Wirral’s mainstream media (i.e. Wirral Globe ), local bloggers and our regular correspondents not only have the gift of critical thinking they now have the means by which to express their thoughts.

Unfortunately those means of communication were not around when the power bases were formed which we believe are responsible for the critical condition that Wirral now finds itself in.

So here we find one of our valued Wirral Leaks correspondents Dr Robert B Smith giving us a brief introduction as to how we think we got to where we are and why we all need to challenge the ‘alternative facts’ peddled by the powers that be . As the redoubtable Dr Smith tells us , there’s a book to be written here – especially about missing monies. If he’s looking for a title might we suggest ‘ The Neverending Story’! – Wirral Leaks readers are invited to offer alternatives.

WIRRAL – a Critical Mass of attractions

WIRRAL COUNCIL – a Critical Mess of afflictions

As a recipient of one of then-Cllr Jim (Jumbo) Crabtree’s strident early morning emails at 2.35am, the Wirral Leaks piece reported in Private Eye regarding the exposure of his death threats to Cllr LRJ, prompted me to put a few thoughts together about Wirral Council and councillors.

To understand Wirral’s problems, and there are many, is to understand its history.

To understand Wirral Council’s problems, and there are many, is to understand its history.

Wirral Council should serve its residents, businesses and visitors, but has insidiously created the ‘insular peninsula’. Wirral Council is a stricken organisation, nationally acknowledged as an organisation where abnormal behaviour is so deeply embedded it is accepted as ‘normal’; and the organisation is in terminal decline. Wirral councillors, and chief officers now occupy a self-created netherworld. This is almost beyond comprehension in many ways as, unlike Chief and Senior officers, councillors do live in Wirral with the consequences of their actions, and presumably are friends and neighbours with Wirral residents, businesses and visitors. Maybe that defines peninsularity…or possibly vested interests?

And this is the critical factor that almost entirely divorces Wirral Council from the public it is supposed to serve. The concept of public service for the upper echelons of Wirral Council, both politicians and managers is a distant memory. Self-serving organisational protection is in full-flow, after gaining momentum over the last 15 years or so.

Wirral Council’s finances have been in free-fall since the early 1990s, although no-one in Wirral Council will admit it – but the evidence is all around in the media and archives. Gradually diminishing services, cloaked in desperate efforts to create an illusion of visionary leadership, is not actually about services. It is actually about survival of the organisation and those that significantly benefit from being part of it. That does not include Wirral’s residents, businesses and visitors.

Wirral Council’s self-perception, and its perception of Wirral (‘The Leisure Peninsula’), have led it until fairly recently to vehemently oppose any links to, or association with, Liverpool. This has changed more recently as a matter of necessity due to a now imposed concept, not at all understood by Wirral Council, of a city-region and its interdependences.

Strategic thinkers amongst senior officers are long gone. Over the years political self-interest and party-political power struggles of whatever political persuasion, have taken their toll, at the expense of a great many staff, and those Wirral Council is supposed to serve.

‘That was then, and this is now’. 7 words that embrace a few decades of disastrous planning, and financial management. If in fact there was any planning at all. Wirral residents, businesses and visitors are paying handsomely now, for what happened then. It is interesting to see which councillors were around then, and which are still around now.

When, in the late 1990s, a councillor states “this year’s budget is in a mess, but never mind. The Director of Finance will pull something out of the hat, he always does”. When successive years of budget cuts follow, it doesn’t take an Einstein to know there will be trouble ahead. Chase the regeneration grants…over £500,000,000 spent in Birkenhead by 2008…Wirral Council just walks away and allocates no additional revenue to maintain or run the new facilities. Just take a look around.

Wirral Council owes around £500,000,000 to private banks as a result of borrowing £137,000,000 from private banks between 2001 and 2008. No-one in Wirral Council appears to know where any of that money was allocated. Maybe no-one could find the hat any longer?

Parking charges…again. Another bankrupt idea from an almost bankrupt Council you may think? The Wirral Council mantra “We need to raise additional income.” “We’re having our grants cut again!” “We are the victims in this!”

Are they? And that is the key – the Council see themselves as ‘the victims in this’. It is actually Wirral residents, businesses, and visitors who are the victims.

Parking charges just keep creeping back in. It cost the Council in 2014/15 £119,000 to enforce parking penalties. So the good citizens of the borough are paying for the privilege of penalising parking offenders. However, a separate income line from the same year is ‘the full amount of Pay & Display parking income receipts banked by Wirral Council, £1,689,267’ – taken again from the good citizens of the borough.

Freedom of Information requests – one of which was asked about parking charges. How many requests are refused? There is a procedure called ‘the public interest test’. However, in Wirral it does not exist. What does exist is ‘the Council interest test’. Which is why so many refused Freedom of Information requests are overturned by the Information Commissioners Office.

From start to finish this is a very expensive process. If a request is overturned, then surely the ‘public interest test’ was ignored. How much public money is wasted by Wirral Council, defending the obviously indefensible? A ‘successful’ Freedom of Information request confirms that no records are kept…which appears to indicate there is a bottomless pit of money when the Council wants it to frustrate enquirers by refusing legitimate requests.

Then again £2,000,000 can also be magically produced when the Safeguarding Board isn’t up to the job, and £237,960 per year (with little sign of private sector income to offset the cost) public money to finance the ‘Wirral View’ of Wirral (seen through Wirral Council’s rose-tinted specs). They can’t be read at luncheon clubs now the minimal funding has been axed, can they?

Which brings me back to now. And the legacy of ‘that was then’. Only one of numerous examples…What price is being paid to service a debt of £500,000,000 owed to private banks by Wirral Council? At an average of 6% pa, around £8,000,000 per year (this is not the total of council borrowing by the way) with the final payments being made in 2078. Tell your kids and grandkids if you are in your 20s now – Wirral Council mortgaged all our futures just to save political skins.

What price is being paid by Wirral’s Council Tax and other tax payers? The price of political failure over decades. But the rewards to politicians and some senior officers have been significant. There are not many paid jobs where the serially inept are rewarded with such significant sums of money for continuous failure.

Do any occupants of positions in the upper echelons of Wirral Council management just ‘leave’ without an additional ‘package’ of some kind– if not, why not?

 

Party Games

One of the joys of the festive season is when our butler Eldritch retrieves the treasured games from behind my portrait and the embarrassing relatives we hide in the attic.

Her Ladyship stops picking sugared almonds from her teeth ( a la Cllr Bill  ” Gurn-Merchant” Davies ) , drags herself away from the scandal sheets ( and we’re not talking the beds at Mere Brook House) , adjusts her pince-nez glasses , deigns to join the servants in the parlour and it’s fun and frolics all the way.

However we can’t help being reminded of Wirral Council when we play our party games.

First of all there’s the classic game of Monopoly – because of course there’s so much fun to be had getting out of trouble using other people’s money

Boxing Day 008

Furthermore there’s nothing like mortgaging your integrity to some chancers on the make who’ve got something on you : Boxing Day 009

Talking of chancers – how many times have Wirral Council played this particular card!?.

It’s just a shame they sell their soul using our money to the highest bidder/ lowest of the low.

Get out Of jail Free 007

And then of course there’s the pieces that the powers that be move about the board as if they were Wirral Council staff facing redundancies.

Boxing Day 012

The Hat –  for pulling rabbits out of.In a spot of trouble ?,need someone to cover your corpulent,corporate backside?.Hire a consultant! – usually middle class compromisers enabling working class chancers to get off the hook.

The Thimble – for stitch ups (see above).

The Sportscar – the reward for indentured servitude.Some people sell their soul for a top of the range motor (preferably with personalised numberplates) or the chance to be driven around in a taxi at the council taxpayers expense or to be chauffeur driven in mayoral splendour.

The Boot – A funny kind of redundancy where the order of the boot comes at a high cost.

The Ship –  HMS Wirral Council has more leaks than the Titanic.They would do well to remember the World War 2 slogan: Loose lips sinks ships.

The Iron – for ironing out problems with one hand whilst wielding a Council chequebook in the other.

Which all leads to the following game :

Boxing Day 014

The Merry Game of Floundering – press releases,publicity shots and puff pieces.Is anyone taken in by the Most Improved Council in Britain tag?

Meanwhile we’ve passed many a happy hour playing Identity Kit – just who will be Wirral Council’s next Chief Executive (acting or otherwise) .From Maddox to Wilkie to Coleman to Frater to Armstrong to the current incumbent  Eric “Feeble” Robinson – monumental nonentities one and all.

Boxing Day 006

Then there’s always Funny Bunny (or should that be Funny Money?) – Might we suggest that “remove the carrots and watch the bunny drop” should be Wirral Council’s new executive incentive scheme . How about instead of rewarding failure by paying executives six figures worth of public money to disappear out the back door can we change the rules of the game and  hold them accountable instead ?.

Boxing Day 005

And finally we come to our favourite game at Leaky Towers :

Boxing Day 013

Thankfully there are an increasing number of  people wanting to play this game when it comes to challenging Wirral Council and this has led to some embarrassing recent climbdowns.

We all know the dice may be loaded but there are encouraging signs that Wirral Council’s luck may soon run out.

Here’s to fun and games in 2016!.

 

More Allegations From “The Boiled Frog” Council

It would appear Local Authority “Trouble-shooter” Michael Frater “gets” what’s been going on at Wirral Council for years, a place in which senior officers have  treated public office like a private gentleman’s club. In a recent interview with the Daily Post Mr Frater said the council was suffering from “Boiled Frog Syndrome” meaning in simple terms-  if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he’ll jump out. But if you place a frog into a pot of lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, it will boil to death. A nice analogy into how doing what’s right has stopped being the normal as staff and senior officers have become almost brainwashed  and inured to bad practice. Like some sort of mad “cult.” where wrong is right and anybody who dares speak out is left up shit creak without a paddle.

Mr Frater explained  ““What happens is it’s almost a form of institutionalisation. It’s the boiled frog syndrome – people stop noticing things are a bit different to elsewhere and don’t know how to go about changing it.” He also felt that 250-page report by independent consultant Anna Klonowski which took six months to prepare and cost Wirral taxpayers £250,000 report somewhat understated just how abnormally abnormal and freakishly bizarre Wirral BC’s practices are, and that the tag of a place where“the abnormal is normal” will, according to Michael “take the authority years to shake off – but it’s true, weird things were happening here”. 

Weird and also morally wrong as well as downright illegal Michael old son.  You must also wonder what the hell Wirral’s MP’s have been doing all this time ? (watch them jumping on various bandwagons very soon.)  So do we finally have somebody who really does “get” just how corrosive the culture within Wirral MBC has been ? How they have let down the public, abused the vulnerable and wasted tax payers money whilst bullying staff, attempting to silence whistle blowers and ruthlessly pursing their own careerist ambitions like greedy hobgoblins.  When exactly did they lose sight of what it means to be a public servant and how could they have been allowed, for so long, to treat the public with such utter contempt ? [ Full Frater interview HERE]

We suggest any clean up depends on just how deep Mr Frater wants to dig. For example today at Leaky Towers we have received information from a reliable source who tells us about the shambolic way  Personalisation was implemented in Wirral’s woefully inadequate Department Of Adult Social Services (DASS) . They tell of many staff going off with stress, overloaded with cases simply to meet targets, of bullying managers so inept they should have sticky notes with “arse” and “elbow” written on them, lest they forget.  How, when staff question a system, they are told “It is NOT to be questioned, it is what it is We have also had sight of  information which may explain why this was the case.

It has been suggested in a piece of correspondence we have seen that the Reform Grant, which is supposedly a ring fenced revenue grant to be used specifically for the purposes of transforming adult social care and which totalled over £3 million over three years was dipped into by a Head Of Branch, to cover overspends in other areas so as to deceive and also impress elected members.

There is a further allegation that under personalisation the resource allocation system (RAS) which defines each person’s personal budget, was reduced with the approval of a Head(s) Of Service  from 1.88 to 1.62, which would of course make management look super-duper at saving money but would also mean that all those in receipt of the Independent Living Fund would have been disadvantaged.  This can however be disguised at panel. …with some subtle manipulation of figures.  We have more information but at present will not publish it unless we have more corroboration.   

Worth looking into Mr F ?  Good luck, you may well need it. It’s a jungle in there!

Verity Snoop.