CCG and Mrs Jones

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Our health correspondent Dr Love provides us with a commentary on recent events concerned with the proposed closure of two local walk in centres and the role of the  Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Cllr Christine Jones. It really makes you wonder whether they’ve ‘got a thing going on’…

Dear chum

Councillor Christine Jones is the joint chair of Wirral’s Joint Strategic Commissioning Board.

She acquiesced when their recent meeting was turned into – for the most important item on the agenda – a meeting of the CCG Board. ‘Legal’ because Council and NHS budgets aren’t ‘pooled’ for the related purpose, but a smack in the gob for councillors. (And see the John Brace reference below.)

The CCG agreed unanimously to close two walk-in centres.

Cllr Jones forgets to say that ANY closures had been opposed unanimously the previous week by a joint meeting of Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester Councils attended by Labour and Tory councillors.

She repeats the argument that people were ‘confused’ about existing services. NO reasonable evidence has ever been presented for this.

She accepts that there will be improvements in NHS111 (now rechristened variously ‘Ask Alexa’ and ‘Fuck off and die’).

She accepts that axed services will allegedly be covered by extra GP appointments, ignores the 100,000 missing NHS doctors and nurses, and accepts the CCG’s clear statement that this appointment system won’t necessarily be with a GP but with various assistants (less skilled, lower paid).

She fails to follow her own Council’s and her Party’s policies to oppose any closures.

She forgets that her party’s policy (nationally and locally) is to oppose the whole ‘sustainability and transformation partnership’ edifice, of which the CCG and its cut and pasted plans are part.

Her colleague who follows her is also worth listening to – for different reasons.

Here’s the video of the meeting with Cllr Jones’ comments from 31 minutes in. https://wirral.public-i.tv/…/webcast_interactive/429803

But the most jaw-dropping feature of this sorry episode is that last month she wrote to a local campaigner and said, “The community consultation the CCG delivered on the urgent care review proposals showed unequivocally strong opposition to any closure of walk in centres. I stand by the wishes of Wirral residents and council and will oppose any closure of services”.

Campaigners expect councillors (especially from the ‘people’s party’) to have a grasp of the ideology behind the rapid dismantling and demoralisation of the NHS. Our little local difficulty is simply a tiny part of the ambitions of those who would beg a trade deal from Trump and leave any bits which they haven’t already plundered to the slavering jaws of United Health of Minneapolis (the previous employer of NHSE boss Simon Stevens and with huge existing NHS contracts including via its Optum system).

BTW the other joint chair (and chair of CCG) Dr Paula Cowan is a key part of the whole unedifying process. She has form in forcing through cuts https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/fertility-treatment-cut-back-part-12583527

So is it the ‘aristocratic embrace’ that subverts Cllr Jones? Or is it just lovely to sit next to the NHS’s own Emily Maitlis?

She’s going to feel rather conflicted when her council colleagues refer the decision back to the Secretary of State for Health especially now that the whole process has been exposed by local video man John Brace https://johnbrace.com/is-the-decision-to-close-2-walk-in-centres-at-moreton-and-new-ferry-last-week-unlawful/?fbclid=IwAR3fGmjIDxS7NSjvNft2xoyqmX38vmOUERnSCo9tQP4U9P-5qIepFTQXrqw

The meeting video also shows Cllr Tony Norbury saying what a blow this is to the people of Birkenhead. Perhaps he’s failed to notice that elements within Birkenhead Labour – as well as Frank N Field and the local GP who runs an excellent ‘saved’ walk-in centre – are jubilant because ‘their’ Globe-splashed campaign had such a victory.

Yours, Dr Love

 

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The Twelve Days of Christmas : Day Eleven – The Otter/Blott Incident

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Joe Blott – the former Wirral Council Super Duper Director who inspired such admiration and reverence. 

When not gallantly attending Wirral Council meetings and recording the goings on for posterity it would appear that John Brace has taken to attending and reporting on Tribunal hearings. Up until now the cases have been fairly humdrum but we just had to comment on the latest featuring a certain ‘Leyland Otter’ v Wirral Borough Council.

Read more here: Senior Manager at Wirral Council dismissed for gross misconduct for email about Joe Blott

Now we didn’t know whether ‘Leyland Otter’ was an alias referencing a Beatrix Potter character – or if the definitions on Urban Dictionary are anything to go by – the best gay porn name ever! But no! apparently Mr Otter was Chief Investment Officer at Merseyside Pension Fund which is administered by Wirral Council.

However it would appear that Otter came a cropper by making offensive remarks about former Wirral Council Super Duper Director Joe Blott which inadvertently found their way to Blott via Mr Otter’s friend Mr H (we don’t know if this is the fella from Steps but nothing would surprise us in this astonishing story ). For those who are interested to find out what a toxic and dysfunctional organisation Wirral Council is, was and always will be it will be really informative to read the Tribunal decision notice here

More specifically Otter’s offensive comments read as follows :

“FMBI
Nigbo’s witch doctors voodoo spell on Blotto seems to be working quicker than I anticipated!

Hope the CUNT is in the primary stages of inoperable brain bum hole and liver cancer and that his demise is lingering and agonising which is no more than that deceitful, lying corrupt piece of SHIT OVERPAID FUCKING CUNT deserves!

We will finish the FUCKING TWAT off when we incinerate the CUNT on BONNYNIGHT!

Hope you are practicing the dance and chant that I forward to you from NIGBO’S WITCHDOCTOR.

FMB The Marsh will be wondering WTF IS going on in the garden when we get going….like the LAST ONE with NSG although…..mind you….he might have found something to WARM HIMSELF UP avin GREAT SEX in the compost heap(s) or out in the Jigger!”.

Oh dear that’s not very nice is it ? But then we can’t say we’re particularly sympathetic to ‘Blotto’ as as far as we’re concerned he and current Wirral Council CEO David Armstrong are the senior officers most complicit and collusive in the biggest cover up in Wirral Council history and therefore, whilst not condoning some of the Anglo- Saxon language, we can certainly agree with the ‘corrupt’ bit. But then what does Blotto care about how he’s perceived by his former colleagues with his record breaking £390,000 pay-off , which ironically included pension contributions?

Meanwhile if his Freedom of Information requests are anything to go by (read here ) we’re sure Mr Otter would have some interesting information concerning the administration of the Merseyside Pension Fund and particularly about the chair of Pensions Committee and soon to be ex -councillor Paul Doughty. Hopefully he knows where we are…

The Twelve Days of Christmas : Day Four – Protect Money

 

Protect whistleblowers

One of the advantages of this time of the year is that we can catch up on stories that landed in in our tray but we never got round to because we were distracted by another story and/or we needed to do some further research.

For this story we are indebted to John Brace for having the patience to wade through Wirral Council invoices and publish the details on his website way back in August in a post titled  What has Wirral Council been spending money on in 2017 and 2018 (part 2)

The information that particularly caught our eye was the fact that Wirral Council have paid Public Concern at Work £11,250 for a whistleblowing advice line. Since the publication of these details the whistleblowing charity has since had a re-branding and changed their name to the snappier, if rather ambiguous, Protect.

Now you may be wondering as to why we took a particular interest in this payment . Surely you may think that  it would be money well spent ,even for cash-strapped Wirral Council, especially when you consider their chequered history when it has come to dealing with various high profile and damaging whistleblowing cases. Indeed Wirral Council first bunged the charity £10K + in 2012 when they involved them in re-writing their woeful whistleblowing policies and procedures. However what we take issue with is that Protect already offer a free whistleblowing advice line , so why are Wirral Council paying a premium for a dedicated advice line and how can this possibly be value for money?  It would be interesting to know how many workers have taken advantage of this advice line and what monitoring information that Protect provide to Wirral Council.

What’s more surely there are conflict of interest issues involved if Protect are supposed to be giving impartial, independent advice to Wirral Council workers who have concerns about their employer when ultimately Wirral Council are paying for that advice!

From what we’ve gathered from local whistleblowing sources Protect are not held in high regard anyway, often advising whistleblowers to leave their employment rather than risk the threat of victimisation for the heinous crime of telling the truth. Whilst this sometimes may indeed be in the workers  best interest it does nothing to address their whistleblowing concerns and ultimately it is not in the public interest to allow  employers to ignore the following disclosures that a worker reasonably believes are happening, has taken place, or is likely to happen in the future.

  • A criminal offence
  • The breach of a legal obligation
  • A miscarriage of justice
  • A danger to the health and safety of any individual
  • Damage to the environment
  • Deliberate attempt to conceal any of the above.

Which makes us wonder what’s the Protect money is for ? – to protect whuistleblowers or to protect the reputation of Wirral Council? We certainly know were we’d put our £11,250…

 

Protect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

what are Wirral Council trying to ‘protect’ their staff orwho is to protect

Bog Standards

Our thanks go to John Brace for filming last night’s meeting of Wirral Council Standards Panel and for giving us the heads up that we would be reunited with some familiar Wirral Leaks ‘favourites’.

John hasn’t uploaded all of the five part mini-series yet but from what we’ve seen it’s the usual Wirral Council Standards Panel farrago bogged down in procedure ,protocol, partisan politicking and pettiness. However we look forward to John’s incisive eyewitness report with snippets from the investigation report in question at a later date.

The actual hearing concerns an allegation brought against Conservative Cllr Paul Hayes councillor by the Professor Maggie Atkinson – the Independent Chair of Wirral Safeguarding Board. Professor Atkinson alleges that Cllr Hayes was in breach of Wirral Council’s Code of Conduct for suggesting that the decision not to publish the Serious Case Review into the Rajenthiram brothers Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case was part of a ‘cover up’ ( further allegations made against Cllr Ian Lewis and Cllr Tom Anderson found there was no case to answer).

Ironically the investigation report was written by ex Wirral Council solicitor Simon Goacher of Weightman’s who are the go-to legal firm that Wirral Council call upon to  when it comes to cover ups (most notably the infamous and illegal ‘four week delay’ in the provision of adult care services.) This has not only enabled Wirral Council to hide behind ‘legal privilege’ but allows them to state they have sought external legal advice and therefore everything is ‘legit’ when in fact the exact opposite is true – as was the case in an unreported case of further unlawful charging of disabled people that Weightman’s were also called upon to help put a bit of concealing legal gloss on.

Meanwhile initial observations from us indicate that the Standards Panel played their usual roles – Cllr Phil ‘Anodyne’ Gilchrist dithering about and being in complete,fence-sitting Lib Dem mode. Cllr Chris ‘Bulldog’ Blakeley in full on belligerent ,bulldog chewing a wasp mode and Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ Mc Laughlin in arms folded, eyerolling,  ‘Matron-Knows-Best’ exasperation mode (though we did enjoy the little snipe at Wirral Council’s head of law Philip McCourt – is the honeymoon period over we ask ourselves? )

We await further instalments with interest and be grateful for the fact that at least John Brace was allowed to film this particular Standards Panel and wasn’t physically prevented from entering the Committee room , as was the case in the infamous 2016 Cllr Steve ‘Foulkesy’ Foulkes  Standards Panel debacle. Now, if you really want to talk about cover ups…

An Unsound Decision

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Did the powers that be (and shouldn’t be) at Wirral Council think that the week would pass without Wirral Leaks commenting on one of the most shameful days in Wirral Council’s history? Yes – just think about that evaluation for a moment. The occasion we are referring to is the latest meeting of the Audit & Risk Management Committee held on July 23rd . It is a date that should go down in Wirral Council infamy. And let’s face it considering their recent rap sheet that’s quite a feat!

Once again we have to thank our old friend John Brace for recording this ignominious occasion (we’ll stick with our old friend rather than link to the council’s own webcast if you don’t mind). We could only watch the first reel as we have a particularly weak gag reflex. However we anticipate that His Lordship will have much more to say on the matter when he returns from his golden slumbers.

 

Watch in complete contempt as Mark Smith – Strategic Commissioner for Environment (£93,783 p.a.) squirms in his own obsequiousness during Agenda item 3 trying to explain (very belatedly) how the highways contract is coming back ‘in house’ and in full Uriah Heep mode thanking Cllr Jeff Green for his ‘pertinent ‘ questions (yeah -right!).

We advise that from here on in you press the mute button to watch this farrago. Not only so you don’t have to hear the honking voice of Tory hypocrite Green . Instead watch the body language as in yet another spectacular failure of proper scrutiny we see furtive glances, the uncomfortable shuffling, the skirting round the issues, and the pity in the eyes of the councillors as they look at Smith in the knowledge that’s he’s the ‘poor’ sap having to front this duplicitous bullshit. Note particularly the repeated placing of hands over the mouths of most of the committee members (and particularly the representatives of external auditors Grant Thornton – £200K + p a. and counting ) which acts as a telling, involuntary gag. Note the crossed arms of Shaer Halewood (Director of Finance and Investments £104,642 p.a.) and the look on her face as if to say  : “What have I let myself in for?” and the inane grin of Chief Internal Auditor Mark Niblock (we don’t know what salary he’s on but whatever it is – it is far,far too much.) 

Whilst there were some mealymouthed  criticisms of the current highways maintenance contract holders BAM Nuttall made by elected members ,the fact is that the 25 staff who currently (mis) manage the filling of potholes and the replacement of streetlights and therefore responsible for the pisspoor performance will be the same staff welcomed back into the Wirral Council fold…..and BAM Nuttall will still potentially be able to tender for the £multi-million services that this motley crew won’t be undertaking!

So it’s a lose-lose situation all round for Wirral Council taxpayers as a result of this complicity and collusion with corruption (other c words are available).

Thankfully Assistant Chief Executive David Armstrong (£116,268 p.a.) was on hand to arrogantly explain that some of  those returning to Wirral Council previously worked for Wirral Council then Colas then BAM Nuttall. You don’t say! – and no -one , absolutely no-one, raised the issue as to whether those returning included those who actively participated in a smear campaign against Cllr Jeff Green and have been holding some leading local politicians by the short and curlies because they have the means to bring down the Council leadership courtesy of a covert recording  or whether the report into their treatment from nearly a decade ago and completed in October 2015 played any part in negotiations or why it took ten months to cobble together an explanation as to why Wirral council’leader’  Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies suddenly decided under his ‘special powers’ to bring highway maintenance back in house. Not a peep!

There wasn’t  even an explanation from Philip McCourt (Director : Governance and Assurance – are you having a laugh?) who, might we suggest, could’ve intervened to explain something along the lines of : ” I don’t know what Surjit Tour was doing agreeing that we could just pay them off and try and justify it with some bogus report supposedly written by one of Frank Field’s mates. Care to help me out with that one Mr Armstrong ? No thought not – but then you were at that meeting  when Frank tried to ,ahem , ‘compromise’ former CEO Graham Burgess about his , ahem, compromising positions weren’t you so,yes, you’re best keeping your head down and pretending like the rest of us that it’s all legit,whilst I try and clear up your mess and explain that as soon as we handed over any ‘compensation’ money to people who had no legal claim for ‘compensation’ we were all implicated so the best we could do was negotiate to give them what they wanted a decade ago if they buried the recording…”

Turn the sound back on and you can almost hear an audible sigh of  ” We just might have gotten away with that one…” as Mark Smith scuttles off and it’s on to the next agenda item. Meanwhile there’s the distant sound of a streetwise quartet sitting in a Birkenhead karaoke bar raucously singing along to the chorus of ‘Just What I’ve Always Wanted’

‘To be in charge of highways maintenance …..just what I’ve always wanted…’

 

 

Wirral Leaks Election Section 2018 – 4 weeks to go

With just under a month to go until the local council elections the electioneering seems to be in full swing . Leaflets, meetings , canvassing , campaigning, photo opportunities and doorstepping galore.

Therefore we’d appreciate your thoughts and observations on the people who appear out of nowhere every couple of years promising you the earth – and who usually end up delivering the third world!

We’ve already had a few contributions from people telling us they’ve had encounters with spectacularly naive or deeply manipulative  prospective candidates who when challenged about their respective parties (both locally and nationally) claim that they’re different and they’re the one who will challenge the local hegemony and change the world. To which the only sensible answer is : “Yeah, whatevs!”

One such correspondent writes:

I was talking to a group of people today in Upton who had set a table up with the Stop Hoylake Golf Resort petition, I was just about to say signed it etc…when one of the guys started telling me all about the campaign etc……I said that I thought it was being pushed through and many local people don’t want it….the chap went on to tell me they were all Labour Party members and they didn’t want it and he said that this was all down to Phil Davies and ‘his core buddies’ .This chap then produced a planning application and said ‘read the highlighted last paragraph of this! It said ‘ Upon planning permission being granted the developer will give Wirral Council £300k’ I was flabbergasted never seen the document before or heard anything about a ‘sweetener’
Talk about a conflict of interest…..just thought you may find this of interest.

Of course whilst this is interesting it isn’t news to us. It’s hidden in plain sight here : Hoylake Golf Resort (Cabinet November 2016)  and expertly highlighted in this John Brace blog post : Did Hoylake Golf Resort developer offer £300 ,000 if its planning application is approved . Although it must be said we particularly  liked the reference to Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies and ‘his core buddies’ because as we know he’s all about political power for the few and not the many!

However this is a shining example of what we always say about election time. This is your chance to find out what is actually going on in your name, to ask all those awkward questions and hold local politicians to account. REMEMBER : THEY ARE ACCOUNTABLE TO YOU! Think about local issues that matter to you and vote accordingly. Don’t just put an X in the box because the named candidate wears a particular coloured rosette.  Spoil your ballot paper if you must but please,please,please engage some critical thinking. After all these are critical times!

Meanwhile we at Wirral Leaks are happy to receive contributions for either satirical or political purposes. However we reserve the right to only publish information about issues we support or we can take the piss out of.  It’s how we roll! Accordingly we are more than happy to publish details of a ‘Social Housing Public Meeting’ to be held on Friday 13th April (!) which is chaired by Jo Bird , the Labour candidate for the Eastham ward.

Wirral Leaks readers will know our position on social housing in general and Bamboo Lettings in particular from reading our House of Bamboo and Bamboo- zled – The Future of Social Housing? posts. We recommend for those particularly interested in the future of social housing to attend. All we will say is that the crucial test for us will be whether Jo Bird, if elected, would be prepared to challenge Power Boy Pip’s ‘core buddies’ Cllr Steve Foulkes and Cllr Stuart Whittingham on their apparent stance, as Magenta Living board members ,on the issue of social housing.

Eastham Social Housing Public Meeting - Poster

Dead Wrong

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Cllr George Davies hangs his head in shame. Correction : he has no shame. 

Today’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting gave the powers that be the opportunity to respond to the criticism levelled at them by central government that they couldn’t organise a bunfight in a bakery when it comes to local planning issues with their failure to produce a ‘Local Plan’.

Unfortunately spineless council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies , in his inimitable style, delegated the task of chairing this meeting to his hapless deputy , Cllr George Davies. But where was Pip? – New York? Reno? Cannes? China? Apparently anywhere but his ward in Birkenhead or Wallasey Town Hall! Consequently we’d like to send him an early Easter present – a petri dish. Perhaps he’ll be able to grow a scrotum in it!

petri dish

Inevitably it didn’t work out well as Gorgeous George hid behind his PC screen (which makes a change from hiding behind Frank Field’s skirts) and , as usual, embarassingly read out a pre-prepared empty speech which bore a remarkable similarity to an exclusive statement issued to Wirral Globe by Pip in his belated response to Sajid Javid, the Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government,and his letter threatening government intervention which we exclusively revealed to the people of Wirral –  Making Plans For Wirral

The belated Wirral Globe story can be read here

The use of the term ‘dead wrong’ was a dead giveaway that this was a Martin Liptrot-scripted case of talking loud and saying nothing.  Watch in horror from behind the settee from 7.30 minutes in of the John Brace video as Cllr George Davies has the temerity to say that as a  government minister Sajid Javid is “entitled to his opinion” . Whereas the truth of the matter is that Javid is entitled in LAW to insist that Wirral Council abide by their statutory obligations and produce a coherent ‘Local Plan’ .

What we find to be ‘dead wrong’ in the above horrorshow is that someone who has used racist slurs and offered a sweetheart deal to scammers  in return for smearing a political opponent is deemed to have the moral authority and political gravitas to challenge the accusation that he is monumentally incompetent when it comes to fronting Wirral Council’s planning portfolio.

Just watch and tell us whether it makes you feel proud that the people above – and Cllr George Davies in particular  – are responsible for making decisions that affect you and your life.

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Wirral Council ‘leadership’ in action. These are the people who make decisions about our lives whilst avoiding the public gaze from behind their (smoke)screens .

Highways : Against the Flow of Traffic

Flow of Traffic

We raised the issue (and our eyebrows) at the proposal to bring the highways contract back under Wirral Council control as part of our Wirral Leaks Weekly Dispatch #2

This particular story concerned a meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC) where Cllr Jeff ‘Kindred’ Green wanted reassurance that the decision to bring the highways contract back in house wasn’t “written on the back of a fagpacket” . We also noted that :

Incidental dark comedic value is to be had from the ever oleaginous senior officer David Armstrong who promises a short report and ingratiating interm Monitoring officer Philip McCourt who says that the commissioning of highways contract is a ‘live project’ and that the report would be a ‘ partial measure’ – ain’t that the truth!

Needless to say council officers showed their usual contempt for opposition councillors by failing to produce a written report for yesterday’s ARMC follow up meeting. There were also no shows from McCourt and ARMC chair Cllr Adrian Jones . Consequently Deputy Chief Executive Armstrong was allowed by stand-in chair Cllr Angela Davies to hand the hot potato over to poor sap Mark Smith (Strategic Commissioner for Environment) to deliver a verbal report – all the better to hinder proper scrutiny when nothing is written down and there’s no report in the public domain for ‘ a particular website’ to pick (pot)holes. It was enough to give us an attack of the verbals.

As you can see from the John Brace footage of last night’s meeting Smith gives a tortuous explanation of ‘options appraisals’ and how the decision was reached. Although we have to say that as he’s on £90,532 p.a. our sympathy for his squirming is somewhat limited.

However the information that was eventually dragged out of Smith was most illuminating (and probably explains the lack of a written report) . It was revealed  that the current holders of the highways contract BAM Nuttall get £6 million p.a. from Wirral Council . Smith described it as an ‘unusual scenario’ that BAM Nuttall chose not to take advantage of a contract extension to which they were entitled. BAM Nuttall currently spend £5 million is spent on sub-contractors and £1 million on what Armstrong described as 28/29  ‘operatives’ . It is these ‘operatives’ who will be TUPE* transferred back to Wirral Council (if they wish) – and the sub-contracting from the private sector will continue.

* Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment ) Regulations.

We begrudgingly give him his due on this one (because he’s had a shadowy part in this shady story) but Cllr Green whipped out his calculator trying to deconstruct the £1 million cost of 28/29 operatives -which he calculated to be about £700,000 . Labour councillor Christina Muspratt attempted to explain the missing £300,000 as ‘on costs’ However it was eventually wheedled out of Smith that ‘operatives’ included both managers and back room staff (approximately half operational and half management) so it wasn’t just staff filling potholes and replacing streetlights.

Armstrong and Smith were particularly twitchy on the issue of TUPE transfers with the former interrupting through the chair to advise Cllr Muspratt  that there was a list of staff who were eligible and who can “TUPE if they wish”  to either BAM Nuttall or Wirral Council . Smith went on to say that ” it wouldn’t be appropriate to go into any further detail in this forum”

However might we suggest there remain pertinent questions that need to be asked :  a) are the managers subject to TUPE some of the same Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) managers from Wirral Council who failed to win the highways contract during a tendering exercise in 2008 and who’s contracts of employment  were TUPE transferred to Colas and then presumably BAM Nuttall in 2014 and who have been in dispute with Wirral Council for a decade ? b) did this ongoing dispute influence or play any part in the decision (under delegated powers) to return the highways contract to Wirral Council control and c) has this dispute been resolved – and if so – how? 

Whilst , like some of the councillors at ARMC  , we welcome the return of highways to Wirral Council control , we seem to be rather more enquiring as to the reasons why – especially when such a decision goes ‘against the flow of traffic’ when it comes to outsourcing council services.

Seen at the Deen

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As we previously reported in our Reds Go for Greens post the most interesting battle at local elections in May will be in the Birkenhead/Tranmere ward where the local Labour group are determined to oust lone Green councillor Pat Cleary. Accordingly we’ve been keeping a keen eye on the frantic electioneering.

As Cllr Cleary’s support for both the Birkenhead & Tranmere Neighbourhood Forum and their concerns over the annexing of The Lauries by the Wirral Chamber of Commerce and Birkenhead Market Trader’s Association claims that they are being ‘ignored’ by Wirral Council in the latter’s ‘transformation’ plans indicate he is seen very much as the fly in the Birkenhead/ Tranmere ointment and needs to be swatted away come May . We’ll have much, much more on these two stories at a later date  : Birkenhead Market Traders

However today’s post concerns last week’s return of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee after a near six month hiatus. The choice of venue for the meeting was particularly interesting. The Committee meetings have hitherto always been held in Birkenhead Town Hall . However on this occasion it was held at ‘The Deen Centre’ on Borough Road. At first we thought the building was a misspelt tribute to Tranmere Rovers/Everton  footballing legend  Dixie Dean. We then discovered that ‘Deen’ is an Arabic word with several meanings but most usually taken to mean ‘religion’ or ‘faith’.

We understand that ‘The Deen Centre’ has been establishing itself not only as a resource for increasingly influential local Muslim community but the wider Birkenhead/Tranmere  community . This may explain the choice of venue for this particular Committee meeting. Although with Beaconsfield Community House and Birkenhead YMCA the area seems particularly well served with community resources for the hungry and the homeless.

Viewing the John Brace footage of the meeting it appeared to be the usual series of presentations . About one of which we’d like to ask  – when did it become OK to discuss someone’s personal circumstances in a public meeting? She who shall remain nameless describes a 56 year old woman as ‘old’ and is met with cries of “that’s not old” and raucous laughter . “If you met her – she looks 80″ came the response” !

However keeping it classy the meeting wouldn’t have been complete without a Foulkesy face-palm moment. Whilst encouraging  people who attended the meeting to continue to report crime Cllr Steve Foulkes uttered these words of wisdom :

Some people are confusing reporting crime with being labelled , I’ll say the word – a Birkenhead word – ‘ a grass’ ……………If anyone wants to give names of criminals who are operating in the area , use us ( councillors)  – we’re very good at being copper’s narks  

So having tried to downplay the use of a pejorative term to describe someone raising legitimate concerns with the right authorities (grass) Foulkesy then goes and uses a different but equally insulting word (nark) to describe an informant !  – fine work. But then from what we know of Foulkesy and his ilk they’re not that keen on people behaving in such a way   – unless of course they’re tooled up with a recording device and are willing to smear political opponents #Wirralgate.

Talking of which it just so happens Wirral Leaks has the names of some senior politicians who it is alleged have been involved in potential criminal acts. We would have forwarded them to Foulkesy but then suddenly remembered that there might be a slight conflict of interest!

Intimidation and the Hypocrisies of Public Life

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We’ve been forwarded the latest footage from the eye of the lens of our beloved Mr Brace by a number of people who thought it might be of interest.

Although Our Man Brace makes a guest appearance three minutes into Part 1 which was diverting especially when we clocked the facial expressions of Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee  chair Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ McLaughlin who gives a whole new meaning to the expression clockwatching. However there were too many longueurs for our liking (that’s French for ‘boring bits’).

As usual it was a case of  councillors skirting round the most pertinent issues with Matron reminding committee members that they  “can get yourselves into a bit of a mess “ if they don’t follow the Council’s guidance and protocols. You don’t say ! – care to give some examples? There then followed a prolonged session of speaking in tongues about ‘sanctions’ for errant councillors (or rather lack thereof)  with everyone careful not to mention ‘The Councillor That Dare Not Speak It’s Name’ ( that’s Cllr Louise Reecejones aka LRJ ). Although we have to say that LRJ’s violations against the Council’s Code of Conduct are but nothing compared to the likes of Cllr Steve Foulkes and Cllr George Davies we feel as though we’ve done that one to death. 

We were just about to turn off  halfway through Part 2 when the issue of ‘whistleblowing’ was dismissed in the blink of an eye or rather a cold hard stare from the Matron as if to say “nobody better say another bloody word on this subject”

However we pricked up our ears at about 18 minutes as councillors struggled to understand the word ‘intimidation’ (after all it is more than two syllables ). There followed a particularly revealing exchange between Matron and Cllr Ron Abbey . Well when we say exchange poor Ron couldn’t get a word in as Matron seemed particularly agitated about this particular subject :

Matron : There isn’t actually a way of defining what intimidation (is). You might think that particular website in the way that it talks about people and elected members…..

Abbey : I’m not talking about ……

Matron : No… I am , I am. I’m suggesting would that be intimidatory, could that be considered intimidatory if someone is regularly being insulted or allegations made that you can’t contradict……

Ron Abbey : The only way you can test that is in a court of law…..

Matron : Well so far some people have tried to have something done about particular website that might use those sort of tactics and found that it’s not possible to do it.

What particular website could Matron possibly mean? If , for argument’s sake we take it to be Wirral Leaks we need to make ourselves very clear on this particular matter. Firstly ,  let’s us deal with the issue of defining ‘intimidation’ . Perhaps we can assist elected members where their acting head of law and governance Philip ‘Peachy-keen’ McCourt failed them. Might we suggest their discussion could have been better informed if they were aware that the government’s Committee on Standards in Public Office published a report in December 2017 titled :  Intimidation in Public Life : A Review by the Committee on Standards in Public Life 

For elected members information we provide a link to the report here :  Intimidation in Public Life

As ever what was missing from the discussion was a failure to acknowledge the power dynamic between a public institution and a local website. What’s more we totally refute the idea that people are not given the opportunity to contradict any allegations that this particular website makes. All they have to do is contact us at wirralleaks@gmail.com as well Matron knows as a member of her family has done so a couple of times. The trouble is that those who have contacted us usually come off second best ( Kevin MacCallum – Wirral Council’s head of communications springs to mind.)

As for the fact that some people have apparently  ‘tried to have something done about a particular website’ for exercising its right to freedom of expression tells us everything we need to know about Wirral Council.  Now if that isn’t a definition of ‘intimidation’ we don’t know what is!

Intimidation is all about power and control and getting people to do what you want by threatening them .Those people who try to control the public discourse are those who want to control everything.Wirral Council’s control freakery is out of control and they hate the fact they have no control over this particular website. We’re in no mood to apologise for our irreverent tone or our sarcasm or our satire or our cynicism or our expletives and certainly not our lack of deference for people for whom we have absolutely no respect – deference died a horrible death for us a long, long time a go. We are not Wirral View!

The Brendan Cox quote taken from the report that we reference above highlights the hypocrisies that surround the subject of intimidation. For those who don’t know , Cox is  a former highflyer in the charity sector and the husband of murdered MP Jo Cox. Mr Cox, was forced to quit two charities he set up in her memory earlier this month after allegations of sexual assault were made public. This is the second time Mr Cox was forced to quit after similar allegations were made when he resigned from the Save the Children charity in 2015.  If you read the lurid allegations made against Cox it would appear he himself was an expert in intimidation. The Intimidation in Public Life report is littered (and we use the term advisedly) with quotes from Mr Cox. A hypocrite pontificating about hypocrisy is something we do not need.

Similarly might we suggest that no representative of Wirral Council (Matron or otherwise) is any position to to accuse a particular website of intimidation when it actually REWARDS such conduct :

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Add to holding an incriminating recording over the heads of Wirral’s top politicians like the Sword of Damocles , threatening councillors and council officers over the phone and in person , participating in a smear campaign and even ordering pizzas from Pizza Magic and sending them to a former councillor.

And what did the Wirralgate ‘Group’ get for such ‘intimidation’ ? – the most senior politicians and council officers on Wirral conspiring to enable them to receive ‘compensation’.

All those involved will be forever tainted with the accusation of hypocrisy (and worse) by a particular website and that is most definitely NOT intimidation.