Wirral – Where Public Service Went To Die …

Human Nature

This week we were quite happy taking a sentimental journey round the septic isle until Dr Robert diagnosed us with ‘Sandie Shaw Syndrome’ . No , we’re not in the words of the barefoot singer’s Eurovision winner ‘Puppets On A String’ (we leave that to others). As fellow sufferers of the syndrome know  : “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me” and it messes with your head.

So whilst it’s vaguely concerning/amusing/appalling that other local authorities are equally inept and corrupt, let’s be reminded of Wirral Council’s rap sheet courtesy of ‘The Good Doctor’. Although as we replied to our esteemed commentator the sleaze (there is no other word) that lies behind the bare reported facts doesn’t bear thinking about!

WIRRAL COUNCIL… WHERE PUBLIC SERVICE WENT TO DIE…

It is 2011, and Wirral Council is in serious trouble. It is on the brink of Government intervention and has received a damning report1 from consultant Anna Klonowski (AKA Associates). The report paints a graphic picture of Wirral Council’s corrosive and bullying corporate culture, failures in corporate governance, and of Wirral as ‘the insular peninsula’. The Council is vividly described as an inward-looking organisation where the abnormal had become normal. The Council Leader and Chief Executive unreservedly accept the devastating assessment, and all the consultant’s findings.

In April 2012 the ‘window dressing’ started. A politically-expedient decision reportedly taken by Frank Field MP and Eric Pickles (then-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government), established a Local Government Association (LGA) Wirral Council ‘Improvement Board’. Called ‘sector-led improvement’ by the LGA, a review of Wirral Council’s corporate governance was undertaken by an ‘expert’ (peer review) panel. Its role was to identify the embedded detrimental issues and agree a corporate improvement programme.

In November 2013 the ‘Improvement Board’ produced a 63-page draft report congratulating themselves for enabling ‘the fastest turnaround2 in local government history’. Its job deemed complete, Wirral Council was unleashed from supervision.

Once unleashed, Council Leader Phil Davies guaranteed the casting vote on all Council committees. Replacing all opposition-councillor committee Chairs with ruling group councillors was in direct contravention of the Improvement Board agreement. The Council and Cabinet has had no effective political opposition since.

November 2014 saw a presentation given by Cllr Phil Davies and Graham Burgess, who appeared to have moved seamlessly3 in 2013 from Improvement Board member to Wirral Council CEO. The judging panel for this presentation, comprising primarily LGA members, judged for the first and only time, the Local Government Chronicle’s (LGC) ‘Most Improved Council in Great Britain’ award. Never awarded before, never awarded since. Without warning, Mr Burgess, described as a ‘leading light’ of the LGA, ‘retired’ from Wirral Council at the end of 2014.

It was March 2015 when Wirral residents awoke to media headlines announcing “From ‘abnormal to inspirational’ – Wirral wins ‘Most Improved Council in Great Britain’ award4.” In Wirral the question on everyone’s lips… is it April 1st?

A new Wirral CEO5, Eric Robinson, a former social worker from Staffordshire CC, was appointed in April 2015. Cllr Phil Davies stated… “Eric is the ideal appointment to take us forward towards my ambition for Wirral to become an outstanding council.”

In 2012 Wirral Council had agreed with findings that it was an ‘inward-looking organisation’ where ‘the abnormal had become accepted as normal’. In November 2015 it still was, as a very low-key peer review revealed. That was, if you could find it.

Also in November 2015, almost absolute power lay in the hands of the Council Leader when Wirral Council Cabinet agreed constitutional changes6. Coupled with the ruling group en-bloc voting7 and abstention regime, any decision could be bulldozed through. This change effectively negated any political opposition and scrutiny, Ward, community8, or resident9 representation.

Political, individual and council organisational survival were now the priorities. Residents were paid lip-service with endless ‘consultations’, as infrastructure deteriorated10, and public services reduced dramatically.

As local criticism grew, Wirral Council Leader took to ‘reputation management’. Described in the media as ‘cronyism’, in February 2016 Martin Liptrot, a self-proclaimed ‘reputation manager’, was appointed. This elicited headlines such as “Emails give extraordinary insight into Wirral Council’s controversial hiring11 of former Labour spin doctor”.

In September 2016, CEO Eric Robinson described Wirral Council’s ‘improvement journey’ as moving from “from the brink of intervention to the pinnacle12 of local government”. With his background in Children’s Services, was all well at the pinnacle of all pinnacles?

‘Most Improved’ Wirral Council’s Children’s Services were rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted in September 2016. Hidden away was a Serious Case Review into the grooming of teenage girls13 in Wirral Council care over a 5-year period. In a desperate attempt to deflect criticism and accountability, the oft-quoted ‘austerity-hit, cash-strapped’ Leader initially promised £2m additional funding. Then a promise of £10m. Then a promise of £20m, to ‘demonstrate Council commitment’.

With ‘Most Improved’ Wirral Council’s reputation in tatters, Martin Liptrot was then fast-tracked to ‘Investor Development Manager’ with ‘no questions asked’14, and immediately sent to Cannes to attend MIPIM, a ‘property market’, with the Council Leader, Council CEO and others.

…and it goes on…in November 2017 following the 2016 Serious Case Review, two brothers were jailed for a combined 40 years after being convicted of 27 sexual offences against girls as young as 14. The Children’s Services Improvement Board Chair, Eleanor Brazil, resigned15 citing Wirral Council’s “shoddy treatment” of Julia Hassall, the then Director of Children’s Services, and “…some significant corporate issues…”

… and on…Jim Crabtree, a (now ex-) Councillor and Chair of Audit & Risk committee was convicted in January 2017 of making death threats16 towards fellow Councillor Louise Reecejones, regarding an unidentified sum of £19,000. In March 2018 the threatened Councillor resigned to free herself from “the noose”17.

Without Local Government Commissioners’ intervention, ‘Most Improved’ Wirral Council is the graveyard of the 7 ‘Nolan Principles’18 of public life, viz.  Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty & Leadership.

In Wirral you won’t hear the ghosts of the Nolan Principles wailing and roaming the streets at night. They left long ago.

 

Weblinks 1-18

 

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/9263981.Chief_executive_and_political_leader_accept_responsibility_for_council_failures/

https://www.lgcplus.com/home/lgc-awards-2017-the-shortlist/lgc-awards-2016/lgc-awards/lgc-awards-2015/most-improved-council/5083096.article

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/chief-executive-graham-burgess-wirral-3325136

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/11851526.UPDATED__From__abnormal_to_inspirational____Wirral_wins_Most_Improved_Council_award/

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/former-social-worker-appointed-wirral-8595400

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/13944494.Sweeping_changes_will_see_Wirral_s_cabinet_councillors_given_extensive_new_powers/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/time-for-an-intervention/

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/wirral-school-parents-fought-tooth-14516957 

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14601265.Girtrell_Court_closure_row_reignites_with_claims_council__misrepresented__carers/

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15179685.Who_put_the_lights_out__Call_for_urgent_action_to_repair_Wirral_s_2_200_broken_street_lamps/

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

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/the-big-lie-gets-even-bigger/

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/five-years-shame-how-wirral-13045435

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15022687.UPDATED__Wirral_Council_agrees_to_create_new___80k_management_job___with_no_questions_asked_/

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15325055.Leaked_resignation_letter_shows_Wirral_s_child_safeguarding_improvement_board_boss_was__shocked_and_appalled__by_director_s__shoddy__treatment/ 

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ex-councillor-sent-drunken-death-9612068

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/lrj-an-unofficial-announcement/

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/the-7-principles-of-public-life–2

 

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The Repetitive Pains of Local Politics and the Lyndale School Tragedy

 

 

What You Allow 4

Let’s face it as soon as Julia Hassall stated from the outset of the consultation that Wirral Council was “minded” to close Lyndale School it was a done deal.

What we don’t understand that if “economic considerations” were the reason for the closure why don’t the sums add up?
Are the “economic considerations” more to do with a future potential capital receipt for the land we ask ourselves? – Wirral Leaks, December 2014

Crushed – The Closing of Lyndale School 

Oh here we go it’s the Tories turn for the electioneering and political posturing  as Wirral Council Tory leader Ian Lewis wades in (shame it’s going on for being nearly 4 years too late) on the Lyndale School tragedy/travesty as the former school is set to be demolished and the site used for housing. Read here : Bulldoze Backlash

As for Julia Hassall the poor, no sorry, well paid, patsy who fronted this debacle ,we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again , for all their qualifications and fancy job titles it must be galling for the likes of Hassall, Burgess, Adderley, Degg ,Blott  etc etc etc – INSERT NAME HERE  – to be tossed aside like trash after having served their political paymaster’s purpose.  Somebody needs to get litter Hitlers Kingdom Security on the case, they’d make a bloody fortune! You never know it would probably pay for all the golden handshakes ! All those self serving, self aggrandizing , self absorbed serfs who played the corporate game and then became the metaphorical game for the cowardly lions we call the Wirral Council cabal.

On Wirral – the officers they may come and they may go but the politicians stay the same and its the docile electorate who vote for them who unfortunately give them the political legitimacy to do what they like – such as closing Lyndale School

It’s the same politicians ,some of whom – INSERT NAME HERE – who should not be in  a position to be making decisions about anything, let alone vulnerable people’s lives. Political legitimacy is one thing  but the moral authority – and at times – the legal authority is another. Cllr Lewis may want to discuss with his predecessor Cllr Jeff Green how he enabled such politicians to remain in office before he takes the moral high ground on this one.

However at times such as these we can only turn to the wise words uttered recently by the less than revered elected member Cllr Steve ‘Foulkesy’ Foulkes

“Having been a young man growing up in Birkenhead, you see the same faces, and it can get very repetitive.”  Read here : Student Flats

Can’t it just Foulkesy!

Which leaves to re – post in full the summary of our coverage and commentary on the Mystic Wirral Leaks and the Tragic Tale of Lyndale School

Way back in March 2014 we implored Wirral Council to “Tread Softly” when it came to the proposed closure of Lyndale  School.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/tread-softly/

And sure enough we learn today that in true Wirral Council style they took this advice on board and now plan to demolish Lyndale School and sell the land. Read Here : Demolish and sell

Sadly this should come as no surprise to those who read another Wirral Leaks post    prophetically titled “Crushed – The Closing of Lyndale School” where we asked the following questions:

What we don’t understand that if “economic considerations” were the reason for the closure why don’t the sums add up?
Are the “economic considerations” more to do with a future potential capital receipt for the land we ask ourselves?

Seems that was the case all along – from the day Head of Children’s Services  Julia Hassall declared that she was ‘minded’ to close Lyndale School in November 2013 to the sham of a consultation to the demolition and sale of the site.

Lyndale parent Zoe Anderson displayed a firm grasp of how Wirral Council conduct such matters when she said: “We have always believed it is a foregone conclusion but we are glad that we got to say our bit and give our opinions in public.

“We are also pleased that the concerns we had about the consultation being open and transparent have actually been received and reassurances given to ensure that is the case.”

And who exactly gave Ms.Anderson reassurances about openness and transparency?.
Why none other than the chair of the meeting  who instigated the closure of Lyndale School – Councillor Steve Foulkes aka “Foulksey” – the former Leader of the Council whose lack of personal integrity when it comes to openness,transparency and truthfulness has recently been laid bare for all to see.Read here : Foulkesy the Fibber

Once again we commented with the foresight of a mystic seer  : “However we have to say we have to admire the sheer gall  – as earlier in the meeting he expressed the hope that the forum wouldn’t be used for “political points scoring” knowing what we know might we suggest that “Foulksey” needs to tread very,very carefully on the matter of “political points scoring” …. Read HereCold and Bureaucratic

Reading the posts back we presciently called out Foulkesy then and his sickening role in this tragic tale when we said :

Finally  we implore you to remember the names of the Cabinet members making the decision to close Lyndale School and particularly the one Councillor who we feel is simply not fit to hold public office , let alone make a decision significantly affecting the lives of people who he clearly regards merely as a means to pay his Council expenses.

We hope the people of Wirral are finally beginning to realise  where Wirral Council’s priorities  are – protecting the powerful whilst demolishing the dreams of the vulnerable.

 

Children’s Services : The ‘Real’ Reality Check

In the light of information we had received about Wirral Council’s Children’s Services we thought we’d do a bit of further research which included reluctantly checking out the John Brace footage of Children’s and Families Overview Committee held on January 25th .

We admit we couldn’t get past ‘Part One’  – but it was enough to introduce us to the new Director of Children Paul Boyce (forgive us but his title is giving us flashbacks to ‘The Childcatcher ‘ character in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’). Wirral Leaks readers will remember that Boyce was appointed back in October 2017 following the long overdue departure of the previous Director Julia Hassall. For further information read here :  Old Boyce Network

So what was our first impression of Boycie? Well, put it this way – as far as we’re concerned it’s never good when you can’t remember the original question asked by a councillor after Boyce has answered it .The repeated use of the terms ‘ improvement journey ‘ and ‘narrative’ didn’t help. So in answer to your question we thought the BS quotient was particularly high , even for a Director of Wirral Council .

Needless to say the councillors present appeared to be soothed and reassured . Laughably (and tragically) Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ McLaughlin thanked Boycie for his ‘realistic’ presentation. Because as we know Matron spent many years being duped by incompetent,dishonest Directors in the Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) and thus allowed vulnerable people to be abused over a prolonged period of time .

In the understatement of the year so far Boycie admitted there was ” a bit of work to do” and ” we’ve got a way to go” in Children’s Services . There was some ‘tough talk’ about not wanting social workers who don’t know what good practice looks like to work for Wirral Council anymore .

Whilst Boycie reminded councillors of the reality visits they would be undertaking to check the claims that Children’s Services was heading in the right direction on their ‘improvement journey’ and that there was ‘depth to the rhetoric’ ( see what we mean about the BS quotient?) can we ask him whether Sandra Dykstra is what ‘good social work looks like’ ?  (see below)

Misconduct

Therefore we challenge Wirral councillors to consider the ultimate Children’s Services reality check. In answer to the simple question “Why are there so many looked after children in Wirral”  this is the response they won’t get on their carefully managed visits. Simply because the quality of management in Children’s Services is – and always has been – appalling and your much lauded new agency recruits are motivated simply by money and we guarantee will be out the door when it all gets a bit messy. And believe us – it will.

Reality Check 1

Reality Check 2

A Reality Check For Children’s Services

Brazil September.jpg

As you can see from the above report in the latest edition of Private Eye , children’s services troubleshooting troubadour and serial cheque collector Eleanor Brazil has now rocked up in Croydon.

Of course we remember Ms Brazil as the woman who bailed out of Wirral earlier in the year ,raising her hands in the air , like she just don’t care and claiming to be ‘shocked and appalled’ by the ‘shoddy’ treatment of  Julia Hassall ,Wirral Council’s chosen scapegoat for a series of failures in Children’s Services. Unfortunately Ms Brazil failed to enlighten us further on what she meant by ‘significant corporate issues’ which she felt were hindering progress on the ‘improvement journey’  (groan).

Portrait of A Gobshite

So we’ll fill in the blanks – Children’s Services still leave a lot to be desired and those controlling the show won’t face up to reality. This is evidenced by a couple of  council meetings held this week . Firstly at the Audit & Management Risk Committee Wirral Council ‘s external auditors Grant Thornton presented their annual findings and noted the risk to Wirral Council in the Executive Summary of the report.

In September 2016 the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and
Skills (Ofsted) issued its report on the inspection of the Council’s services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers. The overall judgement was that children’s services were rated as inadequate. The inspection found widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection.
We recognise that the Council has made progress to improve Children’s services and the Improvement plan actions are designed to achieve the required service
improvements. However, recent Ofsted monitoring visits confirm that progress in
some areas has not yet met expectations and the Council acknowledge that it will take some time to implement all the actions that should deliver the required service improvement.

Grant Thornton Audit Findings

Subsequently there were gallant attempts from new Director of Children’s Services, Deborah Gornik, and her Deputy, Simone White , to steady the sinking ship at last night’s Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Whilst they hinted that Ofsted may be pleased with progress in some areas it is clear there are still some choppy waters to navigate on the ‘improvement journey’. Incidentally, we understand that Ms White is a poacher turned gamekeeper turned poacher as a former employee of both Wirral Council and Ofsted and now second in command back at Wirral Council.

But Deborah and Simone should fear not ! – help is at hand as councillors have agreed to undertake a series of ‘Reality Check’ visits to enable them to engage directly with frontline staff in Children’s Services. Hurrah !  – it’s just a shame the arrangement isn’t reciprocal and frontline staff  get to ‘reality check’ councillors and find out whether their failure to properly scrutinize Children’s Services, being forever in denial, turning a visually impaired eye to problems and being more concerned about reputation management than the safeguarding of children contributed to frontline staff having OFSTED inspectors crawling all over them. Could this be the ‘significant corporate issues’ to which Ms Brazil referred to?

Talking of a reality check we note that we’re still awaiting the publication of the Serious Case Review report concerned with the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case that we commented on earlier this year . As we reported in our  Basket Case Review article :

I suppose we have to wait for the publication of the Serious Case Review in the summer before we can FULLY judge the failings of Wirral Council and other statutory agencies involved in the appalling Rajenthiram brother’s depraved exploitation of our most vulnerable.

A quick look out of the window will tells us that summer has long since passed – so where are the findings of the Serious Case Review ? However we do note there was an exempt item at last night’s Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee – could the Serious Case Review report have been discussed then? Or is that a reality check too far for now?

 

 

 

 

Pond Life

Fish 2 010Fish 2 012

You may remember a recent post about a Wirral Council  Employment and Appointments Committee held on June 28th where we referenced a particular agenda item and commented  : Curiously there was (inevitably) an exempt item on the agenda which we understand involved discussions about yet another high profile departure who has been allowed to slip the net (if you get our drift). Suffice to say there’ll be more on that particular catch of the day at a later date.   

Comings and Goings

As we alluded to last week we can now confirm it’s farewell then to cartoon character Dolly Pond lookalike and Wirral Council Super-Duper Director Clare Fish.

We’ll miss her. Mainly because of the endless punning opportunities this overpaid failure provided – wet fish, fish out of water , out of her depth etc; It really was like shooting Fish in a barrel.

It always struck us that Clare was content to be a small fish in a stagnant pond and suddenly found herself swimming with sharks who were either screwing each other or screwing each other over.

Inevitably she found herself to be yet another Wirral council senior officer responsible for social care who has been thrown overboard having netted a big fat cheque – think Miller, Webb, Noone, Fowler ,Hassall . Meanwhile  the overseer of a series of failures, Cllr Moira McLaughlin, sails serenely on like an ocean going tanker full of toxic waste.

In this particular case Fish netted £105,000 . Wirral Council will have you believe with some financial jiggerypokery that they didn’t splash out another six figure sum to reward failure – but they did. It’s what they do, because they don’t know any other way. We say try sacking people or let them resign – that’s how it works in the business world that Wirral Council seem so determined to replicate.

However the most curious aspect of this hasty departure , and a demonstration of Wirral Council’s usual commitment to openness,transparency and accountability is the fact that having applied an exemption, thus excluding press and public from the Employment and Appointments Committee where the pay-off was discussed, they then had to refer the matter for approval at last night’s full Council meeting as Ms Fish swam through the magic six figure mark meaning it needed to be agreed by elected members.

Outgoing Head of Law Surjit Tour seems to have forgotten to tell Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson how this council business works as Stressed Eric merrily revealed in his ExecView  internal newsletter ( which is a bit like Wirral View but without soup recipes and pictures of smiling tots)  that Fish had already slipped through the net .

Fish 009

As you can see ExecView  was dated July 4th and the CEO revealed that Fish had already left the previous week ! So what was the point of even bringing the matter to the Council meeting to agree Fish’s leaving terms ? None whatsoever! But it appears the pond life who are our local elected representatives get along swimmingly and don’t like to make too many ripples when it comes to spending our money on rewarding failure!

Fish 012

 

Portrait of a Gobshite

Brazil 2

Of course we’re in favour of leaks. So we applaud the leak of troubleshooter Eleanor Brazil’s resignation letter to Wirral Globe . 

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15325055.Leaked_resignation_letter_shows_Wirral_s_improvement_board_boss_was__shocked_and_appalled__by_director_s__shoddy__treatment/

Having said that we can’t help feeling that after reading her letter she’s like all those local government gobshites who have gone before ( take your pick – there’s a long list of leeches who have taken our money for mealymouthed public pronouncements)

Delicate flower Eleanor claims to be ‘shocked and appalled’ by the treatment of outgoing Head of Children’s Services ,Julia Hassall by Wirral Council . Note she didn’t mention she was ‘shocked and appalled’ by the victims of Child Sexual Exploitation.

Of course she wasn’t. In her world ‘poor’ Julia matters – vulnerable working class girls don’t.

As for the use of the word ‘shoddy’  – how about trying  ‘shitty’ to describe how the shite who govern Wirral Council treat people. How many times have we commented about how senior managers are tossed into the gutter – whilst the real trash remains in place like shit on a shoe ?

It’s simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH that to come out with statements like:

However we know that the service faces many challenges and there are also clearly some significant corporate issues hindering the ability of the service to be more efficient.

We’re sorry to have to tell you Ms Brazil  but the people of Wirral paid for your expensive gig and accordingly you’re answerable to us. No, really! – and you need, NO WE DEMAND, that you break down exactly what you mean by ‘significant corporate issues’

Name names ,  break down for us what the issues are – or are you just another local government gobshite who takes the money and runs and leaves us all ( and particularly vulnerable people) in the doo-doo ?!

 

 

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.

Bernie The Bruiser Plays The Blame Game

Bernie in White

Bernie’s glare makes grown men weep.

The latest instalment in the scandalous Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case which is mainly being played out by press release to the Liverpool Echo involves the new Cabinet lead for Children’ Services and also the new- frighteningly – Deputy Leader of the Council, Bernie Mooney.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/warning-more-heads-roll-wirral-13054956

Anyway Bernie the Bruiser has gone all gung ho on us and told us that she ” will leave no stone unturned” in finding out how opportunities were missed to protect young girls from abuse and “if that means heads will roll ,so be it”

Oh give over,love, we all know that’s never going to happen with Wirral Council’s senior managers . As we can see from the ‘resignation’ of  Director of Children’s Services, Julia Hassall . Now in the real world ,if someone resigns , they resign and go on to ‘greater challenges’, ‘spend time with their long suffering family’ or take up gardening/golf/alcoholism  and that’s the end of it. Not with Wirral  Council . Oh no – ‘resignees’  get a pay off to make sure that none of the culpability for myriad failures can lead back to the self serving power elite. Somewhat like a slug trail. Yes, best put the stone back in place and keep the slugs out of the glare of the sun. Has anyone noticed that after all the high profile departures in the officer ranks these past few years (and at our expense) that the same old incompetent,dishonest and corrupt councillors are still running the show?

And as for the claim that ‘heads will roll’  – that caused our eyes to roll.  Because if Bernie the Bruiser was true to her word she’d have her Labour colleague Cllr Moira McLaughlin’s head on the chopping block for starters. We have to await the publication of the forthcoming Serious Case Review into the CSE horror story to find out where agencies and which particular personnel let abused girls down.

However we know already that there has undoubtedly been a failure of scrutiny by Wirral Council. We also know that the Serious Case Review goes back to a time when their governance arrangements were found to be wanting  and which contributed to a series of damning reports involving Adult Social Services. So what did subsequent administrations decide? – give the scrutiny of BOTH Adult Social Services and Children’s Social Services to the political lead previously responsible for failing vulnerable adults. Step forward Matron McLaughlin! You really couldn’t make this shit up!

Told You So

Accordingly might we suggest that Bernie the Bruiser needs to go easy with the threats for now because if she’s  prepared to  batter already battered staff into submission and play the blame game she needs to ensure that the stone she’s unturning doesn’t get chucked back at her.

You Can’t Go Wrong

You can't go wrong 010

Wirral Globe followed up the announcement of the resignation of  Julia Hassall -Wirral Council’s Director of Children’s Services –  by publishing a leaked email which was sent to Wirral’s teachers.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15287600.Leaked_email_reveals_no_regrets_for_Wirral_Council_s_departing_child_safeguarding_chief/

Inevitably it was also leaked to us (and is published in full below) . Even more inevitably we feel the need to deconstruct Julia’s touching message for Wirral Leaks readers.

We’ve also received further leaks that suggest that morale in Children’s Services is at an all time low. As we’ve said before this is THE most difficult work and the biggest responsibility any council worker could ever have. The personal safety and future life chances of other people’s children are entirely dependent on them. So why do Wirral Council ask staff to work in the most toxic and dysfunctional environment you could ever imagine?

Might we suggest that what doesn’t help the situation is receiving the following  leak: ‘Keep an eye on newly appointed senior manager Simone White. She was a lack lustre team manager at Wirral Council children’s services for many years until joining OFSTED as a senior inspector.  Conflict of interest ??’

Or just another opportunist on the local government gravy train. Somewhat like dear Julia herself. In her farewell letter she inevitably tells us about the ‘improvement journey’ . Presumably this journey involved an improvement to her bank balance , as no doubt she will be another recipient of a tidy severance package as yet another reward for failure paid for by us.

On Wirral it seems ‘you can’t go wrong’ even when you go wrong !- but only if you’re a senior manager and a) you know too much and b) you’re prepared to take the fall

No wonder Julia ‘No ‘ Hassall tells us she’s ‘fine’ . Because that’s all that matters. As long as Julia’s ‘fine’ what does it matter about working class kids?

We also have to tell you that the news of her resignation doesn’t come as a ‘shock’ .  A senior Wirral Council manager not getting sacked and not receiving a big fat cheque – now that would really be a shock!

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to make sure you are aware that I have sadly decided to resign from the council. 
I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved together, and I am grateful to you all for your dedication and hard work.
It has been challenging, demanding work and I know we have made progress, particularly since September last year as part of the improvement journey. We are clearly on the road to delivering the improvements which are required and this has been recognised by colleagues at Ofsted and the DfE.
I feel that now the new senior team is in place and there is a clear vision for the future that now is the right time for me to seek new challenges elsewhere. As you know I have been dedicated to improving outcomes for Wirral’s children, young people and families and I know you will continue this work.
To ensure stability, Deborah Gornik will be recommended to Council this week to assume the role of DCS on an interim basis, in advance of a recruitment process to arrange a permanent replacement for me.
I appreciate this news will have come as a shock to you. I want to assure you that I am fine, and I will continue to work in Hamilton Building this week to ensure a proper handover.
I am confident that the changes you are making will be the right ones to secure the best outcomes for children now and in the future.
Regards
Julia

Child Sexual Exploitation – No Alarms and No Surprises, Please.

No Alarms

An horrific Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case in Birkenhead finally hits the headlines. The case involves lengthy jail sentences for two Sri Lankan brothers found guilty of the systematic  rape and abuse of girls aged 14 and 15. The full story can be found here :

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15287059.Brothers_jailed_for_40_years_for_child_sexual_exploitation_of_vulnerable_young_girls_in_Wirral/

Now, as we know, the culpability for these vile acts lies with the perpetrators. However we have to ask ,once again, where were the various agencies responsible for safeguarding vulnerable children ?

The fact that Cabinet lead for Children’s Services Cllr Tony Smith has been relieved of his position ( nobody gets ‘sacked’ at Wirral Council) and Julia Hassall – Head of Children’s Services has resigned, suggests that as far as Wirral Council are concerned there are questions to be answered (aren’t there always?)

But do you know what makes us want to bite our knuckles in sheer frustration and anger is the way that rampant reputation management rules all at Wirral Council!

Wirral Council knew (as did we) that there was every likelihood that reporting restrictions would be lifted on this case today. So what is their first priority? –  that’s right get the Liverpool Echo to run a story on Sunday afternoon that council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies had used his ‘strong leader powers’ to suddenly oust Cllr Tony Smith from his Cabinet. So Cllr Smith takes one for the team and is the fall guy ,the patsy for this latest horrorshow. This was followed today with the long overdue resignation of Head of Children’s Services, Julia Hassall.

Of course this all goes back to the publication of a damning Ofsted report last September which had us apoplectic here at Leaky Towers . With our usual prescience we wrote at the time  –  ‘And inevitably what we have witnessed today is the first instalment of an exercise in damage limitation and reputation management for which Wirral Council is so well known  with a carefully controlled ‘leak’ to the Liverpool Echo.’

You may also recall that Hassall claimed there were ‘no surprises’ in the Ofsted report.

What? – did you think Ofsted wouldn’t notice or if they did you could dupe Wirral councillors that everything was hunky dory – for as we know that’s what council officers have been doing for years.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/the-big-lie/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/the-pain-of-failure/

We have expressed the view that the Council’s No. 1 priority is the protection of vulnerable people (and particularly children).  They have failed us and more importantly, the vulnerable, time and time again.

This is, among other failures, a monumental failure of scrutiny (another thing we’ve been banging on about for years) .

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/told-you-so/

We can recall the denial when opposition councillors tried to ask questions about CSE on Wirral and being soothingly reassured by Wirral Council’s Safeguarding Lead ‘ Simpering’ Simon Garner that they need not worry themselves as they’d got it covered. We can also recall the ‘faux outrage’ from councillors whenever comparisons to CSE in Rochdale or Rotherham were mentioned. Consequently the approach from council officers is not to  alarm the councillors as they might get a bit upset that there are sexually exploitative people out there!

We assert  that the denial of the problem by agencies responsible for safeguarding is a major contributor to the continuation and prevalence of CSE. Perhaps Wirral’s Safeguarding Board would do well to check out  ‘Three Girls’ a 3 part series running this week Tuesday-Thursday on BBC1 at 9pm which covers the Rochdale CSE scandal. They might actually learn something.

Finally  we’d like to go back to our original ‘ The Big Lie’ post where we called for the resignation of CEO Eric Robinson  , Head of Children’s Services  Julia Hassall , Corporate Safeguarding Manager  Simon Garner ,  Council Leader Phil Davies ,Children Services Lead Cllr Tony Smith, People Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chair Cllr Moira McLaughlin

Two out of six ain’t bad  (although we should have added Hassall’s manager Clare Fish into the roll call of shame) – but it’s not enough.

The vulnerable people of Wirral deserve better. Indeed, we all do.