Birkenhead First (Second Coming)

Birkenhead First Balloon

Is the balloon about to burst on the BID levy scam? Or are Wirral Chamber of Commerce still allowed to give Tourism Awards to one of their belligerent Director’s former love nest in exchange for screwing over local charities?

Apologies for the disrespectful Easter title – but it’s what we do best. Iconoclastic and sarcastic at the same time.

This post is a follow up to one of our most popular recent stories

Birkenhead First (Among Equals)

Continuing the Biblical theme , readers will remember this was the David v Goliath story of charity boss Jim Barrington taking on the might of Wirral Chamber of Commerce (or rather their enforcers Wirral Council).

Gallant Wirral Councillor Lib Dem Stuart Kelly followed up our story , asking pertinent questions of Wirral Council CEO Eric’ Feeble’ Robinson who in time honoured tradition passed it on to some highly paid underling who passed it on to a less than highly paid underling.

The answers to the questions that Cllr Kelly posed are as follows . Needless to say it starts with apologies, because apparently this is what we do , we pay public servants to apologise profusely and at regular intervals

Apologies for the delay in responding to you.  Please find below my response.

1.Is it the case that Birkenhead First have the ability under regulations to exempt not for profit charitable business from the levy ?   

Schedule 1, Paragraph 1 (e) of the Business Improvement Districts (England ) Regulations 2004 provide that BID proposals shall include “a statement of the specified class of non domestic ratepayer (if any) for which and the level at which any relief from the BID levy is to apply”. This could include charitable rate relief. The Birkenhead BID proposal did not include this optional relief. The BID levy of 1.5% applies to all hereditaments located within the Birkenhead BID boundary area. Businesses with a rateable value that is below £6000 are not liable to pay the BID levy.

2. Is it the case that the BID Levy is being collected on behalf of Wirral Chamber of Commerce by Wirral Council.

Yes we bill and collect on behalf of the BID.

3. Is it the case that none payment is being pursued through the magistrates courts when the liability is a civil matter which are usually dealt with in County Court, if so what is the reason for using magistrates court?

Schedule 4 of the 2004 Regulations deals with enforcement and application for liability orders if the levy is not paid. It applies Part 3 of the Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Local Lists) Regulations 1989. Regulation 12 (2) provides that:-
“The application is to be instituted by making complaint to a justice of the peace, and requesting the issue of a summons directed to that person to appear before the court to show why he has not paid the sum which is outstanding.”
The correct jurisdiction for enforcement is the magistrates court.

4. Is it the case that Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce are adding £95.00 in court fees before liability has been established in court, is there a breakdown of how these costs have been arrived at.

No costs are awarded by the Court upon application by the Council. They are shown on the summons document. The cost make up is shown on the attached. The costs are the Council’s and not passed on to the Chamber.   

5. What is the relationship between Wirral Council and the Chamber with regard to the BID.

The chamber pays for the Council to administer the Billing and Collection of the BID.  

Thankfully our original source Jim Barrington was able to breakdown this BS response as follows :

This looks promising. Excellent work. I did not see the attachment they used to justify their court costs but I am assuming it is the same excel spreadsheets they sent to me. If so here are a few things to consider:
1) They provide the cost to run the entire revenue and benefits department. These staff are already in place so providing these costs as evidence of what it costs in court fees is a deliberate tactic to avoid providing a per capita breakdown. The staff perform other roles and functions including allocation of housing benefits, council tax benefits and enquiries, non-domestic rates and so on. As such one would need to know the total number of different activities each officer undertakes, how many hours are involved and how much of this is actual spent processing and compiling court actions. Then one needs to add the known £3 court processing fee (taking into account economies of scale) and know precisely how many people are being taken to court on any given submission. Then, since the fees must be BID specific, this must be narrowed down to a per capita cost for each BID summons. I doubt this would cost more than £3 per processing fee plus an average of £2 per individual summons for staff time. Even if this cost is more, it would be difficult indeed to justify £95 per capita.
2) The reply was this is a civil matter and the correct setting is Magistrates court. The reason for this did not seem clear to me despite a verbose explanation. 
3) If the matter is a civil matter as agreed by the Council Officer then it clearly falls under Contract Law. As such the proper setting is County Court. It would also likely represent an unfair contract due to no opt out procedure, lack of written contract, no appeal or clear complaints procedure, no refund policy or part refund policy if a person vacates their premises within the year and total lack of accountability or say over how the money is spent. This applies to all businesses affected by the BID.
4) I am still not clear why charitable organisations have not been exempted. No explanation has been given. I asked the Steering Group to consider this exemption prior to the BID vote and again after the BID vote. I have been told they did but the minutes of the meeting are confidential. So a tax is being levied on the promise it represents businesses to improve the area, but the same businesses are not allowed to see the minutes of the meetings. This is despite the BID brochure clearly stating it will listen and respond to small businesses and their needs.
5) Birkenhead First (or is it the BID Company? or is it Wirral Chamber of Commerce?) are claiming to have spent the money on activities which fall under the remit of Wirral Council and for which business rates are paid. So if Birkenhead First are now doing these things should there not be a reduction in Business Rates within the BID District? If so then perhaps this should equal the cost of the BID Levy so there is no additional cost to the small business.
6) They are claiming only businesses with a rateable value of £6000 or over are affected by the BID, whilst conveniently ignoring the fact most charitable organisations occupy larger premises on a peppercorn rent and could not afford to exist without this goodwill. Precedent for exemption of levies and taxes has been set by notable organisations such as HMRC, Customs & Excise and even Wirral Council themselves. So what justification is being given by Wirral Chamber who insist charitable firms must pay? They are strangely silent on this matter.
7) It seems unclear who is taking responsibility for these decisions. Wirral Council say speak to Wirral Chamber and they say speak to Wirral Council. 
8) I am not certain the magistrate “summons” is actually being dealt with by the court system. If you phone the court on the to enquire about the summons on the day they actually have no record of it. Could it be true the council is hiring a room in the court and hiring a judge who is not acting under oath on behalf of the courts? Surely not. Yet this is being muttered in cafes and corners of the Wirral by those being summonsed who have said the Magistrates courts have no official record of these summons. Some have even called the legality of the summons into question because it does not follow the proper form. If true, then the liability hearing may as well be heard in the Town Hall by a council officer because it has the same legal standing. The implications of this are wide reaching and expensive and could affect everyone. 
9) I suspect the Birkenhead BID is a pilot and Wirral Chamber / Wirral Council are working in concert. If this is allowed to go unchallenged then I predict further BID districts popping up all over Wirral.
10) The challenge needs to be:
– justification of court costs and fees. The Council is being evasive on this matter
– the proper setting for the liability hearing. I maintain civil matters should be heard in County Court not Magistrates.
– the legality of the contract under civil contract law. Anything less is extortion by public officials
– the lack of exemption for charitable organisations
– the lack of transparency or accountability over how money is being spent (see earlier comment re: unfair contract)
– the fact Wirral Chamber claims Birkenhead First is not subject to Freedom of Information laws. I contend they inherit the obligations of Wirral Council because they are working in concert with Wirral Council.
We are increasingly grateful that it is not just us who are concerned about the increasingly dubious relationship between Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce. Believe us ,and thankfully for once , these concerns spread beyond the insular peninsula.

Birkenhead First (Among Equals)

Paula NWT 009

Paula Basnett : Primus inter pares in action

 

In the aftermath of the New Ferry explosion over the weekend it was reassuring to see the emergency services, the local community and indeed Wirral Council working together to help the stricken people affected by the devastating event.
Also helping out were the Wirral Chamber of Commerce in the shape of their CEO Paula Basnett  who ‘popped up’ on last night’s edition of North West Tonight to tell us that the Chamber was looking for ‘pop up spaces’ for displaced local traders.
All we can say is that with all the properties the Chamber of Horrors have at their disposal ,which they’ve been gifted or are paying peppercorn rent for, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem!
However it would seem that this charitable largesse on the part of  the Basnett clan doesn’t extend to charities themselves. We’ve been contacted by Jim Barrington from local charity Wiser Solutions Ltd
Jim not only provides us with a fascinating update on a story we covered earlier in the year concerning a local business initative  co-ordinated by Wirral Chamber of Commerce known as the Birkenhead Improvement District (BID) aka ‘Birkenhead First’ , but also with a frightening insight into ‘how things work’ round here.
Here we witness the increasingly unhealthy symbiotic relationship between Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce and the political manoeuvrings of local politicians  and powerbrokers that we don’t see on TV :
Wirral Chamber of Commerce is taking charities and not for profit companies to a criminal court after introducing a BID Levy in Birkenhead then rejected appeals to exempt those affected who exist for the benefit of the community. Affected businesses are told they have to pay 1.5% of the rateable value of their property.
 
The BID Levy was introduced following a vote by firms in Birkenhead after they were told it would listen to their needs and campaign on their behalf to improve the area. In reality however it has refused to listen and change their decision not to exempt charitable firms, despite the BID Regulations allowing it and precedent already being set to by HMRC, Customs and Excise and even Wirral Council who all exempt or reduce the financial obligations of charities and not for profits regarding levies and taxes.
The BID Levy is being collected on behalf of Wirral Chamber of Commerce by Wirral Council. However this contradicts Wirral Council’s own policies and commitments to support not for profits. The small business rates relief ensures the majority of rates are paid by a contribution from the Government and Wirral Council provide a discretionary exemption for qualifying charitable firms which takes care of the rest. However Wirral Chamber of Commerce insist no exemption applies to charities and not for profits, even where they cannot afford to pay. Instead they have insisted on pursuing them through the Magistrates Court in order to obtain a liability order so they can gain access to charitable funds. The use of Magistrates Court is particularly troubling since they are predominantly used for criminal matters and even Wirral Council have admitted this is a civil matter which are usually dealt with in County Court.
Even more troubling is the fact Wirral Council and Wirral Chamber of Commerce are adding £95.00 in court fees before liability has even been established in court, yet cannot provide a full and proper breakdown of how these costs have been arrived at. It is unlawful for any council to make a profit from court fees so one would expect them to be able to say exactly what it costs to take an individual or business to court. Instead however they appear to have been obstructive by providing a spreadsheet which lists the annual costs to run the entire council tax and revenues department. When asked for a per capita breakdown which takes into account economies of scale (i.e. they are taking a lot of people to court for not paying council tax and non-domestic rates on the same day and they batch process them all, plus the BID Levy collection is tagged onto the end of these), they sent the same annual totals for running their entire department. When asked again and told the costs breakdown must be BID specific they refused to send any further information.
An example of these costs would be the cost of filing fees (circa £3.00 per summons) and say an allocation of £2.00 towards staff time and other costs. An explanation therefore of what the remaining £90 costs is for has not been forthcoming. Requests to move things to the County Court, which is the proper setting for civil matters, have been ignored by Council Officers. 
Frank Field was contacted for help at least three weeks for the summons date. He responded at 5:00pm the evening before the court appearance to say his office had contacted Phil Davies who in turn had contacted Wirral Chamber of Commerce and they had refused to change their decision, despite his personal feelings and views to the contrary. So the MP for Birkenhead and the leader of Wirral Council are both being dictated to by officers at Wirral Chamber of Commerce. 
Clearly this suggests Paula Basnett, Kevin Adderley and Asif Hamid who run Wirral Chamber of Commerce are also in charge of Wirral Council. Worse still is the fact Wirral Chamber have stated they and Birkenhead BID Company (Birkenhead First) are not subject to Freedom of Information legislation so can claim everything they do is commercially sensitive and confidential. No transparency there then.
Even the officers at Wirral Council who are collecting the BID Levy do not seem to agree with the decision to criminalise charitable firms. They contacted Wirral Chamber of Commerce asking them to change their position but they were also told the it would not be changed. The attitude appears to be it is only 1.5% of the rateable value of a property so Wirral Chamber cannot understand what the fuss is about. It seems to have escaped their attention charitable firms, by definition of what they do, may have large properties on peppercorn rents and very little money, most of which is from funding or donations and some modest earned income. Which is why they have taxes reduced or are exempted entirely. But Wirral Chamber of Commerce insists everyone must pay.
The Birkenhead BID Levy purports to be there to help support firms in the Birkenhead BID district but some have argued it is instead a way to pay the high salaries of staff who, until recently had worked for Wirral Council. It claims to be there to listen to and represent business owners in the Birkenhead BID Levy District, however there is no formal complaints procedure and minutes of meetings are confidential. Clearly they are not doing a very good job of listening since they are insisting on dragging charitable firms into Magistrates Court to pay for a Levy which did not exist until recently.
To be fair, Birkenhead has been declining for years and business owners are struggling to stay afloat. But cleaning up Birkenhead is the job of the council. 
This is why people pay business rates. The BID appears to be a stealth tax method of increasing business rates without actually increasing the business rates which is the same argument successfully used by Esther McVey when the council attempted to place a levy on wheelie bins and which forced them to hastily back away and reconsider their position.
Wirral Chamber have recently released a wonderful glossy document which makes bold claims about the achievements of the Birkenhead Bid company (also known as Birkenhead First). However the majority of these are things Wirral Council would do anyway as part of their obligations to Business Rates Payers. So it seems the suggestion the BID Levy is supporting the over bloated salaries of former council employees may have some foundation.
Also since this is clearly a civil matter, why is there such a reluctance to transfer proceedings to the County Court? Clearly civil matters fall under contract law and County Court is the proper setting. The costs are similar and certainly can be itemised easier. This suggests a worrying symbiotic relationship between Wirral Council and Wirral Magistrates Court where proceedings are being led by Wirral Council and not the local Magistrates.
The subject of costs and lack of transparency surrounding these certainly raises more questions than answers and this spills over to affect every council tax payer, business rates payer and now BID Levy payer who has ever been summonsed to Magistrates Court and had liability order costs imposed. Whilst clearly Council Tax is a criminal matter, the BID Levy certainly is not and belongs in County Court not the criminal courts.
It has also been suggested the BID Levy and demands for payment would not stand up to scrutiny under contract law. This has never been tested but would certainly be in the public interest. Taking charities and not for profit firms to court in an attempt to access charitable funds is not. It does not matter if the BID Levy is a small token amount. It is still immoral. It is also grossly unfair. For example there is no way to spread the cost monthly, no refund mechanism if firms move out of the area part way through the year, no contract and no control or input on how money is spent. In short it represents an unfair contract under civil law and threats of heavy penalties and costs, bailiffs and similar from Wirral Council are tactics which could be viewed as extortion and threats in public office. Whilst we are not suggesting this is the case, it certainly could be viewed as such. All the more reason for the matter to be placed in its proper setting in the County Court and not the Magistrates Court.
Even more worrying is the notion if Wirral Chamber is not challenged, this could be the first of many BID Levy districts in Wirral and more struggling business owners and charitable firms will find themselves subject to this new stealth tax with no opt out clause, no appeal and no transparency over how their money is spent.

The Blind Leading The Blindfolded

blind_followers

We are grateful, once again , for the following submission from another of our regular followers and contributors , Mr Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro.

Hobro brings his forensic eye to Wirral Council’s  failings in relation to funding which they were responsible for administering. What Hobro dissects may be esoteric to some but the failings he identifies will be familiar to Wirral Leaks readers – a failure of due diligence , a failure of openness and transparency , a failure of accountability and , damn it, a failure to do things ‘properly’ – and all in the name of reputation management (and no doubt other base motives) . We invite you to open your eyes before they take us all over the precipice:

The public are blinded as to the workings within Wirral Borough Council as the corporation seeks to keep its failings from open view. The issue regarding ISUS and BIG seems hackneyed except if one considers that the revelations have deliberately been kept in deep-freeze by the Council Leader and by top officers. They are as new as the date of release of data, usually forced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under threat of contempt of court. Certainly I asked for the names of companies in receipt of BIG funding that were liquidated as early as 2013, to be refused, even though liquidated companies have no protection under the Data Protection Act. The latter was conclusively attested to in summer last year with a ruling from the ICO, and most surely had been known all along by the Council’s monitoring Officer, Mr Surjit Tour.

Those who have been blind seem reluctant to accept criticism from the illuminati despite thin vows of transparency and of accountability. When Grant Thornton reported on the multi-fold failings in the BIG process vis -a -vis 6 files nevertheless despite a disclaimer from Grant Thornton of the Councils italicized statement, the Council claimed no wrong-doing and pointed out that only Lockwood Engineering had gone bust. On forced release of the Executive Summary re BIG in July 2013 the Leader of the Council issued a press release stating the success of the program and that of all Big fund recipients (sic) only one had gone bust. Yet time and erosion of the whitewash reveal that in fact two companies further had entered into liquidation with connexions to the Leader even at that early date. The council chief executive blatantly lied on 8th October 2014 saying only three were bust whereas the true total was eleven by then. I am not sure that Braille can distinguish between entering liquidation and finally being liquidated though these blinders did insist on a difference that to all intents and purposes is valueless. When the sexton prepares the grave there are very few lazarus’ indeed.

I do claim that the BIG process was so flawed in its arrangements that it opened a clear vista for fraud. Due diligence would not involve a coach and blinkered horses being driven through the benevolent intentions of the grants.

Last week I received data re Corrin Kenny Limited a company that received £13,250 of BIG money sometime soon after 4th May 2011 when Councillor Andrew Hodgson approved the award. The file given me contained no accounts later than 31st March 2010 which represents a poor basis indeed for processing future projections.

The friar Pacioli who invented double entry intended that all debits and credits equate to zero otherwise his system collapses applying to historic and equally to projected accounts. Due diligence compelled me to reconstruct from the entries in the projections an opening Balance Sheet. It proved impossible to do leaving a creditor of £7,000 which clearly had not been run through the projected cash flow. Surely any business applying for £20,000 of free money should at the very least offer up a clear set of projections, and any civil servant intending to give out public money should expect a clear Business Plan budget. Without the budget being sound the reins of the coach are fraying.
BLIND, Wilfully blind or just complaisant officers?

The officer who produced a short page of recommendations for the “Independent Panel” to consider was a Mr Stone of the Regeneration Department. He did not look for a balanced model ( in Cashflows that do not balance as to Cash flow, Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet one can always find errors that invalidate the proposal) and did not remark on the £26,600 cost that was not included in the Total for Cost of Sales. This was plain as a pikestaff for any but the purblind. I imagine therefore that Mr Stone did not attempt to analyse the formulae within the Excel model-I did, unpaid!, and with my having to reconstitute the Excel from a Adobe Acrobat file. I observed with my clear vision that, to check the validity of the assumptions, I would need to recreate the file. If I had been paid it would have been 2 hours of WBC time . Mr Stone may have had the benefit of the original Excel file in which case half an hours work would have sufficed. They have eyes to see but do not wish to see!

Mr Stone or Gemma Henry had access to a reporting suite from Companies House. They might have discovered that the Company Secretary whose name headed the application was involved already with seven companies of which three at that contemporaneous time were entered into the London Gazette to be dissolved. This was not a chequered flag to go ahead with the grant but a chequered past to prompt more questions.

I checked the full accounts for March 2010 and noted from a minds eye memory going back 6 years that the requirement to produce accounts not less than 6 months old had not been enforced, or perhaps in April 2011 the officers did not see that accounts to 31st March 2010 were more than a year old. I noted as a kestrel hovering at several hundred feet the balance of Other Debtors at £52,989 and wondered if Ms Gemma Henry quartered in Invest Wirral’s offices in Egerton House asked of Mr Kenny, giving his address as Egerton House, of what that was composed. Could it be an illegal Directors Current account because it most definitely was not a Trade Debtor, and if it were that, then what business has WBC advancing money to a company that was already sitting on an unrecognised liability of up to £30,000 of PAYE/NI? I began to see into the future (see below.)

COACH AND HORSES

Then to the Minutes of the Meeting at 9:30am of 21st April 2011 (with next meeting at foot of page for 27th May 2010(sic)) attended by the blind Invest Wirral who blind-folded the independents from Business Link and from the Federation of Small Business by, per Grant Thornton, giving them no accounts, and just the précis by Mr Stone, Finance Manager. The précis ran to just 320 words which recommended that only £20,000 would do the job. After a discussion “in great detail” all voted save one independent to award the grant. Dissension was met by the compromise of awarding just £13,250 even though Mr Stone had written only £20,000 would do. Blind, blind, blind or perhaps the diligence drivers ( an 18th century coach) whipping through what they could for an individual close indeed to the Regeneration Manager, Mr Kevin Adderley.

All seemed unconcerned that the award would be the same contravention of rules as was the award – that never should have been given per Grant Thornton-to The Edge magazine of Lets Go Publishing ltd. Both sought to advertise in the Wirral just as had Thinklocal and indeed Wirral View in direct competition with non-funded newspapers. The blindfolded independents would not know only the wilfully blind officers knew.

THAT WHICH WAS VISIBLE TO THE DISCERNING EYE THEN AND CAME TO PASS

Hindsight reveals that far from Corrin Kenny having £93,266 reserves in March 2012, by July 2013 the Liquidator reported a deficiency of (£75,000 ) which for four years he has been trying to recoup from the director who had had an overdrawn current account (see above and £52,000).

HM Tax Inspectorate began calling in its debt in March 2012 .The officers did not see at March 2010 that the debt to Taxes had been £40,481. The did nt see the warnings from the filings at Companies House where the figures quoted as prior year balance sheet in the 31st March 2010 accounts were different from the 2009 Balance sheet as filed. It is the business of Local Authorities to ensure before parting with our taxes that the grantees have paid their dues and observe laws and regulations and not to encourage tax defaulters! The debt to the Revenue finally was recognised as being £70,646 and the Liquidator (see above) noted the debt owed by the director to the company. To this date the Liquidation is open five years later as the Revenue seek to enforce the debt. So the ‘diligence’ reached the river and unloaded £13,250 of tax-payers money to sail down the Swanee to the accompaniment of the blind harmonica players from the Council.

OBFUSCATION AFTER THE EVENT

What we can see is that Mr P Davies Councillor was not anxious that these details be released on Corrin Kenny Ltd since he did accompany Mr B Kenny on trade missions to the Isle of Man and, though I have not seen the photograph, allegedly to Reno. I guess the sad story of New Concept Gaming Ltd, some £845,000 of public money including some BIG, going down the same river was another musical score that the blind players did not want you to read. Of “all BIG recipients” these two were certainly in liquidation when Mr P Davies issued his press release in July 2013.

SOURCES
The sources for my article are Companies House, data which is now free and at the time would only have cost Invest Wirral a maximum of £5 to see; and What do they know.com at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/corrin_kenny_ltd_big_fund_award?nocache=incoming-948560#incoming-948560

The Egerton House Mystery

egerton-house

We are grateful to yet another correspondent with an enquiring mind who has sought refuge at Leaky Towers. This instalment in the Wirral Chamber of Commerce/ Wirral Council shenanigans concerns itself with Egerton House. This is another property which somehow landed in the burgeoning Chamber portfolio .

Our correspondent asks whether he has to stick to the Wirral Leaks party line and launch into some ‘scurrilous criticism’ of certain individuals to get published. Absolutely not! there’s enough of that on here and anyway we appreciate and encourage independent thought and debate – unlike some other institutions we could name !

We just ask that you read for yourselves and make your own mind up although we do say amen and halleluljah to the view expressed about Kevin Adderley!

Egerton House – where has the cash gone?

Egerton House was the first redevelopment on the docks and was owned jointly by Wirral Business Enterprise Limited and CEWTEC, the training and enterprise council. Wirral Business Enterprise Limited owned its fifty percent outright after a grant from the rump of Wirral Task Force funds and CEWTEC’s share was in part funded by the Department for Employment. Essentially the purchase and re-development of Egerton House was publicly funded.
When the Training and Enterprise Councils were abolished the Department for Employment reluctantly agreed that its loan would be cancelled subject to assurances on board structure and activities and Egerton House could remain as a resource for Enterprise development on Wirral. To avoid a substantial tax bill the two companies then offered Egerton House to the University of Liverpool, Wirral Metropolitan College and the Local Authority with an option to lease it back. All pitched to take it over and the two boards of directors chose the Local Authority. A lease was granted back to Egerton House (Wirral) Limited – during negotiations over the lease the Local Authority sought assurances that one elected member of the authority would be on the board with an Officer as observer.
The directors of Egerton House (Wirral) Limited adopted a very cautious policy, fearful that they might lose their largest licensee and amassed very substantial cash holdings peaking at over £600,000. It is difficult to see how this caution allowed an imaginative contribution to the development of Enterprise on Wirral.
Following the ‘merger’ with Wirral Investment Network the old board left, apart from Dr David Prior and Asif Hamid became chairman and Paula Basnett joined the board along with others. At this point Wirral Leaks might require me to stick to their party line and launch some scurrilous criticism of these two individuals. I would prefer to say that Asif has managed to draw together the most credible board of directors that Wirral Chamber of Commerce has ever had and through his membership of the LEP and connections to central government strives to do the very best for Wirral. Paula Basnett has consistently worked hard to bring together the diverse players in business support and with help from Phil Davies (who I also admire) rescued the Chamber from exiting Wirral.
BUT
In its latest published accounts Egerton House (Wirral) Community Interest Company lists amongst its contributions to the community; a Dr Bike day to have ones bicycle checked out, a Macmillan bake off day, ‘Shower Grants’ in case you get a bit hot and bothered riding your bike to work and hosting a steering group on Enterprise mentoring. In fairness it also lists all the core activities at Egerton House that are in support of business and for the good of the community.
Its latest Confirmation Statement (Annual Return) notes persons with significant control as Asif Hamid and Paula Basnett. Not surprising since they are the only directors of what holds itself out to be a Community Interest Company.
What the accounts as at 31st March 2016 don’t explain is why cash at bank after so many years of being over half a million pounds is a mere £2518 down from £336,816 on 31st December 2014 with debtors up from £86k to £344k.
At the same time in the Chamber’s accounts for the same dates cash at bank has gone up from £59,734 to £302,000.
Would it be reasonable to suggest that rather than hearing about a Dr Bike day we as taxpayers who paid for Egerton House might be more interested in whether Egerton House has lent around £300,000 to the Chamber and if so on what terms and if not who has the cash?
Your correspondent has no problem with Egerton House funding the Chamber as long as it is secure and public and not spent on Kevin Adderley and no wish to call upon other busy people to volunteer more time by sitting, pro bono, on the board of Egerton House (although the Local Authority should be present on the board as required in the original negotiations on the lease).
In an ideal world Egerton House might be fully integrated into the Chamber along with its lease and the Chamber should then aim to publish the fullest possible accounts to its members and the whole Wirral community.
Until then perhaps they could make a start by explaining Egerton House’s disappearing cash at bank.

The Common People

rich-pickings

Rich pickings for the Basnetts and friends.

Now you all know we are totally non-judgemental at Leaky Towers so when we refer to the common people we are talking more about some of the people we discussed in yesterday’s post  who seem to have a lot in common.

They call it partnership working / networking – we call it cronyism and empire building at the expense of the ‘little people’ .The rich enriching themselves and their friends by accessing scarce public resources …..and with Grant Thornton being the common denominator when it comes to auditing there is very little chance of any awkward questions being asked.  We note that the late-to-the-party Daily Mail follow up their own concerns on the matter by belatedly bringing to their readers attention the Peel Group and particularly group director Robert Hough.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4003918/Ban-fat-cats-secret-deals-says-MPs-demand-action-Mail-exposes-old-pals-club-doles-public-money.html

Fortunately our own consultant Dr Robert B Smith has been able to remedy any ‘information deficit’ our readers may have when it comes to the following local contacts and connections that have increasingly caused us so much concern :

Board Games (of recent times)

Liverpool City Region (LCR) Combined Authority committee members

ex-Chair Cllr Phil Davies; Leader Wirral Council -, now committee member
Asif Hamid; The Contact Company – committee member

Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) 

Chair

Robert Hough; Peel Group (previous Chair until end of June 2016)
Asif Hamid; The Contact Company – previously Vice-Chair, now Chair

Board members 

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company
Neil Sturmey; Head of Office & Partner, Grant Thornton

Mark Basnett; LCR – LEP (Executive Director in attendance)

Mark Basnett additional company directorships:

Merseyside Special Investment Seed Fund Ltd.
Merseyside Special Investment Venture Fund Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Venture Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Mezzanine Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Fund Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment (Small Firms) Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Small Loans For Business Investment Fund Ltd
Small Business Loans Ltd

Wirral Council

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council

Kevin Adderley; ex-Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment

Paula Basnett; ex-Investment Manager
Independent Auditor, Grant Thornton

Wirral Chamber of Commerce (WCofC)

Chair

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO

Board members

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO (ex-Investment Manager at Wirral Council; ex-head of Invest Wirral; ex-Manager of Egerton House; ex-Wirral Business Partnership CEO).

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council
Kevin Adderley; WCofC Group Managing Director (ex-Wirral Council Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment)
Sue Higginson; Principal, Wirral Metropolitan College
John Syvret; CEO, Cammell Laird (Peel Group)

Wirral Investment Network (Management) Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
(No other Directors)

Egerton House (Wirral) Community Interest Company

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
(No other Directors)

The Lauries Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Secretary

Lauries Events Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Wirral Metropolitan College – Governors

Sue Higginson; Principal, Wirral Metropolitan College

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO
Richard Mawdsley; Director of the Peel Group
Grant Thornton (Auditors in attendance)

Join the dots

The Hive – Wirral Youth Zone

John Syvret; Chair (CEO, Cammell Laird [Peel Group])
Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce
Phil Garrigan Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

Saughall Massie Fire Station proposal

Could this be the trade-off for the Birkenhead site for The Hive/Wirral Youth Zone between Wirral Council and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service…?

Wirral Waters

Peel Group
Wirral Council

Egerton House (WCofC)

Pacific Road (WCofC)
The Contact Company 26.03.2015 Liverpool Echo – The Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and Wirral Chamber of Commerce have also provided Asif Hamid’s company with additional support. (£11m reported costs, at least 75% reported as public funding)

Wirral Metropolitan College Wirral Waters campus for Construction and the Built Environment (£8m public funding)
Tower Road ‘A’ & ‘C’ Bridge replacements to service Ro-Ro Ferry £7.12m all public funding incl £712k from Wirral Council – Peel £0

Now join more dots…..

Who was ‘instrumental’ in the failed £175m International Trade Centre as part of a move to kick-start the £4.6bn Wirral Waters project.

Who went to China to meet Stella Shiu?

Who met Stella Shiu when she visited Wirral?

Who went to Reno?

Who went to the Isle of Man?

Who was responsible for administering and investigating the Business Investment Grants (BIG), Investment Start Up Scheme (ISUS), and Working Neighbourhoods, schemes?

 

Chamber of Horrors

 

chamber-of-horrors-010

As we’re still waiting the arrival of Wirral View  we had to console ourselves with the cut out and keep Wirral Chamber of Commerce supplement in this week’s Wirral Globe.

Blimey! – there’s Paula rockin’ the tan enhancing white outfit again . You can sense the middle aged desperation from here. Then there’s some hapless handsome chappy roped in for publicity purposes and Kevin “Addled” Adderley giving us his best death stare. Get over it Kev – Emma never loved you. Either get some counselling or console yourself with the fact you screwed Wirral Council for a bit fat cheque and even as a desperate hasbeen you can still have a sly fag out the back of Egerton House.

We also get the announcement that the Business Improvement District (BID) managed by Wirral Chamber of Commerce won the Place Marketing – Small Location in the BID Awards 2016. Apparently this was due to July’s inaugural ‘Be in Birkenhead Summer Festival’ held in Hamilton Square. Jeezus – there must be so many places on earth that someone would  want to spend summer other than Birkenhead . As Her Ladyship said : ” Book me a flight to Kabul, Aleppo, the Death Valley. Anywhere but bloody Birkenhead in summer “.

No doubt the special attractions of the Birkenhead Summer Festival featured the ‘Smack Shack’ , the ‘Methadone Marquee’ and the ‘Heroin Haven’. They must have come in droves.

After being privy to this good news we are also treated to a list of forthcoming events at  ‘The Lauries Centre’ – which has also now been annexed by the Wirral Chamber of Commerce.

At which point we hand over to one of our many insightful contributors who says :

I see that WBC have picked up an award for ‘Birkenhead First’, a recent regeneration scheme. I mean, do me a favour! What regeneration is this? Each day Birkenhead fills with more homeless beggars, more junkies using Hamilton Square as a toilet, more shops shuttered up, more piles of rubbish in the overpriced car parks in Grange Rd West, more public drinking along Borough Rd. And that’s not to mention the row of boarded up shops which have been there longer than my memory. Charing Cross is a delightful place now it has been regenerated, the boarded up pubs, the all night kebab shops and drinking dens, the crowds of morons spoiling for a fight…a true tourists delight. Did the 6,500 extra visitors enjoy their experience? How does this council get an award for all this?

To which we replied :We think it must be a misprint and the award was for DE- generation.

Our correspondent responded : And now the Wine Lodge is up for sale, I bet that gets boarded up after Xmas. WBC could offer tours to firms of boarder uppers to show them how to shut down and board up an entire town, Charing Cross, the centre of old Birkenhead. I remember the xmas tree on the roundabout as was. Look at it now, criminal……….

Over to you Paula  “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” Basnett – will you be ordering a double Aussie White from Yatesy’s as a bit of Christmas cheer?. We suspect only if someone else is buying and preferably someone with a big chequebook from Wirral Council!.

 

 

 

Ministry of Truth

 

ministry-of-truth-official

Another of our valued contributors Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro provides us with the latest update on the long running saga that is the BIG cover up (both in name and by nature).

After being given the usual run around by Wirral Council a Freedom of Information request eventually provided the evidence that Hobro and co had needed to support their long held claims of malpractice.

Once again we seem to witness the closed ranks and the triumph of dishonesty over truth. Whilst Hobro rightly highlights the questionable actions of Wirral Council management in this sorry saga we would like to raise a particular concern about so called independent agencies who collude with such behaviour. In all of these Wirral Council whistleblowing cases a common denominator has been how external auditors have consistently failed to act in the public interest.

No wonder that ex – Cllr Jim Crabtree , the former Chair of the council’s Audit & Risk Management Committee , asked for a round of applause for Mike Thomas (Audit Commission/ Grant Thornton)  when he made his last appearance at an ARMC meeting. Mr Thomas appeared shocked at the tribute – we were appalled………

Wirral Borough Council management is now revealed to be a sordid manipulator of the truth. I write that buttressed by hard-won evidence. Evidence forced out of WBC by threat of contempt of court after a campaign of obfuscation lasting all the way back to 2011. In addition to the management being exposed, a reasonable man might well have grounds to write that the Leader of the Council either was fed lies, and turned a blind eye, or told them in full knowledge. As regards (former WBC CEO) Graham Burgess and his Regeneration team, Kevin Adderley, and the ever-present David Ball, the taped proceedings of the Special Audit and Risk Committee meeting of 8th October tars them with lying, or complicity with lies, and that extending to the Legal Officer, Surjit Tour, who in despite of his accustomed “legal” interventions, kept silence as untruths were reeled out.

Language is never exact and can be readily misused – “the devil wins us with honest trifles to betray us i’the deepest consequence” and such abuse of language, “tis the equivocation of the fiend”, has been practised by many. Bill Clinton “I did not have sex in the Whitehouse” or his “I smoked but did not inhale” are famous examples. The tone of delivery may help. After a night of the Long Knives in June 1934 where a former German Chancellor was murdered with his wife, and hundreds of others, Hermann Goering cheerily met Anglo-American Reporters with the quip “Boy, have I got news for you!” Naturally he personally had organised many of the assassinations himself and put a jovial face upon it. “There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”!

Why am I quoting Macbeth? Why because the play shows how small untruths may lead to monstrous acts somewhere late in the “seeds of time”. Particularly I quote Macbeth because a line spoken by the tragic hero fits this situation neatly. Macbeth says

“I am in blood steep’d in so far

That going back were as tedious as go o’er”

Surely malevolence grows steadily like a worm fed on rubbish. Let me rehearse how an Original Lie grew and grew.

14 March 2011   Minutes given to Regeneration committee of councillors include tabulation of false figures from Wirralbiz Working Wirral figures, in order to give impression that all is well

July 2011        Kevin Adderley outfaces James Griffiths, whistle-blower, by untruthfully blurting out that no BIG recipient has gone bust

January 2012     Chief Anti-Fraud officer, Beverley Edwards files a 370 page report with the Director of Law showing the phoenixing of Lockwood Engineering ltd assets into Harbac (UK) ltd, and multiple flaws in the BIG process, together with flaws and fraud in wirralbiz’s ISUS program

March 2012       

Press release by WBC as follows 23 March 2012

Re: Allegations relating to Business Grants

Director of Finance and Deputy Chief Executive, Ian Coleman said:

“The allegations raised are being investigated by the Council’s Audit Officers. Their preliminary view, having interviewed the complainants and others, and considered all relevant documentation, is that there is no evidence that substantiates the allegations made against Council officers – at that time there was only the suggestion that (the now CEO of Wirral Chamber of Commerce) Paula Basnett was a friend of the wife of the director of Cass Coaches; this among a myriad of other allegations against claimants and advisors of wirralbiz).

“The investigation has not yet concluded however it is anticipated that the report will be finalised in the next few weeks.

“The Council’s Economic Development unit has an excellent track record for the work it does to encourage investment into Wirral, support local businesses and help people into jobs. This was recognised most recently when the team won the national LGC Award for Economic Development, which praised the innovation shown by the Council.”

BY March 2012  the decision has been taken to hide Beverley Edwards’ report and substitute it with a Dave Garry report, and stretch that report out as long as possible

July 2012      the council pays £33,000 to wirralbiz regardless of allegations as the lie must be fed

September 2012   “the report will be finalised in the next few weeks” transmutes by witchcraft “ into no report will be published as it is unfit for purpose and Mr D. Garry regardless of his failure ,will leave the authority with £46,000. But what of the 370 pages of Beverley Edwards’ report?

The LIE is swelling with falsehoods and the toll and bill is mounting both for the public and for the two whistleblowers. For the public a further £50,000 will be paid to Grant Thornton. One wonders is this simply to buy time?

October 2012     to feed the lie the Council pays a further £66,000 to wirralbiz

Early December 2012    The Grant Thornton team report both that they have completed the BIG investigation within just over a month, and that WBC is putting no pressure on them to render a report till the ISUS investigation is complete.-to buy more time?

March 2013   Grant Thornton delivers its report which is hidden from view for 16 weeks

March 2013     Press release by Cllr P Davies and again the red herring is thrown into the ocean incarnadine with a “I am pleased that I am now in a position to state clearly that the ISUS report which has now been concluded does not criticise Wirral Council or its officers” WHEREAS from the off the investigation was never directed against council officers!!

July 2013        Under pressure from a question at a full council meeting Cllr Davies agrees to release just the Executive Summary of the BIG investigation. In it are new obfuscations. Grant Thornton though investigating Lockwood Engineering ltd in its sample of six files contrives not to notice or record the phoenixing issue of BIG-funded assets moved into Harbac UK Ltd without any liquidator knowing-a very strange omission indeed. Likewise the BIG LIE battens on the equivocation that a gap of 26 months passed between the August 2010 award of BIG and the dissolution of Lockwood in September 2012. Disingenuous indeed since entry into Liquidation effectively ends the company’s trading and this was only 8 months later!

July 2013     Cllr Davies in a press release, “filled top to toe with direst cruelty” wrote

“I am also pleased to note that with the exception of one, all companies that received BIG funding are still trading – creating jobs and contributing to the local economy”

THE BIG LIE and his soul is not to fly to Heaven. Here is the list of companies that were no longer trading at 1st July 2013

New Gaming Concept ltd   into liquidation  18/03/2010 and fully dissolved  25/06/2011

Lockwood engineering ltd                             01/04/2011                                 20/09/2012

Corrin Kenny ltd 22/03/2012 long liquidation

July 2014 A special audit and risk committee was abandoned in uproar as the Chairman Cllr Crabtree (displaced now and up before criminal court in January coming on an unrelated matter) attempted to close down the issues by a majority vote of Labour Councillors.) Cllr Davies approached me at the end threatening to sue me for linking him with the advisor preparing the defective BIG fund projections. Had I known of the connexions between Brendon Kenny (Corrin Kenny Ltd above) and the Adderley-P Davies coterie, or of the £810,000 deficit in New Gaming Concept Ltd , he would have been even more anxious.

8th October 2014 The reconvened special audit and risk committee is held and despite with-holding what the Chief Executive would submit, the WBC management pestered me many times for the content of my speech. Since the delivery of my speech to them in July 2014 meeting was a contributory cause of that meeting being aborted , I did not supply my notes to them on this ocassion. Graham  Burgess and Kevin Adderley, “twere as tedious to go o’er as go back” repeated the same untruth that now only Lockwood , Harbac and Atlantic Engineering were liquidated or in Liquidation. BIG LIE for by then the list had grown to

 New Gaming Concept ltd   into liquidation  18/03/2010 and fully dissolved  25/06/2011

Lockwood Engineering ltd                             01/04/2011                                 20/09/2012

Corrin Kenny ltd 22/03/2012 long liquidation

With additions  

TTH Laundry Services Ltd                                  21/08/2014

Halliwell Industrial & Marine Silencers                07/03/2014       

Harbac (UK) ltd 14/08/2013

Combined Harvesters ltd 12/12/2013

Atlantic Engineering ltd 11/03/2014

Brocks Mechanical services ltd 04/02/2014

Imaginations Air travel ltd 01/09/2014

I make that ten cessations of trading as both the Chief Executive and the Super Director spake and as, the two representatives from Grant Thornton , the auditors, sat silent, and as David Ball , Manager of Regeneration was equally mute, and lastly the Monitoring Officer, Surjit Tour never corrected them.

A FARCE and a waste of all the salaries and overtime paid to the notables who were present. A personal insult to myself, to James Griffiths and to the public whose money had so flippantly been  thrown away. Throughout the Monitoring Officer refused access to the list of BIG recipients even though a cursory examination of his legal database would show him that liquidated companies have absolutely no rights to confidentiality, period. Wilfully he maintained the BIG LIE and you have only to read the directions from the Information Commissioner to understand how,  improperly, Monitoring Officer offered up a series of ridiculous objections with the purpose of concealing the BIG LIE.

There will be other commentators here and on Wirral in it together. Let me record how angry I am with these pious and aloof civil servants who in reality were hiding their own incompetence and sordid lie-telling. The reader will discover the motivators to tell such lies.

Think on the triumph of Donald Trump in the USA. So many lies were told by the Clintons that he decided to campaign with half truths and once won, row back on his campaign slogans. That is the terminus to arrive at when “ first you practice to deceive”.

This Gun (Ain’t) For Hire

 

this-gun-for-hire

Our attention has been drawn to a number of interesting Facebook posts this week. This includes one posted yesterday by Conservative councillor Chris Blakeley which read :

Earlier this evening I was at Wallasey Town Hall for a special scrutiny meeting requisitioned by the Conservatives to look into the activity of Wirral Community Patrol and try to find out why it provides free security checks to private business and individuals.

The debate was interesting, with former Leader of the Council, Labour’s Steve Foulkes accusing the conservatives of trying to make political gain, and referring to me as ‘A hired Gun’. I must have done something right then!

Anyway at the end of the meeting and to try to be helpful i moved a motion that read:

‘Committee resolves to set up a Task and Finish group to carry out a full review of Wirral’s Community Patrol service and on completion of the review the findings be reported back to the Environment Committee.’

Now I thought, being an innocuous and non political motion that it would get all party support. How wrong was I with the Labour Councillors and the Lib Dem voting against. Just what have they got to hide?

First of all we see that the long running Blakeley v Foulkesy feud continues. Oh how Blakeley must’ve loved being at the Standards Panel earlier this year where Foulkesy’s serial mendacity was discussed ad nauseum. However the satisfaction must’ve been purely personal as Foulkesy staggeringly continues to be a councillor and therefore able to bait Bulldog Blakeley with his old standby about Conservatives trying to make ‘political gain’ by requisitioning pointless political point scoring meetings. As for ‘political gain’ how does Foulkesy reconcile this statement with asking his badly bequiffed bestie Cllr George Davies asking for a document smearing the Conservative group leader Jeff Green in exchange for cold, hard cash?.

However let’s get back to the political pantomime that is Blakeley v Foulkesy.  The respective Rottweilers of Wirral’s leading (and constantly) feuding political parties. Shame the pair of them were neutered a long time ago and this is purely for entertainment purposes with Blakeley keeping his powder dry and Foulkesy firing blanks.

Witness as Foulkesy  refers to Blakeley as a ” A hired Gun” (sic) – so tell us Foulkesy who is Blakeley hired by?. Meanwhile Blakeley asks the question about Labour and Lib Dem councillors :“Just what have they got to hide?” . So tell us Blakeley what exactly have they got to hide?

The fact is you’ve all got something to hide. As this missive to Leaky Towers seems to testify :

Councillor Blakeley posted on Facebook today that the conservative party has lodged an investigation into Wirral community patrol to the councils scrutiny committee.

The reason believed to be community patrol officers security checks on Angela Eagle’s headquarters in Liscard is just not a big deal at all.
They should be investigating how the Wirral Community Patrol Limited came about and what was the reasons for Atlas Fire and Security owner Mr Piggott branding this council service – illegal by the way.
Also ex – Wirral Community patrol manager John Kenny and his ex -Assistant manager Mike Collins setting up Atlas Security Patrol and then plundering over 40% of Wirral Community Patrols business using insider knowledge of their pricing structure.
This is well known by the head of the Wirral Conservative Party and Mr Blakeley but inspection of Facebook sites shows they are both friends with Mike Collins who is also a Conservative Party member who only last year ran in the Bromborough ward.They always protect their friends no matter what party.
Atlas Patrol are now part of the Wirral Chamber elite with their best mate Adderley – head honcho.  Watch this space…… 
We note that the former Conservative councillor Leah Fraser , who was the most prominent champion of the Community Patrol guys, is no longer a Conservative councillor. She follows on from Simon Mountney – the Conservative councillor who championed the notorious Martin Morton whistleblowing case. Seems to us that if you speak up for those treated unfairly by Wirral Council – you have no future with the local Conservative Party.

All this does from our perspective is to reiterate our clarion call to all the talented , intelligent , ambitious young people of personal integrity on Wirral and that is to get out of this incestuous, pernicious peninsula as fast as you can………..

Oh , and finally we don’t expect Cllr Blakeley to retweet or like this blog post on Facebook because we don’t and never will be seeking his or any other Wirral councillor’s approval. We ain’t for hire. EVER.

News Briefs

News Briefs

News Item 1

Our thanks go to the wag who sent us details of the News and Content Officer post being recruited to by Wirral Council and for asking us whether our very own Verity was applying!. Verity told that she is always true to her name so will be giving it a swerve !.

https://ww3.wirral.gov.uk/jobs/jobdetail.asp?VacancyID=7374&Other

However we’d like to wish the person responsible for “having  real enthusiasm for communicating what a fantastic place Wirral is to live and work”  the very best of luck. Let’s make a deal – you do the turdpolishing , we’ll do the dirty laundry!.We’re particularly looking forward to reading about Wirral Council Employee of the Month – from the stories we’ve covered that’ll be someone who hasn’t stolen the petty cash , handed over money to scam merchants , failed to follow procurement procedures or been involved in sexual shenanigans and senior management fisticuffs.

Talking of which …….

News Item 2

How delighted we were to see Kevin “Addled” Adderley at last weeks Birkenhead Constituency Committee meeting – pockets bulging with Council taxpayers cash and telling the gathered throng about the wonderful things he was now doing in retirement with the Wirral Chamber of Commerce.

It wasn’t all good news though as we hear that Frank Field has stepped down from his role as Chair of the Committee. Frankenfield was always good for a petulant quote or two – who can forget his sly dig at this very blog?.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/frankie-says-wirral-leaks/

Frankenfield is still keeping his hand in (so to speak) as the new Chair is his political agent Cllr  George ” We Shall Overcomb”  Davies . We had questioned Frankenfield’s suitability to chair this Committee from the outset – should the local MP be making decisions on how the Council spends its money ?. But then he’s been used to spending Council money on his pet projects for years as Tony Kinsella and Nick Warren can testify (and we can only hope that one day they may have to !).

Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies helpfully explained that the selfless Birkenhead MP was spending  more time on “parliamentary duties” . By which we think he means having  a bitchfight with BHS bad boy “Sir” Philip Green.

Field has received a letter from Green’s lawyers asking him to apologise for comments he made comparing him unfavourably to pension plunderer Robert Maxwell.

Field told Sky News: “I don’t know how that will run, but it adds to the gaiety of life doesn’t it?”

Doesn’t it just sweetie!.

Frankenfield has gone on to call Green “evil” – which suggests to us that he has a particularly delicate sensibility or he needs to get out more and meet some of his constituents who contribute to his description of Birkenhead being “like Beirut”.

News Item 3

…and finally we read that Cllr Adrian “Janus-faced” Jones is the only Wirral Councillor to publicly support Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by signing a pro-Corbyn letter (although we do know that fellow Labour councillors Treena Johnson and Louise Reecejones are also Jezza fans)

http://labourlist.org/2016/06/hundreds-of-councillors-sign-pro-corbyn-letter/

 

Father Christmas and eagle

Awks

 

 

 

Open & Transparent : Emerging Thoughts

Here's a thought

…how about Wirral Council making their New Year’s resolution to be “open and transparent” in 2016 !

After his no doubt desperately longed for extended festive break Wirral Council CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson  returned to what passes for reality at Wallasey Town Hall today.

As an aside we’d like to ask , as a matter of public interest , as to whether he’s moved any closer to Wirral like he said he would when he was first appointed. I think we know the answer to that one!.No FOI request required!

However ,we digress, as we know that awaiting Stressed Eric in his , no doubt bulging inbox , was the latest missive from our correspondent Dr.Robert in his quest to get to the bottom of the Kevin “Addled” Adderley pay -off saga (see below)

Before Christmas Stressed Eric had tangled himself up in knots trying to justify this egregious payment and told Dr.Robert  about his “emerging thoughts” on the matter.

Well we can only hope that during his midwinter sojourn those thoughts have, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis , now fully formed into a coherent and lucid response.

Dear Mr Robinson re – AN OPEN LETTER TO  – Cllr Phil Davies, Eric Robinson, Surjit Tour, Chris Hyams, Wirral Council Cabinet Members, all Wirral Councillors.

Further to my 2 ‘interim’ responses to your reply to my Open Letter, I now send my fully considered response to your reply. I was hoping that it could be brief, and succinct, however you have left me little alternative regarding brevity.

One fundamental observation I would like to make relates to the basis for your decision regarding the agreement of VS and the total payment of £250,000 – can you clarify when an ’emerging’ thought actually becomes a thought? It would appear to me that this fact is crucial to the validity of almost everything you have said, and the context to which it applies. If it is not yet a complete ‘thought’ that can be applied to a prevailing set of circumstances, there is no basis for situational considerations, restructure, future changes, and/or effective planning and management?.

It may be simpler to deal with your reply paragraph by paragraph (1-9), and pick up any additions at the end of my response.

  1.  In view of issues I have raised previously with you, you have advised me that other senior officers would reply on your behalf. Mark Smith refused to correspond with me regarding New Brighton. I am still awaiting an update regarding his, yours and Surjit Tour’s conduct and disciplinary actions being taken, in view of zero responses from them, on your behalf. However, at least in this instance I agree that it is appropriate for you to respond to me. As the individual in question, the apparently newly-created ‘Group’ directorship in question, and the Council Leader, Asif Hamid & Paula Basnett (and Kevin Adderley & Cllr Phil Davies) all hold/held directorships within the Group viz. Egerton House Community Interest Company/Wirral Chamber of Commerce (and other local and regional bodies) then it would fall to you to answer on behalf of the Councillors and the Council. I would also assume that due to the hierarchy at Wirral Council that you will have signed off the departure package for Mr Adderley, monitored for legislative and procedural compliance by Mr Surjit Tour?
  1.  There were neither inaccuracies, nor misunderstandings in my email; only requests for clarification.
  1. With regard to the proposed ‘new’ operating structure, of which there is absolutely no evidence to date. I had previously read your report to the Employment and Appointments Committee, which was essentially the reason for my Open Letter. It was entirely unconvincing and insubstantial, as a justification for the premise upon which the publicly perceived ‘gift’ of £250,000 of Wirral’s public money could be reasonably argued in such times of financial restraint. ‘Weasel words’ abound in the report, as they do in your reply to me, which is troublingly vague when such significant amounts of money are concerned. In my view, it was at this point that you could have exerted your self-proclaimed talent as a ‘whole system leader’, and put a stop to this latest in an apparently unjustified succession of excessive payouts to departing senior officers.
  1. Your reference to the report and Committee minutes, which are available on the Council website is not an issue. However, given the state of the new Council website and its problematic navigation, ‘openly available’, I would suggest, is stretching a point.

With regard to your last sentence in paragraph 4, regarding the report being initially exempt because “the request for voluntary severance was capable of being refused”, this argument can logically be applied to every request for VS, where Committee approval is required, so what made this case different if Mr Adderley was being treated “in the same manner as over 300 employees who have left the Council through voluntary severance over the past 18 months” (para 7) but warranted consideration as an exempt item? Were the 300 other employees’ requests treated as exempt items and considered ‘in camera’ as they could potentially have been refused?

  1. As a result of applying content analysis to your reply, there appears to be an issue of both chronology, and ’cause and effect’ relationships and dependencies. If one utilises critical path analysis (CPA) and applies it to the events described in Para 4, and others, even more questions emerge.

If we take Para 4 as a whole, you state that Mr Adderley had “independently decided to request voluntary severance” (not Early Voluntary Retirement which implies a need for pension to support one after leaving employment), in order to pursue other interests. The departure of Mr Adderley, given his independent decision-making, I would suggest, qualifies as a ‘fully emerged and fully-formed thought’, in that it has progressed through the embryonic, emerging thought stage, and had been developed completely (ie progressed from an ’embryonic’, emerging thought, through to achieving a final considered outcome, and the process by which it would be achieved), ie an achievable plan. It has a coherent ‘action plan’ (leave current WBC employment), an interim transitional stage (be available for whatever other interests demand, unencumbered by current employment constraints) and a ‘final outcome’ (freedom to pursue other interests), all of which can exist entirely independently of Wirral Council.

At this stage, Voluntary Severance should neither have been requested, considered, nor agreed, but resignation could, and should, have been accepted.

You claim that VS was agreed as a result of your ’emerging thoughts’. There appears to be no evidence of emerging, or any other kind of thoughts to date, regarding a coherent, restructured and  redesigned management, operational and/or delivery model, which would exclude any Strategic Director (or any other) post. The most recent staff structure to be found has your predecessor, Graham Burgess’ name on it, and appears to reflect fully emerged thoughts. That, in itself, would indicate zero progress striving for fully emerged thoughts after about 10 months in post as Chief Executive. The Chief Officer & Senior staff management structure on Wirral Council’s own website only displays vacant and currently occupied posts (plus salaries payable) with no deletions, so it would appear that little or no progress has been made.

In that context, I would question the arising of any legal implications, and also query the ‘legitimacy’ and the basis of the ‘council’s interest’, as the evidence you provided in your report would not appear to support the assertion that “… in Mr Adderley’s case, a clear redundancy situation had already arisen….”. Therefore, there would be no requirement to comply with “the Regulations”, but advice of notice of resignation could be accepted.

There is also an evident consideration regarding the new post that Mr Adderley has moved to after his departure from the Council. This is a new post, not in the ‘public sector’, but in an organisation which enjoys considerable funding from the public purse. This post has not existed before according to the Chamber’s/Egerton House staffing web pages or any archive. I am unable to find any public recruitment details, such as advertisements promoting the opportunity to apply for this post, no advance publicity, nor media exposure. As the only Directors of Egerton House Community Interest Company listed are Paula Basnett & Asif Hamid, is it reasonable to assume that they comprised the interview panel? For clarity can you advise (as a partner organisation, and funder) how many applications were received, who shortlisted from applications, who was shortlisted for interview, and what was the recruitment timetable? A job description and person specification, and any advert would also help my understanding.

It would seem rather strange, for such a high profile post to be newly established and filled, with no apparent surrounding spin and media hysteria. Given the incessant trumpeting by Paula Basnett regarding the empire-building aspirations of the Chamber of Commerce, and the drive towards the ‘partner-privatisation of Wirral’, maybe a reputation management post may have been of greater necessity?

It must surely be extremely important to the Council (and other custodians and distributors of public funds) that appropriate use of scarce public money is open, transparent and accountable. What appears to the lay-person to be an unconventional recruitment process, could be allayed by a public statement being made, (in the press possibly?), from the parties involved? Such an obvious act would appear to be a ‘transparent’ gesture by an organisation in receipt of substantial public funds. The funders would draw comfort, protect their reputations, and reinforce the concept of public accountability which flows from  being monitored, evaluated and regularly reviewed organisations. These actions are usually undertaken through regular returns, and internal and external audits by the various funding agencies. The issue regarding Wirral Chamber recruitment has been raised in the media previously, therefore it would appear that the Chamber does not seem to operate within accepted and usually strictly monitored parameters related to equal opportunities recruitment, although in receipt of substantial swathes of public money, and which appears to attract little attention from its funders?

(It must be noted that Wirral Chamber/Egerton House benefits from significant financial and in-kind support from Wirral Council).

  1. Regarding the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 2013 (“the Regulations”). Given that ’emerging thoughts’ (as opposed to formally revised, debated, agreed  and published staff structures) appear to be the basis upon which Mr Adderley’s departure was considered to attract ‘redundancy’ considerations, then logically one could argue that every single job where an employee hands in their notice to terminate employment (to pursue other interests, or for other reasons), all must be considered in that way viewed as a potentially redundant post, and VS agreed during consideration of an alternative delivery model? That would appear to be an expensive precedent to set, which as you state, is important when spending public money.

 

...”the Regulations” with which I am familiar, state as you say that ‘the member of the Pension Scheme is automatically entitled to access “unreduced accrued pension benefits”. You also say that “and must take immediate payment”‘ – I have read Section 30 and do not necessarily agree on a number of points, with your interpretation, in these circumstances.

‘Accrued’ is a past participle, and the definition is ‘(of sums of money or benefits) be received by someone in regular or increasing amounts over time’. ie employer & employee contributions to the pension fund over the time of employment, paid subsequently as ‘regular benefits and increasing in amounts over time’. That would suggest that the unreduced accrued pension benefits are what has ‘accrued’ in the pension fund over time of employment – irrespective of the argument over the VS sum of c£43,000 and its appropriateness. Where does an additional £207,000 fit with regard to this ‘automatic entitlement’ of accessing ‘accrued pension benefits’, also as we have defined that ‘accrued’ is past tense, and cumulative? 

  1. You state – “Mr Adderley has been treated in the same manner as over 300 employees who have left the Council through voluntary severance over the past 18 months” You also state that ” the council did not pay any NI or personal tax attributable to Mr Adderley and nor was any compromise contract entered into.” If Mr Adderley has been treated the same does that mean that no other senior or other departees from Wirral Council have a compromise contract entered into, and that NI and personal tax liability has not been paid to any individual, in addition to a ‘settlement figure’ – this would be useful to clarify for the avoidance of doubt.

” Mr Adderley’s entitlement…” only becomes an entitlement upon agreement in legitimate circumstances. If the ‘agreement’ is fundamentally flawed, then there are no grounds for consideration of ‘entitlement’, are there?

You also state – “There were no ‘behind closed doors’ meetings as you (Dr Smith) suggest. The Employment and Appointments Committee report whilst initially exempt was subsequently published in full”. How can you make such an emphatic statement regarding the meeting when the press and public were excluded from the meeting during the consideration of Mr Adderley’s departure? This event was cloaked in ‘smoke & mirrors’ secrecy, and appeared to be blindsided by another departee’s Committee discussions? The Committee considerations of Mr Adderley’s circumstances did not become public knowledge until some considerable time later? If he was treated the same as 300 others who would have had their affairs considered in public, is your statement a reasonable account of events surrounding Mr Adderley whilst being “treated in the same manner as over 300 employees who have left the Council…”? Possibly not?

  1. I have dealt with this paragraph previously in my 2 interim emails, as you were leaving the office until the 4th January 2016. For completeness I insert them here and will attach the associated files.
  2. “You make a number of other inappropriate remarks and comments about relationships which I do not consider warrant a response…” –  This is obviously another point where we differ considerably. Given the ‘bigger picture’ I fully understand the need, and often necessity for working closely with stakeholders, and partners from other sectors, and the benefits that can accrue for Wirral as a result. It is a very competitive world as we well know (even within the much-lauded Northern Powerhouse’). Networking is an increasingly crucial component of modern business, and local and central government. It is also extremely important for integrated community involvement and a balance between political (local, regional and national), party politics, community and local interests, investment, business relationships, adaptation, true accountability, and conduct in public office. My ‘public interest’ concern is true accountability for public funds, the purpose to which these funds and networks are put. and the concentration of very small communities of interest. their relationship to Wirral-wide potential benefits, and the various beneficiaries of those same interests.
  1. I look forward to hearing from you shortly

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Dear Mr Robinson (sent 23.12.15 Attachments ref File 1 & File 2) 

Prior to my comprehensive reply, to your reply to me, which raises far more questions than it answers, I would like you to consider these 2 attached files. 

I would suggest that this alone would render your last three paragraphs, particularly the last paragraph, including – 

“You make a number of other inappropriate remarks and comments about relationships which I do not consider warrant a response…” 

– all the more questionable regarding practices and policies, departure and recruitment procedures, and relationships, plus the apparent illusion of equality, accountability and transparency. You will see that they may well not be such “inappropriate comments”, once you examine the attached files. 

Yours sincerely

 Dr Robert B Smith

 

Attached file 1 – ‎Saturday,12 ‎December ‎2015, ‏‎09:42:15

My Open letter sent to you – 13 December 2015 15:17

Attached file 2 – Today 23 December 2015 11.42

The last sentence of Kevin Adderley’s entry in the later version makes for interesting reading, don’t you think – as did my original comment in my letter?

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Dear Mr Robinson (sent 23.12.15 Attachments ref A – Egerton House, A – Wirral Chamber) 

Further to my earlier email regarding Kevin Adderley and his recent employment with Wirral Chamber of Commerce/’Egerton House Community Interest Company’. I will still reply in full to your email at some point in the near future, but this seemed to be immediately pertinent, given the reply that you sent to me. 

I have to say that I find it particularly interesting that neither Cllr Phil Davies, nor Surjit Tour, have replied to any of my emails directed to them specifically since July. It seems to be that this strategy might possibly be construed by others as your being used as a ‘human shield’, which may make you particularly vulnerable, and we know how high a priority vulnerable people are to Wirral Council…maybe I am just being fanciful, but I digress. 

With regard to the ‘independence or separation’ of Wirral Chamber of Commerce, and the Egerton House Community Interest Company, this raises a particularly intriguing area of interest. Is this a ‘Community Interest Company’ or is it a ‘Community OF Interest Company’ – as they are worlds apart with that two letter word making a massive difference – if that could be clarified it will be most helpful. 

I attach for you 2 more files (related to the 2 previous files) which you may wish also to consider regarding your last 3 paragraphs of the reply, but particularly the last one. The reason that I raise these issues is that, as much as I am totally supportive of regeneration, and job creation in Wirral, and fully appreciate the importance of vision, inward investment, ‘networking’, and public, private and voluntary sector relationships, it is the use to which these networks, relationships and public money are put, in which I have a particular interest. Second only to transparency and actual accountability. 

I look forward to hearing from you.