The Hard Sell

Cannes Shah

Sitting in the shadow of Liverpool – here’s Wirral Council’s chief this week in Cannes.That’s him – the one in the blue shirt on the bottom right. Surely you didn’t think we meant that useless sack of potatoes top left?

It’s been the week of the Wirral hard sell.

The figure £1 billion has been bandied about about how much investment is heading to Wirral (or rather ,Birkenhead ,which is being branded ‘the capital of Wirral’) with slavish Liverpool Echo screaming headlines  ‘£1 BILLION VISION FOR WIRRAL’

Wirral’s ‘leaders’ touting their tawdry wares in the South of France and Downing Street and according to the newly launched ‘Wirral. Well made.’ ( who thought that branding was a good idea?) aspiring that Wirral become the ‘Brooklyn of the North West’ – is that to Liverpool’s Manhattan?- with the dullest promotional launch ever. This would appear to be the brainchild of Sally Shah who apparently is ‘Lead Commissioner: Place and Investment’ – so yes, yet another highly paid public asset stripper on the Wirral Council payroll.

And then we have the Peel Holdings (up) gegging in with its ‘university of the sea’ plans for Wirral Waters with hundreds of jobs and sunshine,lollipops and rainbows for everyone!- again accompanied with the obligatory artist’s impression and yet more Echo headlines

And it doesn’t end there here comes the ‘asset transformation strategy’ and the formation of the Wirral Growth Company.

Wirral Growth 011

The hard sell meets the big sell off.

The Appalling

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As you can see we’re delighted to have made the hallowed pages of Private Eye . The latest edition of the satirical magazine features a Rotten Boroughs article concerned with ‘the appalling Jim Crabtree’. Wirral Leaks readers will be very familiar with the torrid tales of ‘Crabby’ and Cllr Louise Reecejones as they unfolded on this blog . However the article is a neat summation of the story so far………

We’re just grateful we got an acknowledgement as a source  – something the Liverpool Echo  journo who previously flagged up our stories to Private Eye regularly failed to do.

From our point of view the really scary thing is we don’t think that Crabby was the most ‘appalling ‘ Wirral councillor of recent times. Indeed we maintain that some of the most ‘grossly offensive and indecent’ offenders  are still in power and making ‘appalling’ decisions about OUR LIVES. Clearly Crabby wasn’t considered important enough for the local Labour cabal to throw their seemingly limitless PUBLIC resources and extensive political influence behind him to save his sorry backside.

It must be galling for Crabby to be publicly (and justifiably) pilloried whilst his former colleagues keep on trousering those allowances and acting all important ,especially when -like Reecejones – he knows exactly what they’ve been up to…….

Year of the Chicken

foghorn-leghorn

A special Chinese New Year of the Chicken message to Power Boy Pip from Looney Tunes legend Foghorn Leghorn

Chinese New Year isn’t until February but you won’t be surprised to hear that Stella Shiu won’t be around to wish Wirral Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies : ‘Kung Hei Fat Choi’  as we enter the Year of the Chicken.

It should come as no surprise to Wirral Leaks watchers and anyone with an IQ that reaches double figures that Shiu will not be appearing on the shores of the River Mersey laden with fortune cookies – not this year, Chinese New Year or any other year.

And so after all the photo-ops , press statements, Liverpool Echo exclusives, artist’s impressions , false promises , foreign delegations and the portrait of Stella hanging up in the waiting room next to the Wirral Council Chief Executive’s office it’s finally time to put this seemingly elaborate – if not particularly convincing – hoax to (the river) bed.

You may remember that after the failure to secure investors for the International Trade Centre at Wirral Waters  that Shiu was invited to move operations down river to some Godforsaken wasteland  (attractively described as former Ministry of Defence land situated on ‘a surburban industrial estate behind Port Sunlight Tennis Club’ ). We exclusively reported this locally in November 2015 after a story appeared in the Financial Times and presciently asked the question   : So we’d like to know whether this is a suitable site for an International Trade Centre or merely a very expensive and financially risky way to save face over the Stella Shiu affair?”

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/chinese-takeaway-1st-dibs-2nd-course/

Now it would appear we finally have the answer courtesy of yet another question , this time asked at the Wirral Council meeting on 19th December by Cllr Phil Gilchrist:

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We wonder whether we’ll see the news that ‘ The International Trade Centre is not progressing because the project sponsor cannot confirm funding for the project at this time’ on the front page of Wirral View or with a centre spread in the Liverpool Echo under the headline  ‘ Shiu’d off ! – Stella Dupes Wirral Fellas’ or ‘ Due Diligence? – Don’t Make Us Laugh!’ accompanied by a picture of Power Boy Pip looking like a sad-faced emoji ?

Don’t hold your breath people of Wirral – this is the kind of ‘information deficit’ that Wirral Council have no intention of ever addressing because it doesn’t fit with their bogus ,happy-clappy narrative. Especially when Power Boy Pip and his political ilk of all parties are chicken – with an inability to say they’d been had, never admit when they are wrong or acknowledge that they’re big on promises and short on delivery .

And before we finish let’s remember it wasn’t just Pip that Shiu strung along. Here’s Stella  with Lindsey Ashworth from the Peel Group and Wirral Council Tory group leader Jeff Green wishing us a suitable Looney Tunes farewell:

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That’s all folks!

The Leaky Awards 2016

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No disrespect to the local worthies who voluntarily undertake good deeds ,  but we have a natural aversion at Leaky Towers to honours and awards given to people who either have :  a)  made a lot of money ( well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money… if what you want to do is make a lot of money….) or b) achieved riches and recognition for doing something they love ( while everyone else tediously toils away in jobs they hate with people they loathe just so they don’t end up living on the street).

Patronage for peerages has brought the awards system into total disrepute and we doff our hereditary ermine trimmed coronet to the increasing number who have turned down the tawdry badge of dishonour that the New Year’s Honours List has become.

We have three words on the subject of honours: “Sir” Jimmy Savile.

We have three words on the subject of awards : Most Improved Council.

Therefore we consider the annual Leaky Awards the natural antidote to the sordid status quo and rejoice in the fact that the awards that we bestow at Wirral Leaks are much more representative of the charlatans who run the show than the complicit smiley celebrities and their gleaming gewgaws.

Awards Award – ….and the winner is the Wirral Chamber of Commerce. Awards ceremonies appear to be the entire rationale for this empire building, family-run organisation. Whilst it appears to be a mere excuse for pouting Paula Basnett to buy another frock and flaunt the spray tan we need to remember the public grants and public properties that come their way and ask ourselves do we really want the non-elected personal empire building Basnett clan running a never-ending awards show at public expense?

Labour Councillor of the Year – This is obviously an inaugural award as in previous years this would be an oxymoron (or in some cases – just moron) . However this year we’d like to offer the award jointly to  Cllr Anita Leech and Cllr Christina Muspratt for annoying  fellow Labour councillors Foulkesy and Matron McLaughlin respectively. The former did so by casting the deciding vote at a recent Planning Committee whilst a clearly agitated Foulkesy laid the foundation for a potential appeal by questioning the planning process (see Campaign of the Year below). This is staggering hypocrisy coming from someone who has regularly circumvented due process in the name of managing his (bad) reputation.But then Foulkesy has built an entire political  career on being hardfaced and shameless so this should come as no surprise to anyone. Meanwhile Muspratt was the inspiration behind a tetchy display from McLaughlin as the latter tried to shut down Muspratt for trying to hold council officers to account over their failure to appraise staff. However as we know this is not how the Matron rolls – personal loyalties to officers will always take precedence over public accountability.

Quote of the year  – “From the brink of intervention, to the pinnacle of local government” (Eric Robinson CEO Wirral Council). Now we don’t know whether Stressed Eric has been buying some powerful hallucinogenics with his megabucks salary but this can surely be the only explanation for this ludicrous claim that Wirral Council is the pinnacle of local government. When it comes to public service peak performance we’re talking more Moel Famau than Mount Everest!

Runner-up : ” It might seem an unusual step to revert to a printed product, and even I queried this at first …….” (Eric Robinson talking about Wirral Council’s decision to publish Wirral View ) “Until I was told to get back under my desk ….”  he might of added to prove once again why he’s the perfect CEO for Wirral Council.

Publication of the year –  Wirral Council  yawn-fest Wirral View . Having seemingly failed to a) attract advertisers  b) sort out its distribution problems or c) address anyone’s ‘information deficit’ this award is in recognition of the fact that Wirral View could soon become a collector’s item .We advise those who’ve actually received a copy should retrieve it from the cat’s litter tray or the budgie’s cage , as with the threat of central government intervention hanging over it it may not be around for  much longer!

Runner up – Cllr Tony Jones’ (aka Tones) election publication which broke election rules by failing to show name of agent, candidate or printer on the leaflet.  As one of our eagle-eyed readers has pointed out Tones does not seem to have learned any lessons from this faux pas as strangely he is the only one of Wirral Council’s 66 councillors whose council email contact details are not included with the Council mugshots in Wirral View. Campaign Fail  

Campaign of the Year –  ‘Save our Greenbelt – Say NO to the Firestation’  campaign may, thanks ultimately to the casting vote of  Cllr Leech than the campaigning local Conservatives , halted plans to build a fire station on green belt land in Saughall Massie.

However it will be interesting to see if Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service submit an appeal whether this continuing fight ends up being thwarted by powerful interests as was the ill fated Save Girtell Court campaign.

Similar can be said of the Stop Hoylake Golf Resort campaign who are arguably up against even more powerful interests as Wirral Council attempt a ‘money no object’ bid to ensure even more Wirral green belt is sacrificed to enable a housing development in the guise of a ‘golf resort’ to go ahead.

We’ll be following both campaigns in 2017 with great interest.

Picture of the year

jeremy-corbyn-cooking-at-the-neo-community-cafe

There is so much going on in this picture than ‘Jezza Makes Pizza For Starving Mites’. The supporting cast – Frank Field MP , Cllr McLaughlin, Cllr Meaden , Margaret Greenwood MP makes for fascinating viewing if we consider the various political intrigues,allegiances and betrayals that occurred throughout 2016 . However what intrigues us most on the right of the picture , ‘recording’ events for posterity, is the presence of ‘Person C’ . Adding further intrigue to the local political scene we understand the former political editor of the Liverpool Echo and reluctant witness in the Wirralgate saga has, for reasons unknown, apparently ceased working for the council’s favoured external publication ……….

 

No News is News

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Don’t know about you good people but we’re still waiting for the first print edition of Wirral View to arrive.

However, in preparation for the grand arrival it seems that the lamentable Wirral News is dutifully clearing the path of least resistance in readiness for the first print run of the Wirral Council propaganda sheet.

As if by magic and a week after the Wirral View hit the internet if not the streets, the parent paper ,the Liverpool Echo , turns Wirral News into a bi-weekly newspaper. Although we have to say we use the term ‘newspaper ‘lightly as we think Wirral News gave up trying to be a proper newspaper a long time ago. It now seems to us as though it merely served as a less flashy dry run (and boy do we mean dry ) for Wirral View. 

Apparently from the end of November the current Wirral distribution of  Wirral News of 82,500 will increase to 115,000. However rather than being a weekly newspaper, it will become a bi-weekly newspaper, allegedly focusing on community news and events.

 

With Wirral News/Wirral View /Wirral Globe/Wirral Life/Wirral Echo/Wirral Leaks – the people of Wirral should never have to complain to nosy pollsters from Ipsos MORI that they’re suffering from an ‘information deficit’ ever again !- not that they did in the first place! However we still can’t see the number of Freedom of Information requests decreasing as a result – which probably tells us more about the quality of information from Wirral Council that’s made available by the communications control freaks at Wallasey Town Hall.

Talking of which we note that Wirral Council placed an advert in the November 5th print edition of the Liverpool Echo (obviously!) for a ‘News and Content Officer’.

http://www.fish4.co.uk/job/5887665/news-and-content-officer/

We are left wondering whether the council are making yet another ‘ News and Content Officer’ appointment or has the officer that helped out with the first online edition of Wirral View saw the writing on the wall (and the local websites) and scarpered ? . If it’s the former then it’s increasingly looking like the Communications and Marketing Department is heading to be all that is left of Wirral Council. It can only be a matter of time before the council will be ‘a commissioning hub’ with a PR department attached churning out endless press statements about why they can’t provide information to the public because of commercial confidentiality or because it’s classed as personal data or because it’s subject to legal professional privilege.

However considering Wirral Council’s ‘policy advisor’ Martin Liptrotsky’s faithful assistant Kev is such a fan of our blog , perhaps one of our interns could apply for the post as long as they promise to leave their Superman pyjamas at home? A touch of Wirral Leaks would certainly liven and lighten up Wirral View dontchathink? !……

Peer Review

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Our media correspondent Phil Column asks : “That dual colour masthead ….wonder where Wirral View got that idea from? “

We all know that central government are constantly dismantling opportunities for external scrutiny of our public institutions and have lately been encouraging the use of peer reviews.

Peer reviews are basically where get your mates in to give you the thumbs up to carry on as hypernormal. Astonishingly we understand that our very own ‘strong leader’ Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies goes round the country performing this task and give other local authorities the benefit of his ineptitude.

So we thought we’d redress the balance and undertake a peer review by an actual peer of the realm. Therefore as promised His Lordship will be giving a full review of the online edition of Wirral View .  But remember folks ” Your publication” is  NOT a newspaper  !. Power Boy Pip says : “even though this is printed on recycled news-sheet this publication is not a newspaper”. So that’s all right then, thanks for clearing that up for us!.

All we can say on the matter is that if it walks like a duck , talks like a duck – it’s a f*cking duck . We’re surprised it doesn’t come with a free sachet of Hoisin sauce.

The first thing we noted (as did many of our readers) was that advertising was placed solely by Thornton  Hall Hotel. Clearly that unfortunate incident involving Foulkesy’s stepson assaulting hotel staff by pulling hair , wielding a fork and doing the “do you know who my mum is?” routine must has been forgiven. But then we suppose if you want the dubious prestige of hosting the annual Mayor’s Ball it’s always best to keep in with the hosts.  Which brings us to an interesting point. Isn’t there an incentive for those businesses who have contracts or who may be seeking contracts with Wirral Council to place adverts in Wirral View?. The opportunities for conflicts of interest , coercion and nepotism are a distinct possibility and based on how things work on Wirral , a near certainty. Although having said that we’re sure that Wirral Council’s contracting arrangements are beyond reproach – although those left out of the recent tendering exercise for Wirral’ Council’s taxi services may want to disagree!.

The rest of the publication is all a bit ‘meh’ tbh . It certainly doesn’t appear to be filling anyone’s ” information deficit” (whatever that is) unless of course you’ve always wanted to know how to make Spicy Tomato & Lentil Soup . We counted no less than 10 articles that reference food ,glorious,food . All very lowest common denominator stuff – we blame The Great British Bake Off . However as we’ve already commented the most interesting aspect is the Ofsted inspection report spin-a-rama and the no doubt Martin Liptrot – scripted  leader’s column (insert own joke!) .

Power Boy Pip /Liptrotsky are keen to emphasise that Wirral View won’t carry breaking news , football results (!) or important information you need to know immediately and that Statutory Notices will still be placed in the local weekly papers.

The local weekly papers ,by which they obviously mean the Wirral Globe  – as we all know they’ve got Wirral News /Liverpool Echo neatly boxed off on the newsfront –  will still be able to hold the council and its partners to account when they get things wrong (heaven forbid!).

Of course the Wirral Globe will only be able to  hold local organisations to account as long as it is not undermined and it would appear to us that Wirral View is an attempt to do exactly that . We think the true motivation behind the publication of this newspaper (for that’s what it is) was let slip by  Labour councillor Ron Abbey at last week’s Extraordinary Council meeting where he said the Wirral Globe  were ” too busy criticising this Council” and that they don’t send out “the right message”.

The “right message” we presume being the one personally approved by Pip’s ‘policy advisor’ Mr Liptrot and only then is it fit to grace the pages of Wirral View.

And finally can we say this :  these are desperate times when we have to rely on the local press to hold our local institutions to account. Which brings us right back to where we started –  we are reliant on the press because there is a lack of external scrutiny of our public institutions and as we have witnessed time and time again it is to the detriment of public accountability, the public interest and the public purse.

 

The Big Lie

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it..”

There will be no wacky pictures, no funny puns and we won’t be referencing the above quote (if you don’t know it – Google it). This post will be fuelled by anger and frustration.

Anger and frustration at the news that there is a yet another damning report about Wirral Council in the pipeline. This time it’s an Ofsted report concerned with Children’s Services.

Eagle -eyed Leaks readers will have noted from previous posts and comments that we knew this was on the horizon. 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.

Now if Liverpool Echo want to be Liptrotsky’s lapdog that’s between them , their advertising revenue and their tawdry ‘exclusives’. But it doesn’t mean we’re buying their bullshit and it doesn’t mean that most of us don’t know what Wirral Council are up to.

Sorry – you may have noticed but we can’t get worked up about bins or dog crap at Leaky Towers when we get confirmation that Wirral Council is failing to safeguard children and meet their educational needs.

The most damning indictment of  any  local authority is that the safety and life choices of our most vulnerable are compromised. Of course we’ve been here before with this wretched Council haven’t we?. Just as we’ve heard the platitudes and the promises dribbling out of the mouths of Council Leader and his Chief Executive when they’ve been rumbled.

I think we can all agree that the risible ‘Most Improved Council in Britain’ tag can finally be consigned to history – we note that it is conspicuously absent from Wirral Council correspondence we’ve recently received. Yes that’s right – Wirral Council have been directly in touch  with us for the very first time. But more about that another time.

I suppose we shall have to wait for the intervention of interfering Birkenhead MP Frank Field making demands for the resignation of those responsible for the findings in the upcoming report, just like he did in the past with former Wirral Council CEO Steve Maddox and  Director of Children’s Services Howard Cooper. Both of whom were rewarded for their varied and manifest failings with an OBE.

Or perhaps not. Field will no doubt play his part in perpetuating  ‘The Big Lie’.

So we’ll do it for him instead –   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  – RESIGN NOW

WIRRALGATE! – Double Echo

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There weren’t many surprises for us in the Thynne 2 report. Except for one……

This was an astonishing revelation involving the person coyly known as Person C.

As John Brace has outed Person C on his blog as being Liverpool Echo journalist Liam Murphy it seems a bit pointless in us maintaining the masquerade, especially as his identity has been known to us for quite some time.

Although being a key witness to the sordid  Wirralgate scandal unfortunately Murphy declined to give a statement to Patricia Thynne during either of her investigations. The reason he gave was the need to keep the confidentiality of his sources. Which would be highly laudable if it wasn’t for the fact that Murphy has a rather curious notion of confidentiality!.

It would appear that Murphy was  quite happy to show Wirral Council’s then Head of Communications Emma Degg the letter that Foulkesy had filched , presumably in the hope that Murphy would run a story in the Liverpool Echo ” smearing” political rival  Cllr Jeff Green  . According to Degg  Murphy was “outraged” by Foulkesy’s  conduct . Although seemingly not outraged enough to actually make a complaint about it – it seems he’d much rather have a sly fag  and a quick bitch behind the back of Wallasey Town Hall.

Murphy was later to hear the infamous recorded conversation between Cllr George Davies and one of The Complainants and some months later then saw fit to tell Cllr Jeff Green all about it . Perhaps Murphy and Green compared notes on how “outraged” they were – especially when the latter seems to be in a permanent state of “outrage”.

However the most damning testimony that Murphy plays fast and loose with the confidentiality of his sources is the fact that at some time he made a (presumably) covert recording of the notorious Wirralgate tape. Not only that he played it back to Emma Degg – of all people. Remember she was Wirral Council’s Head of Communications at the time !.

We can only wonder if this revelation came as much as a surprise to The Complainants – the elusive holders of the original recording – as it did to us. Although we have to say it gives us a vicarious thrill to see the biters getting bit.

As a consequence we’re left speculating on Murphy’s motives behind his actions. Surely it can’t be currying favour to guarantee woeful exclusives like this :

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/a-sobering-story/

If we consider that Thynne mentioned in her 2nd report that if she had heard the recording and it confirmed what witnesses had told her then there could be criminal matters that would need investigating. So if Murphy has a recording that would indeed confirm the testimony of others when does the bogus claim of protecting the confidentiality of sources become perverting the course of justice?

Echo

 

BOGOF

BOGOF

Pat Williams                                                Harry Smith 1

As a postscript to Monday’s Wirral Council meeting we couldn’t let proceedings pass without commenting on the vote to bestow former councillors Harry Smith (Labour) and Patricia Williams (Liberal Democrats) with the title Honorary Alderman.

We particularly note that there was an attempt by opposition councillors to vote separately on the respective appointments. Needless to say the majority Labour group were having none of it.They made it clear that Smith and Williams were a package deal  – a cut price buy one get one free offer. They were lumped together as a double act – the political equivalent of The Krankies…….without the laughs.

So what could possibly be the objection to the civic honour to one of these fine upstanding former public servants?. Could it be that one of them was a foul-mouthed,belligerent and incompetent councillor?.

We’ll leave our readers to guess who we mean but we will draw your attention that ex (and X-rated) Councillor Harry Smith once publicly used a four letter word beginning with C to describe a Wirral Globe journalist. He also publicly used a four letter word beginning with T to describe a Liverpool Echo journalist . The T word being “Tory”. But then the journalist did tip off Tory leader Jeff Green about the Wirralgate recordings so that’s perfectly understandable on Smith’s part. He also once gave the person who made the Wirralgate recordings a two-fingered salute.  So at least we can say he believed in Equal Opportunities  – everyone of any political persuasion could potentially be on the receiving end of his statesmanlike behaviour.

We draw this to the attention of our dear devoted readers only to remind them that when local politicians pretend that they’ve just  graduated from a Swiss finishing school rather than being dragged up in the north end of Birkenhead and clasp their breast in feigned horror that Wirral Leaks is  “poisonous and insulting” (guilty as charged) they need to remember who they consider should be revered as a pillar of the community and worthy of civic honours and STFU.

Nevertheless Pat and Harry will be able to exchange amusing anecdotes at their joint reception over publicly funded nibbles and fizz – such as the time that Cllr Williams brought up in Council chambers how they both attended a briefing where the then Director of Adult Social Services Kevin Miller and his assistant Maura Noone repeatedly lied to them . My how they’ll laugh! – of course the trouble with Harry is that he couldn’t remember being at this particular meeting when Cllr Williams brought it up – so it makes you wonder how someone with such crippling amnesia was able to make decisions which affected the lives of Wirral people doesn’t it?………….