The Inadequates

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So it would appear like many before her  , Wirral Council has driven top notch Children’s Services troubleshooter Eleanor Brazil , nuts .

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15319099.Now_top_Government_troubleshooter_quits_Wirral_child_safeguarding_board/

As we know Ms Brazil was brought in to share her considerable expertise in an attempt to turn round the deeply troubled council department.  We understand that Ms Brazil was fully prepared to challenge the powers that be.  As we know the powers that be don’t like that. They much prefer to be in denial. We can remember Michael Frater, the last straight talking troubleshooter Wirral Council had to call in when their Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) had brought them in into disrepute through a multitude of failings . He didn’t last long either.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/more-allegations-from-the-boiled-frog-council/

It’s such a great shame government commissioners weren’t called in then, but as we know, Frank Field did his string pulling thing to spare the blushes of bent,incompetent councillors and the rest is history. And of course, as we all know, if people don’t learn from history – they are bound to repeat it. And so here we are again – not only in Childrens Services, but also it would appear in DASS.

We’ve previously chronicled  that the parlous state of safeguarding of the vulnerable is not confined to children:

Carry On Matron

Indeed it is astonishing to think that whilst Children’s Services is subject to inspection of their safeguarding arrangements by Ofsted there is no equivalent for DASS.  The Care Quality Commission (CQC)  are now just responsible for inspecting individual services. Of course the last time CQC did check on Wirral Council’s safeguarding arrangements for adults – they were found to be ,yes you guessed it, inadequate!

Following an inspection by CQC the latest addition to the long list of inadequates goes to Acrefield House,  a care home for people with learning disabilities run by Mental Health Care (MHC) Ltd.

After reading CQC Inspection report which records that :

“There were repeated and targeted physical altercations between people living at the home. Many of these had been documented and there was a clear and recognised pattern that had not been investigated, or resulted in any safeguarding referrals being made. This meant that people were not safe living at the home.”

http://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/new_reports/INS2-3237079974.pdf

Reference is also made to staff inappropriately restraining residents and that there was in -fighting between the staff team. Overall the report is a horrorshow and once again we have to ask whether DASS actually monitor the services we pay for and why does it take a CQC inspection to discover that vulnerable people are not safe?

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/constant-fights-unsafe-uncaring-ineffective-13113852

Could it be because they’ve previously ignored concerns  raised about Acrefield House. We’ve been informed that a member of the public did just that and nothing was done about their safeguarding concerns. And please,please ,please don’t tell us it’s about ‘cuts’ . Time to wake up to the fact that the calibre of people who are supposed to safeguarding the vulnerable either directly or indirectly on Wirral  – is INADEQUATE. We’re convinced that Eleanor Brazil recognised this. Therefore we’d invite her to comment on why she has quit and whether she endorses our view that Wirral is ‘ No Country For Old Men/Women/ Children & the Vulnerable. ‘   

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Acrefield House : No -one knows what goes

Where’s Wally?

Denial

Hopefully readers will be pleased to hear that Dr Robert B Smith is still on Wirral Council’s case. This time he’s trying to elicit a response from their CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson to queries he made via email over 6 months ago. Dr Smith has contacted all 66 councillors in asking whether Stressed Eric’s conduct was a) acceptable or b) unacceptable.

As far as we know the only councillor to respond was Cllr Walter Smith. We’ll leave you to read his email and Dr Smith’s meticulously researched riposte. However we would comment that as far as we’re concerned it’s a case of  ‘Walter by name , Wally by nature’. Indeed Cllr Smith has recently been observed on the campaign trail wearing a red fleece with his name printed on the back. Presumably to help him remember who he is if he get’s lost.  However if we were ever asked the question –  ‘Where’s Wally ?’ we’d have to say  : ‘In denial’……..

Dear Dr Smith,

I presume that there must be a reason for a failure to respond to your request. I suggest that you involve your local councillor. By the way WBC has never been better run than it is today. The officers do a good job, and we councillors have received the award of ‘The Most Improved Council’.

Kind regards,

Walter Smith.

Dear Cllr Walter Smith

It was my intention to circulate all Wirral Councillors with the results of my earlier survey, and reply  to you individually. I only asked for ‘unacceptable’ or ‘acceptable’ as a response. However, given your more expansive response to me, it would seem apposite to circulate my response more broadly.

Firstly, given your response, and the fact that you are a collective employer, why don’t you ask Mr Robinson what is his ‘reason for a failure to respond’? My assessment would be that he is unable to put anything in writing that would not seriously compromise his position.

Shall we take the latest development in the appalling situation regarding the Wirral Safeguarding Board, as a starting point?

The Government’s intervention by installing Eleanor Brazil to endeavour to address the numerous failings, speaks volumes regarding capability. As does Mr Robinson’s claim in the Wirral Globe given his background;

Eric Robinson, chief executive, said: “We have made some changes in terms of social care and I will now work with Julia Hassall”.
“My background is in Children’s Services so I will oversee the work”. (Wirral Globe 20 Sep 2016
)

The press coverage of the sentencing of Brothers Vinothan and Ilavarasan Rajenthiram, jailed for 40 years for grooming and sexual exploitation of vulnerable young girls in Wirral, included the following comment – “Over a five-year campaign Ilavarasan and Vinothan Rajenthiram groomed and sexually abused vulnerable young girls from Wirral, all known to Wirral Council”. That would go back to 2012 and doesn’t support the assertion of your 3rd sentence. Actually, it also blows a considerable hole ‘, in the claims made in your 4th sentence as well as in the credibility of the fantasy ‘The Most Improved Council 2015′ award.

Now, with regard to ‘The Most Improved Council’ award. I have discussed this award, and its credibility with Dr Gill Taylor of the Local Government Association (LGA). You will remember her from the ‘LGA Improvement Board’. I have also corresponded with the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) and Government Ministers. It was actually a Local Government Chronicle Award, one of a range of local government awards given by a local government subscription periodical. This ‘Most Improved’ award was apparently never awarded prior to 2015, and it has never been awarded since – too many burned sponsors fingers, I suspect.

You may remember Graham Burgess? Yes, he who breezed into the ‘Improvement Board’ in 2012/13 as a peer reviewer (at the request of the LGA and Michael Frater). At the time Graham Burgess was CEO of Blackburn & Darwen Council (which incidentally had won the LGC ‘Council of the Year’ award in 2011).

The recruitment of Graham Burgess as ‘interim’ CEO of Wirral Council was an ‘interesting’ process. And as for the permanent position – 8 applications…1 successful interviewee?

Quite like self-proclaimed Labour activist Mr Liptrot and his published email thread to Cllr Phil Davies. Not to mention Mr Liptrot’s numerous conflicts of interest. It was fortunate that Mr Tour felt absolutely compelled to ‘remind him about’ occupying a ‘politically restricted’ post whilst it was reported he had several contracts across Merseyside. With Wirral Council’s plummeting reputation, and no Joe Anderson metro-mayor bandwagon to ride on, it appears that a side-step to promote unattainable investment ‘opportunities’ matches a mythical skillset. So we witness a frenetic appointment ‘crucial’ before the Cannes visit to MIPIM. Expedience which truly stretches credulity.
But back to Graham Burgess.
Wirral Council’s own press release described him as a ‘leading light’ of the LGA. He was also a regular contributor to, and endorser of the LGC. For the 2015 ‘Most Improved’ award, the ‘live panel’ presentation was made by Graham Burgess and Cllr Phil Davies to assessors comprising mainly LGA member Chief Executives. (Doncaster Council, the 2015 award runner-up is an interesting study. Even more so if you add WBC, LGA, SOLACE, ex-WBC staff and very low interest loans into the mix.)

It is a shallow exercise in massaging political egos, and self-promotion for the LGA (and the LGC) to promote the ‘LGA Sector-led Improvement programme’ and the ‘peer review’ mechanism. If you achieve some supposed ‘improvement’, by some supposed ‘measure’ or ‘other’ and provide the tea and biscuits, the LGA will bask in the glory, and parade an individual (in Wirral’s case Cllr Phil Davies) around the country, as a ludicrous example, of a ‘success story’.

It is evident that aspiring to mediocrity underpins the peer review process, and serial under-achievement is the benchmark of ‘improvement’. This is displayed in pyrotechnic fashion in Wirral Council, where documents by both the LGA and Anna Klonowski quote wording proclaiming ‘…in her report, of 2012 Ms Klonowski highlights how at Wirral Council “the abnormal has become the norm”.’

That is 5 years ago. The ‘LGA Improvement Board’ covered the period March 2012 until November 2013 and then, its job done, disbanded. The LGA produced a glossy brochure detailing Wirral’s ‘improvement journey’. The summary introducing the document makes interesting reading and includes this claim.

Eighteen months after Wirral developed and implemented their action plan with the LGA, the Improvement Board that provided advice and oversight of Wirral’s improvement journey reported that sector-led improvement had “transformed” the Council to one that was “stable, well-led, open and far more inclusive.” If you don’t recognise that description, and I certainly don’t, here is the link. http://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/wirral-councils-sector-le-40f.pdf

An interesting comment in the Liverpool Echo published 8th May 2013 from Cllr Harney at the time of establishing the ‘LGA Improvement Board’ Cllr Harney said the council needs “a great deal more openness and much more rigorous performance management”.
He added: “People, councillors, senior managers and the public, have not been aware of what has been going on.”

One aspect of the withdrawal agreement with the Improvement Board, was that Opposition Councillors would occupy the Chairs of Scrutiny Committees. Is that still the case Cllr Smith? No of course it isn’t. All scrutiny committee chairs were taken by Labour councillors in 2014. That casting vote, as required to achieve the prescribed outcome, is crucial to driving unopposed decision-making, but also negates independent scrutiny, accountability and transparency.

Coupled with other constitutional changes giving sweeping new powers to Cabinet members, and a forthcoming fallow year for elections in 2017, any prescribed outcome is attainable. Add to that heady mix the ruling group en-bloc voting and abstention regimes, and what results? Mythical resident’s surveys aside, and resident ‘information deficit’, party-political voting which mostly ignores constituents’ wishes e.g. Girtrell Court and Lyndale School thrives. As you will know, these deliberate changes effectively create the situation where power rests solely with Cllr Phil Davies. How would you describe that model of administration?

Graham Burgess’ apparently effortless ‘soft-shoe shuffle’ into Wirral’s CEO position preceded the 2015 LGC ‘Award’. The Guardian newspaper published, on 10 Apr 2014, the 3rd in the series ‘Public Service Tango’ – Headlined ‘One leader, one chief executive – and a joint vision for their council’s future’ – a far from enlightening piece by Graham Burgess and Cllr Phil Davies. A good journalist would normally extract a ‘riveting quote’, or an ‘earth-shattering insight’ from the article to draw the reader into this revelatory discourse.

This must be the best available. “Wirral council’s leader and chief executive attend each other’s meetings and welcome ideas from all employees”. An absolutely breath-taking insight you must agree – but does it actually matter? Well yes, and, no.

Actually it doesn’t in this specific case as one learns nothing, but of more interest is this extract from a paragraph beneath the published article.
Phil Davies is leader of Wirral council; Graham Burgess is the council’s chief executive. This collection of articles on the relationship between public managers and politicians is supported by SOLACE and is running on the Guardian Public Leaders Network from March to June 2014.

I know that you will be on the edge of your seat by now, Cllr Smith, but what happens next? You will take solace from what happens next.

The very, very low-key publishing of the November 2015 ‘peer review’ follow-up, of Wirral Council, by the LGA. You may not know the then-Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, but you should. His name is Mark Rogers – http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/birmingham-city-council-chief-executive-12625426

Mark Rogers was the CEO of Birmingham City Council, a member of the LGA and SOLACE, which if you don’t know is the Society Of Local Authority Chief Executives. It is most likely that Eric Robinson (from neighbouring Staffordshire) and Graham Burgess, and Cllr Phil Davies would know him. Not only was he a member of SOLACE (supporting the Guardian article), but he was its President until October 2016.

Birmingham CEO Mark Rogers (LGA member and SOLACE President) was one of the ‘experts’ who undertook the ‘peer review’ of 2015 which unlike the ‘sector-led improvement journey’, and the farcical ‘Most Improved Council 2015’ award, was unleashed on an unwitting public without fanfare and illustrates regression, not improvement. I would imagine that even Mark Rogers would struggle signing that review off, with his background in children’s social care?

Does that look familiar, given Eric Robinson’s previous employment?
At this point, the question for me is where do I stop ‘joining the dots’?
I have only scratched the surface of the machinations of Wirral Council above, but you will get a flavour of why I have some difficulty taking your response seriously.

Wirral Council ruling administration is in serious trouble, and using great swathes of public money to defend the indefensible, is actually indefensible.

I look forward to receiving your response,
Your sincerely

Dr Robert B Smith FCMI

ps I would be making these observations and comments whatever the political colour of any Council administration conducting itself in this manner.

The Man in the Mirror

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Portrait courtesy of Leaky Towers resident artist Tolose Letruth

Now we know there’s a call for Wirral Council ‘leader’ Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies (and others) to resign in the light of the corporate failure to adequately safeguard vulnerable children.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50037017/Conservative%20NoM.pdf

But of course it won’t happen. Not only is it a case of Tory grandstanding it’s also a truism that no-one takes responsibility for failure in public life these days – least of all at woebegone Wirral  Council.

However we do begin to wonder what Power Boy Pip sees when he looks in the mirror. If as they say “there is nothing worse for the lying soul than the mirror of reality”  we thought we’d hold up that mirror so he could take a close look at his ‘strong’ leadership.

This is the man who as far back as 2009 and as chair of a so-called disciplinary hearing allowed incompetent,bullying liars from social services off the hook and sent them back to the department to wreak further havoc  – only for the truth to be revealed 3 years later, resulting in Wirral Council having to pick up a £220,000 tab for their sly and deceitful departure ; This is the man who lamely declared “there’s nothing we can do” to hold senior officers to account after they’d landed Wirral Council with £31 million of toxic debt as ” they’d all left”. No , get it right Pip- you’d  paid them off to make all that unpleasantness go away; This is the man who got Michael Frater to do his dirty work when sending Director of Law Bill Norman off site ; This is the man who didn’t have the backbone to stay in the same room when whistleblower Martin Morton stood up to speak at the final meeting of the  LGA Improvement Board in 2013; This is the man who doesn’t seek answers to difficult questions (see below) and does not suspend nor subsequently condemn the behaviour of dishonest councillors Steve Foulkes and George Davies; This is the man who doesn’t take action but hides behind action plans; This is the man who more recently failed to hold errant senior officers to account for behaviour that should have seen them sacked and instead reaches for the chequebook ;This is a man who when the going gets tough jets off to China ; This is a man who appoints a personal policy adviser/control freak to create that illusory image in the mirror; This is the man who believes the strong leader model is a sign of strength when in fact the need to control everything from council committees to the local media is indicative of a lack of confidence and an insecurity about scrutiny ; This is not a strong leader. This is a flushed and fidgeting failure.

To reflect back even more we are grateful to a disillusioned local Labour Party member who has sent us a copy of an email asking :

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We’ve  copied the most pertinent parts of the email below underlining points of interest and added our comments (in red of course) . And again we must reiterate we aren’t anti-Labour we just want them to be better than they are or more specifically the small number of party members who abuse their power . But ultimately it’s up to local Labour Party members to decide whether they want to save the soul of their party and not impertinent blogs , opposition councillors or indeed the people of Wirral.

The Wirral Labour Party is in the process of selecting candidates to stand for election in May 2018.
                    Applications are now open until Monday 31st October 2016.

Halloween – how appropriate for this horrorshow!, no more killer clowns need apply! 

Winning the LGA award for Most Improved Council in Britain 2015 is testament to the hard work which has gone into improving Wirral Council by Labour, Council staff and partners.

Talk about Freudian slip !  – this discredited and increasingly ridiculous looking award was given by the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) and NOT the Local Government Association (LGA) . Although we are convinced it was the LGA who twisted LGC’s arm to invent this bogus endorsement and  enable Wirral Council to keep up the charade until further failures showed up what a sham the award was in the first place!. 

We must not become complacent though. It is a challenging time for Wirral and to be a Wirral Labour councillor. Wirral faces unprecedented budget challenges that will require Labour Councillors and candidates to be real community champions, seeking answers to difficult questions and engaging in the transformation process of the authority.

Not so much complacent as controlling . And as above demonstrates the difficult questions are never asked never mind answered!.  

Many of our Labour priorities can only be delivered through local action, and Labour’s core band of Councillors is the party’s front line and strong link with residents and local agencies.

The decisions made by councillors in Wirral affect people’s quality of life in countless ways, from education to housing and regeneration, community safety, environment, roads, care for older people, sport and culture, and helping local businesses to thrive.

This is what worries us ! – Labour appoint a councillor with a track record of dishonesty to the Planning Committee , a councillor who doesn’t acknowledge never mind address problems in Children’s Services as their Cabinet lead and the scrutiny of his area of responsibility is undertaken by a Chair who previously failed to safeguard vulnerable adults – what could possibly go wrong?. 

We need Labour councillors to reflect the communities they serve, empathise with local residents and communicate effectively with them. Only by ensuring there is a good range of councillors can we hope to do this.

Whilst we wholly endorse this approach – the end of fishing for councillors in the shallow end of the gene pool is only part of the solution. The other part is by throwing some unpalatable politicians over board. 

We want dynamic, committed members who welcome a challenge to stand for election to Wirral Council. You will need experience of party and community activity, campaigning, a commitment to Labour’s aims, values and policies, as well as enthusiasm to be part of effective service delivery and relationship building in Wirral.

We’d really love to know locally what are Labour’s aims values and policies – and please don’t point to the bloody 20 pledges. If someone was given a list of Labour’s actions – NOT words – the closure of services for vulnerable people, the lurch to privatisation, creating the illusion that Wirral Council is a business – a business that does not include public service , the courting of big business and private enterprise , the pursuit of mirages –  be it golf courses or international trade centres and ending up with foodbanks and call centres  ,selling off swathes of green belt  to property developers, a harsh approach to Council Tax reductions for the unemployed ,  they would all point to a Tory regime in all but name.

It’s all about finding people who are ordinary enough to be representative, but extraordinary enough to be representatives.

Extraordinary is the word – extraordinary that you’ve been getting away with what you have been up to  for years.

We want our candidates and councillors to be representative of the community they serve. Therefore, we are particularly keen to hear from women, young people and members of ethnic minorities who want to stand.

Are you sure ?- some of your leading politicians don’t seem keen on ethnic minorities in particular

Don’t worry if you feel you don’t know enough about how the council works – we will provide training for all candidates and potential candidates.

Don’t worry if you don’t know enough about how the council works (!) – neither do we , we’ve been winging it for years !

What is expected of a Labour councillor?

The ability to abuse your power and if you don’t yet have power or influence – unquestioning compliance – in the hope that one day , you too can abuse your power?.

Support regular campaign and communications of the Labour Group
Raising the profile of Labour and its work for local residents
To be an ambassador for the Labour Party
To attend branch meetings and report and consult on all council activity
To campaign with Labour members on local issues
To recruit new members and mobilise existing ones into action
To build a healthy party locally to do this you first have to get rid of the poison and that really does need some strong medicine . Sadly this is something  this ‘strong leader’ is seemingly not prepared to administer !

 

 

More Allegations From “The Boiled Frog” Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verity Snoop.