Wirral – Where Public Service Went To Die …

Human Nature

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

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

WIRRAL COUNCIL… WHERE PUBLIC SERVICE WENT TO DIE…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Weblinks 1-18

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Wirral Leaks Weekly Dispatch #8

PIP’S PANTO 

Our loyal readers get us and know exactly what – and who – we like (and don’t like). Accordingly the following information was sent to us by a few members  of the Leakerati and was described as an “open goal” by one and came with the message “please, I implore you. Have some fun with this….” from another. So channelling that laid back Sunday vibe here goes : Wirral Council are commissioning a pantomime.

Panto 006

As you can see we are not making this shit up . Yes, yes we know it’s always panto season at Wirral Council but we’ll leave you to do your own punchlines . Suffice to say this year’s pantomime has been confirmed as ‘Aladdin’. Freud would have a field day with that choice – keeping the genie in the bottle , the rubbing of lamps etc. For future years might we suggest that ‘Sinbad’ would be the obvious choice (think about it) …..then there’s  ‘Pinocchio’ (the audition for the lead would be right down New Brighton prom) or how about old favourites ‘Spinderella’ and  ‘Puss In (Ugg) Boots’? Indeed someone going by the name ‘Dazzler’ suggests to us a bawdy retro look at how car parking charges at country parks are impacting on the local dogging community with a production of ‘Babes In The Wood’. What does Wirral Council Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies think ?

Pip's panto

MIPIM IN THE BUD 

Talking of outmoded sexism (and racism) we’ve been asked how the Wirral Council delegation got on dans notre coin de pays at this week’s MIPIM (‘Le marche international des professionnels de l’immoblier’) event in Cannes. Unlike last year where they were seen flogging themselves all over social media like a Cannes courtesan (see below) it appears that curiously they’ve been keeping a low profile. They even left the latest ‘Wirral Waters ‘announcement to Peel’s Richard Mawdsley . Read more here : Wirral Waters

Despite the fanfare it was merely confirmation to us that what we have here is a private housing project kick-started by public money. Although we did note that all concerned are still including a ‘speculative industrial project’ as part of future plans. Let’s face it ‘speculative’ is the word – and when it comes to ‘Wirral Waters’ it has been all along !

Checking out the #MIPIM tweets and social media posts it would appear that when it came to Wirral it was as usual case of the Wirral minnow and the Liverpool whale (no that’s not a reference to Mayor Joe) as Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and Liverpool City Council’s Mayor Joe Anderson took centre stage – although when it comes to the latter we have to ask – who on earth thought that was a good idea?

During our research we couldn’t help notice that there was there was a great deal of national coverage – including The Financial Times and The Guardian – about how sex workers had been banned at this year’s MIPIM event as the sleazy property industry tries to shed its sexist and racist image. As one delegate named Jane said : “What other industry on the face of the earth in 2018 needs to remind businessmen that they can’t bring prostitutes to an industry conference?”

Might we question that whilst the Wirral Council delegation might have felt at home at why did Wirral council tax payers have to pay for this sleazy jamboree?

The most prominent Wirralian we could find referenced on social media was Wirral Olympian Chris Boardman who rocked up to speak on behalf of er…..Manchester. Although we suppose we should be grateful that at least it wasn’t the ubiquitous Sam Quek.

One thing we did find out is that the outfit responsible for all those bloody artist’s impressions are called Uniform Architectural Visualisation . Didn’t you just know they’d be called something like that ? This latest one one is for Egerton Village/Square  – about which we expect to hear much more.

Egerton Visualisation

A DIFFERENT WORLD

One of the twitter feeds we checked out for MIPIM news was  @WirralWellMade which is as far as we can make out is the Martin Liptrot-led  PR arm of the Wirral Growth Company .The latest Tweet we looked at goes like this :

Sunday Times 012

Seriously?

It transpires that this refers to Heswall being named fourth best place to live in North West in a poll published in today’s The Sunday Times. What we are waiting for Marty is an accurate reflection of what it’s really like to live on Wirral. Relentless positivity is all Wirral well made and good but might we suggest that accurate reporting and reflection of reality is even better ? Even The Sunday Times described The Wirral (sic) as “a different world” .

Sunday Times 016

Ain’t it just! and one we don’t recognise or no longer care to be part of !

…..AND FINALLY

West Wirral

We’ve been sent this screenshot from this week’s West Wirral Constituency meeting. Now either that’s a misplaced seating arrangement or we need to send Wirral Council’s Deputy Chief Executive David Armstrong our best wishes on his/her transitioning as currently this is the least convincing gender reassignment since boxing promoter Frank Maloney decided to become Kellie.

 

 

Wirral Leaks Weekly Dispatch #7

THE FREE PRESS

free 024

If nothing else Wirral is well served by free media – mainstream or otherwise . From Wirral Leaks  to Wirral Globe to Wirral View to Wirral Life – all along the news spectrum from the grime to the gloss.

However did you spot the deliberate mistake? We’ve been asked what part of  the word ‘free’ doesn’t Wirral Council understand . Those of our readers who have miraculously received their first ever print edition of Wirral View have been asking us how can it have ‘FREE’ emblazoned on the front cover when the print and distribution costs and presumably the wages of the cut and paste mob who are responsible for compiling the unwanted rag runs into hundreds of thousands of £££ each year and is paid for by council tax payers ?

For those who had the honour and privilege of finally receiving a copy of Wirral View the most frequently asked question is : “Are there elections due ?  In probably the last edition before purdah we understand it was rammed with Wirral Growth Company/Muse Developments/Wirral Waters articles replete with the obligatory artist’s impressions. There wasn’t even room for any healthy, cheap and nourishing recipes! We are sure a peep at the online edition would confirm the veracity of these claims but as the saying goes you don’t have to go to the Arctic to know it’s cold…

free 027

Another reader was a bit alarmed by the Wirral View headline above . At first they thought it was members of the Wirral Council cabal getting a vigilante posse together and taking time out from next week’s MIPIM conference in Cannes to track down ‘His Lordship’ and give him a good pasting . That was until they read the article , which was about how not to upset the kiddiewinks with stories about all the nasty things going on in the world. Although we think telling them to get a good education, not to do drugs and get away from Wirral as fast as you can is the best advice that any Wirral parent could give to their child.

THE ART OF DOING BUSINESS ON THE GOLF COURSE

From the glitz and glamour of Cannes we glide seamlessly to the latest glossy, glamorous, aspirational edition of Wirral Life . Inexplicably the cover star is hasbeen chanteuse / gardener Kim Wilde. So is Kim –  best known for that annoying racket ‘Kids in America’  – coming to Wirral as part of her UK tour ? Er,no. She’s going to Wrexham ( oh the glamour of it all) . We couldn’t work out a Wirral connection even though the exclusive and highly insightful interview revealed that Ms Wilde only has “2 handbags and less than 10 pairs of shoes (not counting trainers) “. Now if the interviewer had asked her about what trackie she would wear to visit The Pound Bakery we might have understood why Wirral Life was plugging her tour and giving her front cover status.

However less of this celebrity flummery what did interest us was finding out about the inevitable Wirral Chamber of Commerce section. There was news of Wirral Waters ( don’t they know it’s had a re-brand to Wirral Waters One?) and the Wirral Chamber Corporate Cup as the Chamber  ‘host prestigious corporate golf day at Caldy’  . What is it with these people and bloody golf?  We’ve long known that much of Wirral Council business is conducted at Wallasey Golf Club and of course there’s that  Hoylake housing development proposal masquerading as a ‘golf resort’ but we’re definitely with Mark Twain on this one – “golf is a good walk spoiled”. The point of this anti-golf tirade (and we do have one) is that one of the 2018 teams is Morgan Sindall . Muse Developments are part of the Morgan Sindall group of companies .  Is anyone other than us joining the dots? Read more here : Morgan Sindall

free 021

 

WIRRAL UNIVERSITY TEACHING HOSPITAL : #PROUD  – The Musical 

Following our  Wirral University Teaching Hospital : #Proud ?  story we’ve been sent a video of the opening of Arrowe Park Hospital entrance from 2014 involving a ‘flashmob’ performing the song ‘Proud’. It brought a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye – but for reasons that probably means that we’re best walking away from the keyboard. Disgraced former WUTH CEO David Allison can be seen at the start of the video doing the difficult job of encouraging someone to cut the ribbon. So David tell us what did YOU do since this was filmed to make you feel proud?

AND FINALLY…….

We have some very observant and tuned-in readers who look at the world in the same slightly skewiff way that we do . Accordingly we are grateful for both the picture taken from a Channel 4 ident along with the following comment :

My daughter has forwarded me this image today explaining that this giant monster is actually a deconstructed number 4 (as in C4).

So, not only is it a good New Brighton image but it is also, I guess, some kind of metaphor for what Wirral Leaks is trying to do – deconstructing Wirral?

(or, like those blokes in wheelchairs…maybe I am pushing it)

Ident

International Relations

Wirral  Council have a couple of mentions in the Rotten Boroughs section of the latest edition of Private Eye .

“Just a couple ?…..” snorts Her Ladyship ” that’s a good ‘Performance Indicator’ of the ‘Direction of Travel’ on their  ‘Improvement Journey’ “

The first mention is in an article about Sheffield City Council and their pursuit of Chinese investment (or “Wang wonga ” as the Eye would have it) . However when it comes to such ventures it would seem that Wirral Council has now become the byword for naivety, lack of due diligence and hyperbole after the Stella Shiu ‘International Trade Centre’ fantasy left them with “egg foo-yung on its face” ! 

Private Eye Nov 2017 010

It really doesn’t augur well for Wirral CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson and Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘ Power Boy Pip’ Davies repeated declarations following their MIPIM missions that billions and billions and billions of pounds – or euros or dollars or yuan , they’re not fussed where the moolah comes from –  will soon be ‘transforming’ Wirral and it’ll be the land of milk and honey where the streets are paved with gold (see artists’ impression).

The second mention involves the Eye picking up on our  Sorrento Shame story under the title ‘Travel Section’ . You’d think after undertaking an ambassadorial role as Mayor and Mayoress that the Foulkes’ would be well equipped to foster good international relations. Alas – it would seem that whilst you can take the girl and boy out of Birkenhead you can’t take Birkenhead out of the girl and boy.

Private Eye Nov 2017 014

However to end on a happy note here – giving a whole new meaning to ‘holiday snap’- is a touching Sorrento memento which Elaine Foulkes posted on social media for us all to enjoy.

Foulkes in Sorrento

Double Dealers

Wirral Council closes in on double deal

Hey Eric, is that Asif Hamid in the background? Might we suggest you don’t introduce him to the Foulkes’s any time soon ? Just sayin’ !

Recent alleged racist events on the continent rather overtook us ( you may have noticed) so this particular post was relegated to the back burner. Nevertheless we think this story is interesting for several reasons. To understand what we mean read the following link:

Wirral Council Closes In On Double Deal

First of all doesn’t Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson look particularly smug? Wouldn’t you be on a near cool £200K of public money we hear you cry ! Well, yes but would you be him? , we shriek back in horror.

Apparently according to Inside Media :

Wirral Council is close to sealing two major land and property deals in Birkenhead totalling 200,000 sq ft.

The local authority has signalled its intention to acquire a number of strategic sites and buildings to support the work of Wirral Growth Company, a new joint venture company that it is creating with the private sector.

As part of this, the council has reported that it is close to concluding two acquisitions in central Birkenhead, while a further four potential deals are currently under negotiation. The objective is to unlock covenants and leases that are holding back redevelopment, and to provide new revenue streams to support local services where buildings are profitably occupied.

The exact details of the sites have not been disclosed.

Whilst it seems the usual Wirral Council story of Stressed Eric doing his dance of the seven veils like a superannuated local government (asset) stripper on their behalf – ‘signalled its intention’ , ‘close to concluding’ , ‘potential deals’, ‘currently under negotiation’ , ‘the exact details of the sites have not been disclosed’  –  we’re particularly intrigued as to why this major exclusive announcing the selling off of what remains of the Borough’s family silver was heralded on this particular (deservedly) obscure website.

We haven’t checked the Wirral View lately ( let’s face it – life’s too short) or other Wirral Council approved outlets to check whether this story was covered elsewhere but we’re astounded that Stressed Eric can , from the comfort of yet another costly and glamorous MIPIM event ,this time in London rather than the rather more louche Cannes, casually announce major plans for the redevelopment of Birkenhead.

Can somebody tell us how, without any local consultation or hysterical local press coverage replete with the requisite ‘artist’s impressions’ of schemes that will never come to fruition unless magic mushrooms are involved, that this ever went to press?

Answers on a postcard please ( or should that be a brown envelope ?)………….

 

Billionaire Boy’s Club (Plus Princess Paula)

Tower Gardens

Tower Gardens : ‘Larger than life and twice as ugly
If we have to live there, you’ll have to drug me’

We had previously questioned whether the cancellation of the Special Meeting of Wirral Cabinet on 22 May had something to with purdah during the run up to the General Election.

Political Manoeuvres In The Dark

As you can also see we asked whether there would be a surprise waiting for us when the interminable electioneering period was over . We anticipated that council “leader” Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies and the rest of the burgeoning Billionaire’s Boy Club that went to the MIPIM event in Cannes earlier this year would reveal to us all the international trade deals that had been expertly negotiated during their spring break.

And sure enough this morning  there was a launch of a ‘£1 billion Wirral regeneration plan’ . Although Power Boy Pip shared his Wirralian hallucinations in Cannes it would appear there weren’t any takers and so deploying that old maxim ‘if you want something doing – do it yourself’  the council-led ‘Wirral Growth Company ‘ has been set up. Sadly what we have is not £1 billion of investment but  ‘a shared our vision for £1bn worth of development opportunities’ .

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15342545.Council_unveils___1_billion_Wirral_regeneration_plan/

So it would seem we’re back in the realms of ‘possible new look Tower Gardens’ and ‘possible redevelopment in Brighton Street Wallasey, and Hamilton Square’. All very much a case of dream the impossible dream and absolutely no mention of the Wirral Waters International Trade Centre. That particular fantasy seems to have been assigned to a watery grave as judging by the pictures in the Wirral Globe we now have a new set of artist’s impressions to laugh at and which suggest to us that someone has been let loose with the watercolours whilst under the influenceand some serious mind -altering drugs.

We have undertaken an Ipsos MORI  inspired vox pop of Wirral Council’s new shared vision at Leaky Towers. This may just have involved asking Her Ladyship, Eldritch and Verity what they think –  might we suggest their respective responses of : “Yeah! whatevs!, ” Here we f*cking go again”  and “Srsly?” is a more valid representation of public opinion than most pollsters have come up with lately!

Needless to say among the audience at today’s launch held at Woodside was ‘ Princess’ Paula Basnett, CEO of Wirral Chamber of Commerce.

She announced :  ” We have been awarded the business engagement and support contract for Wirral….”

Yes , of course you have Paula. And we’re sure it was a rigorous, open and transparent process!  We are therefore led to conclude from today’s historic announcement that there are 4 growth industries on Wirral – artist’s impressions , foodbanks , the Wirral Chamber of Commerce and whoever supplies their CEO with the frocks for the never-ending cycle of press launches and awards ceremonies!  It’s as simple as ABC….

I’ve seen the future, I can’t afford it
Tell me the truth sir, someone just bought it
Say Mr. Whispers! Here come the click of dice
Roulette and blackjacks – gonna build us a paradise
Larger than life and twice as ugly
If we have to live there, you’ll have to drug me

Maybe these luxuries can only compensate
For all the cards you were dealt at the hands of fate
So tell me
Tell me! tell me! How to be a millionaire
Tell me! tell me! How to be a millionaire!

Millionaire! Billionaire! Trillionaire!

Hardly surprising if you might consider
Loyalties go to the highest of bidders
What’s my opinion? I’d give you ten to one
Give me a million, a franchise on fun
But there are millions who often get nowhere
And there’s just one secret I think you should share

Maybe these luxuries can only compensate
For all the cards you were dealt at the hands of fate
So tell me
Tell me! tell me! How to be a millionaire
Tell me! tell me! How to be a millionaire!

Who wants to be millionaire?
I do! – I don’t! – I do!
Who wants to be millionaire?
I do! – I don’t!

I’ve seen the future and I can’t afford it

 

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 Liptrot Mystery

Evans

Opposition councillors seem unusually curious about the recent controversial appointment of Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’Davies political ally , Martin Liptrot(sky) to the post of  ‘Interim’ Investment Lead .

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15173137.Special_meeting_heats_up_as_Wirral_councillors_clash_over_controversial_new_job_for_Labour_s_policy_chief/

And so they might be! The ongoing saga is worthy of an Agatha Christie murder mystery ….. but who knows where the bodies are buried !?

Of course we anticipated such an appointment long ago The Uncanny and the Corrupt

That’s not because we have second sight, it’s simply because, by now, we know all Wirral Council’s plot devices.

So before we get to the heart of the mystery, let us set out the story so far. Are you sitting comfortably? – because we guarantee you won’t be for much longer!

Remember when we exclusively announced Liptrot’s arrival at Wirral Council and questioned how his ‘Policy Advisor’ post came about?

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/all-hail-the-new-king-of-spin/

Remember when we questioned his apolitical credentials when he was appointed to a politically restricted post despite declaring his long held Labour Party affiliations all over social media ?

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/a-political-mr-liptrot/

Who can forget when Wirral Globe disclosed that leaked toecurling early morning email exchange between Liptrot and Pip?  Where the former, in full on diva mode, appears to be calling the shots – complaining about his pay and bemoaning the fact that he has to hand in time sheets to Super Duper Director  Joe Blott  – oh the shame!

“Apparently I’m supposed to work for 24 quid an hour and hand time sheets to Joe Blott [strategic director].Clearly that is both insulting and wildly unrealistic for the scope of the role we are discussing.There is no way I’m going to earn even less than I am now. We need to work out what we need to agree and you will probably have to just step up and tell everyone what you want doing in the end. Let’s talk tomorrow.’

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

And so having set the scene we move on to the latest chapter in the charmed life of Mr Liptrot and his latest ‘transformation'(!) as ‘Interim’ Investment Lead at Wirral Council.

An extraordinary series of extracts from leaked emails details the ‘bureaucratic machinations’ behind this latest appointment and provides us with even more plot twists……..

Firstly , we might recall that  24 councillors  issued  a ‘Notice of Motion’ in respect of, what was at the time, the creation of ‘a senior post of Investor Development Manager’ in response to the Labour Cabinet meeting held on 16 January .  This meeting was chaired by Power Boy Pip and included a report calling for the removal of ‘Call – in’ , thus denying opposition councillors the opportunity to ask any awkward questions about the post. The report stated :

‘Although this was not a key decision, in the light of the time critical nature of these activities, it was considered necessary to request that call-in be waived. This would enable the activities to progress at once and, therefore, ensure that work was completed in time to meet deadlines for key events such as MIPIM. Due to the absence of the Chief Executive, and on his behalf, the Assistant Chief Executive had recommended that call-in be waived’.

Head of Law Surjit Tour clarified the situation : ‘Cabinet agreed to waive ‘call-in’ in accordance with the Constitution and the decision is therefore implementable immediately notwithstanding the request for an extraordinary council having been made and agreed. Council at the extraordinary council meeting is being invited to scrutinise the creation of the post and decide whether it is justified – but council would only be expressing its opinion/view in respect of the post and its justification. The decision maker remains the Executive and the decision in question remains implementable.’

The post was advertised via  Wirral Council’s temporary worker system (Matrix) . Matrix passed on the job specification to recruitment agencies at an equivalent day rate of £195.

Initially six applications were received. However according to Wirral Council’s HR  : ‘none of the applicants met the specification. We  have received feedback from the agencies that the remuneration is not sufficient to attract calibre candidates.Given the urgent requirement for the additional capacity and limited budget we are sourcing an Interim role – Interim Investment Lead on an interim rate, but for a shorter period of time’

HR went on to later add :‘The agencies feedback that they could potentially source some applicants at £350 day , but the calibre we required is likely to be £500 day. Given the urgent requirement for the additional capacity and limited budget we need to increase the day rate .’

Frankly it is simply an astonishing state of affairs when so-called committed, and no doubt ‘passionate’ public servants, don’t consider it worthwhile getting out of bed for less than £350 a day!  And of course the recruitment agencies are going to advocate such a hike in the daily rate because presumably it means more money for them! All of which means that public authorities are held a hostage to fortune!

Needless to say when the post was advertised at the higher rate, 13 further applications were received !

5 candidates were shortlisted. One of the candidates was unable to make the interview date and one candidate withdrew. And in true Agatha Christie fashion :  ‘And then there were 3’. These interviews took place on 15 February 2017.

Initially we understand that Asif Hamid was due to be on the interview panel but he mysteriously withdrew to be replaced , inevitably, by Wirral Chamber of Commerce chum Paula Basnett. Clare Fish , Wirral Council’s Executive Director for Strategy was also a late absentee. This left :

  • Alan Evans, Strategic Commissioner for Growth (Chair of the Panel)
  • Stephen Butterworth, Interim Strategic Project Support
  • Sally Shah, Lead Commissioner: Place and Investment
  • Paula Basnett, Chief Executive, Wirral Chamber of Commerce
  • Ellen Cutler, Director Inward Investment, Liverpool Vision

Now as we know the successful candidate was our leading suspect Martin Liptrot who was awarded an an initial 4 month contract  @ £350 a day.

However the  mystery here is whether the panel made the appointment or was the final decision made by Power Boy Pip and his supine CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson?

The Extraordinary Council meeting held earlier this week was an attempt by some curious councillors to find the answer to this whodunnit and other mysteries surrounding the case. However the Labour group were anxious to shut this line of enquiry down with Cllr Brian Kenny squeaking up for a ‘guillotine’ thereby reducing the time available for debating the issue.

Perhaps curious opposition councillors should seek clues about the recruitment process from Alan Evans, the Strategic Commissioner for Growth, who chaired the selection panel?

We understand that Evans’ unsung team in Department of Regeneration have been doing some excellent work  behind the scenes  and we can only wonder what they must feel about the influx of Johnny-Come -Lately’s such as Liptrot  who ,under the guise of ‘transformers’ , appear to be muscling in on their act and potentially taking the credit for their work.

We await further plot developments with great interest!

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.

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