Situations Vacant at Wirral Council

There are currently some intriguing ‘Situations Vacant’ at Wirral Council.  Although you’d be forgiven for thinking that some senior management positions are always vacant  even when there is someone in post!

Understandably, following the hasty departure of John Wood  the Director of  Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND,) there now seems to be a clean sweep going on in this particularly problematic area of Children’s Services. No doubt this is in anticipation of a forthcoming Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report and other matters which the SEND department wish to draw a discreet veil over.

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Before you all rush at once might we suggest that prospective candidates remind themselves of Wirral Council’s historical commitment to people with disabilities . This is the place that historically a former Assistant Director of  Social  Services commented in a public meeting that disabled people were at ‘the bottom of the barrel’ and seemed to be quite happy for them to remain there. And as for children with special needs and disabilities this is a place where in 2019 a disabled schoolchild can be deliberately left naked outside for twenty minutes in the freezing February cold.

Meanwhile another recruitment campaign is being undertaken for a Head of Legal Services :

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Hang on you might be saying don’t Wirral Council already have one of those in the form of Philip McCourt ? Well, apparently this post will be answerable to McCourt as the council’s Monitoring  Officer. Clearly McCourt ,despite wangling a considerable pay rise to retain his services, doesn’t want to be concerned with the mundane day-to-day legal wrangling that working for Wirral Council engenders . Indeed the council are lucky if McCourt  graces them with his presence at all – and who can blame him? Who in their right mind would willingly choose to spend time in the cesspit that is Wallasey Town Hall? But then McCourt has been calling the shots for some time, ever since he devised that cunning plan to get senior councillors out of a dark,deep hole of their own making. However we’d just like to remind McCourt that his notorious predecessors as Monitoring Officer. Bill Norman and Surjit Tour thought they too were untouchable – due to what they knew and  what they’d colluded with – and look what happened to them!…

 

Courting McCourt

McCourt 011

Courted and feted : McCourt enters ‘The Inner Ring’

And so after a previous meeting behind closed doors of the Employment and Appointments Committee it would appear that full Council on Monday 19th March will rubber stamp the permanent appointment of current interim Assistant Director : Law and Governance Philip McCourt to the new post of Director – Governance & Assurance (Monitoring Officer)

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We have to doff our coronet to McCourt on this one. He sat back as Wirral Council struggled to appoint to this poisoned chalice of a post and watched gimlet-eyed as they had to bump up the pay (funny how there’s always money to be found for the upper echelons of local government isn’t it?) and upgrade the post from Assistant Director to Director enabling McCourt to sit at the top table of council chief officers. And from what we understand there was none of that tiresome psychometric testing or bothersome interview process for such a high profile post. Oh no it was a shoo-in for fêted Phil.

Canny McCourt has cleverly manoeuvred himself into a strong position by getting the lowdown – and boy do we mean lowdown – on Wirral Council. This was not only on the job – when he could fit Wirral Council business in around his other consultancy commitments that is. Checking out his LinkedIn profile this included not only work for solicitors Weightmans LLP , where no doubt he would have encountered former Wirral Council legal alumni Morris Hill and Simon Goacher, but also during a stint at Bristol City Council in 2016 where he would have compared cheques with Anna Klonowski – author of damning Independent Review and Corporate Governance reports about his latest employer. The man who took over from McCourt at Milton Keynes Council in May 2013 was a Stephen Gerrard (no, not that one) . Coincidentally enough Gerrard was Interim Head of Legal and Member Services at Wirral Council October 2012 -May 2013 during the then permanent head, Bill Norman’s suspension (Norman later went on to become involved in all kinds of shenanigans at Hereford and Cheshire East councils) . Gerrard also left somewhat hastily , whether it was because he and his deputy Surjit Tour were not the best of buddies we can only speculate. However ,as we know, Tour was later to make the most of an unguarded (and racist) comment from Deputy Leader of Wirral Council Cllr George Davies and astonishingly ascend to the top legal job at Wirral Council before escaping back to Sandwell Council. We don’t know about you but this local government merry go round makes us dizzy (and slightly nauseous).

Whether McCourt will prove to be as controversial appointment as Norman and Tour only time will tell but we do know he’s inherited some very thorny legal issues and knowing his political paymasters as we do there will no doubt be more to come. As ever the real test for a head of law at Wirral Council will be how they reconcile protecting powerful politicians with protecting the public purse and the public interest. We shall be particularly interested to see whether McCourt follows the path of least resistance trodden by his predecessors and favours the former over the latter.

 

Wirral Leaks Weekly Dispatch #2

Spot the deliberate mistake ! After this week’s prolific output a further Wirral Leaks post may seem like too much of a bad thing . It’s barely a month into 2018 and we’ve already had to concede that the announcement of our retirement was somewhat premature. But then as Wilde said : “To be premature is to be perfect” !

The thought of our departure to foreign shores has obviously stirred many Wirralians into action as we’ve been sent stories simply too good to pass up on (and what’s even better – where much of the work has already been done) .What’s more we have already noticed that campaigning for the May 2018 local elections has already started in earnest. But perhaps more than anything that explains our renewed impetus is further shocking information which has come our way and which needs exposing . Furthermore we guarantee the mainstream media will not touch it – but we’re keeping our powder dry on that one for now. However we’re left shaking our head in disbelief at the claims that are being made (and more importantly the damning evidence to back it up) . Meanwhile with the agreement with Her Ladyship  and support from Eldritch and Verity let’s all together plough on into oblivion ……….

Holiday Hypocrisy

Whilst we’re grateful that someone sent us the John Brace video posting of this week’s Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Transport Committee meeting we faced a dilemma as we didn’t know who’s face deserved a slap more as they gazed over to Brace to make sure he captured their reactions to Cllr Steve Foulkes’ contribution to the Mersey tunnel toll debate – Cllr Jerry ‘The Mouse’ Williams , Cllr Ron ‘ Rude’ Abbey or Foulkesy himself . Truth be told (an alien concept for some of the parties concerned) but it was no contest really – Foulkesy every time .

Watch in disgust from 12 :00 as Foulkesy turns to our beloved Mr Brace , tries to take the moral high ground and resorts to his non existent ‘conscience’ .Whilst professing to respect Tory Cllr Les Rowlands he then proceeds to slag him off for planning a holiday to coincide with this particular meeting. Now we might know his political allegiances but we don’t profess to know Cllr Rowland’s personal proclivities but we’d like to think his holiday won’t result in allegations of  racist abuse.Just sayin’

Sorrento Shame : Holidaymakers claim they faced ‘racist abuse’ from ex – Wirral Mayoress

Self Serve 

We understand that internal vacancies at Wirral Council are accessed by ‘Self Serve’. You really couldn’t make this shit up! Why do they bother with such bureaucratic machinations when it would appear that cronyism/nepotism/favouritism is still the main route to promotion we can only hazard a guess. Unfortunately we can’t report on this particular aspect further as it would appear that another feature of Wirral Council’s modus operandi – the culture of fear – is still very much in operation.

Road to Hell

If the Merseytravel Committee video was infuriating the John Brace footage of the Audit and Risk Management Committee sent us into paroxysms of rage and fury. Witness how the utterly pathetic ex- Tory leader and Foulkesy’s ‘kindred’ Cllr Jeff Green meekly raises the issue of bringing the £multi-million highways contract back in house like Uriah Heep with a serious Woodbines habit. The Nigel Farage sound-a-like says something along the lines of : ” Bein’ ever so ‘umble . Can we have a bit of case study. I’m not ‘solutioneering’ (!) I just want to know that the decision to bring the highways contract back in house wasn’t written on the ‘back of  a fagpacket’, if you would so please, kind sir”.

Observe and despair from 8:25

Why so coy Cllr Green ? You know that the decision was made behind closed doors using Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies’ special ‘delegated powers’ and with Frank Field’s personal approval. They obviously want to minimise suspicion about unlawful compensation pay-offs to the Wirralgate complainants – so what’s the next best thing ? A token bung and then a cosy job for life for keeping their gobs shut.  But then you knew that didn’t you Cllr Green ?- shame you didn’t have the balls to say it. Incidental dark comedic value is to be had from the ever oleaginous senior officer David Armstrong who promises a short report and ingratiating interim Monitoring Officer Philip McCourt who says that the commissioning of highways contract is a ‘live project’ and that report would be a ‘ partial measure’ – ain’t that the truth ! Then suddenly  Cllr Ron ‘Rude’ Abbey has a “Don’t Mention The War” moment and can’t help himself saying something completely bogus about discussing TUPE ( Transfer of Undertakings – Protection of Employment) regulations . Which ,is of course, as ARMC and us know is what this is all about : ” Listen guys, we can’t give you a massive pay out you wanted without raising serious questions so we’ll give you the next best thing and you can be responsible for Wirral’s highways . Let’s face it you can’t do a worse job than Colas / BAM Nuttall ” 

As this image and comment proves :

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Dear Wirraleaks,

The attached photo shows a stretch of Mere Farm Road which was “repaired” by the Wirral Council contractors 6 months ago.

They clearly did such a magnificent and cost effective job that it needs much more repairing now.

When will they learn that doing a decent job first time round is more cost effective or do they just love throwing public money away to private sector mates ????

In response all we can say is  – buy cheap, pay twice!

All Wrapped Up

In the case of this particular Freedom of Information request all we can say is have Wirralgate tape, pay through the nose.

Full details :Wrap around FOI

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All wrapped in cosily in a symbiotic security blanket. Snug as a mug with a bug (that’s a reference to the Wirralgate recording obvs)

Patience is a Virtue 

Dear Mr Robinson

I received this assurance from you on 19th December 2016

On 19 December 2016 at 11:42, Robinson, Eric <ericrobinson@wirral.gov.uk> wrote:

Dear Dr Smith

Thank you for your email below.Officers are considering the matters you have raised in your emails and I will respond to you fully in January.

Regards

Eric Robinson

Chief Executive

Wirral Council

Tel : 0151 691 8589

Email : ericrobinson@wirral.gov.uk

You did not specify ‘responding to me fully’, by January 2017. 

However January 2018 has now passed, and I can only surmise that your ‘Officers’ have been completely occupied with Wirral Council’s 2016/2017 ongoing catalogue of disasters.

For your convenience, I attach a reply I sent to Cllr Walter Smith, who contacted me in May 2017 as you hadn’t, with his view of the ‘Most Improved Wirral Council’ (the absolute definition of an oxymoron given the events of 2016/2017)

Patience is a virtue. I look forward to receiving your ‘full response’ as assured.

Yours sincerely

Dr Robert B Smith FCMI

Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson is increasingly making Howard Hughes seem outgoing and gregarious. A local government patsy drowning in a mire of his own incompetence and other people’s corruption.  Hey, Stressed Eric! – you really should have spoken to your predecessor before you took up post. Oh – but wait a minute your political paymasters didn’t allow it did they? Protecting themselves and setting you up to fail as you didn’t know what you were letting yourself in for. Oh but you know now don’t you? And you chose the side of the people who pay your obscene salary. We sincerely hope and pray that one day you will regret that choice. In fact we’re working on it day and night – you may have noticed.

Meet the Talent

Without any fanfare – we wonder why? – Dave Fergus is the man who has taken over running Wirral Evolutions from Chris Beyga the disgraced former Managing Director of this arms-length Wirral Council experiment that went horribly wrong mainly because Beyga (aka Rosa Klebb) thought she was running her own personal fiefdom.

Meet the Talent

You will note from his profile above (can somebody please provide a translation of local government BS? ) that there is absolutely no mention of disability rights. Just the person you want running a service where apparently the thick as mince managers think that somehow they’re doing a favour to the people who actually pay their wages. We’re wondering whether we’ll  get a comment on this latest appointment from Wirral Evolutions ‘ Independent’ Chair and professional disability rights ‘champion’ Carey Bamber or ‘Non -Executive Director’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy’ Pip’ Davies? We’re not holding our breath.

Crime Report

We note that this week Mayor Joe Anderson was taken in for questioning ‘under caution’ by Merseyside Police in relation to the fraud probe concerning Liverpool City Council CEO Ged Fitzgerald and others . Power Boy Pip, Stressed Eric and others will no doubt be observing developments with interest – as will we !

Proceed with caution

Holiday Hypocrisy Part 2

And finally we understand that someone is taking a particular interest in Wirral Leaks from their undeserved winter break in the Dominican Republic. Answers on a postcard please…….

 

Apologies and Apologists

Apologies i have none

There was a very sorry display (or should that be ‘not sorry’ display?) at this week’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee where much of the meeting was spent discussing ” How do we solve a problem like Louise Reecejones (LRJ) ?” .

Apparently at the time of Monday’s meeting LRJ has yet to issue an acceptable apology to the whistleblowers who had made valid complaints about her but were then subject to personal attacks on social media and had to counter allegations intended to damage their careers. Furthermore doubts were raised during this week’s  meeting as to whether LRJ will comply with the requirement  to offer a  grovelling apology for her conduct to all Wirral councillors at full council meeting to be held on December 11 and whether she will actually turn up – something we had already raised as a possibility as you can read here : Standards and Measures

Having said all that it was particularly dispiriting to witness Wirral councillors flailing about and not knowing what to do if LRJ’s BSL signer is required to stick two fingers up to the sanctions imposed on her by the council’s Standards Panel . A rather excitable interim Monitoring Officer Philip McCourt seemed to get a vicarious thrill from reciting instances of appalling conduct of councillors from other areas as if to say ” and you thought you were bad!……”  

At which point Cllr Ron Abbey gormlessly  commented :   ” Just goes to show what’s going on out there . We live in a sheltered world . We’re all too good for our own  good 

Really???

Meanwhile his comedy sidekick Cllr Paul Stuart seems tickled pink by his hilariously insightful comments . They’re the Chuckle Brothers without the chuckles. All of this can be witnessed at between 18- 22 minutes of the John Brace video posted below.

We’d like to ask McCourt where he thinks councillors using racial slurs to describe his predecessor , attempting smear campaigns and trying to use public money to buy the silence of complainants would rank in the scheme of councillor misconduct?  #Wirralgate ……or whether this just confirms his prissy assertion that councillors can currently be ” naughty to a fairly large degree” without it impacting on them being fine upstanding public representatives and pillars of the community.

As far as we’re concerned it’s BY FAR the very worst behaviour ever committed by Wirral councillors . However sadly the days when  councillors could be surcharged for their  misdeeds (Tesco heiress Dame Shirley Porter’s gerrymandering  in Westminster being the most prominent example ) or even referred to inept independent body Standards for England are long gone . Would you believe that despite ex-councillor Jim Crabtree’s conviction earlier this year for his repulsive behaviour (ironically) towards LRJ  that he would still be eligible to stand again as a councillor as he did not receive a custodial sentence of more than 3 months!

It would appear the bar for decent conduct for public servants has now been set so low that is it any wonder that we have the appalling shower of public representatives that we have at Wirral Council?  What’s more when you consider that councillors have been apologists for the most appalling conduct of both favoured senior officers and fellow councillors over recent  years that they now lack any MORAL AUTHORITY when it comes to trying to censure the conduct of  others.

Not that we’re apologists for LRJ but if she’s struggling to cobble together a convincing and sincere apology here’s our humble suggestion :

As a once proud upstanding member of this council I am today detumescent before you. Before I prostrate myself  in abject shame and beg your forgiveness I offer these wholly inadequate yet heartfelt words. I realise I could never hope to meet the high standards set by former Labour councillors such as Harry Smith , with his tact, diplomacy and his use of the English language ,and especially his command of Anglo-Saxon . Nor could I ever hope to attain the high office of  Jim Crabtree .  I realise that his telephone manner left a lot to be desired but in every other respect his behaviour was exemplary – at least by Bidston & St James ward standards anyway.  

As for current Labour councillors there is our supreme leader Phil aka Power Boy Pip who has been a particular inspiration to me when it comes to delegating his powers as I have long admired how he gets other people to do his dirty work. As for his deputies what can I say ? There’s big hitter Bernie and casual racist George. And as for Foulkesy? What can I say other than I am simply unworthy to keep their company.  All that is left for me to say is that I apologise for all the wrongs that the Labour group have inflicted upon Wirral and I accept my role as a scapegoat on their behalf.  

 

 

Sorry/Not Sorry – The LRJ saga continues

Not Sorry 2

It is perhaps appropriate that Halloween sees the unveiling of the latest instalment of Cllr Louise Reecejones (LRJ) saga.

The previous two instalments can be found here :

Crabby v LRJ The Feud Continues

An LRJ Reaction

Wirral Leaks readers will remember that The Standards Panel of 15th June 2017 determined that LRJ had breached the Members’ Code of Conduct. The Panel decision required a number of actions to take place, including reporting the outcome to  Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee on 31st October to check whether LRJ has complied with the sanctions against her. The decision was subject to LRJ’s appeal which, considering the evidence against her, inevitably fell flat on its face. The report to the Committee sets out the steps that have, or have not, been taken by LRJ and other interested parties in responding to the actions required……..and it makes very interesting reading and might we suggest will lead to some intriguing political questions .

The report of  Philip McCourt (Interim Assistant Director – Law & Governance /Monitoring Officer)  who is currently auditioning to be Surjit Tour’s successor can be found  HERE

As you can see there are a number of recommendations made to the  Committee . The most damning being set out at recommendation (d) that LRJ 

(i) has been, and continues to be, an unreliable witness;
(ii) has attempted to mislead both the investigator conducting the
review and the monitoring officer in attempting to enforce the
sanctions of the Standards Panel; and

(iii) has continued to use her position and influence as a councillor to
victimise the complainants by making false allegations against
them via social media and to others
in breach of her obligations under the Members Code of Conduct

Now for us this is where it gets really interesting  because as a result of  of the Standards Panel held on 15th June the Labour Political Group Leader (presumably  Cllr Phil ‘ Power Boy Pip’ Davies) was asked to consider whether party disciplinary action should be taken against Councillor Reecejones and whether she should be removed (through Council) from all outside bodies to which she has been appointed.

Strangely such recommendations were not made by the Standards Panel at Cllr Steve Foulkes  Code of Conduct hearing held in August 2016 – where it could be argued that Foulkesy’s proven dishonesty was much more serious and much more damaging to Wirral Council.

WIRRALGATE! – Half the Story

However  in the light of LRJ  Standards Panel hearing she was suspended from the Labour Group indefinitely. On appeal to the Labour North West , this action was
commuted to a suspension of four months, to 6th January 2018, on the condition that Cllr Reecejones makes the formal apology required of her.

LRJ’s  belated ‘sorry/not sorry’ response set out below (which is included in McCourts’s report above ) will need to be considered by the Standards Panel and the Labour Group 

Dear Overchurch Residents Association,
I am writing to you as an outcome to the standards panel of 15th June
2017, I apologise for breaching the members code of conduct.
Yours Sincerely,
Cllr Louise Reecejones”
The other letters contained the same or less, but were additionally
accompanied by a final statement that read:
“This letter is solely for the recipient and should not be for publication “

We will have to wait and see whether this will suffice to save LRJ’s political skin. But having ,at least in the eyes of the Labour Group power elite anyway, been seen as being responsible for taking down one of their own ( ex Cllr Jim Crabtree) we don’t fancy her chances of retaining her current status as a Labour councillor.

If this does transpire we’d be interested to know how the Labour Group justify their kid glove approach to the likes of Cllr George Davies and  Cllr Steve Foulkes. Neither have even been suspended let alone face any kind of meaningful sanction for what frankly amounts to criminality – but then when the Labour Political Group Leader Cllr Phil Davies and the Labour Political Group Godfather are implicated in the cover up of their crime what should we expect?

 

Men of Mystery : The Big Reveal Part 2

Speak-NO

Apologies for the delay on this one but there’s been a few glitches on the website this week . As it’s fashionable to do so we blame those pesky Russkies !

All we can say it’s a case of delayed gratification for our readers as we optimistically declare  : So, farewell then, Surjit Tour .

As yes indeed , we’re hoping that it’s the case that Wirral Council’s Head of Law is going back to where he came from. And we don’t mean that in a casual racist way a la  Cllr George Davies.  We mean that we understand that Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer (no laughing at the back) could be returning to Sandwell Council.  Could it be that Tour goes back to Sandwell and leaves the people of Wirral to go to hell in a handcart?

So what positive things can we say about Surjit as a future send off?

Er, not a lot.

Whilst we acknowledge that being Wirral Council’s legal guru is a tough gig we couldn’t imagine anyone less equipped to fulfil the role. Apologies, no actually we can – his chinless predecessor, Bill Norman!

As far as we’re concerned , during his inglorious tenure Tour steered the difficult terrain that being the pinnacle of local government legal probity involves by prioritising political and personal interests over the public interest.

This was a so called public servant who it seemed to us (and to many of our readers and contributors ) to continually thwart Freedom of Information requests,  somehow didn’t know how electoral expenses worked , circumvented due legal process and natural justice at every turn and yet who prostrated himself before people who held him in complete contempt . He was ‘ bloody useless’ according to Deputy Leader of Wirral Council Cllr George Davies (once again – no laughing at the back) . And yet he was prepared to accept a handshake,a feigned apology,  a promotion (and a cheque for hurt feelings?) to carry on as abnormal .

As for Surjit himself  – he must be counting the days before he finally drives his thoroughly vulgar personalised numberplates out of Wirral and back to the West Midlands for the last time.

But not as much as us.

Sanction Distinction

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LRJ and Foulkesy – same actions, different sanctions

And so another Labour councillor from Wirral Council is found to be unworthy of holding public office as a damning Standards Panel ‘Decision Notice’ is published. Wirral Leaks readers will know that Cllr Louise Reecejones (LRJ)  is no stranger to these pages . This time she appears to be the perpetrator rather than the victim of malicious acts.

The Standards Panel , after considering an Investigators Report, “found the actions of  Cllr Reecejones were designed to threaten,intimidate,underine and cause difficulties at work “ for one of the complainants Tamsin Coates . The Standards Panel also noted that LRJ  took a similar approach to the second complainant , Jessica Smyth, where she had made a complaint to the organisation where Ms Jessica Smyth volunteered . Both Ms Coates and Ms Smyth had previously raised legitimate concerns with Wirral Council’s Internal Audit and Merseyside Police. Although no charges were brought against LRJ  because of ‘insufficient evidence’ the complainants were found to be justified in raising their concerns.

LRJ 015

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50042506/Standards%20Panel%2015%20June%202017%20Decsion%20Notice.pdf

Furthermore the Standards Panel found all the complainants  to be credible ( there were more from the Overchurch Residents Association) and yet LRJ was found to be ‘inconsistent, vague and misleading’   –   we know what they’re trying to say there don’t we boys and girls? Of particular interest to us was this quote from the Decision Notice :

LRJ 018

However it was when we read the ‘Sanctions’ section that apoplexy rapidly set in.

There are 5 sanctions in all  : i ) a formal warning letter from Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer  Surjit Tour (!) ii) LJR must provide a written apology to all complainants iii)  Labour leader Cllr Phil Davies to consider whether party disciplinary action be taken against LRJ and whether she should be removed from all outside bodies to which she has been appointed iv) Tour will be arranging ‘training’ for LRJ which she must attend v) The Panel’s decision to be considered further by the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee.

These sanctions stand in stark contrast to the mild rebuke that was imposed on Cllr Steve Foulkes last year. Foulkesy got away with an apology to  Tory leader Cllr Jeff Green who wasn’t even the complainant! Foulkesy had lied to Wirral Council, lied to the investigator (necessitating a further investigation costing  Wirral Council taxpayers £17K) and continues to lie about what he and Cllr George Davies had been up to – to this very day.

If we were LRJ we’d be asking some serious questions as to why Foulkesy wasn’t given similar sanctions. Especially in relation to a proven liar being able to represent Wirral Council on outside bodies.If anything he is even more unworthy of public office than LRJ – and it would appear that’s really saying something!

But then again we did advise LRJ she was on a hiding to nothing a long time ago . She’s not and never has been part of  the ‘Inner Ring’ . Unlike Standards  Panel  member Cllr Moira McLaughlin who must have enjoyed sticking the knife in someone who played a part in bringing down disgraced former Labour councillor Jim Crabtree – who was , very much, part of the ‘Inner Ring’ .

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/suspension-suspense/

We have never claimed that all Labour councillors are dishonest,incompetent or corrupt but we have consistently called out the cabal that are. Ultimately  we believe it is this ‘Inner Ring’ which has consistently brought Wirral Council into disrepute and until these people are removed from public office the people of Wirral will continue to be poorly served.

Although currently marked ‘Strictly Private and Confidential ‘ the full ‘Investigators Report’ can be found here

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g6133/Public%20reports%20pack%2015th-Jun-2017%2017.00%20Standards%20Panel.pdf?T=10

 

 

The Lights Are On But No One Is Home

wallasey-town-hall-at-night

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Following on from our ‘Where Your Money Goes’ report and anticipating tonight’s planned protests at Wallasey Town Hall about Wirral Council’s proposals to introduce parking charges the length and breadth of the borough we discuss further worrying developments when it comes to the council’s questionable income generating measures.
We have been contacted by a concerned citizen about correspondence they received from the council which they describe as ‘frightening’ :
I have just received a letter from the council asking me to verify that I do live on my own and thus still qualify for the single person allowance.
Fair enough, I have no problem with this, indeed, it even smacks of efficiency. However I note these two bullet points on the letter:
  • We will shortly be performing further and more detailed checks on household residency in order to validate claims for Council Tax Single Person Discount.
  • These residency checks will be performed in collaboration with an external agency.
What the hell does this mean? I notice that alongside the Wirral Council logo is another one for ‘northgate public services’.
Are we to have these civil police marching around our properties sniffing bed sheets and checking for extra shoes under the bed?
I am 60 and very active, but I would not like to open my door to these people if I was a frail 85 year old widower. This is really alarming.
How will these checks be carried out, what right have these people to enter my flat and if I refuse them entry! What then?
It’s like a Stalinist police state..!
Our correspondent should count themselves lucky they don’t own an empty property. There’s no Council Tax Single Person Discount there – owners have to a 100% Council Tax on an empty property if it’s been unoccupied for 6 months.  What if they can’t sell it in these desperate times ? Once again we can’t help thinking this has nothing to do with bringing empty properties back into use or about tackling homelessness. We don’t understand how Wirral Council can charge someone for services they don’t receive as there’s no-one living at the property!
Meanwhile it comes to something when two Labour MPs  ( Alison McGovern and Margaret Greenwood) speak out against the council’s car parking proposals whilst the two most prominent and headline grabbing Wirral MPs ( Angela Eagle and Frank Field) keep schtum.
We can’t help wondering with some of their punitive proposals as to whether the current Labour administration at Wallasey Town Hall have a death wish or they’ve grown so arrogant and complacent that they can impose any draconian measure on the people of Wirral – the people they’re meant to serve! Now we know that Wirral Council have made some wayward moves over recent years but some of their recent decisions are simply inexplicable! –  It really does seem to us to be a case of the lights are on but no one is home !
We have to say , as worthy as they are ,we’re getting a tad frustrated with the protests and petitions . Once again we invoke the words ‘Judicial Review’ to test the legality of Wirral Council’s actions. We think that this is where people need to get organised and direct their energies if the these proposals get the go ahead.
We suggest the grounds for ‘Judicial Review’ are set out succinctly in correspondence sent from regular Wirral Leaks correspondent Dr Robert B Smith to Eric Robinson and Cllr Phil Davies Wirral Council  CEO and ‘leader’ respectively and a response Dr Smith received from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) .

Dear Mr Robinson, Dear Cllr Phil Davies,

Please forward my email to any new councillors.

Nothing has changed since 2015 regarding the legislation prohibiting using parking charges to raise revenue leading to the defeat at Fort Perch Rock in 2015 regarding questionable budget options. From the DCLG: –

Operational Guidance, and legislation, is clear that local authorities should never use parking charges to raise revenue. Where there is surplus income local authorities must ensure that any revenue not used for enforcement is used for legitimate purposes as prescribed in Section 55 (as amended) of the RTRA 1984, and that its main use is to improve, by whatever means, transport provision in the area so that road users benefit.

Another important aspect of the function of the Monitoring Officer related to legal compliance is clearly stated by the DCLG viz.,

All local authorities have a Monitoring Officer, and it is their role to ensure that the authority complies with legislation in its operation.

I paste the reply I received from the DCLG in full, below, for those with short memories.

Dr Robert B Smith

Dear Dr Smith

Thank you for your email dated 20 July to Greg Clark concerning proposed pay and display parking in New Brighton. I work in the team in DCLG working on high streets and town centres and have been asked to reply on his behalf.

Parking is vital to modern high streets and town centres, which is why we are encouraging all local authorities to consider the impact of parking policies on the health of town centres and to adjust their policies accordingly. We want to make sure local authorities operate fair and reasonable parking strategies that are not an unnecessary disincentive to motorists who visit our high streets and town centres.

Operational Guidance, and legislation, is clear that local authorities should never use parking charges to raise revenue. Where there is surplus income local authorities must ensure that any revenue not used for enforcement is used for legitimate purposes as prescribed in Section 55 (as amended) of the RTRA 1984, and that its main use is to improve, by whatever means, transport provision in the area so that road users benefit.

I am sorry that you feel that the Wirral Borough Council is not supporting the recovery of New Brighton, Wallasey. Parking is ultimately the responsibility of local authorities; it is for them to determine what is best for their own area. You are correct therefore, to raise this issue with your MP, as Ministers have no remit to intervene in a local authorities day to day affairs, except where specific provision has been made in an Act of Parliament. All local authorities have a Monitoring Officer, and it is their role to ensure that the authority complies with legislation in its operation.

You will be interested to know that the Department for Communities and Local Government has published new statutory guidance that ensures local residents and firms can petition to initiate a formal review of parking policies in their area from the council, with Councillors then voting on the action to be taken. This guidance describes in more detail a new mechanism to use petitions to give local residents, community groups and businesses the ability to challenge parking policies, and advises local authorities on best practice. The full guidance can be found at http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-challenge-parking-policies

Yours sincerely,

Kathryn Clarke

Town Centres, High Streets and Coastal Team

A Return to Greed

Pigs 2

There’s a particularly intriguing story that keeps returning to our radar .

So we set Verity off in pursuit of  various leads in an attempt to get to the truth of the matter. First port of call was the ever informative What Do They Know website. My goodness !, there are some interesting Freedom of Information (FOI) requests concerning Wirral Council on there – but one that particularly caught our eye and appears to have disappeared under everyone’s radar was an FOI request made by perennially returning Tory councillor Ian Lewis.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/payments_to_the_returning_office

Now why would Cllr Lewis be especially interested in knowing about historical information held by Wirral Council concerning the role/responsibilities/returns of the Returning Officer ?

Could it be that his interest was piqued by a couple of posts on Wirral Leaks or does he know something we don’t?…..

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/standard-procedures/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/big-returns/

There’s certainly some interesting information to be had about the role of the Returning Officer during elections. It seems to us that this role basically involves bossing council staff to do all the running round whilst the already massively remunerated council CEO picks up a big fat fee just in case there’s an electoral cock-up and the government need someone to blame.

It’s interesting to note that between 2006-2010 the Returning Officer Steve Maddox donated all Returning Officer fees that he was supposed to receive to charity. It’s just such a shame he wasn’t so charitable when it came to bullying his own staff and setting the tone for a bullying culture at Wirral Council. His successors as Returning Officer – Bill Norman, Graham Burgess and presumably the latest incumbent Eric Robinson obviously don’t believe in such generous largesse as they are seemingly some of the greediest little piggies in local government (and that’s saying something as this a particularly crowded trough).

return-to-greed-012

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/356355/response/869178/attach/4/FOI%201087924%20Councillor%20Ian%20Lewis%20Payments%20to%20the%20Returning%20Officers.pdf

The sums on offer are eye-watering and frankly in this age of austerity, absolutely obscene. This year alone the current Wirral Council CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson has picked up just short of £30,000 on top of his £175,000 + salary for the Local, Police and Crime Commissioner elections and the EU referendum.

Verity’s forensic eye was particularly drawn to details of the Returning Officer statutory fee  of £11,362 for the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner election , paid presumably to the then Wirral Council CEO Graham Burgess (aka Burgesski) . However she has discovered the alarming anomaly that Burgesski was also the Returning Officer for the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner election in 2012 !.

return-to-greed-009

https://www.blackburn.gov.uk/Lists/DownloadableDocuments/NoticeOfElectionAgentsNamesAndOffices.pdf

How curious we thought and we’re left wondering whether Burgesski  could have picked up two fees amounting to £22, 724 in one day ?.   Now that would be beyond obscene!.

I think we should be told !  – but who to ask?.

Burgesski himself ? – we suspect the Great White Shark , former union firebrand and now champagne socialist would like to put his Wirral Council  , ahem, ‘experiences’ behind him.

Internal Audit ?- or rather Infernal Audit under the guidance of Internal Chief Auditor Mark Niblock? . Are you kidding us?. This one learned his trade under his predecessor , the disgraceful David Garry.

External Audit ?- Grant Thornton and their predecessors the Audit Commission have a shameful track record of not biting the hand that feeds them and have produced more fudge than Devon in the name of protecting a lucrative income stream.

Monitoring Officer ?- I’m sure Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour would be able to clear this one up for us as he should be well versed in the legalities and correct procedures involved.  We’re sure that Tour ,in the absence Bill Norman Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer who was suspended at the time , would have ensured that everything was above board and that those who were entitled to Returning Officer fees were paid correctly and made to the people who were properly entitled to them!………unless of course somebody knows different!.

Standard Procedures

 

Returning Officer  Money 011

 

Rather endearingly we’ve been asked by a very excited reader whether Wirral Council’s Standards & Constitutional Committee meeting on Thursday will finally mean that the Thynne 2 report will finally see the light of day.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g5680/Agenda%20frontsheet%2002nd-Jun-2016%2017.00%20Standards%20and%20Constitutional%20Oversight%20Committee.pdf?T=0

Sorry to disappoint them but all we can say is- ” You’ve got to be joking ! ”

Instead it seems to be a case of death by bureaucracy and a further desperate attempt by Wirral Council to kill the report stone dead. The sickening irony is that Thursday’s meeting is to approve procedures,protocols and appointments relating to complaints about Wirral Councillors.

The fact that the Committee hasn’t met for 6 months tells you everything you need to know about how seriously councillors take the issue of their own public accountability.

If you really want to lose the will to live might we suggest that you check out the protocol here :

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/b50006718/Additional%20Papers%2002nd-Jun-2016%2017.00%20Standards%20and%20Constitutional%20Oversight%20Committee.pdf?T=9

We have two main observations , the first of which is to ask what is the point of having a protocol , a procedure or a policy if you contemptuously ignore it?.

We mean specifically clause 16  of the protocol concerned as it is with the meeting of the Standards Panel

16. Standards Panel

16.1 Where a Standards Complaint has been referred for investigation and a finding of a breach has been found by the Investigator, the Standards Panel shall be convened within 20 working days of the Monitoring Officer receiving the Investigator’s final report.

So can the Committee tell us exactly how long they’ve had Investigator Patricia Thynne’s  second Code of Conduct report ?. By our reckoning it’s at least 6 months . Funny we can’t see anywhere in the protocol that Wirral Council have to check with a councillor’s legal rep whether it’s OK with them whether they can hold a meeting! . Although we do note that the decision to instigate a Standards Appeal Panel fills us with complete despair as no matter how heinous or how damning the evidence against them is an errant councillor can seemingly spin the inevitable out for even longer so that allegations can be dismissed as “historical”.

Our second observation is the truly terrifying aspect of the protocol that is the frightening number of powers that the Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour gives himself …..although now we come to think about it that might explain our first observation!!!.

The Monitoring Officer who thinks he’a Returning Officer – but isn’t !.

Oops! –  do you have a protocol for when that happens Mr.Tour?.