A Lack of Discretion

Finance 014
Five years ago, we were a local authority in crisis: focused on cuts and on the verge of government intervention. Since then, we’ve been recognised as the Local Government Chronicle’s ‘Most Improved Council’, experiencing the fastest turnaround of any council in the UK. So what’s changed? In a nutshell, we refuse to give up; we never stop moving. Our pragmatic, innovative and bold plan, ‘2020 Vision’ will ensure that we’re getting the basics right; that we’re achieving more; that we’re changing the way we do things. In this role, you’ll take us to the next level and create a legacy for yourself in the process.
As you can see from Wirral Council’s positively vomitous advert they’ve been trying to recruit a Director of Finance and Investment claiming that five years ago they were a local authority in crisis. Of course they fail to omit to say why they were in crisis. ‘So what’s changed?’ they ask. Fuck all  as far as we’re concerned and particularly in the Department of Finance and Investment!
We state this, as following on from our last story where we referenced the Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) whistleblowing scandal we are proud to publish the first hand account of the whistleblower involved.
It gives a clear indication of what it must be like to work in such an oppressive atmosphere where management is rammed with those types – yes, we mean the likes of  Trish, Nicky and Lisa – who want to get through Monday to Friday without pesky staff making their job difficult whilst they’re busy advancing their careers/income. Read it and weep:
Payments (DHP) budget never attempted to manage it in terms of need/  demand etc. She took no interest and just left me to it , if I raised any concerns , she was verbally abusive . 
I was the Team Leader responsible for DHP’s . Once HvS  ( Hardy v Sandwell ) case law came in ( I was responsible for reading and interpreting the case law  and suggesting changes to procedures , which I did)  it became impossible to do my job , because my manager instructed me to ignore it . As I said myself and the appeals manager raised concerns from March 2015 . Nothing changed until mid 2016 , as a result of my WB (whistleblow). The council were in breach of the Equality Act . 
Success with an application depended on the time of year you applied . So in April when the money was put in the pot , there was plenty of money , so your application stood a good chance of success , later on in the year they would decide to be more careful , usually at the end of the year instructions would be issued to get it spent. Most years the budget was not spent . The surplus could not be carried over to the next year , and of course if you did not spend all your budget , this affected how much you received the following year .
I believe it was mostly an abuse of power . She used to repeatedly say ” well they have more disposable income” I am the parent of a disabled son , plus I run a small group for families who have a family member with Down’s Syndrome and I know how much they struggle financially . 
As an example of her abuse of power , I attended a meeting with her at the request of the Housing Options Team . Basically Housing Options wanted us to start refusing DHP for people in 4 bed houses so they would be free for larger families . When I raised objections / concerns the Housing Options Manager said “my violin is this big” and made the gesture of playing a tiny violin on his shoulder . 
My manager made me write new guidance for people in 4/5 bed homes. Myself and the appeals manager voiced our concerns , as this was not in line with DHP guidance etc.
Myself and my team ignored the new guidance and continued to make awards in accordance with the DWP  (Department of Work & Pensions) rules . 
I did raise another Whistle blowing , as she instructed the IT section to remove a question of the online DHP application form which allowed people to apply for rent in advance . (People should be able to apply for rent in advance ) . She said ” I am not paying rent twice”. There were three witnesses to this, they were interviewed by (internal) audit . 

This meant very vulnerable people could not secure homes. She would only pay it for Housing Options applications . 

Yes, folks  – these are the lovely people who are in charge of local government and responsible for spending your hard earned money – mainly it would appear on themselves and not on the people who keep them in well paid jobs!

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Bill-ious

DOLLAR-BILL

As we wind down it appears some of our long running stories are finally coming to fruition.

We’d like to thank the many readers who forwarded the latest news about the former Torbay/Wirral/Hereford (in that order) and currently ,for now anyway, head of the legal department at Cheshire East Council, the infamous Bill ‘The Bung’ Norman.

Yes , it would appear that Billyboy has been officially suspended from duties 3 months after his alleged despicable dirty work was retrieved from beneath the carpet.

Dirty Work

We’re gratified to read Cheshire East Council have at least got things right when it comes to suspension procedures. As we should all know by now the likes of Bill Norman operate at such exalted heights they are not subject to the same rules as mere mortals such as us. Oh no, first of all , before any action is taken against these local government Gods there must be proof of a prima facie case to answer.

http://www.knutsfordguardian.co.uk/news/15416114.Second_senior_management_suspension_as_Cheshire_East_Council_investigates_misconduct_allegations/

This of course is what Wirral Council failed to do when Bill Norman worked for them and which led to a near enough, and as far as we’re concerned, a totally unjustified £150K  pay off  – which of course meant that Wirral council taxpayers yet again picked up the tab for cowardice/incompetence on the part of their most senior council officers/politicians .

However the most interesting aspect of this case for us is that Bill has built up such a following during his travels (although not necessarily in a good way) that it was inevitable that his much anticipated and well deserved demise would ultimately be chronicled on this blog.  One of those sources giddy with schadenfreude at Bill’s blunders reached us by a circuitous route. Our message to them is this – get in touch with us when you’re happy to explain the backstage compromise that led to to Wirral Council being the recipient of the ‘ Most Improved Council’  award at the 2015 Local Government Chronicle awards . This of course being the fig leaf behind which they have hid their corporate micro-penis ever since. Might we suggest that low cost loans from one failing council to another must have eased negotiations. Just sayin’

To which all we can say is pass the sickbag – all of these duplicitous town hall potentates make us positively bilious.

The Big Lie

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

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

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

Eagle -eyed Leaks readers will have noted from previous posts and comments that we knew this was on the horizon. And inevitably what we have witnessed today is the first instalment of an exercise in damage limitation and reputation management for which Wirral Council is so well known  with a carefully controlled ‘leak’ to the Liverpool Echo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we’ll do it for him instead –   CEO Eric Robinson  , Head of Children’s Services  Julia Hassall , Corporate Safeguarding Manager  Simon Garner ,  Council Leader Phil Davies ,Children Services Lead Cllr Tony Smith, People Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chair Cllr Moira McLaughlin  – RESIGN NOW

WIRRALGATE ! – Notorious

admin-ajaxNotorious

Deggsy and Foulkesy may be notorious – but Bergman and Grant they ain’t.

Wirral Council obviously thought they could publish the Thynne 2 report and hope it would just all blow over during the silly season.

Sorry to tell you guys but you’re not getting off that easily as we intend to continue to serialise your deep and everlasting shame in gruesome detail.

Talking of gruesome – we’re talking gruesome twosomes, threesomes and foursomes on this particular post. For starters who’d’ve thought that ex-Wirral Council alumni Martin Morton and Emma Degg would ever blow from the same whistle?. Especially when the latter allegedly called the former “mad” – which let’s face it is a bit rich (pun intended) coming from someone who was “bedazzled” by Kevin “Addled” Adderley . A man who once wore a burgundy cummerbund and matching dickie to an awards ceremony where Wirral Council received a Most Improved Council award without a trace of irony or indeed fashion sense. Even enthusiastic cake guzzler Sue Perkins pointed at him as if to say : “I’m so glad I take the other bus to Hebden Bridge…..”

Burgundy Cummerbund

As we’ve previously reported it was the Morton/Degg duo , who independent of each other , instigated the Thynne 2 report. Which let’s face it has to be the most unlikely combination since snaggle-toothed halfwit Lib Dem MP Lempit Opik hooked up with a Cheeky Girl.

Lembit

We note that Patricia Thynne rather ungraciously describes Morton in her increasingly looking pisspoor report as having ‘achieved a certain local notoriety as a whistleblower’. We’re sure he’d be delighted to have that glowing reference on his CV . Anyway we  would have thought that Degg aka Uggs aka Spinderella would have been a more worthy contender for the notoriety tag. Although perhaps for different reasons!. A comment which will no doubt feeds into the victim schtick that Degg is still pedalling. The report states how Degg :“knew that as a result of this further investigation she will get even more pillorying in social media but it was more important for her to tell the truth.”  Degg’s explains that “self preservation” led to her keeping schtum for well over a year before belatedly gegging in on the Wirralgate story. Oh come off it Joan of Arc shouldn’t that be “self interest”? .

Seems that Thynne was taken in by the serial eyelash flutterer and lets her off with a mild rebuke saying that Degg had showed a “rather surprising lack of political nous”  by not coming forward sooner. Now I think we’re all agreed that if there’s one thing that La Dame De Rocket Dog  did not lack and that was “political nous”.  

If Degg was really interested in telling the truth perhaps she could tell us all about the infamous £48 ,000 payment she received and whether Foulkesy had any involvement in that particular episode.

Although to be fair and credit  where it’s due , whatever Degg’s  motive was  – our guess is getting back at Foulkesy for the role he played in her demise – at least she spoke up. Unlike the cast of cowards who have either for financial gain , career advancement  or self interest preferred to play the corporate game .

Step forward :

Graham Burgess – care to tell us how Frank Field attempted to “compromise” you by “demanding” you making £48,000 payments to the people who could bring his personal empire crashing down?

Surjit Tour –  care to tell us how keen you once were to get your hands on the Wirralgate tapes for personal benefit and not the public interest?

David Armstrong –  care to tell us when acting as Chief Executive you cravenly caved in and agreed that Field could appoint his mate Nick Warren to stitch us all up into making an unjustified  payment of public money to people who just happened to press the ‘record’ button ?.

Joe Blott – care to tell us why you think co-ordinating a cover up of all the above makes you the very model of a modern public servant?

No , thought not.

 

Party Games

One of the joys of the festive season is when our butler Eldritch retrieves the treasured games from behind my portrait and the embarrassing relatives we hide in the attic.

Her Ladyship stops picking sugared almonds from her teeth ( a la Cllr Bill  ” Gurn-Merchant” Davies ) , drags herself away from the scandal sheets ( and we’re not talking the beds at Mere Brook House) , adjusts her pince-nez glasses , deigns to join the servants in the parlour and it’s fun and frolics all the way.

However we can’t help being reminded of Wirral Council when we play our party games.

First of all there’s the classic game of Monopoly – because of course there’s so much fun to be had getting out of trouble using other people’s money

Boxing Day 008

Furthermore there’s nothing like mortgaging your integrity to some chancers on the make who’ve got something on you : Boxing Day 009

Talking of chancers – how many times have Wirral Council played this particular card!?.

It’s just a shame they sell their soul using our money to the highest bidder/ lowest of the low.

Get out Of jail Free 007

And then of course there’s the pieces that the powers that be move about the board as if they were Wirral Council staff facing redundancies.

Boxing Day 012

The Hat –  for pulling rabbits out of.In a spot of trouble ?,need someone to cover your corpulent,corporate backside?.Hire a consultant! – usually middle class compromisers enabling working class chancers to get off the hook.

The Thimble – for stitch ups (see above).

The Sportscar – the reward for indentured servitude.Some people sell their soul for a top of the range motor (preferably with personalised numberplates) or the chance to be driven around in a taxi at the council taxpayers expense or to be chauffeur driven in mayoral splendour.

The Boot – A funny kind of redundancy where the order of the boot comes at a high cost.

The Ship –  HMS Wirral Council has more leaks than the Titanic.They would do well to remember the World War 2 slogan: Loose lips sinks ships.

The Iron – for ironing out problems with one hand whilst wielding a Council chequebook in the other.

Which all leads to the following game :

Boxing Day 014

The Merry Game of Floundering – press releases,publicity shots and puff pieces.Is anyone taken in by the Most Improved Council in Britain tag?

Meanwhile we’ve passed many a happy hour playing Identity Kit – just who will be Wirral Council’s next Chief Executive (acting or otherwise) .From Maddox to Wilkie to Coleman to Frater to Armstrong to the current incumbent  Eric “Feeble” Robinson – monumental nonentities one and all.

Boxing Day 006

Then there’s always Funny Bunny (or should that be Funny Money?) – Might we suggest that “remove the carrots and watch the bunny drop” should be Wirral Council’s new executive incentive scheme . How about instead of rewarding failure by paying executives six figures worth of public money to disappear out the back door can we change the rules of the game and  hold them accountable instead ?.

Boxing Day 005

And finally we come to our favourite game at Leaky Towers :

Boxing Day 013

Thankfully there are an increasing number of  people wanting to play this game when it comes to challenging Wirral Council and this has led to some embarrassing recent climbdowns.

We all know the dice may be loaded but there are encouraging signs that Wirral Council’s luck may soon run out.

Here’s to fun and games in 2016!.

 

The Bung,The Bad & The Uggly : Silence is a Golden Handshake

CIGGIEMATES

Two terse sentences brought to an end 13 long years in the chaotic world of Brighton Street on Monday:
“We can confirm that Emma Degg left the Council on Friday 17 July following her request for voluntary severance and an agreement being reached with her.
We wish her well for the future.”

Precisely who the “we” is wishing the now departed head of tourism and community engagement “well for the future” would be interesting to know, however.
Because there isn’t exactly a queue of people lining up to donate towards her leaving present.
Emma “Uggs” Degg is of course long known to regular readers of Wirral Leaks. She’s been directly and euphemistically referred to in virtually all of our reports.
Such was her influence right across Wirral Council, there seemed little that could be done without her first giving it the nod.
And that includes her control over and interference in replies to Freedom of Information requests…

During her tenure she held enormous sway over three chief executives – and got a fourth, the incumbent  Eric “Feeble” Robinson, to sign off her generous leaving package – which we’ll come to shortly.
Degg was in effect the de facto deputy chief executive to previous CX Graham Burgess and Jim Wilkie before him, again, more of which later.

There are anecdotes galore about her antics. About her manipulations, her tantrums, her politicking, back-biting, hair pulling out, floor-rolling hysterics, wild accusations and constant poison-dripping.

There are those colourful relationships with certain senior council officers, too.
For a long time – too long a time – none of it seemed to matter.
Such was her vice-like grip on the balls of weak men in powerful positions – and let’s make no bones about it, we’re looking at every single individual, elected or employed, who failed to act against her histrionics – Degg remained untouchable for over a decade as she rose from mere spin doctor to taking up residence in the office next to the boss.

To the abject horror of many inside and outside our rotten borough, she appeared to be unstoppable – right up until the wheels began to fall off in October 2013.
That was when a letter was sent out to the local press detailing how Degg – who earned £84,000 a year of your council tax – had been paid a further, tax-free, hush-hush one-off payment of £48,000 out of the public purse.

The 2013 letter, since obtained by Wirral Leaks, said: “It was paid through the payroll and was tax-free, being classed as compensation – apparently in relation to her being bullied and ill-treated at work.
“The payment was authorised by Graham Burgess, the [then] Chief Executive and Chris Hyams, the head of human resources and organisational development.
“It is unclear as to whether elected members were involved in the decision to make this payment, or indeed, are even aware of it.
“External legal advice was sought as to making the payment, so that will add to the bill for the residents of Wirral.”

Though Degg was never identified as the recipient at the time, the reaction throughout the council was instant: Utter consternation.
But still she clung on.
Burgess of course skipped out of Brighton Street on New Year’s Eve, under circumstances that appear related to secretive and possibly romantic goings on between himself and Degg – and that of Degg and the director of regeneration, Kevin Adderley.
The heat was very definitely on, so Burgess scuttled out of the kitchen.

Since then Degg has largely been absent from the town hall, supposedly through illness.
Yet as one Leaker informed us yesterday: “Just had a call from… who were told this morning that she had decided to leave after being off ill for some time. What a joke.
“They have played the whole ‘she’s been off ill for some time’ card with the staff. One of the things that took so long was agreeing how she would go.
“She has even been putting the feelers out for who might like to go for leaving drinks with her (presumably to celebrate her massive cheque)…. Er, that will be no one, thanks.”

Ah yes – the massive cheque.
Another letter obtained by Wirral Leaks from what appears to be the same well-informed source behind the 2013 revelation about the £48,000 payment – a payment that to this day has never been explained to council taxpayers – offers up some details.
If you have recently left the council’s employ with a meagre pay off – or if you have left because you couldn’t work with or alongside Degg or her ever shrinking number of acolytes – then you may want to look away now……

She leaves with three month’s pay in lieu of notice, £35,000 in redundancy, and a £15,000 compromise agreement to keep her mouth shut.
The letter writer adds: “What makes it even worse is she insisted on receiving £50,000 cash to go – so the council has paid the income tax and national insurance on her behalf – so the taxable element of her payment has cost the council £27,000.
“It all means that Emma Degg’s take home pay for July is £97,000.”
(Interesting how Wirral Council always – always – has money to pay off senior staff members, but cries penury whenever we want some actual services, isn’t it?).

The writer also says the first £48,000 payment was not for “bullying” after all.
It was “hush money as she had threatened to divulge certain information publicly”.
What that information was we can still only speculate. But it presumably wasn’t her poisonous briefing in 2008 that adult social services whistleblower Martin Morton was “a bit bonkers”.
Another Leaker, themselves in a different job after years working near Degg, contacted Leaky Towers yesterday, to say: “I don’t think I realised what an abnormal environment I was working in while working with her.
“[The new job has been] a massive eye opener… to make me realise how much [working in proximity to Degg] had really affected me. My default position with her was self-defence mode!
“[Now there is] No getting a million people to sign anything off, no worrying about whether I was allowed to share, and no being scared that I may have said too much.
“No drama and no one barking orders or screaming at people for doing things wrong. I am glad she has gone but so disappointed and let down she has been paid off.”

It’s interesting that part of the severance package included £35,000 “redundancy” – does that mean the role of head of tourism has now been deleted?
Surely the long-suffering council taxpayers of Wirral should be told?
As for the £15,000 to keep schtum – something Jim Wilkie, Graham Burgess and Kevin Adderley (at least) will be desperately hoping she sticks to – it seems pretty unlikely to be a watertight agreement.
Emma Degg knows where all the bodies are buried at Wirral Council. Not least because she helped bury many of them.
The question now is: Will the gatekeeper turn poacher in revenge?