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?