Last Train to Pipsville

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All you trainspotters out there will be aware there’s a ‘mock up’ of the new type of train that is coming to Merseyside that can be seen at Pacific Road tramsheds.
It is actually made of wood and rumoured to have cost a cool £1 million.  It’s not known whether Merseytravel considered consulting the travelling public of Merseyside whether would rather have their over-inflated fares spent on securing guards on trains or on an oversized boy’s toy.

Further rumours that  Merseytravel are planning to rustle up interest in the exhibit by hosting a special Halloween  ‘ghost train horrorshow’ featuring an imposing life size figure of Wirral Council’s Lead Investment Manager Martin Liptrot standing on the train with his arms folded and giving his best death stare are as yet unconfirmed.

We also noticed that the destination on the front of the train was West Kirby which is appropriate for Liptrot and his friend,neighbour,comrade and benefactor , Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies . Both are season ticket holders on the West Kirby gravy train who try to not look out of the window as they pass through Birkenhead North!

Talking of tramsheds we note that there has been resurrection of the ideas of  streetcars in Birkenhead which were first mooted five years ago when the fantasy that was Wirral Waters was first floated. Now that that fantasy has sunk to the bottom of the Mersey along with Stella Shiu ,her prize winning marrows and the International Trade Centre and rebranded as Wirral Waters One,  the idea of transportation by streetcar been resurrected by Green councillor Pat Cleary in an upcoming Wirral Council Notice of Motion to be debated next week titled , ‘Sustainable Transport For Wirral Waters ‘. Dare we suggest the title should have been ‘ A Streetcar Named Desire To Have Some Coordinated Infrastructure Planning Between Partner Agencies For Once’?…

 

Desire

 

 

House of Bamboo

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It’s made of sticks.
Sticks and bricks,
But you can get your kicks
In the house of bamboo.
If you consider the ‘personalities’ involved and the issues it raises it might strike you as surprising that we’ve only just caught up the curious case of Bamboo Lettings. Furthermore if you ever wanted to know about how things work on Wirral and in the wider world of networking – here it is laid out for you in this deeply worrying story.
We were prompted to pursue this story by a recent correspondent who asked us:
Also can you advise re Magenta Living being a Social non profit org. starting up a subsidiary called Bamboo Lettings which is a joint venture with Torus Group (St Helens – Graham Burgess) which will increase the returns on some formerly social-rented stock by letting them at market rates for a period of five years.
At 31st March 2017, Magenta Living had transferred 5 properties into Bamboo Lettings, with the intention being that a further 95 properties will be transferred into Bamboo by the end of 2017-18. Magenta Annual Report 2016/17
It might be legal but who decides property A is Social – Property B next door is commercial and charges more? 100 now ,how many in future years? Still classed as a Charity? Stinks to high heaven……………..
However it should be noted it was a brave and curious Wirral resident who first raised the issue courtesy of a Freedom of Information request in May 2016 . You might be surprised to know this local housing development wasn’t lauded with a press release featuring fat felines grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. Maybe that’s because some deeply troubling questions might have been asked at the time – Bamboo Lettings – FOI request
It was left to Joe Halewood and his excellent welfare rights blog SPeye blog to pick up on the issues with this post in February 2017 where Joe writes :
Bamboo Lettings is owned by Magenta and Torus.  Magenta was the former council housing department of Wirral Borough Council, and Torus is the former council housing departments of Warrington and St Helens.  It has offices in Wirral and even its own Facebook page here and there you can see the strap line Bamboo Lettings is a private lettings company, with properties in Wirral, Warrington and St Helens.  Such contrived and opaque constructs are no longer needed reader!
Then belatedly, but God love him ,  Lib Dem Cllr Stuart Kelly tried to raise the profile of this dodgy development and introduced a Notice of Motion at a Wirral Council meeting in July 2017
LOSS OF SOCIAL HOUSING TO BAMBOO LETTINGS LLP (to be debated)
Proposed by Councillor Stuart Kelly
Seconded by Councillor Chris Carubia
Council notes the establishment of a private lettings company known as Bamboo
Lettings LLP between Magenta Living and a housing organisation called Torus.
Council notes that Magenta are planning to transfer under a lease arrangement up to100 social housing homes to Bamboo Lettings company for them to be let at full market rents.
Council notes that a three bedroom house offered for let by Bamboo in the
Woodchurch area will cost a prospective tenant £137 per week against the social
rent charged by Magenta of circa £97 per week in the same area (and against an
‘affordable’ rent level of £110).
In addition, Council is concerned that Bamboo Lettings also charge private sector
style ‘fees’; an example of these fees for a three bedroom house in the Woodchurch
area is:
 Application fee – £50
 Administration fee – £75
 Guarantor fee – £50
 Check out fee – £60
 Additional deposit for a pet – £100
Council believes that these fees are not linked to the service provided, are
unacceptable and extortionate and requests a justification for this regime.
Council notes the Cabinet Member for Housing has told Magenta that Wirral Council would not want to see larger 4 bedroom accommodation, those for older people and those adapted properties being transferred; and has highlighted to Magenta concerns about a number of disposals occurring in the same popular locations, thus reducing availability of social housing stock.
Council notes that there are currently 9643 people registered on the Choice Based
Lettings System, of which 2348 have a housing priority need.
Council has objections to the use of social housing in this way and requests (through the Council’s Managing Director for Delivery to Magenta Living) that the relationship with Torus/Bamboo be suspended to allow the Council the opportunity to fully investigate the use of social housing stock as de facto private rented houses https://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50042720/Council%20NoMs%20-%2010-7-17.pdf8
Cllr Kelly elaborated further on his concerns about this development in this Wirral Globe article  – Councillor slams ‘unacceptable and extortionate transfer of former council houses’
Needless to say nobody took a blind bit of notice of the ‘Notice of Motion’ and that’s not just because Cllr Kelly is a Lib Dem with – let’s face it – no power or influence over Wirral Council whatsoever.
So let’s join the dots and explain why that might be the case and look at the interested parties who do have that kind of power and influence. First of all can we say that any joint venture between Magenta Living and Torus should have been called Red Bull(shit)- geddit?
First of all here’s the Torus Group Board or more accurately the Torus COMMON PURPOSE Board TORUS COMMON PURPOSE BOARD
We first highlighted the connections here : Where Are They Now? Part 4- Emma Degg
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Wirral Leaks readers may recall the candy floss- haired one on the left is former Wirral Council CEO Graham Burgess who’s main claim to fame is that he once shared a hole at the ‘The Open’ with former Wirral Council Super Duper Director Kevin Adderley when it was last held in Hoylake. The man on the right is Rob’ Narcissist’ Young – a former Assistant Director of Wirral Council’s Housing Department.
Although surprisingly for such egomaniacs they’re quite shy about their involvement in this money-making racket masquerading as Tory housing policy : Companies House Officers
See how this works yet ? If you don’t , you need to realise that Magenta Living Board includes such Wirral Council  luminaries as Cllr Steve ‘Foulkesy’ Foulkes , Cllr Jeff ‘Kindred’ Green and Cllr Stuart ‘Witless’ Whittingham Magenta Living Board
Which raises the question as to why they were appointed in the first place – could it be they are the last people who’d raise questions in the best interests of those who need social housing?  Ever felt you’ve been bamboozled by bureaucrats?

An Extraordinary Council

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An email has been sent to all Members of the Council concerning an extraordinary meeting to take place to discuss the urgent appointment to the soon to be notorious/infamous  ‘Investor Development Manager’ post

To all Members of the Council

Dear Councillor,

Would you please note that the Mayor has called an extraordinary meeting of the Council to be held on Monday, 6 March, 2017, at 5.30pm.

This extraordinary meeting has been called at the request of 24 Members, in accordance with Standing Order 1(4), to consider a Notice of Motion in respect of the creation of ‘a senior post of Investor Development Manager’ (requisition notice attached).

This extraordinary meeting will precede the Budget Council meeting which will be held at 6.00pm, or upon the rising of the 5.30pm meeting, whichever is the later.

A summons for the meeting will be published nearer the time.

The story has already been reported here:

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15056994.Twist_in_the_tale_as_special_meeting_called_after_Wirral_councillors_are_banned_from_asking_questions_over_new_business_chief/

And previously a report to Cabinet on 16 January 2017  dealt with the appointment as follows…

‘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’.

A request for the extraordinary meeting of the Council was called by 24 opposition councillors as  ‘we believe that the creation of this post requires further scrutiny, to enable council to decide whether it is justified’.

However the extraordinary meeting has been called for 6th March – AFTER the appointment has been made! Which rather suggests to us that the matter was NOT ‘urgent’ in the first place and in fact the waiver was a means of preventing anyone asking any awkward questions as to why , at a time of cuts and punitive charging measures , that the council taxpayers of Wirral are being asked to fund Council leader Power Boy Pip’s special friend to hobnob in the South of France at their expense as apparently one of the ‘key events’ is described as follows : ‘MIPIM Cannes is the premier event in the European Real Estate calendar and has become Europe’s showcase for major cities, property developments, investment opportunities and international networking’

http://www.liverpoolvision.co.uk/MIPIM/

Nice work if you can get it and you can get it – even when it’s a politically restricted post and you’re part of a corrupt political cabal!

We’re also becoming increasingly concerned by the role of the Assistant Chief Executive David Armstrong’s enabling role and his very dodgy decision making in the absence of the Chief Executive  Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson. Stressed Eric seems to have abdicated all responsibility when it comes to decisions which may come back and bite him on his plushly upholstered backside. Meanwhile Armstrong seemingly sails serenely towards a sizeable pension pot and is quite happy to acquiesce to whatever his political paymasters ask of him. Witness also his decision to commission Nick Warren to stitch up the council taxpayers over the ‘Wirralgate’ scandal in the power/moral vacuum that followed Graham Burgess’s hasty departure and proceeded Stressed Eric’s appointment.

All of which leads us to conclude that ‘bureaucratic machinations’ doesn’t come close to describing how Wirral Council operates and what makes it  truly ‘ an extraordinary council’ for all the wrong reasons!

The Man in the Mirror

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Portrait courtesy of Leaky Towers resident artist Tolose Letruth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is expected of a Labour councillor?

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

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