Wirral Leaks Election Selection – 2 weeks to go

Vote Goodies

PEACHEZ ‘N’ POLITIX 

So after being open for 6 months Wirral Council ‘s Planning Committee unanimously pulled the (butt) plug on Birkenhead ‘gentleman’s club’ Peachez . However the other Birkenhead ‘gentleman’s club’ was out in force bemoaning the bump’n’grind. Council ‘leader’ Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies even put in an appearance . Might we suggest this was more in support of Birkenhead & Tranmere ward candidate Paul Jobson – for whom the decision was described by Pip as a ‘fantastic victory’ – than a genuine concern that Peachez was turning the town into a hotbed of moral turpitude. Remind us , wasn’t Pip part of the crew who flew to sleazy Reno hoping to be twinned with a town who’s main attractions are booze,strippers and gambling? Whatever happened to that hook-up ? The only stripping Wirral councillors now seem to be in favour of is the stripping of public assets.

We think that Power Boy Pip’s appearance in the Liverpool Echo video included in their Pip on Peachez story should itself be x-rated. Inevitably Wirral Labour described his performance (and it was a performance ) as ‘powerful’. Pip once again used the phrase ‘sordid business’ and it was hard to tell whether he was describing Peachez , his blatant electioneering or Wirral Council’s modus operandi.

However we had to laugh at the inevitable inane comment from that ultimate exemplar of political and personal decorum Cllr Steve ‘Foulkesy’ Foulkes:  “I don’t know much about these places but I’ve not seen one in Liverpool on the main thoroughfare” he said sounding like a snooty, teetotal maiden aunt all of a sudden.

Bizarrely the refusal for planning permission was moved on the grounds that it would “not promote a positive image of the area”  – which prompts us to wonder whether any of the councillors involved in the decision leading to Peachez going tits up have actually been to Birkenhead lately? Just sayin’ !

THORNY ISSUE FOR LABOUR ROSE

Tory Wirral Council group leader Ian Lewis managed to get a front page from Wirral Globe ‘blasting’ reports that 170 foster children went missing in 2016/17. The revelations gave further insight into why Children’s Services have been deemed inadequate by Ofsted.  In response Paul ” Boycey’ Boyce , Wirral Council’s Director of Children’s Services was in in full ” that was then,this is now”  “right direction” “moving forward”  mode  – you know the drill by now. However taking things even further in her local election campaign leaflet Labour Rose (no sniggering at the back) Cllr Christine Spriggs simply rewrites history when it comes to the past failures in Children’s Services.

We readily acknowledge that since 2010 the decimation of local authority funding under Tory rule has had a severe detrimental impact upon local services.  However we would ask local politicians to be honest  – a big ask we know – and acknowledge in return, that many of the failings in recent years with regard to vulnerable people, both young and old on Wirral, have had more to do with bad management and poor scrutiny.  Consequently the £20 million (of your money) that Wirral Council are putting into Children’s Services are because they have had to remedy these past failings are less to do with “Tory cuts”.

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Spot the Blott

Blott Farewell

Joe Blott : Laughing all the way to the bank …….and at our expense.

As we exclusively revealed in February (2016) Wirral Council Super – Duper Director Joe Blott is about to escape. Most appropriately the article featured a ticking clock as we can only imagine that Blott must be counting the seconds until his exit as he knows all too well that the proverbial is about to hit the fan. Read more here :The Final Countdown

OK it’s been two years but it seems that it’s finally time to say : so farewell then Joe Blott – the last of the infamous Super Duper Directors appointed by failed Wirral Council CEO Graham ‘Burgesski’ Burgess.  Although you won’t be surprised to hear that Blott’s £390K bung is identified in the topsy-turvy world of Wirral Council as a ‘saving’.

The summary of costs in relation to above are as follows:

 BLOTT’S BUNG
Severance £93,412.60
Employer cost £296,763.43
Total £390,176.03
Annual Saving £158,300.82
Recovery period 29.53months

 

To which we can only say  – “Oh it’s a saving all right – but of who’s skin?” because as we anticipated the proverbial may be FINALLY about to hit the fan!

Following on from the departure of previous failed Super Duper Directors Kevin ‘ Addled’ Adderley and Clare ‘Wet’ Fish we have to ask ourselves what did we get for our money?  Er ,not a lot ! From what we can gather Adderley was utterly appalling on every level except when it came to a left hook, Fish flailed around in shallow waters and laid the foundation for the inadequate rating of Children’s Services by Ofsted and as for Blott , well , Joe seems to have avoided blotting his copybook by being the chief co-ordinator of Wirral Council cover ups. But is that what we pay public servants to do? Are they there to serve us or their political paymasters?

Blott will forever be known by us for his infamous quote: ” No comment”  – Sorry  but you said it Joe and then lied about it to investigator Patricia Thynne and what’s more the ‘Wirralgate’ complainants have (yet another) recording to prove it !

Blott Quotes 020

He will also be known by the repeated use of the phrases : ” I can’t recall” and ” I have no recollection”  – which proves either  a)  a pre-requisite of a senior manager at Wirral Council is selective amnesia or b) Blott has early onset dementia

Nevertheless and needless to say we predict that with his connections and the favours he’s dealt Blott will find a nice little niche somewhere after his long anticipated but hastily arranged departure. We wonder if the previously alleged delayed hook-up with Labour councillor Paul Doughty will finally materialise ? See here : Blott’s Pension Pot

Of course , as we have done with many ex-Wirral Council employees who have previously featured on Wirral Leaks , we will be regularly checking where Blott pops up next . Any information will be gratefully received and it will be your chance to win a pair of Joe Blott endorsed ‘Personality Lifts’ – shoe inserts that will make the vertically challenged feel really, really important .

David Hamilton Personality Lifts

Life’s short but you don’t have to be!

Mark your entries ‘Spot the Blott’ and send to wirralleaks@gmail.com

 

Masterplantastic

 

Masterplan 2

We sincerely hope it’s not the last hurrah from long time Wirral Leaks contributor Dr Robert Smith. But if it is – what a way to go. The ‘Good Doctor’ shows ‘His Lordship’ up for the flâneur that he truly is.

Now whilst we all would like to live in those alluring artist’s impressions this the harsh reality – expertly and forensically laid bare :

Wirral, Wirral Council, and the development of the ‘Masterplan’ over the last 30 years.

Given that Wirral Waters is a 30-year programme of regeneration of derelict docklands, and a number of now-senior councillors in 2018 have been Wirral Councillors for a similar period, I have been taking a look at the history of ‘Masterplanning’ in Wirral and searched for the successes of the last 30 years. With a few exceptions, the greatest success of the last 30 years of Wirral Masterplanning appears to be a huge growth industry in ‘artist’s impressions’, and very little else.

Masterplanning, as opposed to planning or even developing a scheme (remember them?), appears to come into its own in local authorities, with the adoption of quasi-military and business terminology such as ‘strategic planning’, ‘resource development’, and ‘business case’ justifications in the early 1990s, to demonstrate coherent planning, business-like operations and efficient use of resources. Followed swiftly by ‘blue-sky thinking’, ‘thinking outside the box’, ‘joined-up thinking’, ‘picking the low-hanging fruit’ and ‘going on a journey’, etc., etc.; management-speak jargon, as like what it is frequently spoke…

As multiple regeneration funding sources were amalgamated to form the Single Regeneration Budget in the 1990s, and European funding sources and Objective One status came to Merseyside, a more integrated approach to planning and regeneration was required to achieve external funding support. Wirral Council officers were good at that in the 1990s.

After extensive research of Wirral Council and other partners’ efforts at planning across a wide range of services, facilities or developments, it appears that those who claim regularly to have ‘vision’ are proven by results to be the least well-equipped to hold such a self-aggrandising view.

Wirral Council whose motto may as well be ‘Lectiones sunt didici, sed nihil mutare non’ (‘lessons have been learned, but nothing will change’) is an organisation that does not learn from experience, either its own, or that of others. Now there is neither innovation nor inspiration, just copy and pasting of others’ ideas, there is little public ‘buy-in’ due to imposition, and that is why it mostly doesn’t work. And that lack of truly innovative thinking with genuine public consultation generally leads nowhere, except to bitter resentment. Wirral is never now the first to generate and implement an idea (what Wirral used to be famous for, ferries, town planning, trams, guide dogs, ship building, and lots more), but this mediocrity and endless consultancies creates exactly the pattern that has produced Masterplan after Masterplan after Masterplan, few of which have been fully or partly realised.

The pattern of Wirral Council Masterplanning is this: –

Aspiration (‘I have a vision’) – Perspiration (usually other people’s to promote the ‘vision’) – Degeneration (ongoing decline through delay during ‘visioning’) – Desperation (produce another Masterplan) …eat, sleep, rave, repeat…ad infinitum…

It is notable that Cllr Phil Davies, elected as a councillor in 1991, was having a 2020 Vision for Birkenhead in 2001, but only having a 2020 Vision for Wirral in 2015.

Also worthy of note is that between 1990 and 2008 the regeneration programmes of Wirral CityLands, Hamilton Quarter Project, New Wallasey, Lairdside, New Opportunities for Wirral and Wirral Waterfront, represent a collective investment in excess of £500,000,000. The greater part of it spent in Birkenhead. The Council was the accountable body with ultimate responsibility for the programmes and their continuation. Just to note that there has always been a £1bn investment opportunity in Wirral…why not just add more noughts nowadays to look impressive in the media?

However, in recent times when Wirral Council states that is going to be more ‘business-like’ (shouldn’t this have always been the case?) ‘with a private sector head but with a public-sector heart’ as stated by Cllr Ann McLachlan – when a council spokesperson states that Wirral Council collecting statutory Council Tax and Business Rates is business enterprise representing commercial success of the Council, we should know we are really in trouble.

I took more of an interest in the non-statutory range of Masterplans produced by and for Wirral Council (there is a lot of statutory masterplanning as well, such as in 2017 when Ofsted rated Wirral’s Children’s Services “inadequate” after “widespread and serious failures” were found. This is one element of council core business).

When you fail to deliver a number of crucial core public services (the local authority raison d’etre), you’ve ‘taken your eye off the ball’ for far too long. You then descend into the realms of ‘reputation management’ often similar to propaganda, and create the smokescreen of column inches and artists’ impressions, or even local media allies and an in-house ‘newspaper’ to control publicly available information.

But, I digress, the list below is indicative rather than definitive, and focusses mainly towards the north of the borough, as that is where the Council has chosen to concentrate its efforts. I have included relevant media quotes as appropriate.

 

30+ ‘Masterplans’ in 30 years…that really is Masterplantastic!!

 

1990-1997 Wirral CityLands April 24th, 1997 Wirral Globe. Council Leader Dave Jackson writes “The work done on Birkenhead town centre is an achievement, but it has also given the impetus to make further commercial development possible.”

1995-2002 Hamilton Quarter Project – £82m to create a cultural and creative industries quarter, rebalance the local residential demographic, and develop attractions. The programme centred on Hamilton Square with a brief to unify the Woodside/Hamilton Square link to the retail centre. Also, to continue the ‘Heritage Trail’ museums package initiated by MDC. “Deputy Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil Davies believes the success of the Hamilton Quarter Project, which has completely rejuvenated this part of Birkenhead, has shown what can be achieved.” (Mike Hornby 11th Jan 2002, Daily Post)

1998-2003 New Wallasey – “More than £9m had been allotted to carry out work in New Brighton and Wallasey, and, at the time, it included ambitious plans to build a Merseyside Imperial War Museum. But many of the hopes fell by the wayside and the scheme came in for much criticism when one of its lasting legacies was the New Brighton clown – a sculpture welcoming people to the town.” Mar 31, 2005 Daily Post

1996-2003 Lairdside – reclamation of derelict land and buildings for re-development and creation of Tranmere Urban Village.

1998-2004 New Opportunities for Wirral – A 6-year scheme aiming to tackle social exclusion and reduce poverty in the Pathways areas on the Wirral.

2000-2008 Wirral Waterfront – £144m programme to implement a comprehensive physical and social regeneration strategy for the Wirral Waterfront from New Brighton taking in Seacombe, pathway areas in Birkenhead, Tranmere and Rock Ferry.

2001-2008 LOBO Loans financial strategy – £137m borrowed from private banks at 6% pa; interest payable £8m pa. Total repayable in excess of £500,000,000 finally to be paid off in 2078; expensive exit penalties making it super-expensive to get out of the loans.

2001-2020 Birkenhead Town Centre 2020 Vision and Strategy January 11th, 2002 Liverpool Daily Post – Deputy Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil Davies added: “This is an exciting vision which shows how Birkenhead can be developed and improved over the next 20 years. The document sets up a framework which we will use to attract additional investment and create jobs. It is something which will benefit the whole of the borough, not just Birkenhead, and will enable us to compete with places such as Liverpool and Cheshire Oaks.”

2002 Enriching Our Lives – Wirral’s first Cultural Strategy, never properly promoted, understood or implemented.

2002 Birkenhead Park £11.3m HLF restoration (completed 2007) a successful project undermined by the Council’s cavalier attitude to the agreed management plan, park maintenance and security.

2004 West Wirral Hoylake & West Kirby Masterplan designed to raise the profile of coastal towns Hoylake and West Kirby,. Consultants brought in by Wirral Council submitted their ideas in 2004. (Shelved 2014)

2006 Woodside Masterplan by Building Design Partnership (BDP) 28th February 2007The first phase of works will include the creation of a ‘development spine’ running from the Woodside Ferry Terminal up to Hamilton Square Station”. (Shelved)

2006 Wirral Waters 14th December 2009 Wirral Globe Wirral Council leader Cllr Steve Foulkes said: “This is a significant step in our vision to regenerate Wirral.” Plans for a £200m International Trade Centre (ITC) in Birkenhead that could provide up to 3,000 new jobs have been approved by councillors. The centre, planned for the West Float former docks site, makes up part of the £4.5bn Wirral Waters regeneration scheme planned by developer Peel. 21 September 2011 BBC News

2007 Peach Developments/Neptune Woodside Masterplan May 2007. “The exclusivity agreement between Merseytravel and Neptune Developments and Peach Developments means ambitious plans to redevelop the Woodside area of the Wirral waterfront will go ahead”. Liverpool Echo. Martin Lowe, who runs Peach Developments, said: “I first took the drawings to the council four years ago, and when they saw them, they could see the potential for developing the area, so asked me to work with them. Since then, others have come on board, but the Woodside Hotel remains the lynchpin in the development.”

2007 Brand New Brighton – Neptune Developments scheme to redevelop the Floral Pavilion Theatre, and to develop Marine Point. 2nd September 2013 “New Brighton finally reaps rewards as successful revamp takes off” Wirral Globe. Except that Wirral Council has tried to strangle it at birth by introducing parking charges.

2008 Wirral Council Strategic Asset Review – Epic fail https://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?Id=607

2011 Wirral Heritage Strategy 2011-2014 ‘Making Our Heritage Matter’ Private Eye writes… “that a fire at historic buildings in Wirral is often followed by demolition.” Liscard Hall, Birkenhead Market, ESWA Sports and Social Club, Central Hotel, British Leather Tannery, Woodside Hotel…

2013 Wirral Council and Neptune (later Ion) Development Limited – £30m redevelopment of Birkenhead town centre. The project was due to regenerate the town’s market and rebuild the Europa Pools leisure centre, with restaurants, a food court and a hotel also proposed.

2015 Wirral Council £1.1m Hamilton Square traffic plan – The plans were revised after criticism from businesses, residents and Birkenhead councillor Pat Cleary – who called it a “giant waste of public funds” – and they have now been shelved altogether. Liverpool Echo

2015 Wirral Council and Neptune (later Ion) Development Limited 27 October 2016 BBC News – Cllr Davies said the council continued to have “huge ambitions” for Birkenhead and believed it could be a “fantastic destination”. (Ion, previously Neptune Developments 2013 agreement scrapped 2016 – Council leader Phil Davies said the decision was linked to “more ambitious” development opportunities.)

2015 Wirral Council 2020 Vision (see 2001) – 20 ‘Pledges’. In his own words, Cllr Phil Davies to be held accountable by Wirral public.

2015 Wirral Partnership to pool £2bn public sector budgets by 2020 17th September 2015 Wirral Globe Cllr Phil Davies states “It is our ultimate aim to have a pooled budget by the end of the five-year plan.” Never going to happen.

2015 Hoylake Golf Resort Masterplan 7th December 2017 Wirral Globe Cllr Phil Davies states “This is another example of Wirral Council being commercial, ambitious and innovative.”

2016 Downtown Birkenhead CH41 25th Jan 2016 Liverpool Echo Cllr Phil Davies “This is the biggest regeneration plan I have ever been involved with.”

2016 Wirral’s Culture Strategy – would you know there was one? Not Wirral’s first Cultural Strategy, and will never be properly promoted, understood or implemented.

2016 Wirral Healthcare Masterplan STP – is WBC in or out and for or against, as a Wirral NHS CCG ’partner’…who knows?

2016 Wirral Growth Plan – is this a school project? https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/gallery/new-images-1bn-wirral-growth-13173369

2017 Wirral Growth Company – “The prospect of bringing thousands of new jobs, hundreds of millions of pounds of new investment, into the borough will be life-changing for many of our residents who look to us as a council to set these ambitious visions.”; states Cllr Phil Davies. Wirral Council Chief Executive states it is ‘asset rich, but cash poor’. However, it will transfer publicly-owned assets to the Wirral Growth Company, a private company with its own board. The Council will buy more assets (Birkenhead Market £??, parcels of land £??, Europa Building £8.4m) for which it will borrow many millions to buy. It will then take additional multi-millions in loans to lend to the developers, who presumably won’t be credit-worthy enough in their own right? More interest payments, even asset-richer, loadsa-cash poorer, is the likely outcome for Wirral’s public finances. The financial risk assessment must make for interesting reading.

2017 New plans to turn Birkenhead Town Hall into boutique hotel – Councillor Phil Davies, Leader of the Council, said: “Driving regeneration, creating jobs and ensuring sustainable, long-term growth in our economy is vitally important”.

2017 Birkenhead Market Masterplan – “Birkenhead market could become such a foodie paradise that even celebrity chef Paul Hollywood could be tempted back to Wirral” states Cllr Phil Davies – maybe if Paul Hollywood (celebrity baker, duh) lives long enough….

2018 Wirral Waters1 WW1 – Wirral Waters £175m “International Trade Centre” sunk without trace, and diluted more with a splash of Urban Splash (modular) prefabs…what chance will all the Wirral Met College apprentice brickies have before their retirement?

AS WE COME UP TO DATE FROM CLLR DAVE JACKSONS QUOTE (1997) FROM CITYLANDS (started 1990), I THINK OF THE ‘LOST GENERATIONS’ OF WIRRAL, AND BIRKENHEAD IN PARTICULAR…it looks to me as if another generation will be ‘lost’ to ‘visions’, Wirral residents will be ignored, whilst crucial public services ‘wither on the vine’ due to neglect.

Here are 2 quotes from 2001 and 2017…

2017 Wirral Council Strategic Regeneration Framework Cllr Phil Davies states – “We have not been standing still in recent years, much has been achieved, but we look forward to working together with greater drive and pace in order to realise our shared vision for the borough”.

…and in 2001 Birkenhead Town Centre 2020 Vision – Wirral Council deputy leader Cllr Phil Davies says of the 20-year plan: “After consultations with businesses and the public what has emerged is an exciting vision which shows how Birkenhead can be developed and improved.”

Vision…? …nah…same old, same old…it’s now obviously delusion…

Masterplan 1

Rising and Falling Stars

A-prick

It was three years ago that Wirral Council was named  ‘Most Improved Council’ at the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) awards and anyone receiving an email or a letter from Wirral Council will see they are still desperately trading on this tired and bogus accolade.

As you know we are deeply suspicious of awards and titles as they often serve to provide a veneer of credence to the least deserving. This is something we deconstructed when the LGC award was first announced. Read here : The Bamboozlers

Might we suggest that it would have been more appropriate – or at least in the interest of balance – to include ‘Rated Inadequate by Ofsted 2016′ on official Wirral Council correspondence. After all what would be more indicative of the true state of Wirral Council – a rigorous full inspection of Children’s Services by a team of qualified and experienced inspectors or a 20 minute presentation to a group of gullible local government gurus at Grosvenor House  ,London ? The LGC  judge’s comments from 2015 read :

This is a council that has broken the mould of old ways of working to deliver a dramatic improve to its governance. Under a sector-led approach it has gone from being an abnormal authority known locally as the ‘insular peninsula’ to an organisation that seeks help and inspiration from others and is working with residents in a way they have never done before with impressive results in terms of new jobs.

And yet one year later Wirral council gets slated by Ofsted. But then a LGC award is a notorious kiss of death. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to hear the full story about how Wirral Council got this dubious award . Maybe Jo Miller the CEO of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council -who were ‘Highly Commended’ by the LGC judges -will one day tell us about the backstage wheeler dealing that went on to ensure Wirral Council won the award. Apparently the judges thought “they’d had a hard time” . So it was the sympathy vote that won it. Bless. No wonder Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies looks so proud in the picture above. Read more here: Most Improved Council 2015

Is it any wonder that the ‘Most Improved Council’ award has subsequently become so discredited that as far as we understand there hasn’t been such an award since? This includes this year’s shit-glittering ceremony  which is to be held tonight : LGC Awards 2018

As you can see Wirral Council’s sole nomination this year is in the ‘Rising Star’ category and the honour goes to Sally Clark. Wirral Council’s pitch is as follows:

Sally Clark has recently been promoted to assistant head of communications but joined Wirral when it was undergoing major internal redesign. Her role was to help the council engage with employees to help communicate the challenges, the necessary redundancies and reshaping of services. She very quickly embedded herself across the organisation and her work on shaping how those messages were delivered had a huge impact on the final outcome and how the council was perceived. Ms Clark has been key to driving and maintaining pace in changing the way the council engages with staff, and has helped to set up new organisations that enabled Wirral to become a commissioning council.

We’ve got to admit that trying to improve how Wirral Council is perceived is a tough gig and it will be interesting to see whether Ms Clark fares better than last year’s Wirral Council  ‘Rising Star’ nominee, Strategy Manager Lucy Barrow , who we understand is now ‘all things culture’ . We also understand from a source that reclusive Wirral Council CEO  Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson has a ‘special liking’ for Ms Barrow and “can’t stop singing her praises” . But then according to last year’s LGC award pitch “People at every level of the organisation rely on her advice,support and talent” . As no doubt does her husband Mark Barrow – who just so happens to be ‘Campaign Manager’ at Wirral Chamber of Commerce’ ! Proving once again to us that if you impress the right people and have the right connections on the insular peninsula you’ll go far. Is Wirral ‘s talent pool really that shallow? Sadly the answer appears to be yes! Read more here :  Rising Star- Lucy Barrow

Now we can’t comment on the merits and attributes of these ‘Rising Stars’  but we do think it is revealing about what kind of roles are valued and relied upon by Wirral Council  – salespeople and spin doctors.

However such is the mysterious workings of the universe it would appear that it is a truism that for every rising star there is a falling star. And apparently disappearing into a black hole is former Wirral Council Super Duper Director Kevin ‘Addled’ Adderley who having being exiled by Wirral Chamber of Commerce to Egerton House as a glorified facilities manager, has we now understand, gone altogether . Perhaps he didn’t fit with the slick ,glossy image that the aspirational Chamber are promoting. As Her Ladyship said : ” I fear that burgundy cummerbund at the LGC Awards 2015 may have been the beginning of the end for him”  

Burgundy Cummerbund

Sue Perkins points to the offending item (take your pick as to what we mean by that)

If this is the case it’s lucky for Adderley that the £250,000 pay off he received from Wirral Council in 2015 will mean that (unlike others) he won’t have to darken the door of the DWP for whom he worked for 29 years. Perhaps he can give former Wirral CEO Graham Burgess a call to see if there are any jobs going within his burgeoning property empire (Torus /Bamboo Lettings etc;) …….on second thoughts, perhaps not.

But as the stars are going out

And this stage is full of nothing 

And the friends have all but gone 

For my life, my God, I’m singing

 

 

 

 

Measure for Leisure

Shutter

Following on from our Pit of Despair story we first bring you the good news that a contractor has been out measuring up to install much needed safety measures at Woodchurch Leisure Centre . Indeed a letter from Margaret Greenwood to a local resident says : 

Further to your email last month, we have been informed that Wirral Council has made the decision to fit a rail and gates along the wall next to the drop at the side of the small pool. New signage has also been ordered to highlight the drop. 

This action is as a result of yourself and others raising concerns with the HSE and Wirral Council. In taking these steps, you have made the pool safer for other residents. 

Result ! You might saying to yourself. Well , yes and no. Whilst we received a tremendous response to our blog post from pool users who not only commented upon the long term non-compliance they also highlighted further safety issues.
Apparently when swimming sessions come to an end and all swimmers, young and old, move to the changing area shutters are required to be pulled down to stop access back to the pool area to prevent accidents and particularly drowning. Woodchurch Leisure Centre have not got any such measures despite the fact that we understand that this is a legal requirement. Moreover we understand that staff are supposed to stay in the pool area until the building is empty just in case a child or vulnerable person goes back into the pool area. Staff shortages can often mean that this ‘backstop’ safety measure is not possible and so members of the public are left even more unprotected.
We are reliably informed that all other leisure centres have these shutters but because of cost implications it’s not happened at Woodchurch . Once again it is a matter has been raised for a number of years and yet has never been resolved. This must be particularly stressful situation for leisure centre staff.
One can only wonder what were considered to be priorities when there was a 4 week closure of the leisure centre for ‘maintenance work ‘ only last year  . A lick of paint, grout a few tiles and steam clean the bogs and hope nobody notices the deadly drop at the side of the pool and that there are no shutters ?  Maintenance work – Woodchurch Leisure Centre
As one of our many sources said : “Cost of protection a few grand. It’s fine for the people of West Kirby and Bebington. Woodchurch gets no protection. And the council treat the law with contempt” 
We’re further left wondering what knowledge and involvement members of  Wirral Council’s infamous ‘Golf Club’ have had in all of this especially Health, Safety & Resilience(!) Manager , Mark Camborne  and Head of Recreation Damian Walsh ?
What needs questioning even more is the involvement or non-involvement of local councillors Matthew Patrick aka Matty Patty , Stuart ‘Witless’ Whittingham and Tony ‘Don’t mention Ofsted’ Smith  .
You’d think they’d be up in arms to hear about local residents -and especially children – in their ward being put at risk.  But not a peep ! Shame on them that it was left to concerned citizens to raise (and part- resolve) the long-standing issue. Could it be that Wirral Cabinet members , Cllr Patrick and Cllr Whittingham in particular, are less concerned about the safety of the public and causing their own staff stress than promoting the Wirral Growth Company – which was launched yesterday with the usual stage-managed dreary fanfare of backslapping BS – in the hope that this Joint Venture will pick up the tab not just at Woodchurch but at all the other leisure centres at a later date ?
Whilst we’re at it we’d like to raise the complicity of the utterly useless unions in all of this . Seemingly pacified by a small pay-rise for their members whilst oblivious to the gathering shitstorm . With early retirement being denied for some whilst others are told they’re going on less favourable terms there’s a lot of disgruntled Wirral Council staff around at the moment. But as always it’s the lowest paid and least powerful who are in the firing line.
As ever with Wirral Council there’s a bigger story which is not just about shutters and covers – it’s a case of shut ups and cover ups with staff too afraid to open their mouths , managers too busy covering their backsides…….. and politicians turning a blind eye.

Wirral Leaks Weekly Dispatch #5

More Money, More Troubles

This week’s Cabinet announcement concerning a council tax of 5.99% came as no surprise to anyone. Nor did Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies inevitably blaming ‘Tory cuts’ for such a hike. However where Pip outdid himself in his budget proposals was suddenly finding £20 million down the back of the metaphorical Town Hall settee  “to prevent Wirral’s young people becoming victims of Tory policies.”

Now whilst we readily acknowledge that cutting off funding streams to local authorities is very much part of a shameful central government strategy to dismantle public services – and which the Labour administration at Wirral Council seem more than happy to go along with – we baulked at the rewriting history that was going on here . The playing of party politics with children’s lives and taking no responsibility whatsoever for the dire state of Children’s Services on Wirral was a new low even for Pip . But then it’s so much easier for a Council leader, who is in a permanent state of denial, to lay bad management,  poor decision making , laziness, and incompetence on the part of public servants and poor governance on the part of local councillors at the door of  ‘Tory cuts’. It was all very reminiscent of the first edition of the Town Hall propaganda sheet Wirral View turning the damning Ofsted report into Children’s Services into a good news item. We had the foresight to write : “The article on the damning Ofsted Inspection report is given more spin than Rapunzel on speed and has the title ” Children’s services to get major investment” ! Which we suspect will be the distorted shape of things to come. Full article here : First Glance at Wirral View

The October 2016 announcement of this ‘investment’ to recruit additional social workers ,improve training and management and provide more experienced, long-term leadership for children’s social care amounted to £2 million . Could it be a measure of just how much trouble Children’s Services are really in is that the required investment has increased TENFOLD ? ! 

The Emperor’s New Impose

However we do have a good news item to report and that is the retirement of Birkenhead MP Frank Field.  Well, that got your attention didn’t it! Unfortunately it’s not imminent , which is a shame – as anyone who witnessed his tetchy performance discussing Brexit on today’s Sunday Politics TV programme will testify . There he was all flush-faced and flapping hands as Stella Creasy the Labour MP for Walthamstow accused Frankenfield of “driving the Boris bus” . Which we can only hope wasn’t a lewd euphemism. Stella stood her ground and wasn’t having any of Frank’s passive aggressive nonsense telling him ” You can talk over me all you like Frank” . Full coverage here :  Frank v Stella

During the clash of handbags Frankenfield maintained that the public should have ” the right to every bit of information going”. Which is a change of tune from someone who once objected on Radio Merseyside about the Wirral public making Freedom of Information requests to Wirral Council . We just wonder whether this new found fondness for openness and transparency extends to persuading Wirral Council to finally publish a much heralded report dating back to 2015 which was written by Frank’s mate , Nick Warren. Frankenfield was whining to the local press as far back as July 2015 as to why the report hadn’t yet been published.  Now everyone involved -including Field – apparently wants to bury the report. What’s that all about?

However let’s get back to the matter of who Frankenfield thinks should inherit his kingdom. Apparently Upton councillor Matthew Patrick (aka Matty Patty) is the nice young man that Field would like to succeed him as the MP for one of the safest parliamentary seats in the land. But then we suppose there isn’t a deep pool of talent to draw upon in Birkenhead is there? But what about Foulkesy? Georgie? Crabby?, Doughty? we hear you cry. All we can assume is that Frank would like someone more in keeping with the aspirational artist’s impressions of a future Birkenhead that have been knocking about all over the local press this week.

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Artist’s impression of a possible future MP for Birkenhead

Speer’ of Destiny 

Talking of these artist’s impressions …..there were a slew of pretty pictures accompanying such headlines as Stunning new images of how Birkenhead could look in future as billion-pound deal is agreed’  concerning the Wirral Council/Muse Developments Joint Venture which includes potential plans for glossy new Council offices. Somehow a cheeky Wirral Leaks reader was suddenly minded to recall the work of the Third Reich’s architect , Albert Speer. 

We’re sure they’re not making comparisons with a power-crazed, progaganda-obsessed regime but rather just reminding us that the self-aggrandizing plans for a People’s Hall/Great Hall/Hall of Glory were never realized.

 

Children’s Services : The ‘Real’ Reality Check

In the light of information we had received about Wirral Council’s Children’s Services we thought we’d do a bit of further research which included reluctantly checking out the John Brace footage of Children’s and Families Overview Committee held on January 25th .

We admit we couldn’t get past ‘Part One’  – but it was enough to introduce us to the new Director of Children Paul Boyce (forgive us but his title is giving us flashbacks to ‘The Childcatcher ‘ character in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’). Wirral Leaks readers will remember that Boyce was appointed back in October 2017 following the long overdue departure of the previous Director Julia Hassall. For further information read here :  Old Boyce Network

So what was our first impression of Boycie? Well, put it this way – as far as we’re concerned it’s never good when you can’t remember the original question asked by a councillor after Boyce has answered it .The repeated use of the terms ‘ improvement journey ‘ and ‘narrative’ didn’t help. So in answer to your question we thought the BS quotient was particularly high , even for a Director of Wirral Council .

Needless to say the councillors present appeared to be soothed and reassured . Laughably (and tragically) Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ McLaughlin thanked Boycie for his ‘realistic’ presentation. Because as we know Matron spent many years being duped by incompetent,dishonest Directors in the Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) and thus allowed vulnerable people to be abused over a prolonged period of time .

In the understatement of the year so far Boycie admitted there was ” a bit of work to do” and ” we’ve got a way to go” in Children’s Services . There was some ‘tough talk’ about not wanting social workers who don’t know what good practice looks like to work for Wirral Council anymore .

Whilst Boycie reminded councillors of the reality visits they would be undertaking to check the claims that Children’s Services was heading in the right direction on their ‘improvement journey’ and that there was ‘depth to the rhetoric’ ( see what we mean about the BS quotient?) can we ask him whether Sandra Dykstra is what ‘good social work looks like’ ?  (see below)

Misconduct

Therefore we challenge Wirral councillors to consider the ultimate Children’s Services reality check. In answer to the simple question “Why are there so many looked after children in Wirral”  this is the response they won’t get on their carefully managed visits. Simply because the quality of management in Children’s Services is – and always has been – appalling and your much lauded new agency recruits are motivated simply by money and we guarantee will be out the door when it all gets a bit messy. And believe us – it will.

Reality Check 1

Reality Check 2

Advent Farewell 21 – Blott’s Christmas Bonus

Blott

An Ordinary Joe or A Blott On The Landscape-  We still pick up the bill.

Christmas has traditionally been the time when Wirral Council likes to bury bad news. Christmas 2017 is no exception. If hadn’t been for the perspicacity of pernickety blogger John Brace picking up on the fact that the documents which were denied public scrutiny at Monday’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting were published on their website. Wirral Leaks is, of course , blocked from accessing the Wirral Council website so we are eternally grateful for John’s revealing article. Which you can read here : Golden Goodbye

As you can see the last of the Super Duper Directors Joe Blott is set for what Brace calls a £390K + ‘golden goodbye’ – although we prefer the term ‘ arse -covering bung’. Why such a significant sum for someone so insignificant we hear you ask ?  Mainly because Blott knows where all the bodies are buried and what’s more he helped bury them !

But before we explore that further let’s just ponder the abject failure of former Wirral Council CEO Graham Burgess and his ‘big idea’ of appointing 3 Super Duper Directors. Where on God’s green earth would Blott, Kevin ‘Addled’ Adderley and Clare ‘Wet’ Fish be in a position to earn six figure salaries for achieving fuck all? Sorry that’s harsh – there was that Ofsted report rating Children’s Services ‘ inadequate’ wasn’t there?

But back to Blott  – there isn’t a recent Wirral Council cover up his itsy, bitsy, dirty little fingers aren’t all over. However we’re saying his involvement in the ‘Wirralgate’ cover up is the main reason for his premium payment – at our expense. His conduct throughout has been utterly reprehensible . From lying to Patricia Thynne during her first investigation report by claiming he didn’t say ‘no comment’ when asked by a Wirralgate complainant as to why they weren’t investigating the Cllr George Davies ‘sweetheart deal’  (and you don’t think they didn’t record you saying that Joe?) to scampering round at Cllr Steve Foulkes Standards Panel hearing following the second Patricia Thynne investigation circumventing public scrutiny at every turn. Arselicking as an art form – but then it pays so well!

In his own way Joe Blott is a microcosm – and boy do we mean micro – of everything that is wrong with local government. The personification of  How To Get Ahead In Local Government . The ultimate exponent of the ‘Kiss Up Kick Down’ management style that reaps rich rewards. The type to butter you up and then go behind your back.

We just wonder where next for the wunderkind and whether , as previously reported, he’ll end up topping up his pension pot by fulfilling his ambition to go into business with totally bona fide Labour councillor Paul ‘ Dance Away’  Doughty  Blott’s Pension Pot

At least those business cards wouldn’t go to waste , eh Joe?

 

Reputation Protection

Reputation ProtectionReputation ProtectionReputation ProtectionReputation Protection

As we’ve previously reported a Serious Case Review (SCR) concerned with the Rajenthiram brothers Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case was due to be published in July of this year. It is now November and we now learn that that the SCR will not now be published.

SCRs should be carried out by the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) for every case where abuse/neglect is known or suspected and either ; a child has died or; a child has been seriously harmed and there are concerns about how organisations or professionals worked together to protect the child. Since 2010 there has been a requirement to publish SCRs in full . Accordingly Wirral’s LSCB website states:

Findings and recommendations from the Serious Case Review or SCR , will be published in full in a report , which will be publicly available on this website . The purpose of the SCR will be to learn from what happened in individual cases so that future tragedies can be prevented. SCR-Wirral

Whilst the National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) website says this about publishing SCRs:

The final SCR report, and the LSCBs response to the findings, must be published on the LSCB website for a minimum of 12 months and should be available on request. This is important for sharing lessons learnt and good practice in writing and publishing SCRs.

SCR reports should be written in such a way that publication will not be likely to harm the welfare of any children or vulnerable adults involved in the case.

The final report should:

  • provide a sound analysis of what happened in the case, and why, and what needs to happen in order to reduce the risk of recurrence
  • be written in plain English and in a way that can be easily understood by both professionals and the public and
  • be suitable for publication without needing to be amended or redacted.

The LSCB should send a copy of the final SCR to the National Panel of Independent Experts at least one week before publication. NSPCC

However Dr Maggie Atkinson , chair of Wirral’s LSCB said this week of the Rajenthiram case :

“This Serious Case Review examines – in great detail – the circumstances surrounding the sexual abuse of a child. It was my view, as chair of the safeguarding board and entirely independent of the council and all public agencies involved, that there was no way to publish the report which did not lead to a high risk of this child being identified.I could not countenance that risk. It would be morally wrong, and absolutely illegal, to risk identifying the victim of a sexual crime.My opinion was ratified by legal advice from barristers and my assessment on this matter was specifically sent to, and agreed by the Department for Education. I do agree that it is important the lessons which were learnt as a result of this tragic case are in the public domain and, to ensure they are, I had already requested that a report explaining the recommendations coming from the review – alongside the work which has been done since to address them – was published. This report will be published in the coming weeks.”

Whilst we agree that protecting the anonymity of victims is paramount we can’t help wondering who Dr Atkinson and the LSCB are actually protecting here. Oh and don’t come the ‘morally wrong’ and ‘absolutely illegal’ with us – this is Wirral Council we’re talking about and it’s never stopped them before – unless of course it suits them.

It should be remembered that one of the (many ) criticisms previously levelled at Wirral’s LSCB  by Ofsted in their damning  report ,which led to a rating of local Children’s Services to be rated ‘inadequate’, was that it was not sufficiently ‘independent’ from Wirral Council and other agencies involved in child protection.   What’s more isn’t talk of protecting victims of CSE a bit like closing the cornershop door after perpetrators have been convicted? Where was the protection from organisations and professionals when victims of CSE needed it ? That ,of course, should be the main theme of this secret SCR and based on what’s gone before who can blame us for thinking that this lurch to secrecy is more about protecting the reputations of the powerful than protecting the anonymity of the powerless?

 

Half the Story and Double the Average

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In a classic case of getting your retaliation in first and prior to tonight’s Wirral Council meeting Cllr Bernie ‘ The Bruiser’ Mooney has been all over the press bemoaning the fact that children’s services is at ‘breaking point’. Needless to say it’s all the Tories fault.

And whilst indeed there are some government austerity measures which are nothing short of heinous Mooney needs to get real and tell us the full story.  Her version of the ‘breaking point’ story slipped out yesterday on a sleepy Sunday afternoon on the Wirral Globe website.

Breaking Point (Wirral Globe)

The story was updated today with comments from Ian Lewis the leader of Wirral Council’s Tory group. Needless to say Liverpool Echo gave the Bernie’s bleatings the full front page splash – though rather spoiled Bernie’s carefully prepared narrative by mentioning that damning Ofsted report and how the authority failed to halt a campaign of child sexual exploitation by the Rajenthiram brothers which are two things that Wirral Council’s ruling administration can’t pin on the Tories.

Apparently Bernie wants £25 million of extra funding from Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond to meet “increased demand for our services”. Good luck with that one !

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A spokesperson for the Chancellor said : ‘the cheque’s in the post ‘

The most shocking aspect of  Mooney’s moans was the revelation that the number of Wirral children is 120 per 10,000 of the child population . This is DOUBLE the national average ! DOUBLE!!

Bernie struggles to look around for a plausible reason for this and comes up with national figures concerned with cuts in early intervention and family support services. There is no mention of the specific impact on local services and more significantly no mention of one of Frank Field’s pet projects – the discredited Troubled Families Programme (TFP) into which millions have been poured down the drain.  As one of our valued contributors ‘ The Professor’ pointed out earlier this year Wirral Council taxpayers should bear in mind that our council are taking part in the useless,discredited TFP phase 2 at a minimum cost to us of £6 million to 2020.

The Miracle Workers

So enough already of this Bernie blather , surely she now knows what we’ve known for a long time – that children’s services locally are indeed at ‘breaking point’ and it’s not just about funding it’s also about Wirral Council’s toxic culture of denial which has built up over a number of years and under various administrations.

We think that Mooney finally realises the extent of the problem she’s inherited with children’s services and knows there are more bad news stories on the way . So what better way of keeping the Ofsted ‘improvement journey’ show on the road by playing the overplayed austerity card and asking the people of Wirral to docilely accept half a story ?