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?

 

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Half the Story and Double the Average

Bernie 004.JPG

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 !

Bernie 007.JPG

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 ?

 

 

Wirral Council and the Maximum Wage

Image result for maximum wage

It was whilst we were researching our piece on the appointment of Paul Boyce, Wirral Council’s new Director of Children’s Services , that we came across an interesting concept that cash-strapped Wirral Council would do well to heed.

Old Boyce Network

Of course you can read the Cllr Bernie Mooney approved version of the appointment in the following local media outlets :

Approved Version 016

You may remember that we mentioned that following an Ofsted inspection in 2010, which identified children’s services at Cheshire West & Chester ( CWaC) to be ‘inadequate’ , a certain Gerald Meehan was one of the people brought in to oversee the Ofsted improvement plan. Indeed between  2010-15 Mr Meehan was somehow working at both Halton Council as head of the children and enterprise and as strategic director of children’s services at CWaC . According to The Taxpayers’ Alliance lobby group in 2015, Mr Meehan was on £168,700.

Meehan then replaced departing CWaC  CEO  Steve Robinson in 2015 . Curiously Meehan was appointed on £30,000 less than his predecessor with a salary of £150,000. According to a report about the appointment in the Chester Chronicle

Mr Meehan will earn £150,000 compared with Mr Robinson’s £180,000 wage as it is argued the task is less onerous compared with that of Mr Robinson who helped set up CWaC from scratch in 2008 before it became a fully fledged authority in 2009.The huge restructuring of council services that followed saw thousands of posts made redundant so it is also claimed Mr Meehan will be in charge of a smaller organisation.

The full report can be read here

Meanwhile that same year neighbouring Wirral Council ,who as we know operate in a parallel universe ,actually INCREASED the CEO salary by £40,000 to £175,000 following the departure of slash and burn CEO Graham Burgess. Apparently the justification for the increase was that Wirral Council wanted to ‘attract the best’.  We suppose it all rather depends on how you define ‘the best’ – certainly best for the ruling Labour administration – but for the people of Wirral ? Is it any wonder that current CEO ‘ Stressed’ Eric Robinson has a lower profile than Lord Lucan?

And so with Wirral Council continuing to slough off  staff and services like a snake shedding its skin isn’t time we asked whether the CEO and senior officer remuneration should be exponentially lowered ? Will we look back in years to come and think that rewarding public servants to facilitate a free for all for free enterprise was a shameful period for public services. It’s not only about how central government (of all political hues) has encouraged outsourcing and asset stripping it’s also about how public servants in local government getting paid very well for placing public assets into private hands.  So whilst there are rich pickings at the top of the tree it seems that everyone else in public service are at the bottom waiting for windfall in the form of their P45.

 

 

A Reality Check For Children’s Services

Brazil September.jpg

As you can see from the above report in the latest edition of Private Eye , children’s services troubleshooting troubadour and serial cheque collector Eleanor Brazil has now rocked up in Croydon.

Of course we remember Ms Brazil as the woman who bailed out of Wirral earlier in the year ,raising her hands in the air , like she just don’t care and claiming to be ‘shocked and appalled’ by the ‘shoddy’ treatment of  Julia Hassall ,Wirral Council’s chosen scapegoat for a series of failures in Children’s Services. Unfortunately Ms Brazil failed to enlighten us further on what she meant by ‘significant corporate issues’ which she felt were hindering progress on the ‘improvement journey’  (groan).

Portrait of A Gobshite

So we’ll fill in the blanks – Children’s Services still leave a lot to be desired and those controlling the show won’t face up to reality. This is evidenced by a couple of  council meetings held this week . Firstly at the Audit & Management Risk Committee Wirral Council ‘s external auditors Grant Thornton presented their annual findings and noted the risk to Wirral Council in the Executive Summary of the report.

In September 2016 the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and
Skills (Ofsted) issued its report on the inspection of the Council’s services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers. The overall judgement was that children’s services were rated as inadequate. The inspection found widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection.
We recognise that the Council has made progress to improve Children’s services and the Improvement plan actions are designed to achieve the required service
improvements. However, recent Ofsted monitoring visits confirm that progress in
some areas has not yet met expectations and the Council acknowledge that it will take some time to implement all the actions that should deliver the required service improvement.

Grant Thornton Audit Findings

Subsequently there were gallant attempts from new Director of Children’s Services, Deborah Gornik, and her Deputy, Simone White , to steady the sinking ship at last night’s Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Whilst they hinted that Ofsted may be pleased with progress in some areas it is clear there are still some choppy waters to navigate on the ‘improvement journey’. Incidentally, we understand that Ms White is a poacher turned gamekeeper turned poacher as a former employee of both Wirral Council and Ofsted and now second in command back at Wirral Council.

But Deborah and Simone should fear not ! – help is at hand as councillors have agreed to undertake a series of ‘Reality Check’ visits to enable them to engage directly with frontline staff in Children’s Services. Hurrah !  – it’s just a shame the arrangement isn’t reciprocal and frontline staff  get to ‘reality check’ councillors and find out whether their failure to properly scrutinize Children’s Services, being forever in denial, turning a visually impaired eye to problems and being more concerned about reputation management than the safeguarding of children contributed to frontline staff having OFSTED inspectors crawling all over them. Could this be the ‘significant corporate issues’ to which Ms Brazil referred to?

Talking of a reality check we note that we’re still awaiting the publication of the Serious Case Review report concerned with the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case that we commented on earlier this year . As we reported in our  Basket Case Review article :

I suppose we have to wait for the publication of the Serious Case Review in the summer before we can FULLY judge the failings of Wirral Council and other statutory agencies involved in the appalling Rajenthiram brother’s depraved exploitation of our most vulnerable.

A quick look out of the window will tells us that summer has long since passed – so where are the findings of the Serious Case Review ? However we do note there was an exempt item at last night’s Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee – could the Serious Case Review report have been discussed then? Or is that a reality check too far for now?

 

 

 

 

You Can’t Go Wrong

You can't go wrong 010

Wirral Globe followed up the announcement of the resignation of  Julia Hassall -Wirral Council’s Director of Children’s Services –  by publishing a leaked email which was sent to Wirral’s teachers.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15287600.Leaked_email_reveals_no_regrets_for_Wirral_Council_s_departing_child_safeguarding_chief/

Inevitably it was also leaked to us (and is published in full below) . Even more inevitably we feel the need to deconstruct Julia’s touching message for Wirral Leaks readers.

We’ve also received further leaks that suggest that morale in Children’s Services is at an all time low. As we’ve said before this is THE most difficult work and the biggest responsibility any council worker could ever have. The personal safety and future life chances of other people’s children are entirely dependent on them. So why do Wirral Council ask staff to work in the most toxic and dysfunctional environment you could ever imagine?

Might we suggest that what doesn’t help the situation is receiving the following  leak: ‘Keep an eye on newly appointed senior manager Simone White. She was a lack lustre team manager at Wirral Council children’s services for many years until joining OFSTED as a senior inspector.  Conflict of interest ??’

Or just another opportunist on the local government gravy train. Somewhat like dear Julia herself. In her farewell letter she inevitably tells us about the ‘improvement journey’ . Presumably this journey involved an improvement to her bank balance , as no doubt she will be another recipient of a tidy severance package as yet another reward for failure paid for by us.

On Wirral it seems ‘you can’t go wrong’ even when you go wrong !- but only if you’re a senior manager and a) you know too much and b) you’re prepared to take the fall

No wonder Julia ‘No ‘ Hassall tells us she’s ‘fine’ . Because that’s all that matters. As long as Julia’s ‘fine’ what does it matter about working class kids?

We also have to tell you that the news of her resignation doesn’t come as a ‘shock’ .  A senior Wirral Council manager not getting sacked and not receiving a big fat cheque – now that would really be a shock!

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to make sure you are aware that I have sadly decided to resign from the council. 
I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved together, and I am grateful to you all for your dedication and hard work.
It has been challenging, demanding work and I know we have made progress, particularly since September last year as part of the improvement journey. We are clearly on the road to delivering the improvements which are required and this has been recognised by colleagues at Ofsted and the DfE.
I feel that now the new senior team is in place and there is a clear vision for the future that now is the right time for me to seek new challenges elsewhere. As you know I have been dedicated to improving outcomes for Wirral’s children, young people and families and I know you will continue this work.
To ensure stability, Deborah Gornik will be recommended to Council this week to assume the role of DCS on an interim basis, in advance of a recruitment process to arrange a permanent replacement for me.
I appreciate this news will have come as a shock to you. I want to assure you that I am fine, and I will continue to work in Hamilton Building this week to ensure a proper handover.
I am confident that the changes you are making will be the right ones to secure the best outcomes for children now and in the future.
Regards
Julia

Child Sexual Exploitation – No Alarms and No Surprises, Please.

No Alarms

An horrific Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case in Birkenhead finally hits the headlines. The case involves lengthy jail sentences for two Sri Lankan brothers found guilty of the systematic  rape and abuse of girls aged 14 and 15. The full story can be found here :

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15287059.Brothers_jailed_for_40_years_for_child_sexual_exploitation_of_vulnerable_young_girls_in_Wirral/

Now, as we know, the culpability for these vile acts lies with the perpetrators. However we have to ask ,once again, where were the various agencies responsible for safeguarding vulnerable children ?

The fact that Cabinet lead for Children’s Services Cllr Tony Smith has been relieved of his position ( nobody gets ‘sacked’ at Wirral Council) and Julia Hassall – Head of Children’s Services has resigned, suggests that as far as Wirral Council are concerned there are questions to be answered (aren’t there always?)

But do you know what makes us want to bite our knuckles in sheer frustration and anger is the way that rampant reputation management rules all at Wirral Council!

Wirral Council knew (as did we) that there was every likelihood that reporting restrictions would be lifted on this case today. So what is their first priority? –  that’s right get the Liverpool Echo to run a story on Sunday afternoon that council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies had used his ‘strong leader powers’ to suddenly oust Cllr Tony Smith from his Cabinet. So Cllr Smith takes one for the team and is the fall guy ,the patsy for this latest horrorshow. This was followed today with the long overdue resignation of Head of Children’s Services, Julia Hassall.

Of course this all goes back to the publication of a damning Ofsted report last September which had us apoplectic here at Leaky Towers . With our usual prescience we wrote at the time  –  ‘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.’

You may also recall that Hassall claimed there were ‘no surprises’ in the Ofsted report.

What? – did you think Ofsted wouldn’t notice or if they did you could dupe Wirral councillors that everything was hunky dory – for as we know that’s what council officers have been doing for years.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/the-big-lie/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/the-pain-of-failure/

We have expressed the view that the Council’s No. 1 priority is the protection of vulnerable people (and particularly children).  They have failed us and more importantly, the vulnerable, time and time again.

This is, among other failures, a monumental failure of scrutiny (another thing we’ve been banging on about for years) .

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/told-you-so/

We can recall the denial when opposition councillors tried to ask questions about CSE on Wirral and being soothingly reassured by Wirral Council’s Safeguarding Lead ‘ Simpering’ Simon Garner that they need not worry themselves as they’d got it covered. We can also recall the ‘faux outrage’ from councillors whenever comparisons to CSE in Rochdale or Rotherham were mentioned. Consequently the approach from council officers is not to  alarm the councillors as they might get a bit upset that there are sexually exploitative people out there!

We assert  that the denial of the problem by agencies responsible for safeguarding is a major contributor to the continuation and prevalence of CSE. Perhaps Wirral’s Safeguarding Board would do well to check out  ‘Three Girls’ a 3 part series running this week Tuesday-Thursday on BBC1 at 9pm which covers the Rochdale CSE scandal. They might actually learn something.

Finally  we’d like to go back to our original ‘ The Big Lie’ post where we called for the resignation of 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

Two out of six ain’t bad  (although we should have added Hassall’s manager Clare Fish into the roll call of shame) – but it’s not enough.

The vulnerable people of Wirral deserve better. Indeed, we all do.

SPECIAL REPORT : Where Your Money Goes

where-your-money-goes

It must be this time of year, as we’ve been musing on money matters (or rather lack thereof). Clearly Wirral Council have been doing the same as they gear up to set their forthcoming budget and pursue a number of punitive charging regimes to offset central government funding cuts.

Yeah,yeah, yeah – we get it when they drone on about how badly they’ve been done to by central government and they have to make tough choices and priorities. But that’s what we take issue with Wirral Council here at Leaky Towers – it’s the choices that they make which indicate to us that their priorities are all wrong. Consequently they lose all moral authority when they start bleating about lack of finances.

So let’s take a quick look at where that money comes from and where it goes :

As we all know Wirral Council’s income stream is increasingly going to be us via Council Tax and any supplementary fund raising scams they can come up with.We look forward to their budget proposals now that they’ve been given the go ahead by central government to put up Council Tax by 3% to pay for the rising costs of social care. Rather frighteningly they also have the the opportunity to raise even more money via this route.Surrey County Council are looking at a total Council Tax rise of 15% but to do so they would have to put it to the local vote. We suggest that this is not something that the ruling group at Wirral Council wouldn’t risk but nothing ,nothing would surprise us about this shower of chancers.

David Hodge, Leader of Surrey County Council, announces proposal to seek a council tax rise of 15%

So , down to business –  we’ve previously discussed the charming operatives from Kingdom Secrurity and their cash for trash extortion agency for the Council. As anyone who has seen a Kingdom Security in action – they go after vulnerable people who don’t have the means to  retaliate . Much like the people they get their contract off.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/cash-for-trash/

It’s not  about caring for the environment. Neither are other money-making scams devised by an increasingly desperate council. Similarly their car park charging proposals have absolutely nothing to do with maintaining the roads or traffic measures. It’s all about the moolah. Your moolah! – so cash cows out there prepare your teats for action as they’re going to be bled dry.

Park and Get Taken For A Ride

We’ve already reported the squandering of £80,000 on the appointment of an Investor Development Manager – rumoured to be a shoo-in for current leading Wirral Council puppet master Martin Liptrot.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/the-power-abusers/

Which again begs the question as to why there isn’t someone on a humongous salary with the requisite skills at Wirral Council – because well ,apparently there just isn’t ! Let’s not even mention what the likes of David Armstrong, Clare Fish and Joe Blott  get paid  – if you throw in Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson that’s half a million big ones per annum between them.

Never mind the recent ridiculous ‘Are Wirral’s 66 councillors Value For Money?’ exercise conducted by themselves and to which the unsurprising answer was a resounding YES! – how about we have a VFM consultation on the above gang of four/flaw? – especially when we consider the damning Ofsted report into Children’s Services.

This has necessitated the appointment of troubleshooter Eleanor Brazil and former Children’s Commissioner for England Professor Maggie Atkinson as the new ‘independent’ chairwoman of Wirral Safeguarding Children’s Board. The appointment of such big hitters suggests us to that Children’s Services is in an even bigger mess than the Ofsted report indicated. Not that we’ll ever know because the Children’s Services Improvement Board meets behind closed doors. Lessons have obviously been learned from the last Improvement Board – no openness, no transparency, no public accountability suits the powers that be. We’re just asked to stump up the bill.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15032232.Government_troubleshooter_who_dealt_with_aftermath_of_Baby_P_scandal_to_lead_rescue_of_Wirral_children_s_services/

These consultants seem to be mainly tasked with finding out why Wirral Council can’t recruit and retain staff in Children’s Services. We can tell them free of charge : because it’s rammed with poor calibre middle managers who bully their staff on the instructions of passive/aggressive senior managers who earn a nice wedge spouting platitudes and duping councillors.Plus the fact that who in their right mind would want to do Child Protection work in Birkenhead. Think about that for a moment  – beyond grim.

Another drain on resources that we never to get to hear about are the court cases that Wirral Council get ensnared in because they simply don’t know the difference between right and wrong….but they’ve got plenty of well paid people particularly in the HR and Law Departments who are prepared to blur the lines between the two in return for a big fat salary. We understand that there’s a court case coming up at the end of this month that could prove to be the defining moment of how Wirral Council chooses to ‘move forward’.

We’ll keep you posted.

Peer Review

seriousversushappyclappywirralview

Our media correspondent Phil Column asks : “That dual colour masthead ….wonder where Wirral View got that idea from? “

We all know that central government are constantly dismantling opportunities for external scrutiny of our public institutions and have lately been encouraging the use of peer reviews.

Peer reviews are basically where get your mates in to give you the thumbs up to carry on as hypernormal. Astonishingly we understand that our very own ‘strong leader’ Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies goes round the country performing this task and give other local authorities the benefit of his ineptitude.

So we thought we’d redress the balance and undertake a peer review by an actual peer of the realm. Therefore as promised His Lordship will be giving a full review of the online edition of Wirral View .  But remember folks ” Your publication” is  NOT a newspaper  !. Power Boy Pip says : “even though this is printed on recycled news-sheet this publication is not a newspaper”. So that’s all right then, thanks for clearing that up for us!.

All we can say on the matter is that if it walks like a duck , talks like a duck – it’s a f*cking duck . We’re surprised it doesn’t come with a free sachet of Hoisin sauce.

The first thing we noted (as did many of our readers) was that advertising was placed solely by Thornton  Hall Hotel. Clearly that unfortunate incident involving Foulkesy’s stepson assaulting hotel staff by pulling hair , wielding a fork and doing the “do you know who my mum is?” routine must has been forgiven. But then we suppose if you want the dubious prestige of hosting the annual Mayor’s Ball it’s always best to keep in with the hosts.  Which brings us to an interesting point. Isn’t there an incentive for those businesses who have contracts or who may be seeking contracts with Wirral Council to place adverts in Wirral View?. The opportunities for conflicts of interest , coercion and nepotism are a distinct possibility and based on how things work on Wirral , a near certainty. Although having said that we’re sure that Wirral Council’s contracting arrangements are beyond reproach – although those left out of the recent tendering exercise for Wirral’ Council’s taxi services may want to disagree!.

The rest of the publication is all a bit ‘meh’ tbh . It certainly doesn’t appear to be filling anyone’s ” information deficit” (whatever that is) unless of course you’ve always wanted to know how to make Spicy Tomato & Lentil Soup . We counted no less than 10 articles that reference food ,glorious,food . All very lowest common denominator stuff – we blame The Great British Bake Off . However as we’ve already commented the most interesting aspect is the Ofsted inspection report spin-a-rama and the no doubt Martin Liptrot – scripted  leader’s column (insert own joke!) .

Power Boy Pip /Liptrotsky are keen to emphasise that Wirral View won’t carry breaking news , football results (!) or important information you need to know immediately and that Statutory Notices will still be placed in the local weekly papers.

The local weekly papers ,by which they obviously mean the Wirral Globe  – as we all know they’ve got Wirral News /Liverpool Echo neatly boxed off on the newsfront –  will still be able to hold the council and its partners to account when they get things wrong (heaven forbid!).

Of course the Wirral Globe will only be able to  hold local organisations to account as long as it is not undermined and it would appear to us that Wirral View is an attempt to do exactly that . We think the true motivation behind the publication of this newspaper (for that’s what it is) was let slip by  Labour councillor Ron Abbey at last week’s Extraordinary Council meeting where he said the Wirral Globe  were ” too busy criticising this Council” and that they don’t send out “the right message”.

The “right message” we presume being the one personally approved by Pip’s ‘policy advisor’ Mr Liptrot and only then is it fit to grace the pages of Wirral View.

And finally can we say this :  these are desperate times when we have to rely on the local press to hold our local institutions to account. Which brings us right back to where we started –  we are reliant on the press because there is a lack of external scrutiny of our public institutions and as we have witnessed time and time again it is to the detriment of public accountability, the public interest and the public purse.

 

First Glance at Wirral View

With very little fanfare and much controversy we’d like to warn our readers that the first edition of Wirral View will be dropping through their letterboxes any time now.The online edition is posted above. However we’ll be waiting for the paper edition before we deliver our full Wirral View review.

And yes it would appear that Wirral Council have finally decided on a title – it is definitely Wirral View . From what we can see it is very much as we all predicted with news of a River Mersey firework display providing the the bread and circuses front page (the bread bit being the foodbank news on page 26).

Wirral Council’s alleged No.1 priority is relegated to page three. 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.

We have to say Wirral View appears to be very slick and like an oil spill will soon be everywhere and unwanted. There are shiny ,happy people on every page.  A smile is obviously compulsory. In fact – even the bloody pumpkins on page 2 are smiling. The only person not smiling is the unemployed person in her beautifully appointed home on page 28 – although she looks more as though she’s online shopping at Waitrose and she’s disappointed they’re all out of quinoa.

However only time will tell whether , in the words of Martin Liptrot , sorry Councillor leader Phil ” Power Boy Pip”  Davies’ that  – “Hopefully , Wirral View will become a welcome guest in your homes” or it will be Exhibit A in an expensive legal dispute. All we do know for now is that we’re breathless with anticipation for the print edition to arrive as after we’ve given it the once over we can line our cat’s litter tray with the free newspaper that we all somehow pay for!……

 

A Very Troubled Council

 

cllr-tony-smith

Cllr Tony ‘Trouble’  Smith

We understand that at last night’s Extraordinary Meeting of Wirral Council that there were several calls for various heads to roll in the aftermath of the Ofsted Inspection Report. Prominent among them being Cllr Tony Smith the Labour Cabinet lead for Children’s Services.

It didn’t happen of course due to both a lack of  opposition votes and also seemingly a lack of shame.  

It seems that much of the criticism levelled at Cllr Tony Smith is that with his soothing,lilting,lovely Irish brogue he has reassured councillors that everything  was fine ,to be sure , so it is, when talking about how well the council was doing when it came to safeguarding vulnerable children. 

But it clearly wasn’t doing well at all, at all – and he and others knew it!.

And so this now turns out to be a  further manifestation of what Ofsted politely call  “a culture of over-optimism” and what we identified almost exactly 3 years ago as ‘The Pollyanna Principle’ with its prime proponent being Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies :

POWER BOY PIP & THE POLLYANNA PRINCIPLE *

How timely then that it has been brought to our attention that  Cllr Tony Smith has a history of making statements that are not merely “over -optimistic”  but considering his position – misleading,manipulative and irresponsible.

Our regular learned contributor ‘The Professor’ informs us that an official (leaked) report has concluded that the Troubled Family Programme delivered zero improvements in families nationally and reminds us :

Last year I reported on the false claims by the Council of a ‘huge success’ in ‘turning around’ local families from hell in the Troubled Families Programme. It turned out those claims were false. Now we learn that a leaked, independent government sponsored report by Ecorys confirms and extends these conclusions nationally. But let’s remind ourselves of the Wirral Council claims first. Cllr. Tony Smith declared in March 2015 at the TFP celebrations, that

                            ‘we have seen a hugely successful outcome…’

 What actually happened? Well initially 74% of our families had workless adults. At project end just 2.6% had gained an adult with a job, or 24 in total.  The local project processed 910 families compared with 118,000 nationally. The national cost of the TFP phase 1 was ~£615 million so average cost per family was £5.2K. Our cost share would be £4.72 million. We can see that each job gained cost us ~£197,000. Is that good value? However in addition it was claimed that 77% of the Wirral troubled families had met the ‘crime / ASB / education’ target. Surely a big reduction in crime or antisocial behaviour is worth something? Except that 93.5% of adults and 89.6% of children had not been involved in ASB at project entry!  84 % of minors had not been involved in offences! Only 1.2% of the children had an ASBO or ABC!. It turns out that the 77% number is phoney and, to the extent it measures anything, that is a modest reduction in school absences, not criminality.

The Professor’s full report to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee : Troubled Families Inquiry 2016 can be read here : https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxrkIjRDgrB-ODJLNjYyY2trNVQwZThoMkxXVm1GNW5pVjBJ

Not only are we troubled that last year this was presented as a good news story ‘The Professor’ also suggests our local cost share of TFP phase 2 could be ~£7 million with NO  prospect of any benefits delivery at all except more populist political hate spin on the poorest (mainly ill) ‘families from hell’.
But of course you won’t be reading about any of this in Wirral Council’s forthcoming publication Wirral Today nor sadly it would seem about the resignation of Cllr Tony Smith……..