…how about Wirral Council making their New Year’s resolution to be “open and transparent” in 2016 !
After his no doubt desperately longed for extended festive break Wirral Council CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson returned to what passes for reality at Wallasey Town Hall today.
As an aside we’d like to ask , as a matter of public interest , as to whether he’s moved any closer to Wirral like he said he would when he was first appointed. I think we know the answer to that one!.No FOI request required!
However ,we digress, as we know that awaiting Stressed Eric in his , no doubt bulging inbox , was the latest missive from our correspondent Dr.Robert in his quest to get to the bottom of the Kevin “Addled” Adderley pay -off saga (see below)
Before Christmas Stressed Eric had tangled himself up in knots trying to justify this egregious payment and told Dr.Robert about his “emerging thoughts” on the matter.
Well we can only hope that during his midwinter sojourn those thoughts have, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis , now fully formed into a coherent and lucid response.
Dear Mr Robinson re – AN OPEN LETTER TO – Cllr Phil Davies, Eric Robinson, Surjit Tour, Chris Hyams, Wirral Council Cabinet Members, all Wirral Councillors.
Further to my 2 ‘interim’ responses to your reply to my Open Letter, I now send my fully considered response to your reply. I was hoping that it could be brief, and succinct, however you have left me little alternative regarding brevity.
One fundamental observation I would like to make relates to the basis for your decision regarding the agreement of VS and the total payment of £250,000 – can you clarify when an ’emerging’ thought actually becomes a thought? It would appear to me that this fact is crucial to the validity of almost everything you have said, and the context to which it applies. If it is not yet a complete ‘thought’ that can be applied to a prevailing set of circumstances, there is no basis for situational considerations, restructure, future changes, and/or effective planning and management?.
It may be simpler to deal with your reply paragraph by paragraph (1-9), and pick up any additions at the end of my response.
- In view of issues I have raised previously with you, you have advised me that other senior officers would reply on your behalf. Mark Smith refused to correspond with me regarding New Brighton. I am still awaiting an update regarding his, yours and Surjit Tour’s conduct and disciplinary actions being taken, in view of zero responses from them, on your behalf. However, at least in this instance I agree that it is appropriate for you to respond to me. As the individual in question, the apparently newly-created ‘Group’ directorship in question, and the Council Leader, Asif Hamid & Paula Basnett (and Kevin Adderley & Cllr Phil Davies) all hold/held directorships within the Group viz. Egerton House Community Interest Company/Wirral Chamber of Commerce (and other local and regional bodies) then it would fall to you to answer on behalf of the Councillors and the Council. I would also assume that due to the hierarchy at Wirral Council that you will have signed off the departure package for Mr Adderley, monitored for legislative and procedural compliance by Mr Surjit Tour?
- There were neither inaccuracies, nor misunderstandings in my email; only requests for clarification.
- With regard to the proposed ‘new’ operating structure, of which there is absolutely no evidence to date. I had previously read your report to the Employment and Appointments Committee, which was essentially the reason for my Open Letter. It was entirely unconvincing and insubstantial, as a justification for the premise upon which the publicly perceived ‘gift’ of £250,000 of Wirral’s public money could be reasonably argued in such times of financial restraint. ‘Weasel words’ abound in the report, as they do in your reply to me, which is troublingly vague when such significant amounts of money are concerned. In my view, it was at this point that you could have exerted your self-proclaimed talent as a ‘whole system leader’, and put a stop to this latest in an apparently unjustified succession of excessive payouts to departing senior officers.
- Your reference to the report and Committee minutes, which are available on the Council website is not an issue. However, given the state of the new Council website and its problematic navigation, ‘openly available’, I would suggest, is stretching a point.
With regard to your last sentence in paragraph 4, regarding the report being initially exempt because “the request for voluntary severance was capable of being refused”, this argument can logically be applied to every request for VS, where Committee approval is required, so what made this case different if Mr Adderley was being treated “in the same manner as over 300 employees who have left the Council through voluntary severance over the past 18 months” (para 7) but warranted consideration as an exempt item? Were the 300 other employees’ requests treated as exempt items and considered ‘in camera’ as they could potentially have been refused?
- As a result of applying content analysis to your reply, there appears to be an issue of both chronology, and ’cause and effect’ relationships and dependencies. If one utilises critical path analysis (CPA) and applies it to the events described in Para 4, and others, even more questions emerge.
If we take Para 4 as a whole, you state that Mr Adderley had “independently decided to request voluntary severance” (not Early Voluntary Retirement which implies a need for pension to support one after leaving employment), in order to pursue other interests. The departure of Mr Adderley, given his independent decision-making, I would suggest, qualifies as a ‘fully emerged and fully-formed thought’, in that it has progressed through the embryonic, emerging thought stage, and had been developed completely (ie progressed from an ’embryonic’, emerging thought, through to achieving a final considered outcome, and the process by which it would be achieved), ie an achievable plan. It has a coherent ‘action plan’ (leave current WBC employment), an interim transitional stage (be available for whatever other interests demand, unencumbered by current employment constraints) and a ‘final outcome’ (freedom to pursue other interests), all of which can exist entirely independently of Wirral Council.
At this stage, Voluntary Severance should neither have been requested, considered, nor agreed, but resignation could, and should, have been accepted.
You claim that VS was agreed as a result of your ’emerging thoughts’. There appears to be no evidence of emerging, or any other kind of thoughts to date, regarding a coherent, restructured and redesigned management, operational and/or delivery model, which would exclude any Strategic Director (or any other) post. The most recent staff structure to be found has your predecessor, Graham Burgess’ name on it, and appears to reflect fully emerged thoughts. That, in itself, would indicate zero progress striving for fully emerged thoughts after about 10 months in post as Chief Executive. The Chief Officer & Senior staff management structure on Wirral Council’s own website only displays vacant and currently occupied posts (plus salaries payable) with no deletions, so it would appear that little or no progress has been made.
In that context, I would question the arising of any legal implications, and also query the ‘legitimacy’ and the basis of the ‘council’s interest’, as the evidence you provided in your report would not appear to support the assertion that “… in Mr Adderley’s case, a clear redundancy situation had already arisen….”. Therefore, there would be no requirement to comply with “the Regulations”, but advice of notice of resignation could be accepted.
There is also an evident consideration regarding the new post that Mr Adderley has moved to after his departure from the Council. This is a new post, not in the ‘public sector’, but in an organisation which enjoys considerable funding from the public purse. This post has not existed before according to the Chamber’s/Egerton House staffing web pages or any archive. I am unable to find any public recruitment details, such as advertisements promoting the opportunity to apply for this post, no advance publicity, nor media exposure. As the only Directors of Egerton House Community Interest Company listed are Paula Basnett & Asif Hamid, is it reasonable to assume that they comprised the interview panel? For clarity can you advise (as a partner organisation, and funder) how many applications were received, who shortlisted from applications, who was shortlisted for interview, and what was the recruitment timetable? A job description and person specification, and any advert would also help my understanding.
It would seem rather strange, for such a high profile post to be newly established and filled, with no apparent surrounding spin and media hysteria. Given the incessant trumpeting by Paula Basnett regarding the empire-building aspirations of the Chamber of Commerce, and the drive towards the ‘partner-privatisation of Wirral’, maybe a reputation management post may have been of greater necessity?
It must surely be extremely important to the Council (and other custodians and distributors of public funds) that appropriate use of scarce public money is open, transparent and accountable. What appears to the lay-person to be an unconventional recruitment process, could be allayed by a public statement being made, (in the press possibly?), from the parties involved? Such an obvious act would appear to be a ‘transparent’ gesture by an organisation in receipt of substantial public funds. The funders would draw comfort, protect their reputations, and reinforce the concept of public accountability which flows from being monitored, evaluated and regularly reviewed organisations. These actions are usually undertaken through regular returns, and internal and external audits by the various funding agencies. The issue regarding Wirral Chamber recruitment has been raised in the media previously, therefore it would appear that the Chamber does not seem to operate within accepted and usually strictly monitored parameters related to equal opportunities recruitment, although in receipt of substantial swathes of public money, and which appears to attract little attention from its funders?
(It must be noted that Wirral Chamber/Egerton House benefits from significant financial and in-kind support from Wirral Council).
- Regarding the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 2013 (“the Regulations”). Given that ’emerging thoughts’ (as opposed to formally revised, debated, agreed and published staff structures) appear to be the basis upon which Mr Adderley’s departure was considered to attract ‘redundancy’ considerations, then logically one could argue that every single job where an employee hands in their notice to terminate employment (to pursue other interests, or for other reasons), all must be considered in that way viewed as a potentially redundant post, and VS agreed during consideration of an alternative delivery model? That would appear to be an expensive precedent to set, which as you state, is important when spending public money.
...”the Regulations” with which I am familiar, state as you say that ‘the member of the Pension Scheme is automatically entitled to access “unreduced accrued pension benefits”. You also say that “and must take immediate payment”‘ – I have read Section 30 and do not necessarily agree on a number of points, with your interpretation, in these circumstances.
‘Accrued’ is a past participle, and the definition is ‘(of sums of money or benefits) be received by someone in regular or increasing amounts over time’. ie employer & employee contributions to the pension fund over the time of employment, paid subsequently as ‘regular benefits and increasing in amounts over time’. That would suggest that the unreduced accrued pension benefits are what has ‘accrued’ in the pension fund over time of employment – irrespective of the argument over the VS sum of c£43,000 and its appropriateness. Where does an additional £207,000 fit with regard to this ‘automatic entitlement’ of accessing ‘accrued pension benefits’, also as we have defined that ‘accrued’ is past tense, and cumulative?
- You state – “Mr Adderley has been treated in the same manner as over 300 employees who have left the Council through voluntary severance over the past 18 months” You also state that ” the council did not pay any NI or personal tax attributable to Mr Adderley and nor was any compromise contract entered into.” If Mr Adderley has been treated the same does that mean that no other senior or other departees from Wirral Council have a compromise contract entered into, and that NI and personal tax liability has not been paid to any individual, in addition to a ‘settlement figure’ – this would be useful to clarify for the avoidance of doubt.
” Mr Adderley’s entitlement…” only becomes an entitlement upon agreement in legitimate circumstances. If the ‘agreement’ is fundamentally flawed, then there are no grounds for consideration of ‘entitlement’, are there?
You also state – “There were no ‘behind closed doors’ meetings as you (Dr Smith) suggest. The Employment and Appointments Committee report whilst initially exempt was subsequently published in full”. How can you make such an emphatic statement regarding the meeting when the press and public were excluded from the meeting during the consideration of Mr Adderley’s departure? This event was cloaked in ‘smoke & mirrors’ secrecy, and appeared to be blindsided by another departee’s Committee discussions? The Committee considerations of Mr Adderley’s circumstances did not become public knowledge until some considerable time later? If he was treated the same as 300 others who would have had their affairs considered in public, is your statement a reasonable account of events surrounding Mr Adderley whilst being “treated in the same manner as over 300 employees who have left the Council…”? Possibly not?
- I have dealt with this paragraph previously in my 2 interim emails, as you were leaving the office until the 4th January 2016. For completeness I insert them here and will attach the associated files.
- “You make a number of other inappropriate remarks and comments about relationships which I do not consider warrant a response…” – This is obviously another point where we differ considerably. Given the ‘bigger picture’ I fully understand the need, and often necessity for working closely with stakeholders, and partners from other sectors, and the benefits that can accrue for Wirral as a result. It is a very competitive world as we well know (even within the much-lauded Northern Powerhouse’). Networking is an increasingly crucial component of modern business, and local and central government. It is also extremely important for integrated community involvement and a balance between political (local, regional and national), party politics, community and local interests, investment, business relationships, adaptation, true accountability, and conduct in public office. My ‘public interest’ concern is true accountability for public funds, the purpose to which these funds and networks are put. and the concentration of very small communities of interest. their relationship to Wirral-wide potential benefits, and the various beneficiaries of those same interests.
- I look forward to hearing from you shortly
Dear Mr Robinson (sent 23.12.15 Attachments ref File 1 & File 2)
Prior to my comprehensive reply, to your reply to me, which raises far more questions than it answers, I would like you to consider these 2 attached files.
I would suggest that this alone would render your last three paragraphs, particularly the last paragraph, including –
“You make a number of other inappropriate remarks and comments about relationships which I do not consider warrant a response…”
– all the more questionable regarding practices and policies, departure and recruitment procedures, and relationships, plus the apparent illusion of equality, accountability and transparency. You will see that they may well not be such “inappropriate comments”, once you examine the attached files.
Dr Robert B Smith
Attached file 1 – Saturday,12 December 2015, 09:42:15
My Open letter sent to you – 13 December 2015 15:17
Attached file 2 – Today 23 December 2015 11.42
The last sentence of Kevin Adderley’s entry in the later version makes for interesting reading, don’t you think – as did my original comment in my letter?
Dear Mr Robinson (sent 23.12.15 Attachments ref A – Egerton House, A – Wirral Chamber)
Further to my earlier email regarding Kevin Adderley and his recent employment with Wirral Chamber of Commerce/’Egerton House Community Interest Company’. I will still reply in full to your email at some point in the near future, but this seemed to be immediately pertinent, given the reply that you sent to me.
I have to say that I find it particularly interesting that neither Cllr Phil Davies, nor Surjit Tour, have replied to any of my emails directed to them specifically since July. It seems to be that this strategy might possibly be construed by others as your being used as a ‘human shield’, which may make you particularly vulnerable, and we know how high a priority vulnerable people are to Wirral Council…maybe I am just being fanciful, but I digress.
With regard to the ‘independence or separation’ of Wirral Chamber of Commerce, and the Egerton House Community Interest Company, this raises a particularly intriguing area of interest. Is this a ‘Community Interest Company’ or is it a ‘Community OF Interest Company’ – as they are worlds apart with that two letter word making a massive difference – if that could be clarified it will be most helpful.
I attach for you 2 more files (related to the 2 previous files) which you may wish also to consider regarding your last 3 paragraphs of the reply, but particularly the last one. The reason that I raise these issues is that, as much as I am totally supportive of regeneration, and job creation in Wirral, and fully appreciate the importance of vision, inward investment, ‘networking’, and public, private and voluntary sector relationships, it is the use to which these networks, relationships and public money are put, in which I have a particular interest. Second only to transparency and actual accountability.
I look forward to hearing from you.