Peer Review

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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.

 

Peer Less

Peer review

Let’s make a declaration of interest from the outset  – we fundamentally object to peer reviews. Local government gurus glad handing  their well-paid peers and telling them that they feel their pain (for a fat fee  minus VAT) .

No thank you.

What we need is someone who has never worked in local government and preferably never had to climb that greasy pole like a pole dancer in a pin stripe suit.

No doubt their report would be somewhat more succinct and read :  ” WTAF!”.

So imagine our cynicism when we learned that the report about the latest Wirral Council peer review co-ordinated by the Local Government Association (LGA) had been not so much released as escaped  under the banner : Council Improvement Continues ( no laughing at the back).

We suspect even the Liverpool Echo weren’t buying that bogus headline.

http://www.wirral.gov.uk/news/10-03-2016/council-improvement-continues

The review  was led by Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council. The same council who have hit the headlines because their plans to cut care for disabled was ruled unlawful and is the leading case when it comes to cuts in social care.

Mr.Rogers tells us :

It is important to stress that this was not an inspection. Peer challenges are improvement orientated and tailored to meet individual council’s needs. You asked the peer team to explore:  The council’s capacity to deliver the Wirral Plan 2020  The council’s approach to partnership working  New models for service delivery

So basically Wirral Council controlled the show . But the cracks are there. So let’s a shine a light on them because that’s what we do best.

First of all –   BS bingo fans will be reassured that besides the obligatory pie chart there are the following  favourites:

Interdependencies ✓

Integrated commissioning hub ✓

Transformation agenda ✓

Pledge driven ✓

Personality proof ✓

Holistic ✓

Joined up conversations ✓

We particularly liked that reclusive  Chief Executive  Eric “Feeble” Robinson is described as ‘a breath of fresh air’  as this is basically a bit of bitch-slap for his predecessor Graham Burgess.We liked that. We liked that a lot.

Furthermore we liked the following sly dig :

However, the Senior Leadership Team is not currently giving adequate corporate leadership and this needs to be much stronger if the Plan is to be delivered effectively

Which may explain why Super Duper Directors Clare Fish and Joe Blott are on the way out. Initially we had a degree of sympathy for these two – way out of their depth and caught up in other people’s corruption and then we remembered their six figure salaries and all sympathy evaporated.

They also do a fine line in stating the bleedin’ obvious :

The peer team also had a concern at the current high use of consultants and interims

You don’t say !.

Meanwhile the naivete is staggering :

The delivery of the Wirral Plan and pledges and the role of scrutiny may be enhanced in the longer term by offering opposition members a leadership role on the Policy & Performance Committees.

Scrutiny ?. By opposition members?. Can we have some of what the LGA are on?.

However this was our favourite observation:

The council and its partner agencies recognise that they want to form a different relationship with residents in the future. There is general recognition that relationships with local communities has been negatively impacted by the past challenges the council has had to deal with. The new relationship will be based on a clearer Wirral narrative, a greater ability to listen to resident’s issues, making better use of the data and intelligence the council gathers across the Wirral and greater use of channels use as digital and social media. 

Somebody from the LGA needs to tell Wirral Council  that they simply need to follow Wirral Leaks……but then they already do that !. But unfortunately it is a “new relationship” over which they have no control…….and we all know how they love to be in control!. Therefore we predict that this is one relationship that will continue to be fraught!.