Situations Vacant at Wirral Council

There are currently some intriguing ‘Situations Vacant’ at Wirral Council.  Although you’d be forgiven for thinking that some senior management positions are always vacant  even when there is someone in post!

Understandably, following the hasty departure of John Wood  the Director of  Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND,) there now seems to be a clean sweep going on in this particularly problematic area of Children’s Services. No doubt this is in anticipation of a forthcoming Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report and other matters which the SEND department wish to draw a discreet veil over.

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Before you all rush at once might we suggest that prospective candidates remind themselves of Wirral Council’s historical commitment to people with disabilities . This is the place that historically a former Assistant Director of  Social  Services commented in a public meeting that disabled people were at ‘the bottom of the barrel’ and seemed to be quite happy for them to remain there. And as for children with special needs and disabilities this is a place where in 2019 a disabled schoolchild can be deliberately left naked outside for twenty minutes in the freezing February cold.

Meanwhile another recruitment campaign is being undertaken for a Head of Legal Services :

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Hang on you might be saying don’t Wirral Council already have one of those in the form of Philip McCourt ? Well, apparently this post will be answerable to McCourt as the council’s Monitoring  Officer. Clearly McCourt ,despite wangling a considerable pay rise to retain his services, doesn’t want to be concerned with the mundane day-to-day legal wrangling that working for Wirral Council engenders . Indeed the council are lucky if McCourt  graces them with his presence at all – and who can blame him? Who in their right mind would willingly choose to spend time in the cesspit that is Wallasey Town Hall? But then McCourt has been calling the shots for some time, ever since he devised that cunning plan to get senior councillors out of a dark,deep hole of their own making. However we’d just like to remind McCourt that his notorious predecessors as Monitoring Officer. Bill Norman and Surjit Tour thought they too were untouchable – due to what they knew and  what they’d colluded with – and look what happened to them!…

 

A Day of Protest at Wallasey Town Hall Part 1 : ‘There’s always one…’

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He’s ‘armless really…

As we predicted in Sunday’s  Hoylake Golf Resort : Protest and Protect post the start to the week would be a challenging one for the ruling Labour administration at Wirral Council.

However we couldn’t have predicted that it would start so early with an unexpected surprise at the end of what seems to be the dreariest Wirral Council meeting ever. As you can see from our exclusive footage serial whistleblower Martin Morton makes a return to the scene of many a crime. We are grateful for his son for forwarding the footage , apparently Morton Jnr is at University studying film and is making a video about whistleblowing. Should be essential viewing and if it involves Wirral Council –  x-rated!

 

Of course we just took that the message on Morton’s t-shirt – LORDY, I HOPE THERE ARE TAPES – was addressed directly to us at Wirral Leaks. Is this an example of what is known in modern parlance as ‘meta’? For as we know ‘His Lordship’ has known about Wirralgate since 2013 and knows that there are tapes (as does Mr Morton and many others) and which would (and should have) brought the corrupt ruling Labour administration crashing down a long time ago .

However we appreciate that for many of our readers and the wider public that the origins of the quote on the t-shirt may be somewhat obscure. We’ve done a bit of research and apparently these are the infamous words of former FBI Director James Comey commenting on alleged recorded conversations between him and US President Donald Trump.

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Unfortunately you won’t see the footage on the Wirral Council website or, rather disappointingly on John Brace’s video coverage – although we understand that he wouldn’t want to spoil the enjoyment of the 4 people who have endured the video so far.

Unfortunately there is no sound but we understand that belligerent Cllr Bernie ‘The Bruiser’ Mooney shouts out :

“There’s always one…”  

and you can lip read Mr Morton’s reply :

Yes,there is…

Apparently the cheeky wave from Morton was directed at Wirral Council’s Head of Communications Kev ‘Lost Boy’ MacCallum who was sitting there stony-faced and cross-armed and you can see Cllr Phill ‘Two L and Back’ Brightmore leaving his seat to get a good look at the message on the t-shirt. Meanwhile the three wise monkeys at the back ( Head of Law Philip McCourt, council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies and council CEO  Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson appear to be having a jolly good laugh at Morton’s expense )

Watching that sickening section of footage (we advise you watch it on full screen and focus on the three of them) we can’t help thinking that Morton should have pulled this stunt way back in 2013 at the Improvement Board meeting where Power Boy Pip couldn’t even stay in the room when Morton spoke. Now, like a typical coward –  and oh how weakness and cowardice have characterised his political career – Pip feels confident with  a room full of cronies behind him to LOL.

We’re left wondering as to who will have the last laugh?  History tells us it will be Pip and co – but that’s only because other people who had the means to do something about it, have instead, simply allowed it or in some cases through fear or favour , facilitated it. Shame on you all…

 

 

 

 

Consultations and Cover Ups

We’ve been concentrating on a series of special reports but couldn’t let a few recent local news stories pass without comment.

Consultations

Tomorrow’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting will feature announcements about two upcoming consultations which have been heralded in the local press. First up we have a press release in Wirral Globe where Cllr Angela Davies tells us she’s excited. However the former short lived Change Grow Live employee is not excited that Christmas is coming. Oh no! she’s excited because there’s exciting plans and she has an artist’s impression to prove it. Generously she wants to share her excitement with us :

Wirral Growth Company's artists impression of what some of the Birkenhead town centre redevelopment could look like

Only by listening and engaging with local residents and deliver thousands of new jobs. We will be asking the question: ‘What sort of place do you want Birkenhead to be?’ and soliciting ideas about improving the public realm, establishing more residential opportunities in and around the town centre and expanding the leisure, retail and cultural offers available.After too many false dawns, Wirral residents are now looking forward to being asked to shape real plans and a concrete set of proposals to regenerate Birkenhead as the commercial and retail heart of Wirral.Wirral Growth Company is an ambitious partnership between Wirral Council and a private sector regeneration specialist, but it needs to be informed by the views of local residents and businesses across the town. This consultation will provide the qualitative and quantitative regeneration evidence base which has been missing.Wirral Growth Company has established some provisional ideas for what a rejuvenated Birkenhead could look like – a new market, improved retail and leisure offers and up to 300,000sq.ft of Grade A office space.The Council is excited by these initial ideas and feedback already received has been positive, but it’s now the turn of local residents to say what they aspire to see. Rebuilding work in Birkenhead could start as early as Spring 2019, so over the coming weeks and months I am proposing the Council and its partners conduct this wide ranging consultation, outreach and engagement to gather the views of local residents.

Full press release here : Birkenhead regeneration consultation

It’s not just the dawns that are false Angie. Are you really telling us that Wirral Growth Company was set up with NO qualitative/quantitative at evidence base ? This consultation is beginning to look like “The people who get paid huge amounts of public money to think up new ideas haven’t got any – so can you lot come up with some for us ?” So here’s one from us – how about turning Birkenhead into Dubai on the Mersey and build a skyscraper hanging from the sky as let’s face it all of these consultations and artist’s impressions are already pie in the sky anyway.

 

Next up on the consultation front is keen royalist Cllr Janette ‘Milly Tant’ Williamson who is introducing  a consultation on how Wirral Council should  spend the few quid that Wirral Council have left in the coffers with her Budget saving plan . If the Cabinet meeting wasn’t so early we’d suggest organising a drinking game for every time Williamson uses the phrase ‘Tory cuts’. Perhaps she’ll regale us with tales from her time working for the Insolvency Service. Or perhaps not …

Cover Ups

The other story we couldn’t help commenting on was  ‘Embarrassing’ council slammed after failing in 90% of complaints – with some taking YEARS to complete where we find Conservative councillors Tony Cox ( ’embarrassing’) and Chris Blakeley  (absolutely appalling’) commenting on the abject failure of ALL councillors to properly police complaints against themselves but failing to acknowledge that it was Wirral Councillors who agreed to the utterly woeful ‘Standards’ regime that is currently in place. Even Wirral Council’s leading apologist/lawyer Philip McCourt concurred the Council had ‘failed’. Inevitably Labour councillor Chris Jones chipped in that she was ‘happy’ with a 90% failure rate.Which let’s face it is a 10% improvement on most aspects of the ruling administration’s achievements.

This all comes after the recent case brought against Cllr Paul Hayes by Professor Maggie Atkinson ,the touchy Chair of the Wirral Safeguarding Board which we reported here. If somebody had just explained to Atkinson that commenting on the public perception of a cover up is a legitimate course of action for a councillor and is not the same as being accused of being part of a cover up perhaps Wirral Council could have saved a lot of time and money on this particular (non)-case.

Just a shame no-one from the Tory group (or any councillor) has seen fit to make a public comment on a notorious long running cover up involving Wirral Council . We suppose it will be down to us ,once again ,to dissect this particular one in a future ‘Special Report’ :

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Bog Standards

Our thanks go to John Brace for filming last night’s meeting of Wirral Council Standards Panel and for giving us the heads up that we would be reunited with some familiar Wirral Leaks ‘favourites’.

John hasn’t uploaded all of the five part mini-series yet but from what we’ve seen it’s the usual Wirral Council Standards Panel farrago bogged down in procedure ,protocol, partisan politicking and pettiness. However we look forward to John’s incisive eyewitness report with snippets from the investigation report in question at a later date.

The actual hearing concerns an allegation brought against Conservative Cllr Paul Hayes councillor by the Professor Maggie Atkinson – the Independent Chair of Wirral Safeguarding Board. Professor Atkinson alleges that Cllr Hayes was in breach of Wirral Council’s Code of Conduct for suggesting that the decision not to publish the Serious Case Review into the Rajenthiram brothers Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case was part of a ‘cover up’ ( further allegations made against Cllr Ian Lewis and Cllr Tom Anderson found there was no case to answer).

Ironically the investigation report was written by ex Wirral Council solicitor Simon Goacher of Weightman’s who are the go-to legal firm that Wirral Council call upon to  when it comes to cover ups (most notably the infamous and illegal ‘four week delay’ in the provision of adult care services.) This has not only enabled Wirral Council to hide behind ‘legal privilege’ but allows them to state they have sought external legal advice and therefore everything is ‘legit’ when in fact the exact opposite is true – as was the case in an unreported case of further unlawful charging of disabled people that Weightman’s were also called upon to help put a bit of concealing legal gloss on.

Meanwhile initial observations from us indicate that the Standards Panel played their usual roles – Cllr Phil ‘Anodyne’ Gilchrist dithering about and being in complete,fence-sitting Lib Dem mode. Cllr Chris ‘Bulldog’ Blakeley in full on belligerent ,bulldog chewing a wasp mode and Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ Mc Laughlin in arms folded, eyerolling,  ‘Matron-Knows-Best’ exasperation mode (though we did enjoy the little snipe at Wirral Council’s head of law Philip McCourt – is the honeymoon period over we ask ourselves? )

We await further instalments with interest and be grateful for the fact that at least John Brace was allowed to film this particular Standards Panel and wasn’t physically prevented from entering the Committee room , as was the case in the infamous 2016 Cllr Steve ‘Foulkesy’ Foulkes  Standards Panel debacle. Now, if you really want to talk about cover ups…

Highways – The Long and Winding Road

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In…

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…and out! It’s a sign of the times!

You wouldn’t know it but today is one of the most significant days in Wirral Council history.

Ten years after the Highways Department was controversially outsourced to Colas (and subsequently BAM Nuttall) , the people that attend to streetlights , fill potholes and commission contracts for roadworks and related services once again, and even more controversially, become employees of Wirral Council. So it’s a case of out with the old and er, in with the old.

However there has been no fanfare for such a momentous event – just a discreet removal of the BAM Nuttall signs at the Highways depot and it’s business unusual.

The highly significant decision to return the Highways Department multi-million pound contract in-house was  made in November 2017 by council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies using his ‘special delegated powers’ . Isn’t curious that in the intervening 11 months that Pip didn’t /couldn’t/wouldn’t order a re-tendering exercise and instead took the unprecedented step of returning a department to the control of Wirral Council. It must be gratifying to make a knotty problem go away with the wave of a magic wand mustn’t it? Especially when there has been a woeful lack of proper scrutiny or thorough probing on this highly dubious move by other Wirral councillors.

Shall we now expect more outsourced public services to be returned in- house? The failing care homes? Waste management? Will the control room staff get their jobs back? Will Wirral Council become less reliant on external consultants and recruit competent  managers with a commitment to public services? – Breath-holding is not advised.

Which all makes us wonder what made the long and winding road that led to the return of highways department to Wirral Council such an exceptional case?

Wirral Leaks readers might know the answer to that question and it has very little to do with value for money, the public interest or due diligence…

WIRRALGATETAPE

An Unsound Decision

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Did the powers that be (and shouldn’t be) at Wirral Council think that the week would pass without Wirral Leaks commenting on one of the most shameful days in Wirral Council’s history? Yes – just think about that evaluation for a moment. The occasion we are referring to is the latest meeting of the Audit & Risk Management Committee held on July 23rd . It is a date that should go down in Wirral Council infamy. And let’s face it considering their recent rap sheet that’s quite a feat!

Once again we have to thank our old friend John Brace for recording this ignominious occasion (we’ll stick with our old friend rather than link to the council’s own webcast if you don’t mind). We could only watch the first reel as we have a particularly weak gag reflex. However we anticipate that His Lordship will have much more to say on the matter when he returns from his golden slumbers.

 

Watch in complete contempt as Mark Smith – Strategic Commissioner for Environment (£93,783 p.a.) squirms in his own obsequiousness during Agenda item 3 trying to explain (very belatedly) how the highways contract is coming back ‘in house’ and in full Uriah Heep mode thanking Cllr Jeff Green for his ‘pertinent ‘ questions (yeah -right!).

We advise that from here on in you press the mute button to watch this farrago. Not only so you don’t have to hear the honking voice of Tory hypocrite Green . Instead watch the body language as in yet another spectacular failure of proper scrutiny we see furtive glances, the uncomfortable shuffling, the skirting round the issues, and the pity in the eyes of the councillors as they look at Smith in the knowledge that’s he’s the ‘poor’ sap having to front this duplicitous bullshit. Note particularly the repeated placing of hands over the mouths of most of the committee members (and particularly the representatives of external auditors Grant Thornton – £200K + p a. and counting ) which acts as a telling, involuntary gag. Note the crossed arms of Shaer Halewood (Director of Finance and Investments £104,642 p.a.) and the look on her face as if to say  : “What have I let myself in for?” and the inane grin of Chief Internal Auditor Mark Niblock (we don’t know what salary he’s on but whatever it is – it is far,far too much.) 

Whilst there were some mealymouthed  criticisms of the current highways maintenance contract holders BAM Nuttall made by elected members ,the fact is that the 25 staff who currently (mis) manage the filling of potholes and the replacement of streetlights and therefore responsible for the pisspoor performance will be the same staff welcomed back into the Wirral Council fold…..and BAM Nuttall will still potentially be able to tender for the £multi-million services that this motley crew won’t be undertaking!

So it’s a lose-lose situation all round for Wirral Council taxpayers as a result of this complicity and collusion with corruption (other c words are available).

Thankfully Assistant Chief Executive David Armstrong (£116,268 p.a.) was on hand to arrogantly explain that some of  those returning to Wirral Council previously worked for Wirral Council then Colas then BAM Nuttall. You don’t say! – and no -one , absolutely no-one, raised the issue as to whether those returning included those who actively participated in a smear campaign against Cllr Jeff Green and have been holding some leading local politicians by the short and curlies because they have the means to bring down the Council leadership courtesy of a covert recording  or whether the report into their treatment from nearly a decade ago and completed in October 2015 played any part in negotiations or why it took ten months to cobble together an explanation as to why Wirral council’leader’  Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies suddenly decided under his ‘special powers’ to bring highway maintenance back in house. Not a peep!

There wasn’t  even an explanation from Philip McCourt (Director : Governance and Assurance – are you having a laugh?) who, might we suggest, could’ve intervened to explain something along the lines of : ” I don’t know what Surjit Tour was doing agreeing that we could just pay them off and try and justify it with some bogus report supposedly written by one of Frank Field’s mates. Care to help me out with that one Mr Armstrong ? No thought not – but then you were at that meeting  when Frank tried to ,ahem , ‘compromise’ former CEO Graham Burgess about his , ahem, compromising positions weren’t you so,yes, you’re best keeping your head down and pretending like the rest of us that it’s all legit,whilst I try and clear up your mess and explain that as soon as we handed over any ‘compensation’ money to people who had no legal claim for ‘compensation’ we were all implicated so the best we could do was negotiate to give them what they wanted a decade ago if they buried the recording…”

Turn the sound back on and you can almost hear an audible sigh of  ” We just might have gotten away with that one…” as Mark Smith scuttles off and it’s on to the next agenda item. Meanwhile there’s the distant sound of a streetwise quartet sitting in a Birkenhead karaoke bar raucously singing along to the chorus of ‘Just What I’ve Always Wanted’

‘To be in charge of highways maintenance …..just what I’ve always wanted…’

 

 

Courting McCourt

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Courted and feted : McCourt enters ‘The Inner Ring’

And so after a previous meeting behind closed doors of the Employment and Appointments Committee it would appear that full Council on Monday 19th March will rubber stamp the permanent appointment of current interim Assistant Director : Law and Governance Philip McCourt to the new post of Director – Governance & Assurance (Monitoring Officer)

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We have to doff our coronet to McCourt on this one. He sat back as Wirral Council struggled to appoint to this poisoned chalice of a post and watched gimlet-eyed as they had to bump up the pay (funny how there’s always money to be found for the upper echelons of local government isn’t it?) and upgrade the post from Assistant Director to Director enabling McCourt to sit at the top table of council chief officers. And from what we understand there was none of that tiresome psychometric testing or bothersome interview process for such a high profile post. Oh no it was a shoo-in for fêted Phil.

Canny McCourt has cleverly manoeuvred himself into a strong position by getting the lowdown – and boy do we mean lowdown – on Wirral Council. This was not only on the job – when he could fit Wirral Council business in around his other consultancy commitments that is. Checking out his LinkedIn profile this included not only work for solicitors Weightmans LLP , where no doubt he would have encountered former Wirral Council legal alumni Morris Hill and Simon Goacher, but also during a stint at Bristol City Council in 2016 where he would have compared cheques with Anna Klonowski – author of damning Independent Review and Corporate Governance reports about his latest employer. The man who took over from McCourt at Milton Keynes Council in May 2013 was a Stephen Gerrard (no, not that one) . Coincidentally enough Gerrard was Interim Head of Legal and Member Services at Wirral Council October 2012 -May 2013 during the then permanent head, Bill Norman’s suspension (Norman later went on to become involved in all kinds of shenanigans at Hereford and Cheshire East councils) . Gerrard also left somewhat hastily , whether it was because he and his deputy Surjit Tour were not the best of buddies we can only speculate. However ,as we know, Tour was later to make the most of an unguarded (and racist) comment from Deputy Leader of Wirral Council Cllr George Davies and astonishingly ascend to the top legal job at Wirral Council before escaping back to Sandwell Council. We don’t know about you but this local government merry go round makes us dizzy (and slightly nauseous).

Whether McCourt will prove to be as controversial appointment as Norman and Tour only time will tell but we do know he’s inherited some very thorny legal issues and knowing his political paymasters as we do there will no doubt be more to come. As ever the real test for a head of law at Wirral Council will be how they reconcile protecting powerful politicians with protecting the public purse and the public interest. We shall be particularly interested to see whether McCourt follows the path of least resistance trodden by his predecessors and favours the former over the latter.

 

Highways : Against the Flow of Traffic

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We raised the issue (and our eyebrows) at the proposal to bring the highways contract back under Wirral Council control as part of our Wirral Leaks Weekly Dispatch #2

This particular story concerned a meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC) where Cllr Jeff ‘Kindred’ Green wanted reassurance that the decision to bring the highways contract back in house wasn’t “written on the back of a fagpacket” . We also noted that :

Incidental dark comedic value is to be had from the ever oleaginous senior officer David Armstrong who promises a short report and ingratiating interm Monitoring officer Philip McCourt who says that the commissioning of highways contract is a ‘live project’ and that the report would be a ‘ partial measure’ – ain’t that the truth!

Needless to say council officers showed their usual contempt for opposition councillors by failing to produce a written report for yesterday’s ARMC follow up meeting. There were also no shows from McCourt and ARMC chair Cllr Adrian Jones . Consequently Deputy Chief Executive Armstrong was allowed by stand-in chair Cllr Angela Davies to hand the hot potato over to poor sap Mark Smith (Strategic Commissioner for Environment) to deliver a verbal report – all the better to hinder proper scrutiny when nothing is written down and there’s no report in the public domain for ‘ a particular website’ to pick (pot)holes. It was enough to give us an attack of the verbals.

As you can see from the John Brace footage of last night’s meeting Smith gives a tortuous explanation of ‘options appraisals’ and how the decision was reached. Although we have to say that as he’s on £90,532 p.a. our sympathy for his squirming is somewhat limited.

However the information that was eventually dragged out of Smith was most illuminating (and probably explains the lack of a written report) . It was revealed  that the current holders of the highways contract BAM Nuttall get £6 million p.a. from Wirral Council . Smith described it as an ‘unusual scenario’ that BAM Nuttall chose not to take advantage of a contract extension to which they were entitled. BAM Nuttall currently spend £5 million is spent on sub-contractors and £1 million on what Armstrong described as 28/29  ‘operatives’ . It is these ‘operatives’ who will be TUPE* transferred back to Wirral Council (if they wish) – and the sub-contracting from the private sector will continue.

* Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment ) Regulations.

We begrudgingly give him his due on this one (because he’s had a shadowy part in this shady story) but Cllr Green whipped out his calculator trying to deconstruct the £1 million cost of 28/29 operatives -which he calculated to be about £700,000 . Labour councillor Christina Muspratt attempted to explain the missing £300,000 as ‘on costs’ However it was eventually wheedled out of Smith that ‘operatives’ included both managers and back room staff (approximately half operational and half management) so it wasn’t just staff filling potholes and replacing streetlights.

Armstrong and Smith were particularly twitchy on the issue of TUPE transfers with the former interrupting through the chair to advise Cllr Muspratt  that there was a list of staff who were eligible and who can “TUPE if they wish”  to either BAM Nuttall or Wirral Council . Smith went on to say that ” it wouldn’t be appropriate to go into any further detail in this forum”

However might we suggest there remain pertinent questions that need to be asked :  a) are the managers subject to TUPE some of the same Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) managers from Wirral Council who failed to win the highways contract during a tendering exercise in 2008 and who’s contracts of employment  were TUPE transferred to Colas and then presumably BAM Nuttall in 2014 and who have been in dispute with Wirral Council for a decade ? b) did this ongoing dispute influence or play any part in the decision (under delegated powers) to return the highways contract to Wirral Council control and c) has this dispute been resolved – and if so – how? 

Whilst , like some of the councillors at ARMC  , we welcome the return of highways to Wirral Council control , we seem to be rather more enquiring as to the reasons why – especially when such a decision goes ‘against the flow of traffic’ when it comes to outsourcing council services.

LRJ : An Unofficial Announcement

Resignation letter

Here we have a social media post from our old friend and correspondent Cllr Louise Reecejones (LRJ). We’ve omitted 2 paragraphs ( containing either personal details or plugs for her charity) , other than that all words , as far as we know, are LRJ’s own. We’ve decided to publish in the public interest mainly because it would appear that LRJ has “made the move to withdrawn (sic) from politics” and therefore surely the local electorate need to know exactly what this means:

Last night I made the move to withdrawn (sic) from politics due to the extreme stress the constant targeting I have faced personally that has put extreme pressure on my health , this is not stress from those residents that I have served as that has been an absolute pleasure.

I would like to thank the one Labour councillor who had wished me well ……., it shows there is at least one good person . I won’t name them as I wouldn’t want them targeted. (Although I believe they can hold their own)

I believe in Jeremy Corbyn and what Labour stands for , I have principles I will not push to one side in order to make friends , I will not stand by an watch bully’s (sic) at work and I will not keep quiet to stop myself being bullied as I was not brought up that way.

My purpose was to make change and make a difference to children and adults with disabilities. I don’t believe in the current climate that there is any intention to change things on Wirral. I see so many children and their families in crisis and more energy is given to try and discredit me through the press , than change a way of working xx

I’ve not gone anywhere and will be back stronger than ever ,just without the noose … 

First thing to say is that we have no problem believing that some local Labour councillors ” can hold their own” – let’s face it many of them don’t have a choice! The second thing to say is that LRJ doesn’t paint a pretty picture of what it’s like being a local Labour councillor does she?  However we don’t appear to have had any official confirmation from the local Labour group or Wirral Council that indeed LRJ no longer features among their ranks . Whilst LRJ is still listed on Wirral Council website as a councillor for the Pensby and Thingwall ward – and presumably still collecting her council allowances  – she was a notable absentee from this week’s annual Wirral Council budget meeting held earlier this week.

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The Nolan Principles in motion : Comrade LRJ putting on a show of solidarity with Comrade Foulkesy (mate of Comrade Crabby)  – awks!

If she is true to her word we have to say we will be sad to see LRJ go ( pass us an onion) as she was such good source of stories for us if nothing else. Who could forget her epic feud with ex – Labour councillor Jim ‘Crabby’ Crabtree  and how that ended up with him getting a criminal conviction ? LRJ then went from victim to victimiser and ended up falling foul of Wirral Council’s pisspoor ‘Standards’ ( ha!ha!) regime, refusing to apologise to either members of the public that she’d badmouthed on social media or councillors who feigned being ‘appalled’ at her conduct. Let’s face it the councillors were just miffed she didn’t meekly ‘ Do-a-Foulkesy’ and say she’d been very naughty and she wouldn’t do it again……..until the next time. She then threatened Wirral Council and former and current Monitoring Officer ( Surjit Tour and Philip McCourt respectively) with legal action. We also understand she made further allegations against another Labour councillor ( but respect and decorum prevents us from pursuing that particular story any further).

We have to say that from our first post that mentioned LRJ and which dealt with her original suspension by North West Labour Party in May 2015 we always thought her days were numbered. Therefore she appears to have done well to have lasted this long before apparently throwing in the towel. As we said at the time her only hope was to foster a friendship with Frank Field. He wasn’t keen and her fate was sealed. Read more here : Suspension Suspense

Whatever the situation we suspect that the local Labour group will want to keep very quiet on this one – at least until after the local elections in May.  But will LRJ?

Social media strategy

Intimidation and the Hypocrisies of Public Life

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We’ve been forwarded the latest footage from the eye of the lens of our beloved Mr Brace by a number of people who thought it might be of interest.

Although Our Man Brace makes a guest appearance three minutes into Part 1 which was diverting especially when we clocked the facial expressions of Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee  chair Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ McLaughlin who gives a whole new meaning to the expression clockwatching. However there were too many longueurs for our liking (that’s French for ‘boring bits’).

As usual it was a case of  councillors skirting round the most pertinent issues with Matron reminding committee members that they  “can get yourselves into a bit of a mess “ if they don’t follow the Council’s guidance and protocols. You don’t say ! – care to give some examples? There then followed a prolonged session of speaking in tongues about ‘sanctions’ for errant councillors (or rather lack thereof)  with everyone careful not to mention ‘The Councillor That Dare Not Speak It’s Name’ ( that’s Cllr Louise Reecejones aka LRJ ). Although we have to say that LRJ’s violations against the Council’s Code of Conduct are but nothing compared to the likes of Cllr Steve Foulkes and Cllr George Davies we feel as though we’ve done that one to death. 

We were just about to turn off  halfway through Part 2 when the issue of ‘whistleblowing’ was dismissed in the blink of an eye or rather a cold hard stare from the Matron as if to say “nobody better say another bloody word on this subject”

However we pricked up our ears at about 18 minutes as councillors struggled to understand the word ‘intimidation’ (after all it is more than two syllables ). There followed a particularly revealing exchange between Matron and Cllr Ron Abbey . Well when we say exchange poor Ron couldn’t get a word in as Matron seemed particularly agitated about this particular subject :

Matron : There isn’t actually a way of defining what intimidation (is). You might think that particular website in the way that it talks about people and elected members…..

Abbey : I’m not talking about ……

Matron : No… I am , I am. I’m suggesting would that be intimidatory, could that be considered intimidatory if someone is regularly being insulted or allegations made that you can’t contradict……

Ron Abbey : The only way you can test that is in a court of law…..

Matron : Well so far some people have tried to have something done about particular website that might use those sort of tactics and found that it’s not possible to do it.

What particular website could Matron possibly mean? If , for argument’s sake we take it to be Wirral Leaks we need to make ourselves very clear on this particular matter. Firstly ,  let’s us deal with the issue of defining ‘intimidation’ . Perhaps we can assist elected members where their acting head of law and governance Philip ‘Peachy-keen’ McCourt failed them. Might we suggest their discussion could have been better informed if they were aware that the government’s Committee on Standards in Public Office published a report in December 2017 titled :  Intimidation in Public Life : A Review by the Committee on Standards in Public Life 

For elected members information we provide a link to the report here :  Intimidation in Public Life

As ever what was missing from the discussion was a failure to acknowledge the power dynamic between a public institution and a local website. What’s more we totally refute the idea that people are not given the opportunity to contradict any allegations that this particular website makes. All they have to do is contact us at wirralleaks@gmail.com as well Matron knows as a member of her family has done so a couple of times. The trouble is that those who have contacted us usually come off second best ( Kevin MacCallum – Wirral Council’s head of communications springs to mind.)

As for the fact that some people have apparently  ‘tried to have something done about a particular website’ for exercising its right to freedom of expression tells us everything we need to know about Wirral Council.  Now if that isn’t a definition of ‘intimidation’ we don’t know what is!

Intimidation is all about power and control and getting people to do what you want by threatening them .Those people who try to control the public discourse are those who want to control everything.Wirral Council’s control freakery is out of control and they hate the fact they have no control over this particular website. We’re in no mood to apologise for our irreverent tone or our sarcasm or our satire or our cynicism or our expletives and certainly not our lack of deference for people for whom we have absolutely no respect – deference died a horrible death for us a long, long time a go. We are not Wirral View!

The Brendan Cox quote taken from the report that we reference above highlights the hypocrisies that surround the subject of intimidation. For those who don’t know , Cox is  a former highflyer in the charity sector and the husband of murdered MP Jo Cox. Mr Cox, was forced to quit two charities he set up in her memory earlier this month after allegations of sexual assault were made public. This is the second time Mr Cox was forced to quit after similar allegations were made when he resigned from the Save the Children charity in 2015.  If you read the lurid allegations made against Cox it would appear he himself was an expert in intimidation. The Intimidation in Public Life report is littered (and we use the term advisedly) with quotes from Mr Cox. A hypocrite pontificating about hypocrisy is something we do not need.

Similarly might we suggest that no representative of Wirral Council (Matron or otherwise) is any position to to accuse a particular website of intimidation when it actually REWARDS such conduct :

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Add to holding an incriminating recording over the heads of Wirral’s top politicians like the Sword of Damocles , threatening councillors and council officers over the phone and in person , participating in a smear campaign and even ordering pizzas from Pizza Magic and sending them to a former councillor.

And what did the Wirralgate ‘Group’ get for such ‘intimidation’ ? – the most senior politicians and council officers on Wirral conspiring to enable them to receive ‘compensation’.

All those involved will be forever tainted with the accusation of hypocrisy (and worse) by a particular website and that is most definitely NOT intimidation.

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