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.

 

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Highways : Against the Flow of Traffic

Flow of Traffic

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.

Wirral Leaks Weekly Dispatch #2

Spot the deliberate mistake ! After this week’s prolific output a further Wirral Leaks post may seem like too much of a bad thing . It’s barely a month into 2018 and we’ve already had to concede that the announcement of our retirement was somewhat premature. But then as Wilde said : “To be premature is to be perfect” !

The thought of our departure to foreign shores has obviously stirred many Wirralians into action as we’ve been sent stories simply too good to pass up on (and what’s even better – where much of the work has already been done) .What’s more we have already noticed that campaigning for the May 2018 local elections has already started in earnest. But perhaps more than anything that explains our renewed impetus is further shocking information which has come our way and which needs exposing . Furthermore we guarantee the mainstream media will not touch it – but we’re keeping our powder dry on that one for now. However we’re left shaking our head in disbelief at the claims that are being made (and more importantly the damning evidence to back it up) . Meanwhile with the agreement with Her Ladyship  and support from Eldritch and Verity let’s all together plough on into oblivion ……….

Holiday Hypocrisy

Whilst we’re grateful that someone sent us the John Brace video posting of this week’s Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Transport Committee meeting we faced a dilemma as we didn’t know who’s face deserved a slap more as they gazed over to Brace to make sure he captured their reactions to Cllr Steve Foulkes’ contribution to the Mersey tunnel toll debate – Cllr Jerry ‘The Mouse’ Williams , Cllr Ron ‘ Rude’ Abbey or Foulkesy himself . Truth be told (an alien concept for some of the parties concerned) but it was no contest really – Foulkesy every time .

Watch in disgust from 12 :00 as Foulkesy turns to our beloved Mr Brace , tries to take the moral high ground and resorts to his non existent ‘conscience’ .Whilst professing to respect Tory Cllr Les Rowlands he then proceeds to slag him off for planning a holiday to coincide with this particular meeting. Now we might know his political allegiances but we don’t profess to know Cllr Rowland’s personal proclivities but we’d like to think his holiday won’t result in allegations of  racist abuse.Just sayin’

Sorrento Shame : Holidaymakers claim they faced ‘racist abuse’ from ex – Wirral Mayoress

Self Serve 

We understand that internal vacancies at Wirral Council are accessed by ‘Self Serve’. You really couldn’t make this shit up! Why do they bother with such bureaucratic machinations when it would appear that cronyism/nepotism/favouritism is still the main route to promotion we can only hazard a guess. Unfortunately we can’t report on this particular aspect further as it would appear that another feature of Wirral Council’s modus operandi – the culture of fear – is still very much in operation.

Road to Hell

If the Merseytravel Committee video was infuriating the John Brace footage of the Audit and Risk Management Committee sent us into paroxysms of rage and fury. Witness how the utterly pathetic ex- Tory leader and Foulkesy’s ‘kindred’ Cllr Jeff Green meekly raises the issue of bringing the £multi-million highways contract back in house like Uriah Heep with a serious Woodbines habit. The Nigel Farage sound-a-like says something along the lines of : ” Bein’ ever so ‘umble . Can we have a bit of case study. I’m not ‘solutioneering’ (!) I just want to know that the decision to bring the highways contract back in house wasn’t written on the ‘back of  a fagpacket’, if you would so please, kind sir”.

Observe and despair from 8:25

Why so coy Cllr Green ? You know that the decision was made behind closed doors using Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies’ special ‘delegated powers’ and with Frank Field’s personal approval. They obviously want to minimise suspicion about unlawful compensation pay-offs to the Wirralgate complainants – so what’s the next best thing ? A token bung and then a cosy job for life for keeping their gobs shut.  But then you knew that didn’t you Cllr Green ?- shame you didn’t have the balls to say it. Incidental dark comedic value is to be had from the ever oleaginous senior officer David Armstrong who promises a short report and ingratiating interim Monitoring Officer Philip McCourt who says that the commissioning of highways contract is a ‘live project’ and that report would be a ‘ partial measure’ – ain’t that the truth ! Then suddenly  Cllr Ron ‘Rude’ Abbey has a “Don’t Mention The War” moment and can’t help himself saying something completely bogus about discussing TUPE ( Transfer of Undertakings – Protection of Employment) regulations . Which ,is of course, as ARMC and us know is what this is all about : ” Listen guys, we can’t give you a massive pay out you wanted without raising serious questions so we’ll give you the next best thing and you can be responsible for Wirral’s highways . Let’s face it you can’t do a worse job than Colas / BAM Nuttall ” 

As this image and comment proves :

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Dear Wirraleaks,

The attached photo shows a stretch of Mere Farm Road which was “repaired” by the Wirral Council contractors 6 months ago.

They clearly did such a magnificent and cost effective job that it needs much more repairing now.

When will they learn that doing a decent job first time round is more cost effective or do they just love throwing public money away to private sector mates ????

In response all we can say is  – buy cheap, pay twice!

All Wrapped Up

In the case of this particular Freedom of Information request all we can say is have Wirralgate tape, pay through the nose.

Full details :Wrap around FOI

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All wrapped in cosily in a symbiotic security blanket. Snug as a mug with a bug (that’s a reference to the Wirralgate recording obvs)

Patience is a Virtue 

Dear Mr Robinson

I received this assurance from you on 19th December 2016

On 19 December 2016 at 11:42, Robinson, Eric <ericrobinson@wirral.gov.uk> wrote:

Dear Dr Smith

Thank you for your email below.Officers are considering the matters you have raised in your emails and I will respond to you fully in January.

Regards

Eric Robinson

Chief Executive

Wirral Council

Tel : 0151 691 8589

Email : ericrobinson@wirral.gov.uk

You did not specify ‘responding to me fully’, by January 2017. 

However January 2018 has now passed, and I can only surmise that your ‘Officers’ have been completely occupied with Wirral Council’s 2016/2017 ongoing catalogue of disasters.

For your convenience, I attach a reply I sent to Cllr Walter Smith, who contacted me in May 2017 as you hadn’t, with his view of the ‘Most Improved Wirral Council’ (the absolute definition of an oxymoron given the events of 2016/2017)

Patience is a virtue. I look forward to receiving your ‘full response’ as assured.

Yours sincerely

Dr Robert B Smith FCMI

Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson is increasingly making Howard Hughes seem outgoing and gregarious. A local government patsy drowning in a mire of his own incompetence and other people’s corruption.  Hey, Stressed Eric! – you really should have spoken to your predecessor before you took up post. Oh – but wait a minute your political paymasters didn’t allow it did they? Protecting themselves and setting you up to fail as you didn’t know what you were letting yourself in for. Oh but you know now don’t you? And you chose the side of the people who pay your obscene salary. We sincerely hope and pray that one day you will regret that choice. In fact we’re working on it day and night – you may have noticed.

Meet the Talent

Without any fanfare – we wonder why? – Dave Fergus is the man who has taken over running Wirral Evolutions from Chris Beyga the disgraced former Managing Director of this arms-length Wirral Council experiment that went horribly wrong mainly because Beyga (aka Rosa Klebb) thought she was running her own personal fiefdom.

Meet the Talent

You will note from his profile above (can somebody please provide a translation of local government BS? ) that there is absolutely no mention of disability rights. Just the person you want running a service where apparently the thick as mince managers think that somehow they’re doing a favour to the people who actually pay their wages. We’re wondering whether we’ll  get a comment on this latest appointment from Wirral Evolutions ‘ Independent’ Chair and professional disability rights ‘champion’ Carey Bamber or ‘Non -Executive Director’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy’ Pip’ Davies? We’re not holding our breath.

Crime Report

We note that this week Mayor Joe Anderson was taken in for questioning ‘under caution’ by Merseyside Police in relation to the fraud probe concerning Liverpool City Council CEO Ged Fitzgerald and others . Power Boy Pip, Stressed Eric and others will no doubt be observing developments with interest – as will we !

Proceed with caution

Holiday Hypocrisy Part 2

And finally we understand that someone is taking a particular interest in Wirral Leaks from their undeserved winter break in the Dominican Republic. Answers on a postcard please…….

 

Advent Farewell 12 – LRJ : The Naughtiest Elf On The Shelf?

Elf 2 006

Now we don’t know if it’s the thought of  our imminent demise but we have been flooded with leaks and links to interesting news stories these past few days including news that ‘The Curse of Leaky Towers’ has struck again as we hear that well travelled serial cheque collector Bill Norman has ‘resigned’ from Cheshire East Council. But more on that story later as they say on the TV news……….

Today’s story is concerned with another of our irregular regulars – Cllr Louise Reecejones (LRJ). As we harked and heralded  LRJ was due to  appear at last night’s full Council meeting. And according to a few of our sources appear she did …… somewhat like a fallen angel.

However despite being shamed into making an apology by  Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ McLaughlin for being a very naughty girl – oh the irony! – no apology was forthcoming. Instead LRJ told the members in the Wirral Council chamber that she was taking legal action against the local authority in general and current and former head of law (Philip Mc Court and Surjit Tour respectively)  in particular . Oh and she was also reporting these two legal bods to the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) . We understand that it’s not the first time that Tour has been reported to the SRA – but LRJ need not hold her breath that the Brotherhood of Law will take any action. They’re like the Local Government Association (LGA) for lawyers.

Exasperated elected members wailed ‘why ,oh why’ couldn’t they take any ‘meaningful sanctions against LRJ , conveniently forgetting that the Standards regime was set up BY THEM to avoid any  councillor ever having to face any meaningful sanctions in the first place!!!

Meanwhile, as apparently McCourt comes and goes as he pleases and is a mere interim he clearly wasn’t prepared to be around when LRJ was having a pop at him. Therefore local Tory leader Cllr Ian Lewis asked the Council legal rep for the night  (Vicki Shaw) was there anything they could do to make LRJ bend to their will ?

‘Fuck all’ was the answer.

Obviously this isn’t a direct quote from Prissy Miss Shaw , who apparently seemed to be enjoying feeling very important sitting on the podium to the left of Mayor Ann ‘Moving Forward’ McLachlan (but then most people in the Council chamber seemed to be left of McLachlan).

Indeed we hear that Shaw is currently making a name for herself among the Council power elite for being ‘a safe pair of hands’ and we don’t mean that as a compliment!

As it would seem that both within the Council and the Labour group LRJ is essentially Ellen MacNomates  (the female version of Billy No Mates , and so named after lone round-the-world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacNomates ) her days as a councillor must surely be numbered .

However we are led to question as to whether LRJ deserves to be known as Wirral Council’s naughtiest elf . We’d nominate Cllrs Phil Davies, George Davies and Steve Foulkes over LRJ any day of the week. But then in the unlikely event they were ever called out publicly like LRJ has been we suppose the whole shelf would come tumbling down with all of Satan’s little helpers wouldn’t it ?

 

Voluntary Termination

Wirral Council Twitter

Although we do have an account  @WIRRALLEAKS we really don’t do Twitter. Even 280 words would never be enough for us and the relentless self promotion on this particular platform would put us off our stroke (or give us one).

However talking of which we couldn’t help commenting on Wirral Council’s Twitter header which has winged its way to us.

Forgive us – but when some of the most self serving people on planet earth have the temerity to ask us “When was the last time ……you did something for someone else” and use, not so much a picture as a visual tick box , it makes us want to empty the brown paper bag full of fresh vegetables and throw up into it – especially when you consider how the high and mighty at Wirral Council seem to have such little regard for ethnic minorities and the vulnerable . And furthermore as Her Ladyship said about the woman in the fingerless mittens – somebody needs to call  Kingdom’s fashion police and tell them to issue a Penalty Charge Notice.

Now we’ve said this before , we know kindness is never wasted and all that , and people who do voluntary work and who don’t expect to win awards and plaudits for doing so are to be valued. However the relentless promotion by Wirral Council of doing something for someone else to make us feel good about ourselves doesn’t sit well with us when it is presented in a queasy mix of  virtue signalling and guilt tripping . Might we suggest that encouraging people to plug the gaps in what’s left of public services makes highly paid public service ‘transformers’ feel even better ? Isn’t this what David Cameron’s ‘Big Society ‘ was largely all about? He must be happy as a pig in muck that this part of his vision for Britain where voluntary work replaces paid work and which hastens the termination of hard fought public services has been lovingly embraced by Labour councils?

Furthermore isn’t there’s something a bit sickening about Wirral Council workers who are enduring pay freezes, redundancy threats and imposition of unpaid leave are encouraged to undertake further work for no pay as when Wirral Council piously launched  a Voluntary Leave Policy      earlier this year :

To support this, the Council will promote volunteering and encourage employees to volunteer their help, time and support to make a difference to their local community.

Interestingly enough we’ve had a few people who used to work for Wirral Council and who were quite happy to do voluntary work  but were put off when they discovered that they were being asked to do complex work dealing with vulnerable people that used to be undertaken by the statutory services they had previously worked for! The further irony being that Wirral Council were part funding the management of this service!

Of course we should expect that Wirral Council’s senior management would want to promote this volunteering initiative and lead by example. Shall we look forward to a picture of Wirral Council CEO Eric Robinson emptying his recyclable Waitrose bag full of ethically sourced goodies at a Wirral soup kitchen on Christmas Day ? Or failing that do as one of his predecessors , Steve Maddox,  used to do and donate his Returning Officer expenses to a worthy charity? Or will we see interim head of law Philip McCourt popping into the one stop shop to do a bit of pro bono welfare rights work when the flawed introduction of Universal Credit wreaks havoc ? Let’s hope Wirral Council’s  communications department don’t forget to obtain pictures and post on their Twitter page  – as nowadays an act of selflessness didn’t happen unless there’s a selfie!

Apologies and Apologists

Apologies i have none

There was a very sorry display (or should that be ‘not sorry’ display?) at this week’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee where much of the meeting was spent discussing ” How do we solve a problem like Louise Reecejones (LRJ) ?” .

Apparently at the time of Monday’s meeting LRJ has yet to issue an acceptable apology to the whistleblowers who had made valid complaints about her but were then subject to personal attacks on social media and had to counter allegations intended to damage their careers. Furthermore doubts were raised during this week’s  meeting as to whether LRJ will comply with the requirement  to offer a  grovelling apology for her conduct to all Wirral councillors at full council meeting to be held on December 11 and whether she will actually turn up – something we had already raised as a possibility as you can read here : Standards and Measures

Having said all that it was particularly dispiriting to witness Wirral councillors flailing about and not knowing what to do if LRJ’s BSL signer is required to stick two fingers up to the sanctions imposed on her by the council’s Standards Panel . A rather excitable interim Monitoring Officer Philip McCourt seemed to get a vicarious thrill from reciting instances of appalling conduct of councillors from other areas as if to say ” and you thought you were bad!……”  

At which point Cllr Ron Abbey gormlessly  commented :   ” Just goes to show what’s going on out there . We live in a sheltered world . We’re all too good for our own  good 

Really???

Meanwhile his comedy sidekick Cllr Paul Stuart seems tickled pink by his hilariously insightful comments . They’re the Chuckle Brothers without the chuckles. All of this can be witnessed at between 18- 22 minutes of the John Brace video posted below.

We’d like to ask McCourt where he thinks councillors using racial slurs to describe his predecessor , attempting smear campaigns and trying to use public money to buy the silence of complainants would rank in the scheme of councillor misconduct?  #Wirralgate ……or whether this just confirms his prissy assertion that councillors can currently be ” naughty to a fairly large degree” without it impacting on them being fine upstanding public representatives and pillars of the community.

As far as we’re concerned it’s BY FAR the very worst behaviour ever committed by Wirral councillors . However sadly the days when  councillors could be surcharged for their  misdeeds (Tesco heiress Dame Shirley Porter’s gerrymandering  in Westminster being the most prominent example ) or even referred to inept independent body Standards for England are long gone . Would you believe that despite ex-councillor Jim Crabtree’s conviction earlier this year for his repulsive behaviour (ironically) towards LRJ  that he would still be eligible to stand again as a councillor as he did not receive a custodial sentence of more than 3 months!

It would appear the bar for decent conduct for public servants has now been set so low that is it any wonder that we have the appalling shower of public representatives that we have at Wirral Council?  What’s more when you consider that councillors have been apologists for the most appalling conduct of both favoured senior officers and fellow councillors over recent  years that they now lack any MORAL AUTHORITY when it comes to trying to censure the conduct of  others.

Not that we’re apologists for LRJ but if she’s struggling to cobble together a convincing and sincere apology here’s our humble suggestion :

As a once proud upstanding member of this council I am today detumescent before you. Before I prostrate myself  in abject shame and beg your forgiveness I offer these wholly inadequate yet heartfelt words. I realise I could never hope to meet the high standards set by former Labour councillors such as Harry Smith , with his tact, diplomacy and his use of the English language ,and especially his command of Anglo-Saxon . Nor could I ever hope to attain the high office of  Jim Crabtree .  I realise that his telephone manner left a lot to be desired but in every other respect his behaviour was exemplary – at least by Bidston & St James ward standards anyway.  

As for current Labour councillors there is our supreme leader Phil aka Power Boy Pip who has been a particular inspiration to me when it comes to delegating his powers as I have long admired how he gets other people to do his dirty work. As for his deputies what can I say ? There’s big hitter Bernie and casual racist George. And as for Foulkesy? What can I say other than I am simply unworthy to keep their company.  All that is left for me to say is that I apologise for all the wrongs that the Labour group have inflicted upon Wirral and I accept my role as a scapegoat on their behalf.  

 

 

Sorry/Not Sorry – The LRJ saga continues

Not Sorry 2

It is perhaps appropriate that Halloween sees the unveiling of the latest instalment of Cllr Louise Reecejones (LRJ) saga.

The previous two instalments can be found here :

Crabby v LRJ The Feud Continues

An LRJ Reaction

Wirral Leaks readers will remember that The Standards Panel of 15th June 2017 determined that LRJ had breached the Members’ Code of Conduct. The Panel decision required a number of actions to take place, including reporting the outcome to  Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee on 31st October to check whether LRJ has complied with the sanctions against her. The decision was subject to LRJ’s appeal which, considering the evidence against her, inevitably fell flat on its face. The report to the Committee sets out the steps that have, or have not, been taken by LRJ and other interested parties in responding to the actions required……..and it makes very interesting reading and might we suggest will lead to some intriguing political questions .

The report of  Philip McCourt (Interim Assistant Director – Law & Governance /Monitoring Officer)  who is currently auditioning to be Surjit Tour’s successor can be found  HERE

As you can see there are a number of recommendations made to the  Committee . The most damning being set out at recommendation (d) that LRJ 

(i) has been, and continues to be, an unreliable witness;
(ii) has attempted to mislead both the investigator conducting the
review and the monitoring officer in attempting to enforce the
sanctions of the Standards Panel; and

(iii) has continued to use her position and influence as a councillor to
victimise the complainants by making false allegations against
them via social media and to others
in breach of her obligations under the Members Code of Conduct

Now for us this is where it gets really interesting  because as a result of  of the Standards Panel held on 15th June the Labour Political Group Leader (presumably  Cllr Phil ‘ Power Boy Pip’ Davies) was asked to consider whether party disciplinary action should be taken against Councillor Reecejones and whether she should be removed (through Council) from all outside bodies to which she has been appointed.

Strangely such recommendations were not made by the Standards Panel at Cllr Steve Foulkes  Code of Conduct hearing held in August 2016 – where it could be argued that Foulkesy’s proven dishonesty was much more serious and much more damaging to Wirral Council.

WIRRALGATE! – Half the Story

However  in the light of LRJ  Standards Panel hearing she was suspended from the Labour Group indefinitely. On appeal to the Labour North West , this action was
commuted to a suspension of four months, to 6th January 2018, on the condition that Cllr Reecejones makes the formal apology required of her.

LRJ’s  belated ‘sorry/not sorry’ response set out below (which is included in McCourts’s report above ) will need to be considered by the Standards Panel and the Labour Group 

Dear Overchurch Residents Association,
I am writing to you as an outcome to the standards panel of 15th June
2017, I apologise for breaching the members code of conduct.
Yours Sincerely,
Cllr Louise Reecejones”
The other letters contained the same or less, but were additionally
accompanied by a final statement that read:
“This letter is solely for the recipient and should not be for publication “

We will have to wait and see whether this will suffice to save LRJ’s political skin. But having ,at least in the eyes of the Labour Group power elite anyway, been seen as being responsible for taking down one of their own ( ex Cllr Jim Crabtree) we don’t fancy her chances of retaining her current status as a Labour councillor.

If this does transpire we’d be interested to know how the Labour Group justify their kid glove approach to the likes of Cllr George Davies and  Cllr Steve Foulkes. Neither have even been suspended let alone face any kind of meaningful sanction for what frankly amounts to criminality – but then when the Labour Political Group Leader Cllr Phil Davies and the Labour Political Group Godfather are implicated in the cover up of their crime what should we expect?

 

Consultant Insults – Continued

£

The long running saga involving Wirral Council’s love of costly external consultants continues.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/consultant-insults/

As following on from our interims story – The £Million Interims – we understand that there are full details knocking about of consultants performing an interim role for Wirral Council.

However the people who actually pick up the DAILY tab of £8,404 – that’s us folks! – apparently aren’t allowed to know who we are paying, what we’re paying and what we’re paying them for – go figure!

This is because Wirral Council consider the information to be confidential and the poor downtrodden consultants that are not directly employed by the Council will have confidentiality preserved when it comes to cold hard cash.

Huh ?! – not at Wirral Council it won’t, especially when much of the information is rightly already in the public domain. We think that whoever  made up this diktat on the hoof realises that someone who does work for a local authority and is paid with Council taxpayers money somehow has a right to keep their paypacket a secret is not a particularly convincing argument.

That might explain why they usually throw in ‘commercial confidentiality’ as an additional back up as to why the Council need to keep a lid on the gory details of their expensive consultancy habit.  Apparently it could inhibit the Council from recruiting future interims. Whaaaat?! – can we therefore assume that the remuneration listed on recruitment sites will just henceforth state : ‘ Fill yer boots !’

It’s such a shame that the information about the 18 interims that are currently on the Council payroll is not more readily available as we’re sure that Wirral Council taxpayers would find it most illuminating/infuriating . Indeed we’re sure that one of Wirral Leaks’ regular contributors , Charles Nunn, will be particularly pleased to hear that we understand that Stewart Halliday’s contract , at a daily rate of £705 , and which was due to end in August has now been extended to the end of 2017.

However it should be noted that ‘Happy’ Halliday is not the highest paid interim on the list. We understand that accolade goes to Surjit Tour’s replacement . Philip McCourt ,the interim Assistant Director – Law & Governance has to get by on a mere £800 a day …….making him pro rata , at £200K + per annum, on more than Wirral Council’s CEO, Eric Robinson.

Wirral Council watchers may find some consolation in knowing that one of the 5 ‘transformers’ on the list , Martin Liptrot, finds himself ranked 16th out of the 18 interims listed in terms of his day rate – a paltry £350!

And finally before we go we’d just like to inform our readers that we’ll be taking a long overdue summer break throughout August – unless of course THAT story breaks . In the interim (!) we’ll  be considering how we co-ordinate the ‘managed decline’ of Wirral Leaks when we return in the autumn.

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