Leaky Awards 2017 – Quotes of the Year Part Two

Leaky awardsLeaky awardsLeaky awards

Join us for the second part of our journey down the red carpet to hell.

JULY

“Five years ago, we were a local authority in crisis: focused on cuts and on the verge of government intervention. Since then, we’ve been recognised as the Local Government Chronicle’s ‘Most Improved Council’, experiencing the fastest turnaround of any council in the UK. So what’s changed? In a nutshell, we refuse to give up; we never stop moving. Our pragmatic, innovative and bold plan, ‘2020 Vision’ will ensure that we’re getting the basics right; that we’re achieving more; that we’re changing the way we do things. In this role, you’ll take us to the next level and create a legacy for yourself in the process.” – Wirral Council advert to recruit a new Director of Finance will make you laugh , vomit or both.

Full story : A LACK OF DISCRETION

“They don’t seem to realise I’m at the top of the pecking order ” and referring to the investigator : “She doesn’t scare me and a little councillor involved might just shut her up.” – Cllr Louise Reecejones (LRJ) texts used as evidence against her during Standards Panel Code of Conduct investigation. LRJ describing herself as top of the pecking order brings visions of an Animal Farm hen coop in desperate need of a cock. The cock in question being Foghorn Leghorn!

Full story : AN LRJ REACTION

AUGUST

”  ‘Sustainable’ = slashed budgets and services.·   ‘Transformed’ = cut, demoralised and damaged beyond recognition. ‘Partnership’ = developed in secret, operating in secret, condemned by local councils, a total lack of public/patient consultation, and the only happy partners are Richard Branson and a series of US ‘healthcos’. ”  Defend Our NHS provide a definition of STP (Sustainability & Transformation Plans)

Full story : BANK HOLIDAY BULLETIN BOARD

SEPTEMBER

“An economic value below the legal minimum wage……..(would help employers) to take on low-productivity disabled workers.”  – Frank Field ,Birkenhead MP demonstrates his deep understanding of disability and equality rights .

“For anyone in this day and age to hold those views, and especially someone in Frank Field’s position, is abominable. It is exactly the same sort of thinking as the Nazi ‘useless eaters’ rhetoric.” Linda Burnip from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) responds to Field’s comments

“The right to equal treatment and equality are human rights. Human rights are not privileges. That’s why they are called rights. I suggest Mr Field goes back to the drawing board. His comments are a disgrace and he should now apologise. Furthermore, if the Labour Party wishes to prove that it has truly changed its tune, it will need to demonstrate that the New Labour old guard are no longer calling the shots and put the voices of disabled people first.The last time we looked, Mr Field was not a spokesperson for disabled people.” John McArdle from campaign group Black Triangle also responds to Field’s comments. By the way people from Birkenhead , just a reminder, you are allowed to disagree with your MP.

Full story : THE SKWARKING CANARY COMES HOME TO ROOST

“It had adversely affected the staff morale and the reputation of the authority and rebuilding trust and transparency is still ongoing”   –  Simon Cuerden – Corporate Business Support Manager, Wirral Council comments on the conviction of Wallasey Town Hall petty cash thief  who would have evaded justice if an attempted cover up by officials hadn’t been uncovered by Wirral Leaks

Full story : EXCLUSIVE : THICK AS THIEVES UPDATE

OCTOBER

” Wirral is officially the happiest place to live in the North West” Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies , ‘Leader’ of Wirral Council in peak Pollyanna mode latches onto a bogus Rightmove survey as if it somehow negates an Ofsted report deeming Children’s Services ‘inadequate’ and a Care Quality Commission assessment that over half of care homes on Wirral are inadequate or require improvement. Yeah, Pip, whatevs.

Full story : HAPPY TALK

No laughing matter

Hotel Prestige ,Sorrento try to apologise to holidaymakers for alleged conduct unbecoming a former Wirral Council Mayor and his consort. 

Full story : SORRENTO SHAME 2 : NO LAUGHING MATTER

Comrades, “Now is the time” to stop acting like a “Party within a party” – and even like a “Momentum within Momentum”.

It is time to grasp that the mainstream (often called the “Left”) has won back the heart and soul of the Labour Party.  I do not know of a single member of the Seacombe Branch who has not fully supported my own declarations for Corbyn on the two websites or who does not support him now.  So why introduce friction where there need be none? Let’s try now to be a single Labour Party in Seacombe Ward.

Some comrades will remember that we also, for a while, held “Songs of the Labour Movement” musical evenings in the Park View Social Club – an opportunity for comrades to perform – or just listen and rub shoulders informally.  But, since then, we have had the difficulty of the Party being suspended so long that many of us don’t even know each other. – Cllr Adrian Jones keeps the red flag flying and addresses Wallasey CLP members seemingly in denial about the circumstances that led to the local branch being suspended by the Labour Party. 

Full story : SONGS OF THE LABOUR MOVEMENT – TWO TRIBES

NOVEMBER

“To ensure the promotion of “professional curiosity” when vulnerable children seek advice” – The final recommendation made following the (unpublished) Serious Care Review report following the Rajenthiram Brothers Child Sexual Exploitation case. It comes to something when you have to ask those who get paid to protect vulnerable children to actually try and do their jobs properly!

Full story :  A REPULSIVE EXCLUSIVE 

“Wirral Council has to ensure every pound spent is wisely invested and we get the best value for our residents.This decision is the right decision at the right moment – the contract with BAM Nuttall was coming to an end and we believe we can deliver this service more effectively by taking direct control.” – Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies announces the surprise return of highways services to council control which is in the opposite direction of all other council services. There are suggestions this decision was influenced not by best value but by personal and political interests.

Full story : WHAM! BAM! THANK YOU SCAM

” 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  Cllr Ron Abbey comments on the conduct of councillors in other councils clearly demonstrating he’s in denial and utterly deluded.

Full story : APOLOGIES AND APOLOGISTS

” I’ve always bought my houses, I’ve never inherited them……”   Frank Field , MP bitch slaps fellow Labour MP Hilary Benn and manages to unite all members of the House of Commons in condemnation of his comment.   

Full story : BIRKENHEAD MP’S BREXIT BITCHFEST BACKFIRES

“The darkness around us is very deep” – Cllr Tony ‘Tight-fit’ Norbury reads a poem urging elected members to ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ whilst every single Wirral councillor appears to be oblivious to the darkness around them.

Red Card 009

Full story : SHOW INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS THE RED CARD

“Basically, it is the same thing over and over and over: incompetence, very poor communication (with me, but also with other agencies and between themselves), rudeness, poor or non-existent note-taking, people leaving at short notice and with no proper explanation, etc etc. It just goes on and on.

When the Klonowski enquiry produced its damning report, I briefly hoped that the people found to be grossly incompetent (and, in some cases, corrupt) would be removed. Disheartening, to say the least, to see people like Steve Foulkes still in place. Where is the accountability? There simply is none.

It beggars belief that Wirral Council has not been placed in special measures. I daresay the reasons behind that are political. The Tories asking for it are being hypocritical because part of the problem is chronic underfunding from central govt but I do think that being placed in special measures would be the best thing. The only thing, actually, that would give people like me and my son the chance at least of a semi-decent service. I know special measures are not a panacea but they would be our best chance.” – A Carer contacts us to describe her experience of trying to get a much needed service for her disabled son.

Full story : THE NEVER-ENDING STORY

Private Eye Nov 2017 014

Private Eye report of Wirral Leaks exclusive featuring some choice quotes.

Full story : INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

“As the Labour  member on the (Standards) Panel it was very difficult for me  to hear that a Labour councillor had used her position as a councillor to damage the reputation and the livelihoods of other people. It goes without saying that people who come into this council were elected to serve the residents of the borough and not to use our position to do damage to them………” Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ McLaughlin proves to be another councillor in denial and conveniently forgets her role and that of other Labour councillors in damaging reputations and livelihoods of various former council officers who dared challenge them.

Full story : IT HAS TO STOP

DECEMBER

“Phil’s Folly “Cllr Gerry Ellis proving there’s life in the old dog yet at a standing room only public meeting where he described  Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil Davies and his plans for development of the Hoylake Golf Resort.

Full story : ADVENT FAREWELL 10 – QUESTION EVERYTHING

“LABOUR COUNCIL LISTEN TO THE PUBLIC!” – Wirral Needs campaigners repeated chant in the public gallery during last full Council meeting of 2017.

Full story : ADVENT FAREWELL 14 – WHY WIRRAL LEAKS SPEAKS IN PARABLES

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Advent Farewell 1 – The Beginning of the End

24th November

” Completely poisonous and insulting” – Cllr Steve Foulkes

“Caustic ” , “Mischievous” – Wirral Globe

“Excellent local blog” –  Private Eye

“I’m in favour of Wirral Leaks . If I was the Council I’d pay them money to find out was going on in my Council”  – Frank Field , MP

It was with the above picture and the words ‘watch this space’  that seven years ago Wirral Leaks was launched (originally on tumblr) to a politically apathetic local audience. Our early work 2010-12 can be found here : Wirral Leaks tumblr

Indeed in November 2010 we had two visitors, who we suspect were people who stumbled across us looking for a local plumber. However after a combined near million hits on our tumblr and WordPress sites the seven year snitch finally comes to an end. As we announced earlier this year His Lord and Ladyship will be swapping the clamour of Wirral for the glamour of the South of France.

No doubt this news will be the best Christmas present that some of the Wirral Council reprobates and associates who have featured regularly on our naughty list will have received in many a year . But fear not dear readers , there are still a few surprises sat under the Leaky Towers Christmas tree waiting to be opened.

Accordingly this year’s advent calendar will be like our very own version of A Christmas Carol featuring the ghosts of ‘Christmas Past’, ‘Present’ and ‘Yet to Come’. No need to tell you who represents Scrooge but we remain pessimistic that our advent calendar will ‘transform’ Wirral Council into a kinder, better organisation.

Although we are currently in negotiations to transfer operations to a trusted scion we have agreed that His Lord and Ladyship may make a Barbra Streisand type future comeback if there’s a particularly good tune we can whistle.

Meanwhile in the run up to Christmas we invite our dear readers join us on this advent adventure and send us your stories, memories, pictures and leaks that we have shared together on this sentimental journey . For as we all know – and to paraphrase the final line of the classic Christmas movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’  :

” Every time a whistle blows an angel gets its wings……..”

 

 

 

 

‘Hub’ Hubris – The ‘Defend Our NHS’ fight back opens the party season

Hunt

As the  party season arrives here is our first notification from our good friends Defend Our NHS (DONHS) Wirral that they’re organising  ‘a bit of a do’ .

Of course all we can do is sarcasm and satire so we doff our caps to those out there who actually give a damn and go out there and do something about it. They’ve also listed other dates that should interest you if you care about the future of the NHS – including a Clinical Commissioning Group meeting to be held tomorrow (see below).

We would also add that Wirral Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday 27th November is a date for the diary for anyone interested in bloody ‘hubs’ and more specifically ‘integrated commissioning hubs’. Sorry scrub that – as you can see all the interesting stuff that affects YOUR life and health will be discussed behind closed doors. Because that’s how Wirral Council roll (over all of us).

STP Hub

Dear friends of the NHS,

First the good news: we’re having a Christmas Party! We wanted to celebrate all we’ve done in the past year and give everyone a much -needed chance to relax from campaigning and to make and renew acquaintances with fellow NHS defenders.

It will be in central Birkenhead on the evening of Friday 8th December. There will be hot and cold food available. If we are to go ahead and make final arrangements, we need to know who is coming AND if you want food. (Food – something like chilli/curry with a vegetarian option – will be available at a cost of up to £10; it could be less if we have enough people. Any extra money will be used for printing leaflets and room hire.)

Only people who reply by 27th November to say they are coming will be sent the final details and ticket arrangements. Email now!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

But now the bad news – and we’re afraid there’s little else.

You will know that our campaigning this year has concentrated on Wirral Council. We wanted them to do a simple thing: to make good on the agreed policy to oppose the so-called ‘sustainability and transformation plan/partnership’ (STP).

They agreed this in December 2016 – yet it took the leader of the Council, Phil Davies, eight months to send off the letter to Jeremy Hunt.

We’ve been lobbying and briefing councillors and pointing out the wickedness of the STP and its associated ‘accountable care organisation/system’.

Only last month councillors agreed that, “This Council will, therefore, remain opposed to changes and savings which place the achievements of our NHS at risk.

The STP would involve £1bn CUTS for the Cheshire and Merseyside area.

The reduced budget will have to pay for social care AS WELL AS our NHS services.

Meanwhile the party to which most Wirral councillors belong has adopted a policy of complete reinstatement of the NHS.

So imagine our surprise when we discovered the following…

21 11 2017 - DONHS picture (1)

Guess who’s advising Wirral on this? Yes, Private Eye’s old friends, global auditing company Price Waterhouse Cooper– PwC (known in the trade as ‘profits without conscience’). 

On Wirral we have already seen how quickly cuts can be implemented. Eastham Walk-In centre was closed within days with no consultation with the public. We have already been warned about the “really big cuts to come” and everyone has evidence of long delays for appointments, staff shortages, service cuts and rationing.

Thanks to a fantastic community campaign the Eastham centre is to be re-opened. But will this be at the expense of A&E at Arrowe Park?

To compound the misery Wirral clinical commissioning group have secretly agreed to talk to Wirral partners (including the Council) and potentially to send a letter to NHSE requesting Wirral CCG join something called the ‘Capped Expenditure Programme’. If you want to know why this is terrifying read this from the BMA:

Have YOU been consulted on any of this? Does any of it meet the NHS mission of ‘no decision about me without me’?

We are simply flabbergasted – but we will fight back, and we urge you to do the same.

                        …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

What can we do if the NHS is to have a happy Christmas?

Join us and fight to reverse NHS cuts & privatisation

      Oppose the STP and ACS

      Insist that your councillors and MPs do the same

      Fight for the full restoration of an effective NHS

      Ensure that the Eastham NHS Walk-In Centre is re-opened without damage to other services (for example NO cuts to Arrowe Park A&E)

       Achieve an emergency £20m increase for Wirral NHS funding

      Come to the CCG ‘consultation’ meeting in Mayer Hall, Bebington from 6.30pm WEDNESDAY 22nd NOVEMBER

      Protest at the Wirral cabinet meeting, Wallasey town hall, 9am MONDAY 27TH NOVEMBER

      Protest at the Wirral council meeting, Wallasey town hall, 5pm MONDAY 11TH DECEMBER

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

ALL Wirral councillors have been asked these three simple questions:

  1. Do you support our campaign to stop the STP/ACS and oppose the further near £1 billion cuts? YES/NO
  2. Do you support the reinstatement of our NHS? YES/NO
  3. Will you tell Wirral voters what your responses are in any forthcoming communication? YES/NO

The replies we’ve received so far are very interesting.

And note that all Wirral MPs have been asked to pledge allegiance to the NHS at https://weownit.org.uk/nhstakeback Guess how many have?

IF OUR COUNCILLORS AND MPs FAIL TO JOIN US IN DEFENDING THE NHS WE HAVE A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION.

SOME OF THEM WON’T LIKE IT.

                        ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………                        Reminder:

  1. Reply now and tell us how many tickets you want for the Christmas party.
  2. Put those meeting dates in your diary and join us.
  3. Share this email and the information as widely as you can. And finally:
  4. We have been campaigning locally to defend our NHS for almost seven years. We need some new blood in the team who will DO things. If you are as determined as us to make this a happy NHS Christmas get in touch.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………                        Best wishes on behalf of Defend Our NHS

                        defendournhswirral@gmail.com

                        https://www.facebook.com/groups/defendournhs/

                        https://twitter.com/DefendourNHS



International Relations

Wirral  Council have a couple of mentions in the Rotten Boroughs section of the latest edition of Private Eye .

“Just a couple ?…..” snorts Her Ladyship ” that’s a good ‘Performance Indicator’ of the ‘Direction of Travel’ on their  ‘Improvement Journey’ “

The first mention is in an article about Sheffield City Council and their pursuit of Chinese investment (or “Wang wonga ” as the Eye would have it) . However when it comes to such ventures it would seem that Wirral Council has now become the byword for naivety, lack of due diligence and hyperbole after the Stella Shiu ‘International Trade Centre’ fantasy left them with “egg foo-yung on its face” ! 

Private Eye Nov 2017 010

It really doesn’t augur well for Wirral CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson and Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘ Power Boy Pip’ Davies repeated declarations following their MIPIM missions that billions and billions and billions of pounds – or euros or dollars or yuan , they’re not fussed where the moolah comes from –  will soon be ‘transforming’ Wirral and it’ll be the land of milk and honey where the streets are paved with gold (see artists’ impression).

The second mention involves the Eye picking up on our  Sorrento Shame story under the title ‘Travel Section’ . You’d think after undertaking an ambassadorial role as Mayor and Mayoress that the Foulkes’ would be well equipped to foster good international relations. Alas – it would seem that whilst you can take the girl and boy out of Birkenhead you can’t take Birkenhead out of the girl and boy.

Private Eye Nov 2017 014

However to end on a happy note here – giving a whole new meaning to ‘holiday snap’- is a touching Sorrento memento which Elaine Foulkes posted on social media for us all to enjoy.

Foulkes in Sorrento

A Reality Check For Children’s Services

Brazil September.jpg

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

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

Portrait of A Gobshite

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

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

Grant Thornton Audit Findings

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Sanction Distinction

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LRJ and Foulkesy – same actions, different sanctions

And so another Labour councillor from Wirral Council is found to be unworthy of holding public office as a damning Standards Panel ‘Decision Notice’ is published. Wirral Leaks readers will know that Cllr Louise Reecejones (LRJ)  is no stranger to these pages . This time she appears to be the perpetrator rather than the victim of malicious acts.

The Standards Panel , after considering an Investigators Report, “found the actions of  Cllr Reecejones were designed to threaten,intimidate,underine and cause difficulties at work “ for one of the complainants Tamsin Coates . The Standards Panel also noted that LRJ  took a similar approach to the second complainant , Jessica Smyth, where she had made a complaint to the organisation where Ms Jessica Smyth volunteered . Both Ms Coates and Ms Smyth had previously raised legitimate concerns with Wirral Council’s Internal Audit and Merseyside Police. Although no charges were brought against LRJ  because of ‘insufficient evidence’ the complainants were found to be justified in raising their concerns.

LRJ 015

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50042506/Standards%20Panel%2015%20June%202017%20Decsion%20Notice.pdf

Furthermore the Standards Panel found all the complainants  to be credible ( there were more from the Overchurch Residents Association) and yet LRJ was found to be ‘inconsistent, vague and misleading’   –   we know what they’re trying to say there don’t we boys and girls? Of particular interest to us was this quote from the Decision Notice :

LRJ 018

However it was when we read the ‘Sanctions’ section that apoplexy rapidly set in.

There are 5 sanctions in all  : i ) a formal warning letter from Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer  Surjit Tour (!) ii) LJR must provide a written apology to all complainants iii)  Labour leader Cllr Phil Davies to consider whether party disciplinary action be taken against LRJ and whether she should be removed from all outside bodies to which she has been appointed iv) Tour will be arranging ‘training’ for LRJ which she must attend v) The Panel’s decision to be considered further by the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee.

These sanctions stand in stark contrast to the mild rebuke that was imposed on Cllr Steve Foulkes last year. Foulkesy got away with an apology to  Tory leader Cllr Jeff Green who wasn’t even the complainant! Foulkesy had lied to Wirral Council, lied to the investigator (necessitating a further investigation costing  Wirral Council taxpayers £17K) and continues to lie about what he and Cllr George Davies had been up to – to this very day.

If we were LRJ we’d be asking some serious questions as to why Foulkesy wasn’t given similar sanctions. Especially in relation to a proven liar being able to represent Wirral Council on outside bodies.If anything he is even more unworthy of public office than LRJ – and it would appear that’s really saying something!

But then again we did advise LRJ she was on a hiding to nothing a long time ago . She’s not and never has been part of  the ‘Inner Ring’ . Unlike Standards  Panel  member Cllr Moira McLaughlin who must have enjoyed sticking the knife in someone who played a part in bringing down disgraced former Labour councillor Jim Crabtree – who was , very much, part of the ‘Inner Ring’ .

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/suspension-suspense/

We have never claimed that all Labour councillors are dishonest,incompetent or corrupt but we have consistently called out the cabal that are. Ultimately  we believe it is this ‘Inner Ring’ which has consistently brought Wirral Council into disrepute and until these people are removed from public office the people of Wirral will continue to be poorly served.

Although currently marked ‘Strictly Private and Confidential ‘ the full ‘Investigators Report’ can be found here

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g6133/Public%20reports%20pack%2015th-Jun-2017%2017.00%20Standards%20Panel.pdf?T=10

 

 

Dirty Work

Norman PE 009.JPG

Once again we have the opportunity to report on the travels and travails of Wirral Council’s former Head of Law Bill Norman. The reason we take such an interest in this particular ‘public servant’ is because, for us, he is something of a town hall totem. Symbolising  everything that is wrong with the local government gravy train. Serenely sailing from Torbay to Wirral to Hereford and now to Cheshire East Council (CEC), Norman has picked up a sizeable cheque at each port of call whilst leaving waves of controversy in his wake.

Norman Wisdom

Now we hear that ‘concerns’ have been raised about  his conduct in his latest role as Head of Legal Services and Montoring Officer at CEC  as we learn that a special committee has recently considered potential disciplinary matters concerning CEO Mike Suarez, Monitoring Officer Bill Norman and Chief Finance Officer Peter Bates.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-39495102

According to a further reports in the latest edition of Private Eye Norman has been caught up in the scandal which they dubbed ‘Physiogate’ which has startling similarities to our very own ongoing ‘Wirralgate’ scandal – of which Norman was an early casualty . Indeed he is apparently keen to explain to anyone who’ll listen that he was ‘stabbed in the back’ by Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies. However we’re sure the £146k he received (+ £10k legal fees) must’ve eased the pain somewhat.

Private Eye had exposed that valuable contracts had been awarded to CoreFit a firm owned by one Amanda Morris. Morris just happened to be the ‘close friend’ and the personal physio of CEC leader Mike Jones . However these contracts somehow bypassed usual tendering processes – oops! – and  consequently ‘Physiogate’ led to the resignation of Cllr Jones in 2015. The disciplinary hearing mentioned above summoned Norman to give evidence but it is not clear as to whether he faced disciplinary measures. However we do know that CEC CEO Suarez has been suspended.

According to Private Eye Norman could be implicated in ‘Physiogate’ because of his alleged treatment of CEC’s Head of Internal Audit, Andrew North. Apparently North had reported his concerns about the CoreFit contract to Suarez and Norman . Needless to say in true local authority fashion the person wanting to do things properly was treated as the villain of the piece consequently wanted to bring a grievance against Suarez and Norman.

Private Eye understands that Norman approached the CEC Head of Communications Beverley Walkden to ‘dig the dirt’ on North  – like you do. Usually in these cases senior managers close ranks but miraculously in this case  ,Walkden refused and , yes you guessed it, was suspended. Even more predictably North went off sick , left CEC in February 2017 and now claims to have been ‘bullied’ and forced out of CEC.  So far, so familiar – there is even a missing audio recording of the disciplinary committee meeting (more parallels with Wirralgate!).

So it would seem that the ‘dig the dirt’ tactic is a favourite approach of senior council officers when faced with a pesky employee who won’t play the corporate game, have served their purpose or they just want shut of. We’re wondering whether it was a trick that Norman picked it up at Wirral Council or it was part of his legacy that he left behind? We say this as we are reliably informed that two acting very senior officers at Wirral Council went digging for dirt from staff in an infamous case from 2015 .The dirt concerned allegations of sexual impropriety involving a now departed senior council officer . So far, so sordid. However, for us , what is even more sleazy is that the approach came with the  inducement that it would be beneficial to staff member’s careers if they dished the dirt. Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if you have absolutely no morals,ethics or integrity. What did we say in yesterday’s post about Wallasey Town Hall being a cesspit?

Somehow in this crazy , mixed up world of local government we are led to believe that the people doing such ‘dirty work’ should be valued and paid silly money . To add insult to injury these are the same people who value themselves so much that think they’re better than the ‘little people’ who pay them the silly money!

We’re here to remind them that they’re not.

Digging in the dirt.jpg

DOLLAR-BILL

Frequently Asked Questions

what da faq
A student journalist called ‘Charlie’ has been in touch . Apparently he’s writing a public affairs story for an assignment and has asked us some pertinent questions . We thought it would be a useful exercise to share his questions and our answers with readers and critics alike as it will save us a lot of time explaining what we do and why we do it :
1. Why did you start your blog? And what are you hoping to achieve?
Astonishingly we’ve just realised the blog started in November 2010. So you could say we’re heading for our ‘Seven Year Snitch’ !  Wirral Leaks started as tool to give an alternative voice to town hall spin – often using satire to expose Wirral Council corruption . Our ‘Contact Us’ page reads: ‘Hello Citizens! If you have news, grievances or proof of bullying, incompetence, cover ups and malpractice share it in confidence HERE wirralleaks@gmail.com & one of our operatives will get back to you.’
This sums it up. Where else can people go? 
What are we hoping to achieve ? – the downfall of western civilisation or failing that waking up the apathetic electorate of Wirral! We think it is fair to say that many significant Wirral Council public interest stories might never have been fully exposed or quickly forgotten about if we hadn’t existed. There are too many to list here but our readers will have their particular favourites. 750 posts and an ever increasing readership suggests a continuing need for this type of blog.   
2. How much attention does your blog have? What impact does it have?
It all depends whether you’re talking about blog stats (read them for yourself) or attention that is actively sought. We have Facebook and Twitter links but we don’t whore ourselves out on social media – it’s madness out there!
It’s fair to say we only seek approval of our mates and who we consider those to be our (superior) peers. We’ve been referenced in Private Eye as an ‘excellent local blog’  – high praise indeed! and local freebie Wirral Globe newspaper who’ve described us as ‘caustic’, ‘mischievous’ and only today (19/4/17) in Granty’s Inferno as ‘guardian of the free press’ . Guilty as charged on all three counts!   
Although there’s a concerted effort by the powers that be not to give us any recognition we’ve been mentioned in legal proceedings,council meetings and independent investigations. We have been contacted by representatives of ALL local political parties and recently were surprisingly given the endorsement of a senior local political figure (more on that at a later date). Having said all that we’re probably not the ones to ask when it comes to impact – you’re best asking targets of our stories who contact us (usually after a few scoops too many ) . There’s public impact and personal impact. There’s also our impact on the reputations of those in power and the decisions they make.This is incalculable.  
3. What would you say are the main issues with the council?
Where to begin?
The two words that we receive get most often to describe Wirral Council are ‘ shambles’ and ‘cesspit’ . So we’ll go with that description – shambolic cesspit.
Wirral Council was described in an independent review in 2012 as a place where the ‘abnormal is normal’. Despite their desperate pleas that ‘lessons have been learned’ nothing has changed . All of the slugs that were around then have slithered their way back and acquired yet more slime along the way.
4. Where would you say the council should focus their spending? 
It’s not for us to say where Wirral Council should focus their spending. Councillors get elected to do that – unfortunately their IQ doesn’t seem to equate with those making the real decisions as they are too easily duped by senior council officers who just want to get through Monday to Friday with the least minimum effort. Doing things properly or in the public interest doesn’t come into it!   
However what we will say is that we do know where they shouldn’t spend it on serial failures or paying off incompetent,corrupt council officers – INSERT NAME HERE.  
5. What was your take on the council bringing out the ‘Wirral View’ paper?
We were trying to keep this clean but FFS have you read the wretched thing? And have you read our repeated ripostes? When you read that a damning report about how Wirral Council’s Children Services and their assorted partner agencies have repeatedly let our vulnerable children down is reported that Wirral Council is investing £10 million in Children’s Services you know the true intent of this sinister publication.
The fact that Wirral Council are actively seeking advertising suggests they want to put the local press out of business. The question is – what are they going to do about blogs like us? 

Happy Halliday

 

Happy Halliday

Spookily, we were about to follow up our story about one of Wirral Council’s new ‘transformation’ gurus , Stewart Halliday,  when we were sent the above story from Private Eye with exactly the same title that this ‘excellent local blog’ was about to run with ( great minds etc;). We say ‘one of’ as we understand there have been two new highly paid ‘interim transformation ‘ council appointments to push through the further dismantling  of public services.

Astonishingly it has been suggested to us that ‘Happy Halliday’ could be in line for a significant  increase on the estimated £90K salary that he received at City of York Council despite leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.Talk about rewarding failure!

We’ve already reported on his previous involvement in a series of irregularities at City of York Council involving procurement and contract procedures and the use of consultants.  Among the allegations made against Halliday were that he failed to get proper tenders, quotes or contracts for £174K worth of work that he commissioned and he didn’t draw up business cases or monitor the work that was paid for.

Wirral Council – Where Transformation Means More Of The Same

Halliday had previously also been implicated in criticism that City of York Council had not been very good at publishing its data according to a report compiled by Spend Network, which forms part of the Spend Small campaign by the Centre for Entrepreneurs :.

“They ( City of York Council) are bad at publishing data that we could use to analyse what they are doing. It’s obvious they don’t think anyone is going to run the data against an algorithm. They have got dirty data, and manage it in a poor way. It’s not very helpful for people to use the data, and not helpful for people to read it as a human, it’s very hard to interpret.”

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/11463826.Council_criticised_over____dirty_data________report/

And so with Wirral Council pleading poverty at every turn and imposing a 4.99% rise in Council Tax it doesn’t sit well with us that they are potentially appointing two further people on six figure ‘interim’ contracts,one of whom at least , has a chequered past. This of course hasn’t prevented Halliday securing a big cheque future at the rogue’s paradise that is Wirral Council. As we know all too well Halliday follows a trail of local government garbage who have cleaned up at our expense.Who can forget Rob Vickers – the social care consultant who was paid £180K for 18 months ‘work’ which essentially involved helping to cover up two Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) scandals (‘the 4 week delay’ disgrace and, a thus far unreported, further unlawful overcharging of vulnerable people). And there have been plenty of others just like him, jumping on and off the endless money-go-round that is the Wirral Council consultant carousel.

We can only predict that one day we will look back and reflect that these were the darkest days in the history of public services – not just in terms of public finance, but in respect of the calibre of people who are running them and/or running them down.

 

smug-halliday

A compiler of an illustrated dictionary may find a use for this picture of Stewart Halliday next to the word ‘smug’.

 

Critical Condition

Wirral logocritical-condition

 

As you must know by now we are (and have been) fierce critics of Wirral Council and their uncritical friends ( Local Government Association , Frank Field etc;) for some time.

However it is reassuring that some parts of Wirral’s mainstream media (i.e. Wirral Globe ), local bloggers and our regular correspondents not only have the gift of critical thinking they now have the means by which to express their thoughts.

Unfortunately those means of communication were not around when the power bases were formed which we believe are responsible for the critical condition that Wirral now finds itself in.

So here we find one of our valued Wirral Leaks correspondents Dr Robert B Smith giving us a brief introduction as to how we think we got to where we are and why we all need to challenge the ‘alternative facts’ peddled by the powers that be . As the redoubtable Dr Smith tells us , there’s a book to be written here – especially about missing monies. If he’s looking for a title might we suggest ‘ The Neverending Story’! – Wirral Leaks readers are invited to offer alternatives.

WIRRAL – a Critical Mass of attractions

WIRRAL COUNCIL – a Critical Mess of afflictions

As a recipient of one of then-Cllr Jim (Jumbo) Crabtree’s strident early morning emails at 2.35am, the Wirral Leaks piece reported in Private Eye regarding the exposure of his death threats to Cllr LRJ, prompted me to put a few thoughts together about Wirral Council and councillors.

To understand Wirral’s problems, and there are many, is to understand its history.

To understand Wirral Council’s problems, and there are many, is to understand its history.

Wirral Council should serve its residents, businesses and visitors, but has insidiously created the ‘insular peninsula’. Wirral Council is a stricken organisation, nationally acknowledged as an organisation where abnormal behaviour is so deeply embedded it is accepted as ‘normal’; and the organisation is in terminal decline. Wirral councillors, and chief officers now occupy a self-created netherworld. This is almost beyond comprehension in many ways as, unlike Chief and Senior officers, councillors do live in Wirral with the consequences of their actions, and presumably are friends and neighbours with Wirral residents, businesses and visitors. Maybe that defines peninsularity…or possibly vested interests?

And this is the critical factor that almost entirely divorces Wirral Council from the public it is supposed to serve. The concept of public service for the upper echelons of Wirral Council, both politicians and managers is a distant memory. Self-serving organisational protection is in full-flow, after gaining momentum over the last 15 years or so.

Wirral Council’s finances have been in free-fall since the early 1990s, although no-one in Wirral Council will admit it – but the evidence is all around in the media and archives. Gradually diminishing services, cloaked in desperate efforts to create an illusion of visionary leadership, is not actually about services. It is actually about survival of the organisation and those that significantly benefit from being part of it. That does not include Wirral’s residents, businesses and visitors.

Wirral Council’s self-perception, and its perception of Wirral (‘The Leisure Peninsula’), have led it until fairly recently to vehemently oppose any links to, or association with, Liverpool. This has changed more recently as a matter of necessity due to a now imposed concept, not at all understood by Wirral Council, of a city-region and its interdependences.

Strategic thinkers amongst senior officers are long gone. Over the years political self-interest and party-political power struggles of whatever political persuasion, have taken their toll, at the expense of a great many staff, and those Wirral Council is supposed to serve.

‘That was then, and this is now’. 7 words that embrace a few decades of disastrous planning, and financial management. If in fact there was any planning at all. Wirral residents, businesses and visitors are paying handsomely now, for what happened then. It is interesting to see which councillors were around then, and which are still around now.

When, in the late 1990s, a councillor states “this year’s budget is in a mess, but never mind. The Director of Finance will pull something out of the hat, he always does”. When successive years of budget cuts follow, it doesn’t take an Einstein to know there will be trouble ahead. Chase the regeneration grants…over £500,000,000 spent in Birkenhead by 2008…Wirral Council just walks away and allocates no additional revenue to maintain or run the new facilities. Just take a look around.

Wirral Council owes around £500,000,000 to private banks as a result of borrowing £137,000,000 from private banks between 2001 and 2008. No-one in Wirral Council appears to know where any of that money was allocated. Maybe no-one could find the hat any longer?

Parking charges…again. Another bankrupt idea from an almost bankrupt Council you may think? The Wirral Council mantra “We need to raise additional income.” “We’re having our grants cut again!” “We are the victims in this!”

Are they? And that is the key – the Council see themselves as ‘the victims in this’. It is actually Wirral residents, businesses, and visitors who are the victims.

Parking charges just keep creeping back in. It cost the Council in 2014/15 £119,000 to enforce parking penalties. So the good citizens of the borough are paying for the privilege of penalising parking offenders. However, a separate income line from the same year is ‘the full amount of Pay & Display parking income receipts banked by Wirral Council, £1,689,267’ – taken again from the good citizens of the borough.

Freedom of Information requests – one of which was asked about parking charges. How many requests are refused? There is a procedure called ‘the public interest test’. However, in Wirral it does not exist. What does exist is ‘the Council interest test’. Which is why so many refused Freedom of Information requests are overturned by the Information Commissioners Office.

From start to finish this is a very expensive process. If a request is overturned, then surely the ‘public interest test’ was ignored. How much public money is wasted by Wirral Council, defending the obviously indefensible? A ‘successful’ Freedom of Information request confirms that no records are kept…which appears to indicate there is a bottomless pit of money when the Council wants it to frustrate enquirers by refusing legitimate requests.

Then again £2,000,000 can also be magically produced when the Safeguarding Board isn’t up to the job, and £237,960 per year (with little sign of private sector income to offset the cost) public money to finance the ‘Wirral View’ of Wirral (seen through Wirral Council’s rose-tinted specs). They can’t be read at luncheon clubs now the minimal funding has been axed, can they?

Which brings me back to now. And the legacy of ‘that was then’. Only one of numerous examples…What price is being paid to service a debt of £500,000,000 owed to private banks by Wirral Council? At an average of 6% pa, around £8,000,000 per year (this is not the total of council borrowing by the way) with the final payments being made in 2078. Tell your kids and grandkids if you are in your 20s now – Wirral Council mortgaged all our futures just to save political skins.

What price is being paid by Wirral’s Council Tax and other tax payers? The price of political failure over decades. But the rewards to politicians and some senior officers have been significant. There are not many paid jobs where the serially inept are rewarded with such significant sums of money for continuous failure.

Do any occupants of positions in the upper echelons of Wirral Council management just ‘leave’ without an additional ‘package’ of some kind– if not, why not?