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!

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His Lordship Makes An Announcement

Citizen-Leaks

Live from Leaky Towers we proudly present an important  press statement from His Lordship :

‘After serious consideration and stumping up the £500 election deposit by selling some of the family silver I have resolved to stand as the Leaky Party candidate at the next General Election.

Of course this will mean I will have to relinquish my title and forego the afternoon snoozes in the House of Lords – not to mention the expenses.

Newly appointed Wirral Leaks Press Officer Ms. McCalamity whispers in ear : ‘ I thought we agreed it would be best if you didn’t actually mention your expenses at all ! Remember that little problem you had explaining the gold-plated trouser press and the appointment of your own personal nobbler, sorry ,cobbler claiming you were only trying to emulate the incumbent MP for Birkenhead ?’ – https://order-order.com/2009/10/19/is-frank-field-really-so-saintly/

However from now I will be a commoner and appropriately enough I will be standing in the Birkenhead Constituency. For the duration of my campaign I will be known simply as Julian ( McCalamity whispers in ear) . Oh yes , we’ve agreed on a bit of rebranding and that to maximise the youth vote I will be going by name ‘Joolz’ and my election tagline will be ‘Joolz 4 Birko’ .

Her Ladyship is already busily preparing to become Birkenhead’s First Lady – as opposed to Wirral Chamber of Commerce CEO Paula Basnett who is Birkenhead First’s Lady . Because as everyone knows behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes and running the show!

The Leaky Party will be standing on a platform of  investing and supporting public services , promoting openness,transparency and accountability, refusing to reward failure with public money, preventing the appointment of overpaid consultants, promoting meritocracy and rejecting cronyism , barring BS and spurning spin. Oh and whilst we’re at it stopping ‘Returning Officer’ payments at elections – if ever there is case of the undeserving rich it is Eric ‘ Feeble’ Robinson pocketing another 15 grand just before the summer hols. C’mon Eric – do as one of your predecessors once did and donate this unwarranted perk to charity . Might we suggest adding this election windfall to fundraising efforts for victims of the New Ferry  gas explosion. Put OUR money where the need is!

So in conclusion as I launch our campaign I say to the people of Wirral ( and particularly Birkenhead)  – let’s all rise up together and be something more than pitiers of the poor and do something more than promote ourselves,our friends and our own personal agendas.

Let the political games begin……’

 

Redact and Be Damned

 

Returning Officer  Money 011

After a false start (with emphasis on the false) Wirral Council initially responded to a recent Freedom of Information request with the wrong information.They have now got round to responding to friend of Wirral Leaks , Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro , about his enquiry pertaining to the Police and Crime Commissioner election of 2012.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/police_crime_commissioner_electi_3

Now as you can see the response below comes with the obligatory redactions and with the excuse that what lies behind the black marker pen is somehow ‘personal information’.

Yes , that’s right folks- public money paid to a public servant in the course of their public duties is ‘personal information’. Go figure!

Talking of figures – there’s some juicy figures on display and we’re not talking about Wirral Council’s Head of Law Surjit Tour –  here identified as the recipient of significant sums of money on top of his salary ( for doing what exactly!?)

Of course we flagged up the significance of this election long ago ( May 2014 to be precise) and anticipated it would feature in a recent Tribunal hearing featuring Wirral Council.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/election-reflection/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/a-return-to-greed/

As far as we’re concerned the use of redactions in Wirral Council’s response is as mysterious as the ‘Milk Tray Man’ – but instead of a black polo neck we get a black marker pen.

Unfortunately , from what we can gather, there appears to be a difference of opinion between Wirral Council’s Returning Officer at the time , former CEO Graham Burgess  (aka Burgesski) and Surjit Tour as to who did what for the money and how the figures were arrived at. However we’re sure that these fine upstanding public servants would, in the public interest, like to clarify what information lies behind the redactions. Otherwise, might we suggest,  they will be damned to further speculation as to exactly what happened on that fateful election night in 2012 and as to whether everything added up – and we’re not talking about the voting!foiextract20170303-10000-1v16phh-1_1

foiextract20170303-10000-1v16phh-2_1-b

 

foiextract20170303-10000-1v16phh-3_1-c

A Return to Greed

Pigs 2

There’s a particularly intriguing story that keeps returning to our radar .

So we set Verity off in pursuit of  various leads in an attempt to get to the truth of the matter. First port of call was the ever informative What Do They Know website. My goodness !, there are some interesting Freedom of Information (FOI) requests concerning Wirral Council on there – but one that particularly caught our eye and appears to have disappeared under everyone’s radar was an FOI request made by perennially returning Tory councillor Ian Lewis.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/payments_to_the_returning_office

Now why would Cllr Lewis be especially interested in knowing about historical information held by Wirral Council concerning the role/responsibilities/returns of the Returning Officer ?

Could it be that his interest was piqued by a couple of posts on Wirral Leaks or does he know something we don’t?…..

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/standard-procedures/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/big-returns/

There’s certainly some interesting information to be had about the role of the Returning Officer during elections. It seems to us that this role basically involves bossing council staff to do all the running round whilst the already massively remunerated council CEO picks up a big fat fee just in case there’s an electoral cock-up and the government need someone to blame.

It’s interesting to note that between 2006-2010 the Returning Officer Steve Maddox donated all Returning Officer fees that he was supposed to receive to charity. It’s just such a shame he wasn’t so charitable when it came to bullying his own staff and setting the tone for a bullying culture at Wirral Council. His successors as Returning Officer – Bill Norman, Graham Burgess and presumably the latest incumbent Eric Robinson obviously don’t believe in such generous largesse as they are seemingly some of the greediest little piggies in local government (and that’s saying something as this a particularly crowded trough).

return-to-greed-012

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/356355/response/869178/attach/4/FOI%201087924%20Councillor%20Ian%20Lewis%20Payments%20to%20the%20Returning%20Officers.pdf

The sums on offer are eye-watering and frankly in this age of austerity, absolutely obscene. This year alone the current Wirral Council CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson has picked up just short of £30,000 on top of his £175,000 + salary for the Local, Police and Crime Commissioner elections and the EU referendum.

Verity’s forensic eye was particularly drawn to details of the Returning Officer statutory fee  of £11,362 for the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner election , paid presumably to the then Wirral Council CEO Graham Burgess (aka Burgesski) . However she has discovered the alarming anomaly that Burgesski was also the Returning Officer for the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner election in 2012 !.

return-to-greed-009

https://www.blackburn.gov.uk/Lists/DownloadableDocuments/NoticeOfElectionAgentsNamesAndOffices.pdf

How curious we thought and we’re left wondering whether Burgesski  could have picked up two fees amounting to £22, 724 in one day ?.   Now that would be beyond obscene!.

I think we should be told !  – but who to ask?.

Burgesski himself ? – we suspect the Great White Shark , former union firebrand and now champagne socialist would like to put his Wirral Council  , ahem, ‘experiences’ behind him.

Internal Audit ?- or rather Infernal Audit under the guidance of Internal Chief Auditor Mark Niblock? . Are you kidding us?. This one learned his trade under his predecessor , the disgraceful David Garry.

External Audit ?- Grant Thornton and their predecessors the Audit Commission have a shameful track record of not biting the hand that feeds them and have produced more fudge than Devon in the name of protecting a lucrative income stream.

Monitoring Officer ?- I’m sure Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour would be able to clear this one up for us as he should be well versed in the legalities and correct procedures involved.  We’re sure that Tour ,in the absence Bill Norman Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer who was suspended at the time , would have ensured that everything was above board and that those who were entitled to Returning Officer fees were paid correctly and made to the people who were properly entitled to them!………unless of course somebody knows different!.

Standard Procedures

 

Returning Officer  Money 011

 

Rather endearingly we’ve been asked by a very excited reader whether Wirral Council’s Standards & Constitutional Committee meeting on Thursday will finally mean that the Thynne 2 report will finally see the light of day.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g5680/Agenda%20frontsheet%2002nd-Jun-2016%2017.00%20Standards%20and%20Constitutional%20Oversight%20Committee.pdf?T=0

Sorry to disappoint them but all we can say is- ” You’ve got to be joking ! ”

Instead it seems to be a case of death by bureaucracy and a further desperate attempt by Wirral Council to kill the report stone dead. The sickening irony is that Thursday’s meeting is to approve procedures,protocols and appointments relating to complaints about Wirral Councillors.

The fact that the Committee hasn’t met for 6 months tells you everything you need to know about how seriously councillors take the issue of their own public accountability.

If you really want to lose the will to live might we suggest that you check out the protocol here :

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/b50006718/Additional%20Papers%2002nd-Jun-2016%2017.00%20Standards%20and%20Constitutional%20Oversight%20Committee.pdf?T=9

We have two main observations , the first of which is to ask what is the point of having a protocol , a procedure or a policy if you contemptuously ignore it?.

We mean specifically clause 16  of the protocol concerned as it is with the meeting of the Standards Panel

16. Standards Panel

16.1 Where a Standards Complaint has been referred for investigation and a finding of a breach has been found by the Investigator, the Standards Panel shall be convened within 20 working days of the Monitoring Officer receiving the Investigator’s final report.

So can the Committee tell us exactly how long they’ve had Investigator Patricia Thynne’s  second Code of Conduct report ?. By our reckoning it’s at least 6 months . Funny we can’t see anywhere in the protocol that Wirral Council have to check with a councillor’s legal rep whether it’s OK with them whether they can hold a meeting! . Although we do note that the decision to instigate a Standards Appeal Panel fills us with complete despair as no matter how heinous or how damning the evidence against them is an errant councillor can seemingly spin the inevitable out for even longer so that allegations can be dismissed as “historical”.

Our second observation is the truly terrifying aspect of the protocol that is the frightening number of powers that the Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour gives himself …..although now we come to think about it that might explain our first observation!!!.

The Monitoring Officer who thinks he’a Returning Officer – but isn’t !.

Oops! –  do you have a protocol for when that happens Mr.Tour?.

 

Big Returns

Returning Officer 008

As you all face the big dilemma on Super Thursday of exactly where to put your X spare a thought for poor Wirral Council Chief Executive “Stressed” Eric Robinson as he struggles to get by on £175,000 + per annum. In addition to which he gets a nice little earner from the Local and Police and Crime Commissioner Elections and based on the last figures available will pocket at least an additional £16,000 tomorrow. Stressed Eric is also in line for at least another  £12,000 for the EU Referendum in June. We estimate that all these payments will take him past the £200,000 mark for the year (and all of which is pensionable) and which takes us into the realms of Monopoly money.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50022160/CEx%20Appendix%2010%20RO%20Fee%20SummaryNov%202014.pdf

In accordance with the Representation of the People Act 1983 the cost of local election is the only one met from the local authority’s budgets. All the rest are funded by central government.Wirral Council is required to appoint a Returning Officer to conduct these elections on their behalf and the Returning Officer is personally (not corporately) responsible for the management of elections. Each local authority is required to place the services of its staff at the disposal of the Returning Officer to help run the election.

So basically Eric gets a big fat bonus for reading the results and taking responsibility for any electoral irregularities.Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if you’re a Chief Executive.

This ludicrous idea that there is a special extra payment for running an election goes back to when contested elections were far less frequent (fewer elected bodies and uncontested seats more common). Now this arrangement looks to us like an expensive anachronism.

And we’re not the only ones . John Turner, Chief Executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said in 2013: “The whole question of returning officer fees needs to be reviewed and brought up to date. It is just another aspect of elections where we need to ask whether it is fit for purpose and appropriate in the modern age.”

If the likes of Stressed Eric are some of the highest paid public servants in the land, How can we continue to justify paying these people extra sums of £30,000 or so just to do another task, for which their salary should be more than enough to compensate them?.

Needless to say Wirral Council has its own unique issues when it comes to Returning Officer fees including we understand the case of a former a Chief Executive who pocketed two Returning Officer fees for the same local elections – like you do.

But we’ll save that absolutely gobsmacking story of greed and corruption for after the elections…………..

 

Campaign Fail

 

Labour leaflet 009

The Wirral Labour local election campaign team were out in force in New Brighton yesterday delivering the above leaflet…

As you can see the campaign leaflet is for prospective New Brighton Labour candidate Tony Jones.

Now I know we’re often told we should judge people by the company that they keep but we’ll put that consideration to one side as Tony seems a nice smiley chappy and was apparently former Head of Lifeguard Service.

So what’s the problem you might ask ?

There’s only one problem and that there’s no legal imprint showing name of agent, candidate or printer on the leaflet .

Again you might ask what’s the big deal?

Well for a start the Electoral Commission takes these things very seriously. Section 143 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 introduced a new requirement for all election material to bear the name and address of the printer, promoter and the name and address of any person on behalf of whom material is being published (and who is not the promoter). A candidate or election agent contravening this provision is guilty of an illegal practice.

The Electoral Commission explains the purpose of the imprint requirements in Section 4.33 of its guidance for candidates and agents :

The intention of imprint requirements is to enable anyone to trace the person responsible for the material , for example in case of any complaint or query about its content .There is no requirement for an imprint address to be a home address , as long as it is somewhere the person can be contacted . It could for example, be an office address.

The Wallasey Labour Party email address on the leaflet will not suffice for this purpose as Section 4.34 states:

An email address is not acceptable as an imprint address because it is not a physical address, and it is possible to create one using false or fictitious details 

The Commission stresses in its guidance that the consequences of a breach of the requirements are serious and advises that if it is believed that an offence relating to imprints has been committed this should be brought to the attention of the police. If the promoter of the material or any other person by whom the material is so published or the printer of the document commits an offence, they are liable to a fine of up to £5,000.

As a prospective councillor we’re not trying not to be too critical of Tony Jones himself here but we do question the experienced politicians who are supposed to be supporting him. Unfortunately some of these amateurs currently run and want to continue to run the council.

 

Mr. Jones – clearly already familiar with Wirral Council lingo- offered up in his leaflet  “My 6 Pledges for New Brighton ” which includes at Number 1 :

1. I will run a positive election campaign

Perhaps he should have started with  ” I will run a legal campaign”.

We understand that the matter has been reported to Wirral Council’s Returning Officer Eric Robinson . We should now expect him to report the matter to Merseyside Police or as our source writes  : “Or maybe not……..”

However we ‘d advise our readers to stay tuned to Wirral Leaks for further progress on this matter and particularly about the roles and responsibilities of the Returning Officer which we think will be of particular interest !.

 

Election Reflection

LocalElections2014PH230514-5

And so in the week following the local and Euro elections we at Leaky Towers make some observations and reflect on some of the feedback we’ve received……

“Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet…….”

One of the most depressing aspects of the local elections (other than the calibre of some of the candidates) was the appallingly low turnout. In reverse order , the percentage figures for some of our most deprived  wards were Seacombe (26.7 %) Bidston & St.James (26.6 %) and the lowest of the low –  Rock Ferry (26.5%) where the duly elected Councillor was Moira McLaughlin – upon which we make absolutely no comment.

Compare these figures with the high turnout in some of our most affluent areas – Greasby,Frankby,& Irby (43%) West Kirby & Thurstaston (42.2%) and Clatterbridge (40.5%).

No prizes for guessing which are Labour and which are Tory wards.
And right there you have a graphic illustration of the great east/west Wirral divide which typifies the fractious and divisive politics on this peninsula.
 
Returning a Nice Little Earner

After the assembled throng at the Bidston Tennis Centre had stifled their guffaws at the sight of another PR fail where Comrade Burgesski stood next to a very symbolic and decidedly phallic Moreton lighthouse there was the dawning realisation that as Returning Officer and at 2012 rates  Wirral Council’s CEO was raking in £233 per ward for announcing the results of the elections.  SEE HERE

I’m sure you’ll all agree that  two and a half grand for channelling  Miss World MC Eric Morley for the day is a nice little earner. Of course we’re sure that Comrade Burgesski will be donating his fee to a local foodbank or the Unison fighting fund and not dreaming of a leisurely  fortnight in the Algarve…..

Also benefiting from the election bonanza and receiving half of Burgesski’s fee was Monitoring Officer Surjit  “Not” Poor – which mustn’t have gone down well with certain politicians who we know are not exactly enamoured of the Council’s Official Number Two.

……And the local election largesse didn’t stop there as we hear that many staff employed by WC were paid extra for election duties as well as having ‘special paid leave’

We understand Wirral Council’s notoriously renowned nepotism ensured that one person had her whole family on election duties and they raked in a tidy sum between them working Wednesday, Thursday & Friday and then Sunday!
Trebles all round on the electoral gravy train !!!