The Twelve Days of Christmas : Day Seven – The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future

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PAST : It was with breathtaking cynicism that on Christmas Eve 6 years ago Wirral Council shut up shop and published a report by Richard Penn which investigated a minor case of alleged ‘whistleblowing’ which nevertheless managed to get some airtime on Radio Merseyside on Christmas Day 2012. We won’t go into the details as apparently to do so could potentially cause ‘damage and distress ‘ to those named in the report. As you can see from our report The Penn Is Mightier Than The Sword  such was the secrecy and subterfuge it was a week later (and six years to the day) before we  got around to  covering the story –  and let’s face it like most of you probably under the influence of a hangover.

PRESENT : So you might be wondering why are we bringing up the matter of on the sixth anniversary of the publication of  ‘The Penn Report’ now? Well ,dear readers  ‘The Penn Report’ featured as evidence this year in a significant legal case which ended up in the Upper Tribunal in London, far from prying eyes and inquisitive ears and which demonstrated what can happen when low friends in high places pull a few strings who want to avoid the publication of ‘The Warren Report’ covering  the same issues as the ‘The Penn Report’ but allegedly penned (no pun intended) by close friend of Frank Field who describes the author of the unpublished report as a ‘stunning lawyer’ . We prefer the term ‘compromised ex-Judge in a conflict of interest clusterfuck’ and we’re confident with all his legal knowledge Nicholas Warren isn’t going to sue us for expressing that reasonably held belief even when Warren himself was indemnified by you, dear readers, to write whatever he wants about whoever he likes even though his report can’t ever be published.

Morton v 1.Information Commissioner 2. Wirral Metropolitan Council : (2018) UKUT 295 (AAC)

FUTURE : We predict – no, we promise – both reports will feature significantly in future 2019 Wirral Leaks posts as we finally put to bed the biggest scandal in Wirral Council history and reveal just how deep the corruption goes in our most revered and venerated UK institutions and which extends far beyond the insular peninsula…

 

WIRRALGATE! – The Road Makers on the Make ?

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For those with their finger on the ‘record’ button the streets of Wirral are lined with gold.

We’ve never been able to settle on a collective name for the four men of mystery at the centre of the Wirralgate saga. Various reports and articles have referred to them as ‘The Group’, ‘The Complainants’ and  The Colas/HESPE/Highways ‘whistleblowers’. However their elusive nature and their absence from the Thynne investigations suggests to us they have a slippery quality – a bit like phlegm.

Similarly does anyone know what their gripe with Wirral Council was ever about?. We know they were a bit peeved about not getting a contract to mend the roads and replace the bulbs in the streetlights and they claimed there  was some jiggerypokery about how the contract was awarded to Colas . Something to do with EU contract regulations being flouted – like that’s something new with Wirral Council!. For example their dodgy arrangement with Wirral Mind springs to,er, mind. Nothing was ever done about that one for a start.

For a group of people who prize their anonymity it is surprising they were quite happy at one time to appear on the Channel 4 Despatches programme. However we understand they were so unconvincing they were replaced by the man who has championed their cause  – Birkenhead MP Frank Field who in his inimitable style stabbed his protegees in the back by claiming that Wirral was a small place and if a council officer bumped into a contractor during a tender process , well that was to be expected, now all move along  there’s nothing to see here.

Inexplicably Frankenfield was to later take claims of alleged nefarious wrongdoing to Merseyside Police and the the Serious Fraud Office – unsurprisingly neither were interested.  An Audit Commission report was, as ever with auditors , inconclusive and there was also an independent investigation into claims undertaken by external investigator Richard Penn whose “no case to answer” conclusion may be open to question but again nothing was ever proved.

Nevertheless our “heroes” , the men who Frankenfield claimed the people of Wirral owed so much (£192,000 to be precise) , have continued to pursue a compensation claim against Wirral Council. Other than briefly naming one of them  years ago on the Wirral Council website no-one has ever been able to tell us what exactly why they think they deserve compensation.

The best that Frankenfield could come up with was the vague notion as to whether they’d been treated “fairly” and then completely “unfairly” got his old mucker Nick Warren to undertake an inquiry!. Let’s face it if there was a bespoke inquiry every time people from  Wirral claimed to be hard done by the council there’d be a long and winding road between the two town halls and we’d be here ’til kingdom come.

But then when we consider that one of the main protagonists in the Wirralgate scandal is Frankenfield’s political agent Cllr George Davies it might explain why St. Frank has too much to lose and isn’t prepared to play Pompeia on this one.

Strangely the infamous recording where Cllr George Davies tries to secure what The Group/Complainants etc; themselves called a “Smear Deal”  is not in the Terms of Reference for that inquiry. You’d think if the Group/Complainants etc; were so keen to expose wrongdoing and wanting to make Wirral Council better for all of us you’d have thought the first thing they would have done would be to publicly release the tapes , especially when Cllr George Davies reneged on the arrangement to “sort them out”. The “Smear Deal” being reliant on them providing a signed copy of an old letter they’d sent to former council head of law Bill Norman . It would appear that not only did they hand over the document they then started touting the recording of Cllr George Davies left right and centre. Talk about wanting your tape and playing it too!. It’s no wonder it’s reported in the first Thynne investigation report that they received threats that if they produced the tape the “Smear Deal” was off.

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We can’t help thinking that if the Warren inquiry was legit it should have been a pre- condition that if an inquiry took place then the recordings – and we understand there’s a number of them – should have been handed over . Then there could be no accusations , including from council leader Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies , that a recorded telephone conversation was being used to extort money from Wirral Council.

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As it stands the only sensible conclusion is that the tapes are indeed a sordid means to a seedy end . Although it needs to be said that this is a situation which was created and dictated by a group of corrupt politicians and not by The Group etc; themselves. Having said that , ordinarily we’d support anyone taking on Wirral Council but these guys seemed to have played fast and loose with politicians, the press , us , other whistleblowers – anyone who could help progress their dubious claim for compensation.

Why we feel particularly let down here at Leaky Towers is that we have always understood that the Wirralgate scandal  was a once in a lifetime opportunity to expose the dark heart of Wirral Council and to hold accountable those who’d abused their power for many years whilst all the while destroying people’s lives and careers in the name of self enrichment and self-aggrandizement. This small cabal of  conniving, lying , scheming politicians should have been thrown out of office years ago.

Sadly it would seem that because of the road makers on the make politics on Wirral will remain forever in the gutter.

 

 

Party Games

One of the joys of the festive season is when our butler Eldritch retrieves the treasured games from behind my portrait and the embarrassing relatives we hide in the attic.

Her Ladyship stops picking sugared almonds from her teeth ( a la Cllr Bill  ” Gurn-Merchant” Davies ) , drags herself away from the scandal sheets ( and we’re not talking the beds at Mere Brook House) , adjusts her pince-nez glasses , deigns to join the servants in the parlour and it’s fun and frolics all the way.

However we can’t help being reminded of Wirral Council when we play our party games.

First of all there’s the classic game of Monopoly – because of course there’s so much fun to be had getting out of trouble using other people’s money

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Furthermore there’s nothing like mortgaging your integrity to some chancers on the make who’ve got something on you : Boxing Day 009

Talking of chancers – how many times have Wirral Council played this particular card!?.

It’s just a shame they sell their soul using our money to the highest bidder/ lowest of the low.

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And then of course there’s the pieces that the powers that be move about the board as if they were Wirral Council staff facing redundancies.

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The Hat –  for pulling rabbits out of.In a spot of trouble ?,need someone to cover your corpulent,corporate backside?.Hire a consultant! – usually middle class compromisers enabling working class chancers to get off the hook.

The Thimble – for stitch ups (see above).

The Sportscar – the reward for indentured servitude.Some people sell their soul for a top of the range motor (preferably with personalised numberplates) or the chance to be driven around in a taxi at the council taxpayers expense or to be chauffeur driven in mayoral splendour.

The Boot – A funny kind of redundancy where the order of the boot comes at a high cost.

The Ship –  HMS Wirral Council has more leaks than the Titanic.They would do well to remember the World War 2 slogan: Loose lips sinks ships.

The Iron – for ironing out problems with one hand whilst wielding a Council chequebook in the other.

Which all leads to the following game :

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The Merry Game of Floundering – press releases,publicity shots and puff pieces.Is anyone taken in by the Most Improved Council in Britain tag?

Meanwhile we’ve passed many a happy hour playing Identity Kit – just who will be Wirral Council’s next Chief Executive (acting or otherwise) .From Maddox to Wilkie to Coleman to Frater to Armstrong to the current incumbent  Eric “Feeble” Robinson – monumental nonentities one and all.

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Then there’s always Funny Bunny (or should that be Funny Money?) – Might we suggest that “remove the carrots and watch the bunny drop” should be Wirral Council’s new executive incentive scheme . How about instead of rewarding failure by paying executives six figures worth of public money to disappear out the back door can we change the rules of the game and  hold them accountable instead ?.

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And finally we come to our favourite game at Leaky Towers :

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Thankfully there are an increasing number of  people wanting to play this game when it comes to challenging Wirral Council and this has led to some embarrassing recent climbdowns.

We all know the dice may be loaded but there are encouraging signs that Wirral Council’s luck may soon run out.

Here’s to fun and games in 2016!.

 

The Pen(n)is Mightier Than The Sword

The Penn-Name & The Moving Finger
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it
-The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
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During a lull between between yuletide and New Year celebrations we here at Leaky Towers have been picking the bones not only out of the turkey expertly stuffed by our cook Nigella Knowall but also a report where HESPE whistleblowers appear to have been expertly stuffed by former Bradford and Knowsley Council Chief Executive Richard Penn.
As previously reported on Wirralleaks the “Preliminary investigation into issues raised in the Report in the Public Interest in relation to the role of the Director of Technical Services in the procurement and management of HES contract” was sneaked out last minute on Christmas Eve ( and we understand faithfully reported by Wirral Council’s media friends on Radio Merseyside on Christmas Day).Well the first comment we’d like to make is why such a cumbersome,elongated title for such a simplistic,flimsy report?We can only hope and pray that indeed this is a “preliminary” report because 39 pages of mostly personal opinions presented as evidence and facts hardly seems to do justice to this complex case.
Indeed we’ve dispensed with the title – no ,not those bestowed on her Ladyship and I for services for leakage- but the title of the report and we’ve taken a leaf out of Eldritch’s book and will henceforth be referring to said magnum opus as “Penn’s Pisspoor Report” ( “…and having writ ,moves on” – indeed and no doubt,to another lucrative job).To save you the bother of reading what is described as a “Report for the Chief Executive” we’ll give you the lowdown (and by jove do we mean lowdown) .The report is from one ex-Merseyside Chief Executive to a current Merseyside Chief Executive – who no doubt would have rubbed up against each other ,so to speak,when Mr.Penn was Chief Executive at Knowsley Council and indeed when they were former muckers at Liverpool Council.Of course Dave Green (the aforesaid Director of Technical Services) is found to have “no case to answer” ( which rather reminds us here at Leaky Towers of the findings of another “investigation” at Wirral Council which eventually proved to be somewhat questionable to say the least…….).However, this time the findings are seemingly based on irrefutable fact based evidence such as legal beagle Colin Hughes telling Penn that Green would never get involved in any nastiness involving picking on whistleblowers :  “He (Hughes) said that Dave Green was seen as a man of integrity and fairness– such behavior would not have been in line with this reputation”.
As we must appreciate this statement stands up to close scrutiny because as we know : a) Whistleblowers are always dealt with fairly and with integrity and respect by Wirral Council and b) A Senior Officer in the Legal Department said it – so it must be true!.

It is very dispiriting to see the same old names trawled out (the dearly departed Norman,Coleman,Garry etc;) however we were all intrigued to see the names of two “old friends” appearing out of the Cheshire countryside like the delightful Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music – ” or as Eldritch commented : ” Oh here we go – the hills are alive with the sound of bullshit”.Ladies and gentlemen I give you Simon Goacher and Steve Maddox ( What ?! – No applause?.Why so?.)  Simon Goacher – former Head of  Legal of Wirral and more recently Cheshire East ( we understand there was a bit of a “falling out” at the latter) and now cosily ensconced at Weightman’s Solicitors in Liverpool and currently their Head of Local Government and doing lots of work for…….er , Wirral Council!!

All we would like to say at this juncture is that we hope all those Conflict of Interest forms have been filled in properly this time Simes old chap! Mr.Maddox – having baled out just before Anna Klonowski could ask him a few pertinent questions about his role in the Social Services scandals – suddenly appears fresh as a daisy to explain himself to fellow former Merseyside Chief Executive Mr.Penn,knowing full well that having the Freedom of the Borough of Wirral,being a Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside and having a big fat pension to cushion his derriere he’s beyond accountability ( however being out of harms way he’s convenient to pin the blame on).

Indeed there seems to be a lot of blaming of others in the report.Once again faithful beagle Colin Hughes pipes up that  there seemed to be a ” get Dave Green approach” .And who was behind this evil conspiracy to malign the good name of DG ?- take your pick – the “malicious” whistleblowers?, the District Auditor?, the cleaners at Wallasey Town Hall?……….

In his defence Dave Green refers to a District Auditor’s report where “more than 20 examples of blatant bad practice” are identified and yet he seems to be the only one being asked to be held accountable ( which frankly would be a first at Wirral Council) .
Indeed , we can recall Klonowski also refers to a blatant disregard of EU procurement regulations in the Independent Review.But really, as my late mother Lady Justicia once told me when I was a little boy and there was that little “misunderstanding” about that postal order: “Just because everyone else was doing it doesn’t mean you can use that as an excuse….rise above ,dear boy,rise above”.  And what’s more it raises the same old spectre of what the blithering hell Councillors were doing whilst Council Officers were getting away with “blatant bad practice” – scrutiny ,accountability and  consequences be damned!

Now I don’t know if its an excess of marron glaces and madeira but my head is spinning with all this intrigue.I could do with some fresh air to clear my head……….anyone fancy a quick round of golf at Carden Park?

Tally ho, and a Happy New Years Eve to you all,  your Good Lord Wirral-Leaks