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 PrivateEye 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.
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.”
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.
A compiler of an illustrated dictionary may find a use for this picture of Stewart Halliday next to the word ‘smug’.
A shout out to one of our many Wirral Council watchers who has sent us some news all the way from the charming city of York.
Here we pick out some of the most pertinent points from the following newspaper article published by The York Press ( who are like our own dear Wirral Globe only a little bit posher). Whilst the issues raised read like our back catalogue – serious failings, procedural breaches,cover ups, procurement issues, dodgy contracts, lack of monitoring, culture of fear , leaked reports and how City of York Council are more concerned about reputation management than exposing malpractice. Bear with us , there is a punchline :
The Press revealed yesterday, council bosses have been criticised for paying tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money without proper monitoring, and told to take “robust action” to avoid a repeat of serious failings.
The council refused to publish one of two auditors’ reports, but a copy has now been seen by The Press and adds more detail to the published report.
It alleges that another £150,000 was paid out, and a catalogue of other failures including the council official responsible not getting proper tenders, quotes or contracts for work commissioned, and not drawing up business cases or monitoring the work that was paid for.
According to the report, there was a series of policy breaches, but auditors have made clear there is no evidence of fraud or criminality.
Stewart Halliday, who held senior roles with the council, authorised a raft of payments to communications consultant Stuart Goulden without obtaining quotes
Mr Halliday sent council information to his own personal email address, and the personal email addresses of one serving and one former councillor
Contracts were awarded to other companies Mr Goulden was involved with, as well as to him personally
There was a “lack-of-recognition” in the council that Mr Goulden was being paid so much
Procurement staff and a former chief executive tried to challenge the troublesome contracts, but failed “possibly due to the culture within the area at the time”.
The auditors’ investigation included checking Mr Halliday’s email account after he had left the council, trying to check historic entry logs at the council headquarters, and exploring potential personal links between Mr Halliday and Mr Goulden. None were found.
The auditors said they could see Mr Goulden had carried out the work, but they could not find any evidence Mr Halliday had followed procurement rules by looking for other quotes, drawing up contracts and putting them on the council register, or monitoring the work.
Instead, the report lists ten alleged breaches including no paperwork being retained; no quotes or contracts for the work; one payment in advance of work being carried out; and a lack of contract monitoring.
Furthermore, auditors say they found emails containing council information which had been sent from Mr Halliday’s work account to non-council email addresses, including some information marked “confidential”.
The auditors raised concerns about the potential data protection implications of that.
Mr Halliday was the council’s assistant director for transformation and change in 2014, and had also held the title of head of strategy, partnerships and communications.
Mr Goulden and his company Like No Other worked for the council between 2013 and 2016.
A spokeswoman for City of York Council said: “The report was exempt from publication and our employees identities kept private because it identified individuals by name and this information related specifically to their financial or business affairs. As a responsible employer we have a fundamental duty to protect the privacy of our employees and former employees. We are taking this matter very seriously. An investigation into how this confidential report was released is being conducted and this will involve North Yorkshire Police.
The Press has made efforts to contact Mr Halliday, without success.”
Perhaps The Press could contact a certain Mr Stewart Halliday at Wirral Council – email@example.com
Could this be the same Mr Halliday who is now responsible for Wirral Council’s ‘Transformation Programme’ ?. I think we should be told!
If so Wirral Council were clearly impressed that Halliday can do a powerpoint presentation and utter council-speak at the same time.
Moreover we can almost guarantee he used the word ‘passionate’ if he had an interview. But then again we can’t understand how many of these people get appointed in the first place. Is it a Masonic thing ? Common Purpose? Knights of St Columba? or do they just have to like playing golf and support Everton FC?.
As for this bogus ‘transformation agenda’ it comes to something when even enriched municipal mandarins tell us it’s ‘time to stop the lies ‘. Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy chief executive, Rob Whiteman, and chief executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority, Martin Reeves say that local government should stop lying about its financial problems and give up pretending transformation will solve the massive underfunding it faces.
As far as we’re concerned at Wirral Leaks the ‘transformation agenda’ is nothing more than opportunists setting themselves up to benefit from the demise of public services. The hope being that one day they will get a cushy number sitting on a trustee or management board. Locally one only has to check out the Wirral Chamber of Commerce and Magenta Living . Nationally there are Arm’s Length Organisations (ALO’s) and private enterprises which are awash with local government failures supplementing their engorged pension pots by picking at the corpse of local government.
So remember when you see or hear the word ‘transformation’ – be afraid, be very afraid.
Of course we’ve been banging on Wirral Council’s (mis)use of consultants for some time but we were particularly drawn to the case of one Phillip Ward who was previously involved with drawing up proposals to shut Lyndale School and is now the “interim senior manager of Special Educational Needs” struggling to get by on a weekly pay packet of £3,875. Yes, A WEEK.
Now we admit to not being familiar with Mr.Ward’s work but on that salary we anticipate that every boy and girl with special educational needs on Wirral will have had their lives considerably enhanced because of his well-renumerated expertise.
However sad to say that in our experience that’s not how it usually works.Indeed it seems there’s a constant trail of local government leeches swimming to Wirral to make big money for finding ways to spend less money on people who most need services!.As this new breed of “public servant” have no physical or financial attachment to Wirral – they are more than happy to take the money and run.
We believe the precedent for Mr.Ward’s appointment was set by a certain Rob Vickers. Wirral Leaks readers may remember that it was Mr.Vickers ,who having taken “early retirement” from St.Helen’s Council could smell the money floating over the Mersey and fancied supplementing his pension ……on a measly £515 a day!.Somewhat like Mr.Ward – Mr Vickers “auditioned” for this lucrative gig first and establish that he was a “safe pair of hands” by producing a report which seemed to serve the Council’s purposes.The report by Mr.Ward concerned with the closure by Lyndale School and in Mr.Vickers case a whitewash of a report covering up the obscene 4 -week delay scandal where Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) illegally delayed care packages by at least 4 weeks to save some money and in the hope that the person in need of care died in the meantime.
It’s interesting to note that ex-Wirral Council whistleblower Martin Morton still seems to have a pea in his whistle about Mr.Vickers as one of his Freedom of Information requests revealed that :
Payment made to Artleboot Ltd. for work commissioned from Rob Vickers (including ‘4 week delay’ case) was £6,624.96 Payment to SWIIS UK Ltd (via Matrix) for position as Interim Head of Branch up unto March 31st 2014 when Mr. Vickers left was £172,136.92
That’s nearly £180,000 of public money for 19 months work and again we’d love to how the people of Wirral benefited from Vickers “expertise”.Indeed Morton seems to suggest that Vickers may have been involved in another cover up by DASS .Nice work if you can get it – and you can get it if you prove useful to the powers that be !.
This is what Super Duper Director Joe Blott must mean when he says :”The consultants we have appointed work alongside our current management team.They were appointed following due process as best people for the job in their areas of expertise.”
And I think we all know what Blott means when he answers questions about Ward’s current post and the eyewatering fees he is charging Wirral Council when he says: “The post is still vacant because despite advertising, we have been unable to appoint due to a lack of suitable candidates”.
I think we all know what he means by “suitable candidates” don’t we folks?.