The Leaky Awards 2016

leakys-2016

No disrespect to the local worthies who voluntarily undertake good deeds ,  but we have a natural aversion at Leaky Towers to honours and awards given to people who either have :  a)  made a lot of money ( well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money… if what you want to do is make a lot of money….) or b) achieved riches and recognition for doing something they love ( while everyone else tediously toils away in jobs they hate with people they loathe just so they don’t end up living on the street).

Patronage for peerages has brought the awards system into total disrepute and we doff our hereditary ermine trimmed coronet to the increasing number who have turned down the tawdry badge of dishonour that the New Year’s Honours List has become.

We have three words on the subject of honours: “Sir” Jimmy Savile.

We have three words on the subject of awards : Most Improved Council.

Therefore we consider the annual Leaky Awards the natural antidote to the sordid status quo and rejoice in the fact that the awards that we bestow at Wirral Leaks are much more representative of the charlatans who run the show than the complicit smiley celebrities and their gleaming gewgaws.

Awards Award – ….and the winner is the Wirral Chamber of Commerce. Awards ceremonies appear to be the entire rationale for this empire building, family-run organisation. Whilst it appears to be a mere excuse for pouting Paula Basnett to buy another frock and flaunt the spray tan we need to remember the public grants and public properties that come their way and ask ourselves do we really want the non-elected personal empire building Basnett clan running a never-ending awards show at public expense?

Labour Councillor of the Year – This is obviously an inaugural award as in previous years this would be an oxymoron (or in some cases – just moron) . However this year we’d like to offer the award jointly to  Cllr Anita Leech and Cllr Christina Muspratt for annoying  fellow Labour councillors Foulkesy and Matron McLaughlin respectively. The former did so by casting the deciding vote at a recent Planning Committee whilst a clearly agitated Foulkesy laid the foundation for a potential appeal by questioning the planning process (see Campaign of the Year below). This is staggering hypocrisy coming from someone who has regularly circumvented due process in the name of managing his (bad) reputation.But then Foulkesy has built an entire political  career on being hardfaced and shameless so this should come as no surprise to anyone. Meanwhile Muspratt was the inspiration behind a tetchy display from McLaughlin as the latter tried to shut down Muspratt for trying to hold council officers to account over their failure to appraise staff. However as we know this is not how the Matron rolls – personal loyalties to officers will always take precedence over public accountability.

Quote of the year  – “From the brink of intervention, to the pinnacle of local government” (Eric Robinson CEO Wirral Council). Now we don’t know whether Stressed Eric has been buying some powerful hallucinogenics with his megabucks salary but this can surely be the only explanation for this ludicrous claim that Wirral Council is the pinnacle of local government. When it comes to public service peak performance we’re talking more Moel Famau than Mount Everest!

Runner-up : ” It might seem an unusual step to revert to a printed product, and even I queried this at first …….” (Eric Robinson talking about Wirral Council’s decision to publish Wirral View ) “Until I was told to get back under my desk ….”  he might of added to prove once again why he’s the perfect CEO for Wirral Council.

Publication of the year –  Wirral Council  yawn-fest Wirral View . Having seemingly failed to a) attract advertisers  b) sort out its distribution problems or c) address anyone’s ‘information deficit’ this award is in recognition of the fact that Wirral View could soon become a collector’s item .We advise those who’ve actually received a copy should retrieve it from the cat’s litter tray or the budgie’s cage , as with the threat of central government intervention hanging over it it may not be around for  much longer!

Runner up – Cllr Tony Jones’ (aka Tones) election publication which broke election rules by failing to show name of agent, candidate or printer on the leaflet.  As one of our eagle-eyed readers has pointed out Tones does not seem to have learned any lessons from this faux pas as strangely he is the only one of Wirral Council’s 66 councillors whose council email contact details are not included with the Council mugshots in Wirral View. Campaign Fail  

Campaign of the Year –  ‘Save our Greenbelt – Say NO to the Firestation’  campaign may, thanks ultimately to the casting vote of  Cllr Leech than the campaigning local Conservatives , halted plans to build a fire station on green belt land in Saughall Massie.

However it will be interesting to see if Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service submit an appeal whether this continuing fight ends up being thwarted by powerful interests as was the ill fated Save Girtell Court campaign.

Similar can be said of the Stop Hoylake Golf Resort campaign who are arguably up against even more powerful interests as Wirral Council attempt a ‘money no object’ bid to ensure even more Wirral green belt is sacrificed to enable a housing development in the guise of a ‘golf resort’ to go ahead.

We’ll be following both campaigns in 2017 with great interest.

Picture of the year

jeremy-corbyn-cooking-at-the-neo-community-cafe

There is so much going on in this picture than ‘Jezza Makes Pizza For Starving Mites’. The supporting cast – Frank Field MP , Cllr McLaughlin, Cllr Meaden , Margaret Greenwood MP makes for fascinating viewing if we consider the various political intrigues,allegiances and betrayals that occurred throughout 2016 . However what intrigues us most on the right of the picture , ‘recording’ events for posterity, is the presence of ‘Person C’ . Adding further intrigue to the local political scene we understand the former political editor of the Liverpool Echo and reluctant witness in the Wirralgate saga has, for reasons unknown, apparently ceased working for the council’s favoured external publication ……….

 

Private Sector / Public Interest

Private Sector 2

We said we’d return to the matter of the inevitable closure of Girtrell Court. And sure enough at last night’s Wirral Council meeting – despite the impassioned and eloquent appeal on behalf of the Save Girtrell Court campaign by carer Bernard Halley – the Council pressed on with their proposed “we know best” shiny new respite scheme  (with much reduced capacity ) in Tollemache Road.

Now we know nothing about the proposed housing and support provider Sanctuary Housing who are associated with this new scheme but what we’ve raised time and time again is this headlong rush by a Labour controlled Wirral Council to gleefully hand public money over to the private sector.

Perhaps when it comes to emptying the bins and mending the roads we don’t get quite so animated but we do when it comes to services for vulnerable people. We want to state for the record that we don’t think services for vulnerable people should always be subject to the vagaries of the free market. Putting profit before people is never a good thing – especially when those people are particularly vulnerable.

We have pointed out before that the same people voting to close public services are the same people wearing ‘I ♥ NHS’ badges and who wouldn’t dream of selling off health services so private enterprise could get a piece of the action . Or perhaps they would…

If history has taught us anything that when you put profit before people the result is often (if not always) that services are costly and the quality is poor. It’s a LOSE-LOSE situation – as anyone who’s keeping track of the appalling state of care homes and familiar with the news of yet another care home closure on Wirral will tell you – although judging by the following report that doesn’t include  Wirral Council’s Department of Adult Social Services  (DASS) !.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/wirral-care-home-left-elderly-11590048

A  DASS spokeswoman says of this latest closure and how it will affect elderly residents  : “Their health, wellbeing and future care is our most pressing and important priority” .

Yes , but where were you when there were allegations of abuse, that 25 residents were sharing one bathroom and untrained staff were administering medication ?. No doubt making plans to close Girtrell Court and hand services over to the private sector!. Talking of which we’d particularly like to know how that little experiment is going with the privatisation of drug and alcohol services agreed in 2014  when services were handed over to registered charity Crime Reduction Initiatives (CRI).

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/privatisation-of-nhs-drug-and-alcohol-service-in-wirral

Perhaps we should ask Cllr Angela Davies who worked for Wirral Drug and Alcohol Service before becoming a Project Manager with Crime Reduction Initiatives for 4 months in 2015 before swiftly getting back on board with Cheshire & Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

We’re being informed  that CRI  may have reduced the costs by reducing the level of input for people with drug and alcohol issues . If this is the case this could mean an increase in risk and potentially an increase in deaths and serious incidents associated with this service. We’re hearing about some worrying (if unconfirmed) statistics associated with CRI but I’m sure Cllr Angela Davies would be well placed to reassure the people of Wirral that all is well  and continuing privatisation of critical services is the way to go (even though clearly it wasn’t the case for her!).

 

Closure and Non-Disclosure

                               ClosureDisclosure

We think a Facebook post by Save Girtrell Court posted a couple of days ago needs highlighting as it further demonstrates the way things work with Wirral Council.

We’ve commented before on their relentless and ruthless  privatisation of public services .We will be returning to  the matter in time for the grand opening of new respite facilities in Tollemache Road now that we know the battle to save Girtrell Court has been lost and Wirral Council will now surely be planning to make a nice capital receipt out of the land to add to the real estate bonanza that will follow the sale of the Lyndale School site.

We note how Eric “Feeble” Robinson has finally fitted in nicely having been well tutored in the use of spin as carers/campaigners claim that he has misrepresented them in statements to the press. We also note the continuing tactic of browbeating people into keeping quiet by shrieking “confidentiality!” and thereby not so much manage the message but control disclosure.

Therefore can we advise the named carer representatives not to hold their breath waiting for an apology or a retraction from Stressed Eric or a Wirral Council media spokesperson.

Once again – read it and weep.

To all Supporters of Girtrell Court

Various officers of Wirral Borough Council have tried in recent correspondence to claim that the closure decision was made “in partnership” and with the support of carers. This is simply untrue and a fine example of “spin”.

It is true that I and other carers contacted through the Wirral Carers Association have sought repeatedly to convince council officers that their policy on Girtrell is wrong and unnecessary but you are all aware of council intransigence – they simply will not listen to logic or social justice arguments.

When all of our pleading fell on closed ears, the only option was to salvage the best solution for all of our loved ones from this train wreck. To this end, we have assessed the options being pursued by the council and have rejected the most unsuitable ones. The only potentially credible offering was Tollemache Road (over which there are still unanswered service questions) and so we have, with great reluctance, made the best out of the proverbial bad job.

I am sorry if you disagree with our actions but we were unable to “go public” due to council commercial confidentiality requirements.

Equally, if you feel that I and others have let you down then I am content to accept your censure but I assure you that I could not have tried harder for the result we all wanted SAVE GIRTRELL COURT.

The text of the email to Chief Executive Eric Robinson follows to set the record straight :-

Dear Mr. Robinson,

You have recently replied to Councillor Blakely regarding the future of Girtrell Court and its possible replacement service.

Your response is a clear misrepresentation of the position and of the involvement of parent / carers since it clearly indicates that users of the current service are content and have willingly collaborated with the council and its officers in agreeing the privatisation and closure of Girtrell.

This interpretation of events would be considered too far-fetched even for an episode of Yes Minister. It is best likened to an executioner claiming that the deceased committed suicide when he opted for execution by lethal injection instead of the alternatives of being burnt at the stake or fed live to a pack of ravenous wolves.

• Not one of the current users of Girtrell Court wish to see the current service closed and privatised;

• Parents and carers have not consented to, colluded with or supported the council voluntarily but continue to oppose the closure of Girtrell Court;

• It is only the complete and unremitting obduracy of Wirral Borough Council in railroading through the closure of a vital and valued facility against the wishes of its users, their hard pressed carers and the general public which has forced carers with great reluctance to assess the credibility of a number of proposed replacement options;

• Our motives in making these assessments have not been to assist in, collude with, sanction or otherwise underwrite this unwanted and mean spirited closure.

Rather our motivation has been and remains solely to ensure that our loved ones on whom this change is being forced by an uncaring council end up with the least worst of the proposed replacements. Never has the term “making the best of a bad job” been more appropriate;

• We were clear in advising Council Officers that potentially suitable accommodation was only one aspect of a complete respite solution and that we would not and could not underwrite any replacement respite service until we had clarity on the complete package on offer. The package remains incomplete – there is no information regarding :-

o the term of the proposed contract,;
o the staffing ratios which will apply;
o the nature and extent of activities available to service users;
o the arrangements for safety of occupants of the first and second stories in the event of fire (when the proposed lift will be out of action);
o confirmation that service users will receive the same time allocation:

all of which are legitimate concerns for parents / carers when being asked to entrust their loved ones to a third party. Merely identifying a possible building does not address these qualitative issues and your officers responses to these issues are awaited.

You cannot justify your council’s wilful refusal to listen to carers, to respect our concerns and to deliver a service in which we have confidence by claiming us as your political cover.

That you should now represent our act of desperation as proactive support for the closure of Girtrell Court and the redundancy of its magnificent staff is truly unworthy of you and adds to a catalogue of shameful behaviour of the council in this matter. Your statement that you “can therefore confirm that the decision to close Girtrell Court has been taken in partnership with carers that use the service” is a blatant misrepresentation and has caused us significant reputational damage within the Girtrell Court carer community.

We hereby go on public record as totally rejecting these statements and inferences contained in your response to Councillor Blakeley and require both a retraction and your apology for the distress caused.

Signed by the following as volunteer carer representatives:-

Meriel Balshaw
Bernard Halley
Angela Harrison and
Peter Linnane

 

Mass Debate

Vox Populi

After some initial doubt we understand that the Girtrell Court debate went ahead at last night’s Council meeting at Wallasey Town Hall  and from what we hear it was a fractious affair.

We are getting reports of Council “leader” Power Boy Pip Davies petulantly sitting down and refusing to speak whilst being repeatedly heckled……a heckler being ejected from the public gallery………Power Boy Pip heckling back (but not being ejected from the Council chamber).  As they say all drama is conflict and we’ve bought  multiplex -size popcorn supplies in the hope that Brace TV (© Cllr Jeff Green) covered the events so we can tune in later and heckle along.

Joking aside – we are positively joyous at Leaky Towers to hear about such open dissent and public challenge.We admit we were initially sceptical about the Save Girtrell Court campaign as it seemed to be a platform for politicians and trade unionists and suffice to say we have a healthy suspicion of both. However subsequent events have shown that  parents and carers have found their voice and been making their views known – and how!.

We think that decision makers at Wirral Council underestimate the parents and carers of disabled people at their peril. They have a lifetime’s experience of  having to fight the powers that be in the best interest of people who can’t speak up for themselves.

If nothing else at least people are becoming more and more aware of how Wirral Council operates. No wonder the final decision about the (inevitable) closure will (inevitably) take place behind closed doors !.

If people of Wirral truly want to have more openness, transparency and public accountability then the more members of the public engaged in political debate the better. This at least enables voters to make an informed choice (that word again) at the ballot box. It is the only way politicians will ever listen to the voice of the people.

 

Navigators

Dass on the rocks

DASS on the rocks

Last night Wirral Council confirmed the predictable outcome of postponing the closure of disabled respite centre Girtrell Court until  a “consultation ” process had been completed. Whilst this may primarily serve the purpose of avoiding adverse publicity in the run up to the local elections might we suggest that the Save Girtrell Court campaigners won’t be going away any time soon.

The Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) are allegedly helping disabled people and their carers through this stressful “consultation” period by engaging the services of Penderel’s Trust http://www.penderelstrust.org.uk/ who are providing a “brokerage” service assisting people towards the brave new world of “choice”.

Whilst Penderel’s Trust may be a not-for- profit organisation it should be remembered that they are in receipt of money for work that used to be done by social workers (or at least should have been) and however good their intentions the fact is that it is another example of public money being spent on external consultants.

The process of steering disabled people and their carers to where Wirral Council want them to go is further assisted by Council staff known as “navigators”.

We swear we are not making this up.

“Navigators”  – we’ll leave that there on the page for you to ponder for a moment.

However the problem is that some of these navigators are feeling a bit sea-sick and have been expressing the view to carers that Girtrell Court shouldn’t close . However the sad fact is that these unqualified social workers know they’d be back flipping burgers if they expressed this view to DASS managers as what’s left of DASS has very much returned to the bad old days.

Of course DASS have a long and inglorious record of undermining the professional status of social workers by hiring people to the work of social workers without the qualifications , experience  and knowledge. It’s cheaper and comes with the added bonus of staff not being concerned with having to comply with a professional code of conduct.

Might we suggest that the powers that be at Wirral Council could do with their own set of navigators over the next few weeks as they’re heading for choppy waters.