Halliday and Our Last Hurrah!

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Halliday : The unacceptable face of local government

We’ve waited for the dust to settle and the hot air to dissipate following this Monday’s meeting of the Audit & Risk Management Committee. This meeting included an agenda item discussing the audit report into the Stewart Halliday/Wirral Council clusterfuck which we’d already given you the heads up about in these posts  : Heads up on Halliday and The Audit Report is out – but is Halliday? and The Halliday Report – Money for the few not the many…

Indeed we’d started giving you all the heads up about Halliday since 23 February 2017 and as you can read at your leisure here in dozens of posts since … but then why let facts get in the way of the Liverpool Echo/Wirral Globe report which can plagiarise a local blog and rewrite history to exclude all reference to the history of this latest Wirral Council debacle?

Wirral Leaks not only called this one way back , WE SHOUTED OUT LOUD – but it would appear that Wirral Council just don’t want to listen and the vast majority of people of Wirral just don’t get to hear…until the damage is done.

So true to our outsider ways (and for completeness) we’ll be taking an oblique view of the latest proceedings and thanking, yes thanking , Mr Halliday not only for the consistent high quality blog fodder he has provided us these past two years but how this case as a whole serves as an exemplar of how incompetence/greed/dishonesty/collusion  are seemingly not only deeply entrenched but endemic across our public institutions.

Of the many comments that winged their way to us from people who have observed the Wirral Council webcast this one succinctly nails the main issues raised :

If you haven’t watched/listened to Cllr Kathy Hodson’s comments, then you should…. she’s on the money. She pulls up that Halliday had no authority to procure/order services/contractors, yet had authorised payments by signing off invoices – she said that’s like marking your own homework (shame she didn’t use the ‘F’ word ?!!!!)
Another very important point was that she queries how his invoices are annotated when amounts invoiced are different ? She was making the point that if he invoiced different amounts how did that relate to the work he was doing?
Good to see/hear Jeff Green asking why CX  (Eric Robinson) and S151  (Shaer Halewood) didn’t get to know until 24th/25th Jan, when officers knew on 16th – it was very convenient that they didn’t (or say they didn’t) know, when the CX announced that Halliday was to be the Interim Director of Housing Growth etc on was it 24th Jan?
The S151 officer doesn’t come across as very bright, or am I being unfair ? She says some staff who weren’t senior and some who were, didn’t realise or think the matter was serious enough to be brought to the attention of the CX… ????? A consultant who had been paid £300k, and was to be appointed as a Director, was invoicing the council using a dissolved company which had an invalid vat number ? If that isn’t a serious matter, I don’t know what is…. They should have been told immediately! She says ‘it was an error on my part that my staff hadn’t informed me by that time’ ? How can it be an error on her part ? Maybe she was so friendly with Halliday that they didn’t want to risk being bollocked for spoiling the love in? Maybe she’s such a tyrant she would have shot the messenger ? Anyway, it’s an interesting choice of words, to say she was at fault ?!!!
Also good to hear Cllr Phil Gilchrist saying that he had (before Halliday’s original appointment) drawn to the attention of the CX what had happened at York, and referred to reports and A&G meetings etc. The CX said that he had spoken to the CX of York (presumably Kersten England), and she had said it was ok, and she even gave Halliday a reference. We all now why she did that, don’t we ?… She defended Halliday to stop him landing her in it !!! 
As an aside, did anyone notice the sub-titles ? Very poor interpretation.
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Halewood : another unacceptable face

For what it’s worth here are our thoughts and observations  : Firstly, we were taken aback at the sheer gall of Finance Director Shaer Halewood who’s curious mea culpa seems to be more a case of wanting to have her cake,eat it and then throw it up all over less senior Wirral Council staff. All in the name of  protecting Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson.
We can see how Ms Halewood got the job can’t we ? A classic example of of the ‘Kiss Up/ Kick Down’ culture that still permeates the council . Meanwhile can we forget the distractions about who knew what when ? The simple fact is that HALLIDAY SHOULDN’T HAVE GOT A CONSULTANCY JOB AT WIRRAL COUNCIL IN THE FIRST PLACE ! Essentially everything that followed his engagement is a failure of due diligence and all roads (via York) lead back to Eric Robinson  …
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Robinson : unacceptable everything

Meanwhile for us at Wirral Leaks the Halliday case has proved to be the catalyst – if not the cause – of our decision to capitulate to corporate forces and pack it all in, which in some quarters will be seen as money well spent regardless of how much public money was lavished on Halliday.
More news on our last hurrah to follow…

An Unsound Decision

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Did the powers that be (and shouldn’t be) at Wirral Council think that the week would pass without Wirral Leaks commenting on one of the most shameful days in Wirral Council’s history? Yes – just think about that evaluation for a moment. The occasion we are referring to is the latest meeting of the Audit & Risk Management Committee held on July 23rd . It is a date that should go down in Wirral Council infamy. And let’s face it considering their recent rap sheet that’s quite a feat!

Once again we have to thank our old friend John Brace for recording this ignominious occasion (we’ll stick with our old friend rather than link to the council’s own webcast if you don’t mind). We could only watch the first reel as we have a particularly weak gag reflex. However we anticipate that His Lordship will have much more to say on the matter when he returns from his golden slumbers.

 

Watch in complete contempt as Mark Smith – Strategic Commissioner for Environment (£93,783 p.a.) squirms in his own obsequiousness during Agenda item 3 trying to explain (very belatedly) how the highways contract is coming back ‘in house’ and in full Uriah Heep mode thanking Cllr Jeff Green for his ‘pertinent ‘ questions (yeah -right!).

We advise that from here on in you press the mute button to watch this farrago. Not only so you don’t have to hear the honking voice of Tory hypocrite Green . Instead watch the body language as in yet another spectacular failure of proper scrutiny we see furtive glances, the uncomfortable shuffling, the skirting round the issues, and the pity in the eyes of the councillors as they look at Smith in the knowledge that’s he’s the ‘poor’ sap having to front this duplicitous bullshit. Note particularly the repeated placing of hands over the mouths of most of the committee members (and particularly the representatives of external auditors Grant Thornton – £200K + p a. and counting ) which acts as a telling, involuntary gag. Note the crossed arms of Shaer Halewood (Director of Finance and Investments £104,642 p.a.) and the look on her face as if to say  : “What have I let myself in for?” and the inane grin of Chief Internal Auditor Mark Niblock (we don’t know what salary he’s on but whatever it is – it is far,far too much.) 

Whilst there were some mealymouthed  criticisms of the current highways maintenance contract holders BAM Nuttall made by elected members ,the fact is that the 25 staff who currently (mis) manage the filling of potholes and the replacement of streetlights and therefore responsible for the pisspoor performance will be the same staff welcomed back into the Wirral Council fold…..and BAM Nuttall will still potentially be able to tender for the £multi-million services that this motley crew won’t be undertaking!

So it’s a lose-lose situation all round for Wirral Council taxpayers as a result of this complicity and collusion with corruption (other c words are available).

Thankfully Assistant Chief Executive David Armstrong (£116,268 p.a.) was on hand to arrogantly explain that some of  those returning to Wirral Council previously worked for Wirral Council then Colas then BAM Nuttall. You don’t say! – and no -one , absolutely no-one, raised the issue as to whether those returning included those who actively participated in a smear campaign against Cllr Jeff Green and have been holding some leading local politicians by the short and curlies because they have the means to bring down the Council leadership courtesy of a covert recording  or whether the report into their treatment from nearly a decade ago and completed in October 2015 played any part in negotiations or why it took ten months to cobble together an explanation as to why Wirral council’leader’  Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies suddenly decided under his ‘special powers’ to bring highway maintenance back in house. Not a peep!

There wasn’t  even an explanation from Philip McCourt (Director : Governance and Assurance – are you having a laugh?) who, might we suggest, could’ve intervened to explain something along the lines of : ” I don’t know what Surjit Tour was doing agreeing that we could just pay them off and try and justify it with some bogus report supposedly written by one of Frank Field’s mates. Care to help me out with that one Mr Armstrong ? No thought not – but then you were at that meeting  when Frank tried to ,ahem , ‘compromise’ former CEO Graham Burgess about his , ahem, compromising positions weren’t you so,yes, you’re best keeping your head down and pretending like the rest of us that it’s all legit,whilst I try and clear up your mess and explain that as soon as we handed over any ‘compensation’ money to people who had no legal claim for ‘compensation’ we were all implicated so the best we could do was negotiate to give them what they wanted a decade ago if they buried the recording…”

Turn the sound back on and you can almost hear an audible sigh of  ” We just might have gotten away with that one…” as Mark Smith scuttles off and it’s on to the next agenda item. Meanwhile there’s the distant sound of a streetwise quartet sitting in a Birkenhead karaoke bar raucously singing along to the chorus of ‘Just What I’ve Always Wanted’

‘To be in charge of highways maintenance …..just what I’ve always wanted…’