Wirral – Where Public Service Went To Die …

Human Nature

This week we were quite happy taking a sentimental journey round the septic isle until Dr Robert diagnosed us with ‘Sandie Shaw Syndrome’ . No , we’re not in the words of the barefoot singer’s Eurovision winner ‘Puppets On A String’ (we leave that to others). As fellow sufferers of the syndrome know  : “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me” and it messes with your head.

So whilst it’s vaguely concerning/amusing/appalling that other local authorities are equally inept and corrupt, let’s be reminded of Wirral Council’s rap sheet courtesy of ‘The Good Doctor’. Although as we replied to our esteemed commentator the sleaze (there is no other word) that lies behind the bare reported facts doesn’t bear thinking about!

WIRRAL COUNCIL… WHERE PUBLIC SERVICE WENT TO DIE…

It is 2011, and Wirral Council is in serious trouble. It is on the brink of Government intervention and has received a damning report1 from consultant Anna Klonowski (AKA Associates). The report paints a graphic picture of Wirral Council’s corrosive and bullying corporate culture, failures in corporate governance, and of Wirral as ‘the insular peninsula’. The Council is vividly described as an inward-looking organisation where the abnormal had become normal. The Council Leader and Chief Executive unreservedly accept the devastating assessment, and all the consultant’s findings.

In April 2012 the ‘window dressing’ started. A politically-expedient decision reportedly taken by Frank Field MP and Eric Pickles (then-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government), established a Local Government Association (LGA) Wirral Council ‘Improvement Board’. Called ‘sector-led improvement’ by the LGA, a review of Wirral Council’s corporate governance was undertaken by an ‘expert’ (peer review) panel. Its role was to identify the embedded detrimental issues and agree a corporate improvement programme.

In November 2013 the ‘Improvement Board’ produced a 63-page draft report congratulating themselves for enabling ‘the fastest turnaround2 in local government history’. Its job deemed complete, Wirral Council was unleashed from supervision.

Once unleashed, Council Leader Phil Davies guaranteed the casting vote on all Council committees. Replacing all opposition-councillor committee Chairs with ruling group councillors was in direct contravention of the Improvement Board agreement. The Council and Cabinet has had no effective political opposition since.

November 2014 saw a presentation given by Cllr Phil Davies and Graham Burgess, who appeared to have moved seamlessly3 in 2013 from Improvement Board member to Wirral Council CEO. The judging panel for this presentation, comprising primarily LGA members, judged for the first and only time, the Local Government Chronicle’s (LGC) ‘Most Improved Council in Great Britain’ award. Never awarded before, never awarded since. Without warning, Mr Burgess, described as a ‘leading light’ of the LGA, ‘retired’ from Wirral Council at the end of 2014.

It was March 2015 when Wirral residents awoke to media headlines announcing “From ‘abnormal to inspirational’ – Wirral wins ‘Most Improved Council in Great Britain’ award4.” In Wirral the question on everyone’s lips… is it April 1st?

A new Wirral CEO5, Eric Robinson, a former social worker from Staffordshire CC, was appointed in April 2015. Cllr Phil Davies stated… “Eric is the ideal appointment to take us forward towards my ambition for Wirral to become an outstanding council.”

In 2012 Wirral Council had agreed with findings that it was an ‘inward-looking organisation’ where ‘the abnormal had become accepted as normal’. In November 2015 it still was, as a very low-key peer review revealed. That was, if you could find it.

Also in November 2015, almost absolute power lay in the hands of the Council Leader when Wirral Council Cabinet agreed constitutional changes6. Coupled with the ruling group en-bloc voting7 and abstention regime, any decision could be bulldozed through. This change effectively negated any political opposition and scrutiny, Ward, community8, or resident9 representation.

Political, individual and council organisational survival were now the priorities. Residents were paid lip-service with endless ‘consultations’, as infrastructure deteriorated10, and public services reduced dramatically.

As local criticism grew, Wirral Council Leader took to ‘reputation management’. Described in the media as ‘cronyism’, in February 2016 Martin Liptrot, a self-proclaimed ‘reputation manager’, was appointed. This elicited headlines such as “Emails give extraordinary insight into Wirral Council’s controversial hiring11 of former Labour spin doctor”.

In September 2016, CEO Eric Robinson described Wirral Council’s ‘improvement journey’ as moving from “from the brink of intervention to the pinnacle12 of local government”. With his background in Children’s Services, was all well at the pinnacle of all pinnacles?

‘Most Improved’ Wirral Council’s Children’s Services were rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted in September 2016. Hidden away was a Serious Case Review into the grooming of teenage girls13 in Wirral Council care over a 5-year period. In a desperate attempt to deflect criticism and accountability, the oft-quoted ‘austerity-hit, cash-strapped’ Leader initially promised £2m additional funding. Then a promise of £10m. Then a promise of £20m, to ‘demonstrate Council commitment’.

With ‘Most Improved’ Wirral Council’s reputation in tatters, Martin Liptrot was then fast-tracked to ‘Investor Development Manager’ with ‘no questions asked’14, and immediately sent to Cannes to attend MIPIM, a ‘property market’, with the Council Leader, Council CEO and others.

…and it goes on…in November 2017 following the 2016 Serious Case Review, two brothers were jailed for a combined 40 years after being convicted of 27 sexual offences against girls as young as 14. The Children’s Services Improvement Board Chair, Eleanor Brazil, resigned15 citing Wirral Council’s “shoddy treatment” of Julia Hassall, the then Director of Children’s Services, and “…some significant corporate issues…”

… and on…Jim Crabtree, a (now ex-) Councillor and Chair of Audit & Risk committee was convicted in January 2017 of making death threats16 towards fellow Councillor Louise Reecejones, regarding an unidentified sum of £19,000. In March 2018 the threatened Councillor resigned to free herself from “the noose”17.

Without Local Government Commissioners’ intervention, ‘Most Improved’ Wirral Council is the graveyard of the 7 ‘Nolan Principles’18 of public life, viz.  Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty & Leadership.

In Wirral you won’t hear the ghosts of the Nolan Principles wailing and roaming the streets at night. They left long ago.

 

Weblinks 1-18

 

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/9263981.Chief_executive_and_political_leader_accept_responsibility_for_council_failures/

https://www.lgcplus.com/home/lgc-awards-2017-the-shortlist/lgc-awards-2016/lgc-awards/lgc-awards-2015/most-improved-council/5083096.article

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/chief-executive-graham-burgess-wirral-3325136

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/11851526.UPDATED__From__abnormal_to_inspirational____Wirral_wins_Most_Improved_Council_award/

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/former-social-worker-appointed-wirral-8595400

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/13944494.Sweeping_changes_will_see_Wirral_s_cabinet_councillors_given_extensive_new_powers/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/time-for-an-intervention/

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/wirral-school-parents-fought-tooth-14516957 

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14601265.Girtrell_Court_closure_row_reignites_with_claims_council__misrepresented__carers/

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15179685.Who_put_the_lights_out__Call_for_urgent_action_to_repair_Wirral_s_2_200_broken_street_lamps/

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14306240.Emails_give_extraordinary_insight_into_Wirral_Council_s_controversial_hiring_of_former_Labour_spin_doctor/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/the-big-lie-gets-even-bigger/

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/five-years-shame-how-wirral-13045435

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15022687.UPDATED__Wirral_Council_agrees_to_create_new___80k_management_job___with_no_questions_asked_/

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15325055.Leaked_resignation_letter_shows_Wirral_s_child_safeguarding_improvement_board_boss_was__shocked_and_appalled__by_director_s__shoddy__treatment/ 

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ex-councillor-sent-drunken-death-9612068

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/lrj-an-unofficial-announcement/

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/the-7-principles-of-public-life–2

 

Wirral Leaks Weekly Dispatch #6

Hey! people of Wirral – we’re supposed to be semi-retired here! But in the mean time keep ’em comin’……

CONDUCT UNBECOMING 

This is a postscript to our Intimidation and the Hypocrisies of Public Life post where earlier this week we witnessed Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ McLaughlin desperately querying whether a particular website was intimidatory. Hey , Matron – we pay for your taxis , it would appear you now want us to pay for your phone. As Her Ladyship said : ” It’ll be bad dye jobs and manicures next !” Can we just pitch in that we agree with a recent Guardian report (that’s a first for us) where ex- Tory minister Sir Eric ‘Who Ate All The Pies’ Pickles gets a deserved kicking (or this being the Guardian – a mild riposte). It was Frank Field’s mate who dismantled the external scrutiny of Councils with the abolishment of the Audit Commission and Standards For England and my goodness haven’t councillors at Wirral Council taken advantage of the fact since? For more read here : Blame Eric Pickles for councillors guzzling high on the hog

It is apparent that electors on Wirral don’t or at least don’t in any coherent way police the conduct of councillors. So we try to instead – and if that’s ‘intimidatory’ Matron we make no apologies! Just sayin’

HUBWATCH  

Maritime_Knowledge_Hub

Her Ladyship turned to me the other day and said :

What the world needs now
Is hubs, more hubs
It’s the only thing
That there’s just too little of
What the world needs now
Is hubs, more hubs
No not just for some – but for everyone

Lord, we don’t need
Another mountain
There are mountains
And hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans
And rivers enough to cross
Enough to last – ’til the end of time

What the world needs now
Is hubs, more hubs

And who was I to disagree? So in honour of Her Ladyship we are introducing a new Wirral Leaks feature – Hubwatch. This week’s hub is the ‘Maritime Knowledge Hub’ exclusively featured in Wirral Council’s favourite website Insider Media Ltd. 

The ‘Digital Staff Writer’ for this exclusive for this is one Matthew Ord. Now we’re not being rude here Matthew but your profile pic makes you look slightly deranged. We suppose that’s what happens when you have to cut and paste press statements from various interested parties into a vaguely coherent article so that it doesn’t read like complete BS for a living. Just sayin’

WIRRAL WINDFALL 

The latest contribution from regular Wirral Leaks contributor ‘The Prof ‘ may be a bit controversial but we’re a broad church and we like to encourage debate and dispute

It was good to read in the February Wirral View that according to Cllr. Phil Davies Wirral is now the centre for ‘Offshore Renewable Engineering’! Orsted’s new ‘flagship’ site for windmill maintenance is apparently the best thing since sliced bread ! Phil must have read the piece in Renewable Energy News, etc, which reported that several hundred offshore windmills supplied by Siemens, including those of Orsted, have suffered unexpected problems including severe blade erosion requiring expensive repair or replacement. That should keep Orsted’s base busy in the short term. But, as to the medium term,  did Phil not also read the Financial Times piece (23.02.18) :’Global Renewable Energy Sector Faces Enron Style Collapse’. With the end of cheap money and subsidies and the US shale gas revolution ,the ‘windmill era’ may be ending again just as it did when coal and oil arrived in the 19th century. If Phil wants economic renewal for Wirral he should forget politically correct fantasy, embrace reality and talk to Cuadrilla.                                                                        Professor D P Gregg (retired)

 

Juergen Maier is Siemens CEO and North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) Chairman

Emma Degg (ex Wirral Council, Wirral Leaks passim) is CEO of NWBLT

Oh and DLA Piper, Grant Thornton, Orsted and Unilever have representatives on the NWBLT board. Have you all worked out how this shit works yet?

NWBLT Members

Just sayin’

STIR IT UP
Marley's E-cigs
Now you know we don’t judge here at Wirral Leaks and we fully support local businesses and recognise you gotta do what you gotta do to make a living these days. However from time to time who question the appropriateness of some sponsorship deals . We say this as we’ve been sent these pics and comment from a local resident :
Good to see Somerville Medical Centre being sponsored by the cheapest e cig shop on Merseyside……sponsored by Marley’s where (if you zoom in on this photo) you will also see that you can buy ‘spliff boxes’, ‘bongs’, and associated drug taking paraphernalia ……. ha ha
Spliff box
Perhaps Julie Webster Head of Public Health at Wirral Council could comment on the matter and at the same time confirm she has an MSc and therefore has the authority to do so. Just sayin’
AND FINALLY 
We’ve been sent this picture and asked  ” What does this former party political leader and his partner have in common with a Wirral political power couple?”
Henry & Jo
We were stumped – perhaps Wirral Leaks readers can enlighten us………

Time for an Intervention

 

intervention

Wirral Council are increasingly reminding us of an old soak who’s in denial about their drinking as they stumble from mishap to crisis .

The latest stumble being the failure of their 2015/16 accounts not being signed off pending an investigation of their taking out of some dodgy looking loans : https://wirralinittogether.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/wirral-councils-201516-accounts-will-not-be-signed-off-before-30th-september-deadline-heres-why/

This must be why a Wirral resident is calling for an urgent intervention and what a compelling case they make for detox.

Dear Marcus Jones MP – Minister for Local Government; and, Sir Eric Pickles MP – former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Author of ‘Securing the ballot: review into electoral fraud’.

Further to my email of yesterday (pasted below for completeness) regarding the Demand For Government Intervention regarding Wirral Council.

The concern is not only a serious issue for the public. I am not mistaken as to the gravity and critical nature of the issues in Wirral Council, as can be seen by a letter sent by 3 Wirral opposition Councillors, who are virtually marginalised in exercising any influence whatsoever, by the changes the ruling group have made to the Council constitution and scrutiny committee composition, amongst others. Many comparable examples can be provided from virtually all aspects of Wirral Council’s governance, conduct, legislative compliance and delivery.

I insert here a copy of the Councillors letter, to your colleague Edward Timpson MP, which has been published in full in the media (link below), and urge you, and your colleagues to act immediately, while there is something that can be salvaged from the wreckage of democracy in Wirral. Intervention is long overdue, in order to reassure a cowed electorate, that accountability, transparency, honour and integrity still matter in local government, and public service actually matters.

http://m.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14761154.Council_leader_defends_trip_to_China_amid_Wirral_s_child_safeguarding_crisis/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/the-big-lie-gets-even-bigger/

For all of the 8 links I have provided, a fuller picture is painted by scrolling to the very bottom of the feature articles and reading the public comments.

Contrary to Greg Clark MP and his statement that the Minister does not have the power to intervene, the Government does have powers to intervene in local authorities. The specific legal power is in Local Government Act 1999, s.10, as modified by Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, Sch 10, para 2 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/2/schedule/10/paragraph/2

I have provided the link to save time for you, given the critical state of Wirral Council and public disquiet.

————————————————————————–
DEMAND FOR GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION (sent initially on 23.09.16)

Dear Marcus Jones MP – Minister for Local Government; and, Sir Eric Pickles MP – former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Author of ‘Securing the ballot: review into electoral fraud’.

DEMAND FOR GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION

I have corresponded with the previous Minister for Local Government Greg Clark MP, regarding my serious concerns relating to the conduct, behaviour and questionable decision-making by Wirral Council, on Merseyside. I assume that correspondence has remained on file, therefore you will know my background.

I will keep this demand for intervention brief for the following reason:-

You will read all of the content…

I provide only 6 weblinks (the tip of a very large iceberg) at the foot of this demand, which are damning in themselves for any accountable authority, never mind the recipient of the LGC’s ‘Most Improved Council of Great Britain 2015’ award, after being ‘on the brink of intervention’ in 2012, and the imposition of an LGA ‘Improvement Board’ until 2014. That questionable ‘award’ is only about 18 months old…, and now Wirral Council sees its standing as “From the brink of intervention, to the pinnacle of local government.” (Eric Robinson CEO Wirral Council; recruitment statement September 2016)

From the weblinks you will see a snapshot of the level, or ‘pinnacle’, at which Wirral Council functions…Marcus Jones MP will already know about the very costly Wirral Council proposed monthly ‘newspaper’ – a trivial matter by comparison. Sir Eric Pickles may not be aware that Wirral Council has also been reported to the Police and Electoral Commission for suspected election fraud at the May elections, and to the Police regarding other issues of theft and fraud.

The framework within which local government exists, functions, and the responsibilities of which are discharged by holder’s of public office, and their employees, are governed by the Laws of the Land, Acts of Parliament, and policies, procedures and constitutions of each authority. If the Government can intervene directly on the strength of a monthly newspaper, I would see it as a dereliction of your public duty (much as I see Wirral Council in this light), if, as the Minister responsible for Local Government, you fail to place Wirral Council into special measures. If Wirral Council’s ‘benchmark’ standard of ‘most improved’ local government behaviour constitutes ‘acceptable’ standards of governance and conduct in public office, we are all in serious trouble.

I put you Mr Marcus Jones and by virtue of her delegation to you, the Prime Minister Theresa May, on notice that you have now been advised of the critical situation facing Wirral residents as a result of the implosion of Wirral Council. The Council has a total disregard for the democratic process, the wishes of many of its residents, and no longer appears to manage its finances for the benefit of the Wirral population. Serious governance deficiencies exist, and incompetence in the tendering and procuring processes, coupled with an almost total absence of due diligence, are now systemically ingrained. Wirral Council now enjoys a deplorable reputation in both providing direct services, and commissioning third-party services to be provided by the private or voluntary sector.

You will see from the weblinks below that I ‘draw a line’ for you from which to make a long-overdue intervention into the machinations of Wirral Council. If you fail to do so the responsibility for the ongoing failings of Wirral Council will fall on your shoulders for ignoring this warning.

The response I received from Greg Clark MP was that the Minister did not have the power to intervene in the day-to-day business of local authorities. Marcus Jones MP has intervened in the day-to-day running of Wirral Council with regard to its cavalier attitude to non-compliance with Government guidelines regarding the monthly publication of a Wirral Council 32 page ‘newspaper’.
Given the range of issues that are of concern relating to Wirral Council, and I have an encyclopædic archive of research, the publication of a monthly newspaper, whilst being important, and a potential illegal act in direct contravention of Government guidelines, pales into insignificance when judged against the appalling situation that exists between Wirral Council (the duty of which, and raison d’être, is to serve its public) and the Wirral public.

I view the ‘newspaper’, and dissemination of information, as ‘day-to-day’ Council business, which is now subject to direct Government intervention, as the proposal ignores and locally overrides Central Government guidelines and legal provisions.

On the basis of the corrosive corporate culture which pervades Wirral Council, its ruling councillors, and the senior management of the council, a corporate cancer exists which is destroying public services. The concept of public service has been effectively erased from Wirral Council’s leadership, with a self-serving political collective, and individual isolationist consolidation, now making numerous political decisions at will. Many dishonestly pre-determined decisions run counter to, and ignore the expressed wants and needs of great swathes of the Wirral population, many ‘window-dressed’ through the manipulation of resident’s surveys ‘interpretation’.

The concept of the democratic process, transparency and accountability no longer exists in Wirral local government. A large number of councillors no longer represent their constituents, and democratic government has been replaced by a dictatorship under the guise of the LGA ‘strong leader model’ of local government.

Total power is now held by the Council Leader after a number of recent changes to the Council’s constitution, and the replacing of scrutiny committee chairs with ruling group members to ensure the casting vote, should it be needed, achieves the ‘correct’ outcome. Replacing the chairs of scrutiny committees effectively removed any opposition to the ruling group’s ‘steamroller’ mentality. Due to the ruling majority’s ‘party-political’ en-bloc voting and abstention regime, Wirral Council, as an organisation, now primarily serves the interests of a number of politicians and senior managers.

Government intervention is neither an option, nor an inconvenience, it is a necessity.

It is also a necessity to intervene, with totally independent agents, without the interference of the Local Government Association, and without the interference of Frank Field MP, who is the MP for Birkenhead only, not the entire Borough of Wirral as he seems to believe.

Wirral Council ruling councillors, and senior managers, are not capable of resolving the Council’s mostly self-inflicted problems. Collectively they have conspired to systematically drive out highly-skilled and experienced, dedicated staff. If the current Councillors and senior managers had the wherewithal to resolve the massive problems that exist in Wirral and Wirral Council, they would never have allowed them to develop in the first place. Nor would they employ a press office of around 27 staff, and feel the necessity to also employ a self-proclaimed ‘reputation manager’.

 

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14751802.Updated__Ofsted_report_into_child_safeguarding_failures_sends_shockwave_through_Wirral_Council/?ref=mr&lp=12

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14759476.SPECIAL_REPORT__Council_leader__whistleblower_and_outspoken_critic_give_their_views_on_Wirral_s_child_care_crisis/?ref=mr&lp=3

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14761154.Council_leader_defends_trip_to_China_amid_Wirral_s_child_safeguarding_crisis/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/the-big-lie/

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14733919.74_people_have_died_in_Wirral_while_under_care_of_drugs_and_alcohol_support_charity/

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14657040.BOMBSHELL__Minister_s_warning_letter_to_Wirral_Council_over_its_newspaper_plan_was__concealed_from_public_/

intervention-2