Reference Point

 

Stewart halliday call

Reference busters : ‘Who ya gonna call? Call Kersten!’  pic courtesy York Press

The ‘Happy Halliday’ story certainly pushed a few buttons didn’t it?

Happy Halliday

Blotto?

Well we’ve got some news for you – the plot thickens or should that be sickens?

Subsequent to our posts you might have read that Wirral Globe reported that the following appointments had just been made by Wirral Council:

£188,192 for a programme manager.

£181,471 for a second programme manager.

£139,080 for an interim head of transformation.

£665,760 to management consulting company Capita.

£185,000 to two companies to provide economic and legal advice to set up a joint venture property company.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15145472.Wirral_Council_forks_out___1_3m_on_temporary_managers_and_consultants_amid_outcry_over_cuts/?ref=mr&lp=8

The first thing to say is that we wondered how long it would be before outsourcing carrion birds C(r)apita got in on the vulturine act of picking at the emaciated cadaver of Wirral Council.

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/11/21/report_into_mega_capita_outsourcing_deal_identifies_performance_issues/

However our immediate attention was drawn to some of the eyewatering sums involved. Under the circumstances it would seem an obvious choice to assign the post of interim head of transformation to our new found friend Stewart Halliday. However we have reason to believe that ‘Happy Halliday’ may have actually been appointed to the second programme manager post on £181, 471 ! Which would mean that he could have DOUBLED his salary since fleeing City of York Council under a charcoal-coloured cumulonimbus .

Of course our sources may be mistaken and if so we would welcome Wirral Council , in the name of openness and transparency ,to put the correct names in the frames . After all it must surely be in the public interest that we should know where our money is going and who it is going to!

However, there’s more to this fast moving story. Hence the title of this blog post. So, you may be asking yourselves what kind of reference did ‘Happy Halliday’ get from his previous employer? – well , apparently he didn’t get one!

Yes that’s right ,news reaches us that Halliday was provided with a reference from the Chief Executive of Bradford City Council , one Kersten England .

Eh? – well apparently Ms England was CEO of City of York Council before moving on to Bradford City Council in the summer of 2015. So despite there being two subsequent CEOs of CoYC since her departure –  the interim, Steve Stewart, and the current incumbent Mary Weastell –  both of whom could surely have provided a glowing reference for the wonderful work Halliday did for CoYC, he curiously chose to seek a reference from England, along with a reference from an agency ‘outlining’ two years of Halliday’s employment history.

This wouldn’t be so bad , after all everyone ( including the agency involved), wants to present themselves in the best light when a six figure gig is up for grabs , however we understand that, shamefully, it was Wirral Council who made NO DIRECT APPROACH to CoYC for a reference for Halliday. Which makes us to want to wish that the whole  of Wirral Council’s notoriously appalling Human Resources Department management team ,who’s motto seems to be ‘we were only following orders’, gets swallowed up and spat out into the gutter by C(r)apita at the earliest opportunity.

It’s all very reminiscent of the Stella Shiu debacle isn’t it? And look what happened there! It’s like the interweb thingy doesn’t exist for Wirral Council or perhaps there are darker forces at work which ensure that the current administration ‘get their man’ no matter what his credentials.

Might we suggest that whilst this situation may result in big money for Halliday it’s a kick in the holiday money for the long suffering council tax payers of Wirral!

 

 

Gambling with Other People’s Money

gambler-puzo

Not that we’ve had any official announcement but it would seem that hawking Wirral Council’s tawdry wares in the Far East seems to have sank without trace somewhat like a Chinese junk ship over-laden with marrows and Stella Shiu’s false promises.

We should be at least be grateful that Wirral Council’s latest speculative jaunt is closer to home as plans are made for a Wirral Council (and no doubt Wirral Chamber of Commerce) delegation to jet off to Cannes next month. Not that it should work out any cheaper as the South of France is notoriously expensive. But hey!, when you’re speculating with public money what’s the big deal? Shouldn’t we just be grateful that our betters get a spring break at our expense?

This then led us to reflect on gambling in general and jaunts to far flung places in particular and the curious twinning arrangement with Reno . If you remember, when we heard of the plans in December 2014 , we wrote :

‘However it seems to us that Wirral is behaving like a desperate divorcee on a dating website – posting flattering pictures to prospective partners in the hope of finding true love and salvation. The Reno hook-up seems particularly dodgy – apparently the fact that “The Chamber of Commerce had a contact over in Reno with a guy who used to work in Liverpool in the video gaming industry….” was enough for the Wirral posse to metaphorically put on the lippy ,reach for the Wonderbra and fly down to Reno on a wing and a prayer.’

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/big-guns-in-tiny-town/

As we said we at the time we couldn’t understand the hook up until we recently read a review on the EscapeHere website which decreed that just before the desperate Transatlantic jaunt that Reno was considered the third worst city to visit in the United States  :

‘Often referred to as Las Vegas’ poorer cousins , the ” biggest little city in the world” suffers some BIG issues when it comes to violent crime and unemployment. With the populous of 227,509, despite the luck ,lights and glamour promised to gambling tourists, Reno residents have suffered drops in housing prices, drastic cuts in public services, and layoffs. However ,despite the setbacks Reno is attempting to reinvent itself with revitalization projects like The River Walk , a water and sculpture path built in the middle of this once,seedy run down city center’

http://www.escapehere.com/destination/10-worst-cities-to-visit-in-the-united-states/

Sound familiar folks ? doesn’t it suddenly all make sense !

However (just like Wirral Council) we’re led to speculate that could the dubious attractions of Reno have had a more personal attraction for one of the Wirral delegation as we are led to believe that when in Reno he was ‘not a stranger to the tables!’

This is reinforced by another Wirral Council casualty closer to home who tells us rather more prosaically :

 ‘I was once in a planning meeting away from Wallasey Town Hall with him when a very tragic story emerged, involving the death of a small child in Wallasey, whilst the meeting was taking place requiring the said officer to give his immediate apologies and return to the Town Hall. I stayed for the duration of the meeting and was driving past a bookmakers a little bit later in Argyle Street en route back to Wallasey and happened to see the same officer inside the premises, obviously his priorities lay in his personal gain ahead of anything else.’

Forget everything we’ve ever written – we think that ‘His priorities lay in his personal gain ahead of anything else’ is perhaps the most insightful comment ever written about how Wirral Council operates.

gambling-2

 

Year of the Chicken

foghorn-leghorn

A special Chinese New Year of the Chicken message to Power Boy Pip from Looney Tunes legend Foghorn Leghorn

Chinese New Year isn’t until February but you won’t be surprised to hear that Stella Shiu won’t be around to wish Wirral Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies : ‘Kung Hei Fat Choi’  as we enter the Year of the Chicken.

It should come as no surprise to Wirral Leaks watchers and anyone with an IQ that reaches double figures that Shiu will not be appearing on the shores of the River Mersey laden with fortune cookies – not this year, Chinese New Year or any other year.

And so after all the photo-ops , press statements, Liverpool Echo exclusives, artist’s impressions , false promises , foreign delegations and the portrait of Stella hanging up in the waiting room next to the Wirral Council Chief Executive’s office it’s finally time to put this seemingly elaborate – if not particularly convincing – hoax to (the river) bed.

You may remember that after the failure to secure investors for the International Trade Centre at Wirral Waters  that Shiu was invited to move operations down river to some Godforsaken wasteland  (attractively described as former Ministry of Defence land situated on ‘a surburban industrial estate behind Port Sunlight Tennis Club’ ). We exclusively reported this locally in November 2015 after a story appeared in the Financial Times and presciently asked the question   : So we’d like to know whether this is a suitable site for an International Trade Centre or merely a very expensive and financially risky way to save face over the Stella Shiu affair?”

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/chinese-takeaway-1st-dibs-2nd-course/

Now it would appear we finally have the answer courtesy of yet another question , this time asked at the Wirral Council meeting on 19th December by Cllr Phil Gilchrist:

pg-question-014

We wonder whether we’ll see the news that ‘ The International Trade Centre is not progressing because the project sponsor cannot confirm funding for the project at this time’ on the front page of Wirral View or with a centre spread in the Liverpool Echo under the headline  ‘ Shiu’d off ! – Stella Dupes Wirral Fellas’ or ‘ Due Diligence? – Don’t Make Us Laugh!’ accompanied by a picture of Power Boy Pip looking like a sad-faced emoji ?

Don’t hold your breath people of Wirral – this is the kind of ‘information deficit’ that Wirral Council have no intention of ever addressing because it doesn’t fit with their bogus ,happy-clappy narrative. Especially when Power Boy Pip and his political ilk of all parties are chicken – with an inability to say they’d been had, never admit when they are wrong or acknowledge that they’re big on promises and short on delivery .

And before we finish let’s remember it wasn’t just Pip that Shiu strung along. Here’s Stella  with Lindsey Ashworth from the Peel Group and Wirral Council Tory group leader Jeff Green wishing us a suitable Looney Tunes farewell:

green-shiu-ashworth

That’s all folks!

The Common People

rich-pickings

Rich pickings for the Basnetts and friends.

Now you all know we are totally non-judgemental at Leaky Towers so when we refer to the common people we are talking more about some of the people we discussed in yesterday’s post  who seem to have a lot in common.

They call it partnership working / networking – we call it cronyism and empire building at the expense of the ‘little people’ .The rich enriching themselves and their friends by accessing scarce public resources …..and with Grant Thornton being the common denominator when it comes to auditing there is very little chance of any awkward questions being asked.  We note that the late-to-the-party Daily Mail follow up their own concerns on the matter by belatedly bringing to their readers attention the Peel Group and particularly group director Robert Hough.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4003918/Ban-fat-cats-secret-deals-says-MPs-demand-action-Mail-exposes-old-pals-club-doles-public-money.html

Fortunately our own consultant Dr Robert B Smith has been able to remedy any ‘information deficit’ our readers may have when it comes to the following local contacts and connections that have increasingly caused us so much concern :

Board Games (of recent times)

Liverpool City Region (LCR) Combined Authority committee members

ex-Chair Cllr Phil Davies; Leader Wirral Council -, now committee member
Asif Hamid; The Contact Company – committee member

Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) 

Chair

Robert Hough; Peel Group (previous Chair until end of June 2016)
Asif Hamid; The Contact Company – previously Vice-Chair, now Chair

Board members 

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company
Neil Sturmey; Head of Office & Partner, Grant Thornton

Mark Basnett; LCR – LEP (Executive Director in attendance)

Mark Basnett additional company directorships:

Merseyside Special Investment Seed Fund Ltd.
Merseyside Special Investment Venture Fund Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Venture Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Mezzanine Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Fund Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment (Small Firms) Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Small Loans For Business Investment Fund Ltd
Small Business Loans Ltd

Wirral Council

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council

Kevin Adderley; ex-Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment

Paula Basnett; ex-Investment Manager
Independent Auditor, Grant Thornton

Wirral Chamber of Commerce (WCofC)

Chair

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO

Board members

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO (ex-Investment Manager at Wirral Council; ex-head of Invest Wirral; ex-Manager of Egerton House; ex-Wirral Business Partnership CEO).

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council
Kevin Adderley; WCofC Group Managing Director (ex-Wirral Council Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment)
Sue Higginson; Principal, Wirral Metropolitan College
John Syvret; CEO, Cammell Laird (Peel Group)

Wirral Investment Network (Management) Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
(No other Directors)

Egerton House (Wirral) Community Interest Company

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
(No other Directors)

The Lauries Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Secretary

Lauries Events Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Wirral Metropolitan College – Governors

Sue Higginson; Principal, Wirral Metropolitan College

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO
Richard Mawdsley; Director of the Peel Group
Grant Thornton (Auditors in attendance)

Join the dots

The Hive – Wirral Youth Zone

John Syvret; Chair (CEO, Cammell Laird [Peel Group])
Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce
Phil Garrigan Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

Saughall Massie Fire Station proposal

Could this be the trade-off for the Birkenhead site for The Hive/Wirral Youth Zone between Wirral Council and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service…?

Wirral Waters

Peel Group
Wirral Council

Egerton House (WCofC)

Pacific Road (WCofC)
The Contact Company 26.03.2015 Liverpool Echo – The Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and Wirral Chamber of Commerce have also provided Asif Hamid’s company with additional support. (£11m reported costs, at least 75% reported as public funding)

Wirral Metropolitan College Wirral Waters campus for Construction and the Built Environment (£8m public funding)
Tower Road ‘A’ & ‘C’ Bridge replacements to service Ro-Ro Ferry £7.12m all public funding incl £712k from Wirral Council – Peel £0

Now join more dots…..

Who was ‘instrumental’ in the failed £175m International Trade Centre as part of a move to kick-start the £4.6bn Wirral Waters project.

Who went to China to meet Stella Shiu?

Who met Stella Shiu when she visited Wirral?

Who went to Reno?

Who went to the Isle of Man?

Who was responsible for administering and investigating the Business Investment Grants (BIG), Investment Start Up Scheme (ISUS), and Working Neighbourhoods, schemes?

 

Big Hitters

Companies house 011

What was that phrase that Wirral Council bandied about to absolve themselves of any responsibility when the much heralded Stella Shiu/ Peel Group  Wirral Waters International Trade Centre  sank without trace ?  – Ah! yes , they’d undertaken “due diligence” .

“That’s a first” trilled Her Ladyship.

Based on subsequent events we can only presume “due diligence” didn’t include Googling Shiu to get some useful background information!.

Consequently we’ve been asked whether we have any info about Wirral Council’s “preferred development partner” for the proposed Hoylake Golf Resort – Nicklaus Joint Venture Group Limited  – and exactly what is Jack Nicklaus’ role in the scheme.

From what we’ve discovered so far it seems to us that Nicklaus has licensed his name and Skyped a message over from the States praising  Hoylake’s famous micro-climate . Hoylake has a micro-climate – who knew? . Judging by this week’s weather we can only presume he means golf ball size hailstones in late April.

 

So we thought we’d  find out about the big hitters who Wirral Council are investing so much hope in and check out the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group Limited  (NJVG) at Companies House.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxrkIjRDgrB-TnhlLTVWZjJqOWc/view?ts=57191ab1

It was less than reassuring to see that the big hitters behind the venture have invested an underwhelming  £1,000 in the company. Of the 1000 shares -a mere 50 quids worth are owned by  Nicklaus Design LLC.

However this is an entirely sensible approach as potential investors obviously need reassuring that the not inconsiderable obstacles of planning and conservation regulations in general and those relating to the Green Belt in particular can be overcome.

At least the people behind NJVG seem to have a track record of undertaking such a project  when they set up the Pentre Nicklaus Village over a decade ago.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/business/business-news/nicklaus-village-homes-demand-2476840

What is also apparent is that the Hoylake Golf Resort proposals seem to very much follow the pattern of  Pentre Nicklaus Village  project which incorporated a housing development alongside a golf course.

Indeed it seems that the only way of making the  Hoylake Golf Resort project viable is by building 150+ luxury homes on Green Belt land. With Wirral Council having already spent an estimated £275,000 on consultants trying to make this scheme stack up it would seem that they think this is a sacrifice worth making. This all begs the question as to whether the real aim (and moneyspinner) here is the housing development and whether the golf resort is the means of achieving that aim.

Year of Flogging A Dead Horse

Under the table

Peel Director Lindsey Ashworth (left)  fondly remembers the table that he claims  Hong Kong bankrupt Stella Shiu could drink him under. Power Boy Pip (allegedly left) looks on gormlessly.

We’d like to thank the perplexed readers who contacted us about a couple of stories that have been published on consecutive days this past week in the Liverpool Echo. They’ve asked us if we could throw some light on the stories.  The first thing we’d like to say is that the Echo is certainly living up to its name. These  two stories appear to us as being not so much published as regurgitated – and much like vomit – equally sickening.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Echo

So let us do this chronologically  – firstly on 14th March we get this previously reported story about Peel Empires Inc – having quite reasonably given up on the Stella Shiu  No-Show – moving on to Plan B ( B for bullshit)  and now want to throw up ( there’s a theme here) residential units on the site previously earmarked for businesses ,offices and the International Trade Centre.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/business/peel-seeks-investors-partners-build-11039885

Yes ! –  23,500 more buy-to-lets! –  just what we need in the Liverpool Economic Partnership area (which includes Wirral) and which the English Indices of Deprivation indicates is the worst in England and bottom of the league when it comes to employment, income, health deprivation and disability.

Wirral – deprived and with a declining population that is becoming increasingly elderly and dependent .What an attractive proposition to investors!

Then on 15th March we get this follow up desperate “news”story :

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/wirral-trying-make-international-trade-11034120

Talk about late to the party !. It was 5 months ago we covered this bogus story about desperate Wirral Council leader Power Boy Pip Davies maintaining his blind faith in Hong Kong bankrupt Stella Shiu by flogging off some land miles away from the Wirral Waters site when it was first reported in the Financial Times :

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/chinese-takeaway-1st-dibs-2nd-course/

Presciently we commented :

  • The  FT report appears to us to have been a “controlled leak” via a national newspaper with a niche market . Who authorised this leak and what was the motivation to leak the jubilant news of the Sam Wa / Stella Shiu hook-up rather than being heralded as a “good news” story in the likes of the Liverpool Echo ?

Clearly in hindsight this was an early example of Wirral Council’s PR amateur Martin Liptrot’s early work  which he followed up months later with the  lazy / compliant local mouthpiece that is the  Liverpool Echo.

As Her Ladyship commented : ” Wasn’t it a Chinese New Year recently – what was it?  – The Year  of Flogging A Dead Horse ?”

Wirral Waters - Artists Impression

Wirral Waters – the latest artist’s impression.

A Sobering Story

frontpageecho

We were sent a copy of last Thursday’s print edition of the Wirral Echo last week but the front page story – or rather front page fantasy – deals with a matter that came up at tonight’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting.

Looking at the screaming banner headline : ” WE’RE IN BUSINESS”  and  the news of “£47m INVESTMENT PLAN FOR WIRRAL DOCKLANDS” over the ubiquitous artist’s impression we were rather excited at Leaky Towers that departing Super Duper Director Kevin Addled had reciprocated the substantial leaving gift he received from Wirral Council and cleared his in-tray and sorted out the Wirral Waters development before he departed.

So imagine our disappointment that when we turned to page 13 (unlucky for some) and we saw a picture of some gormless government policy wonk in a hard hat and hi-vis jacket talking hot air.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/new-investment-fund-wirral-waters-10348634

Therefore we had to read the council report on which the Echo story was based and we have to say the report gives a rather more sober take on events than the high octane hyperbole dramatically portrayed on the front page of newspaper.The council report discussed at tonight’s meeting sought councillors approval to establish something called a Wirral Waters Enterprise Zone (EZ) Investment Fund.However when we tried to get to the bottom of the £47million investment plan all we could fathom was some blather about re-investment of business rates and that potentially £47 million could be realised by 2037!. So yes – basically a figure plucked out of the air that may or may not materialise in a quarter of a century! But hey! – “WE’RE IN BUSINESS!” screams the Echo. 
Overcompensating somewhat after the Stella Shiu debacle the phrase “due diligence” appears half a dozen times in the above council report . There’s even a “rigorous due diligence”.

Let’s hope Wirral council’s future “due diligence”  on matters pertaining to the Wirral Waters are more “rigorous” than their development partner Peel Holdings. Lindsey Ashworth, Peel Group development director, once  joked “that he picked Ms Shiu as a partner because of her ability to drink him under the table.”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f6e8dda8-582f-11e3-82fc-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3qeNUpBP9

The quote comes from a report in the Financial Times which has consistently reported on how Britain is so keen to sign new business deals with China that it is failing to carry out enough due diligence on prospective investors.

Under the circumstances and especially after the Stella Shiu no-show we would expect more sober reporting from the Echo when it comes to Wirral Waters

However we can’t help feeling that the close working relationship that Wirral Council’s Spinmeister General Martin Liptrotsky has struck up with the Echo is already reaping rewards – see also the recent 75 things to do in Wirral before you die article.
Frankly contrasting the hype emanating from Wirral Council and the continuing false dawns surrounding Wirral Waters we whittled the list down to 1 thing to do – leave.
The drinks are not on Stella!

The drinks are not on Stella!