“We are not going to haul anyone over the coals for this…” – Eric Robinson

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Many of our readers have asked us to comment on this week’s Wirral Council meeting of the Audit & Risk Management Committee which discussed the fall out from the Stewart Halliday scandal , the full gory story you can read in our Halliday Archive.

To be honest we couldn’t bring ourselves to watch the webcast or read the ‘Journo-Come-Lately’ local press reports because as we commented in our Wirral Leaks : Past,Present,Future post this is perhaps the story that frustrates us more than any other we have covered. Is it the most compelling and appalling case of institutional corruption at Wirral Council ? No, that’ll be ‘Wirralgate’ episode.  Nevertheless it has been the one story more than any other story that makes us want to repeatedly do this :

bang head

However you kept plying us with excerpts and quotes and  like the moth’s great imperfection we find ourselves succumbing to the fatal charm of the Wirral Council flame. The quote we were particularly drawn to was the title of the post uttered by Wirral CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson. And what a quote it is – somehow summing up the well, ‘feebleness’ , of Wirral Council ‘management’ team and elected member ‘scrutiny’.

Robinson’s sly blaming of ‘junior staff’ for a situation where someone like Halliday can nearly QUADRUPLE his income at Wirral Council having left his previous employer not so much under a cloud but a tornado of unanswered questions and evasions of responsibility was a new low in the cowardly history of Wirral Council. Especially when Wirral Leaks readers will know our very own City of York correspondent, the indomitable Charles Nunn, had written to Stressed Eric appraising him of the genuine concerns about Halliday that were emerging from across the Pennines. Remember this wasn’t an employer/employee relationship where termination of employment is fraught with legal complications. Halliday was initially employed as a (highly paid) consultant. When failures of due diligence became apparent it would have been legitimate to tell Halliday ‘off you pop’ – but no this is Wirral Council where throwing good money after bad has been turned into an art form. Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson misses the point by a country  mile when he says the infamous episode has caused him and Wirral Council ’embarrassment’. Robinson seems to think that ‘taking responsibility’ is the same as ‘accountability’.

No, sweetheart what happened here (and which was completely avoidable) cost Wirral council taxpayers a shedload of money. But then again it’s not your money so what’s a little ’embarrassment’ between you and your bank account?!

Memo to Eric: The reason you get paid big bucks (£200K plus substantial Returning Officer top ups) is that the BUCK STOPS WITH YOU!…

Do we want people ‘hauled over the coals’? Not necessarily – but what we don’t want is failure to be rewarded with hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money again and again and again…

Eric Gut

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‘Woe is Wirral’ : The Halliday scandal reaches Private Eye – again !

A very good summary of the foreseeable Stewart Halliday scandal in this week’s ‘Rotten Boroughs’ section of Private Eye. And how courteous of them to acknowledge Wiralleaks (sic) as being an ‘excellent website’. It would seem that gone are the days when a local journo would earn a bit of pin money by flogging stories filched from us to Lord Gnome’s esteemed organ. Whilst we were OK with spreading the (bad) word about Wirral Council what did rankle was the lack of acknowledgment of where the stories or information first appeared. This is a tradition that the Liverpool Echo, in particular, continues with to this day. The belated coverage of the Halliday case by the local press entirely failed to mention that the incriminating invoices at the centre of the scandal and which led to Halliday’s downfall first appeared on this website in our EXCLUSIVE : What’s in a Name? – Is this the real reason the controversial, high profile Stewart/Stuart Halliday appointment was suddenly dropped by Wirral Council?

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Wirral Leaks : Past, Present,Future …

24th November

Thanks for all your kind messages of support which followed our announcement that Wirral Leaks will soon be winding down, but not just yet…

How could we leave you all, especially when the blog has never been so widely read and appreciated ? Moreover we know we’ve said this before and whilst we don’t want to known as making more comebacks than Barbra Streisand we think it’s time to quit whilst we’re at the top of our game.

However we think we owe it to our faithful followers to clarify our position. As we said the catalyst for our decision – but not the cause – was prompted by the Halliday case. Whilst it gives Stewart Halliday more credence and influence than he deserves somehow that case just made us want to recite the last diary entry of Carry On star Kenneth Williams :

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It’s just become so bloody pointless recounting the seemingly endless parade of incompetence,dishonesty, collusion, corruption  and fuckwittery (INSERT OWN PEJORATIVE ADJECTIVE HERE) at Wirral Council and other Wirral institutions… and then to add insult to injury to have the local mainstream media leech off you!

So this is where we’re at…

THE PAST 

Rest assured the Wirral Leaks archive will remain in perpetuity. So when karma strikes aka ‘The Curse of Leaky Towers’ finally catches up with the sociopaths who run the show  we’ll be lying on our sun lounger sipping a cocktail, raising an arched eyebrow and  saying we told you so

THE PRESENT

For now the parade will continue ,especially in the light of the upcoming local elections. Therefore for now we’d like to make a special request to send us election leaflets, councillor sightings and general electioneering particularly as purdah – the publicity restrictions that should be observed by local authorities during the pre-election period – are about to kick in. Please note :

 

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THE FUTURE

Who knows?  All we do know is that we can’t continue with our current output – it does nothing for our our mental health or our blood pressure . What we can promise is that we will continue to provide a platform for what we consider to be independent thought and important causes – which basically means all we have to do is press the ‘publish and be damned ‘ button.

However we intend that our final salvoes will be special reports which conclude long running investigations into the following matters :

  • Cllr Paul Doughty/Pensions Committee
  • Wirral Council Procurement
  • Wirral Chamber of Commerce
  • Wirralgate

We will be posting requests for your invaluable contributions on these subjects over the next few days. We could use Wirral Council-speak and say it’s all in the name of openness and transparency. We prefer to say it’s about getting all the dirt that’s fit to print out there – for posterity’s sake if nothing else…

Dear Eric , Now about this Halliday guy…

Our commentator in yesterday’s Halliday and Our Last Hurrah! post gave a shout out to Lib Dem Cllr Phil Gilchrist which prompted us to scurrying to our leaks archive to retrieve an email sent by Gilchrist to hapless and hopeless CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson raising concerns about the Stewart Halliday appointment .

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So along with esteemed Wirral citizen and friend of Wirral Leaks ,Charles Nunn, who also dared raise the same concerns with Stressed Eric  (after all he does pay the guy’s over-inflated salary) – only to be labelled ‘vexatious’  – might we suggest that Wirral Council’s CEO needs to get out from under his armour-plated desk and be held publicly accountable for this debacle ?

Here’s Stressed Eric’s response and our comment which we published here on April 28 2017 – two days before Gilchrist also contacted him – coincidence much?

Indomitable local resident Charles Nunn is particularly aggrieved that his Council Tax and that of many other Wirral tax payers appears to be being spent on a series of snake oil salesmen and has pursued this matter with Wirral Council CEO (the ‘O’ seemingly standing for ostrich) Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson. Stressed Eric provided the following response:

Dear Mr Nunn

Thank you for your email  dated 13 March 2017 and follow up email on 26 March 2017.

The Council’s Human Resources Team has confirmed the following:

Mr Halliday is engaged via an agency through the Council’s contract with Matrix Ltd.  Under the process, Matrix require supplying agencies to supply references for the previous two years employment history.

These references were sent directly to the line manager recruiting the worker.  There is no requirement for our Human Resources Team to be involved in all such engagements.  The line manager also elected to seek an additional reference from the former Chief Executive of York Council and subsequently a further reference was provided to the agency by the Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods still currently working at York.

We have been advised by Mr Halliday that he refutes all the allegations which are matter of ongoing dispute between him and his previous employer. It is not appropriate for Wirral Council to comment any further on these allegations.

Regards

Eric Robinson
Chief Executive
Wirral Council

And to think for his trouble Wirral Council were having Nunn of it and resorted to tried and tested tactics which we reported here

What better way of avoiding scrutiny and accountability by pulling the ‘vexatious’ card from the bottom of the pack. The latest target of this dubious tactic is our old friend Charles Nunn – who has been denied information about consultant Stewart Halliday’s ongoing (?) inflated remuneration because he might say mean things on social media. Wirral Council solicitor Rosemary Lyon , who must be a delicate little flower ,  is also upset by Charles’ ‘tone’ and writes:

I consider that you as a third party are pursuing a legitimate interest.
However I consider that that legitimate interest has been lessened by the
tone of your request in asking the Council to confirm whether “there will
be no further contract extension for this man?”

I have had regard to the guidance issued by the ICO “Dealing with
vexatious requests (Section 14) 20151218 Version 1.3. Paragraph 56 states
that “The context and history in which a request is made will often be a
major factor in determining whether the request is vexatious.” Having
regard to your previous requests about the same individual and also having
regard to comments you have made in the public domain concerning this
individual, I consider that the tone of part of this request for
information is potentially vexatious.

I consider that the processing of personal data ie the release of personal
data in respect of  Mr Halliday is unwarranted  by reason of prejudice to
the rights and freedoms or legitimate interests of him as the data
subject………..I consider that disclosure of the requested information would be
unwarranted having regard to the prejudice that would be caused to the
rights and legitimate interests of Stewart Halliday. 

For full details : Stewart Halliday FOI Request

Wirral Leaks is left wondering ‘Whatever happened to Ms Lyon ?’ and whether in the light of subsequent events she is now regretting her classic  ‘I was only following orders’ response along with her collusive role in other matters which we fully intend to come to before we shut up shop…

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  …
Eric Gut

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…

Wirral Well Hard : Another Liptrot Mystery

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The Liptrot Mystery established from the outset that Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies pet PR -person Martin Liptrot was a man of mystery.

The main mystery of course being how did he keep repeatedly landing well remunerated and influential posts at Wirral Council ? We’d call him enigmatic if that didn’t carry connotations of being vaguely interesting . Liptrot is only interesting to us in the sense of the famous curse  ‘May you live in interesting times’.

Curse

We are certainly living in ‘interesting times’ and particularly at Wirral Council with several high profile departures in the offing (more on those in forthcoming posts). However in the aftermath of the Stewart Halliday affair we’d alluded to reports that Liptrot had also recently slipped out the back door (not a euphemism).

Try as we might, we’ve been trying to find out the whys and wherefores of this potentially intriguing development. However our usual sources are on pain of death to reveal anything at the moment so we’ve had to resort to a bit of research (i.e Google) .

As you can see above from our first port(al) of call Liptrot was NOT FOUND at the now seemingly defunct ‘Wirral.Well Made.’ website (can somebody tell us what the bloody full stops are all about ?) We could never quite work out what ‘Wirral.Well Made.’ was, other than Liptrot’s stupidly titled marketing tool (not a euphemism) and the PR arm of the Wirral Growth Company , which now appears to have taken over the website under its own name with the ‘Wirral.Well Made.’ imprint consigned to a domain name. Furthermore there have been no Facebook posts on the ‘Wirral. Well Made.’ page since mid-February and nothing on their Twitter feed since December.

All of which adds to the mystery and inevitably leads to speculation, not least from those pesky kids at Leaky Towers. We ask ourselves : Is the latest ‘Liptrot Mystery’ further fallout from the Stewart Halliday scandal? Is it anything to do with the infamous alleged  Train Rage  incident? Or is it Liptrot’s realisation that with your personal benefactor bailing out that the ‘belligerence and bullshit’ game is up?

As we know how Wirral Council are keen to promote their business and regeneration flagship that they will be anxious to quash this speculation and in the public interest clarify the situation about Liptrot’s crucial role in the future success of the Wirral Growth Company…and no, we don’t need another artist’s impression.

Liptrot pose

Mean and moody Marty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Halliday Report – Money for the few not the many…

Greed

The things we do for you people – like reading a turgid INTERNAL AUDIT REVIEW INTO PAYMENTS MADE TO FORGE HOUSE ASSOCIATES LTD  of a Sunday afternoon. Our first observation is that Forge House Associates Ltd is an exercise in nominative determinism that wouldn’t be out of place in a Charles Dickens novel.

Our second observation is that it’s the usual Wirral Council evasions and obfuscations  where you get the general impression that SOMETHING’S NOT QUITE RIGHT. But then what do you expect from a report written by Chief Internal Auditor Mark ‘Knobhead’ Niblock? A parallel universe where everything is done correctly and yet still manages to be a monumental cock up.

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Due to the strangulated language it’s left to the reader to join the dots and reach the conclusion that NOBODY KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE DOING . Nevertheless it is still evident that what’s going on here is a spectacular systemic failure – particularly a failure of scrutiny and a failure of due diligence.

One recommendation that had the steam coming out of our ears was this :

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We can only presume Wirral managers will be told that to ensure ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ that they :  i) Try Google ii) Try Google

However what had us banging our head against the wall in sheer frustration was contained in ‘Appendix 2 – Timeline of events relating to Forge House Associates LTD to the referral to Internal Audit on 16 January 2019′

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Here we learn : “The Senior Accountant  confirmed that the spend relates to the Growth Company, The Transformation Team is currently responsible for getting it up and running and when it becomes an actual functioning entity the responsibility for spend will be transferred to economic and Housing growth.   Although Economic and Housing Growth are accountable for the spend, they do not have control or any real knowledge  of what is being processed and paid against the code.The Senior Accountant confirmed that in preparation for the budget monitoring meeting, the transactions report was examined relating to the Economic and Housing Growth budget, for any errors/miscodes etc…

One large spend related to DWF LLP (Legal Services) who the Senior Accountant knew of. However, the other large spend was for Forge House Associates Limited and the Senior Accountant did not know who this company was and what services they actually provide. Therefore, the Senior Accountant tried to obtain this information from the company website, using google as the search engine. The Senior Accountant could not find a website for the company.

During the meeting the Senior Accountant, Assistant Director – Regeneration & Inward Investment, Lead Commissioner – Place and Investment and the Economic Development Lead discussed the fact that they do not know who the company is and what they do and they agreed to look into the matter further.

You do the math – all those highly paid public servants acting like incompetent tin pot property tycoons…at our expense. But then this is what happens when it’s NOT YOUR MONEY that’s being frittered away. No wonder Halliday found the perfect safe haven in Wirral after facing no sanctions after he fled City of York Council.

What’s more, are we the only ones asking what exactly did the people of Wirral get for the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF POUNDS that was lavished on Halliday during his increasingly questionable time at Wirral Council?

 

 

 

The Audit Report is out – but is Halliday?

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The report into the Stewart Halliday affair and payments that were made for his consultancy work by Wirral Council via Forge House Associates has been published (inevitably on a Friday afternoon) on the Wirral Council website and can be found here

We’ll leave you to read the Recommendations /Actions Required and would welcome our reader’s thoughts . Needless to say we have a few of our own and we will preparing a more considered analysis once we have studied the report in detail and made some further enquiries…

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However we would ask you to observe the fact, like we will do , that all investigations may not have been concluded

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The only outstanding issue for us, is that in the light of the report and the actions required which include that no further work will be commissioned from Forge House Associates Ltd,  we are seeking a public statement from Wirral Council confirming that Stewart Halliday is no longer Corporate Director for Economic and Housing Growth or indeed a holder of any public office at Wirral Council.

Oh and can we just say we told you so…

Heads up on Halliday

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After first being sent to elected members, we understand that a confidential report concerned with allegations involving controversial Wirral Council appointment  Stuart/Stewart Halliday and others ,which was exclusively revealed by Wirral Leaks , is due to be published shortly . For those wanting to do a bit of background reading in the mean time (especially as the story can’t be found anywhere else ) we recommend :

Halliday Money : The Rising Son of York

The Curse of Leaky Towers : Heave-ho for Halliday ?!

EXCLUSIVE : What’s in a Name? – Is this the real reason the controversial, high profile Stewart/Stuart Halliday appointment was suddenly dropped by Wirral Council?

Halliday fallout : Will Wirral Council Deputy CEO David Armstrong be the fall guy ?

The report is due before the Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC) and up until now there have been no moves to make the report an exempt item on the agenda. As the next meeting of ARMC is on 11 March we expect the report to be available to the public early next week. This is curious for a number reasons ,not least the reluctance , or more accurately the fierce resistance, of Wirral Council to publish a previous investigation report from 2015 which as far as we are aware has never been so much the subject of curiosity let alone discussion by members of ARMC. But more on the Warren Report another time…

All we’ve managed to elicit so far on this latest report is that it is “…worth watching out for…”

Tune in to Wirral Leaks for our forensic analysis of the findings when the report can be found on the Wirral Council website.

 

 

Kingdom Comeuppance? – Part 1

Cathy & Granty

#sadface pic courtesy of BBC website

Grant us this indulgence but we’d like to comment further if we may on stories featured this week on Wirral Leaks with a mini-series of quick fire posts .

First up is a follow up to last night’s Kingdom Suspended ! story where in our haste to get the BBC footage on the website we missed the opportunity to comment on some aspects of the latest saga in the Kingdom Security debacle and particularly the role of the  mainstream media and local politicians in ‘exposing’ how the cash for trash company operate on the say so of Wirral Council. No doubt Kingdom will still be operating to full contract value (much like the other Wirral Council suspendee Stewart/Stuart Halliday) and so will now have the capacity to have more operatives out on the streets of Wirral hounding those least able to pay a fine for what is essentially a trash tax on the poor and very little to do with environmental protection.

The most curious aspect for us was how the suspension of Kingdom Security from dealing with the business waste aspect of their contract with Wirral Council ended up on the telly. Perhaps a clue is to be had from one of yesterday’s commentators on our blog :

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Taking time out from from name-dropping to comment on litter-dropping Peter ‘Granty’ Grant in his ‘Granty’s Infernal’ column was surprisingly low key on the Kingdom story (not even mentioning them by name) he merely stated :

While Wirral Council comes under fire for “Waste-Gate” (the incredibly ill-thought out fixed penalty notices blitz on businesses… )

“Waste-Gate”, eh? Now where have we heard a similar turn of phrase ? Ah yes  – “Wirralgate” . Now we know that Granty is keen on recycling – and as has been brought to our attention before, often from this very blog – but we very much doubt Granty will be referring to “Wirralgate” any time soon and certainly not in the run up to May’s local elections like he did last time round (see below). Well, not since July 2017 when the editor of the Wirral Globe got his hands on the “Wirralgate” tape anyway!

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Talking of ‘literary musings’ let’s get back to Granty and Cathy Roberts , the ‘co-owner’ of the ‘Literally’ bookshop in New Brighton, who was on the telly complaining about being fined £300 over sandwich wrapper . The TV and website records Ms Roberts in full flow  complaining that sweet papers, newspapers, milk cartons and tea bags weren’t commercial waste. Whilst we agree it made us wonder a) just how much butty munching, sweet eating and tea bagging goes on in ‘Literally’ b) was Ms Roberts reading ‘Granty’s Infernal’ column in the picture on the BBC website above c) did Granty  pull a few strings with his extensive media contacts to enable the story to get such prominent media coverage ?  and d) why has the Kingdom business waste story attracted so little attention at the Wirral Globe until this week? If they had covered the matter as Wirral Leaks had done so here back in October 2018 and highlighted “the incredibly ill-thought out fixed penalty notices blitz on businesses” perhaps the co-owners of ‘Literally’ might have known what was heading their way !

Shall we await “with bated breath” to see whether Granty answers these questions in next week’s Wirral Globe column…