This post predominately ( but not exclusively) celebrates the endeavours of redoubtable Wirral resident Charles Nunn.
Check out his latest Freedom of Information request here :
Mr Nunn is a bona fide local legend who makes us look like the rank amateurs that we actually are.
Let it be known it was he who discovered the definitive Wirral Council remuneration of City of York Council incompetent Stewart Halliday and justifiably commented – because he comes from a generation who knows the difference between right and wrong:
Private Eye magazine tells us in the latest edition, and appropriately enough on the same page as their previously reported ‘Happy Halliday’ story, that ‘ Council bigwigs across the land can barely contain their excitement as they prepare to fly to Cannes (this) week for what is for many the highlight of the year – the international property bash , Marché International des Professsionels d’Immobilier , aka MIPIM.
Thousands of public officials from all over Europe to gather to be plied with drink for four days by property developers eager to get their hands on publicly owned assets. Aptly ,the event also attracts hundreds of prostitutes’
Now we know this spring break has been heavily pencilled in on the calendars of Wirral Council’s very own ‘bigwigs’ for quite some time.
A Cabinet meeting held on 8th December 2016 included a report written by one Stewart Halliday (who he?) and stated as follows :
‘It is imperative the council has an emerging proposition for investors by early 2017 and that by March 2017, when the MIPIM Conference takes place, is able to set out its offer to investors. This annual conference for investors is the key opportunity to meet and pitch to the world’s major development investors and banks’
Moreover as we reported in our An Extraordinary Council report Cabinet resolved at the meeting held on 16th January to create the post of ‘Investor Development Manager’ especially for Wirral Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies’ left hand man Martin Liptrot (aka Liptrotsky).
The justification for fast-tracking the appointment and waiving the call in process was as follows :
‘Although this was not a key decision, in the light of the time critical nature of these activities, it was considered necessary to request that call-in be waived. This would enable the activities to progress at once and, therefore, ensure that work was completed in time to meet deadlines for key events such as MIPIM. Due to the absence of the Chief Executive, and on his behalf, the Assistant Chief Executive had recommended that call-in be waived’.
Subsequently a request for an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council was called by 24 opposition councillors as ‘we believe that the creation of this post requires further scrutiny, to enable council to decide whether it is justified’.
However as we observed :’ …… the Extraordinary Meeting has been called for 6th March – AFTER the appointment has been made! Which rather suggests to us that the matter was NOT ‘urgent’ in the first place and in fact the waiver was a means of preventing anyone asking any awkward questions as to why , at a time of cuts and punitive charging measures , that the council taxpayers of Wirral are being asked to fund Council leader Power Boy Pip’s special friend to hobnob in the South of France at their expense’
Unfortunately opposition councillors seem not to have kept their eye on the road and subsequently steered down a cul-de-sac , as the Extraordinary Meeting to discuss the Liptrot’s Investor Development Manager appointment was parked in favour of another Extraordinary Meeting concerning car parking charges.
We understand that Liptrotsky’s dodgy £350 a day gig will now be discussed next week:
This of course allows (presumably) Pip and Liptrotsky (and whoever else is in the Wirral entourage) to fly off this week to the French Riviera – no questions asked. No doubt this means that next week’s Extraordinary Meeting will now be all about the mega-deals that were struck as a result the Pip and Liptrotsky double act (somewhat like bungling Morecambe and Wise in that creaky comedy ‘That Riviera Touch’ only without the laughs). Shall we look forward to hearing that Wirral Waters will no longer be marketed as ‘Shanghai-On -The- Mersey’ but as ‘Côte d’Azur-On -The -Docks’ ?!
Meanwhile Wirral Leaks welcomes any news on Wirral Council’s entourage and hopes that Pip and Liptrotsky have taken a hat, as even at this time of the year, it can get very hot in Cannes……………………….
The ‘Happy Halliday’ story certainly pushed a few buttons didn’t it?
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.
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.
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!
Spookily, we were about to follow up our story about one of Wirral Council’s new ‘transformation’ gurus , Stewart Halliday, when we were sent the above story from Private Eye with exactly the same title that this ‘excellent local blog’ was about to run with ( great minds etc;). We say ‘one of’ as we understand there have been two new highly paid ‘interim transformation ‘ council appointments to push through the further dismantling of public services.
Astonishingly it has been suggested to us that ‘Happy Halliday’ could be in line for a significant increase on the estimated £90K salary that he received at City of York Council despite leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.Talk about rewarding failure!
We’ve already reported on his previous involvement in a series of irregularities at City of York Council involving procurement and contract procedures and the use of consultants. Among the allegations made against Halliday were that he failed to get proper tenders, quotes or contracts for £174K worth of work that he commissioned and he didn’t draw up business cases or monitor the work that was paid for.
Halliday had previously also been implicated in criticism that City of York Council had not been very good at publishing its data according to a report compiled by Spend Network, which forms part of the Spend Small campaign by the Centre for Entrepreneurs :.
“They ( City of York Council) are bad at publishing data that we could use to analyse what they are doing. It’s obvious they don’t think anyone is going to run the data against an algorithm. They have got dirty data, and manage it in a poor way. It’s not very helpful for people to use the data, and not helpful for people to read it as a human, it’s very hard to interpret.”
And so with Wirral Council pleading poverty at every turn and imposing a 4.99% rise in Council Tax it doesn’t sit well with us that they are potentially appointing two further people on six figure ‘interim’ contracts,one of whom at least , has a chequered past. This of course hasn’t prevented Halliday securing a big cheque future at the rogue’s paradise that is Wirral Council. As we know all too well Halliday follows a trail of local government garbage who have cleaned up at our expense.Who can forget Rob Vickers – the social care consultant who was paid £180K for 18 months ‘work’ which essentially involved helping to cover up two Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) scandals (‘the 4 week delay’ disgrace and, a thus far unreported, further unlawful overcharging of vulnerable people). And there have been plenty of others just like him, jumping on and off the endless money-go-round that is the Wirral Council consultant carousel.
We can only predict that one day we will look back and reflect that these were the darkest days in the history of public services – not just in terms of public finance, but in respect of the calibre of people who are running them and/or running them down.
That’s decided – we’re moving to York!
We say this as we followed up our story Wirral Council – Where Transformation Means More Of The Same by watching coverage of the City of York Council’s Audit & Governance Committee meeting held yesterday.
As you can see their meetings are webcast so that the people of York can see how the council makes its decisions. The aim is to promote openness and accountability, and to support greater participation in local democracy. ‘A Protocol for Webcasting, Filming and Recording of Council Meetings’ on City of York Council’s website usefully sets out the operating procedure for filming/webcasts. This includes the Chair , at the start of each meeting, making the following statement : – ” I would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet and will be capable of repeated viewing.”
If Wirral Council wanted to promote openness, accountability and greater participation in local democracy surely they’d ditch Wirral View and look to how York conducts its business .But then again considering openness,accountability and democracy have never been a top priority for Wirral Council we suspect that John Brace won’t be out of a job any time soon!
We suggest to our readers that they spend the duration of their favourite soap opera and watch the first half hour of the video. We think they will find it most instructive. However – call us sad- we watched the entire 3 hour + as it was morbidly fascinating and as described by one of the councillors , at times ‘Kafkaesque’.
As you will surely witness as Wirral languishes metaphorically in the depths of winter , the councillors and citizens of York set out to prove that sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant .
We were sat here loudly applauding at Leaky Towers as councillors actually tried to hold slippery council officers to account and as concerned citizens asserted their democratic rights and reminded these callow council officers exactly who they were accountable to.
They made our councillors ( of all political persuasion) look like the rank amateurs they are when it comes to scrutiny and reminded us how Wirral Council manage to get away with what they do because many local people are so politically disengaged. What we need are a few more Gwen Swinburns!
However we live in hope that ,like Storm Doris, it will pass and one day Wirral will get its day in the open and transparent sun . Meanwhile it would appear the council taxpayers of Wirral are still stuck in a nuclear winter of discontent when it comes to public accountability.
A shout out to one of our many Wirral Council watchers who has sent us some news all the way from the charming city of York.
Here we pick out some of the most pertinent points from the following newspaper article published by The York Press ( who are like our own dear Wirral Globe only a little bit posher). Whilst the issues raised read like our back catalogue – serious failings, procedural breaches,cover ups, procurement issues, dodgy contracts, lack of monitoring, culture of fear , leaked reports and how City of York Council are more concerned about reputation management than exposing malpractice. Bear with us , there is a punchline :
The Press revealed yesterday, council bosses have been criticised for paying tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money without proper monitoring, and told to take “robust action” to avoid a repeat of serious failings.
The council refused to publish one of two auditors’ reports, but a copy has now been seen by The Press and adds more detail to the published report.
It alleges that another £150,000 was paid out, and a catalogue of other failures including the council official responsible not getting proper tenders, quotes or contracts for work commissioned, and not drawing up business cases or monitoring the work that was paid for.
According to the report, there was a series of policy breaches, but auditors have made clear there is no evidence of fraud or criminality.
- Stewart Halliday, who held senior roles with the council, authorised a raft of payments to communications consultant Stuart Goulden without obtaining quotes
- Mr Halliday sent council information to his own personal email address, and the personal email addresses of one serving and one former councillor
- Contracts were awarded to other companies Mr Goulden was involved with, as well as to him personally
- There was a “lack-of-recognition” in the council that Mr Goulden was being paid so much
- Procurement staff and a former chief executive tried to challenge the troublesome contracts, but failed “possibly due to the culture within the area at the time”.
The auditors’ investigation included checking Mr Halliday’s email account after he had left the council, trying to check historic entry logs at the council headquarters, and exploring potential personal links between Mr Halliday and Mr Goulden. None were found.
The auditors said they could see Mr Goulden had carried out the work, but they could not find any evidence Mr Halliday had followed procurement rules by looking for other quotes, drawing up contracts and putting them on the council register, or monitoring the work.
Instead, the report lists ten alleged breaches including no paperwork being retained; no quotes or contracts for the work; one payment in advance of work being carried out; and a lack of contract monitoring.
Furthermore, auditors say they found emails containing council information which had been sent from Mr Halliday’s work account to non-council email addresses, including some information marked “confidential”.
The auditors raised concerns about the potential data protection implications of that.
Mr Halliday was the council’s assistant director for transformation and change in 2014, and had also held the title of head of strategy, partnerships and communications.
Mr Goulden and his company Like No Other worked for the council between 2013 and 2016.
A spokeswoman for City of York Council said: “The report was exempt from publication and our employees identities kept private because it identified individuals by name and this information related specifically to their financial or business affairs. As a responsible employer we have a fundamental duty to protect the privacy of our employees and former employees. We are taking this matter very seriously. An investigation into how this confidential report was released is being conducted and this will involve North Yorkshire Police.
The Press has made efforts to contact Mr Halliday, without success.”
Perhaps The Press could contact a certain Mr Stewart Halliday at Wirral Council – email@example.com
Could this be the same Mr Halliday who is now responsible for Wirral Council’s ‘Transformation Programme’ ?. I think we should be told!
If so Wirral Council were clearly impressed that Halliday can do a powerpoint presentation and utter council-speak at the same time.
Moreover we can almost guarantee he used the word ‘passionate’ if he had an interview. But then again we can’t understand how many of these people get appointed in the first place. Is it a Masonic thing ? Common Purpose? Knights of St Columba? or do they just have to like playing golf and support Everton FC?.
As for this bogus ‘transformation agenda’ it comes to something when even enriched municipal mandarins tell us it’s ‘time to stop the lies ‘. Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy chief executive, Rob Whiteman, and chief executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority, Martin Reeves say that local government should stop lying about its financial problems and give up pretending transformation will solve the massive underfunding it faces.
As far as we’re concerned at Wirral Leaks the ‘transformation agenda’ is nothing more than opportunists setting themselves up to benefit from the demise of public services. The hope being that one day they will get a cushy number sitting on a trustee or management board. Locally one only has to check out the Wirral Chamber of Commerce and Magenta Living . Nationally there are Arm’s Length Organisations (ALO’s) and private enterprises which are awash with local government failures supplementing their engorged pension pots by picking at the corpse of local government.
So remember when you see or hear the word ‘transformation’ – be afraid, be very afraid.