An UnSatoorsfactory Appointment

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Needless to say we were given the heads up about Paul Satoor being made Interim CEO of Wirral Council before the last Employment and Appointments Committee confirmed the appointment

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Also needless to say we understand that the current Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson now isn’t working his 3 month notice and is hastily taking up his new appointment as CEO of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) on July 16th. It’s all very much a case of : ” I’m a nonentity – get me out of here”

How ironic that someone who repeatedly turned a blind eye to the abuse of power at Wirral Council is the now head of the national organisation who are meant to be protecting the vulnerable from abuse.  It doesn’t augur well does it? But hey! that’s how things work in backward Britain these days . The bland leading the blind.

Meanwhile we thought we’d check out Stressed Eric’s successor…or more accurately his Wirral Leaks rap sheet and see what Satoor is bringing to the party. And it’s not a lot if you ask us. It’s the usual case of :  “Use what you know to get what you want” (see also – Burgess, Adderley, Degg, Downey, Green, Armstrong, Blott etc;etc;)

For starters he was up to his neck in the Halliday debacle . No wonder Stressed Eric stressed that no-one was going to take the rap for this particular dereliction of due diligence. No doubt the rubicund public servant was too busy lining up his successor whilst standing behind the shredder and preparing  his press statement about how it all happened before he was appointed when the proverbial hits the fan. And it will dear reader. Oh, believe us, it will…

 

A Farewell to Stressed Eric

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Fat cat creams another top job.

Wirral Council’s loss is the Disclosure and Barring Service’s loss as Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson jumps the sinking ship shortly after Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies. Read more New Chief Executive appointed for Disclosure and Barring Service

His new appointment was approved by Victoria Atkins, the secretary of state for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability. Oh, the irony!

We’re wondering whether he’ll be on the same humungous salary he was on at Wirral Council ? Surely he wouldn’t have taken a pay cut – or was he that desperate to get out of what was becoming an increasingly untenable position as the power base of his political benefactors he’s protected the past few years begins slowly to be eroded?

Shortly after the DBS press release Stressed Eric sent an email to Wirral Council staff which was subsequently quoted in the Wirral Globe which must have been the basis for script he used when wooing the DBS crew . Needless to say there are some glaring omissions from his list of ‘achievements’ .

Inevitably the one word that isn’t omitted is ‘passionate’ which is compulsory for a public servant in pursuit of a lucrative gig.

“Making people safer is something I am passionate about, and I believe I have a successful track record.”

Really Eric ?  Yeah, just don’t mention the  Children’s Services Ofsted report and the fallout that followed… or the Stuart Halliday debacle … or the Wirralgate cover up.

In the interest of balance we will be discussing these issues (and more) in our tribute before he leaves later this summer but we’d like think we nailed him from the outset in our Wirral Leaks Welcomes Stressed Eric  post.

Finally is anyone keeping count of the Chief Executives that Wirral Council have had since 2012? Wirral Leaks offers a prize to the person who can name all of them (including acting and interim) who have held the poisoned chalice and sipped from the trough of plenty during this time.

“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

Local Plan Leaks Become A Deluge

As you can see from yet another leaked email below which was sent to all councillors by Wirral Council CEO  Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson 5pm yesterday about the Local Plan we can see a repeated attempt at damage limitation in action. To which we can only use an expression using the words – stable door, horse and bolted. No doubt ‘bolted’ was something which Stressed Eric did after he’d sent the email in the hope that the Local Plan debacle will all blow over on his say so. No chance. If the deluge of leaks emanating from Wirral Council are anything to go by Wirral Council’s CEO clearly has no authority over the out of control local authority which pays him circa £200K to live up to our initial assessment of him – feeble.

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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…

Kingdom Come Lately

FF gegs in on Kingdom

Inevitably we find Frank Field gegging in on the growing anti-Kingdom Security sentiment spreading throughout Wirral . As you can see the Birkenhead MP  has sent a Valentine’s Day love letter to Wirral Council CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson asking him to cancel the contract.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again this consummate politician knows which way the political wind blows much more than his Labour councillor colleagues. What’s more Frankenfield has a canny knack of knowing when a Wirral Council CEO is vulnerable. As we remember from history Field took advantage of the,ahem, compromising position that former Wirral CEO Graham Burgess had found himself in. Consequently when Burgess wouldn’t be coerced into making unlawful payments to phoney whistleblowers to protect Field’s electoral agent Cllr George Davies , the sly silver fox was forced into ‘retirement’ . Now with current Deputy CEO David Armstrong indisposed Stressed Eric  will have no-one to hide behind and be particularly  susceptible to political and public pressure. We anticipate that Robinson’s response will be dictated cowering from under his desk.

If – and we hope and pray – when the Kingdom Security contracted is terminated shall we expect headlines in the local press of the kind that we find in the national paper that Field likes to write for :

IT’S FIELD WOT DONE IT! 

However as this leak from the Liscard Labour Party branch seems to indicate that there is growing discontent elsewhere in the Labour ranks which are making Wirral Council’s continuing strange relationship with Kingdom Security to be increasingly untenable

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Meanwhile we find a much more robust challenge to Wirral Council staff and particularly the enforcement of the  ‘Engine Idling Policy’ on the Facebook page Litter PLOD Kingdom Liverpool . A timely voice of experience from somewhere that has already ditched the services of Kingdom into the gutter :

Imagine this……

Your employer has out-sourced litter enforcement to a private company. That contract gets extended into business waste fines, dog fouling, PSPO’s and fines for idling your car when it’s not appropriate.

This out-sourcing happens despite 6 other authorities cutting the contracts of the same private company due to serious concerns over the way they interact with the public and how they behave.

Imagine now that there has also been a growing, serious public concern from the outset and that concern is growing. Only a small proportion of the concerned masses have received fines, the majority are concerned because they have WITNESSED the way this unscrupulous and immoral company and its staff operate.

Imagine, now, that, despite ALL this evidence, public concern and morally corrupt staff, your EMPLOYER, the local authority, are granting this company more powers and allowing them the chance to make more money.

Now imagine going to work for the local authority and you find that there is a new management protocol placed in front of you. One which will make YOU the potential target of this disgraceful company…..

How would you react? Would you be angry? Upset? Worried? Concerned that this company, a gang of wannabe gangsters, at best, are now able to target YOU whilst you work for the authority, YOUR EMPLOYER, the same people who keep these rogues on the street.

How would you feel to see THIS?

Kingdom are spreading throughout the local authority like Japanese Knotweed. Unwanted, unpleasant, morally corrupt bullies and they may now be coming for you…. BACKED BY YOUR EMPLOYER

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

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Not so smug now…

And so it would appear that according to the Liverpool Echo  Council suddenly drops man lined up for top job after ‘financial irregularity’ concerns

That man of course being Stewart Halliday , someone we’ve been reporting on and expressing concerns since 2017, mainly about how he could ever be in a position to secure a ‘top job’ at Wirral Council in the first place.  Something that the local mainstream media has studiously avoided – until today . Now apparently, according to a Wirral Council spokesperson:

Some concerns were raised by council officers about potential financial irregularities regarding how a supplier was being paid.These concerns were immediately acted upon, and the contractor has stopped work for the council while further investigations take place. Until those investigations are concluded, no further comment can be made. 

We’re not pre-empting investigations but doesn’t this sound all very reminiscent of what happened  at Halliday’s previous employment at City of York Council (CoYC)?  For those interested in finding out exactly what went on can now read the once secret Strictly Private and Confidential Report that CoYC were once desperate to keep out of the public domain HERE

Although Halliday declined to participate in the investigation we think you can probably work out who is…

Wirral Council can’t say they weren’t warned, especially by us, ( note that Liverpool Echo are careful not to mention the blog that dare not be named) and there are serious questions to be asked ,not least of CEO Eric Robinson’s judgment at appointing someone with dodgy references ,something we highlighted in our post Reference Point where we reported that “…it was Wirral Council who made NO DIRECT APPROACH to CoYC  for a reference for Halliday…”

And this is just the start – we ‘re left wondering whether the Liverpool Echo press release is a spoiler for even bigger news about a high profile departure from Wirral Council? This time the news brings into question the judgment of the ‘Leader’ of Wirral Council when it comes to high profile appointments and indicates to us that the Curse of Leaky Towers may have struck once again…

 

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day Twelve – A New Year Present from ‘The Prof’

Eric Gut

Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson – living off the fat of the land (Green Belt included)

‘A retired professor in Bromborough’ with an ‘alternative approach…which a number of people are seeking to attach importance’ Eric Robinson (Wirral Council CEO) on ‘The Prof’ and the people who pay his (over-inflated) salary

‘Be vigilant and defend Wirral in 2019’ – The Prof’

Who do we rely on for our information about Wirral’s Green Belt ladies and gentleman? – ‘The Prof’ or Stressed Eric and his equally overpaid QC (which you also pay for). IOHO the former is cheaper (but priceless) , more reliable and certainly unbiddable.

Gentlemen I thought you might like a small New Year present.

The Wirral Green Belt ‘resistance’ persuaded (Margaret) Greenwood in October
to ask  (Eric) Robinson (Wirral Council CEO)  what the hell is going on. He has just replied with an interesting letter. By accident it contains useful new information on numbers
and their approach to the local plan. They still fail to make clear the bloody
obvious fact that even in the worst case (12,000 houses target ) and using their
own brownfield figures we would only need ~413 acres of green belt not 4,900
acres. ie. just 8.4% of the GB parcel list they published. Using the 7,320
target, they claim they are pushing to the government, we would need just
1.7% of the published list (85 acres). To put all this in perspective the Hoylake
Golf Resort project would build houses on ~300 acres. It’s also clear they have
instructed their expensive QC not to use the flexibility inherent in the national
planning framework.
I have changed my mind about motivation. I now believe the council is happy
to release all the land , 4,900 acres, from the GB in one go …if they can get
away with it. Wirral would then be a bonanza area for developers for decades
to come …far beyond actual local plan requirements. In reality there are
accepted options for a phased release of land as future requirements become
clearer but this would cripple their plans. I believe they fear that government
ONS data will be discredited this year and my forecast of  a need for zero GB
land will be proved. If so they will get no significant GB land development unless
they release it now. See my analysis (below) for more.

COMMENTS ON THE LETTER FROM ERIC ROBINSON TO
MARGARET GREENWOOD MP (Dec. 2018)
I will try to confine my comments mainly to the issue of housing requirement projections and green belt land needs under Robinson’s various letter headings.
‘Lack of Clarity on Wirral’s Housing Needs’
Mr. Robinson gives a one page useful summary of the history and current status of this issue. Unfortunately there are misleading statements involved which need correcting as we go. Mr. Robinson begins with the 2016 SHMA by Lichfield Consultancy. He notes the range of forecasts provided (from among 13 scenarios) as 875 to 1,235 houses per annum. Readers may note that the lower figure is higher than the proposed 803 h/a proposed by the government. However several things must be noted.
The total numbers quoted refer to 18 years not a 15 year period.
These numbers are not based on the approved ‘standard method’ in several respects. Notably they include assumptions about council policy and economic impacts which play no part in the standard method.
They are based on out of date SNPP 2012 population/household data.
The high estimate of population growth from 3 is selected (10,140) although they acknowledge a long term migration scenario based on real history which predicts a population growth of just 66 over 18 years.
Large uplifts are made for assumptions concerning ‘pent up demand’ which depend on optimistic economic forecasts and a high household formation rate.
Also Robinson does not mention the Liverpool LEP job scenario which gives 188 h/a nor the actual recent housing delivery rate of 383 h/a which we can say reflects all factors in play. Six of the 13 scenarios cluster tightly around a rate of 470 h/a or 7,050 in 15 years compared with 875 to 1,235 reported. (This compares with numbers from 5,923 to 7,170 obtained using the standard method from the latest ONS population / household data by this author and the 7,320 obtained by the council).
Based on the raw demographic data in the 2016 SHMA, without doubtful economic uplifts, we would obtain 563 h/a. If we took the average of the two population figures they quote we obtain 284 h/a before uplifts. These yield 2,820 or 4,260 or 8,440 houses over 15 years. One wonders if anyone at the council has read the SHMA report of 2016. It cost us over fifty thousand pounds to produce but its many warnings and caveats were ignored.
The author has no argument with the current standard method as a demographic starting point. Most of the projections made in my own housing report used as a basis for green belt housing requirements, used the standard method. Robinson fails to mention this fact and speaks only of an ‘alternative’ method, seeking to dismiss this work. The real problem as Robinson acknowledges is the quality and instability of the ONS population and household data and I add, the unintelligent use of ‘trend analysis’. Our housing requirements fall from 2012 to 2014 to 2016 not because of the method but because the data is unstable and still suffering from reconciliation problems between the 2001 and 2011 censuses which the ONS acknowledges as a problem nationally. In our case the basic ‘natural’ internal population projections should be quite accurate and can be calculated mechanically. They show the population decline which has been the norm here for decades. Our local problem is that the mechanical application of the ONS trend rules to historical migration data leads to a massive, unrealistic over estimate of net migration into Wirral as my report explained. This was acknowledged also by Lichfield Consultants in the 2016 SMHA as I have repeatedly pointed out, but ‘magiced’ away by referencing the brain-free ONS ‘rules’.
Robinson notes a ‘retired professor in Bromborough’ with an ‘alternative approach…which a number of people are seeking to attach importance’ to. I assume this is me. This is very disingenuous and dismissive. I repeat, my appendix 1 and 2 tables showing the implications for green belt land requirements are based on the standard method and ONS data. I also provided forecasts based on variations of trend analysis to demonstrate how sensitive targets are to slight variations in assumptions and data. I also apply official government variant scenarios on migration and life expectancy scaled to the Wirral, to show the effects of recent events. These further reduce our future housing requirements. The council readily considered the 13 scenarios created in the 2016 SMHA Lichfield Consultancy report so surely ‘a retired professor in Bromborough’ can also legitimately explore and report half a dozen explanatory scenarios? What is the council afraid of? Could it be they fear the Wirral ‘general public’ being properly informed for once about their manipulations?
Robinson’s QC is correct in advising the council that they should prepare a local plan case based on the standard method, whenever that stabilises. However the issue of data is another matter. The ONS data bases are in disarray across the country. At some point this will be challenged by some, competent, well informed local authorities. Wirral should be prepared for this by looking closely at all the relevant local historical demographic data with emphasis on migration projections… as I have attempted to begin to do. I will continue to seek out independent (official) data, such as registered voters, which allows dependable population, migration and household trends to be estimated for use in the standard model: we cannot rely on ONS projections or ‘estimates’ between censuses. They are completely discredited …as the recent government panic reactions prove.
‘Wirral Waters’, etc & Green Belt Land Requirements
Robinson’s note provides additional, new information on council assumptions. He tells us that ‘any figure over about 406 houses per year (equivalent to 6,090 over 15 years) would trigger a need to consider land to be released from the Green Belt’. Let us use the council’s own numbers to see what this actually means. On the September 2018 ONS household projections and the standard method the council says we need 7,320 houses. This is about right. This means that we need 7,320 – 6090 = 1,230 house places on GB land. The average government NW density figure is 14.5 houses per acre so we would need just 84.8 acres of GB. But the local plan GB release land parcels amount to ~4,900 acres. This is 58 X the area actually needed to meet the housing target. However the council may be forced to accept the earlier 2014 ONS data based target of 12,045 houses. This means that 12,045 – 6090 = 5,995 house places on GB would be needed. But this is just 413 acres compared with the 4,900 acres up for release. The GB release area proposed is 11.9 X the area required in the council’s own worst case scenario.
Why is it that these critical facts have not been explained to the public? I suggest that it is intended to muddy the waters. If 4,900 acres of GB land are released in this local plan ‘because the council is being forced to by the government…we have no choice’, developers (and the council) can relax and cherry pick the (up to) 413 acres actually needed, for maximum profit and convenience all round: perhaps over the full 15 years plan period. But this leaves ~4,487 acres of released GB permanently available for building, beyond the highest local plan requirements, if all the currently proposed GB land parcels are released.
Wirral would become from now on, the ultimate free for all target area for developers and speculators in the northwest. No doubt that is the plan, unless it is stopped.
If we wish to preserve Wirral in anything like its present form, the public must object loudly in the final public consultation on the Local Plan in 2019 if more than the absolute maximum said to be necessary, 413 acres of GB land, is put forward for release.
The release of 4,900 acres in one ‘apocalypse now’, is totally unjustified on the council’s own data and worst case assumptions.
It may be by mid 2019 that a revised standard methodology and an ONS data challenge will show an even smaller GB area is actually needed than 413 acres. I will continue to look into this. I suggest that when the dust settles we will find a demographic housing need of less than 3,000 houses. However the other side of the equation is how much land is available outside current green belt. Current council claims on this also need to be looked at very carefully. Robinson quotes a number of 6,090 house places available on non-GB land. Let us examine this against published brown field sites (as surveyed by the council), the contentious Peel/Wirral Waters numbers and actual empty house refurbishment.
Earlier this year the council said it had identified 2,400 places on 91 ‘brown field’ sites. This would leave 6,090 – 2,400 = 3,690 other identified places on non-GB sites. What are these? What about the Peel plans? Robinson spends considerable space in his letter attacking the Peel position, which continues the council stance taken throughout 2018. Peel were identified to the public as the villains of the piece. Robinson rejects Peel’s ‘higher scenario’ offer which presumably is the 13,571 dwellings with outline planning permission. However Peel made it clear to the government and in a public letter in 2018, that this figure only ever applied to the full 30 year Wirral Waters project span. The ‘medium scenario’ offer was 6,450 dwellings subject to council financial support on infrastructure, etc. Robinson does not mention the minimum delivery offer from Peel of 2,900 dwellings which appears to come with few strings attached (see below). One would think that urgent negotiations would now be under way with Peel and it appears Robinson’s ‘leading’ QC has sent a letter to elicit, after several years of discussion, a detailed development schedule.
N.B. From Robinson’s letter the position appears to be that the council will take the hardest interpretation of the NPPF rules in putting forward non-GB land availability and other matters in the local plan. One could see this as a cautious, conservative approach but there has been much discussion nationally about NPPF interpretation and implicit flexibility on ‘availability’, ‘deliverability’, ‘viability’, etc. If the council is not intending to seek out this flexibility and use it, by so directing their expensive QC, Wirral residents might reasonably assume that it simply wants to release as much Green Belt land as possible by hiding behind alleged ‘harsh Conservative government’ rules and ‘unreliable development partners’. Residents might wonder why. See above.
Let us return now to the numbers game. The unidentified 3,690 places on non-GB land implied by Robinson can be compared with the lower, deliverable Peel offer of 2,900 dwellings. Using this leaves 3,690 – 2,900 = 790 houses or ~53 houses per annum. Despite the negative bluster perhaps Robinson actually expects Peel to deliver their minimum offer at least. The other 790 houses may come from empty house recovery. Data supplied by a councillor suggested there were ~4,000 (> 6 months) empty houses on Wirral in 2017. In recent years the average house recovery rate (by the council) was ~238 h/a (based on their own data). So recovery of ~53 h/y or higher should be quite feasible in future.
In my local plan submission I included two tables showing the impact of various brown field options on GB requirements. I can now update these using the new council data from Robinson, for the readers’ interest. We keep the 2,400 brown field council data and the 790 houses inferred from recovery, in total 3,190. Suppose now the council comes to an accommodation with Peel on their ‘medium scenario’. This would replace 2,900 with 6,450 giving in total 9,640 dwellings. If we allowed double the inferred empty house recovery rate we have 53 x 2 = 106 p/a. This still only 44% of the actual recent rate. In this case we would have in total 9,640 + 790 = 10,430 places on brown field sites. Green Belt land needed in the worst (target) case becomes 12,045 – 10,340 = 1,705 dwelling places or ~118 acres compared with proposed 4,900 acres of parcel release.
Now it is accepted that local plans will be regularly reviewed and evolve over time as Robinson tells us in his letter. At worst then, we start with a stated need for ~413 acres of GB land over 15 years. But assuming a modest level of competence in the council and good will between Peel and the council, the ‘medium scenario’, deliverable in say 5 or 10 years time, implies only ~118 acres of GB is needed in total. I would assume that a ‘leading’ QC would be able to elegantly mount the appropriate arguments about land release phasing.
However the council points to a need for only 7,320 houses during the plan period based on the most recent 2016 ONS projections and the standard method. If this becomes accepted again, or this is forced upon the government by evidence presented by a number of councils with competence and backbones, or by independent analysts, the Peel ‘medium scenario’ tells us that total brown field places would be 10,430 and so NO Green Belt at all is needed to meet the local plan, as I argued clearly in my local plan submissions in September 2018. It is probable that it will soon emerge that the ONS demographic projection system is broken and the local authority level ONS data generally is unreliable for important decision making. However we should not rely passively on this scandal breaking.
If the council genuinely wishes to protect our Green belt as it repeatedly states, it should prioritise three actions:
Stop playing political games and negotiate urgently with Peel Holdings.

Accept the standard method but challenge the ONS population and household projections for Wirral. Among other things: consult other councils with similar misleading data problems and organise resistance; jointly commission a formal critique of the ONS automatic trend rules and data stability e.g. from the Royal Statistical Society; seek independent (but official) data to establish actual Wirral net migration trends as these dominate, unrealistically, all the government projections.

Present a phased local plan to the full extent the ‘rules’ allow, emphasising the national failings and problems with the ONS data and projection methods: the clear aim being to limit the release of GB land to the minimum necessary at any given time and NOT the reverse, which appears to be the current policy.
‘Green belt and urban sprawl’
The council does have an obligation to properly assess all available alternatives. It may choose to assess all GB parcels put forward as available for development. But to be clear: it is not obliged to release any GB land in excess of that needed to make up any shortfall from available brown field sites. We have shown that even with the worst case target using the government standard method and data, only ~ 8.4% of the council proposed GB release list would be needed. On the forecast based on the 2016 ONS data, argued (we are assured) by the council, to the government, only ~1.7% of the GB release list would be needed.
The letter gives some hints as to how the ~8% might be selected. Such sites ‘are either physically enclosed by the wider urban area or would not reduce the physical separation between existing Settlement Areas…which means their impact on urban sprawl would be much less when compared with other parts of the GB.’ These are weasel words which local activists need to look at carefully in each case. Note particularly Robinson’s comments on Irby, Thingwall, Pensby, Heswall and parts of Barnston and Gayton. Since these are all part of SA7 one gets the impression anything goes here. However the local plan background documents also discuss the attraction (in the minds of council planners) of creating a hard (neat) green belt boundary at the M53 by ‘filling in’ the whole area of high quality farm land to its east side from Storeton down to Poulton Hall and again at Eastham. Nobody living here can feel relaxed with such openly declared, Big Brother thinking. However Robinson tries to reassure us by saying ‘some of these sites may [still] be found unsuitable for other reasons, which would need to be demonstrated on the basis of technical evidence.’ However in the Infrastructure section of his letter we learn that as yet no assessments have been made in several key areas: transport, strategic flood risk, agriculture, biodiversity and sustainability. The council ‘will be commissioning a series of technical and environmental studies…’ but ‘specialist consultants’ have yet to be appointed as 2018 ends. We are told that at least the council is talking to education and health service providers. Let us hope so.
The author, given that we are now ‘Borough of Culture 2019’, notes there is no mention of assessing the impact of GB housing estates on our rich historical heritage on Wirral. To take just one example, powerful evidence now exists that the great Battle of Brunanburh, the equal of Hastings in defining English history, took place in the area between Storeton Village / Higher Bebington and Poulton Hall with the centre near Clatterbridge. Most of this land area is east of the M53 and it is all on the GB release list. Already, even before general GB release, the building of 27 luxury homes has been approved (on appeal) on GB land next to historic Storeton Hall, which will be converted into luxury apartments. It is widely believed, based on known commercial links and clear conflicts of interest, that the council made only a limp wristed attempt to stop this development at the appeal. This is the future of Wirral GB, chopped up quietly, piece by piece, unless the government and council are challenged strongly on all matters discussed earlier and on the basis of hard evidence. Much more could be said about misleading council behaviour. Be vigilant and defend Wirral in 2019.

Professor D P Gregg (retired)

The Revolutionary Spirit

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OK it might be a bit of hyperbole on our part but do you sense the revolutionary spirit pervading the air ?  We suppose we need to clarify what we mean by that. We don’t mean storming the barricades and sitting at a guillotine with your knitting  – after all this is sleepy,complacent Wirral where political apathy has ,until recently, been the order of the day . However never before have we experienced such a willingness of local people to challenge the powers that be – whether it be litter enforcement fines,parking charges, NHS cuts ,threats to the Green Belt and the latest campaign by Wallasey Hands Off Our Fire Station (WHOOFS) which led to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority postponing closure proposals allowing the Fire Brigades Union and WHOOFS more time to campaign – and we say good luck to them!

We admit that we’re pushing it by claiming that Jo Bird being elected as Bromborough councillor to replace teen sensation Warren Ward with a 14% reduction in majority is also a sign of disaffection and mistrust of local politicians as it could equally be the aforementioned political apathy (as a 22.7% voter turnout is absolutely woeful) . However it does give us the opportunity to publish the Wirral Globe picture announcing the election result which looks like a still from a low budget remake of the political mind-control conspiracy thriller ‘The Manchurian Candidate’  which has been renamed ‘The Wirralian Candidate’.

Jo Bird

Here we see, centre of picture,  Jo ‘Lady in Red’ Bird herself, overdressed and overdoing it with the red (yes,yes we get it! – you’re a ‘passionate’ Labour supporter!) Then to the right we have a sighting of that rare bird ,Wirral CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson, lurking in the background trousering yet another substantial cheque for his onerous Returning Officer role ( i.e reading out the election results). Why do we get this strange urge to photoshop a little moustache on his face? Her Ladyship observed that he reminds her of an historical figure who also headed up an evil regime that thrived on fear and propaganda. Who could she possibly mean? Having said that, after viewing the still from CCTV footage we published last week, we think it’s fair to say Stressed Eric is still far down the pecking order when it comes to representing  ‘The Ugly Face of Wirral Council’ . However the most bizarre aspect of this shot is the Lib Dem (?) on the left and the candidate’s jumper which appears to have the subliminal message ‘KILL’ subtly stitched on it – which if you ask us is taking the ‘revolutionary spirit’ a tad too far!

However the feature photo (and the photo below ) is what we believe to be conclusive evidence of the mood that is sweeping the peninsula and shows former leader/mayor/political opportunist Cllr Steve ‘Foulkesy’ Foulkes demonstrating on social media his deep understanding of the revolutionary spirit by dressing up as a sans-culottes French revolutionary and brandishing a bottle of gin.

Foulkesy is 40% proof positive of the revolutionary spirit…

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