Today we have decided take the Trans-Pennine Express and visit our friends in York. Not only to update you all on Stewart Halliday affair but to enable us to vent about local government in general and the Local Government Association (LGA) in particular.
Firstly we’d like to thank the excellent website York Mix for providing comprehensive coverage of the bounteous beneficence bestowed from Stewart to Stuart aka ‘ The Goulden Showers’.
For those who can’t decipher this code might we suggest you read an introduction here : Transparency v Secrecy
Here you will find independent City of York (CYC) councillor Mark Warters showing up our supine Wirral councillors for the waste of space that they are and daring to ask pertnent questions in a CYC Audit & Governance meeting about a draft LGA report into the Halliday affair that has been with the council for some time :
“And according to the people who really run the council – the senior officers – this report, even after it has been sanitised between the council’s HR department and the LGA, is to remain secret. Are you as a committee willing to condone this state of affairs? He said the committee should insist on seeing the “full, unsanitised draft report”. Otherwise it would confirm the scenario “that elected members are merely the glove puppets of the senior officers riding the local authority gravy train”.
Further understanding on how things work in York, in local government and indeed closer to home can be found in the following report on the Supply Management website:
The Local Government Association (LGA) was called in to review procurement at the council in the wake of controversy over how consultancy services were acquired in the past.
The LGA said procurement was held in high regard internally, with “many solid achievements” and delivering “good quality services”, but it was “subject to heightened scrutiny in York due to past internal control issues”.
“There remains a negative external perception of council procurement, including among members of the public,” said the report. “This negative perception needs to be addressed if the council is to secure public confidence in its procurement processes and the wider corporate governance arrangements.”
A previous audit report by Veritau in November 2016 focused on the appointment of a communications consultant and their associated company between 2013 and 2016. One particular chief officer, who no longer works for the council, was found to be mainly responsible for employing and making payments to the consultant and the company. These totalled more than £174,000.
The audit could find no material to back up claims contract procedures were followed. “At best this represents a failure to be transparent and to retain all relevant procurement documentation,” said the report. “However, it seems likely that there was a failure to follow proper procurement processes, including obtaining written quotations, ensuring sufficient potential suppliers were approached and agreeing a formal contract.”
The LGA review, carried out in June 2017, said it was “reassured to find that the council has a good corporate procurement function and that the compliance issues are being addressed”.
“However, as the council itself recognises, there is more to do in regard to procurement’s enabling role within the council’s developing commissioning framework and to address the residual negative perceptions of historical procurement issues.”
Doesn’t the excruciating, bureaucratic language of the LGA make ya wanna puke? Unfortunately this wretched organisation is stuffed to the gills with highly paid nonentities who think that what goes on in local government can be anonymised, rationalised and sanitised as long as it involves one of their own.
Fortunately for the truth -seekers out there we understand that after the meeting Cllr Warters collared the LGA representative giving the public report into procurement at City of York Council (CYC) as he left the meeting and left him in no doubt that the Halliday/Goulden business will end up with the police.
Now this is the kind of local representation we are crying out for and reinforces our long held view that INDEPENDENT candidates are the way to go and that DIVISIVE PARTY POLITICS HAS NO PLACE IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT and that the LGA ARE HAND IN GLOVE WITH THE GLOVE PUPPETS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT .
Even closer to home we are grateful that local resident Charles Nunn understands the issues at stake and comprehends that someone with apparently no understanding of even the most basic concepts of public procurement can wangle a near cool £200K + gig from long suffering Wirral Council tax payers :
I find it somewhat ironic that the major political upheaval in York is over dodgy contracts worth £175,000. Halliday, courtesy of the ever benevolent Wirral Council Tax payer, will be bunged about £50k more than that as a result of his contract extension.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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.