WIRRALGATE! – The Road Makers on the Make ?

road-makers-012

For those with their finger on the ‘record’ button the streets of Wirral are lined with gold.

We’ve never been able to settle on a collective name for the four men of mystery at the centre of the Wirralgate saga. Various reports and articles have referred to them as ‘The Group’, ‘The Complainants’ and  The Colas/HESPE/Highways ‘whistleblowers’. However their elusive nature and their absence from the Thynne investigations suggests to us they have a slippery quality – a bit like phlegm.

Similarly does anyone know what their gripe with Wirral Council was ever about?. We know they were a bit peeved about not getting a contract to mend the roads and replace the bulbs in the streetlights and they claimed there  was some jiggerypokery about how the contract was awarded to Colas . Something to do with EU contract regulations being flouted – like that’s something new with Wirral Council!. For example their dodgy arrangement with Wirral Mind springs to,er, mind. Nothing was ever done about that one for a start.

For a group of people who prize their anonymity it is surprising they were quite happy at one time to appear on the Channel 4 Despatches programme. However we understand they were so unconvincing they were replaced by the man who has championed their cause  – Birkenhead MP Frank Field who in his inimitable style stabbed his protegees in the back by claiming that Wirral was a small place and if a council officer bumped into a contractor during a tender process , well that was to be expected, now all move along  there’s nothing to see here.

Inexplicably Frankenfield was to later take claims of alleged nefarious wrongdoing to Merseyside Police and the the Serious Fraud Office – unsurprisingly neither were interested.  An Audit Commission report was, as ever with auditors , inconclusive and there was also an independent investigation into claims undertaken by external investigator Richard Penn whose “no case to answer” conclusion may be open to question but again nothing was ever proved.

Nevertheless our “heroes” , the men who Frankenfield claimed the people of Wirral owed so much (£192,000 to be precise) , have continued to pursue a compensation claim against Wirral Council. Other than briefly naming one of them  years ago on the Wirral Council website no-one has ever been able to tell us what exactly why they think they deserve compensation.

The best that Frankenfield could come up with was the vague notion as to whether they’d been treated “fairly” and then completely “unfairly” got his old mucker Nick Warren to undertake an inquiry!. Let’s face it if there was a bespoke inquiry every time people from  Wirral claimed to be hard done by the council there’d be a long and winding road between the two town halls and we’d be here ’til kingdom come.

But then when we consider that one of the main protagonists in the Wirralgate scandal is Frankenfield’s political agent Cllr George Davies it might explain why St. Frank has too much to lose and isn’t prepared to play Pompeia on this one.

Strangely the infamous recording where Cllr George Davies tries to secure what The Group/Complainants etc; themselves called a “Smear Deal”  is not in the Terms of Reference for that inquiry. You’d think if the Group/Complainants etc; were so keen to expose wrongdoing and wanting to make Wirral Council better for all of us you’d have thought the first thing they would have done would be to publicly release the tapes , especially when Cllr George Davies reneged on the arrangement to “sort them out”. The “Smear Deal” being reliant on them providing a signed copy of an old letter they’d sent to former council head of law Bill Norman . It would appear that not only did they hand over the document they then started touting the recording of Cllr George Davies left right and centre. Talk about wanting your tape and playing it too!. It’s no wonder it’s reported in the first Thynne investigation report that they received threats that if they produced the tape the “Smear Deal” was off.

Road Makers 009.JPG

We can’t help thinking that if the Warren inquiry was legit it should have been a pre- condition that if an inquiry took place then the recordings – and we understand there’s a number of them – should have been handed over . Then there could be no accusations , including from council leader Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies , that a recorded telephone conversation was being used to extort money from Wirral Council.

Davies - Thynne 1 008

As it stands the only sensible conclusion is that the tapes are indeed a sordid means to a seedy end . Although it needs to be said that this is a situation which was created and dictated by a group of corrupt politicians and not by The Group etc; themselves. Having said that , ordinarily we’d support anyone taking on Wirral Council but these guys seemed to have played fast and loose with politicians, the press , us , other whistleblowers – anyone who could help progress their dubious claim for compensation.

Why we feel particularly let down here at Leaky Towers is that we have always understood that the Wirralgate scandal  was a once in a lifetime opportunity to expose the dark heart of Wirral Council and to hold accountable those who’d abused their power for many years whilst all the while destroying people’s lives and careers in the name of self enrichment and self-aggrandizement. This small cabal of  conniving, lying , scheming politicians should have been thrown out of office years ago.

Sadly it would seem that because of the road makers on the make politics on Wirral will remain forever in the gutter.

 

 

WIRRALGATE! – Double Echo

WIRRALGATETAPE

There weren’t many surprises for us in the Thynne 2 report. Except for one……

This was an astonishing revelation involving the person coyly known as Person C.

As John Brace has outed Person C on his blog as being Liverpool Echo journalist Liam Murphy it seems a bit pointless in us maintaining the masquerade, especially as his identity has been known to us for quite some time.

Although being a key witness to the sordid  Wirralgate scandal unfortunately Murphy declined to give a statement to Patricia Thynne during either of her investigations. The reason he gave was the need to keep the confidentiality of his sources. Which would be highly laudable if it wasn’t for the fact that Murphy has a rather curious notion of confidentiality!.

It would appear that Murphy was  quite happy to show Wirral Council’s then Head of Communications Emma Degg the letter that Foulkesy had filched , presumably in the hope that Murphy would run a story in the Liverpool Echo ” smearing” political rival  Cllr Jeff Green  . According to Degg  Murphy was “outraged” by Foulkesy’s  conduct . Although seemingly not outraged enough to actually make a complaint about it – it seems he’d much rather have a sly fag  and a quick bitch behind the back of Wallasey Town Hall.

Murphy was later to hear the infamous recorded conversation between Cllr George Davies and one of The Complainants and some months later then saw fit to tell Cllr Jeff Green all about it . Perhaps Murphy and Green compared notes on how “outraged” they were – especially when the latter seems to be in a permanent state of “outrage”.

However the most damning testimony that Murphy plays fast and loose with the confidentiality of his sources is the fact that at some time he made a (presumably) covert recording of the notorious Wirralgate tape. Not only that he played it back to Emma Degg – of all people. Remember she was Wirral Council’s Head of Communications at the time !.

We can only wonder if this revelation came as much as a surprise to The Complainants – the elusive holders of the original recording – as it did to us. Although we have to say it gives us a vicarious thrill to see the biters getting bit.

As a consequence we’re left speculating on Murphy’s motives behind his actions. Surely it can’t be currying favour to guarantee woeful exclusives like this :

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/a-sobering-story/

If we consider that Thynne mentioned in her 2nd report that if she had heard the recording and it confirmed what witnesses had told her then there could be criminal matters that would need investigating. So if Murphy has a recording that would indeed confirm the testimony of others when does the bogus claim of protecting the confidentiality of sources become perverting the course of justice?

Echo

 

WIRRALGATE! – A Portrait in Green and Yellow

Jeff Green

Another Wirral councillor who features heavily in the Thynne 2 report is Tory leader Jeff Green – the target of a supposed ‘smear campaign’ by Labour councillors Foulkesy and George Davies. This has resulted in Foulkesy having to write a personal apology to the alleged ‘victim’ Green which we suspect went something like this :

Hey Jeff

Soz. But we’re still bezzies ,right?

Ta La, Foulkesy

What we’d like to do here is to borrow a phrase that Jeff Green was alleged to have used and blow all of the above out of the water and state loud and clear :

  • There was no smear campaign
  • Cllr Green is not the complainant
  • Green is certainly not a victim
  • There should have been no apology to Green

Firstly the ‘smear campaign’ . This hapless yet minor episode of the  Wirralgate saga proves that Foulksey/Georgie couldn’t organise a piss up in Houlihan’s and yet they have been/are the Leader and Deputy Leader of Wirral Council respectively – go figure!.

And as for Thynne’s conclusion that George Davies didn’t know what was in the letter -this is yet another example of her lack of investigative rigour  when it comes to the allegations against him. Does she really expect us to believe that Davies just asked for a random document about which he had no knowledge whatsoever? We’ve got news for you Patricia – we understand the letter was sent to him by the people you call The Group and we call The Complainants! So this becomes another of Davies’ lies to add to the growing tally.

Looking at the unsigned/undated letter sent by The Group/The Complainants in the appendices to the Thynne 2 report we can only assume that the ‘smear’ about Green was that he ‘courted and feted’ whistleblowers for political ends.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50035834/PT5%20-%20PUBLIC%20PACK.pdf

There is certainly evidence to suggest that this is exactly what Green was doing – having reaped the rewards  of the penalty kick that was the Martin Morton whistleblowing case it now appears that Green had  dealings with The Group/The Complainants. We’d be interested to know why he backed out from supporting them – did he realise this particular ‘whistleblowing’ case  was going to prove to be more problematic? We certainly think so and all of which means you can’t smear someone who takes political advantage of whistleblowers if it’s true! However we don’t think this is the reason that the Liverpool Echo didn’t run a story trying to smear Green (but we’ll save that for a later post).

Callow Green , not wanting to upset his political counterparts, is at pains to explain in both Thynne reports that he did NOT make a Code of Conduct complaint.  However what better way for senior councillors and officers to ignore this and to use this deeply flawed process to protect the powerful. It increasingly seems to us that Green much prefers to be in impotent opposition and in a perpetual state of  feigned “outrage” chasing headlines rather than changing  the culture – he truly is “full of sound and fury signifying nothing”.

Witness his comments in the Wirral Globe :

I urge every resident of Wirral to take the opportunity to read the investigation report now available on the council’s website . I am sure that like me they will be angry and shocked at the antics of senior Labour councillors throughout this whole saga

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14659374.New_scandal_at_Wirral_Council_after_probe_reveals__smear_attempt__on_Tory_leader/

Nobody but nobody is going to read a 55 page report ( + appendices) with references to Person A, B and C and where the key witnesses are a no-show. They’d be better off reading Wirral Leaks – and he knows it!.

However the biggest mystery of this whole saga is actually why does Green get an apology when he had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THE COMMISSIONING OF THYNNE 2 ?.

Green seems to have relied on others (and two surprising people in particular) to get the political football rolling in the hope of – yet again – gaining some political capital out of the sordid situation.

As we shall  discover later the impetus for Thynne 2 came from an email sent to all councillors by serial whistleblower Martin Morton who raised serious concerns about the first Thynne report (among other allegations). Needless to say this was kicked into the long grass until an even more unexpected source belatedly piped up (again to be explored in a later post). An increasingly exasperated Morton has now sent us a copy of an email exchange between him and Green where the latter shows somewhat less than ruthless determination to get to the bottom of the Wirralgate scandal when he writes:

‘You do realise that I am no longer Leader of the Council don’t you? I can ask questions of Officers, make suggestions etc. but ultimately we all know who is running the show.

Throughout the preceding 4 months I have regularly asked for an update over the status of your email and have received a stock answer of ‘we are looking into it to see if there is any new information contained within the email.’

No wonder the power abusers of Wirral Council who are ‘running the show’ can do exactly what they want if this is what passes for robust challenge!.

But at the end of the day what did we expect ? , reading Thynne 2 Green and Foulkesy him seem to tread ‘similar paths’ and are indeed ‘kindred’.

And that is about the most damning assessment that we could ever make of Cllr Jeff Green.

Kindred 008

Time and Trouble

Ethics DH Lawrence

Well,well, well – less than a week after our “Free and Frank” story https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/exclusive-free-and-frank/

Wirral Council finally see fit to disclose the Terms of Reference (TOR)  for the Nick Warren review requested by ex-Wirral Council whistleblower Martin Morton nine months ago!.

No wonder he added the annotation :

“I’m wondering whether it was the ICO Decision Notice issued on
December 15th 2015 or the article published by Wirral Leaks on
January 14th 2016 that was more effective in ensuring this
information was disclosed!.
Shameful behaviour yet again by Wirral Council.”

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/nick_warren_investigation_terms#outgoing-461140

We are particularly grateful that this document is in the public domain as we can now have a “free and frank discussion” about what is a fascinating insight into the warped world of Wirral Council.

Warren Commission

The title of the Terms of Reference for the Warren Commission  is “Review: Allegations raised by former employees of the Council concerning their treatment”  which  was compiled by Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour who makes the review sound as though it could be about prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay.

First we have “Background” (of which there is very little)  where Tour tells us :

” I appoint Nicholas Warren (R) to review the circumstances surrounding the allegation of a breach of confidence by four former employees of the Councils (“the complainants”).

What Tour’s motive for going along with this sleazy charade we can only hazard a guess as he seems to have a twisted symbiotic relationship with council leaders especially  when he is in some ways responsible for instigating this whole sordid saga in the first place.In fact we think we may have just answered our own question!.

However we are particularly grateful that he has coined a collective term for the people at the centre of this review. ” The Complainants” seems a much more accurate description than “whistleblowers”.

“The Complainants” complaining about their treatment by Wirral Council whilst their own treatment of Wirral Councillors and council officers (including Tour) is for some reason seemingly ignored.

We also learn that despite not having a legal claim for compensation (for if they did it surely have been settled by now) Wirral Council saw fit to offer them a £ 3,000 “time and trouble payment” to “The Complainants” .Bless.

We presume the three grand bung was more for trouble they could cause rather than the time the boo hoo boys spent telling everyone how badly done to they were.

However “The Complainants” knew that what they knew or rather what they had recorded on the Wirralgate tapes  was worth much more than £3,000 each.More importantly their benefactor Frank Field MP knew it was worth much more to protect himself and his political agent Cllr George Davies , who in turn was trying to protect his reckless bezzy  Cllr Steve Foulkes. Meanwhile feckless Council leader Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies has had no choice but to go along with this scandalous scheming even though it has been alleged he too was recorded saying ” I can’t defend that” when he heard the Wirralgate tapes.

Enter : Nicholarse Warren.

The second part of the Tour’s TOR is ironically titled : “Principles governing the Review”.

Principles!!! . We wonder where various Code of Conduct principles fit in here?

Did Tour ever think when he was training to be a solicitor that he would be drafting something which reads to us like How To Legitimise Dodgy Payments to Complainants

Interesting to note that Nicholarse Warren is to consider all the circumstances of the matter relating to “The Complainants” and yet seemingly  pre-empting his findings Tour records that : “If it came to a question of expenditure Warren would have to take soundings from the District Auditor about its scale and any recommendation made by (Warren) involving expenditure by the Council must be limited to what local authority accounts rules permit ;and be within the bounds of what the District Auditor would accept as reasonable”.

Hang on didn’t Wirral council state in a previous response (see What Do They Know FOI request above) that  :” Warren has not been given any decision making powers by the Council in respect of awarding or making any compensation payments. Any decision to pay compensation would be a matter for the Council. For the avoidance of doubt, no decision has been made on whether any compensation should be paid.” 

Let’s face it the decision and the amount of compensation was expected to be a formality when  Frank Field “demanded”  £48,000 each for “The Complainants” in October 2014.That’s nearly £200,000 of public money to cover up corruption.It is of course now January 2016 and no further compensation payment has seemingly been made – so what could possibly have happened to prevent Field getting his own way?.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/give-a-little-whistle/

However the most troubling aspect of Tour’s TOR  is described thus :

” The Council will indemnify R (Warren) against the reasonable costs of defending any defamation action or threat of defamation action against R in his role as the R and any damages awarded against R in any such action.Any threat of or institution of such proceedings shall immediately notified to the Monitoring Officer and no liability shall be admitted by R”

This is a simply astonishing  indemnity as it seems that Warren is given carte blanche to defame anyone he chooses in his review and (once again) Wirral Council will pick up the tab  if he does so!.If we ignore as to  whether Wirral Council have the authority to indemnify someone who is not an elected member or employee of the Council we have to ask ourselves as to the dubious motive for doing so? . Could it be that this allows uncorroborated allegations made by The Complainants against former Wirral Council employees who do not have a right of reply to be included in the review report?.

Although we’ve been covering this particular story since August 2013 the threat of defamation has never occurred to us as our sources can substantiate their allegations.We can only hope that The Complainants/Warren can do  the same when it comes to their respective claims/findings.