Frank Field’s Forty Glorious Years

You may have noticed that lately we’ve been prone to a bit of introspection which has often led us to question ourselves and ask – “Is it us?”

Are we too caustic? too mischievous? (© Wirral Globetoo poisonous? too insulting?(© Cllr Steve Foulkes) . As that Fred guy said : Have we been gazing into the abyss for too long?… 

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… And then you lovely people send us stuff and we realise “Nah, it’s not just us, its all gone to shit out there and we are compelled to record the end of times and wonder how did it all get so messed up with the only things we have at our disposal – words and pictures…

Which brings us to this particular item. Which we’ll leave here for you to ponder on for a few moments :

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There’s not much more we need to say other than no wonder our source titled their email to us :

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The email read : Feeding Birkenhead no expense spared lol

Further information that was sent made us question as to whether our source was winding us up.

Wilfred Owen Choir are serenading and receiving goodie bags . Bet you the Cammell Laird bosses were there.

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Along with the ‘Sold Out’ banner this was now getting simply beyond parody – but we’ll give it a go anyway :

Hello , everyone. My name is Si Coffant and I’ll be your host tonight at this glittering occasion. Firstly, I’d like to welcome all you ladies and gentleman and particularly the ‘Right Honourable Gentleman’ himself and star of the show, Mr Frank Field (applause). Tonight at ‘The Lauries’ we’re keeping it classy. After all , ‘Frank is in da house ‘ so it’ll be more House of Commons than House of Commoners . So, sorry they’ll be no ‘Agadoo’, bingo and throwing up behind the bins tonight (laughter). Instead ,ladies and gentlemen ,we’ve got the Wilfred Owen choir who are going to serenade you with some of ‘Our Wilf’s’ greatest hits – ‘Futility ‘, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, and that catchy little number ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ (applause). So as you tuck into a nice bit of scran please feel free to join in with the choir as they sing about slaughter on the battlefields of Europe . Yes, it’s a bit like Brexit set to music! (laughter) . But seriously ladies and gentlemen – let’s not forget the real reason we’re here tonight. Yes,that’s right – tonight is about all of us who have personally benefitted from ‘Frank Field’s Forty Glorious Years’ as the MP for Birkenhead…Oh and charidee, let’s not forget to mention it’s all about charidee for the starving mites. So raise your glasses and be grateful for the fact that if you didn’t have Frank’s patronage you too could be destitute and cast aside on the mean streets of Birkenhead. Make mine a treble !!!

Our source put it more succinctly but no less sarcastically :

The Lauries is celebrating 40 years of the great Frank Field  lol

His legacy – a starving community

For those with the stomach for it you can read more on the Frank Field’s Birkenhead Community News Facebook page which is promoted and published by Anna McLaughlin, who as we all know is the daughter of dedicated Frank Field fan Cllr Moira ‘Matron’ McLaughlin. Needless to say Matron was there along with fellow ‘Independent’ Cllr Chris Meaden.

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As the poor loves don’t seem get out as much as they used to we wonder if the Wirral council taxpayers are still picking up Matron’s taxi fares or whether they were both chauffeur driven to Feeding Birkenhead’s Fundraising Dinner? After all it was in the name of  charity and they did raise a mighty 3 grand… 

top table

Matron takes her place at the top table. She’s to the left of Field. But then again who isn’t?

Champagne

It’s always best experiencing poverty vicariously. Preferably viewed  through the window sipping a bit of fizz…

 

 

Defend Our NHS : walk-in back to (un)happiness?

 

defend our nhs wirral

Dear friends of the NHS

Are you ready to be insulted? You probably will be (again) on next month. Read on!

Insult and minor injury

Before Christmas 32,000 people signed petitions opposing the proposed damaging changes to Wirral’s walk-in and minor injuries services.

The petitions (organised by us and by local doctors and other campaign groups) also called for the board of Wirral’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) to organise meetings in every Council ward to explain themselves.

In November Wirral councillors* demanded that the related farcical ‘consultation’ be ended and that “…the CCG come back to clinicians and patient group[s] to discuss meaningful and open proposals to retain the existing community-based services and improve the services, not at the cost of them being subsumed into a new Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) at Arrowe Park Hospital”.

And what was the CCG response? They said ‘consultation’ would continue as planned but “notes the motion”. They said they would ‘listen’ to the thousands (having based the changes on the alleged ‘confusion’ of a few hundred).

The arguments should (but there’s no guarantee) be aired again in February. AND WE URGE YOU TO ATTEND TO MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.

  • On Tuesday, 5th February 2019 at 2.00pm in Birkenhead Town Hall there’s a meeting of the Joint Strategic Commissioning Board*. Three Wirral councillors (Councillor Chris Jones, Councillor Bernie Mooneyand Councillor Stuart Whittingham  will meet a mass of CCG representatives to continue the now agreed plans to run local health and care services jointly. Oh, by the way, the Council now picks up the tab when the CCG gets into (more) financial hot water, acting (to quote the document) in a ‘cash management/banking role until anticipated income is received’.
  • Then on Tuesday 12th February from 1.00pm in the Exmouth Room at the Lauries in Birkenhead it’s the CCG Governing Body meeting. Will they have listened by then?  They tell us that “An analysis of the feedback received during the consultation period has commenced.  This will be considered along with other evidence by the NHS Wirral CCG Governing Body later in the year [no date given].  The analysis and report is being completed by an external organisation.” (Uh, oh! We hope it’s not PWC!)

*Ignorance or hypocrisy?  Wirral Council wins at Pointless

Wirral councillors do not seem to realise that they can condemn walk-in changes as loudly as they like but their opposition is pointless. Why? They have signed a ‘Section 75’ agreement with the CCG. That’s part of the ‘sustainability and transformation/accountable care/integrated care’ system which the Council has been aiding and abetting for years – while denying it was happening. It includes ‘urgent care transformation’ and the end of current walk-in services. That’s why persuading them to change direction and defend our NHS is ever more important.

So, who said romance is dead?

What more appropriate date on which to discover the answer to that question than Thursday 14th February? We will be holding our next public meeting that evening (details soon) and hope that you will share your Valentine’s Day with fellow romantics determined to Defend Our NHS.

Best wishes on behalf of DONHS

 

A Message from Defend Our NHS : the days dwindle down … and the CCG venue changes

December 11

Dear friends of the NHS

As you know next Tuesday 11th December is petition day. On that day the thousands and THOUSANDS of names opposing changes to the walk-in centres and other units will be presented to Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group. (At the current estimate about 18,000 more people oppose the changes than said they were “confused” by the present system.)

BUT the CCG has changed the venue. It’s now in the Exmouth Suite, The Lauries, 142 Claughton Road, Birkenhead, Wirral CH41 6EY (1pm – 4pm).

We hope we will see you there to show the CCG the strength of feeling.

And remember the petitions are not only opposing the changes; we are also demanding that the CCG should “organise an accessible public meeting in every Wirral council ward attended by a member of CCG staff and a Wirral Council representative to discuss the views of Wirral residents relating to proposed changes to health and care services”.

Meanwhile, today Nottingham Council has withdrawn in disgust from the integrated care process because of the “democratic deficit”. This is the process to which Wirral Council has signed up but which some councillors are now fiercely opposing. It’s also the process to which a legal challenge has been mounted with our support.

To find out more about any of the above issues please visit our Facebook page.

Meanwhile a reminder about this Saturday:

Please note and circulate this widely.

Saturday 8th December

Because of logistical difficulties SATURDAY’s MARCH in Birkenhead is CANCELLED.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

But please note the following:

The rally at 11.00am on Saturday morning  8th December  is being organised by the Miriam Centre and is going ahead (but is limited for space). Please remember that this is a normal working day at the Centre which will be busy with patients. We must respect this and not interfere in any way with the venue, entrances, parking etc. We are there to offer our support and solidarity to the doctors and other staff seeking to preserve a vital part of our NHS. If you are attending the rally please don’t bring banners etc. If there are too many people for the room there will be an overspill meeting; if this is the case we’ll walk two minutes down the road and into Birkenhead Park.

Best wishes on behalf of Defend Our NHS

https://www.facebook.com/groups/defendournhs/

Tales from the Chamber : Annual General Meeting

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The Wirral Chamber of Commerce (WCoC) AGM kicks off any minute now so we’d provide an alternative to the formalities. No doubt with their local connections the Chamber must feel as though they have gold plated protection from criticism from either us or the growing number of aggrieved former employees. However perhaps they’ll take more notice of their own ‘strategic partners’ –  well they are for now anyway!-  who have been getting in touch. It comes to something when their quite happy to share the Chamber’s  audited statutory accounts , revised Articles of Association and the agenda for the AGM. We wouldn’t want to spoil the excitement of tonight’s meeting by publishing them in advance but we would like publish this comment made by one of our sources about the accounts:

Chamber accounts……..less an income and expenditure statement which the
directors would rather not disclose!!!!!!
Moreover here’s a unique insight into how WCoC operates from one of their  ‘strategic partners’ which we guarantee won’t be aired at tonight’s meeting :
I work for a company who are strategic partners with the WCoC.
Well we are until the renewal date and then we will be leaving all together. What a disgrace. On more than one occasion we have used the cafe in the Lauries for dinner and seen the “Golden Girls” Paula Basnett, Kate Eugini, Sara Davies and I forget the other names, sat there drinking wine in the afternoon.
However, the main reason for my email is the Construction Forum run by Sara Davies. The summer forum saw us all at Thornton Hall Hotel (who were excellent by the way). The guest list was pure VIP!! Muse, YPG and Peel all there. Of course it was hard to speak to them because they were placed on a table at the front guarded by the “Golden Girls”. Did I mention the “Golden Girls” were necking bottles of Prosecco on the “Chamber” tab???? I saw 6 and I left at 7pm so God knows how many they had. Muse and Peel, once again, failed to answer any questions and “our chamber” failed to ask any questions.
“60% OF THE WORKFORCE MUST BE LOCAL!!”
Paula Basnett told me that she would be personally overseeing this!!! That’s a bit like Harvey Weinstein saying he will look after your wife!!!
I then attended the Construction Forum last month. Sara Davies promised the world, YPG, Carrol Build, Peel!! None turned up obviously, but then why would they when they had already told her they were not. They were placed there to attract people to the forum, which was awful!! “A talk from Jonathan Quinn”. Wow!!! I wont be slagging that gentleman off but let’s face it he brings nothing to the table does he!!!
I have also seen the 2 best members of the chamber staff leave (Lisa Furlong and my favorite Heather Heaton!!!). They both left having a gripe with the chamber!!!
They need new management!! And they need to start working FOR Wirral businesses!!!

Another Wirral CoC Up!

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The Power Boy Pip and Princess Paula Show 

The good people of Wirral have certainly come up trumps this week (insert own joke here ).We’ve just opened our email, checked out a few things and pressed the publish button.

It would seem the urge to leak is almost becoming something of a biological imperative for surviving the ways of Wirral Council and its parasitic offshoots.Talking of which news arrives of Wirral Council’s municipal mini-me – namely the Wirral Chamber of Commerce. According to our corroborating sources it would seem Wirral CoC(!) is but a scaled down (but more upmarket) replica of our dearly beloved council – the nepotism,the bullying,the dubious contracting arrangements etc;etc;

As emotions are running high we’ll forgive the flagrant use of emojis in the following messages!

You not only want to look into who the Chamber of Horrors are employing but the fact that around 30 staff have left there in the last year! Some made redundant ‘whilst’ they employed others to do the same job! 😡😡😡

Yet do you know there are no longer any Town Hosts (maybe a part time one lurking!) and therefore no one taking a wage from the business rates levy ….. sooooo what are they doing with the money?! Also Tourism gone back to the council? 🤔 Marketing Manager forced to resign? More investigation and light shedding on this! People need to know!

And another one :

Re your article about WCoC… A number of council staff who had been working for the council for several years, but paid by WBC, were actually TUPE’d across to WCoC last summer (with an additional 1 for good luck), in a 2 year 1 million pound contract (paid monthly if you check WBC expenditure tables)… Of the 7 staff TUPE’d one was made redundant by Chamber, 4 left, 1 is on maternity leave…. Only 1 remains at the chamber…one of the areas this contract was to cover was tourism… Apparently that’s been returned in house… You should check if the contract is still live or cancelled… But would Princess Paula walk away from half a million pounds? If still live presumably the million pound contract is paying existing staff or new staff… Council staff only have a home for life at the Chamber if their face fits. Ask Heather Heaton… Her arrival was much vaunted but I suspect her departure (allegedly not voluntary) will be less so. Or ask Mark Barrow… With his wife in a council role he has apparently taken redundancy. So that’s 4 redundancies in past 5 months, in amongst a recruitment programme of young ‘uns…. Let’s not mention the other 30 odd staff who have left voluntarily (or been forced out) in the past year….

You do realise, I’m sure, that The Lauries still has charitable status? It just made me wonder if they were fraudulently getting out of paying business rates…. It may be that a lot of the tenants would be exempt under the new rules, with the exemption thresholds, but suspect WCoC themselves wouldn’t be

It’s horrendous the way they are going through public money and also their treatment of staff. They need to be held to account.

These comments prompted the following exchange between Wirral Leaks and our source :

But who’s going to hold them to account ? Blogs can only do so much and we only scratch the surface – we need people to speak up. We’ve had a couple from WCoC come to us and then back out -knowing that behind the pretty frocks Princess Paula wields significant power. Frightening.

I know. Everyone has got so used to just doing as they’re told. I know a couple of people who have left the chamber and as you say… They left full of intent to let people know what was going on. Then decided a quiet life is easier. The stories I’ve heard have been terrible, of them bullying people who no longer fit the mould. We (people in general) need to stand up and be counted… 

 

Seen at the Deen

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As we previously reported in our Reds Go for Greens post the most interesting battle at local elections in May will be in the Birkenhead/Tranmere ward where the local Labour group are determined to oust lone Green councillor Pat Cleary. Accordingly we’ve been keeping a keen eye on the frantic electioneering.

As Cllr Cleary’s support for both the Birkenhead & Tranmere Neighbourhood Forum and their concerns over the annexing of The Lauries by the Wirral Chamber of Commerce and Birkenhead Market Trader’s Association claims that they are being ‘ignored’ by Wirral Council in the latter’s ‘transformation’ plans indicate he is seen very much as the fly in the Birkenhead/ Tranmere ointment and needs to be swatted away come May . We’ll have much, much more on these two stories at a later date  : Birkenhead Market Traders

However today’s post concerns last week’s return of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee after a near six month hiatus. The choice of venue for the meeting was particularly interesting. The Committee meetings have hitherto always been held in Birkenhead Town Hall . However on this occasion it was held at ‘The Deen Centre’ on Borough Road. At first we thought the building was a misspelt tribute to Tranmere Rovers/Everton  footballing legend  Dixie Dean. We then discovered that ‘Deen’ is an Arabic word with several meanings but most usually taken to mean ‘religion’ or ‘faith’.

We understand that ‘The Deen Centre’ has been establishing itself not only as a resource for increasingly influential local Muslim community but the wider Birkenhead/Tranmere  community . This may explain the choice of venue for this particular Committee meeting. Although with Beaconsfield Community House and Birkenhead YMCA the area seems particularly well served with community resources for the hungry and the homeless.

Viewing the John Brace footage of the meeting it appeared to be the usual series of presentations . About one of which we’d like to ask  – when did it become OK to discuss someone’s personal circumstances in a public meeting? She who shall remain nameless describes a 56 year old woman as ‘old’ and is met with cries of “that’s not old” and raucous laughter . “If you met her – she looks 80″ came the response” !

However keeping it classy the meeting wouldn’t have been complete without a Foulkesy face-palm moment. Whilst encouraging  people who attended the meeting to continue to report crime Cllr Steve Foulkes uttered these words of wisdom :

Some people are confusing reporting crime with being labelled , I’ll say the word – a Birkenhead word – ‘ a grass’ ……………If anyone wants to give names of criminals who are operating in the area , use us ( councillors)  – we’re very good at being copper’s narks  

So having tried to downplay the use of a pejorative term to describe someone raising legitimate concerns with the right authorities (grass) Foulkesy then goes and uses a different but equally insulting word (nark) to describe an informant !  – fine work. But then from what we know of Foulkesy and his ilk they’re not that keen on people behaving in such a way   – unless of course they’re tooled up with a recording device and are willing to smear political opponents #Wirralgate.

Talking of which it just so happens Wirral Leaks has the names of some senior politicians who it is alleged have been involved in potential criminal acts. We would have forwarded them to Foulkesy but then suddenly remembered that there might be a slight conflict of interest!

A Blott On The Lauries

Set out below is the (feeble) response to a complaint from Wirral Council Super Duper Director Joe Blott to the long running ‘The Lauries’ story . Blott is, laughably,allowed to describe himself as a ‘Managing Director’ of Wirral Council. As far as we’re concerned this inadequate little man will always represent to us everything that is wrong with local government. How did we get to the stage where we reward ‘public servants’ with six figure salaries – not to serve the public – but to advance their careers by protecting a   public institution’s reputation?

And if Blott wants to complain to us  directly – can we suggest he does so from a legitimate email address  Blotto?

We offer in evidence that Blott will soon be on his way out of Wirral Council with a £390,000 reward for what exactly ?  Certainly his role in helping cover up the Wirralgate scandal will no doubt have helped his cause (and particularly his participation in the first Thynne investigation and dealing with the aftermath of the second one).

However the background to Blott’s  Lauries response can be found here :

The Sorry Story of The Lauries

The Sorry Story of The Lauries Part Two

However this is his final kiss-off for Wirral Council . What a luxury it must be to treat those who have paid your overinflated wages for years with such utter contempt and drag out an ‘investigation ‘ for as long as you can. By the time this reaches the Local Government Ombudsman – he’ll be long gone.

Oh Laurie 2 007

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Oh Lauries 010

Now we’re not legally qualified to comment on much of this response but the fact that even Blott concedes that Wirral Council have allowed trustees to act ‘de son tort’ is deeply worrying as it would appear that Wirral Council and their agents have allowed trustees to act wrongfully : https://thelawdictionary.org/de-son-tort/

But then when it comes to Wirral Council it’s a case of  : ‘plus ca change ,plus c’est la meme chose!’

The Skwawking Canary Comes Home To Roost

 

SAINT-FRANK

Yes ,we know it’s not a canary but then Frank’s no saint!

There are alternative sources out there for the politically curious beyond the usual newspaper columns, press releases and soundbites.

Indeed we’ve been inundated with contacts providing links to a couple of left -leaning blogs The Canary and Skwawkbox and telling us that they’re singing our song.

And so it would seem there’s only so much backstabbing of the Labour Party leader that Corbynistas are prepared to tolerate from Birkenhead MP Frank Field.

Firstly, The Canary rustles Frank Field’s feathers by challenging him on his reprehensible stand on paying disabled people less than the National Living Wage (NLW). Apparently this is because their work has “an economic value below the legal minimum wage”. He says his idea is to help employers “to take on low-productivity disabled workers”. Field, in his typical high handed manner ,dismisses criticism of his standpoint as “absurd” . Might we suggest as a point of comparison he checks out the “economic value” of some of the charlatans on six figure salaries running Wirral Council?

Linda Burnip from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) believes that Field does not understand why his comments have upset disabled people. She told The Canary:

For anyone in this day and age to hold those views, and especially someone in Frank Field’s position, is abominable. It is exactly the same sort of thinking as the Nazi ‘useless eaters’ rhetoric.

John McArdle from campaign group Black Triangle also criticised Field :

The right to equal treatment and equality are human rights. Human rights are not privileges. That’s why they are called rights. I suggest Mr Field goes back to the drawing board. His comments are a disgrace and he should now apologise. Furthermore, if the Labour Party wishes to prove that it has truly changed its tune, it will need to demonstrate that the New Labour old guard are no longer calling the shots and put the voices of disabled people first.

The last time we looked, Mr Field was not a spokesperson for disabled people.

Read the full article here : Sack Field

However talking of the ‘old guard’ Field and his cabal will be facing a much more serious and pressing challenge much closer to home at tonight’s Birkenhead Constituency Labour Party (CLP) AGM to be held at The Lauries.

Skwawkbox reports a local activist as saying  that :  “The cabal of right-wing, clapped-out councillors needs a shakeup. We now have a record membership – they just need to turn up, in numbers, and make change happen!”

This is like a line from our back pages as is the ‘slate’ for a member driven Birkenhead CLP  which includes the following commitments . These are the ones that stood out for us but the full list can be found here: Birkenhead CLP AGM

  •  A member driven CLP run from the bottom up ,not a top-down Cabal .
  •  A more competent CLP ; where meetings are properly organised, and managed  for the benefit of ALL members ,not just the needs of a few Councillors or the MP
  • Honesty,integrity and openness;where decisions are democratically arrived at, and nobody is bullied, disenfranchised or discriminated against by those with agendas or vested interests
  • A more visible , and active CLP ; that campaign’s on multiple fronts (locally and nationally) not just to preserve the careers of elected members ! we will be more visible and active than ever – in our Community and beyond

Ouch!

But then we’ve always maintained that it was only a long established small cabal who were responsible for bringing the local Labour Party into such disrepute. Furthermore we always said that it would be party members who would finally call time on this abuse of power.  We shall be following tonight’s developments with interest in anticipation of ,not so much a coup d’état , as a coup de grâce – for everyone’s sake it really is time to put the old guard out of their (and our)  misery.

PuppetMaster

‘The Lauries’ Lingers

The lauries desperation

All of our best stories rely on sheer persistence .

God only knows what Wirral Council would get away with if we weren’t here to shove that thorn forcibly in their side.

So following on from ‘Wirralgate’ , BIG/ISUS/Working Neighbourhoods ,  ‘Crabby’ Crabtree , ‘Happy Halliday’etc; etc; we proudly present the latest development in ‘The Lauries’ debacle.

Well, not proudly actually , shamefully is the word. To think that the garbage at Wirral Council/Wirral Chamber of Commerce can just get away with their usual abuse of power, because, well they just can,are not over. If nothing else they are subject to our critical eye.

The latest development in this sorry saga is the tawdry press release above , where Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘ Power Boy Pip’ Davies  joins fellow human melting wax candles Cllr Jean Stapleton and sideshow MP Frank Field in a desperate attempt to defend their indefensible position when it comes to the annexing of ‘The Lauries’.

‘The Green Party’ will do anything to get publicity” claims Power Boy Pip. To which we can only say that’s a bit rich coming from someone who employed their own ‘Policy Advisor’ at our expense and then enabled his neighbour to get a further gig because let’s face it this inept fraud couldn’t run a bath let alone a toxic and dysfunctional council !

What Power Boy Pip doesn’t mention ( perhaps because he has to check with his personal handholder, Martin Liptrot, first ) is that he has FAILED (and not the first time) to reply a complaint that is now with the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) about ‘The Lauries’.

As local Green Party Councillor Pat Cleary states:

‘Wirral Council has failed to respond to the complaint and completely ignored emails from me to address the matter. As a result, the issue was taken up with the local government ombudsman. It will not investigate yet but has promised to contact the Council to ensure that our complaint is progressed properly through the Council’s procedures.’

http://patcleary2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/we-want-our-lauries-back.html

‘Progressed properly ?’– Good luck with that one, Pat!

A Bit of Bovver at The Lauries

Following our concerns about the operation  of The Lauries seemingly being gifted to the Wirral Chamber of Commerce we gratifingly note that a campaign been launched to take back community control of the centre

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/the-sorry-story-of-the-lauries/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/the-sorry-story-of-the-lauries-chapter-two/

Coincidentally we’ve also been forwarded the Wirral Chamber of Commerce and Industry submission to Companies House made on 23rd December ( to take advantage of the Christmas lull?). Whilst this submission is is a legal requirement ,being classified as a small company means the Wirral Chamber of Commerce is only required to submit abbreviated accounts. Nevertheless  they still make for very interesting reading as do the details of 67 resignations.

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/00120076/filing-history

 

assets-009

Note particularly that the assets of the Wirral Chamber of Commerce rose between 1 January 2015 and 31 March 2016 from £11,754 to a whopping £981,106. This rise in assets would appear to have been purely as a result of gifting of publicly owned buildings to them by Wirral Council.

Even more interesting reading is the complaint concerning The Lauries Centre submitted to Wirral Council by Birkenhead and Tranmere Neighbourhood Planning Forum earlier in December. This is yet another campaign which we will be following with great interest.

STAGE 1 COMPLAINT: OPERATION OF THE LAURIES LIMITED LEASE

We, the undersigned, ask that the issues outlined below are dealt with in accordance with Wirral Council’s complaints procedure.

As this complaint contains concerns about the conduct and actions of councillors and officers of the Council we would appreciate your early response regarding how this will be investigated and, if corrective and/or disciplinary action is required, what procedures will apply.

We would also appreciate the opportunity to meet with the person appointed to deal with this complaint in order to provide any necessary clarification and to assist in the resolution of this matter at the earliest stage of the Council’s complaints procedure. We consider that you are obliged to provide for this in order to meet the Councils 2020 Vision commitment to openness and transparency.

Background to complaint
Early in the year 2000 community representatives, Councillors and Council officers met in the old YMCA building to discuss which community objectives for capital expenditure under European Objective 1 (Round 2) and Single Regeneration Budget (Round 6) should be prioritised. At that meeting two headline capital projects were decided upon that would provide community meeting spaces at zero or very low cost for community groups across the Birkenhead Ward (pre 2003 boundary). These capital projects were The Lauries Project and the St James Centre. Both buildings were constructed, thereby fulfilling the principal objective of community representatives.

On 29 September 2005 the Council leased The Lauries Centre to The Lauries Limited for a period of 125 years.

The lease defines the permitted use of the building as use:only for the purposes of a community centre, a neighbourhood college (including workshops), a café/snack bar, offices and meeting rooms, conference and events…in furtherance of the Tenant’s aims and objectives as set out in its memorandum and articles of association…being in brief the promotion of any charitable purpose for the benefit of the community of Birkenhead and areas surrounding and in particular the advancement of education the promotion of good health and providing a focus for development and regeneration.

The lease therefore specifically links its own terms with those of the memorandum and articles of association of The Lauries Limited.

Earlier this year it came to our attention that public access to the building had been curtailed, the café had been closed down and it was rumoured that the Wirral Chamber of Commerce had annexed the building. This has since been confirmed because on its website the Wirral Chamber of Commerce now promotes The Lauries Centre as one of its “unique and exclusive office centres”.1 This makes it clear that the building is now used exclusively for commercial purposes, rather than for the purposes that together define the permitted use of the building, as set out in the lease.

Potential breaches of the lease and company mismanagement
Companies House records show that on 31 May 2015 all of the existing directors of The Lauries Limited (including Cllr Brian Kenny) resigned en masse and two new directors, Paula Basnett and Asif Hamid, who are both closely associated with Wirral Chamber of Commerce, replaced them.

The articles of association of The Lauries Limited require only one third of the directors to resign at each annual general meeting. So, the resignation of all directors was unusual to say the least. The articles of association also require a minimum of five directors to be in post at any one time. Once this was drawn to the attention of Paula Basnett, three new directors were appointed (Patricia Crocker, Katherine Eugeni and Sharon Stanton).

According to the articles of association, those three new directors may only remain in post until the next annual general meeting, when their appointment may only be extended by a vote of members of the company. The question of membership of the company is therefore also a key issue.

On behalf of the Forum our chair wrote to the Company Secretary, Paula Basnett, on 6 November 2016 requesting membership under the provisions of Article 1.3 of the company’s articles of association. The Forum also requested other information that the company is supposed to maintain, namely:

  • The company’s membership admissions policy
  • A membership application form
  • A list of current membership classes and their respective subscription fees

To date, no reply to this letter has been received.

The Forum was then approached by a former member of The Lauries Limited, who showed us a letter written in 2009, in which one of the directors at the time dismissed all of the remaining 36 members of the company, offering to refund the balance of any subscriptions paid.

The available evidence indicates that the company has had no members since 30 November 2009. However, it is members of the company who elect directors at each annual general meeting. If there have been no members since 2009 then all directors appointed after 30 November 2009 were occupying those positions unlawfully, as are the current directors. If there are no members, then the company has been operating outside of its own articles of association for a substantial period of time and would therefore appear also to be in breach of its lease with the Council.

Substance of complaint
We believe that the available evidence demonstrates that The Lauries Limited is operating outside of the parameters laid down in its articles of association, which in turn means that the terms of its lease with the Council have been breached. This unlawful operation of the company appears to have been ongoing since 30 November 2009.

We believe that Cllr Jean Stapleton, who was a director of The Lauries Limited continuously from 18 May 2003 until 31 March 2015 was a party to company mismanagement and breaches of the lease that occurred during this time.

We believe that Cllr Phil Davies, who was a director of The Lauries Limited from 6 January 2005 until 18 May 2013 was a party to company mismanagement and breaches of the lease that occurred during this time.

We believe that Cllr Brian Kenny, who was a director of The Lauries Limited from 17 February 2009 until 31 May 2015 was a party to company mismanagement and breaches of the lease that occurred during this time.

In the light of the evidence obtained by the Forum and public records, we believe that any reasonable person would conclude that Councillors Davies, Kenny and Stapleton were party to unlawful decisions, either knowingly or through gross negligence, in a manner that betrayed the commitment to community control and ownership enshrined in the memorandum and articles of association of The Lauries Limited.

It appears that Councillors and Council officers have failed:
1) in their duty to ensure that a significant public asset is managed in accordance with the terms of a lease agreement;
2) to effectively monitor the extent to which The Lauries Limited has been and is being operated in accordance with its memorandum and articles of association, and
3) to safeguard the use of public funds invested in the construction of The Lauries Centre.

Given these apparent failures we have further concerns that the sub-leases of the building, which require Council approval, may not comply with the terms of the principal lease.

In particular we are concerned that market rents are not applied to sub-leases made to commercial companies.

We request that all of the concerns raised in the foregoing paragraphs are investigated by the Council and that arrangements are put in place to ensure that The Lauries Limited is henceforth operated fully in accordance with its memorandum and articles of association and that the lease is properly policed.

The Forum will co-operate fully with the Council’s investigation, including providing copies of the evidential documents referred to in this letter, if the Council cannot obtain them elsewhere.