Restricted View

Restricted View 009

After yesterday’ s story about the Standards Panel meeting to be held on 15 June we questioned whether openness and transparency would prevail in the matter of this particular councillor Code of Conduct complaint . And true to (bad) form Wirral Council have today published the laughably named ‘public reports pack’ on their website.

First of all you will see that Agenda Item 4  is what can only be described as Kafkaesque as the press and public are excluded from presumably discussing whether the press and public will be able to attend the rest of the meeting !  I think we all know the answer to that already don’t we boys and girls?

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/g6133/Public%20reports%20pack%2015th-Jun-2017%2017.00%20Standards%20Panel.pdf?T=10

Agenda 5 is concerned with an investigation report and its 12 appendices which are allegedly attached. Needless to say they’re not – all we get is pages 45-211 marked either Document is Restricted’ or ‘This page is intentionally left blank ‘ .

We imagine some town hall power abuser (take your pick!) rather enjoyed instructing some lowly , downtrodden clerk to upload every single page marked in this way rather than just state that Wirral Council will not publish the documents before the meeting.

We can imagine this pathetic power trippin’ specimen looking in the mirror of the town hall bogs and fist-pumping as if to say : “That’ll show ’em who’s in charge”. It’s just such a shame the vainglorious vampire wouldn’t be able to see their own reflection!

Question Time

question-everything

Let’s draw a discreet veil over last night’s ‘Question Time’.  All we will say is that if the audience in Wallasey Town Hall is what passes for the politically aware of Wirral it explains an awful lot!

Meanwhile , it’s not like us , but we’ve been a bit ambivalent about the local debate to reduce the number of local councillors. Our take has been that fewer elected members would mean a concentration of power and reduce  opportunities to challenge the powers that be , but then we had to remind ourselves that a) that rarely happens and b) party whips and council procedures can quell all rebellion.

We think that what we ‘d really like is a reduction in the number councillors who think a Nolan Principle is the latest winner of Celebrity Big Brother.

However such discussion is purely academic as councillors decided last month – quelle surprise! – not to suffer , like the rest of us , the consequences of the squeeze on public spending and to retain their numbers.

This decision was trumpeted by Cllr  Foulkesy – of all people! –  at a meeting of Wirral Council’s Labour Cabinet last month.

The conclusion that a reduction from 66 to 44 councillors would lead to the need for ‘full -time councillors’ and would apparently inhibit opportunities for women,ethnic minorities and disabled people to hold public office.  It would also lead to what Foulkesy called ‘a different shade of councillor’ being required as opposed,we presume, to a ‘shady councillor’ like himself. And suddenly we’re sold on the idea !  – in fact let’s go all the way and do away with councillors altogether and all the party political baggage that goes with it . Think about it – wouldn’t it be great to have full time professional public servants who are not compromised by toxic politicking?  So we say less councillors and more council staff ! – we can dream can’t we?

As we’ve been anxious to find out what Cllr Janette ‘Milly Tant’ Williamson called the ‘evidence based analysis’ which led to the decision not to refer the matter to the Local Government Boundary Commission we not only read the Scrutiny Review Panel report but considered a Freedom of Information request made by John H Hutchinson which has been brought to our attention and which reads :

“In his Cabinet report “Number of Councillors Scrutiny Review” November
2016, Cllr Brightmore makes many broad statements the most vague of which
is “significant resources in terms of officer and councillor time” and,
later, to support this statement “significant amount of time and
resources”.

What, please, was the formal and recorded estimate of time and resources
to support these statements?

If no estimate was made, could Council make an estimate to complete this
FoIA request, please?”

The Council can advise that Cllr Brightmore’s statements relate to the
Scrutiny Review Panel’s estimation of the time and resources required for
the Council to prepare a submission document to the Local Government
Boundary Commission for England (the Commission), and to undergo an
electoral review (See page 9 of the report)
[1]http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents…

In reviewing a number of lengthy and detailed submission documents from
other local authorities, the Panel was able to gain an appreciation of the
time and resources likely to be required to compile a submission in
preparation for an electoral review.  Technical guidance from the
Commission, indicating an 18-24 month timescale to complete each stage of
an electoral review also informed the statements. Beyond this, no detailed
assessment or estimation of the time and resources required to make a
submission was undertaken.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/cost_of_reducing_councillor_numb

So it would seem that the  Scrutiny Review Panel Chair and rising Labour star Philip ‘Brightboy’ Brightmore –  who’s previous claim to fame was grassing up former Wirral West MP Esther Mc Vey for using House of Commons stationery and postage for Tory electioneering

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/wirral-leaks-advent-calendar-7-the-stamp-of-disapproval/

– was talking about an ‘estimation of the time and resources required for the Council to prepare a submission document to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (the Commission)’ .

So it would transpire that the Scrutiny Review Panel have basically made some comparisons with some neighbouring councils and councils with a similar profile and decided they are value for money.

It is significant there are no surveys or consultations undertaken canvassing the views of council taxpayers nor an analysis of how much additional council officer time and resources would be needed if the number of councillors were to be reduced. This was firmly put in the ‘too difficult tray’ by the Panel as follows : ‘The impact of a reduction of councillors on back office and support functions was also acknowledged by the Panel. Whilst this is difficult to quantify, it was agreed that that these functions would have to increase in order to fill the gap left by councillors, so any cost savings identified by reducing councillors would have to take account of any increase in officer workloads.’

Meanwhile Panel chair Brightboy says in the introduction :

‘I believe the findings of this investigation speak broadly for themselves. To speculate further upon those findings here risks undermining the analytical, data-led approach I and others have been careful to maintain.’

Which just about sums up some local councillors view of the local electorate.  It’s a case of : ‘We don’t want your views .We know best – even when we don’t ’cause we don’t have the data !’  

Which is why in the light of such a lack of investigative rigour we say to our readers :  keep on making those Freedom of Information requests and most important of all –  QUESTION EVERYTHING.

 

The Wirralgate Files

The W Files

We’ve had numerous enquiries asking us were the Wirralgate saga is up to because it’s been oh so quiet. So we’ve contacted some trusted and well placed sources to find out where things are at as clearly Wirral Council have absolutely no intention of telling us.

Apparently there are two Wirralgate files held in complete secrecy under lock and key. Firstly and figuratively in the red corner we have the Nick Warren review and in the blue corner we have the Patricia Thynne re-review.

Apparently the latter was to be discussed (behind closed doors) at a meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee on Monday , 8th February – no laughing at the back ,yes Wirral Council do have such a committee. Not that they meet very often as you can see from the number of postponements and cancellations which tells us much about how local councillors are concerned about standards and oversight of their own conduct.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CId=684&Year=0

However in a typical Wirral Council move the meeting has been reconvened nearly  2 months later to 31st MARCH !.

Why so ? I hear you all cry.

There can only be one explanation and that is that it has been moved to ensure that the meeting takes place during purdah. The purdah period typically begins six weeks before the scheduled local elections in May. The time period prevents the councillors using their knowledge of Council business that would be advantageous or disadvantageous to any candidates or parties in the forthcoming election. Where actual advantage to candidates is proven in law this amounts to a breach of Section 2 of the Local Government Act 1986.Ironically its breach carries with it the possibility of actions for abuse of power and misconduct in public office which is what the Wirralgate files are all about!!!!.

So what better way to ensure that councillors keep their gobs shut about what they know!.

Fortunately there are no councillors who work at Leaky Towers so Wirral Council need not rely on us keeping our gobs shut. And please Wirral Council spokesperson don’t piously give us that crap about interfering with due process – you wouldn’t know due process if it bit you on your expensively upholstered backside.The fact is that the most senior politicians and officers have been keeping a lid on this scandal since July 2013 simply because they have the money and power to do so.

What they seem to forget is that it is OUR money and the power WE have invested in them to act in accordance with their professional codes of conduct and The Seven Principles of Public Life (aka The Nolan Principles).

  1. Selflessness
  2. Integrity
  3. Objectivity
  4. Accountability
  5. Openness
  6. Honesty
  7. Leadership

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/the-7-principles-of-public-life–2

So far Wirral Council we score you zero out of seven. Although let’s face it they probably think the Nolan Principles mean they need to be in the mood for dancing!.

As for the bogus Nick Warren review – Lord knows where that is up to (or more accurately he doesn’t know because if he did he would tell you!).

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/time-and-trouble/

For all we know “The Complainers” could have been boxed off by now and the golden opportunity to finally rid Wirral Council of the poison that has made it into such a sick organisation has been exchanged for 30 pieces of silver (or however much Frankenfield has negotiated on their behalf) .

As far as we’re concerned somebody needs to send for Jessica Fletcher as it looks like it’s going to be murder this purdah!.

AngelaLansbury