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.