The Blind Leading The Blindfolded

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We are grateful, once again , for the following submission from another of our regular followers and contributors , Mr Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro.

Hobro brings his forensic eye to Wirral Council’s  failings in relation to funding which they were responsible for administering. What Hobro dissects may be esoteric to some but the failings he identifies will be familiar to Wirral Leaks readers – a failure of due diligence , a failure of openness and transparency , a failure of accountability and , damn it, a failure to do things ‘properly’ – and all in the name of reputation management (and no doubt other base motives) . We invite you to open your eyes before they take us all over the precipice:

The public are blinded as to the workings within Wirral Borough Council as the corporation seeks to keep its failings from open view. The issue regarding ISUS and BIG seems hackneyed except if one considers that the revelations have deliberately been kept in deep-freeze by the Council Leader and by top officers. They are as new as the date of release of data, usually forced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under threat of contempt of court. Certainly I asked for the names of companies in receipt of BIG funding that were liquidated as early as 2013, to be refused, even though liquidated companies have no protection under the Data Protection Act. The latter was conclusively attested to in summer last year with a ruling from the ICO, and most surely had been known all along by the Council’s monitoring Officer, Mr Surjit Tour.

Those who have been blind seem reluctant to accept criticism from the illuminati despite thin vows of transparency and of accountability. When Grant Thornton reported on the multi-fold failings in the BIG process vis -a -vis 6 files nevertheless despite a disclaimer from Grant Thornton of the Councils italicized statement, the Council claimed no wrong-doing and pointed out that only Lockwood Engineering had gone bust. On forced release of the Executive Summary re BIG in July 2013 the Leader of the Council issued a press release stating the success of the program and that of all Big fund recipients (sic) only one had gone bust. Yet time and erosion of the whitewash reveal that in fact two companies further had entered into liquidation with connexions to the Leader even at that early date. The council chief executive blatantly lied on 8th October 2014 saying only three were bust whereas the true total was eleven by then. I am not sure that Braille can distinguish between entering liquidation and finally being liquidated though these blinders did insist on a difference that to all intents and purposes is valueless. When the sexton prepares the grave there are very few lazarus’ indeed.

I do claim that the BIG process was so flawed in its arrangements that it opened a clear vista for fraud. Due diligence would not involve a coach and blinkered horses being driven through the benevolent intentions of the grants.

Last week I received data re Corrin Kenny Limited a company that received £13,250 of BIG money sometime soon after 4th May 2011 when Councillor Andrew Hodgson approved the award. The file given me contained no accounts later than 31st March 2010 which represents a poor basis indeed for processing future projections.

The friar Pacioli who invented double entry intended that all debits and credits equate to zero otherwise his system collapses applying to historic and equally to projected accounts. Due diligence compelled me to reconstruct from the entries in the projections an opening Balance Sheet. It proved impossible to do leaving a creditor of £7,000 which clearly had not been run through the projected cash flow. Surely any business applying for £20,000 of free money should at the very least offer up a clear set of projections, and any civil servant intending to give out public money should expect a clear Business Plan budget. Without the budget being sound the reins of the coach are fraying.
BLIND, Wilfully blind or just complaisant officers?

The officer who produced a short page of recommendations for the “Independent Panel” to consider was a Mr Stone of the Regeneration Department. He did not look for a balanced model ( in Cashflows that do not balance as to Cash flow, Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet one can always find errors that invalidate the proposal) and did not remark on the £26,600 cost that was not included in the Total for Cost of Sales. This was plain as a pikestaff for any but the purblind. I imagine therefore that Mr Stone did not attempt to analyse the formulae within the Excel model-I did, unpaid!, and with my having to reconstitute the Excel from a Adobe Acrobat file. I observed with my clear vision that, to check the validity of the assumptions, I would need to recreate the file. If I had been paid it would have been 2 hours of WBC time . Mr Stone may have had the benefit of the original Excel file in which case half an hours work would have sufficed. They have eyes to see but do not wish to see!

Mr Stone or Gemma Henry had access to a reporting suite from Companies House. They might have discovered that the Company Secretary whose name headed the application was involved already with seven companies of which three at that contemporaneous time were entered into the London Gazette to be dissolved. This was not a chequered flag to go ahead with the grant but a chequered past to prompt more questions.

I checked the full accounts for March 2010 and noted from a minds eye memory going back 6 years that the requirement to produce accounts not less than 6 months old had not been enforced, or perhaps in April 2011 the officers did not see that accounts to 31st March 2010 were more than a year old. I noted as a kestrel hovering at several hundred feet the balance of Other Debtors at £52,989 and wondered if Ms Gemma Henry quartered in Invest Wirral’s offices in Egerton House asked of Mr Kenny, giving his address as Egerton House, of what that was composed. Could it be an illegal Directors Current account because it most definitely was not a Trade Debtor, and if it were that, then what business has WBC advancing money to a company that was already sitting on an unrecognised liability of up to £30,000 of PAYE/NI? I began to see into the future (see below.)

COACH AND HORSES

Then to the Minutes of the Meeting at 9:30am of 21st April 2011 (with next meeting at foot of page for 27th May 2010(sic)) attended by the blind Invest Wirral who blind-folded the independents from Business Link and from the Federation of Small Business by, per Grant Thornton, giving them no accounts, and just the précis by Mr Stone, Finance Manager. The précis ran to just 320 words which recommended that only £20,000 would do the job. After a discussion “in great detail” all voted save one independent to award the grant. Dissension was met by the compromise of awarding just £13,250 even though Mr Stone had written only £20,000 would do. Blind, blind, blind or perhaps the diligence drivers ( an 18th century coach) whipping through what they could for an individual close indeed to the Regeneration Manager, Mr Kevin Adderley.

All seemed unconcerned that the award would be the same contravention of rules as was the award – that never should have been given per Grant Thornton-to The Edge magazine of Lets Go Publishing ltd. Both sought to advertise in the Wirral just as had Thinklocal and indeed Wirral View in direct competition with non-funded newspapers. The blindfolded independents would not know only the wilfully blind officers knew.

THAT WHICH WAS VISIBLE TO THE DISCERNING EYE THEN AND CAME TO PASS

Hindsight reveals that far from Corrin Kenny having £93,266 reserves in March 2012, by July 2013 the Liquidator reported a deficiency of (£75,000 ) which for four years he has been trying to recoup from the director who had had an overdrawn current account (see above and £52,000).

HM Tax Inspectorate began calling in its debt in March 2012 .The officers did not see at March 2010 that the debt to Taxes had been £40,481. The did nt see the warnings from the filings at Companies House where the figures quoted as prior year balance sheet in the 31st March 2010 accounts were different from the 2009 Balance sheet as filed. It is the business of Local Authorities to ensure before parting with our taxes that the grantees have paid their dues and observe laws and regulations and not to encourage tax defaulters! The debt to the Revenue finally was recognised as being £70,646 and the Liquidator (see above) noted the debt owed by the director to the company. To this date the Liquidation is open five years later as the Revenue seek to enforce the debt. So the ‘diligence’ reached the river and unloaded £13,250 of tax-payers money to sail down the Swanee to the accompaniment of the blind harmonica players from the Council.

OBFUSCATION AFTER THE EVENT

What we can see is that Mr P Davies Councillor was not anxious that these details be released on Corrin Kenny Ltd since he did accompany Mr B Kenny on trade missions to the Isle of Man and, though I have not seen the photograph, allegedly to Reno. I guess the sad story of New Concept Gaming Ltd, some £845,000 of public money including some BIG, going down the same river was another musical score that the blind players did not want you to read. Of “all BIG recipients” these two were certainly in liquidation when Mr P Davies issued his press release in July 2013.

SOURCES
The sources for my article are Companies House, data which is now free and at the time would only have cost Invest Wirral a maximum of £5 to see; and What do they know.com at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/corrin_kenny_ltd_big_fund_award?nocache=incoming-948560#incoming-948560

Redact and Be Damned

 

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After a false start (with emphasis on the false) Wirral Council initially responded to a recent Freedom of Information request with the wrong information.They have now got round to responding to friend of Wirral Leaks , Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro , about his enquiry pertaining to the Police and Crime Commissioner election of 2012.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/police_crime_commissioner_electi_3

Now as you can see the response below comes with the obligatory redactions and with the excuse that what lies behind the black marker pen is somehow ‘personal information’.

Yes , that’s right folks- public money paid to a public servant in the course of their public duties is ‘personal information’. Go figure!

Talking of figures – there’s some juicy figures on display and we’re not talking about Wirral Council’s Head of Law Surjit Tour –  here identified as the recipient of significant sums of money on top of his salary ( for doing what exactly!?)

Of course we flagged up the significance of this election long ago ( May 2014 to be precise) and anticipated it would feature in a recent Tribunal hearing featuring Wirral Council.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/election-reflection/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/a-return-to-greed/

As far as we’re concerned the use of redactions in Wirral Council’s response is as mysterious as the ‘Milk Tray Man’ – but instead of a black polo neck we get a black marker pen.

Unfortunately , from what we can gather, there appears to be a difference of opinion between Wirral Council’s Returning Officer at the time , former CEO Graham Burgess  (aka Burgesski) and Surjit Tour as to who did what for the money and how the figures were arrived at. However we’re sure that these fine upstanding public servants would, in the public interest, like to clarify what information lies behind the redactions. Otherwise, might we suggest,  they will be damned to further speculation as to exactly what happened on that fateful election night in 2012 and as to whether everything added up – and we’re not talking about the voting!foiextract20170303-10000-1v16phh-1_1

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A View To A Kill

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Oh the irony! – good job all those unread copies of Wirral View are next to the Twister Bin!

Of the many complaints we get about Wirral View , they appear to be split 50/50 between people who have never received a copy and those who have received one and told us that they felt their IQ had immediately halved.

Examples cited from the latest edition included advice about how to get kids involved in making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday – among the 10 tips was the indispensable ‘Double check the hob is off when you’ve finished cooking’ and ‘Don’t cook after drinking alcohol’. Oh please!, the frozen pizza industry would be decimated if the latter were ever the case!

We were also gratified to read that the description ‘ look injured, are very small, or lethargic’ did not apply to some Wirral Council senior managers we could name , but to lost hedgehogs.

As you know we’ve reported on problems with Wirral View’s distribution from the word get go :

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/distribution-deficit/

However Wirral Council’s own lost hedgehog , head of communications Kev MacCallum, appears to be still in denial about the ongoing situation.

A Freedom of Information request made by the wonderfully named Birgitta Kuhlmann-Muller following the publication of the first edition of Wirral View, asked the following pertinent questions:

1. How you make sure to fulfil your statement on your own website that
“The publication will reach every household and business in Wirral “?
2. Which kind of distribution method did you use for the first edition?
3. How many households were directly served with a publication through the letter box in each ward ( please list each ward in Wirral)
4. What were the distribution costs for each ward and in total?
5. How much income was generated from adverts?
6. What were the overall expenses for printing, design etc.?

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/wirral_view_publication#outgoing-623857

As you can see from the subsequent response from Wirral Council and further annotations by Ms Kuhlmann -Muller the problems with distribution persist:

‘Contrary to your statement that 8 of 10 households got the Wirral view delivered through their letter boxes, I have heard of not a single household in West Kirby who had received theirs.
The Wirral view was stacked in libraries but not delivered to households.’

And therein lies the problem. When Wirral Council make a hyperbolic claim that Wirral View ‘will reach every household and business in Wirral’ they (and the company from Liverpool they’ve hired) need to DELIVER -in both senses of the word. No wonder they can’t get any advertising when local businesses must know that an advert would be a waste of money as the newspaper’s reach seems to be variable at best and negligible at worst.

It is not good enough (as the above picture sent in by one of our readers illustrates) that the distribution company is just dumping thousands of copies of Wirral View in libraries,shops and public venues and hoping that someone has an urgent need to read about pancakes and hedgehogs (and whilst at Leaky Towers we love them both – believe us they don’t do anything for our so called ‘information deficit’!)

And so with threats of government intervention and calls to cull the rag we at Leaky Towers say it’s time to put Wirral View out of its (and our) misery. Perhaps then the council can spend the money on something more useful like yet more overpaid and incompetent policy wonks!

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15123108.Minister_leafs_through_Wirral_Council_s_controversial_newspaper___then_issues_another_warning/

Where Are They Now? Part 3 – Anna Klonowski

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A Valentine’s Day lament : Roses are red, Anna’s in blue,playing the game,cash she’ll accrue

We return to one of our occasional series. This particular one brings you news of the great and the good who have graced our blog with their presence. Sadly for us that has not hindered their progress towards high office and more importantly for them, the bank.

This blog post features the relentless progress of consultant Anna Klonowski . As we mentioned last month it is 5 years since the Independent Review of Allegations Made by Martin Morton & Others report landed with a bang in a blaze of bad publicity for Wirral Council and ended in November 2013 with a whimper that was the damp squib of a final meeting of the so-called ‘Improvement Board’ which purportedly was set up to address Wirral Council’s failings identified in the report.

We now hear that Ms Klonowski has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of Bristol City Council on £160K a pop.

http://news.bristol.gov.uk/anna_klonowski_recommended_as_bristol_city_council_s

As we know Klonowski started her investigations at Wirral Council in August 2010 and when scheduled to meet the then Chief Executive Steve Maddox he promptly announced he was retiring to spend more time with his long suffering golf clubs. Three years on and with cowardly circularity Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies similarly made a swift exit at the aforementioned Improvement Board when whistleblower Martin Morton stood up to speak .

Although it must be said Davies had every reason to have the squirts. Morton tells us he regrets not specifically mentioning that the misconduct of Labour councillors Steve Foulkes and George Davies was one of the main reasons why he could not return to work for Wirral Council as it might have saved him 3 years of stonewalling and cover up. Sorry Mart, but we have to disagree with you on this one – stonewalling and cover up is like breathing to these people.

We understand that during her ‘investigation’ Klonowski bemoaned the fact to Morton that local authority investigative work was drying up. We suggest that this might explain why the investigation took so long. Despite the fact that Klonowski was on the case from August 2010 to  January 2012 and handbagged a £250,000 pay cheque and cost Wirral Council another £150,000+ as a result of legal advice and putting up Anna in her own Aparthotel in Liverpool , she summarily failed to complete what she was commissioned to do, and that was to FULLY investigate the whistleblowing allegations brought to her attention.

With a background in CIPFA ( Chartered Institute of Public Finance) it was clear that Klonowski was way out of her depth when it came to tackling the more problematic social care issues that Morton ( & unnamed and redacted others told her about ).

Klonowski was much more at home discussing corporate governance issues which led to the ‘Refresh & Renew’ report which was published in October 2011 . It’s just such a shame that this was not her brief. She returned to the CIPFA comfort zone in the Independent Review report itself were there are pages and pages and pages of endless, tedious observations about Wirral Council’s Internal Audit.

This led to some shameful omissions on Klonowski’s part. Morton tells us his most significant whistleblow concerned the death of a vulnerable young man who died whilst the staff who should have been giving him his medication were allegedly at the bingo.This received a couple of lines in her report!

The staff involved worked for an organisation by the name of Assisted Living Services (ALS). This organisation had links to drugs money laundering and yet were owned by former Merseyside Police CID officers. Strange bedfellows – or perhaps not! It was left to a subsequent investigation to identify these connections so we can only presume Klonowski either couldn’t be arsed or was warned off by ‘interested parties’.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/corporate_governance_committee_m#outgoing-259991

As you can read no serious case review was undertaken into the death – instead Wirral Council saw fit to persecute Morton and respond to false allegations that he was in cahoots with disgruntled staff to bring down ALS. An investigation into the allegations against Morton led the investigator to declare them as ‘a crock of shit’.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) considering her background in finance Klonowski also failed to address further issues of financial mismanagement involving disabled people – claiming she’d run out of time and that despite all evidence to the contrary that Wirral Council could be trusted to sort it out and left them to it ! Needless to say they never did .This is a matter we have previewed but have not got round to publishing. However whilst it is complicated story it is a cautionary tale of how a cover up is coordinated (and supported by other agencies) and something we will get back to at a later date.

Instead Klonowski sought the advice of largest legal firm in the world (DLA Piper)-like you do when someone else is footing the bill!- to come up with a convoluted and frankly ludicrous attempt to deny disabled people a full reimbursement of monies that was unlawfully taken from them on the grounds that to charge disability benefits from disabled people and not from non-disabled people was somehow not disability discrimination ! Even the shameless Wirral Council weren’t prepared to sustain this unsustainable argument and conceded that £736,000 should be repaid , despite DLA Piper giving them a get out.

Is it us? – or it is entirely perplexing that someone so seemingly intent on maximising their own fees wants to minimise the repayment of unlawful charges to disabled people – or are they in any way related? I think we should be told!

You won’t be surprised to hear that Morton wanted to raise these omissions with La Klonowski herself. After an unanswered telephone call and one email Special K set the hounds of law on him . Yes! , you guessed it – DLA Piper!

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Isn’t it funny that Klonowski had ‘no on-going obligations to liaise with interested parties’ and yet sat on Wirral Council’s Improvement Board during this time (reputedly for £1,000 a day) . Again we can only presume that ‘interested parties’ is defined by their ability to pay.

Even more damning we understand that she was quite happy to discuss her concerns about Wirral Council with opportunistic ‘complainant’ Gary Downey . Downey alleges that Klonowski disclosed to him during the first Wirral  Council vote of no confidence vote in the then current leader Steve Foulkes ( aka Foulkesy ) that she hoped he didn’t lose as she had no trust and confidence that Wirral Council Tory leader Jeff Green would do anything about Wirral Council’s toxic culture. Whilst she may have called that one correct it also means that she subscribes to the Martin Liptrot school of political neutrality. Either that or she was taken in by Foulkesy’s cheeky chappy persona and his ‘bible-like’ devotion to her recommendations for cash-money purposes.

Nevertheless in conclusion it would seem that it all worked out well for Klonowski in the end. For unemployed Morton and the long suffering council tax payers of Wirral – not so much !

Wirral Council – Ready, Shreddy, GO!!

Some time ago a mysterious picture was sent  to Lord & Lady Wirralleaks at Leaky Towers by the “Camberwick Green Kamikaze  Crew”.
At first glance we thought it was “Sir” Fred Goodwin  especially when we were informed it was a picture of the former head of a discredited and much maligned organisation .
 
However it later transpired it was the picture of “Sir” Kevin Miller – or “Windy”  as he was known by his adoring fan (yes that’ll be you Anthea!).

Now until the 4 week delay scandal came to our attention Windy had been a bit of a  mystery man.
However after reading a quite astonishing FOI request by whistleblower Martin Morton  on the Whatdotheyknow website (SEE IT IN ALL ITS JAW-DROPPING GLORY HERE)  it would seem that Windy Miller may be a bit Shady as well. 
It would appear he was getting someone by the name of  Mark Jones  to write secret and not very nice  reports about Morton and then forgetting all about it – only for his trusted Commandant Thomas Von Ryan to dob him in it good-style  with the cry: “ It vos Herr Vindy –  I vos only following orders”.
Although it must be said Von Ryan doesn’t seem to be the most reliable of witnesses as he appears to have a bit of a thing about having documents shredded. We are reliably informed this is known in Town Hall circles as “Von Ryan’s Excess”  and would appear to be catching as it is also reported in the whatdotheyknow request that 6 days after Morton  was front page news on the award winning Wirral Globe newspaper and 816 days after he retired as Director of DASS –  a “very white haired” Miller  is witnessed meeting with his successor as DASS  Director John “Webbmeister” Webb – who is then witnessed shredding documents!.
However I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation because as we know Windy is best mates with the Mayor Moira McLaughlin and she wouldn’t have let anything untoward happen when she was the Councillor responsible  for Social Services now would she???????………..  
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Video of WBC’s secrecy HERE
And how whsitleblowers are abused HERE
Read Windy’s parting message HERE as he passes the torch of truth on to…..