EXCLUSIVE : Thick As Thieves (Update)

3 wise monkeys

You may  or may not be aware of a story emerging from Liverpool Crown Court which appeared in the local press earlier today.

Petty Cash Thief

As you can read above the story concerns the theft of petty cash money by a former Wirral Council employee. But when you consider that Wirral Leaks first revealed the story HERE  in January 2016, following leaks from aggrieved Wirral Council whistleblowers, it becomes clear that there is much more to this story than has been reported in today’s press.

You will see from our original story that the person we coyly referred to as Mr T (and now revealed to be Carl Thompson) has indeed now been convicted for stealing £7,000+. However we don’t wish to focus here on Mr T especially as he has now faced justice and has been held accountable (which as we know is unusual for someone involved either in the past or the present with Wirral Council). Equally unusual is a rare example of openness and honesty from a Wirral Council senior manager . As a certain Simon Cuerden is quoted as saying this particular case ” had adversely affected the staff morale and the reputation of the authority and rebuilding trust and transparency is still ongoing”    

If you look at our original story (re-published in full below) you can see why Mr Cuerden saw fit to make this comment. Consequently, and as was the case with former Labour councillor Jim Crabtree, we have to ask ourselves if whistleblowers hadn’t contacted us as to whether various crimes and misdemeanours would just have been buried by the council:

Now from what we’ve observed of an increasingly desperate Wirral Council leadership is that they’ve been told to do two things  : a) praise council staff publicly even when treating them like crap and b) mention the utterly vacuous and meaningless window dressing that is their 20/20 Vision Wirral Plan at every opportunity ( “We have a plan ,we know what we’re doing – honestly”).

Well can we tell Wirral Council that judging by the increasing amount of correspondence we’re getting from the crime scene that is Wallasey Town Hall that council staff are getting increasingly pissed off with the fakery – seriously pissed off.

Nothing is pushing their badly-done-to button more than a case which in some ways is a microcosm of how Wirral Council operates. It’s a case which has been knocking about our inbox for some time and when one of our sources writes : ”  I would appreciate anonymity as we all know what happens to WMBC whistleblowers…”  This tells us everything we need to know about the poisonous culture which still seemingly infects the alleged “Most Improved Council in Britain” than any number of feelgood press releases.

Council staff are not so much singing like a canary but singing like Shirley Bassey and their song goes something like this:

“Lightfingered – he’s the man, the man with the petty cash , Council-tax payers cash……” 

This doleful refrain concerns a certain Mr.T – T in this case stands for thief
We understand that Mr.T was suspended under that polite euphemism “misappropriation of funds” (something that Wirral Council have been quite adept at themselves) and although apparently Mr.T owned up the act, he was suspended on full pay during a lengthy investigation before he was recently dismissed.

However what is vexing Council staff is that it is alleged that this matter “was not reported to the police, central government, the audit commission or Wirral council tax payers and has been swept under the carpet in true WMBC style”.

No change there then you might say (no pun intended) – especially as this was someone caught with their hands in the petty cash till  – as Wirral Council  have an inglorious record of lurching towards the twin perils of  “reputation management”  and “cover up” when it comes to situations such as this.

We understand that the figure that has been filched is approximately £30,000 but common opinion among council staff is that as there was no thorough investigation that the actual figure could be much more than this.We understand that Mr.T could have been stealing money over a number of years and nobody knows the exact amount as Wirral Council only investigated what was stolen within a particular financial year.

Of course Wirral Council are welcome to deny any of these allegations…..

Questions and comments that have been put to us – although perhaps they should be put to Wirral Council leaders or even more pertinently to Merseyside Police are :

  • Why was it so easy for Mr.T  to steal thousands of pounds?
  • Who countersigned any monies/petty cash? If not why not?
  • I suspect this is due to the fact that said colleague had access to thousands of pounds in petty cash and was able to spend from the council budget until his heart was content as he was not managed for a minimum of 3 years
  • Staff reviews should take place every year! but his line Manager left and he was then left to his own devices!! You have to ask why internal audit were not doing an annual audit? If they had this would have been picked up very early.
  • It is now believed that he is working elsewhere and had faced no consequences for his actions besides dismissal
  • This person has taken the Wirral taxpayers money and needs to be held to account.Where is the deterrent? Where is the accountability? Where is the public interest? Where’s our bloody money?

I think the only question we can actually answer is the one about Internal Audit.They were doing their usual job of obeying their political paymasters and/or being inept .However for the rest it would seem it is the usual tale of Wirral Council failing to take any responsibility for their own negligence in allowing this situation to arise in the first place.

We’re left wondering as to whether someone with £30,000 + of Council Tax arrears would avoid legal action quite so readily?. Indeed Wirral Council  seem to be labouring (no pun intended again) under the misconception that the money they lose through their negligence/incompetence is THEIR money – so it can just be written off and forgotten about.

Consequently Wirral Council leaders rap sheet of cases where they protect their positions of power by protecting wrongdoers continues to grow.

However when you’re thick as thieves with thieves,liars,bribers and bullies might we suggest to those in power it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror and decide as to whether you still have the moral authority to run a local authority.

 

Whilst some of the questions raised by one of our sources may have been answered , some haven’t, such as how come an  “unsuspecting solicitor colleague” signed off some the petty cash slips – until suddenly a new member of staff joined his department? What the hell were Internal Audit playing at ? Did Wirral Council provide a reference for Mr T ? and whether being Mayor Foulkesy’s former chauffeur influenced the (in)actions of Wirral Council ?

 

No Concessions

Council Tax flyer 006

 

You may have read in the local papers about Wirral Council retiree Mike Garbutt railing against his “morally bankrupt” former employer for  asking him to return the gift of a lifetime gym pass because of council cuts.

Sadly it took  34 years of loyal service before Mr. Garbutt realised that the people who run Wirral Council are “morally bankrupt” and that unless you’re one of the gilded elite  you ain’t nothin’ but a (payroll) number.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14389679.Former_council_worker__let_down_and_angry__after_losing_retirement_gift_because_of_budget_cuts/

Meanwhile some town hall drone admits that this may be  “disappointing for those people affected” oblivious to the fact that they’ll be next to be screwed over whilst rejoicing in the fact that such a callous move may make £500,000 worth of savings – hurrah! .However let’s face it these days half a million is a mere bagatelle  – the cost of a Town Hall executive love tryst.

There are other stories such as this – Mr. D told us  :

As part of the councils cuts to save money they are implementing the stopping of some free concessions. In 2009 I was given a long service award by the council for over 30 years service and out of the three choices I elected a life pass to the gyms.  As from April this has now been removed so in effect had my long service award removed with no offers of anything in it’s place.  I’m sure this may effect others across the borough.

Then there’s the case of a pensioner with severe mobility problems who being  50+  was able to buy a leisure passport every year for £5 that entitled him to swim free between 11am & 12 noon Monday to  Friday. He was recently told by the staff at West Kirby Concourse that from 1st April this facility will be withdrawn. From then on he will have to pay £4 every time he uses the pool. Apparently there are a number of people including this gentleman who need this exercise and depend on this therapy !.
We’re wondering whether it will only kick off  when the retired golfing chums of the Wirral council powerbrokers realise it will affect their use of the municipal golf courses.
Just to rub it in we’ve all just had our Council Tax bills through the door haven’t we ? – along with a glossy leaflet with those bloody 20 pledges pie charts . There on the “people” pie chart we have “older people live well” and on the environment pie chart we have “leisure and cultural opportunities for all” .
So how do Wirral council reconcile the rhetoric with these mean spirited and short -sighted measures we describe above ?. More importantly  how do they reconcile the banner headline  “Council Tax – where your money goes”  without reference to CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson’s £35,000 value for money pay hike  or Martin Liptrot (sky) ‘s £45,000 political appointment or the millions spent on consultants or the countless amounts spent on cover ups and pay offs ? .
Strange  how money can always be found to make “our betters” lives a little bit easier isn’t it  ?- but can never be found for the “little people”  – you know the ones like you and me who pay the over-inflated wages of these so called public servants. The modern day mandarins on the make and on the take.
Consequently they’ll be “no concessions” at Leaky Towers when it comes to exposing the hypocrisy , the stupidity , the waste , the incompetence and the dishonesty  that still lies at the heart (if it had one) of Wirral Council .

 

Court of Public Opinion

You be the judge

We’ve not really covered Wirral Council’s proposed closure of Girtrell Court because no one had really sought to bring it our attention.

But my- oh -my has has that situation changed with the impending decision to close the respite centre for disabled adults going to Wirral Council Cabinet on Monday (22 February).

Suddenly the heat is on and we’ve been contacted by not only those directly affected by the closure but by some social care insiders with some particularly trenchant views !.

The Leaky Towers viewpoint is that we think the cause is lost.It’s a done deal no matter how many impassioned pleas carers might make. It’s over. The last in-house adult social care service will be  gone forever and it will be a dark day for Wirral Council…..unless of course they perform a spectacular volte-face!.

However the clues have always been there – hidden in plain sight.

Listen to the Director of Adult Social Services Graham Hodkinson at last week’s West Wirral Constituency Committee explain that the closure of Girtrell Court would be a “natural progression” and that the care of vulnerable people is about the  “market”.

Might we suggest that there is nothing “natural” about making vulnerability and disability subject to market forces but then when you’re on a six figure salary the social care market economy clearly works for some people !.

It also strikes us at Leaky Towers that whilst we agree that the NHS is a wonderful thing there has been many a time we’ve sighed as self-righteous politicians of all persuasions brandish their “We Love the NHS” credentials, complain about creeping privatisation and yet think it’s not only OK but desirable to subject our most vulnerable to the mercies of the market. And as we’ve reported previously we’re reliably informed that the social care marketplace on Wirral is dire.

Carers and parents of those who benefit from respite services have been given reassurances that if (or rather when) Girtrell Court closes alternative services will  be an improvement. It’s all about “choice” –  rather like the choice  about having  a personal budget whether you want one or not !. Might we suggest that those reassurances should be considered in the context of Meadowcroft – the last in-house respite service for the elderly which was outsourced to Age Concern.

We think it is particularly significant that only this very week a Care Quality Commission inspection rated the service at Meadowcroft to be INADEQUATE

http://www.cqc.org.uk/directory/1-669976514 <http://www.cqc.org.uk/directory/1-669976514>

Furthermore and just so we don’t get accused of Labour-bashing the fact that not one but two local union reps ( take a bow Paddy Cleary and Dave Jones) have publicly opposed the closure of Girtrell Court  and have expressed incredulity that a Labour controlled Council would contemplate such a measure points to a wider political debate that needs to be had about what exactly should be the priorities of  the Council.

Now is the time to have a long hard look at the reality behind the rhetoric . A prime example is contained within the flagship Wirral Plan and specifically the pledge about  “…..Ensuring the most vulnerable among us are safe, and feel safe, is perhaps our most important responsibility. We will work across Council and agency boundaries to promptly identify and tackle problems before they develop ” .

How does Wirral Council reconcile “our most important responsibility”  with the closure of Girtrell Court and the courting of celebrity golfers, the feteing of of the Wirral Chamber of Commerce , the wooing of Wirral Waters investors ???.

The proposed closure of Girtrell Court is an ideological decision it is not an economic necessity. An  alleged  annual saving  of £155,000 –  a figure which appears to have been plucked out of thin air as no cost benefit analysis work was undertaken – is nothing in the scheme of things when it comes to council expenditure. This proposal is just the latest instalment by Wirral Council of a relentless campaign to privatise public services.

Forget the 20 pledges in the Wirral Plan. In the court of public opinion there seems to be but one choice for the people of Wirral to make about what should be the Council’s priority – protecting public services or pandering to the private sector. You be the judge as to whether you think they’ve got the balance right.

At Your Leisure

HOLY-FUCKING-MOSES-PHIL-DICK
Her Ladyship has always claimed psychic powers but last October we think she nailed it when she talked about how Wirral Council go about compiling their plans.She commented on the Wirral plan:  20/20  vision (aka Liptrot’s List) concocted by Wirral spin king Martin Liptrot-sky :
“…always struck us as typical Wirral Council arse about face planning by which we mean some consultant who’s never worked for the council before thinks up 20 pledges off the top of his head and the poor saps who work for the council then have to go away and make their departmental plans meet the pledges…”
And so it proves once again as we’ve been leaked a draft copy of Wirral Council’s Leisure Strategy – part of the Wirral Plan: 20/20 Vision .We know that Cllr Chris Meaden takes her leisure pursuits/public duties  very seriously  -often combining the two during unsociable hours.Now she enlisted the help enigmatic Super Duper Director  Clare ” Wet” Fish to compare fringes and host a  Chris ‘n’ Clare consultation event next week at Williamson Art Gallery (you know the one that was under threat of closure).

Quite rightly on page 14 of the draft strategy they ask : “How will we measure if we’re getting this right?”

Well first of all (like the 20/20 Vision Plan itself ) it seems it’s a case of pick something you’d like to improve and then try and find a way of measuring it – now we don’t know what the STEAM  report is – but this strategy seems full of it :

• Increase the number of residents who regularly use the boroughs parks and open spaces (Resident’s Survey).

• Increase the value of visitor spend in Wirral to £450 million (STEAM Report).

• Increase the number of visitors to Wirral by xx (STEAM Report).

• Increase the number of events in Wirral’s parks, beaches and open spaces (source TBC).

• Increase the number of national quality awards for Wirral’s parks, coastal sites and open spaces (Green Flag and Blue Flag awards)

LEISURE STRATEGY 180116

The increase in visitor numbers to Wirral has yet to be decided , the measure of how the number of events in Wirral ‘s parks,beaches and open spaces is yet to be confirmed and a survey and an estimate are supposed to do the rest.The only definitive measurable outcome seems to be a case of putting out the Green and Blue flags – but will the ruling Labour group be happy about that?!.

How Wirral Council intend to meet these measures is equally vague and seems reliant on development of yet more plans and strategies.But this is what you get when you get a spin doctor calling the shots.

Plans and strategies are all very well and we wouldn’t be quite so critical (Ok we would) but this is a Council who can’t even get the basics right – like addressing the corrosive culture that still pervades everything they do.

Alternatively we’d like to suggest that a starting point would be  “Wirral Leaks Ten Commandments of Local Government” –

  1. Thou shalt not employ highly  paid consultants
  2. Thou shalt not have any more meaningless pre-determined consultations
  3. Thou shalt not make any more pay-offs for officer failure
  4. Thou shalt not organise more cover ups
  5. Thou shalt not look always look for exemptions to deny Freedom of Information requests
  6. Thou shalt not favour PR/spin over openness and transparency
  7. Thou shalt not favour nepotism over meritocracy ;and finally we couldn’t improve on these originals:
  8. Thou shalt not commit adultery (especially if it leads to pay-offs – see 3)
  9. Thou shalt not steal
  10. Thou shalt not bear false witness