EXCLUSIVE: How many pages did Wirral Council black out from a 63 page litter enforcement contract with Kingdom Security Ltd?


Yesterday I received through the post what I hope is the last of what I requested during the 2015-16 audit. Yes, I know that Wirral Council was supposed to supply this contract by 11th August 2016 within the 30 working day inspection period but matters move slowly at Wirral Council.

What I was sent on the litter enforcement contract I publish a copy of below. If any page is difficult to read, I’ve had to resize the images and compress them for publishing on this blog.

For those who don’t know the background is that the litter enforcement function used to be done in-house at Wirral Council. From July 2015 it was outsourced to Kingdom Security Limited. I’m rather surprised by how much has been blacked out from the contract, but the invitation to tender explains that it’s a 2 year contract with an option to extend for a year.

Wirral Council require at least 4 full-time enforcement officers and interestingly don’t issue fixed penalty notices to people under 18. Enforcement officers have to hold a SIA licence, and be “of good character, polite and confident with proven experience of dealing with conflict situations&lrdquo;.

The Council ask that a minimum of 4,800 fixed penalty notices are issued each year. There are two interesting bits about the press which I quote below (it’s a gagging clause).

2.10.1 Neither the Contractor nor his Employees shall give or offer to permit to be given, any information concerning the Services for use by or publication in the press or radio, television or cinema screens, or in any other media whatsoever without the written approval of the Council’s Authorised Officer.

2.10.2 The Contractor shall under no circumstances use the name of the Council in any advertisement or press release without express written permission thereof.&lrdquo;

Here’s another interesting bit, “5.1 .. In order to incentivise the contractor to reach the minimum requirement of 4800 FPNs, the pricing schedule enables tenderers to specify a different fixed price for all justified FPN’s [sic] issued over 4800 per annum.

Unfortunately Wirral Council have decided to black out the method statements at pages 20 to 39 of the contract and the pricing schedule at pages 45 to 46. Those with long memories will remember some stories in the local press about fixed penalty notices issued, then rescinded by Wirral Council.

Below is the contract (or at least the parts Wirral Council was happy with the public seeing), many of the blacked out bits are subject to a public interest test.

Wirral Council litter enforcement contract Kingdom Security Ltd cover page 1

Wirral Council litter enforcement contract Kingdom Security Ltd cover page 1

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EXCLUSIVE: What was in 138 pages of unpublished information on the Greasby and Saughall Massie fire stations?


Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer) answers questions at a public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie to discuss proposals for a new fire station (20th April 2015)

Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer) answers questions at a public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie to discuss proposals for a new fire station (20th April 2015)

On my recent birthday I resolved to publish more unpublished material that was in the public interest.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I was recently an Appellant in a First-tier Tribunal case involving Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority over the Greasby (and now Saughall Massie) fire stations project (which also affects the stations at Upton and West Kirby).

Whereas that planning application for a fire station had originally been down to be decided tomorrow at the Planning Committee it has been put back. There have been extra documents added to the planning application too. A 5 page bat survey has been added and 5 drawings have been revised which are linked to from here. The main difference is the green roofs that presumably are to look something like moss (presumably to reduce its impact on the openness of the greenbelt). If either of those links don’t work, just search for application APP⁄16⁄00985 here.

An eighty-two page transcript of various public meetings discussing the project produced at the request of the Tribunal can be read here.

However, a few weeks after the Tribunal hearing, ICO sent me a copy of communications between MFRA and ICO in the lead up to the decision notice under dispute at the Tribunal. These cover the period 3rd September 2015 to 16th February 2016 and am republishing it as I’m a broadcaster and it’s relevant to previously published footage of these public meetings.

Although no final decision on the planning application or land transfer has been made, it seems MFRA was very keen that the amounts it had estimated for land sales and purchases were kept out of the public domain. The first two FOI reasons (section 44, then section 43) ICO rejected.

Admittedly some of the arguments MFRA made showed indicated that they hadn’t at that point watched the videos of what happened at the public meetings in question, once a DVD and transcripts were supplied (about a month before the hearing) they changed their mind over disclosure of the information.

Just for clarity MFRA (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) is the 18 councillors (plus a few statutory officers). It’s a different public body to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (which was a point that both ICO and the First-tier Tribunal Judge got wrong).

However the communications show that they intend to purchase the land at Saughall Massie in 2016 and possibly sell the other land in late 2017.

Obviously these timescales seem to have been put back a bit from what was originally planned at that time.

I seem to remember that it was said that Upton wouldn’t be closed or sold until its replacement was operational, therefore do people think that 12 months is realistic for building a fire station?

Here is what Cllr Adrian Jones (then Cabinet Member for that area) stated at a public meeting (which is at lines 3265 to 3324 of the transcript about Wirral Council’s position and isn’t it interesting that he states “we have to give planning permission” when surely that’s up to councillors on the Planning Committee?

CLLR ADRIAN JONES: I made the point of first being present at the err Greasby public meeting. Errm, and I heard err Dan Stephens, and then I reported back to the Leader of the Council and Phil’s Notice of Motion, that I’m happy to second it, err just to be perfectly clear in my decision.

And I want to give some clearly factual background information.

It’s err quite normal Mr Mayor for Council officers in our asset management department to be asked to identify the Council owned land by other public bodies and quite rightly businesses and that’s public information anyway


that is requested and the fact that we as a Council as we do as a thankless task.

The Fire Service in fact Mr Mayor approached us to identify Council owned land in the Greasby area and they were obliged by the government cuts to get by with fewer stations.

The Head of Asset Management is obliged when asked to identify land in Council control, and that means not making an offer!

No request has ever been to me Mr Mayor as it’s the Cabinet responsible for, err Cabinet Member responsible for asset management to make any decision on the transfer, sale or indeed the Merseyside Fire Service, if that sort of request had come to me, I would not have made the decision under delegated powers. I would have perhaps have consulted the councillors in Greasby ward with this.

The councillor errm err in Blakeley’s case, of course he was one councillor that Councillor [indiscernible – accent] has been talking about him


that the likelihood is that it’ll go direct for a Cabinet decision in a public session.

The Fire Service officers Mr Mayor came down I understand very strongly indeed in favour of central Greasby, now as the judgement that it had greater merit judged against response times and the risk for 26,000 of Wirral residents who they serve.

The Service is looking to embrace a range of new facilities currently 24⁄7 and very much in accordance with Eric Pickles’ wishes!

Errm, now for the last Mr Mayor. We have listened and have withdrawn the Greasby site. Whatever land is finally identified Mr Mayor, it’s the Fire Authority that has the orders for it in any case, and we have to give planning permission.


Err, the planning process is quite straightforward, it’s transparent and residents can object and raise their objections with councillors of all parties on that Committee. In the end granting of a planning consent is separate entirely, it is done through a motion if that is correct Mr Mayor and that is only indeed can be when people on the Cabinet and hose who are the people I’ve answered too.

Now, having heard the depth of feeling and emotion, that’s against the Greasby site,
our professional officers have identified four other potentially available alternatives and then there will be no question Mr Mayor, of any Council land being released until all these processes have been endorsed, and I think it is quite wrong of the Conservative councillors to attempt to make political capital on this and to imply to the wider public that offers were made when they know very well, it is costly and impossible for officers to have made offers!

I would have asked Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service for their response to the issues above, however as far as I can tell their press office has been under instructions not to supply comments to myself or this publication.

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Wirral Council in the Three Little Pigs, did the wolves blow their house down?


John Brace looks at what the wolves wanted to achieve

John Brace looks at what the wolves wanted to achieve

I will briefly relate what happened last night at Wirral Council in the style of The Story of the Three Little Pigs.

First, a little back story. In February 2012, the wolves had huffed and puffed and blew Labour’s Cabinet down. One of the wolves then became Leader, however a different party won a majority at the elections later that year and he resigned.

Last night was an attempt by the wolf to do something similar.

First, the wolf had a lot to say about the piglets but wanted more time to say how terrible the pigs had been treating the piglets. This was denied.

The Leader of the pigs said he was “disappointed” with a recent “tough but accuratereport about the piglets. He had met with the wolves and there were 19 recommendations to put matters right!

The Leader of the wolves had a somewhat less optimistic view of the report referring to how the pigs had managed it as “spin”, “news management” and referred to the pigs as being “over optimistic”. He said they were hiding from “media scrutiny”.

A wolf referred to the leaked letter to the Echo and the comments in the report on the piglets.

One of the key pigs in the matter started squealing, there was now a Piglet Improvement Board, £2 million had been found and they weren’t the only place having trouble with piglets!

Deputy Leader of the wolves used words such as “complacency”, “arrogance” and “secretive behaviour” to describe the pigs. She referred to the “Most Improved” award as a joke and said the pigs had been too busy with alternative bin collections, a newspaper, a trip to China or the Liverpool City Region which meant they had “taken their eye off the ball”.

A pig squealed back, he didn’t like the wolves using a word like “appalled” and instead thought they should be using, “surprised and disappointed” instead.

One of the wolves referred to the pigs concerning themselves with rubbish (surely people know pigs like rubbish?), newspapers and how none of the pigs had resigned or sacked someone.

Another of the wolves referred to the £2 million extra and how more millions had been shifted around earlier in the year. The pigs’ finances were in his view on a “rollercoaster”, he made some suggestions for how one of the pigs’ jobs should be done by two pigs and how there should be better scrutiny by the wolves over what the pigs were doing.

A key pig wanted to thank people. She thanked the workers, she thanked the residents, she thanked the workers again. She said how wonderful the piglets were and of course how wonderful the pigs were, she thanked so many that the Mayor asked her to wind up.

She finished by saying it that the responsibility was everyone’s, both pigs and wolves alike and that pigs and wolves should work together.

One of the wolves had a terrible message to tell the pigs. He had worked for two organisations that had failed and no longer existed. That was because they had scrutinised themselves! He asked the Leader of the pigs to resign!

Another of the wolves referred to “bad management” and “bad governance” and how a lot of energy had been put into promoting a Youth Hub for the piglets in Birkenhead and the Hoylake Golf Resort.

A wolf referred to the OFSTED report and the culture of “over optimism”.

One of the pigs rose to say it was all the fault of the wolves and (ironically) that there was no attempt at spin. She asked pigs and wolves to come together and for pigs and wolves to look at themselves.

A wolf made his “maiden speech” (for the 4th time). He said that whether the pigs or wolves were in charge, the piglets were still “let down”. The wolf described the situation as “unacceptable” and said that when the pigs left office they would have regrets. He referred to the Improvement Board and reminded the pigs that they had asked for the wolves to resign in 2010 when the bins were collected a week late. Also he asked for the Piglet Improvement Board to meet in public.

A pig congratulated the wolf on another maiden speech, however went on to criticise what another wolf had put on Twitter.

A wolf drew parallels between what happened with the piglets to four years ago and how the pigs had driven someone out of their job who told them what went wrong.

Another wolf referred to how much the pigs spent on agency staff, a different wolf bemoaned the lack of staff reviews.

A pig described what had happened as merely a “perfect storm” going on to again blame it on the wolves.

A wolf used the idiom “fall on deaf ears“* which means ignored.

*It was pointed out by later that this phrase was seen as discriminatory towards those with deaf ears.

Another wolf described herself as angry.

One of the pigs who’d been asked to resign, congratulated one of the wolves on his 4th maiden speech. He said they had, “let people down”.

A wolf referred to various reports, thanked the other wolf for his maiden speech and referred to his analysis that in one team of workers eight out of thirteen were agency staff.

Leader of the wolves again referred to the piglets and his view on the pigs’ news management. He said that in 2012 they [the wolves] had offered people extra money to work there and referred to the new furniture for nearby buildings. He said he had not heard the pigs say sorry.

Leader of the pigs said it was a wolf who should apologise and he didn’t accept the wolves’ assertions. Staff worked hard, there was a Piglet Improvement Board, which had been suggested by a wolf. He went on to say how the wolves didn’t take things seriously. The budget matters were in his view all the fault of the wolves. He congratulated a wolf on his maiden speech and said that alternate meetings of the Improvement Board would be in public as issues had to be dealt with “in confidence”.

He announced that no pigs would resign, that the wolves were outrageous and should stop their “personal attacks” as the workers couldn’t defend themselves. He would engage in a robust Improvement Plan to move forward at a pace.

There was then the huffing and puffing in an attempt to blow the pigs’ house down.

Twenty-four wolves did their best, but thirty-six pigs squealed back. So in the end, the house didn’t blow down and no pigs resigned.

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Posted by: John Brace | 17th October 2016

3 meetings of Wirral Council tonight, but what are they about?

3 meetings of Wirral Council tonight, but what are they about?


Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education) voting to close a school rated Outstanding by OFSTED at a time when Wirral Council was rated as inadequate

Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education) voting to close a school rated outstanding by OFSTED at a time when Wirral Council was rated as inadequate

Below is a brief update that should cover what’s happening at the three meetings of Wirral Council tonight.

The first is about the recent OFSTED report (which has previously been covered by this blog).

Each political party’s response (you can read the motions for yourself) is summed up below.

Labour – Things can only get better (but the government doesn’t give us enough money)
Conservative – Things were better when the Conservatives and Lib Dems were in charge of Wirral Council and why don’t the Labour councillors in charge of these areas resign?
Liberal Democrat – Things were better when the Lib Dems were in charge, but there should be regular progress reports on what’s happening, statements by the Cabinet Member and an opportunity to question him

The second Council meeting is about the proposed newspaper idea.

Again, there’s a split by political party on that proposal too.

Labour – We want to publish a new monthly newspaper delivered to every home and business on the Borough
Conservative – Refers to Labour’s plan as an “expensive exercise in spin and control” and a “vanity project” that’s likely to lead to government intervention
Liberal Democrat – The legal advice received and correspondence with DCLG should be shared with all councillors (who shouldn’t have to make Freedom of Information requests for it)

Then there’s finally the regular Council meeting. The only Notice of Motion likely to debated at that meeting (proposed by the Labour Group) is one asking retailers and vendors to stop selling the Sun newspaper.

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What do disasters, Wirral Council, Wirral Waters, an MOT test, Snowden and America have in common?


Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX (the venue for First-Tier Tribunal case EA/2016/0033)

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX

I thought it was time I wrote a piece to explain to readers why there haven’t been as many blog posts this month (bear in mind there were only six last month).

After all a lot has been going on. So where do I start?

Firstly, a bit of internal news. As people know I record a lot of video of public meetings and thanks to the slow internet speeds here on the Wirral (there’s not enough competition on high-speed internet yet unfortunately) a lot of strain had been put on the main hard drive of my laptop. Just as a quick bit of commentary, Wirral Council did at one stage have money set aside for high-speed internet access on the Wirral, but decided to spend it on something else apart from a small amount still earmarked for high-speed internet access to the Wirral Waters area.

Although I’m close enough to Wirral Waters to probably benefit, sadly there is a lack of competition on the high-speed internet front meaning prices are still high.

Those who know me, know I used to fix computers and have a disaster recovery plan in place for this scenario and backups. Thankfully IT disaster recovery (yes I realise it is rare for management for have an IT background) runs smoother here than it has in the past at Wirral Council which has had its fair share of IT fiascos.

However to cut a long story short, the internal hard drive can no longer be used (it’s too unreliable and error prone) and has being replaced by an external 1 terabyte hard drive connected via USB.

Yes, it would be nice to have replaced the faulty internal hard drive, but due to the age of the laptop I’m concerned that opening it up to do so could finish the laptop off completely. This means effectively the laptop is no longer portable and stays in my office (which is basically a spare bedroom).

However my routine had been to write blog posts elsewhere in the morning. That’s tricky now as the external hard drive and USB cable need to be somewhere flat. I will eventually replace the laptop. Public meetings held in the morning (such as the Wirral Council Cabinet meetings held on Monday morning’s) also break up this routine.

Last week, my wife’s car went it for its MOT (bear in mind a lot of the public meetings are held at times when public transport is just not possible). As we both use the car for work purposes, I cover the cost of this as a business overhead. Ultimately though when the car is unavailable, considering the criticism I’ve levelled at politicians for getting taxis (at the taxpayer’s expense) to public meetings, I didn’t want to rely on taxis and decided not to go the Licensing, Health and Safety and General Purposes Committee meeting last week (also in part because of my birthday later on in that week). In a slight twist of fate that meeting I missed was about taxis.

The cost of the MOT plus repairs, VAT etc came to about £740. As that’s a one-off expense, I have had to concentrate on commercial work (basically an advertising deal to cover the overhead).

Another factor to consider is that my original plan for this blog had been long-term to run Google Adsense ads on it. At one stage with another website I was running I was earning about £60 a day over the Christmas period from such advertising. These days however the other side of the dot com bubble, advertising rates are much, much lower.

You may have noticed this blog has minimal advertising on it. Those who keep abreast of information law, will know that the Max Schrems legal case (following Snowden’s whistleblowing revelations) led to the EU US Safe Harbour agreement being ruled as legally invalid. Although it was later replaced by the EU US Privacy Shield, it’s only recently that Google have gone through the process necessary that data can be shared with them (such as running their ads on this blog).

There is also a long running story I’ve been writing about for years that for legal reasons, I can’t write about due to legal restrictions until an outstanding matter in it is decided.

Having had a birthday (indeed this blog is now around 6 years old) and a fortnight to think about the future of this blog, feedback (including emails I get) have told me that people find the videos of public meetings useful and the publication of documents revealed during citizen audits.

There are literally boxes of information I have from the 2015-16 audits of various local public bodies (including a lot of unpublished files on councillors’ expenses), but Wirral Council still owes me a number of contracts and other documentation (an employee went on leave which seems to be the usual standard reason why in an organisation of thousands of employees work grinds to a halt when somebody goes on leave).

So, the upshot is that I’ve not vanished off the face of the earth, or got another job and just because there may be a lack of published blog posts doesn’t mean there aren’t blog posts written and yet to be published (for example I wrote one on my birthday last week about Monday evening’s set of three Wirral Council meetings that is awaiting the final touches (photo, headline etc)).

My aim is to concentrate on topical, but in-depth investigative journalism, but bearing in mind there is just myself and Leonora here, to do a good job on such matters can take years of patient reporting.

This would be made easier if certain people in the public sector locally didn’t act in the title of a book a reader kindly sent me a while back titled “Not in the Public Interest”. My job is made considerably more difficult to do and time-consuming by certain people on salaries that look more like phone numbers in politically restricted posts, who seem to get it into their head that I’m on some personal crusade to actually get them to do their job properly.

Therefore they see me as a threat and their raison d’être becomes making life difficult for me.

I’ve seen many public sector managers come and go, it’s not personal, I’m not out to get you or cause chaos.

Yet have a bit of sense and don’t deliberately go out of your way to abuse your power in ways that are unethical.

I never like having to go down the route of getting the judiciary involved, not just because it polarises matters but as it always leads to a can of worms coming out (that there are no restrictions on reporting on in the interests of open justice). As a court reporter I know how the public sector always treats judicial processes like a game, lies through its teeth, lies under oath and has for a long time abused the court and tribunal processes to get what it wants knowing there aren’t going to be consequences for doing so.

My immediate family (before retiring) worked in the criminal justice system and as a child I was told about the systems of justice in this country. I realise it may be old-fashioned to expect the public sector to adhere to the rule of law and even odder to expect councillors and local government officers to explain why they did what they did to the judiciary.

I also realise that coming from a foreign background and being married to a foreign national that my views on openness and transparency are somewhat different to what seems to be accepted as a cultural norm here (yes I was born in this country but sometimes it seems to be completely different to the one I grew up in)!

However, I would be keen to hear your views (in the form of comments) on what level of advertising you’d find acceptable (or whether you think a different way of funding running costs is better) and whether you think long form more in depth journalism is what you want to read (along with data journalism such as the publication of documents) along with any other thoughts you may have.

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