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Posted by: John Brace | January 28, 2013

Cabinet 24th January 2013 (Wirral Council): Adult Social Services: The Bad Debt Saga continues


Following the revelation just before Christmas that Wirral Council’s Adult Social Services had £5 million of “previously unnoticed bad debt” Graham Burgess, Wirral Council’s Chief Executive had this to say to last Thursday’s Cabinet on the subject.

He said, “I’ll summarise the comments in a formal email which I’ll send out to all ward councillors. Three actions have been taken in relation to this matter, one is in order to change the system essentially of debt recoverage so we’ve stopped the leakage due to bad debt, and we are following up bad debt as fast as we can. So we’ve stopped the previous practice which led to the situation.

Secondly, we’ve got a small team staff that are actively pursuing the bad debts to bring back to the Council as much as they can of the money which is owed to the Council. As I said some of it is actually more than six years old, some of it more than five years old, more difficult to bring back to the Council, nevertheless we have to be pursuing that now.

Thirdly, simply asking to undertake a review or investigation of this matter to establish how we got in this situation and to learn lessons from it. To this end I have commissioned Eugene Sullivan who until a few weeks ago was the Chair of the national Audit Commission to undertake this investigation, to give some independence to this review.

Eugene Sullivan has started the work, is interviewing some councillors who are still here, is going through records in some depth, is speaking to the District Auditor who has a role in this process and is expected to bring a written report to Members sometime in mid-February where we’ll bring the report back to Cabinet at that stage.”

So yet more bad news on the way for Wirral Council.

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Responses

  1. “Unnoticed Bad Debt” what a joke if this was in the real world & debts to this extent had been built up over 6 years then the accounts staff would have been sacked for incompetence & would never be employed in an accounts department again, however this is wirral council where the abnormal is normal. Has any body been sacked I doubt it & the poor old ratepayers get it in the neck yet again.
    The sooner commissioners are brought in to sort out this shower, the better.

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  2. I think there’s a good chance that those responsible have already disappeared over the horizon, taking obscene six figure sums with them, just to rub it in.

    More fool the Chief Execs of old, who allowed such a situation to come about. The problem was: Sorting it out in a grown up way would have meant implicating councillors AND themselves AND revealing a massive failure into the public domain. So secrecy and the good old democratic deficit of gagging clauses within compromise agreements won the day, and the public were left to pick up the tab – yet again.

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    • In this case however, the politicians can say until recently they didn’t know anything about it, but yes had the AKA issues been dealt with better it would’ve been discussed a year ago.

      Last year I do remember them bringing the billing/debt recovery for Social Services clients in-house (it was previously the responsibility of the Department of Finance), which is probably partly how this whole thing got discovered.

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  3. I doubt anything like that’ll happen before the report is produced around mid-February.

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