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Posted by: John Brace | 6th July 2014

Councillor Walter Smith “I must say I enjoyed lavish hospitality”

Councillor Walter Smith “I must say I enjoyed lavish hospitality”

                         

I’ve had a chance to listen to what is probably the first mention of this blog on BBC Radio Merseyside on Friday and include a transcript below of what was said (as Roger Phillip’s show is only available to listen online for a week after the show) along with Cllr Walter Smith’s reply later in the show. It’s referring to this blog post Graham Burgess invites Wirral Council councillors to 5 days of the Open Golf Championship.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Now Paul from New Brighton is on the line, hello Paul.

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
Hello Roger, thanks for taking the call.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Pleasure.

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
Errm, I’m a golfer and I’m really chuffed that Merseyside and particularly the Wirral have got the Open err next week and you know the world’s eyes are going to be on us.

Errm, well one of the things that does concern me as a Wirral taxpayer is that my Labour run Council’s Chief Exec Mr Graham Burgess has sent a letter out, which is in the public domain now, thanks to a leak errm to all councillors inviting them to a five day jamboree basically, corporate hospitality, err at the Wirral Council’s errm event, event tent that is at the Open.

There’s only one councillor who’s publically come out and said this is not acceptable in this time of cuts and people you know sort of fighting a Council here that challenges them on bedroom tax. They actually go to appeal against them and I think the public on Wirral and on Merseyside should know this is what some politicians are getting up to. You know it’s pretty disgraceful really.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Well they tell us that it’s one trial session on Wednesday or something when there’s no competition going on. I’m not quite sure exactly more than that, they are sending us a statement but that’s what they’re saying it is.

Also as regards to the bedroom tax they say that they have to do that, the government makes them challenge these appeals, these things.

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
Well on those two points, if you actually go to the Council and ask to see Mr Graham Burgess’ letter to councillors, there’s a five day programme there which is inviting people, sorry which is inviting councillors.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Well that’s not what he’s telling us.

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
Well I’m afraid then, he’s not being honest with you.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Well it’s the press office really to be fair, but I mean they’re very clear it’s a two hour session on Wednesday, he might have given them the whole programme because they may want to go and see other things but in terms of what he’s inviting them to it’s a two hour session non competitive time on the Wednesday.

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
Well we’re in obviously in dispute on that, but I would say it’s there in the public domain and you should see it and maybe make a news comment on it later. In respect of the bedroom tax, he is legally within the right framework to say he’s not going to oppose it, but you know in Liverpool and Sefton the Council does not waste council payer’s money going up against appeals that these poor people who are struggling to find money to pay for Council Tax for bedrooms that are less than fifty square metres, you know it’s abhorrent that you’ve got a Labour Council that’s doing this!

ROGER PHILLIPS
I’ve now got the statement, it’s not quite what I said. This is the statement. It is not true that all sixty-six councillors have been invited to attend the whole of the Open competition. All councillors have been invited onto the course for a short time, where there will be no bar on one practice day, not a competition day.

The email your caller’s referred to was in fact sent to two people to attend key business days, which are aiming to attract significant inward investment into the area. It is only those people who were extended that invitation, one of which has declined. In addition, the Leader of the Council will be in attendance hosting these important inward investment sessions.

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
Well that’s what you have spin doctors for isn’t it?

ROGER PHILLIPS
Why couldn’t it be the truth?

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
Well it isn’t the truth Roger, because there is a website hosted by John Brace on the Wirral and he’s published that letter, I suggest you go and look at it.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Well there is a letter, but it only went to two people, one of which has declined.

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
Well OK, well you know I can’t prove that and neither can probably..

ROGER PHILLIPS
Well I can’t, but I mean I think it unlikely that the Council’s going to send us a direct open lie.

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
Well when we get photographs of the councillors attending over those five days and put them on the internet you know which I will do because you know I’m a taxpayer and I’m quite disgusted by the actions of this Council. Then we will see who attended and who didn’t and they’re answerable to the electorate.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Well there’s nothing to stop them attending, as long as they pay.

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
No, if they pay for their own ticket.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Well absolutely so a picture of a councillor attending means nothing.

PAUL FROM NEW BRIGHTON
Well we’ll see, ok thank you for your time Roger.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Alright cheers.

……….

ROGER PHILLIPS
But now then, Councillor Walter Smith is on the line from Liverpool City centre, he’s a councillor in Wirral. Hello Walter.

COUNCILLOR WALTER SMITH
I just wanted to put the err gentleman right who was talking about the lavish hospitality we councillors will be receiving from Wirral Borough Council during the Open Golf at err Hoylake. Errm, can I just say though there will definitely be no lavish hospitality. I don’t know whether they may give us a cup of coffee, I don’t know about that but speaking from my experience in 2010, errm I visited the course with the Council on that day and we had err a hospitality tent which I think we had a cup of coffee, there was certainly no lavish hospitality but what people need to understand is when we have an important event, such as the Open Golf Championship that it’s important that we councillors see what sort of facilities we’re providing, what are the arrangements because the world descends on Hoylake and errm we often have to make decisions based on we’re holding such an event and err so we need to experience it. It’s not very often that we get the opportunity to do that.

Now I must say in 2010 I was extremely lucky. I have a customer who is a capable manager of a hotel group and they had a hospitality suite and he invited me on the Thursday, the first day of the competition and I must say I enjoyed lavish hospitality, I mean I thought I was the luckiest man. I couldn’t have done better if I’d been a millionaire but I didn’t get that because I was a councillor. I got it because I’ve been dealing, tailoring suits for him for years and he invited me to that but that was a completely different type of hospitality to the one we councillors will enjoy at Wirral Borough Council and we’re certainly not invited on any of the competition days, I wish we were but we don’t get such a thing, you know.

ROGER PHILLIPS
OK.

COUNCILLOR WALTER SMITH
So that is the reason is we’re there have a look at, we’ve organised the event and if I mean hopefully we’ll do this again and we’ll have some experience of if there were any shortfalls in the organisation. So that is the reason and I think we should squash immediately any such thought that councillors are living it up at the taxpayer’s expense. That is clearly not the case and it hasn’t been for some years.

We don’t even have a drink with the Mayor every sort of four or five months like we used to because we’ve cut out all the frills because we’re in an extremely difficult period for local government funding. Wirral Borough Council will have lost 57% of its income err over the next few years, over the last three or four years.

So clearly we are in a difficult position. We certainly don’t want to spend any funds on a beanie except providing services for the people that pay their council tax.

ROGER PHILLIPS
You’re gilding the lily.

COUNCILLOR WALTER SMITH
Can I just finish off while I’m on? I haven’t been on for ages with you. I keep meaning to ring just to mention these constant attacks in the press and the media in general on Ed Miliband as though he’s ineffective. Now I must say for myself as a Labour Party member I did not vote for Ed Miliband to be Leader of the Labour Party. I voted for his brother David because I know David Miliband, I’ve met him some eight or nine times and I picked him out as a Leader of the Labour Party in 2004. I met him at a conference and I thought how able he was but I must say for myself as someone that didn’t vote for Ed, I think he’s doing a splendid job, I think he’s put his finger on the pulse on many of the things that concern most of us in Britain today, the cost of our energy, electricity, gas, err rail fares, errm and all that type of thing.

ROGER PHILLIPS
but he’s not getting the ratings

COUNCILLOR WALTER SMITH
and he’s certainly doing a great job.

ROGER PHILLIPS
but he’s not getting the ratings Walter whatever you say, people you know give Cameron better ratings.

COUNCILLOR WALTER SMITH
Well Roger whenever was errm the Leader of the Opposition ever getting the rating? I remember Jim Callaghan was streets ahead of Mrs. Thatcher in 1979. Did we get elected?

ROGER PHILLIPS
Alright Walter, I need to leave it there but thank you very much.

COUNCILLOR WALTER SMITH
Well listen Roger, you are the media, you know, I know you’re well read, you keep up to date with everything and I tell you I, it’s interesting the Leader of the Opposition never err

ROGER PHILLIPS
gets the ratings

COUNCILLOR WALTER SMITH
gets the sort of vote that you think

ROGER PHILLIPS
Alright,

COUNCILLOR WALTER SMITH
that he should.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Alright, thanks a lot for that. Cheers Walter.

COUNCILLOR WALTER SMITH
Nice to speak to you anyway, all the best Roger. Good bye.

ROGER PHILLIPS
Well that was Councillor Walter Smith.

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Responses

  1. Is Roger Philips still a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Merseyside, rubbing shoulders with Wirral former CEO Steve Maddox and receiving the lavish hospitality, paid for with public money, that’s attached to that ceremonial position?

    • He’s on this online list of Deputy Lieutenants, although I’m not sure whether it’s a life time appointment or you’re only Deputy Lieutenant for a fixed period.

      • Whatever the situation, on the same radio programme (which “belongs to us the people” apparently), he allowed Graham Burgess to repackage years of calculated council abuse of disabled people as “Mistakes” – which would make him a lifetime bystander – not a fixed period one – in my book.

        https://soundcloud.com/paul-cardin/burgess-mistakes-s-s-s

        • Well Graham Burgess wasn’t there during the period in question (unless you count being Chief Executive Peer on the Improvement Board and even then that was after the period in question). So as he wasn’t there and was busy being a Chief Executive of a council a long way away, he’d just have what he’s told about all that to go on.

          To be honest with you, people just repeating what they are told, seems to be one of the things that was the cause of things going wrong in the first place.

  2. […] Since then, a number of people have made various Freedom of Information requests as there was scepticism from some people that the stated reasons given by Wirral Council’s press office applied to everyone that Wirral Council invited. In case you missed it here’s a transcript of what was said back then and Cllr Walter “I must say I enjoyed lav…. […]


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