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Posted by: John Brace | 29th November 2015

Why did Wirral Council pay £700.43 for a private company to check when a fire alarm went off at Irby Library?

Why did Wirral Council pay £700.43 for a private company to check when a fire alarm went off at Irby Library?

                                                        

Wirral Council invoice Dante Irby Library £700.43 thumbnail

Wirral Council invoice Dante Irby Library £700.43 thumbnail

Wirral Council invoice Dante Wallasey Town Hall £671.33 thumbnail

Wirral Council invoice Dante Wallasey Town Hall £671.33 thumbnail

Above are a couple of invoices from Dante Group to Wirral Council. Of course on the Dante theme, Wirral Council has its own version of the nine circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno.

Limbo is the circle that whistleblowers are sent to, lust has already been covered by the more tabloid leaning Wirral Leaks, gluttony (some politicians have fallen into this trap and it’s a shame unlike the House of Commons they don’t have to get up and stretch their legs when voting), greed is too massive a topic to go into in detail, anger (again too many examples of politicians losing their temper), heresy seems to be the circle of hell politicians fall into when somebody disagrees with them, thankfully Wirral Council is not in control of the Armed Forces so violence is rare, but allegations of fraud (which whistleblowers repeat until they’re blue in the face) still ring in the ears of those who have given up listening and of course the ninth circle of hell is one that’s wrapped up in the tapestry of Wirral’s politics treachery.

However back to the invoices (the thumbnails above link to more readable versions), the first is for one of the two most sensitive issues in Wirral’s politics that begin with l which is libraries (the other being Lyndale).

I explained to a colleague (not hard to work out who) that this invoice was for being called out to Irby Library because a fire alarm was beeping and asked her to guess how much is was for. As readers of this blog may already know Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service since 2012 don’t attend non domestic premises when an Automatic Fire Alarm goes off.

So on the 28th July 2014, Wirral Council asked Dante Group to attend Irby Library. According to something scribbled on the invoice it states "mess left (something undecipherable) by library staff Sat 26".

The public are being told that public sector bodies have no choice but to outsource to the private sector because it’s cheaper. Wirral has what used to be called the Community Patrol (before enforcement of littering got outsourced to Kingdom Security earlier this year and I think what’s left is now called the Corporate and Community Safety Team). Part of the role of the Community Patrol was to keep an eye on Wirral Council’s buildings and land.

If it was still dealt with in-house and if the Community Patrol took the long way round to Irby library, spent the whole day there and sent a team of three to investigate (along with meal expenses) I’m sure the costs wouldn’t never be as high as £700.43.

However that’s what Dante charged Wirral Council for the call out.

The other invoice for £671.33 is for fitting 1 x 8W emergency lighting tube and 4 emergency light fittings at Wallasey Town Hall and 4 12 volt batteries. Surprisingly (despite the parts) the invoice comes to £671.33 (less than the call out to Irby Library).

So if Wirral Council are paying out £700.43 each time the fire alarm goes off in a library, can they really honestly say the reason they have reduced library hours (which no doubt has led to more expensive invoices as it’s increased the hours each week libraries are closed) is because of lack of money?

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Responses

  1. I used to work in street lighting design (admittedly outdoor stuff) but I know and recognise the above to be a clear example of an out-and-out rip-off.

    But once you’ve gotten rid of internal staff with all their burdensome salaries, union rights and associated overheads, these private contractors are simply part of that imperfect equation:

    o a greedy, dishonest outlook; plus…
    o no requirement whatsoever to work “in the public interest”; plus…
    o serving a public body populated by people under constant threat, but “only doing their job”; equals…
    o …a license to print money

    • I do also have the BAM Nutall contract (if I was line managing someone on work experience for a week might be able to get it all scanned it).

      Part of it is scanned in and I know when I do publish it you’ll be interested in the street lighting bit.

      Although you can blame the private sector, Wirral Council has a role in contract management though.

      Truth is AFAIK they don’t show the contracts to councillors, withhold them from the public at audit (highly irregular/a breach of regulations) which allows officers to make it up as they go along without any checks and balances doesn’t it?

      In answer to any difficult question it means an officer can just say “it’s in the contract” or “I can’t tell you that as it’s commercially sensitive”.

      Indeed the major multi-million pound contracts are the key to finding out a lot about what is going on behind the scenes….

      Pretty much all the contracts I’ve read have parts on dealing with FOI requests and whistleblowing.

      Say for example the contract for taking special educational needs children to school. OK, Wirral Council withheld some of the route info (fair enough), but say a parent wanted to blow the whistle on something going on that shouldn’t be?

      Who’s suggested in the contract, Ian Coleman? I mean really!!!

  2. The irony of this all is, is that a Labour Council often argues for services to be done in-house on trade union grounds.

    Labour have an anti-capitalist streak running through their party. Yet bit by bit workers at Labour run councils are being transferred to the private sector and the mainstream media isn’t really reporting on it.

    OK, this probably sounds a tad hypocritical as I work in the private sector and yes I’ve made fun of the way the public sector does things. But eventually something’s going to go wrong (like it did over the rising costs of the Schools PFI contract) and Wirral Council will have another PR disaster like Lyndale School on its hands…

  3. The Community Patrol Officers are still there but have been drastically cut in the past 3-4 years, I worked as an officer for eight years before moving into the emergency control room or cctv control room as Wirral council named it when they duly closed it last year.
    The irony being the control room is still open as 24 hour operations have to be carried out alarm monitoring is one of those tasks.
    After 11 staff were made redundant somebody with half a brain realised they had cocked up and they couldn’t close the CCTV control room as the council had nothing in place to take on the duties carried out.
    All these points were pointed out to senior officers before we were duly despatched quickly out the door.
    The outcome being they now have a crazy situation of x5 community patrol staff in the control room and not carrying out the role they are paid to carry out leaving the service even more lightweight.
    Nobody has been accountable for these unbelievable decisions and the decimation of a community safety service.

    • Well that’s what I don’t understand, the "building maintenance" side of the Dante invoices I understand as needed.

      However if alarm monitoring is already done by Wirral Council, is the new procedure that they ring up Dante and get them to deal with it (or just in cases when say Wirral Council is too short staffed?).

      Sadly I don’t have a copy of whatever contract exists between Wirral Council and Dante.

      I agree the situation you describe was mismanaged as councillors were basically conned by senior managers that the control room would be transferred to the police. Then it wasn’t and that situation was mismanaged.

      As to accountability, the way it works at Wirral Council is the senior managers at Chief Officer grade are politically accountable for everything that happens in their service. That’s why they are so highly paid.

      These individuals are accountable to the politicians (councillors) and ultimately there will be a Cabinet Member with this responsibility.

      Both councillors and officers are accountable to the public. Although individual members of the public can be ignored and they probably pay a bit more attention to either groups of the public and/or the media.

  4. They pay out these huge one sided fiscally mad beneficial payments because they can. They can because they created the game and it’s called ‘We Can’ and it’s all above board, it’s all entirely legal and until the day when some fool invents a machine that’ll be capable of looking into the minds and the souls of the Council suits who agree these arrangements, to establish whether or not there were any intentions to misappropriate funds whilst negotiating and agreeing upon this extremely harmful misuse of public funding, we’re all going to have to sit back, suck it in and accept that they can do whatever they like during the procuring and outsourcing process.
    Whether it’s answering an alarm, fitting a new light bulb or installing a phone you can be sure that the Council will have outsourced it to a friend or grateful ally who’ll repay the kindness at some stage by rewarding the ‘suit’ employed by the Council to get rid of the responsibility and pay whatever it takes so that they can add them to their ever growing list of bloody Partners!
    How I hate that bastard word. Partners! The bastards! All these bloody public services have bloody rotten Partners. Whether it’s the Council, the Old Bill, the Fire Fighters or any other agent, they’ve all acquired a list of bloody Partners who are all, as we bloody speak, sucking upon our teat as we lactate our money every single hour of every rotten day.
    Well both my teats are sore and sucked rotten and I’ll be damned if they feast upon me any longer. I ain’t paying me Council Tax. Not one more penny piece leaves my pocket until the Council start cutting the ties with some of these Partners and they start to take a little personal responsibility and doing bloody something when they tip up to work at the Town Hall.
    Yes, that right. I hate the word Partner just as much as I hate Vision, Journey, my wife, Transformation, Passion, Noel Edmunds and his huge head, and bloody rotten Outcomes.

    • Oh and where do a lot of local government employees go when they leave for a more lucrative career in the private sector? Why the companies that their former employer has a contract with!

      It’s a merry-go-round of people.

      I remember filming a planning appeal where on one side you had Wirral Council planning officers. On the other side a former Wirral Council planning officer.

      Boy was there bad blood between these two, with snide remarks such as “Well, X should know that as he used to work here”. etc…. if it wasn’t for the planning inspector adjudicating I think they’d have started shouting at each other or storming out of the room!

  5. And before his fans come crawling out of the woodwork celebrating their love and delight at Noel’s House Party, Deal or No Deal and Swap Shop and objecting to my dislike of Noel’s head, let me make it perfectly clear it’s just his head I don’t like.
    Everything thats attached to his head from the neck down is just fine as far as I’m concerned. I’m a reasonable man!
    I’ve nothing against the lower parts of his body. In fact, even back when Swap bloody Shop was first aired on terrestrial television I made a point of saying, ‘I like his legs, his trunk and his arms. They’ve lovely. It’s his bloody head I don’t like!’

    • Sorry I’m too young to remember Swap Shop.

      I do remember Noel’s House Party though.

      Personally I don’t understand Deal or No Deal but I know a lot of people like it.

      Sadly my viewing figures for public meetings will never be as high as these programs!


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