Wirral’s councillors asked to agree to £390,176.03 “golden goodbye” for Joe Blott and £1 million for other departing managers

Wirral’s councillors asked to agree to £390,176.03 “golden goodbye” for Joe Blott and £1 million for other departing managers

Wirral’s councillors asked to agree to £390,176.03 “golden goodbye” for Joe Blott and £1 million for other departing managers

                                 

Wirral Council Cabinet meeting at Birkenhead Town Hall Thursday 12th March 2015 Left to right Surjit Tour, Cllr Phil Davies and Joe Blott
Wirral Council Cabinet meeting at Birkenhead Town Hall Thursday 12th March 2015 Left to right Surjit Tour (former Monitoring Officer), Cllr Phil Davies and Joe Blott (former Strategic Director)

Wirral Council had another public meeting in private (an assumption on my part as I wasn’t there) on Monday afternoon to obtain councillors’ agreement to a recommendation to save money by spending an estimated £1.4 million and increasing the salary of the Monitoring Officer to try and solve recruitment issues to this post.
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Why did Wirral Council’s planning department send out a decision letter about 3 marquees at Thornton Manor with no planning conditions?

Why did Wirral Council’s planning department send out a decision letter about 3 marquees at Thornton Manor with no planning conditions?

Why did Wirral Council’s planning department send out a decision letter about 3 marquees at Thornton Manor with no planning conditions?

Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group) speaking at the Extraordinary meeting of Wirral Council to discuss Girtrell Court 4th April 2016
Cllr Phil Gilchrist (front) who chaired the Planning Committee meeting in 2010 that approved the application (photo is from 4th April 2016)

Published to very little fanfare yesterday, was a supplementary agenda containing a 12 page report to Wirral Council’s Planning Committee that meets on the 20th July 2017 starting at 6.00 pm in the Civic Hall at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED.

It’s about the ongoing saga that are the marquees at Thornton Manor. In April 2010 Wirral Council received a planning application for the erection of three marquees within the Thornton Manor estate (referred to as The Dell, The Walled Garden and The Lake). These locations are in the greenbelt.

A Planning Committee held on the 21st July 2010 agreed to a site visit that was then held. There were petitions both against and in favour of the planning application being approved.

On the 7th September 2010, the Planning Committee met and approved it (on a 7:5 vote) subject to 10 planning conditions, a section 106 agreement and a referral to the Government Office of the North West.

The planning conditions ranged from no fireworks between January and July, the permission being only for five years from the date of the decision notice, the erection of a noise barrier and seven other conditions (that are detailed in the report).

Wirral Council then negotiated a section 106 agreement with the applicant and in May 2011 a draft decision notice (detailing all the conditions) was included with the draft section 106 agreement for signing by the applicant. This was published on Wirral Council’s website.

A further draft decision notice (listing all the conditions) was sent out in September 2011.

The final section 106 agreement was signed and sealed on the 11th November 2011.

At this point, a letter should’ve been sent to the applicant stating that the application was approved and listing the conditions (but wasn’t).

A letter was sent on the 20th December 2011 to the applicant stating that the planning application was approved (but listing no conditions whatsoever)!

This letter went out in the name of Kevin Adderley* (who at the time was the senior manager in charge of that section of Wirral Council). Just because it went out in Kevin Adderley’s name doesn’t mean he’d have had sight of it, just that he was paid for political accountability to politicians for what happened.

*Early retirement for Kevin Adderley was agreed in 2015 by a majority vote of councillors at a cost of £296,229.

This decision notice letter was received by the applicant on the 21st December 2011.

Then Wirral Council sought legal advice and were told that the grant of permission was the letter (without conditions) sent on the 20th December 2011.

Wirral Council cannot enforce the original conditions (agreed by the Planning Committee) as they weren’t in the decision notice letter and only what was in the section 106 agreement.

Another update to the Planning Committee will be given in August 2017 about Wirral Council’s view on whether the section 106 agreement is being complied with.

In the report Wirral Council state, “It has been impossible to identify whether this incident was a system error, human error or a combination of both.

In other words the report author doesn’t really know why it happened! In future Wirral Council does promise that a senior manager or Team Leader will read all decision notices before they are posted to the applicant!

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What are the details of the recommendation to Wirral councillors about a senior management restructure at Wirral Council (1 redundancy, 5 promotions, 4 posts created and 4 vacant posts deleted)?

What are the details of the recommendation to Wirral councillors about a senior management restructure at Wirral Council (1 redundancy, 5 promotions, 4 posts created and 4 vacant posts deleted)?

What are the details of the recommendation to Wirral councillors about a senior management restructure at Wirral Council (1 redundancy, 5 promotions, 4 posts created and 4 vacant posts deleted)?

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016
Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016 (who is one of the employees recommended for an increase in pay)

Councillors on Wirral Council’s Employment and Appointments Committee will decide on changes to Wirral Council’s senior management next week on Monday 25th July 2016. If approved by councillors the restructure will take effect from November 2016.

This senior management restructure had been put on hold until Eric Robinson’s appointment by councillors as Chief Executive of Wirral Council in February 2015.

However these are the changes recommended to councillors and you can read the full details on Wirral Council’s website.

Redundancy (1)

There is a recommendation that one senior manager (the Head of Housing and Community Safety Ian Platt) be made redundant, offered early retirement and his post is deleted. However the recommendation from officers is that his name and the financial details of how much this will cost are kept out of the public domain before the public meeting and that councillors decide on whether to release the information about Ian Platt after the meeting has been held.

For comparison the early retirement of Kevin Adderley last year cost ~£49k in redundancy plus ~£207k in pension costs for early retirement but as Ian Platt is on a lower salary grade I estimate the costs to Wirral Council are roughly ~£30k in redundancy and ~£127k in pension costs total £157k.

Promotions (5)

The following senior managers are recommended to receive a promotion:

Tom Sault (who has been acting up to the s.151 officer role will be permanently appointed to it)

Surjit Tour (who has been Monitoring Officer since shortly after Bill Norman was suspended in 2012 will now receive extra pay for being Monitoring Officer too in addition to his other job)

Mark Smith (promoted from Head of Environment and Regulation to Strategic Commissioner for Environment)

Alan Evans (promoted from Investment and Business Manager to Strategic Commissioner for Growth)

Sue Talbot (promoted from Schools Commissioning Manager to Lead Commissioner for Schools)

Vacant posts deleted (4)

Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment (formerly Kevin Adderley)

Director of Resources (formerly Vivienne Quayle)

Head of Neighbourhoods and Engagement (formerly Emma Degg)

Head of Business Processes (formerly Malcolm Flanagan)

Posts deleted because postholder being promoted (3)

Investment and Business Manager (current postholder Alan Evans)
Schools Commissioner Manager (current postholder Sue Talbot)
Senior Manager (current postholder unknown)

Posts created (if approved by councillors) 4

Transformation Director (grade HS2 (£68,011 to £75,567))
Assistant Director: Commissioning Support (grade HS2 (£68,011 to £75,567))
Assistant Director: Community Services* (grade HS2 (£68,011 to £75,567))
Assistant Director: Adult and Disability Services* (grade HS2 (£68,011 to £75,567))

*Note new posts marked with * are recommended to be recruited internally from existing Wirral Council employees.

Penna will be advising Wirral Council’s Employment and Appointments Committee &Wirral Council officers on appointments to these four posts at a cost of £thousands per each post. If the creation of the new posts is agreed by councillors, councillors will also decide who the successful applicants are.

The councillors on Wirral Council’s Employment and Appointments Committee (although the councillors below can send a deputy in their place if they can’t make a particular meeting) are:

Cllr Adrian Jones (Chair) (Labour)
Cllr Phil Davies (Vice-Chair) (Labour)
Cllr George Davies (Labour)
Cllr Ann McLachlan (Labour)
Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour)
Cllr Jeff Green (Conservative)
Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative)
Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat)

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UPDATED: Wirral Council U-turns on secrecy of Chief Officer’s early retirement in only 26 hours!

UPDATED: Wirral Council U-turns on secrecy of Chief Officer’s early retirement in only 26 hours!

UPDATED: Wirral Council U-turns on secrecy of Chief Officer’s early retirement in only 26 hours!

                                                   

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Employment and Appointments Committee 22nd September 2015 L to R Surjit Tour (Legal), Cllr Adrian Jones (Chair) and Tony Williams (Human Resources)
Employment and Appointments Committee 21st September 2015 L to R Surjit Tour (Legal), Cllr Adrian Jones (Chair) and Tony Williams (Human Resources)

Correction/update An earlier version of this story linked the Employment and Appointments Committee decision to the departure of Malcolm Flanagan. The Employment and Appointments Committee decision was about the early retirement of another Chief Officer Strategic Director Kevin Adderley whose early retirement has been confirmed by Wirral Council.

Yesterday’s Employment and Appointments Committee meeting (see above) was another masterclass in how politicians will seemingly agree to anything that senior officers ask them to do (however nonsensical).

I asked to speak at the meeting to challenge excluding the press and public (a decision that affects me) for the early retirement item and as Mr. Tour stated during the meeting previously early retirements of chief officers (Jim Wilkie’s cost around £111k to Wirral Council) were considered in public. The request to speak was denied.

There is a slight irony to this as when Mayor Cllr Adrian Jones signed up to article 21. Article 21’s interpretation has meant that at other council’s public meetings the public get to speak … but not at Wirral Council when a decision is being made about them by the whole Committee.

I gave the Chair and Mr. Tour a bunch of public interest reasons (the high cost to Wirral Council of early retirement, the cost of recruiting to that post if it isn’t deleted, scrutiny of politicians etc) before the meeting. All ignored, the public were asked to leave and by around 7.30pm at a public meeting, after excluding the public at around 5.05pm, Wirral Council was announcing a name of a chief officer that was retiring (but not the one the Employment and Appointments Committee made an early retirement decision on). Malcolm Flanagan’s departure was announced but Kevin Adderley’s retirement was still a secret until the next day.

The Head of HR wasn’t present at the Employment and Appointments Committee meeting, she was also due to present a report on attendance management to the Transformation and Resources Committee later that evening, however she was absent from that meeting too (yes I do spot the irony in being absent from a meeting where you’re supposed to be presenting a report on why people are absent from work).

Councillor John Salter did ask the Wirral Council officer in her place at the later meeting about the “attendance management” of Emma Degg only to be told that Wirral Council don’t comment on individual cases.

This perhaps shows councillors that as far as officers are concerned they’re the ones running things and councillors can keep their nosy questions to themselves. If they do have the gall to ask them they will be brushed off. The official motto of Wirral Council is “By Faith and Foresight”.

Across the water Mayor Anderson referring to Liverpool City Council commented recently ‘for too long this Council was run like a toy town at Council and officers led the Council by the nose’.

At Wirral Council officers have been leading the Council since as long as anyone can remember (despite what the councillors may say to the contrary). Here are three examples (with the catchphrase of Churchill’s nodding dog).

Will councillors approve officer recommendations for parking charges for Fort Perch Rock car park?

Councillors: Oh yes.

Will councillors do a U-turn on parking charges for Fort Perch Rock car park?

Councillors: Oh yes.

Will councillors decide to close a much-loved special school called Lyndale?

Councillors: Oh yes.

Here are three examples when councillors or those tasked with corporate governance ask officers something.

Will you renegotiate the Schools PFI contract to save money and save having to make massive cuts to the education budget which will cut support for those with special education needs?

Officer: Oh… no.

Will you answer questions about why Emma Degg left?

Officer: Oh… no.

Will you stop using long Powerpoint presentations to deliberately take up so much public meeting time so that nobody on a scrutiny committee has time (or very little time) to ask you questions?

Officer: Oh… no.

So there you go, Wirral Council summarised concisely.

As it was pointed out to me recently by a councillor that I need to be more positive, I will end by wishing Malcolm Flanagan all the best for his retirement and point out that not all officers at Wirral Council are like those described above. Some are decent human beings that work hard in difficult jobs and don’t get nearly enough thanks from either the press, public or politicians.

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Labour councillors on Wirral Council’s Cabinet agree to consultation on master plan for Birkenhead

Labour councillors on Wirral Council’s Cabinet agree to consultation on master plan for Birkenhead

Labour councillors on Wirral Council’s Cabinet agree to consultation on master plan for Birkenhead

                                                       

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You can watch what happened at the Cabinet meeting on the 12th March 2015 above.

Wirral Council Cabinet meeting at Birkenhead Town Hall Thursday 12th March 2015 Left to right Surjit Tour, Cllr Phil Davies and Joe Blott
Wirral Council Cabinet meeting at Birkenhead Town Hall Thursday 12th March 2015 Left to right Surjit Tour, Cllr Phil Davies and Joe Blott

Wirral Council’s Cabinet met at a different venue to usual (Birkenhead Town Hall). At the start, Councillor Phil Davies wanted to show people the trophy that Wirral Council had received for being “Most Improved Council”. You can see a photo of when they received the award on the Local Government Chronicle website, but below is a photo of Cllr Phil Davies showing people the award at the Cabinet meeting.

Councillor Phil Davies shows off the Local Government Chronicle award Wirral Council received for being most improved council 12th March 2015
Councillor Phil Davies shows off the Local Government Chronicle award Wirral Council received for being most improved council 12th March 2015

Moving to what was on the agenda, Cabinet recommended the draft pay policy statement to the next Council meeting, the revenue financial monitoring report for month ten was hardly commented on, however various councillors commented on various capital projects.

Kevin Adderley talks to the Property Development Framework report at Cabinet on the 12th March 2015
Kevin Adderley talks to the Property Development Framework report at Cabinet on the 12th March 2015

Kevin Adderley talked to the Property Development Framework report after which the Cabinet agreed the recommendations in the report.

Kevin Adderley talking to the Enterprise Zone report at Cabinet on the 12th March 2015
Kevin Adderley talking to the Enterprise Zone report at Cabinet on the 12th March 2015

Mr Adderley then talked to the Enterprise Zone report and again Cabinet agreed the recommendations.

Cabinet agreed a slight increase in the amounts paid to residential and nursing homes and the arrangements for the delivery and commissioning of social care.

Cllr Tony Smith tells Cabinet what the outcome of the consultation on Pensby High School was 12th March 2015
Cllr Tony Smith tells Cabinet what the outcome of the consultation on Pensby High School was 12th March 2015

Councillor Tony Smith told Cabinet what the results were of the consultation to merge Pensby High School for Boys with Pensby High School for Girls. Cabinet agreed to move to the next stage of publishing notices.

The draft admission arrangements for primary schools and secondary schools were also agreed.

Cllr Pat Hackett talks at a Cabinet meeting about the master plan for Birkenhead Town Centre
Cllr Pat Hackett talks at a Cabinet meeting about the master plan for Birkenhead Town Centre

Councillor Pat Hackett spoke to the report recommending a consultation on the masterplan for Birkenhead Town Centre. He referred to an “improved market” and the stage one lockout agreement that the Council had entered into with Neptune Developments Limited. The detail of the proposals were covered in an earlier blog post. Cabinet agreed that Neptune Development Limited were to consult with the public (as well as staff who work at Europa Pools) on the masterplan.

Kevin Adderley pointed out that the Mars Pension Fund had recently advertised the Grange and Pyramids shopping centre in Birkenhead as being for sale. The recommendation to have a consultation was agreed by Cabinet.

A slight increase from April in fees charged to scrap metal dealers was agreed. Cllr George Davies spoke on the report reporting the consultation on licensing of private landlords in four areas on the Wirral. Cabinet agreed to refer the proposals to the Council meeting on the 16th March 2015.

The nominations from Cabinet for Civic Mayor and Deputy Mayor for 2015/16 were as follows:

Civic Mayor: Cllr Les Rowlands
Deputy Mayor: Cllr Pat Hackett

Cabinet then excluded the press and public from the rest of the meeting.

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