Monkey Island has one secret but how many has Wirral Council?

Monkey Island has one secret but how many has Wirral Council?

Monkey Island has one secret but how many has Wirral Council?


Monkey Island was a video game from my childhood which perhaps I played too much.

Monkey Island has but one secret but how many has Wirral Council?
Monkey Island has but one secret but how many has Wirral Council?

However, this Employment Tribunal over the last fortnight followed the misadventures of Alison Mountney as she struggled to defeat the plans of Graham Burgess and his motley crew and win the heart of Simon Mountney. This involved the mysterious Wirral Council and its impenetrable secrets!

Continue reading “Monkey Island has one secret but how many has Wirral Council?”

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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EXCLUSIVE: 1 letter, 4 emails and a note, Wirral Council’s incredible “behind the scenes” responses on Fernbank Farm

EXCLUSIVE: 1 letter, 4 emails and a note, Wirral Council’s incredible “behind the scenes” responses on Fernbank Farm

EXCLUSIVE: 1 letter, 4 emails and a note, Wirral Council’s incredible “behind the scenes” responses on Fernbank Farm

“If you make money your God, it will plague you like the devil.”

This is very long and detailed. Today may well be the last time I write about the ins and out of the Fernbank Farm saga (unless more documents surface or something dramatically changes), as I can’t see anything changing in the near future. I hope however that this gives an insight about what happened “behind the scenes” at Wirral Council, as if the tenants were kept in the dark by what seemed to them to be a conspiracy of silence, how can politicians hold officers to account on this topic without knowing the full details?

The first document I below is a letter dated 14th March 2014. The context to this letter is that after the fast track trial, the husband of one of the two defendants made a complaint to Wirral Council. This letter is the reply. I’ve not included the Wirral Council logo on the letter, Malcolm Flanagan’s signature or the that appears at the foot of each page.

The letter refers to the letter sent in July 2012 to the tenants with the eviction notice (and which forms part of the eviction notice) as the “wrong letter”.

(Wirral Council logo)

Transformation and Resources Department
Joe Blott,
Strategic Director

PO Box No 2,
Treasury Building
Cleveland Street
CH41 6BU

date 14 March 2014

to Mr M Woodley

your ref
my ref Farm3/MJF/DM
service Transformation and Resources – Business Processes
tel 0151 666 3260 Please ask for Malcolm Flanagan

Dear Mr Woodley,

Fernbank Farm complaint

I refer to your complaint of 18 February 2014, regarding the above matter as well as the pack of information including memory stick that you submitted to me on 24th February.

I have been asked to review your complaint under the authority’s complaints process. I have looked at the matters you raise in how the authority acted in these proceedings. I have reviewed your comments as well as the information available to me and spoken to the officers concerned and set out below my views of the complaint.

As far back as 2000 the land in question had been allocated as a potential housing development site/primary residential as identified within the Council’s Unitary Development Plan. The restriction of developing such green field land which had been in place for some time was abolished nationally in May 2012. This then opened up the possibility of the property to development and realising a very significant capital receipt once it had been agreed by the authority. This national change was put before Cabinet on 27 September 2012 and the development restraint was effectively withdrawn on 15 October 2012 at Council.

The authority’s budget process identifying the stark financial position of the authority came to the fore in the September period under the direction of the Interim Director of Finance. It was at this point that wholesale reviews of authority expenditure, income and assets were undertaken. At the Council meeting in October this detailed the severe financial challenge the authority and that it must take drastic action to balance its budget.

It is then as the scale of the budget issue crystallised this property’s standing as a sizeable and realisable asset increased significantly in importance. It is my view that it was this budget process that changed the authority’s position on this property and it was not its original position.

I am satisfied that, despite what the later actions or inactions may make this look like, in May 2012 there was I believe an intention on the part of the authority to negotiate a new lease with the current tenants. I believe this is shown from the early contacts between the tenants and the authority.

I do not believe the authority intentionally used the wrong letter in July 2012. It is clear though that by some time no later than November 2012 the authority had chosen not to respond to enquiries in recognition of how the authority preferred to see the situation develop. I accept the tenants did write and phone but the authority did not respond and I do not think the authority denies this. At the hearing the authority’s officers said this is what they did and why they did it. The Judge at the hearing described this as “staying silent” and it is seemingly something a landlord can legally chose to do, as the tenant still has an available remedy to apply to the court to protect their own position.

I can though understand your concern on this stance and that the tenants were given no clear signal that this was the authority’s developing position. Again I appreciate your view on this non engagement and how you judge whether this is an appropriate way of transacting business as a public body.

In your complaint you asked who authorised the change in position in effect to “stay silent” and were they entitled to do that. My understanding is that officers in Asset Management have within their job description to act in a commercial manner and to effect the best position for the Council. In my interview with David Armstrong he made it clear that while the decision had predated him given the scale of the budget issue he could foresee no other alternative that he could have taken if it had been his service area at the time.

You have also commented that Mr Armstrong was unaware of the legal action. I have spoken with him and having looked at the timing of contacts no other action than the letter of August 13 was being referred to by you. He is clear that when speaking to you he thought from the information you gave that something else had been done without him being aware. This was not the case and it was the August 2013 being referred to.

Reviewing all these matter, I believe that it was a proper and legal position that the authority was entitled to take in recognition of its budget situation. In its formal role as Landlord, it acted within its rights, in a way to best manage its interest which was to re-acquire the property and realise the best possible receipt for use as capital in the future.

I fully realise you will view that differently. The stance taken by the authority was a formal and legal position but I realise how that translates in human terms on the impact it has on the longstanding tenants and the associations members.

Regrettably whilst appreciating your concerns on the authority’s manner of getting to the position it favoured, I cannot uphold your complaint that it was wrong of the authority to do this. I accept that the “non action” did not alert the tenants to the change in the Landlords intention as it was not something they anticipated from the authority.

Whilst I cannot uphold your complaint for the above reasons, I do appreciate the strength of feeling it has caused in so many people affected by this.

At the recent hearing the Judge gave the authority the right to take back the property I believe, in six months from the date of the decision. I am aware that Mr. Armstrong, Assistant Chief Executive, at the hearing indicated the offer of occupancy by the group for a longer period of 12 months. I believe this shows as the senior officer Mr Armstrong is keen to try to offer support for the club and not just act as quickly as the law allowed.

I have spoken to Mr. Armstrong and he is keen to mitigate the loss of the land to the group. He has also indicated to me his intention is to have the officer’s look at alternative sites for the group and to hopefully agree a suitable way forward over the next few weeks. I have had no reason to doubt the authority’s intention to support this process, while realising a very considerable asset, to help as much as reasonably possible those affected by its decision.

I do realise you will be disappointed by the outcome of my review in not supporting your complaint. However I remain clear that whilst all was done by the authority in a legal manner I appreciate how the change to a more commercial operation in handling this situation has been seen by those affected.

I have to advise you that my review is undertaken at Stage 1 of the authority’s complaints process. If you are dissatisfied with my review you do have the right to request a further review, which can be requested by writing back to me and it would be reviewed by another officer.

Yours sincerely,

(Malcolm Flanagan’s signature)
Malcolm Flanagan
Head of Business Processes

Below are some emails and a note that show what was happening “behind the scenes” at Wirral Council.
From: Dickenson, David
Sent: 23 January 2013 10:54
To: Voas, Sandy
Subject: Upton Pony Owners Lease, Sandbrook Lane, Moreton

Hi Sandy

As discussed Upton Pony Owners lease land at Sandbrook Lane Moreton and the section 25 notice has been served to terminate the lease on 31st May 2013. The trustees are Mrs Kane and Mrs Woodley. Please can no further invoices be raised or any rent accepted after 31st May 2013. The tenants are not aware yet but the Council may be looking at the future of this land.



David Dickenson MRICS
Asset Management Surveyor
Asset Management Section
Wirral Council
Cheshire Lines Building
Canning Street
From: Coathup, Cheryl
Sent: 20 May 2013 12:07
To: Dickenson, David
Subject: Telephone Message – Mrs Kane
Follow Up Flag: Follow up
Flag Status: Red

Can you please phone Mrs Kane – 678 XXXX, she is awaiting a response from a letter she sent in 3 weeks ago.

Cheryl Coathup

(Technical Assistant)
Department of Law, HR and Asset Management
Asset Management Section
Tel: 0151 666 3878
Fax: 0151 606 2090

From: Jones, Debbie A.
Sent: 20 May 2013 15:48
To: Dickenson, David
Cc: Voas, Sandy
Subject: RE: Upton Pony Owners Lease, Sandbrook Lane, Moreton

Hi Dave

Sorry we don’t have the facility to stop payments coming in at all. All we can do is refund straight away if we receive a payment in.
From: Dickenson, David
Sent: 20 May 2013 15:38
To: Jones, Debbie A.
Cc: Voas, Sandy
Subject: FW: Upton Pony Owners Lease, Sandbrook Lane, Moreton

Hi Debbie

After 31st May although no new invoices will be sent out, can the account be changed so no rent can be paid onto old invoices as this would also be classed as them paying the rent by a court.



From: Jones, Debbie A.
Sent: 13 August 2013 14:23
To: Dickenson, David; Simpson, Tony
Cc: Voas, Sandy; Chan, Kit C.; Bayatti, Ali N.
Subject: Upton Pony Owners Association

Hi Dave

I refer to another £350.00 standing order payment received against the above mentioned customer 4206583 dated 1st August 2013. Even after the customer number had been made inactive on the AR system, it appears any money being received quoting a valid customer will still appear on their account.

I have again refunded the money back to the Associations bank account but this time have asked for another customer number to be set up with the clients address details and merged the old customer number 4206583 with the new one, therefore making 4206583 invalid so hopefully as the Association quote their customer number when paying by BACS/Standing Order the AR system will now not recognise it as a valid number and place it in our unidentified payments were we will be able to refund straight away without the money hitting their account.

Can you please confirm and send me a copy of the letter that you have sent to the above requesting that they now cancel the standing order payment.


(Debbie Jones signature)
(Wirral Council logo) WIRRAL BOROUGH COUNCIL
Accounts Receivables
Debbie Jones
Accounts Receivable Income Officer
Revenues Services/ Business Processes

20th May 2013

After 31st May 2013 Pony owners will have lost the right to renew if they do not apply to court but Sundry debtors must not charge or accept any rent.
Spoke to Tony after getting first message and again, ignore phone call as any commercial firm would do.

Tony has spoken to David Armstrong about situation.

Spoke to Peter Rowlands after 31st May need to apply to court to get them off, after 6 months get protection again. Peter will need to check with Anne Quirk. V important that Council accepts no rent.

Emailed and spoke to Debbie Finance cannot stop any rent payments being received either by tenant using customer number old invoice number of name. Debbie checked with IT.
* Peter Rowlands is Wirral Council’s officer contact for property that they are auctioning off through Pugh Auctions. Therefore it is clear that Wirral Council’s intention was to get a possession order for Fernbank Farm, evict the tenants and sell the property off to the highest bidder. Obviously before then a Cabinet Member would have to decide to declare it “surplus to requirements” which is something that can’t be decided while the tenants are still there.

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Standards Committee 29/9/2011 Part 12

Cllr Pat Williams asked about the two instances of 125 days and 95 days were there any more?

Malcolm Flanagan said he didn’t have the details. He pointed out that how long complaints took was measured differently internally to how the Local Government Ombudsman measured them.

Cllr Pat Williams said the spokespersons should be made aware and it was important to aid understanding.

Cllr Les Rowlands said it was an excellent report and improvement. He was worried about two areas, Children and Young People and the Department of Adult Social Services. Historically they had taken a long, long time and they should work over why when they receive complaints why this should be? In return it gave them an opportunity to improve.

Malcolm Flanagan said he thought that would fall to the individual scrutiny committees.

Cllr Les Rowlands said it should be recommended to the scrutiny committees.

Cllr Dave Mitchell said he gave his congratulations to staff. On the two points about length of time, one of these complaints had been back and forth five times. He said the chronology would be easier to understand for an Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He asked why they take so long? He said it was an excellent report and that he recognised the improvements made.

The Chair, Brian Cummings pointed to the recommendation for noting.
Cllr Dave Mitchell congratulated the staff.
The Chair, Brian Cummings agreed.