Consultants, golf, politicians and Wirral Council: What could possibly go wrong?

Consultants, golf, politicians and Wirral Council: What could possibly go wrong?

Consultants, golf, politicians and Wirral Council: What could possibly go wrong?


Last Friday Wirral Council published a General Exception Notice about reporting to Cabinet the results of a soft market test exercise about Wirral’s golf courses. Interestingly it says the reason for the exception notice is that there is no Cabinet meeting in August (something that is hardly unsurprising as the draft calendar of meetings for this municipal year was agreed last December). The other reason given in the notice is that the earlier a decision happens, the greater the potential savings.

The Cabinet meets on the 7th July and Claire Fish’s report at the agenda item Soft Market Testing Exercise – Golf Courses and it can be read on Wirral Council’s website. It’s not what’s in the report itself, but what’s not in the report that is surprising.

As you can read in this tender notice published back in March, Wirral Council & Chester West and Chester Council jointly issued a “prior information notice” in the supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union. This referred to a prospectus and questionnaire (which were given to those responding to the notice) to decide whether there would be interest from golf operators in running eight golf courses (seven of which are in Wirral). Wirral Council was down as the contracting authority for this exercise, however the telephone number and email contact details given are that of a business consultancy called V4 Services Limited based in Stafford.

Wirral Council’s list of invoices over £500 paid for the month of April, which you can find on this page shows a payment made to V4 Services Limited for £18,757.68 from the technical services department with the description being “consultants”. This amount of £18,757.68 isn’t mentioned in the report, nor is any reference made to V4 Services Limited. As a slight aside I suppose no-one except me has yet spotted that the link to the pdf file for the May payments on that page, is in fact an identical file to the pdf for April payments?

There is a curious grammatical error made five times in the report that you wouldn’t expect the author of the report (Claire Fish (Strategic Director – Families and Wellbeing) on a salary of £121,807) to make. Here are the examples if it from the report (highlighted in bold):

  • 1.3 “Other Council’s have found that similar arrangements can eliminate subsidy entirely”
  • 3.2 “The terms of any agreement or leasehold interest would be determined if the Council’s proceed, and with dialogue the Council’s will seek to secure best consideration.”
  • 3.3 “Both Council’s made it very clear in the documentation released they are open to exploring innovative ways of structuring any prospective arrangement that delivers best consideration and secures arrangements that deliver mutual benefits. At present Wirral Council maintains its own courses, and carries out the green-keeping.”
  • 3.4 “Seven (7) suppliers completed and returned the market questionnaire with varying levels of interest across both Council’s, between full 18 hole golf courses and smaller, pitch and putt courses.”

There’s also a bit of the report that makes no sense at all, under the “legal implications” section is the rather cryptic “This report is based on the structure of delegation”. In my opinion vast sections of the report sound not like they’ve been written by Claire Fish at all, but by consultants. If V4 Services Ltd have been paid £18,757.68 for the soft market testing exercise (that could’ve been done by Wirral Council using in-house resources) they have a vested financial interest in persuading Cabinet to agree to proceed to the next stage of a full procurement exercise (that V4 Services will probably argue they are in a better position to run than anyone else as they ran the soft market testing exercise). So what do you think?

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