Posted by: John Brace | 27th September 2019

What did 21 invoices show Wirral Council spent money on?

What did 21 invoices show Wirral Council spent money on?

Cllr Jeff Green (right) is the current Chair of Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee

Cllr Jeff Green (right) is the current Chair of Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee

A few months ago I exercised a right under section 26 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 for invoices, credit card statements or requests for payment connected to various payments Wirral Council made during the 2018-19 financial year. Wirral Council is currently predicting it will overspend its agreed budget in 2019-20.

Due to the volume of information I don’t have time to write about what each one is for so will link to the first 21 invoices I’ve been sent below with a brief description for each one. The only allowable reasons for redaction are personal information (except for the names of sole traders) or commercial confidentiality (if there’s no overriding public interest in favour of disclosure).

1 – an invoice from Venn Group Ltd for £1,632.20 for agency staff (unfortunately heavily redacted).

2 – an invoice from OFSTED for £2,925 which is an annual fee to do with the Council’s role as a fostering agency.

3 – this is a request for payment from Wirral Evolutions (one of Wirral Council’s trading companies) and is for the settlement of an equipment claim following the theft of £5,067.49 of equipment from Royden Park.

4 – this is an invoice from Penna PLC for £32,100 for advertising a job in the Municipal Journal (£11,250 + VAT), Guardian Jobs Online (£6,000 + VAT), www.pfjobs.co.uk (£2,000 + VAT), Google website (£2,500 + VAT) and publication in “Penna Programmatic 1” (£5,000 + VAT). The job description is EVP project but I’ve no idea what EVP stands for!

5 – this is another invoice from Penna PLC, this time for £22,494 again for the EVP project and is for “client manager, creating new concepts and development, video shoot, photoshoot and a microsite”.

6 – another invoice from Penna for £15,307.20 for media advertisements (in the Municipal Journal, Guardian J-Pack and Linkedin) for the post of Head of Digital at the Assistant Director level as well as for some of Penna’s time in copywriting, typesetting and producing a MPU (whatever a MPU is).

7 – this invoice from Penna for £12,528 is for recruitment to the post of Corporate Director for Economic and Housing Growth and is for adverts in the Municipal Journal, Guardian J-Pack and Sunday Times Appointment Online.

8 – this is from JGP Resourcing Ltd and is for “ATS Contracts (Microsite Build Licence, set up, front end and licence, as well as attraction and podcasts) which cost £48,600.

9 – this is again from JGP Resourcing Ltd listing the same items outlined above for number 8 but for £24,600.

10 – this is also from JGP Resourcing Ltd for £24,000 for “Campaigns”

11 – this is from Forge House Associates Ltd for £15,964 which states it was for “specifically supporting the legal negotiations and production of the Partnership Business Plan and Birkenhead Commercial District Business Case” to do with the Wirral Growth Company – as a comment on this though Bevan Brittan were providing legal advice about the Wirral Growth Company to Wirral Council (original budget £230,000 but overspent to £540,000) and GVA were providing commercial advice to Wirral Council about the Wirral Growth Company (original budget £340,000 overspent to £430,000).

12 – another invoice from Forge House Associates Ltd for £15,964 which is for the same type of work as invoice 11 but for a different time period.

14 – this is from the Wirral Chamber of Commerce for £3,000 for “Love Wirral Sponsorship of Birkenhead First Street Banners”.

15 – for £2,500 from the Williamson and Priory Friends for work on the Williamson Art Gallery and Birkenhead Priory websites.

17 – for £70,000 (+VAT) which is a “second tranche payment” to Tour of Britain Limited to do with a Venue agreement for the Tour of Britain. The Tour of Britain is a cycling race that recently took place.

18 – for £2,235.32 (+VAT) from Reach Publishing Services Limited for a public notice in print and online in the Liverpool Echo about selective licensing.

19 – another invoice from Reach Publishing Services Limited for a public notice about selective licensing in the Liverpool Echo costing £2,235.32 (+VAT).

20 – a third invoice from Reach Publishing Services Limited for a public notice in the print and online versions of the Liverpool Echo costing £2,235.32 (+VAT).

21 – another invoice from Reach Publishing Services Limited for public notices in the Liverpool Echo print and online editions costing £2,235.32 (+VAT).

22 – the final invoice from Reach Publishing Services Limited for public notices for selective licensing in the Liverpool Echo print and online editions again for £2,235.32 (+VAT).

23 – this is an invoice from Merseyside Police for £1,025 for “Engage Scheme ADI Membership and training”.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.


Responses

  1. A lot of money, and a lot of waste? Penna PLC seems to be a good firm to work for, the money they are making?

    • Well the nearest Penna office is in Birmingham.

      So any trip by Penna staff to Wallasey Town Hall is a four and half hour round trip – call it five and half hours if breaks are taken into account.

      Then add on the introductions at Wallasey Town Hall, thank yous for them travelling so far, time to plug their mobile phone in to charge and you’ll get about two hours “work” for an eight hour shift.

      Out of that two hour meeting – they may get to speak for a very short time (most of it will be listening as Council employees explain to councillors how you recruit a member of staff etc, how you exclude the press and the public etc).

      Yes, there is a contract between Wirral Council and Penna PLC. All the senior management recruitment seems to go through them.

  2. I suppose it would be a waste of time asking WBC what they deem as their ‘return on investment’ for the amounts spent with Penna PLC.

    Penna made not far under a £4.5m profit at the end of their last tax year. Their clients either must have money to burn or maybe Penna really are the best in the business at whatever is they do?

    It is a shame there is not a local service who can do what Penna do for less money (our Council Tax I assume).

    Penna even have their own ‘Penna Fest’ for their employees, as seen on the video on their website.

    They also keep afloat the b******t business jargon with what I can only assume is their ‘mission statement’ on executive recruitment:

    “Leaders in finding Leaders

    Fresh thinking, collaborative and passionate about people. These are the qualities behind the professionalism and expertise of Penna’s Executive Search Practices. Our consultants see things differently. Born out of a global human resources solutions business, we bring a broader perspective. and look to support clients shape their thinking on the talent they need to transform organisational performance and governance, deliver growth or improve profitability. So, when we work with organisations as a recruitment partner, we are clear on the leadership qualities needed to deliver success. And with Penna, our clients and candidates can access a broad range of services to support them in their journey with high quality interim capability, cutting edge assessment solutions and career guidance to designing employer value propositions through our award winning creative teams.”

    It seems the more vacuous jargon written, the higher the invoice, which we the Council Tax payers, are helping to pay.

    • Oh I agree there are probably recruitment consultants more locally (whether they actual did put in a bid for Wirral Council contracts would be an interesting question) and indeed there has been a move by Wirral Council under the phrase “community wealth building” which has led to talk by senior councillors and senior politicians about Wirral Council spending money locally so it stays within the local economy and supports local jobs.

      I’ve no idea whether Penna are the best at what they do (I don’t work in that area) – but having reported on Wirral Council over the past decade and seen Penna’s involvement in the recruitment of many senior managers (from Chief Executive downwards) – all behind closed doors although all 66 councillors then have to rubber stamp certain appointments with a vote – pick one or more of the following:-

      a) because of Wirral Council’s reputation following what happened in the past people who’d be excellent at the job aren’t applying because the working culture at Wirral Council attracted a bad reputation,

      b) all this talk about salaries that look like phone figures to attract the “right people” and how there’s a very limited group of people to choose from who are very in demand (bearing in mind the whole population of the EU – 513.5 million had during that decade a right to work at Wirral Council) – makes me wonder if what Penna charge is linked to the salary of the post – therefore they would say that wouldn’t they,

      c) councillors may have an unconscious bias/biases* towards certain types of people – as they are selection panel,

      *I’m not stating this as a fact – I’m sure they try to be fair – just it’s very hard to stop an unconscious bias.

      d) at the senior management level my view is that these interviews should happen in public and being filmed (not a view held by Wirral Council councillors in the past who vote to have the public meeting go to private).

      I would say however if I ever retired I think there might be difficulty in finding a person to do this job as it’s not just a case of doing the job it’s a case of finding somebody that wants to do this job and has the personality to be able to carry on while still being polite and tactful as possible – although I do lose my temper from time to time.

      But just to give an example the only person I know of in recent times (and appeared on the statistics) in senior management at Wirral Council from an ethnic minority background was Surjit Tour – he resigned (and yes I personally witnessed some of the abuse he got). Bearing in mind a sizeable chunk of the population on Wirral is from an ethnic minority – it doesn’t help. Wirral Council’s workforce and its councillors should reflect the population it serves.

  3. To me, it looks like WBC got themselves caught up willingly inside the corporate style bubble of senior management culture, I dare say because their contemporaries in other Local Authorities were doing the same thing. For businesses like Penna PLC, it must be like penning sheep (no pun intended).

    When I worked in the private corporate sector at IT management level, I had to deal with snake-oil salesmen every single day trying to sell the company their new tech innovation on reinventing the wheel. I could read these guys like an open book because of my real-world experience at the coalface of IT support and problem solving. Thus, their flowery management-friendly selling techniques had zero affect on me. Phone calls were extremely short.

    So, my point would be, Local Authorities must be letting businesses like Penna PlC
    through their doors with very little resistance. Perhaps in their sector they are ‘approved suppliers’ of their service and competitively priced in the grand scheme of public sector recruitment. Perhaps this is what makes Local Authorities like WBC permanent cash-cows for their business model. As such, everybody must just accept it as ‘the done thing’ without asking questions. Perhaps your posting here may be a catalyst needed for further questions.


Categories