Letters confirm 'Wirralgate' recording exists, but smear conspiracy claims remain a mystery (From Wirral Globe)
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Letters confirm 'Wirralgate' recording exists, but smear conspiracy claims remain a mystery
The murky world of secret tape recordings, conspiracy and alleged smear campaigns continues to spark intrigue in Wirral Council.
It's a world perhaps more familiar to the likes of John le Carré's George Smiley and assorted spooks from spy fiction than the one normally inhabited by councillors and managers in the committee rooms of Wallasey Town Hall.
But now an exchange of letters between Wirral Council’s political leaders has confirmed the existence of a secret tape which recently has been at the centre of huge controversy.
Whispers concerning the covert recording – alleged to contain evidence of a conspiracy to smear Tory group leader Jeff Green - were given substance at a meeting of the full council in December.
Councillor Green used a Question Time session to ask town hall leader Cllr Phil Davies whether he was aware of the recording - now dubbed "Wirralgate" by council wags.
He said: “It is alleged that a senior member of his administration can be heard using language about a senior officer that is totally unacceptable - and encouraging former council employees to smear me to take the pressure off his own colleagues and gain political advantage.”
Councillor Davies responded at the time that he would seek legal advice, but refused to be drawn on what he described as “unsubstantiated rumours.”
As a result, Cllr Green wrote to him repeating his questions.
The letters, seen by the Globe, reveal the recording is no longer merely an “unsubstantiated rumour.”
In them, Cllr Davies tells the Tory chief: “I was played an excerpt of the recording to which you refer.”
However, the council leader says the smear conspiracy aspect remains a mystery.
“The individuals concerned who brought the excerpt of the recording to my attention did not raise any concerns about an alleged attempt to smear you.
"Nor did they mention you in relation to their concerns."
Councillor Davies evidently heard enough on the tape to worry him though, as he instigated an investigation into a prominent politician in his ruling Labour group using “inappropriate language” against a member of the council’s senior management team.
He continued: “I do take member conduct very seriously.
“With regard to the adverse comment made by the senior member, the investigation concluded the appropriate response was an apology to the officer concerned and a conciliation process.
"This has been done."
His letter concludes “In the light of continued concern regarding this new [smear conspiracy] allegation, I have instructed the chief executive to advise me how an independent investigation into this specific issue can now be carried out.”
Councillor Green told the Globe: “At least I now know a recording exists, even if I don’t know precisely what is on it, or whether these persistent rumours of a smear conspiracy against me are true.
“It is a very unusual situation.”
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