UPDATED: Report reveals Wirral Council was on brink of Government intervention

Wirral Globe: Report reveals Wirral Council was on brink of Government intervention Report reveals Wirral Council was on brink of Government intervention

WIRRAL Council was on the brink of Government intervention over the escalation of "a multiplicity of weaknesses" a special report commissioned by the Local Government Association has revealed.

The hard-hitting dossier does not gloss over the council's severe problems in recent years, saying it was "visibly failing."

It includes narratives of bullying and harassment and abuse of powers by council officers arising from whistleblowing revelations.

There is also acknowledgement, however, that the local authority has made a "significant recovery" to such an extent that those who helped change Wirral are now using the experience as a learning exercise for others to follow.

Revelations by former social services manager Martin Morton set a bombshell under the council in 2008 - read Mr Morton's views about the report at the end of this article.

Mr Morton's exposure of a "special charging" scandal in the Department of Adult Social Services was exclusively reported in the Globe and lit a fuse that eventually led to a major inquiry by consultant Anna Klonowski.

Her examination of practices in Wirral triggered an unprecedented upheaval in the way the authority was managed.

The LGA review shows the problems were so severe that the Government was a hair's breadth away from sending in commissioners to take over.

Instead though, it was agreed an "Improvement Board" would be introduced to try to turnaround the council.

The report - entitled 'Self, Sector or Centre? Approaches to Turnaround' - observes: "We have no reason to doubt the belief of the Improvement Board (set up to achieve recovery) and of current staff that we spoke to, that these weaknesses did not permeate all aspects of the council's work and that there were areas of excellence despite the overall position."

It continues: "In simple terms Wirral was in very substantial difficulty, with a failure in corporate governance and systems.

"The turnabout process, and accompanying recognition from within, that help was needed, was in time to prevent what might have been a more serious or widespread failure that could have triggered external, central government-led intervention."

Council leader Cllr Phil Davies receives plaudits for his role in the turnaround.

The report states: "Our testing of the analysis with participants suggest that the sector's leadership was conditional on strong 'buy in' from, and early action by, Wirral's political leadership and notably by council leader Phil Davies.

"Without such conditions it is impossible to know what might have unfolded and over what timescale. But it is very likely that further decline would eventually have met with a centre-led intervention of some kind."

The Improvement Board disbanded in November, 2013.

The Local Government Association said it became aware of potential problems in Wirral in the autumn of 2011 - three years after reports in the Globe which were subsequently followed up by regional media.

At this point researcher Anna Klonowski was conducting her investigation but had not produced a final review.

LGA principal advisor Gil Taylor arranged to see the then council chief executive in September, 2011, and was sufficiently concerned to arrange a follow-up meeting with the council leader, chief executive and others.

Following this second meeting the council agreed it should invite the LGA to work with it and agreed to establish an Improvement Board, which first met in February, 2012.

The report reflects that the consistency and honest of interviews gave confidence to conclude that Wirral had made a significant recovery.

But it warns that although Wirral has returned to something nearer local government "norm" in terms of performance and practice, there is still much to do.

They list among the risk to progress:  

*The need to sustain clear, strategic vision, while making substantial further financial cutbacks.

*The need to sustain political commitment and consensus around the improvement process in challenging times.

*The potential for distraction given the many other challenges facing local government currently."

The report concludes: "The council has embarked on major programmes of corporate and cultural change, most of which as 18 months or so old.

"Such change takes time and effort to embed and it is unlikely that all members or officers have been convinced, signed up, or even fully understood what new actions and behaviours are needed. So sustained and longer term effort will be needed."

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

MARTIN MORTON: Why I won't be returning to work for Wirral Council...

"Until today I was unfamiliar with the 'Self, Sector or Centre? Approaches to Turnaround' report detailed above and commissioned by the Local Government Association, which features Wirral Council as a case study.

However what is familiar is the "we know best" approach of local Government consultants.

The researchers thank many individuals from across local and central Government and beyond who agreed to participate in their research and "who shared so freely of their time, insights and experience."

As usual their gratitude does not seem to extend to whistleblowers, who were effectively responsible for the need for the  "turnaround" process described in the dossier.

I cannot help feeling that while the researchers maintain the expertise brought to bear in their report was "high quality," that high quality in this case equates to being highly-paid or highly-influential.

But then the researchers don't seem able to fully acknowledge the role of whistleblowers at all.

They coyly refer to "whistleblowing" in the abstract without identifying that it was individuals who were responsible for identifying problems within Wirral Council and not organisations such as the Local Government Association, who are lauded for their work in assisting the authority with the setting up of an Improvement Board.

Comment is made about the  personal costs of the turnaround process "in terms of the pressures on managers and politicians and in some cases impacts on their careers."

Inevitably once again this concern does not extend to whistleblowers, for whom the impact is catastrophic.

Nevertheless, the council "turnaround" is described in the report as a "success story."

However, the researchers may want to ask themselves this: If Wirral Council's "turnaround" has been such a success, why will I not return to work for them, despite the official offer a job being made to me on a number of occasions?

These offers have been made despite that fact my union has advised me that my well-publicised status as a whistleblower now makes me unemployable.

I have already discussed the reasons for my decision in private with Wirral Council chief executive Graham Burgess.

Under these circumstances it seems cruelly ironic that the only organisation which would employ me is one I could never work for - and for reasons which obviously would not be detailed in a report such as this."

Comments (14)

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12:20pm Fri 30 May 14

Natasha Eubank says...

Where can this report be found?
Where can this report be found? Natasha Eubank
  • Score: 6

12:22pm Fri 30 May 14

Natasha Eubank says...

http://www.local.gov
.uk/documents/10180/
5854661/L14-191+LGA+
SLI+CLI+review_09.pd
f/ba5b195c-3bae-4cec
-b717-4e37ce9b2638
http://www.local.gov .uk/documents/10180/ 5854661/L14-191+LGA+ SLI+CLI+review_09.pd f/ba5b195c-3bae-4cec -b717-4e37ce9b2638 Natasha Eubank
  • Score: 0

12:24pm Fri 30 May 14

JohnON says...

Natasha Eubank wrote:
Where can this report be found?
In the dustbin?
[quote][p][bold]Natasha Eubank[/bold] wrote: Where can this report be found?[/p][/quote]In the dustbin? JohnON
  • Score: 6

1:07pm Fri 30 May 14

WirralAl says...

Lets not forget the person who was in charge during this farce was Steve Folk us. He lead this council to near collapse and government intervention.

• Corporate governance, strategy, finance and strategic overview, with inadequate
systems and poor financial management, e.g., with a £17m gap in funding and poor debt
management.20
• Poor officer / member relationships, with a lack of the necessary trust.
• Insularity and an inward looking culture: the term the ‘insular peninsular’ often arose in our
interviews, referring, of course, to the council not the locality or people of Wirral. This was
manifest, for example, in a general lack of looking over the border and beyond to see and
learn from what others were doing: such curiosity and learning is a characteristic of local
government as a sector.
• An overall sense that the abnormal was normal: i.e. that practices and behaviours that
elsewhere would be unacceptable, were accepted, and a consequent failure to serve the
community effectively


So lets give him a nice big pat on the back and make him Mayor.

Would you believe it.

Who said the don't reward complete and utter failure.

How can they give him this role and how he could accept it is beyond me.
Hang your head in Shame!!! YOU FAILED TO DO YOUR JOB!!
Lets not forget the person who was in charge during this farce was Steve Folk us. He lead this council to near collapse and government intervention. • Corporate governance, strategy, finance and strategic overview, with inadequate systems and poor financial management, e.g., with a £17m gap in funding and poor debt management.20 • Poor officer / member relationships, with a lack of the necessary trust. • Insularity and an inward looking culture: the term the ‘insular peninsular’ often arose in our interviews, referring, of course, to the council not the locality or people of Wirral. This was manifest, for example, in a general lack of looking over the border and beyond to see and learn from what others were doing: such curiosity and learning is a characteristic of local government as a sector. • An overall sense that the abnormal was normal: i.e. that practices and behaviours that elsewhere would be unacceptable, were accepted, and a consequent failure to serve the community effectively So lets give him a nice big pat on the back and make him Mayor. Would you believe it. Who said the don't reward complete and utter failure. How can they give him this role and how he could accept it is beyond me. Hang your head in Shame!!! YOU FAILED TO DO YOUR JOB!! WirralAl
  • Score: 28

1:44pm Fri 30 May 14

Joeblogg85 says...

The timing of this release is not the best for the current ruling Labour Group. However, it doesn't really tell us anything we didn't already know. Working at the Council during this time was horrendous. However, tbh things haven't changed that much for the better since. Just because the so called Improvement Board says things are better, doesn't make it so. Maybe things have improved slightly but the culture and issues around certain senior management styles still exist and it is a very unhappy place to earn a living. It is also going to get a lot worse as the so called "Future Council" starts to be implemented "moving forward".
The timing of this release is not the best for the current ruling Labour Group. However, it doesn't really tell us anything we didn't already know. Working at the Council during this time was horrendous. However, tbh things haven't changed that much for the better since. Just because the so called Improvement Board says things are better, doesn't make it so. Maybe things have improved slightly but the culture and issues around certain senior management styles still exist and it is a very unhappy place to earn a living. It is also going to get a lot worse as the so called "Future Council" starts to be implemented "moving forward". Joeblogg85
  • Score: 12

2:29pm Fri 30 May 14

hobroW says...

well that would explain why Counter fraud did nothing between August 2011 and September 2012 on BIG and ISUS and Working Neighbourhoods. Also why despite admitting to knowing of severe failures in the business start-up program in Spring 2011 officers kept quiet.
Our suffering bought WBC time and space to save themselves from utter humiliation. We suspected this as little else could explain the strange inconsistencies of WBC officer behaviour.
Well they cant take back what they did and said then so lets see them try to square the circle in July!!
well that would explain why Counter fraud did nothing between August 2011 and September 2012 on BIG and ISUS and Working Neighbourhoods. Also why despite admitting to knowing of severe failures in the business start-up program in Spring 2011 officers kept quiet. Our suffering bought WBC time and space to save themselves from utter humiliation. We suspected this as little else could explain the strange inconsistencies of WBC officer behaviour. Well they cant take back what they did and said then so lets see them try to square the circle in July!! hobroW
  • Score: 13

3:41pm Fri 30 May 14

Llamedos 1 says...

What significant inprovement are being refered to? All they do now is cover their backs with more efficiency than they did before.
What significant inprovement are being refered to? All they do now is cover their backs with more efficiency than they did before. Llamedos 1
  • Score: 10

4:18pm Fri 30 May 14

Growl Tiger says...

Quote “Council leader Cllr Phil Davies receives plaudits for his role in the turnaround”. What turnaround? Who provided this ridiculous PR statement? The abnormal is still the normal on Wirral.

Such comments from WBC don’t deserve the squandering of space on them.
Quote “Council leader Cllr Phil Davies receives plaudits for his role in the turnaround”. What turnaround? Who provided this ridiculous PR statement? The abnormal is still the normal on Wirral. Such comments from WBC don’t deserve the squandering of space on them. Growl Tiger
  • Score: 11

7:06am Sat 31 May 14

PaulCa says...

o Klonowski failed to investigate councillors

o The LGA ('trade union' of councils) was rewarded with a plum job

o Davies was rewarded with the party leadership

o Abusers were rewarded with £1 million plus

o Foulkes was rewarded with the mayoralty

o Klonowski was rewarded with £377,000

o We've been rewarded with another whitewash
o Klonowski failed to investigate councillors o The LGA ('trade union' of councils) was rewarded with a plum job o Davies was rewarded with the party leadership o Abusers were rewarded with £1 million plus o Foulkes was rewarded with the mayoralty o Klonowski was rewarded with £377,000 o We've been rewarded with another whitewash PaulCa
  • Score: 16

7:32am Sat 31 May 14

hobroW says...

And they appear to be shielding the subcontractors who did the BIG work from any punitive action lest it re-opens old wounds for the officers.
The evidence is documentary and clear so it is not in the public interest not to prosecute just in reputation management interests.
If people seek to mislead our council for pecuniary benefit it is very much in the public interest that they are punished "pour encourager les autres""
As it stands officers contumaciously continued to use one subcontractor for a further 10 months whilst knowing the files were "fixed" which is the opposite action tothat which ought to have been followed. Unless the officers were party to the whole thing??
And they appear to be shielding the subcontractors who did the BIG work from any punitive action lest it re-opens old wounds for the officers. The evidence is documentary and clear so it is not in the public interest not to prosecute just in reputation management interests. If people seek to mislead our council for pecuniary benefit it is very much in the public interest that they are punished "pour encourager les autres"" As it stands officers contumaciously continued to use one subcontractor for a further 10 months whilst knowing the files were "fixed" which is the opposite action tothat which ought to have been followed. Unless the officers were party to the whole thing?? hobroW
  • Score: 8

9:17am Sat 31 May 14

PaulCa says...

The report mentions 'accountability' - but all players, including both sets of external auditors have fought tooth and nail for over a decade to avoid the threat of exposure that that might bring.

Shame on central government for not having the guts to go for the nuclear option - external inspectors - and a de-infestation of Brighton Street CH44 8ED to clear out the vermin.

Amidst all the puff and gloss and the botus assurances, that is what's glaringly obvious to those of us either being abused, seeing our vulnerable friends or family members being abused, or handing thousands across in council tax to watch it getting frittered away on e.g.

o Golf
o Oriental pipedreams
o Reservoirs of gloss
o Refurbished CEO Headquarters and Town Hall
o Burgess' Returning Officer fees (£2,000 plus)
o Hushed up payments to corrupt officials (£48,000 plus)
o £400,000 down the drain in a failed link up to a neighbouring set of abusers
o ...and on, and on, and on, and on..................
.
The report mentions 'accountability' - but all players, including both sets of external auditors have fought tooth and nail for over a decade to avoid the threat of exposure that that might bring. Shame on central government for not having the guts to go for the nuclear option - external inspectors - and a de-infestation of Brighton Street CH44 8ED to clear out the vermin. Amidst all the puff and gloss and the botus assurances, that is what's glaringly obvious to those of us either being abused, seeing our vulnerable friends or family members being abused, or handing thousands across in council tax to watch it getting frittered away on e.g. o Golf o Oriental pipedreams o Reservoirs of gloss o Refurbished CEO Headquarters and Town Hall o Burgess' Returning Officer fees (£2,000 plus) o Hushed up payments to corrupt officials (£48,000 plus) o £400,000 down the drain in a failed link up to a neighbouring set of abusers o ...and on, and on, and on, and on.................. . PaulCa
  • Score: 13

9:25am Sun 1 Jun 14

Hugo1008 says...

Might I point out Nothing much has changed we the Wirral residents are still being fed absolute false hoods, misinformation, and general obfuscation by the Employed Management and the elected Councillors to this very day.

Disgraceful Characters still hold the office of Councillor and soon to be even elevated to a higher honor receiving grossly inflated payments and expenses despite serving up total rubbish for some considerable years.
The so called present leader spouting clap trap every time he makes a statement, weather that be about Wirral Council Services or the European elections, not to mention insulting the citizens who saw sense recently in ousting a Labour Councillor and disposing of the rubbish in a Brown bin.

Just remember people when you get the slimmest chance to elect a proper local councilor, do pick a new face, any new face, cannot be any worse than the collective crap we have at present and have been in office for years.

The past Senior Management of Wirral Borough Council was despicable and incapable of truth, honesty, integrity and value for money for the residents, The present set of Senior Management are not much better.
But remember they in all their failings had the total support and blessing of probably the worst 66 Councillors in the living history of Wirral Borough Council, lets get shut of at least 50 of the worst ones in the elections to come.
Might I point out Nothing much has changed we the Wirral residents are still being fed absolute false hoods, misinformation, and general obfuscation by the Employed Management and the elected Councillors to this very day. Disgraceful Characters still hold the office of Councillor and soon to be even elevated to a higher honor receiving grossly inflated payments and expenses despite serving up total rubbish for some considerable years. The so called present leader spouting clap trap every time he makes a statement, weather that be about Wirral Council Services or the European elections, not to mention insulting the citizens who saw sense recently in ousting a Labour Councillor and disposing of the rubbish in a Brown bin. Just remember people when you get the slimmest chance to elect a proper local councilor, do pick a new face, any new face, cannot be any worse than the collective crap we have at present and have been in office for years. The past Senior Management of Wirral Borough Council was despicable and incapable of truth, honesty, integrity and value for money for the residents, The present set of Senior Management are not much better. But remember they in all their failings had the total support and blessing of probably the worst 66 Councillors in the living history of Wirral Borough Council, lets get shut of at least 50 of the worst ones in the elections to come. Hugo1008
  • Score: 3

10:40pm Mon 2 Jun 14

keen gardener says...

So....may one ask...how near "to the brink" does one have to be before Government intervention?
So....may one ask...how near "to the brink" does one have to be before Government intervention? keen gardener
  • Score: 2

5:56pm Tue 3 Jun 14

rover600 says...

Again this demonstrates the crass incompetence but more worrying how come this all happened an age ago but this is the first we are hearing about it? This should have been trailed on a banner behind a low flying plane over the peninsula, WE THE ELECTORATE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW when these things are occurring NOT month's after the event. The LGA loses credibility in only bringing this to us now.... Such knowledge could have affected the outcome of the recent elections, interesting isn't it this all spills out two weeks after Polling day....
Again this demonstrates the crass incompetence but more worrying how come this all happened an age ago but this is the first we are hearing about it? This should have been trailed on a banner behind a low flying plane over the peninsula, WE THE ELECTORATE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW when these things are occurring NOT month's after the event. The LGA loses credibility in only bringing this to us now.... Such knowledge could have affected the outcome of the recent elections, interesting isn't it this all spills out two weeks after Polling day.... rover600
  • Score: 2

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