A HIGHLY-critical report has revealed a devastating catalogue of failures in Wirral Council.

The shocking review says the authority is in the grip of a corrosive and inward-looking culture where the needs and rights of residents have become submerged under its "bureaucratic machinations".

The probe - which has cost tax-payers £250,000 - was carried out by independent consultants and is in response to a scandal first exposed in the Wirral Globe.

In 2008, we exclusively reported whistle-blower Martin Morton's revelations of systematic overcharging of vulnerable and disabled residents living in council care homes.

His claims led to the present investigation, which has concluded in uncompromising terms the council needs a root and branch change in its culture.

It states Wirral failed to respond to numerous top-level warnings sounded by watchdog bodies such as the Audit Commission and Care Quality Commission.

The "Corporate Governance" report says that for most councils, just one of these warnings would have been enough to sound alarm bells.

But in Wirral, practices other authorities would consider abnormal were viewed as commonplace.

The report says a review revealing similar failures of governance in Surrey led to that council's most senior officers leaving the organisation.

The probe, led by independent inspector Anna Klonowski, says: " In short, the evidence confirms the conclusion that over a considerable period of time [Wirral] council has been consistently unable to get a grip of a range of inter-related issues.

"This indicates that Wirral’s corporate governance arrangements were, and probably remain, inadequate.

"The consequence of this inward, insular focus is that over time, residents and service users’ needs and rights have become submerged beneath an increasingly complex set of bureaucratic machinations.

"These have gripped different parts of the council, diverting both attention and resources.

"Despite this, the organisation is still struggling to resolve the problems."

And it adds: "These machinations have had a corrosive impact on the basic levels of trust that need to exist between a council, its members, staff, residents and users.

"Maintaining an appropriate level of trust sits at the heart of the relationship between government at every level and its citizens.

"Trust is damaged when services fail. But trust is lost when the openness, honesty and indeed, motives of the organisation and individuals charged with resolving problems come into question.

"This is what has happened at Wirral MBC.

"As the organisation has struggled to generate accurate information, not responded to complaints, failed to properly execute agreed decisions, people have suspected conspiracies rather than maladministration.

"Rebuilding this trust is crucial to underpinning the council’s way forward."

The consultant concludes the council has not yet learned the necessary lessons "to enable its corporate governance arrangements to become more robust and fit for purpose."

The report is supplementary to the main investigation into Mr Morton's revelations - which cannot be published at present under legal advice allowing individuals and outside service providers named within it to exercise their right of reply.

Statements have been issued by council leader Steve Foulkes and its chief executive Jim Wilkie and will follow shortly in a separate article.