WIRRAL Council's chief executive and its political leader have accepted full reponsibility for a devastating assessment of the authority's failures in corporate governance.

A report by independent consultant Anna Klonowski says the town hall is in the grip of a corrosive and inward-looking culture in which the needs of residents and service-users are submerged.

Jim Wilkie, chief executive, said: “These report findings represent the most significant challenge this council faces.

"As chief executive of Wirral Council I would like to make it very clear that I fully accept Anna Klonowski’s findings into the failings within the Corporate Governance of this authority and would like to apologise to anyone who has been affected on behalf of the council.

“We will be taking whatever action is necessary to address the challenge before us.

"We will implement the recommendations made within this report and will continue to drive forward the improvements to procedures and policies that have been put in place already.

“I would like to put on record my personal pledge that I take responsibility for ensuring the radical improvements needed in Corporate Governance are made and that we continue to strive to deliver excellent services that are responsive to the needs of our local people and our communities.”

Council leader Steve Foulkes, who has cancelled a planned visit to China this weekend in order to deal with the crisis, said: "We stand accused of being insular and inward looking and having a culture based on what we have always done, rather on what we should be doing.

"This is a highly-critical report, but I welcome it because it is the ultimate wake up call which gives all of us the chance to change.

"This council has been through a range of administrations...and problems have continued thoughout all of them.

"This is an issue that clearly transcends party politics and I will be seeking to discuss it with both the other party leaders.

"As leader, along with my senior management team, I fully accept that I have not always seen what I should have seen, and I have not challenged officers as rigorously as I should have.

"From today that changes. This now takes total priority."

Councillor Foulkes said s specific cabinet committee is to be set up - in line with the report's recommendations - tasked with "driving forward the changes that need to be made in the way we manage the council and in the culture of those who work here."

External advisers will be brought in to support this committee along with councillors and officers from other authorities to share knowledge in a peer review.

The senior management team and its internal audit group will be stregthened and Ms Klonowski will be invited to hold a seminar for all council members.

The recommendations and the report itself will be discussed at tomorrow's meeting of the cabinet