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BREAKING NEWS – 14th January 2013
The figures are in for the costs of Richard Penn’s long term investigation into previously suspended officers David Green, Ian Coleman, Bill Norman and David Taylor Smith.
The total invoiced is a whopping £47,020.
This breaks down as £28,171 for the bulk of it which involved the complex acrobatics involved in reaching a conclusion that Green had ‘no case to answer’, and £18,849 for neatly avoiding the professed daunting ‘legal complications’ associated with Coleman and Norman. As for Taylor Smith, he remains a man of mystery.
Councillors and senior officers will no doubt regard… what am I saying ‘regard’?…. will present this as money well spent. But it’s not their money. It’s our money. And I can guarantee that not one member of the local public will agree that a further fifty grand shoveled into a yawning black hole, with absolutely no accountability or reckoning for any of the abuse or impropriety that occurred is ‘money well spent’.
In fact, in an honest, law-abiding, fully mature, grown up and civilised democratic arena, it would be more likely to qualify as malfeasance in public office – but they can all relax, because there’s nobody watching.
The train now departing from platform 1, Hamilton Square, is of the gravy variety….
UPDATE 27th December 2012
It’s official. The Director who, in league with his assistant Nigel Jenkins, brought bogus “Gross Misconduct” bullying charges against me in 2003 which fell apart, but without any comeback, now has ‘no case to answer’ over allegations of impropriety associated with the letting of a £40 million Highways Maintenance contract back in 2008.
I’d say everybody concerned, whether externally investigating, still working for the council like Nigel Jenkins or Colin Hughes, or recently ££departed like Steve Maddox or Bill Norman or Ian Coleman or David Garry is as pure as the driven snow, and presumably the public will have had £100,000 + of their council tax money and £811,000 in gags and pay offs well spent on this and similar debacles – particularly that hefty 9 months’ chunk of salary channelled “into the coffers” of David Green while he was off work suspended through the summer.
Now move along please… move along… nowt to see… But before you bugger off, here for your perusal is a link to…
An ‘independent’ Report by public servant Richard Penn
I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but what’s worrying about the sections of this report I have read is Richard Penn’s sloppiness – or is it deliberate? He gives undue prominence to the rabid conjecture and unfettered, unevidenced opinions of senior Wirral managers (all close colleagues of David Green), whilst not bothering to quote at any length from the group of whistleblowers…
….so far, it’s looking like yet another stitch up. Where the hell will this end up?
More links to news on Richard Penn’s background:
‘Tedious’ LinkedIn stuff
Excerpt: “With an annual pay packet of over £100,000, Penn was one of the highest paid Council bosses in the land. He is now tipped to pick up some lucrative part-time work with the Equal Opportunities Commission which is likely to see his retirement income come close to his former full time take-home pay.”
Excerpt: “…has acted as a Designated Independent Person (DIP) in a number of local authority statutory officer disciplinary cases”
Excerpt: “RESOLVED-(a) That the Council finds that Mr Davies is guilty of misconduct by virtue of:(i) his over aggressive behaviour to staff (he was abrasive,rude and confrontational on frequent occasions); (ii) his lack of judgement in the events of March 2010 in drinking and driving; and (iii) contributing to the failure to maintain the necessary trust and confidence by reason of his aggressive behaviour. Those voting in favour: 37 Those voting against: 0
Excerpt: “Richard Penn, an adviser to the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives, said: ‘Mr Cox has consistently rejected the district auditor’s criticism. ALACE will continue to represent his interests in this matter and defend any action which his employer may decide to take against him.'”
I don’t think much of the Local Government Association’s grasp of appointing the right person for the job…. I wonder if they were right to recommend that Richard Penn, who spends much of his time defending the interests of senior council officers in trouble, is a suitable person to conduct a crucially important investigation into contract impropriety – by a senior council officer in trouble?
Apparently, Mr Penn, before he started defending Local Authority Statutory Officers, was a statutory officer himself – CEO at Knowsley Council ~ between 1980 and 1989. A little birdy told me a loooong time ago that David Green also used to work at Knowsley Council. I don’t know if this is true or whether David’s tenure coincided with Richard’s, but I’m checking it out.
If they are workplace colleagues from old it would put an entirely knew slant on this decision, wouldn’t it?
When I arrived at Wirral in Autumn 1996, David Green was in place at the District Labour Organisation (later the ‘Operational Services Division’), based in the Dock Road Depot in Wallasey. He moved to the newly titled Director of Technical Services position (not ‘Borough Engineer’ note) I think in 2002, when Andrew Rhodes left.
But when did he originally arrive at the Dock Road Depot? And where did he come from? Can anybody help with this?
UPDATE 25th December 2012
Happy Christmas to everybody !
Peace on earth and good will to all men. Particularly to David Green, Director of Technical Services, suspended back in March, but who has torn the wrapping paper from a very special present today. He has been cleared of any prospective charges and, like so many before him, given a verdict of ‘no case to answer‘.
Apparently the post of ‘Director of Technical Services’ was deleted from the structure recently and another new management structure has now come to pass.
So, as abusive Wirral Council staggers forward into the New Year, it’s yet another swift kick in the teeth to council tax payers, just to keep them in line, and a timely shot across the bows of any future whistleblowers… people who may still have the ‘gall’ to raise serious concerns about their broken, basket case of an employer in the near or distant future.
If you are a potential whistleblower, working at Wirral Council and contemplating reporting either criminal conduct, blatant impropriety or serious malpractice – WATCH YOUR BACK ! In July of this year one of the anonymous whistleblowers involved in this case had his identity revealed and posted globally over the internet. A n d n o w t h i s !
Wirral’s senior public servants,entrusted with preserving good governance post Klonowski, and promoting fairness and probity seem to prefer lurching back into acting as they always have done………..
i.e. With scant regard for integrity and the public good and instead, flying in the face of the fine words trotted out in the newly-robust and newly touchy-feely policies and procedures.
So I was wrong; David Green wasn’t gagged and paid off in a six figure sum like so many others before him. He is returned to a shiny new as yet unnamed post with what looks like a clean bill of health. And what of suspended Deputy Director of Finance David Taylor-Smith? I don’t know, but will it be a similar fate? No-one seems to know.
The update below this one speaks of a ‘Special’ meeting held last Thursday, at which the final item on the agenda was…
4. Any Other Urgent Business Approved by the Chair.
I imagine this is where the dark deed may have been done. It was announced today on BBC Radio Merseyside’s 9:00 AM news. But that was it. I waited, phone in hand on Christmas Day (how sad) to record the item on the 10:00 news, but it didn’t arrive.
I imagine a very practised and cynical opportunist, still safely ensconced in their miserable ‘communications’ role at the council, timed this announcement for release to the media, for consumption with our Christmas breakfasts.
It seems “No case to answer” is vying to become the dominant rallying cry for the gang of abusers still wielding the whip hand at woeful Wirral Council (see 7.1).
UPDATE 7th December 2012
A ‘Special’ Employment and Appointments Committee has been called for Thursday 20th December 2012.
This looks interesting because there are two senior officers still suspended: Director David Green (HESPE Contract suspension) and David Taylor Smith (suspended following release of Audit Commission’s report into the HESPE contract disaster).
Given the Council’s hyper-lenient treatment of:
- Steve Maddox (£157,537)
- Jim Wilkie (The council will pay more than £95,000 into Mr Wilkie’s pension fund. It is not yet clear if he will also receive three months’ worth of his £132,000 salary in lieu of notice
- John Webb (£152,339)
- Bill Norman (£151,416)
- Ian Coleman (£82,500)
- Howard Cooper (retired)
- Rick O’Brien (moved)
- David Garry (£46,584)
- Mike Fowler (£109,496)
- Maura Noone (£111,043)
TOTAL = £811,010
… and Anna Klonowski’s reluctance to lay any blame at the feet of councillors (and her very surprising reluctance to enquire into what happened at supported living accommodation in Balls Road, Birkenhead (“I don’t have the time”))…..
….what can we expect here?
It’s very close to Christmas. Will Santa turn up with a bulging sack? Definitely ONE TO WATCH. Hopefully, pioneering members of the public will be allowed in to film it with their iPhones / Androids.
People who like to see senior abusers being paid off will be relieved to see that the Council Leader is in attendance. Whilst publicly proclaiming, “We need get to the bottom of this, etc, etc”, if you check his and his colleagues’ histories, they’ve always invariably voted in favour of allowing officers known to have been abusive, but with their identities concealed in the Klonowski Report, to leave, £weighted down and without too many questions asked. Here’s the full list of attendees:
9th November 2012
I’ve been thinking back to that day in September 2003, when I returned to my work location at Bebington Town Hall for the last time. I’d tendered my resignation from the Highways Department, and indeed from Wirral Council, and been invited to come in, empty out my desk and return whatever Council property I still had. I also planned to say “goodbye” to colleagues and co-workers, something not on the official list of requirements.
There was a problem however with visiting the workplace, but not of my making. During my 5 months’ absence on suspension (a neutral act), unnamed others had been taking the opportunity to generally trash my reputation. And following an amateurish internal ‘investigation’ and the unsuccessful levelling of trumped up, gross misconduct ‘bullying’ charges, there were likely to be some embarrassed, unhappy individuals knocking about, feeling a bit done down and not wanting to see their vanquisher turning up unannounced.
In support of the fraudulent charges, I’d been told I was ‘out of step with everyone else’ – a default feature of the process of alienation otherwise known as ‘lodging a grievance’ at Wirral Council. Admittedly, there may have been a grain of truth in this remark. The everyday racist and disablist ‘banter’ certainly had me responding differently; either reaching for the car keys to get the hell out, or flaring up.
Maybe displaying a streak of independence, compassion or understanding for minorities, and some fire in your belly marks you out to any clique as ‘someone to be eliminated’. I was later labelled ‘different’ at #QuackCWaC Council (neighbouring authority who ‘removed’ my statutory information querying rights) some time later, after lodging a complaint there.
I’ll concede this much ~ I always got by despite this, functioning and forming friendships, without the need for constant validation from managers and their sycophants, and succeeded in performing my job to a good standard.
Having a strong and supportive family and group of friends, I soon found I could breeze along easily without the shallow ‘support’ of paid up, on message, surplus to requirement drones, bending to the will of their seniors.
Despite the layer upon layer of crap that had been built up and thrown at me, there were still 2 or 3 stronger individuals left in the office *waves* who stayed committed to the facts throughout all this….. and who were astute enough to see through the bullshit. The rest of the dumb hangers on, whether fully complicit or simply bystanding and keeping shtum, were happy to take the lies as read, not rock the boat and keep their own ambition of keeping out of trouble or climbing the greasy pole steadily on track.
So I arrived in work and parked up, noting that my UNISON shop steward’s car was there in the car park. Not far away was the flashy number preferred by my line manager – and his manager’s car was there, parked in its numbered space. A couple more colleagues’ battered jalopies were also in situ.
I strode in, works mobile and security pass in hand, ready to return them and prepared to confront whatever was awaiting me. My ‘grandparent line manager’ greeted me nervously, looking a bit flushed. He took my phone and pass and began to explain, as if it were needed, and as if he did this every day, how to empty the contents of my desk, then make myself scarce.
I then walked into an almost totally empty office. It appeared my visit had been announced earlier. Despite all the cars, there was only one person in, who I’d worked with very happily for the last few years. Of course, I had no idea what she’d been told or how complicit she may have been in my departure – probably not much, being further down the ‘pecking order’. So this was left to one side and we had a good long friendly chat while I began to tip the contents of my desk drawers into a bin bag.
I did this at a very leisurely pace, expecting people to start drifting back to their work stations. This was a busy office after all. But nobody arrived. So I went a bit slower.
Still…. no-one showed up. Where had they all gone? I continued to chat to my former colleague, but after about an hour and a half, I began to muse: This is a ‘working office’, in the service of the public; there are jobs to do; street lighting columns (lampposts) to erect; old ones to take down…
These street lights wouldn’t look after themselves. Yet my grandparent line manager (now back safely in his office) seemed happy to allow these public servants to come in, park up and hide somewhere else on site, away from their desks….
And that’s how it stayed. Nobody turned up. My grandparent line manager entered the office again and made noises along the lines “X has work to do… she can’t chat all day”.
So I left, and ambled back to the car park, my hypervigilant antennae noting that as soon as the door slammed the all clear was probably sounded and work on the maintenance and installation of Wirrals Street Lighting network kicked in, as normal.
2 May 2012
From: Paul Cardin
This FoI request was placed on 2nd May 2012, following the suspension of David Green, Director of Technical Services and head of the Highways Department, which occurred on 27th March 2012:
Back in 2003, David Green suspended me, when I was an Assistant Engineer, working for the Highways Department. I’d been employed within the Street Lighting section at the Council since 1996 and had blown the whistle on long term irregularities attached to the carrying out of night time Street Lighting scouting rounds.
The Council presented my suspension as a ‘neutral act’. However, very soon, a large recorded delivery envelope thudded onto the doormat. It turned out there was to be an internal investigation and following this, the council levelled trumped up disciplinary charges, accusing me of a campaign of ‘bullying and harassment’. Strangely, nothing had been recorded about this behaviour at the time it ‘occurred’ – probably because it hadn’t occurred. But many months on, it seemed to me now that somebody’s creative juices had been flowing. This pointed towards collusion between unknown parties, whilst I was safely out of the way. The charges were poorly-evidenced at best, and magicked from thin air at worst…
My own original allegations regarding impropriety with public money were not acted upon and were quickly forgotten. I suddenly found myself up to my eyes in refuting these fraudulent charges. In the months spent away from work, I’d called upon my union, UNISON to help me in my predicament. I’d provided my UNISON ‘representative’ with a dossier / diary of all the nasty stuff that had been going on in the lead up to my suspension, all carefully recorded with incidents, times, dates and locations. Some of the detail of this was very unpleasant, even disturbing and I won’t go into that here.
When I handed this evidence across, I took the precaution of numbering the pages and glueing some of them together at the top. This proved to be one of the the shrewdest moves I’d ever made.
When I turned up unannounced at the UNISON offices in Birkenhead one day to ask why they’d done nothing, the ‘representative’ tried to fob me off with empty excuses. I then demanded the return of the dossier I’d left in his possession. Sure enough, the pages were still glued together as I’d left them, several months before.
No-one had bothered to read it.
I decided to join what was then the Transport & General Workers Union (now UNITE) after being invited by the full time North West Regional officer (now sadly no longer with us). He was a good friend of mine, a man of principle, and I’d known him since my schooldays. He was disgusted by what the Council had done and was only too willing to offer guidance and support to me as a new member.
In summary, he wiped the floor with them. When the September hearing arrived, attended by David Green, who was assisted by the then Head of Human Resources (and former UNISON full time officer), my union rep raised some very pointed questions. He set about blowing the council’s counter-case full of holes, and enabled me to fill in with the facts, shoot it all down in flames, and finish them off. Ultimately, David Green was forced to withdraw the falsehoods and to find another job for me at the council. This was made all the more difficult by the fact that my reputation had been savagely trashed from within.
Certain middle managers who knew me, whom I’d worked under and who had until now valued my professional input, had suddenly located their yellow streak, closed ranks and fallen into step behind the spurious bullying accusations brought by their seniors.
Unknown to the council, while suspended, I’d naturally been spending my time busily looking for a job elsewhere – anywhere – to get me away from what I now regarded as something of a ‘hell-hole’. This succeeded and I was delighted to move to a much better paid position in the private sector. The timing of this had been exquisite for me – and for my long-suffering but very strong and supportive family!!
The new organisation was fairly local, but a world away from Wirral Council, being a professional and forward looking outfit, with none of the seedy, cloying, sexist / racist undertones, and certainly not steeped in unaddressed cultural backwardness. In fact it was a very refreshing change. Here was a modern workplace, where I didn’t need to spend all my time ‘looking over my shoulder’. My input was encouraged, valued and well-rewarded.
Meanwhile Wirral Council, with its dreamt up allegations now lying in tatters, struggled on, promising to find me a position that didn’t involve a pay cut and further detriment. While they did this, I took great pleasure in playing my trump card and resigning…… not forgetting to request a sum of back pay for work I’d done on Street Lighting scouting rounds that the council hadn’t paid me for – which didn’t go down too well with David Green.
Although many sister councils have now farmed out this sort of work, Street Lighting scouting rounds continue to this day to be carried out internally by Wirral Council officers.
Well, that’s at least some of my personal history in these affairs.
But to bring readers back up to date with the present…
There have been many twists and turns since David Green (whose brother used to work for COLAS) was suspended. It started becoming clear that there were very serious and very clear failings within the HESPE contract that was awarded to COLAS back in late 2008. This time around, there were a number of whistleblowers on the side of the truth, who’d turned to Frank Field after receiving short shrift and a predictable lack of support from inside the Council and then from the Audit Commission, who were consulted in March 2009.
Their allegations were compelling, serious and detailed – but the inertia that greeted them was profound and disturbing. Frank Field for his part recognised that they were being fobbed off and seemed very appreciative of their contribution. He was regularly quoted in the press, praising them to high heaven ~ a tactic which made some people, including me, feel very uncomfortable. The public were not surprised when they very quickly saw Mr Field gushing in the media about the performance of the ‘new’ Labour council (the one that had tried and failed to cover up / minimise learning disabled abuse) and soon, the alarm bells began to ring:
The conclusion here is that politicians. simply. cannot. be. trusted.
I’m not going to go into forensic detail regarding the ins and outs of this situation, but it seems that at every turn, the council and its associated public ‘regulatory’ bodies have been found wanting. Whether it’s Wirral’s so-called Internal Audit (formerly run by David Garry) and their bizarre act of giving “3 stars” (a ringing endorsement in anyone’s book) to the highly-flawed HESPE contract; or the contribution of District Auditor Michael Thomas, producing an initial review which very belatedly (September 2010) found little wrong with the HESPE disaster, before being compelled to ‘look again’, only to find in June 2012 after the imposition of delay upon delay by Wirral Council that David Green ‘probably broke EU rules’ and much more… link: http://fraudnews.eu/?p=2091 ;or the Serious Fraud Office turning Frank Field’s request down and failing to investigate the conduct of the contract.
Private Eye, Issue 1326 ~ 2nd Nov 2012
Here, updating us further still, is a clip from the current issue of Private Eye – unlucky for some, page 13 – Rotten Boroughs:
Wirral Council are making a habit of appearing within these pages