On Friday 15th November 2013, there was a landmark meeting at Wallasey Town Hall between the Wirral Council “Improvement” Board, CEO Graham “Mistakes” Burgess, Council leader Phil Davies and the public (about 50 of us).
It was supposed to be an informal occasion, or so we members of the audience were led to believe during the preamble by chair Joyce Redfearn. We were smilingly reassured that the usual formalities had been dispensed with. The team out front had also transformed into regular human beings by removing the usual features of council business: the tables in rigid rows, the stiff-backed chairs and the even stiffer stuffed shirts wedged into them.
So, in place of the usual, abnormal arrangement were five soft blue, comfy looking armless chairs, and a couple of low level desks. Here’s a photo:
What hadn’t been relaxed, interfered with or soft focussed was the regimental strait jacket applied to the questioning of the five public servants out front. No, this was as grim, as unforgiving and as carefully pre-planned as ever. Questions had to be lodged in writing by a deadline date, then presumably screened internally for hidden insults or lewd anagrams, before being reproduced in the handouts that were scattered around the room.
In other words, speaking to or shouting at them was not permitted, unless you’d followed the rules and lodged your question in advance. The majority of the citizens in the room who’d taken the time to attend were very effectively gagged as a result.
The handouts included detailed questions from a number of members of the public, including BIG fund / ISUS whistleblower Nigel Hobro, and concluding with Martin Morton, who’d been invited to make an important personal statement to the “Improvement” Board. The imposed informality had thrown Mr Morton however, who’d been expecting a table to rest his notes on. So an early goal was scored by the Council and the score was quickly 1 – 0…
I won’t describe the events of this meeting here – and the whole thing has been recorded on John Brace’s blog – save to say about halfway through, Councillor Phil Davies, who’d looked uncomfortable from the start, had been fidgeting, shifting in his seat, and staring vacantly at the wall opposite, got up, without making any announcement, walked out and didn’t return. What an own goal! Score update… 1 – 1…
We don’t know to this day what was more important than being there and staying to listen and learn lessons from Martin Morton, Social Services whistleblower, addressing the board. Maybe he’d got an urgent call from whoever it is who calls the shots? Who knows?
The very next week, Graham “Mistakes” Burgess and Councillor Phil Davies were appearing on the Roger Phillips phone-in show on Radio Merseyside, fielding questions from the public. The event was largely an exercise in fluff and spin and passed without incident, except for the following:
So… the miserable decade of abuse that Wirral Council had plunged itself headlong into, along with the £millions of our money squandered on trying and failing to cover it all up were summed up by Graham “Mistakes” Burgess to a nodding dog Roger Phillips, 7 times in 29 seconds, as… “Mistakes”.
Also… I’m forced to ask the same question I asked at the very top of this blog post…
As a Council Leader, would YOU get up and walk out of what you yourself later described as a “Landmark Meeting”, never to return?
Final Score: 2 – 1 to the citizens of Wirral.
(Footnote: The minutes of this meeting were promised and the citizens present reassured that they would soon be published on the council website. Here are answers to the questions raised, in very brief form, which seem to have arrived as an afterthought 3 months on – with no mention of the council leader vacating his chair and disappearing from the room.)