Fantastic [adj] Imaginative or fanciful. Remote from reality.
5th October 2016
Fantastic Story Number #2 – Frank Field, Birkenhead MP, has been ‘fighting the corner’ of 4 ‘whistleblowers’
Except he hasn’t.
But through the ownership and cultivation of a dedicated media team, with contacts at newspaper groups Trinity Mirror and Newsquest – and much further afield nationally – he has the ear of the media, a reputation as ‘a bit of a bruiser’ and the presence and power to step in and direct, manipulate or even mangle the message to his own ends.
In this fabulous example, he certainly has a knack of getting journalists to present elaborate packs of lies as plausible, convincing, or even bordering on’factual’.
I don’t think most of the journalists involved here are aware that they’re being heavily duped. If they do know what it’s all about, why are they willing to ‘sup with the devil’? Perhaps the experienced seniors who do know what’s behind it are keyed in to the parlous condition of their industry and are just glad of the work he provides.
Let’s dismantle a few of the falsehoods that have been dutifully put out there for public consumption by the local media, in response to being prodded and leaned on by Frank, the Birkenhead MP of 40 years’ standing.
“Frank Field is fighting on behalf of a group of whistleblowers.”
Wrong on two counts.
Firstly, his primary motivation is not to promote, aid or protect others. On this occasion he’s been absolutely desperate to protect himself and his election agent, Councillor George Davies. This is explored below.
Secondly, as time has passed, the four (now three) employees involved here – who appeared to set out as whistleblowers with good intentions – have now proven themselves simply to be complainants – and complainants with an agenda.
To be recognised as ‘protected’ whistleblowers, they would need to have suffered a detriment, registered a Public Interest Disclosure Act complaint and had it confirmed. Whistleblowing externally to the media requires the information disclosed to be factually correct, rather than just a “reasonable belief”. If there’s no detriment or dismissal, there’s no legal basis for a whistleblowing claim.
There’s also not been any allowances made to accommodate coercion or blackmail – not the last time we checked.
Once upon a time, about 7 years ago, this group of workers informed their superiors that they had serious misgivings about a large highways contract (HESPE – Highways and Engineering Services Procurement Exercise) that had been let by Wirral Council, commencing on 1st April 2008.
The contract itself was groundbreaking for Wirral Council because it was the first time that its Highways Services – roads maintenance, street lighting maintenance, traffic lights, etc. – were being outsourced to an external contractor.
This maintenance work had been carried out in-house for many years by the council’s Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) based in the Wallasey Depot.
There’s no space to delve into any close detail about the technical ins and outs of the contract, save to say in summary that the bid documentation for the winning contract – drawn up by a company called Colas – contained some highly unusual clauses. These massively understated the true costs of much of the maintenance work, and were way below the prices declared in all the competing bids.
Which made no sense whatsoever – even to the lay observer – yet Colas somehow managed to win the Wirral Council £40 million contract (costs plus) for 5 years’ work.
We believe the employees took their complaint through the correct channels initially, but were fobbed off – as so often happens with power abusing councils – and why should Wirral be any different?
Being Birkenhead residents, they then went externally to Frank Field – in 2011. The contract was three years old at the time. He described them in the media as ‘whistleblowers’ – perhaps they even regarded themselves as ‘whistleblowers’ – which seemed a reasonable assumption to make as they were originally council highways workers who’d been TUPE’d across correctly to Colas along with several other colleagues before the commencement of the new contract.
As can be seen here, Frank Field was highly critical, but noticeably very careful to apply distance between himself and the council. He finished his contribution by stating –
“Serious fraud was impossible”.
This was a puzzling statement to make, which will have made some of us raise a startled eyebrow back in 2011. How could he know this?
Knowing how intimate and controlling his unseen ties to this abusive council were, we were intrigued to see Field feigning a few degrees of ‘separation’ – an ‘independence’ that didn’t exist in reality.
As stated above, his own election agent is (was) Councillor George Davies, deputy council leader, joint deputy leader of the Labour group and councillor for Claughton, Birkenhead.
It’s well known that Field and the council are constantly in one another’s pockets… and we smelled a rat. For him to declare from on high … “Serious Fraud is Impossible” … at a council where he was pulling the strings and benefiting hugely from this cosy arrangement … meant he was up to something. We didn’t know exactly what at the time, but it did not augur well.
But all became much clearer as things developed.
Following Field’s intervention on the HESPE contract, four directors at Wirral Council were suspended: Monitoring Officer Bill Norman, Director of Technical Services David Green, Deputy Finance Director David Taylor Smith and Director of Finance Ian Coleman.
A number of warm summer months went by with all four at home drawing full pay – and then hey presto! – external consultant Richard Penn turned up, investigated the complaint and all four were cleared with ‘no case to answer’.
The directors were paid off various eye-watering amounts and parted company with Wirral under a management restructure, leaving through so-called early retirement or severance.
Time passed and despite Frank Field’s initial very public huffing and puffing, the four complainants and their highways complaint appeared to become consigned to the dustbin. The clearing, gagging, paying off of the officers and clean bills of health for each appeared to tick all the boxes for Frank Field. But what of the complainants? Had he been stringing them along from the outset?
Still more time passed … and it seemed yes, the complaint had been conveniently forgotten. Mr Field’s silence indicated he had what he wanted, but the complainants certainly did not.
One day however, roughly a year later, it was all resurrected once more. Behind the scenes, the persons who became known as “the group” revealed a wholly different aspect to their motivation, one that didn’t gel with the previous ‘public-spirited’ approach – one that had failed.
They were not going to let it lie, and it got dirty. Was this their response to being cast aside by Frank? Let’s explore it some more…
Some time shortly before October 2014, they set out to make a covert recording(s) of Councillor George Davies, and did. There is nothing unlawful about this action in itself, but it depends what happens with the information.
Within it, George Davies allegedly made a racist remark about Surjit Tour, Bill Norman’s successor as Wirral Council’s monitoring officer.
If there was ever any doubt about their status as ‘whistleblowers’, at this point it was confirmed – if not publicly, certainly to those in the know.
Once they’d acquired this recording – other recordings have been hinted at – it was time to go back to their MP, let him know about their ‘change of circumstances’, perhaps enquiring whether Mr Field recalled their unresolved Highways complaint.
We obviously don’t know for sure but it’s probably safe to assume that the tape recording was played to an ashen Frank Field.
Under direct threat of his own election agent being exposed as an alleged racist, and with his feet held to the fire, it was time for Frank to step up and shift into overdrive with the obedient newspaper people.
Their contribution came in the shape of a fantastic (in the sense of fanciful) plan to buy off the four complainants with £192,000 of council tax payers’ cash and nullify the threat that was being brandished over his head.
Here was how Frank and his media chums’ heartfelt, moving story emerged in two local newspapers:
Frank went to great lengths to emphasise the ‘suffering’ that had been endured by these ‘whistleblowers’ (none of whom had lost their jobs or evidently suffered a detriment). Remember, if there’s no detriment or dismissal, there’s no legal basis for a whistleblowing claim.
Stating that they’re all skint because they’ve had costly legal fees won’t wash, particularly when you know they’re all still busy working and nobody got sacked as a result of speaking out. And see the MX comment above – why did Frank Field drop his four ‘suffering’ constituents and wait a whole year before speaking out on the controversial £48k?
If he’d been ‘battling’ on the complainants’ behalf he wouldn’t have dropped the ball for 12 months while their bank accounts got rifled by Sue, Grabbit and Runne’s Birkenhead based bandits, would he?
As you can see above, we’ve pinched some relevant comments from these articles to throw some light onto the hidden, sordid flip-side – the shadowy prime mover – the elaborate deceit that was now dictating all Frank Field’s public actions and statements.
We can also confirm a statement made by John Brace’s blog earlier this year, where he revealed that the recipient of the controversial £48,000 payment around October 2013 was the now former Head of Neighbourhoods and Engagement Emma Degg.
There is a further truly amazing tale, this time by no means fanciful, behind the circumstances of this – which we are not going to reveal here and now. That will be left for a rainy day in the future.