WIRRAL Council has been through arguably one of the most difficult and turbulent periods in its history – with still little prospect of an end in sight.
The last year has seen a damning report by external consultant Anna Klonowski into how it had been run and managed, and a second report by her into long-standing allegations by former employee and whistle-blower Martin Morton.
A further report by another external consultant into bullying, also prompted by Mr Morton’s allegations, led to further bad publicity and promises to make changes.
These also resulted in apologies and promises to radically transform how Wirral operates from the senior managers and politicians alike, but ultimately saw the Labour group ousted from control of the council after a vote of no confidence by the Tories and Lib Dems, just days before the budget was to be set.
This has all happened as the Local Government Association watched the council closely to ensure it can turn itself around. A council “troubleshooter”, Michael Frater, has been been appointed to provide “management support” to acting chief executive Ian Coleman while chief executive Jim Wilkie is off sick.
The council’s director of technical services David Green is currently suspended while the authority awaits a report from the District Auditor into the multi-million pound highways contract.
Since the change of power from Labour to the Tory and Lib Dem controlled cabinet there has also been controversy over the council’s budget, which saw a 3% cut in council tax, to be paid as a rebate.
However, Labour has criticised this – and the decision to give the rebate to those who receive full council tax benefit – as an “election bribe”. Conservatives said it helps the poorest in Wirral.