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7th June 2012
This was the date of departure of Chief Executive Jim Wilkie from Wirral Council.
It occurred a few hours before the release on the 8th June of the long awaited damning District Auditor’s report into the multi-million pound HESPE Highways Contract – which was riddled with impropriety and downright dubious conduct by Senior Officers.
This was similar to the release of the Klonowski Report, where two Senior Employees, Maura Noone and Mike Fowler (Employees 13 and 22 within the report), who had been involved in extremely dubious practice, where the bank accounts of learning disabled people had been emptied of more than £700,000 over several years – as originally reported by whistleblower Martin Morton, were allowed to leave the day before the so-called ‘full’ report was released.
A prominent figure, heavily involved in either allowing these people to return to work (in 2008), and later permitting them to leave their employment without any redress or disciplinary sanction was the Council Leader, Councillor Phil Davies.
He has been seen time and again to preside at meetings which have voted for the outrageous option of bypassing the disciplinary procedures, and providing a clean bill of health, before paying people off with often 6 figure sums and gagging them within compromise agreements. This tactic protects the abusive senior officers involved, but condones their abuse, rewards it and thereby enables it to occur again in the future.
Most people would view this as downright dangerous, and conduct unbecoming of a council which is statutorily required to advance and protect the welfare of vulnerable and disabled people living within its jurisdiction. But the stakes here are extremely high. Very senior council officers are protected from prosecution in this way because the threat of being outed as complicit in the abuse is ‘buried as deep as nuclear waste’.
Only the High Court or a Public Enquiry can prise open a compromise agreement to see what nasties are concealed within it.
Here is the FoI request:
Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,
Today, CEO Jim Wilkie received permission by 7 votes (Labour & Lib
Dem) to 3 votes (Conservative) to leave his employment at the
council via EVR (Early Voluntary Retirement).
Above is a link to a news story published VERY recently in the
Wirral Globe, which reported this matter.
Mr Wilkie himself admitted to years of learning disabled abuse by
the council, and this was followed by the departure of two senior
social services officers in January of this year. It is still not
clear whether these two individuals WERE leaving as a result of
their involvement in abuse AND whether they signed compromise
agreements with gagging clauses. As of today, despite several
assurances, Wirral have not responded to the following FoI request
and are many months overdue:
The Wirral public are yet to see any sign of accountability or a
reckoning towards the as yet anonymous employees who perpetrated
this sustained abuse against learning disabled people over a period
of several years. There were also abuses of power, as found by two
independent investigations – as yet unpunished. Admission to
learning disabled abuse here (See 7.1):
Please provide all information you have which is connected to the
departure of Mr Wilkie. This will relate to meetings, hearings,
discussions, and may be stored in the form of recorded minutes,
verbatim and non-verbatim notes, emails, letters, memos, aide
memoirs, whether electronically or manually.
Please confirm and provide details of the existence of any payments
made to Mr Wilkie in relation to his departure. This will include
precise amounts, the method of payment and the budget from which
the payment was derived.
Please confirm details of the existence of any “compromise
agreement” or “confidentiality agreement” signed by Mr Wilkie in
relation to this departure or to his involvement in abuse or
malpractice. This will include confirmation and description of any
‘gagging clauses’ and whether a positive / neutral / negative
reference was provided regarding potential future employment.
Please provide the names and addresses of all organisations /
bodies involved in providing legal advice to Mr Wilkie. Please also
provide details of meetings which occurred including times, dates
and matters discussed.
Please confirm the details of any disciplinary charges either
planned or levelled against Mr Wilkie in relation to any failures /
malpractice / abuse which brought about his departure from the
If Mr Wilkie was provided with a “clean bill of health” regarding
his time served at the council, please provide a copy of this /
Please redact documents as you see fit, and remove any personally
sensitive information in accordance with the requirements of the
Data Protection Act.”
6th July 2012 ~ No response received ~ internal review requested below
Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,
Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan
Borough Council’s handling of my FOI request ‘Agreed Departure of
Chief Executive Officer Jim Wilkie on 7th June 2012’.
You have failed to respond to this request. As you are now in
breach of the Act, please ask a qualified individual to perform an
internal review of this request.
A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address:
UPDATE 3rd August 2012
Email in from Wirral Council:
Wirral Borough Council acknowledges your request for information and
further correspondence regards your enquiry and apologies for the delay in
response. Your request is with the department of Law HR and asset
management and we will respond with any information we can provide as soon
as this information is available. Thank you for your enquiry.
UPDATE 5th October 2012
Appealed today with the Information Commissioner.
UPDATE 29th November 2012
The ICO have been in touch, telling me that they’ve contacted Wirral Council by letter and given them 10 working days from receipt of the letter to either furnish the information or provide a valid reason for not doing so:
29 November 2012
Case Reference Number FS50467476
Dear Mr Cardin
Your information request to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council
Thank you for your correspondence dated, 5 October 2012 in which you complain about Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s failure to respond to your information request outlined below:
When considering complaints about delayed or failed responses to information requests our priority is to ensure requesters receive a response as quickly as possible (where one has not been provided) and to monitor any persistent trends which might indicate that a public authority was routinely failing to respond within the statutory 20 working days permitted under section 10 of the Freedom of Information Act.
We monitor complaints where a serious contravention of section 10 is recorded and where persistent contraventions occur we will consider placing a public authority on our monitoring programme (http://www.ico.gov.uk/what_we_cover/promoting_openness/monitoring_compliance.aspx ).
I have written to the public authority to provide them with a copy of your original request, reminding them of their responsibilities and asking them to respond to you within 10 working days of receiving our letter. I enclose a copy of my letter to the public authority for your information. The late response will be recorded and as described will form part of our ongoing activity to consider the performance of public authorities and the Freedom of Information Act in the future.
Should you wish the Information Commissioner to issue a decision notice for your specific complaint we are able to do so, however it is important to note that the Commissioner does not need to serve a decision notice in an individual case in order to use that case as evidence for enforcement action.
If Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council responds and refuses to release the information you have asked for and you are dissatisfied, you may, after exhausting their internal complaints procedure, complain to us again.
I have enclosed a fact sheet explaining more about our complaint handling procedures. At this point the case has been closed and I would like to thank you for bringing this these concerns to the attention of the Information Commissioner. If you do not receive a response within 10 working days please contact us quoting the reference number on this letter.
If you require any further assistance then please contact me on the number below.
[Officer name redacted]
Information Commissioner’s Office
UPDATE 11th December 2012
Email to ICO, sent tonight:
Case Reference Number FS50467476
Dear [officer name redacted],
I have heard nothing from Wirral Council. I believe the 10 working days that you specified are now up.
I originally lodged this request in June, but have received nothing whatsoever, apart from empty assurances.
I’d be very grateful if you could acknowledged receipt of this email and act upon the situation by taking it to the next stage,