My name’s Paul Cardin. I live in Wirral in the North West of England, and blog regularly on a number of issues: Freedom of Information, farcical ‘local democracy’, and council abuse. The main purpose of building these pages is to shine a spotlight onto abusive Wirral Council (see 7.1) and to get the message out there that there’s a large scale and very expensive scam going on right under our noses. This is in the form of a large blanket being thrown over embedded corruption and malpractice. We are enabling this with our votes, and paying unknown £millions for it through our council tax.
The string of council scandals which led up to this go back into the last century and are well-documented, thanks largely to whistleblower Martin Morton and The Wirral Globe. The revelations were extremely serious and detailed, and eventually began to mushroom, spreading from Social Services, to central governance and over into Highways. But no proper reckoning has ever arrived for any of the abusers.
The current position after two long years of bloodletting is this: Although the council has admitted to:
- long term abuse
- the abuse of power
- the bullying of staff
- serious failures in top level governance…
….nobody is an abuser, nobody is a bully and nobody has failed.
These paradoxes persist because the legitimate and compelling public interest is being ignored, stifled and sidelined – all with the ongoing assistance of a Local Government Association…. wait for this…. ‘improvement’ board. Whistleblowers, complainants or members of the public who want to establish fairness and engage in the democratic process are being blamed, or otherwise crapped on. Their contributions to the debate are being deliberately omitted from the record and struck from the minutes of public meetings. Members of the public are even being illegally herded out of these meetings – to permit shadowy and secretive gatherings to convene.
A growing number of senior officers, widely regarded to have been involved in malpractice are being paid off in the tens of thousands of pounds, and / or cleared with ‘no case to answer’. Cause and effect means an increasing number of the wider Wirral electorate is unlikely to ever vote again for an overwhelming majority of pisspoor councillors; the “El Dorada” or gilded ones, who had it good during the abusive years, who still hanker after the spoils of power abuse and want this house of plenty to continue.
They still protect each other, pretend to a ‘new dawn’, feign ‘resolve’, even ‘anger’, whilst attempting to close down public debate, shut off public access or put an end to genuine public involvement. These elected officials are gutter dwellers, up to their necks in the mire, their snouts soiled from the trough, and strive only for their own personal / political gain… like they always have done, and always at our expense.
Along with a number of concerned people who’ll remain nameless, I possess a sharp sword and tend to swing it around a lot, slashing or lopping heads off the many headed Hydra that is this monstrous, ugly council and its dumb, self-generating fiascos and scandals.
Running scared, and completely blind to accountability, the creature constantly snaps away, abusing power, trashing the area’s reputation and draining the local public’s time, council tax money and patience. The minute you decapitate one rotten, festering, venom-spewing head, a new one sprouts in the shape of the latest scandal.
It shames me to admit that I was once an employee of Wirral Council Highways – but resigned in 2003 after blowing the whistle on some ‘shenanigans’ – more here. I also worked for #QuackCWAC ~ Cheshire West and Chester Council – but after making a complaint, which throughout two long years was never addressed, I lost my job and became subjected to a ban on accessing information and data. This was the crazed work of ex-Wirral Head of Legal Services Simon (Gotcha) Goacher, who bizzarely flew into the face of all modern concepts of openness, transparency and the free flow of information by aiming to remove my statutory information and data querying rights. This lasted between October 2009 (the time of my departure) and June 2011 – a period of 20 months.
Leading privacy counsel Hugh Tomlinson QC, whose involvement caused the council to back down very quickly, believed the tactic of banning future requests was unlawful. The Information Commissioner backed this up, stating that not only was the council’s tactic likely to breach the FoI Act, it also appeared to be a contravention of the Human Rights Act. It quickly received short shrift here also.
So a piece of friendly advice to Simon for the future, should he come up against the big boys again: statutory rights can’t be removed – full stop.
Witless #QuackCWaC (minus Gotcha who’s now fleeing to the private sector) maintain to this day that it was lawful and were on the record stating they’d deploy the tactic again in the future as and when required. The threat has now been quietly withdrawn, but there have been no guarantees given, much less an apology for the democratically unscrutinised conduct of the past few years, or for any distress caused. Feckless #QuackCWaC councillors, never quick on the uptake, still seem to give manipulative senior officers carte blanche to do what the hell they like, even if it contradicts their touchy-feely public policies- the ones with all the welcome but hollow assurances in them.
More recently, I’ve turned to making probing FoI requests to Wirral Council, in order to try to get to the bottom of the council’s long term abuse of power, their reactionary targeting of whistleblowers, their callous financial abuse of disabled people (going back to 1997 – they plundered £700,000+ from learning disabled tenants’ bank accounts – see picture below), and the more recent cop-out tactics of gagging and paying off abusive senior officers (running total £810,000+ in public money), the mounting of a lopsided investigation here and another one there, or the welcoming of a senior suspendee back into the fold in highly controversial circumstances.
After two years of constant activity, and after repeatedly coming up against a towering wall of inertia, be it Wirral Council or their ‘regulator’ the ICO, I like to think I’ve contributed, along with certain others, towards having Wirral Council monitored by The Information Commissioner between January and March 2013.
But will this be enough? They’ve been monitored before but appear to have learned very little. What other sanctions does the ICO possess for recalcitrant offenders who just don’t get the message?
Whenever you see or hear a Wirral ‘spokesperson’ talking to the media, they never, ever refer to the ongoing backdrop of disaster, interwoven by fiasco, layered upon controversy, quickly pursued by cover-up that’s become the accustomed ‘Wirral Way’. It’s as though nothing’s happened; they prefer instead to gloss over it all, assume we are stupid and simplisticly compare Wirral to other similarly sized councils.
Here are some more hideous, snarling ‘Hydra heads’ that have recently sprouted:
Watch this space and please sign up to follow my blog for further developments. Thanks for visiting !