15th January update. T h r e e times in a month… Will Wirral Council ban the public from filming meetings?

This site is moving to a new web address.  If you’re a follower, please browse to the new site and register again to continue to receive updates or email notifications.  The old ones will cease to work in around a month’s time, when the old blog is taken down.

All the old content has been moved across and nothing else has changed.

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21st November 2012

A very disturbing development arose last night at a Pensions Committee meeting.

Wirral Council is currently entrusted with administering the Merseyside Pension Fund (black hole of over £1 billion).  Part of their remit includes periodically holding and chairing meetings which are attended by Wirral Councillors and members from neighbouring authorities.

At last night’s meeting, Chair Councillor Pat Glasman addressed attendees, bringing up the unusual subject of ‘the filming of council meetings’.  As it happens, this meeting was being filmed by member of the public John Brace, who has provided much valuable coverage and video content to the Wirral community on his blog: http://johnbrace.com/

Here is the start of the meeting, and included are all the events right up to the moment when Mr Brace was asked to ‘turn off the camera’:

It makes for very interesting viewing / listening, and do I spy some rather ignorant comments from serving councillors?  Comments that could not hope to survive even the most cursory analysis.

Thanks to John Brace for providing the following list of Wirral Councillors who attended this meeting on the night and did their own rather cobbled together, makeshift vote on whether or not to permit filming:

Cllr Patricia Glasman, Chair
Cllr Geoffrey Watt
Cllr Mike Hornby
Cllr Adam Sykes
Cllr Tom Harney
Cllr Adrian Jones
Cllr Sylvia Hodrien
Cllr Harry Smith
Cllr Ann McLachlan
Cllr George Davies
Phil Goodwin (trade union representative)

Until the minutes arrive, we’ve no idea what the breakdown of this vote actually was.  Let’s hope this issue is taken to a full council meeting for a better standard of scrutiny.  Although given Wirral’s track record, and what we’ve heard on the subject so far, this is by no means a given and we could be heading for yet another hugely embarrassing and very public fail.

Some quotes from the meeting:

  • “An advice note has been circulated to elected members this evening by the Director of Law”
  • “Concerns / comments have been made by cabinet members in particular concerning this practice in that a number of cabinet members found it unnerving and disruptive
  • “I object… I object personally to being filmed and recorded”
  • “I think we should all be in favour of openness and transparency, but I’m well aware that this can be regarded as intrusive by some people, not only the… so I rather think that this is a decision that should be made by full cabinet”
  • “My concern is, whilst I agree with you about openness and transparency, I think that some people do not like being filmed and that it has a detrimental effect on openness in that freedom of speech can be affected by being filmed…”
  • “Chair, I’m not against openness, all openness, people coming in and attending and listening and writing down what we’re saying, but if we’re not obliged to have filming, I really do find it objectionable to be filmed.   I don’t think we should allow it.  I move that we do not allow filming tonight”
  • “OK, seconded by Councillor McLachlan … so shall we go for a vote?  Those in favour of asking members of the public to stop filming?  Those against?  I think the motion has been carried, so would you please stop filming?”

24th November 2012

They’ve done it again………

This was the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee of the 21st November 2012.  As described above, the previous evening, councillors from the ruling party prevented member of the public John Brace from filming a Pensions Committee meeting.  Attendance details here.

The list of flimsy excuses for banning has been added to as follows: “Ostentatiously filming…”; “…disorderly and disruptive…”; “…unsettling to point a camera…”; “…we have no control over the way the film is taken, edited or even produced.”

Chairs of both of these meetings have referred to the letter sent by Bob Neill MP to all local authorities.  This required councils to encourage and allow filming, recommending that tweeting and blogging could be engaged in by not just representatives of the press, but by members of the public / activists.

The Bob Neill MP Letter (Dated 23rd February 2011)

“In the context of photographing or filming meetings, whilst genuine concerns about being filmed should not be dismissed, the nature of the activity being filmed – elected representatives acting in the public sphere – should weigh heavily against personal objections.”

“In short transparency and openness should be the underlying principle behind everything councils do and in this digital age it is right that we modernise our approach to public access, recognising the contribution to transparency and democratic debate that social media and similar tools can make.

I copy this letter to your monitoring officer given their responsibility for advising on your council’s procedures and decision-making arrangements”

I’d say that was pretty conclusive.  And I’m also wondering what on earth the chief legal officer is doing issuing an advice note that flies in the face of not just an edict from Central Government, but the legitimate and compelling public interest of the local people of Wirral.  Does he harbour serious delusions of grandeur?  Is he attempting to overturn parliament?

This is democracy in action, of the people, by the people and for the people – and these jumped up nonentities are on a hiding to nothing – how dare they attempt to ban the public from filming!?

p.s. Like disabled abuse and the commissioning of bogus “independent” investigations, it also transcends party politics – for those who might be assuming I’m some sort of Tory sympathiser.   Haha!!  Perish the thought

UPDATE   14th December 2012

A new petition has been lodged with the council by Mark Harrison entitled “Filming of Council Proceedings” calling for the council to “allow any member of the public who so wishes to record any council, cabinet and committee meeting, by video or audio, unless the public are legally excluded under section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972.”

LINK HERE

UPDATE 18th December 2012

They’ve done it again!!  Wirral Councillors have gone all heavy on a member of the public and stopped him from filming a public meeting for the third time in a month.  Councillors have stuck two fingers up to local members of the public, who were hoping to watch this meeting, and to Bob Neill MP, who sent this letter some time ago.

This time, the occasion was a Planning Committee Meeting (link to John Brace’s website).  The vote was carried by 6 votes to 5.

“Just for this meeting” the chair promised.  Yes.  Thank you.  We’ve had a shed load of empty assurances from your colleagues in the past.  So… until the next time?

This council really are the lowest of the low.  How dare they seek to push out the public and operate in secret?

I and many others had been looking forward to viewing democracy in action at this planning meeting (but this reasonable expectation is becoming something of a tall order with the public servants ensconced and going nowhere fast at abusive Wirral Council).

I think I already know where this will end up.  They will almost certainly follow the route of #QuackCWaC or Cheshire West and Chester Council and take control of the filming, wrap it all up in words like openness / transparency / engagement / inclusion – and we will then be drip-fed their slick version of suitably chosen events, suitably edited – all on their terms.

So until they can wrest back full control of the situation, it’s unofficial off-the-cuff bans, propped up by cobbled together votes.  Welcome to the newly-modernised, free-thinking, post-Klonowski Wirral.  “Where lessons have been learned.” (And How…)

PS. While I’m on the subject of crazed, reactionary lunges to lockdown and censorship, I’m waiting for replies to many emails from legal officer Surjit Tour (Graham Burgess’s nominated ‘single point of contact’), who appears not only to want to shut out the public, but is also becoming very shy on urgent matters of learning disabled abuse and disability discrimination).  Currently, he appears to be a ‘point of contact’ – but in one direction only.  Nothing, or very little, ever comes back.

UPDATE   15th January 2013

Council motion by Councillors Chris Blakeley and Geoffrey Watt; amendment by Councillors Bill Davies and Moira McLaughlin

This ‘should we allow filming?‘ issue is now descending into farce…

link to John Brace’s blog

And now… there are simply no words…  they’ve banned filming yet again, but this time on Health & Safety ‘grounds’…

another link to John Brace’s blog

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A new lurch towards secrecy. Klonowski Report buried over Christmas?

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UPDATE   3rd January 2013

The minutes are there.  They were there before Christmas, but I never had the chance to update.

Here is a link

I’ve been right through them and there is one mention of the mysterious ‘Standards Working Group’ meeting ~ the body that the officers I’d spoken to had never heard of.  Here’s the excerpt – all very vague – nothing specific at all.  Why is the meeting being called?  It doesn’t say.  [My emphasis]:

“Members gave consideration to a proposal that one of the Independent Persons be
invited to attend each meeting of the Standards Working Group. It was noted that
the next meeting of the Working Group was scheduled for 4pm on Monday, 10
December 2012 in Committee Room 2 of the Town Hall, Wallasey. The Committee
agreed that it wished to be as transparent as possible and that the proposal was an
appropriate way forward.”

There is no mention whatsoever on the Wirral.gov.uk website of a ‘Standards Working Group’ At least not in the places where you’d expect them to be, despite them wishing to be as ‘transparent as possible’.  A good start would be to tell us the public that you actually EXIST….

So it seems the public are once again plunged into the dark about what may be happening with the redacted Klonowski report – the one that has quite deliberately failed to reveal the names of abusers at Wirral Council, but has succeeded in blocking the legitimate and compelling public interest for almost a whole year.

This failure has been the shifting sands upon which have been built some pretty disgraceful, dangerous, self-serving, unwritten policies:

  • The issuing of a stack of compromise agreements (full and final settlements) which were never counted, recorded or properly scrutinised by any internal democratic processes
  • The gagging and paying off of senior officers widely regarded to have been involved in the protracted high level abuse of learning disabled people and the bullying and targeting of at least one whistleblower
  • The enabling of future abuse by top level managers, protecting senior officers widely regarded to have been involved in the protracted high level abuse of learning disabled people and the bullying and targetting of at least one whistleblower
  • The payment of a ‘reward’ to failed public servants.  A running total estimated to be between £810,000 and £1 million in public money.  (See this story which perversely overlooked Wirral Council.  Even the Daily Mail is right sometimes)

Will this report finally have the names revealed, in order to satisfy the growing public interest?

Or will it be buried as deep as nuclear waste?  Has it been buried as deep as nuclear waste… over Christmas?  While we were all looking the other way?

Wirral Council are now gaining a deservedly black as soot reputation for serial and deliberate manipulation of the public record, and given the failure to record in these minutes the date and purpose of the ‘standards working group’ which was to deal with this issue, I now fear the worst…

Is there a councillor reading this who can enlighten us, the people, the ones who voted him/her into office as a public servant?

FURTHER UPDATE   3rd January 2013

I’ve found something at last….

…..entitled Standards Working Group – Terms of Reference.  It all looks rather self-serving, and a practised and cynical exercise in deceitful doublespeak.  Machiavelli would be fiercely proud of it.  But what would you expect with abusive Wirral Council – the only council in the land to be monitored by the Information Commissioner for poor timeliness?  Honesty?  Openness?  Transparency?  You’re having a laugh….

Telling excerpt from the document:

Meetings of the Working Group shall be held in private and the provisions relating to
Access to Information shall not apply.

So… a committee which apparently agreed it wished to be as transparent as possible, by inviting a so-called ‘independent’ member, is to convene in secret.

The Klonowski report, costing the local public £250,000 and now possibly kicked into the long grass,  has had many of its recommendations ignored.

AKA Services are free to re-board the gravy train, and full steam ahead to the next basket case council, conduct the next unrecorded, unminuted investigation, potentially have it all ignored and collect a bloated cheque for services rendered.

Here on Wirral, in the wake of this ‘damning’ report, an admission to the long term abuse of learning disabled people, no disciplinary charges for anybody and 66 councillors granted a clean bill of health, the only areas refreshed and renewed appear to be the lies, the delays, the cover ups, the blaming of the public, the naming of a whistleblower, and the infamous, self-serving machinations…

UPDATE   16th January 2013

On 14th January, the public were illegally ushered out of a public Pensions Meeting, breaching the 1960 Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960, Section 1 (4) (c):

“while the meeting is open to the public, the body shall not have power to exclude members of the public from the meeting and duly accredited representatives of newspapers attending for the purpose of reporting the proceedings for those newspapers shall, so far as practicable, be afforded reasonable facilities for taking their report and, unless the meeting is held in premises not belonging to the body or not on the telephone, for telephoning the report at their own expense.”

So, they’re still flexing their muscles and making up their own rules as they go along.  As the anniversary of the publication of the ‘damning’ (which cost us £250,000 but never actually damned anybody) Klonowski Report passes, the bullies seem to be regaining the upper hand.

More here: Link to John Brace Blog

Wirral Standards Committee Meeting held on 19th November 2012

Despite clear internal guidance…… Wirral Council wrongly attempted to use an “Equality Impact Assessment” to help councillors…

The following is the internal document in question, dated 9th November 2012.  The document is headed “Proposal for Officer Options for Savings” – very vague – looks like a deliberate misrepresentation and a world away from the actual contents, which are deeply unsettling.  This was first looked at at a Standards Committee Meeting on 19th November 2012:

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents/s50007853/EIA%20-Disclosure%20of%20Confidential%20Reports%20under%20the%20Previous%20Ethical%20Framework.pdf

Page 1

Proposal for Officer Options for Savings –

Equality Impact Assessment Template

(Oct 2012)

Section 1:

Your details

EIA lead Officer: Shirley Hudspeth

Email address:shirleyhudspeth@wirral.gov.uk

Head of Section: Stephen Gerrard

Chief Officer: Surjit Tour

Department: Law, HR and Asset Management

Date: 9 November 2012

Section 2:

What Council proposal is being assessed?

DISCLOSURE OF INVESTIGATION REPORTS UNDER THE ETHICAL FRAMEWORK

(PRIOR TO 1 JULY 2012)


Page 2

Section 2b:

Will this EIA be submitted to a Cabinet or Overview & Scrutiny Committee?

Standards Committee on 19 November 2012

http://www.wirral.gov.uk/my-services/community-and-living/equality-diversity-cohesion/equality-impact-assessments/eias-010/law-hr-asset-management [broken link]

If ‘yes’ please state which meeting and what date

……………………………………………………………

Please add hyperlink to where your EIA is/will be published on the Council’s

website Law, HR & Asset Management

……………………………………………………………

Section 3:

Does the proposal have the potential to affect…… (please tick relevant boxes)

Services

The workforce

Communities

x

Other (please state eg: Partners, Private Sector, Voluntary & Community Sector)

If you have ticked one or more of above, please go to section 4.

None (please stop here and email this form to your Chief Officer who needs to

email it to equalitywatch@wirral.gov.uk for publishing)


Page 3

Section 4:

Could the proposal have a positive or negative impact on any of the protected groups (race, gender, disability, gender reassignment, age, pregnancy and maternity, religion and belief, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership)? (Note from Ed: ‘Does anybody see ‘Wirral Councillors’ mentioned in these protected groups?)

You may also want to consider socio-economic status of individuals.

Please list in the table below and include actions required to mitigate any potential negative impact.

Which group(s) of people could be affected

Potential positive or negative impact

Action required to mitigate any potential negative impact

Lead person

Timescale

Resource implications

All

Negative Impact – Details could be disclosed that relate to complainants and Councillors.

The investigation reports relate to historical issues and matters that could give rise to

adverse affects upon the individuals referred to in the reports

Standards Committee can decide not to disclose the reports thereby ensuring no

information is provided in the public domain. The status quo would continue.

Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset

Management

3 months

To be determined


Page 4

Section 4a:

Where and how will the above actions be monitored?

Through the committee arrangements of the Council.

Section 4b:

If you think there is no negative impact, what is your reasoning behind this? N/A

Section 5:

What research / data / information have you used in support of this process?

The report was requested at the last meeting of the Standards Committee.

Relevant legislation and legal duties upon the Council have been considered.

Section 6:

Are you intending to carry out any consultation with regard to this Council proposal?

No – not at this time however if a final decision is to be taken, consultation with

Members and those potential affected would be undertaken.

If ‘yes’ please continue to section 8.

If ‘no’ please state your reason(s) why:

(please stop here and email this form to your Chief Officer who needs to email it to

equalitywatch@wirral.gov.uk for publishing)

Section 7:

How will consultation take place and by when?

Before you complete your consultation, please email your preliminary EIA to

equalitywatch@wirral.gov.uk via your Chief Officer in order for the Council to ensure it is

meeting it’s legal requirements. The EIA will be published with a note saying we are awaiting outcomes from a consultation exercise.


Page 5

Once you have completed your consultation, please review your actions in section 5. Then email this form to your Chief Officer who needs to email it to equalitywatch@wirral.gov.uk for re-publishing.

Section 8:

Have you remembered to:

a)

Add appropriate departmental hyperlink to where your EIA is/will be

published (section 2b)

b) Include any potential positive impacts as well as negative impacts? (section 5)

c) Send this EIA to equalitywatch@wirral.gov.uk via your Chief Officer?

d) Review section 6 once consultation has taken place and sent your completed

EIA to equalitywatch@wirral.gov.uk via your Chief Officer for re-publishing?

<<<Document ends>>>

So, the clear aim of this, coupled with this, seems to be to conceal and protect the identities of individuals (e.g. officers, councillors, service providers) – known but withheld for a long time by Bill Norman, his successor Surjit Tour and others in the loop, but still concealed from public view in the published versions of both the Klonowski (failure of governance) and Smith (Bullying and abuse of power) reports…. and others.

It’s also deeply disturbing how ‘Wirral Councillors’ have somehow been crowbarred in as a ‘protected group’, alongside race, gender, disability, maternity, religious groupings.  How dare they?

It’s stated in a quite brazen way that there will be no consultation, and that a committee (populated by councillors and / or colleagues who stand threatened by having their names revealed) will have the final say after (maybe) consulting ‘members’ and ‘those affected’.  And we all know what decision will be reached by this committee, don’t we, even without waiting for the council committee system to go through the motions.

I tried to ring Shirley Hudspeth, this document’s author, in an attempt to find out.  She wasn’t available, neither was Surjit Tour, but the person taking the call said she’d call me back as soon as she knew what decision had been made by the Standards Committee.  She did come back, telling me that the matter has been referred to the Standards Working Group.  I can find no reference to such a group in the council’s list of committees, so the water is muddied still further.

22nd November

I spoke to Shirley Hudspeth today, who confirmed that the list of protected groups mentioned above was exhaustive.  I asked why then had councillors been included in it.  She couldn’t answer this, advising me that once the minutes for the Standards Committee of 19th November had been issued, the public could discover which ‘Standards Working Group’ (comprising 1:1:1 across the parties) will be sitting and on what date.  With regard to EIAs (Equality Impact Assessments), she asked me to ring Jacqui Cross who is the Council’s Equalities Officer.

Jacqui Cross confirmed to me that the primary purpose of EIAs  was to aim to cater for the impact that savings decisions would make on the protected groups.  She agreed with me that councillors may individually be included, but ‘councillors’ per se, grouped together within independent reports, should not have been included in this way and that any statement relating to investigations and the suppression of existing information had no place in an Equality Impact Assessment.  She is going to look at this and I will hopefully be able to set up a useful dialogue here, with the intention of putting some serious questions to the Council’s senior law officer – who is the driving force behind this accompanying document.

As the public are aware, there has been absolutely no accountability or reckoning for the long term abusers of disabled people or the people who bullied whistleblowers at Wirral Council, whether they be councillors, senior officers or service providers.  This could be why councillors and senior officers feel able to flex their muscles again.  Thinking they’ve got away with it, it’s quite possible they’re once again infused by arrogance, feeling impregnable in their positions and wanting to make sure by burying this one as deep as nuclear waste.
There’s an opportunity here for the council to finally, at long last, act in the public good and make widely available these names in the interests of openness and accountability.  Let’s face it, the public interest in revealing the names of the protected parties outweighs the public interest in continuing to conceal them.  Angela Eagle wrote an urgent letter to the Interim Head of the Council David Armstrong in August of this year.  This specifically asks whether the council is going to continue to protect the identities of people found to have been involved with abuse towards learning disabled people.  The letter remains unanswered.

But under a non-specific guise of protecting complainants’ and councillors’ wellbeing (?) ….

“…matters that could give rise to adverse affects (sic) upon the individuals referred to in the reports…”

…. we may be prevented from seeing a final reckoning for those involved in abuse.  Exactly what are these ‘adverse affects’ (sic)?

Nothing seems to have changed.  It still seems to be the abusers and their protectors who are calling the shots.

Anna Klonowski’s machinations are still in full flow, churning away, and being replenished and nourished anew.

Could the need to conceal public servants up to their necks in abuse and other hidden agendas be why they are currently seeking to ban filming?

UPDATE   27th November 2012

It was a good job I rang the council last week, because it seems it was all a mistake.  They should never have used the Equality Impact Assessment form for an issue that involved Wirral Councillors.  I got the impression it would have been highly embarrassing for them if councillors had benefitted from this error.

Jacqui Cross has reassured me that Shirley Hudspeth will be putting the situation right and removing the offending document from the council website.

However, given the historical tendency at Wirral for abuse, malpractice and cover up, people might say this was deliberately done – the use of equality legislation as a kind of trojan horse, deployed to usher in more secrecy AND protection….. for councillors.

UPDATE 30th November 2012

Shirley Hudspeth has now had the embarrassing item removed from the council’s website.

Screen shot here:

30 11 12 - embarrassing item removed from wirral website

UPDATE   14th December 2012

The public are still waiting for the minutes for the 19th November Standards Committee Meeting to arrive.

Until they do arrive, we won’t know where or when the correct ‘standards working group’ meeting will be held that will aim to finally do away with any chance of accountability resulting from the £250,000 Anna Klonowski full report.

It’s been a long time now, but will it happen this side of Christmas?

Has the meeting already happened?  With Wirral Council, we just don’t know, because it really is all up in the air….

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UPDATE – Wirral Councillors NOW REGISTERED with the ICO – but are YOU paying…?

This site is moving to a new web address.  If you’re a follower, please browse to the new site and register again to continue to receive updates or email notifications.  The old ones will cease to work in around a month’s time, when the old blog is taken down.

All the old content has been moved across and nothing else has changed.

Thanks for your time, and for following and I’ll see you there soon:

www.wirralinittogether.wordpress.com

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Back in early October, following the publishing of my email address without permission on a group of Wirral Councillors’ website, I decided to make enquiries and find out how many of our then 66 councillors were registered as ‘data controllers’ with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

This is a legal, statutory requirement where councillors are acting on behalf of constituents and storing their personal information electronically on home computers.

Within the ICO website, there’s a handy name checker where you can type in a name, address, etc. and discover whether an individual or company is actually registered.  I did this for the Wirral 66 and discovered that….  none of them were registered.

So I gave them all fair warning, advising them that they may have been in breach statutory law.  It was possible that not all of them needed to register, but highly unlikely that all 66 didn’t.

Since then, two have sadly died, however I waited a further month, but of the remaining 64, only 2 have registered.

So I’ve now sent a second email, advising them that as a member of the public, not wanting to see constituents’ personal data being manipulated illegally, I see it as my duty to inform the ICO, who will hopefully be taking steps to put the situation right.

Here are both emails:

Email One

From: Paul C
Sent: 10 October 2012 21:38
To: ‘ronabbey@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘chrisblakeley@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘eddieboult@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘alanbrighouse@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘wendyclements@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘tonycox@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘jimcrabtree@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘georgedavies@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘phildavies@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘billdavies@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘darrendodd@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘pauldoughty@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘davidelderton@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘gerryellis@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘stevefoulkes@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘leahfraser@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘philgilchrist@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘patriciaglasman@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘jeffgreen@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘robertgregson@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘pathackett@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘johnhale@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘tomharney@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘paulhayes@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘sylviahodrien@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘andrewhodson@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘mikehornby@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘peterjohnson@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘markjohnston@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘adrianjones@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘chrisjones@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘peterkearney@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘stuartkelly@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘briankenny@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘anitaleech@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘annemcardle@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘donmccubbin@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘annmclachlan@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘moiramclaughlin@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘chrismeaden@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘davemitchell@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘berniemooney@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘simonmountney@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘christinamuspratt@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘steveniblock@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘tonynorbury@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘cherrypovall@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘deniserealey@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘lesleyrennie@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘deniseroberts@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘lesrowlands@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘johnsalter@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘harrysmith@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘tonysmith@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘waltersmith@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘jeanstapleton@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘michaelsullivan@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘adamsykes@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘joewalsh@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘geoffreywatt@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘stuartwhittingham@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘irenewilliams@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘jerrywilliams@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘patwilliams@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘stevewilliams@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘janettewilliamson@wirral.gov.uk’
Subject: Registering with the Information Commissioner’s Office as a data controller

Dear Councillor(s),

After checking, I note with some concern that none of Wirral’s 66 councillors appear to be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office as Data Controllers.  This seems unusual given that a number of you are likely to have personal details e.g. residents’ names and addresses / email addresses stored on your computers at home, and are likely to have represented these residents either individually or collectively in some way, shape or form.

Here is a helpful message from Jane Corrin, the Council’s Information Manager, explaining some of the background to this issue:

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for your email below.

Advice from the Office of the Information Commissioner for Local Councils is that each individual councillor needs to review and consider if they need to notify with the ICO; depending how they process Personal Data.  This advice is detailed at the link below, which I trust you find useful.

http://www.ico.gov.uk/Global/Search.aspx?collection=ico&keywords=councillors

A short summary is also below, which explains how some processing will be covered by the Council’s Notification and Councillors do not need to register; although circumstances may arise when Councillors must notify individually, at a cost of £35 a year.

“In determining whether they need to notify, councillors need to consider the role in which they are processing personal information. If doing so as a member of the council or as a representative of a major political party, councillors will not normally be required to notify with the ICO. However, when carrying out their role as a representative of the residents in a ward or an independent councillor who is not affiliated to any political party a councillor may need to notify.”

Kind Regards

Jane Corrin

Information Manager

Wirral council

Simon Entwistle, Director of Operations at the ICO, said:

“Most councillors have regular access to the personal information of the residents they represent. Like all organisations who handle people’s information, it is of paramount importance that they take their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act seriously.

“We will be writing to councillors with advice on whether they need to notify with the ICO. Those who fail to notify with us when required may face enforcement action.”

Please take time to follow this link, which will enable you to very quickly and honestly assess your own position in order to determine whether any of your own activities should be registered.  This may help to protect the data security and privacy of any residents whose information you may be storing:

http://www.ico.gov.uk/notify/self/question1.html

Please note that any qualifying failure to notify with the ICO may result in a £5,000 fine, or an unlimited Crown Court fine.

More helpful information here:  http://www.ico.gov.uk/~/media/documents/pressreleases/2011/councillors_dp_compliance_news_release_20110125.ashx

As a Wirral resident, given the Council’s less than adequate performance on Freedom of Information in particular, I am concerned that a degree of sloppiness may have been allowed to creep into the important areas of data protection and security.  For this reason, I will be checking with the ICO in a month’s time to see what progress has been made,

Kind regards,

Paul Cardin

Email Two

12th November 2012

Dear Councillors,

I’ve re-checked with the Information Commissioner’s Office and it appears that despite the email I sent to you all a month ago (below), only one of you appears to have decided to ‘go legal’ and register with the ICO as a data controller.

Individually, there may be perfectly valid reasons for this, but 63 councillors lawfully not registered seems highly unlikely, given that many of you deal on a day to day basis with constituents’ personal data and information – and may have that personal data and information stored on your home computers for the purposes of e.g. carrying out casework on behalf of individual constituents.

I’ll now take this on to the next stage and report the situation to the ICO, who I’m sure will be grateful to receive the heads up.  Given the background on Wirral of years of disabled abuse; disability discrimination; impropriety; hideously misconceived legal crusades; failed standards complaints; blaming the public for the Council’s own inadequacies in data and information management; suspensions, followed by vindication; pay offs; gags; nobody made accountable, and layer upon layer of cover up, they may not be surprised.  But there’s one thing for sure….

I’ll be surprised if the ICO agree with Councillor Crabtree’s sentiments, and declare it…… quote… ‘a load of tosh’,

Best regards,

Paul Cardin

ps. Please accept my apology here and now if you have registered and the ICO has not yet updated its records to reflect this

I attached a read receipt to these messages and a number of councillors sent the receipt back “not read” i.e. the message itself was deleted without being read.

Since this email was sent, one further councillor has registered with the ICO.

I’ve now sent an email to the ICO, with a list of the 62 councillors not registered, asking them to advise:

18th November 2012

Dear ICO Notification Department,

I have sent the attached emails to all Wirral Councillors regarding non-notification as data controllers with the ICO.  Wirral currently has an LGA “Improvement Board” in place following a number of serious scandals which were played out over a number of years.  The council has also had a loose grasp on the importance of Freedom of Information and has been subject to the ICO’s ‘special measures’ following poor performance.  My own experiences are not good and I have placed requests which have taken over a year to address.

When I sent the 1st email in early October, there were 66 councillors in total, none of whom were registered.  Since then, two councillors have sadly died.  I sent the 2nd email a month later after allowing them ample time to take action (if they felt it was necessary), however only two are now registered, making 2 from a total of 64.  It seems likely to me that many of them will be active in representing constituents, will possess personal details in electronic format, will potentially be in breach of the Data Protection Act and are required to register.

I have checked against your own website records and I am therefore notifying you of the failure of the following 62 councillors to comply and to register:

  1. Ron Abbey
  2. Chris Blakeley
  3. Eddie Boult
  4. Alan Brighouse
  5. Wendy Clements
  6. Tony Cox
  7. Jim Crabtree
  8. George Davies
  9. Phil Davies
  10. Bill Davies
  11. Darren Dodd
  12. Paul Doughty
  13. David Elderton
  14. Gerry Ellis
  15. Steve Foulkes
  16. Leah Fraser
  17. Phil Gilchrist
  18. Patricia Glasman
  19. Jeff Green
  20. Robert Gregson
  21. Pat Hackett
  22. John Hale
  23. Tom Harney
  24. Paul Hayes
  25. Sylvia Hodrien
  26. Andrew Hodson
  27. Mike Hornby
  28. Mark Johnston
  29. Adrian Jones
  30. Chris Jones
  31. Stuart Kelly
  32. Brian Kenny
  33. Anita Leech
  34. Don McCubbin
  35. Ann McLachlan
  36. Moira McLaughlin
  37. Chris Meaden
  38. Dave Mitchell
  39. Bernie Mooney
  40. Simon Mountney
  41. Christina Muspratt
  42. Steve Niblock
  43. Tony Norbury
  44. Cherry Povall
  45. Denise Realey
  46. Lesley Rennie
  47. Denise Roberts
  48. Les Rowlands
  49. John Salter
  50. Harry Smith
  51. Tony Smith
  52. Walter Smith
  53. Jean Stapleton
  54. Adam Sykes
  55. Joe Walsh
  56. Geoffrey Watt
  57. Stuart Whittingham
  58. Irene Williams
  59. Jerry Williams
  60. Pat Williams
  61. Steve Williams
  62. Janette Williamson

The two now registered councillors are Peter Kearney and Michael Sullivan.  Party leaders are Phil Davies, Jeff Green and Tom Harney.

I would appreciate it very much if you could acknowledge receipt of this email, advise me what’s now required and advise me what action you will be taking,

Best regards,

Paul Cardin

21st November 2012

No response in from the ICO yet.

26th November 2012

Still no response in from the ICO.

28th November 2012

Just spoke to a very helpful person from the ICO’s ‘Non-Compliance’ Department, who assured me that Wirral Council’s leader, Phil Davies, has been in touch and that hopefully soon, a cheque will be on the way to pay for all non-compliant councillors.

I should add that this cheque will cover 62 people, and they will not be paying out of their own pockets.  This will include and benefit the elected member (identity available on request) who told me in an email it was “A load of tosh“.

The Wirral public will be digging deep (£2,170) to cover not just themselves, but any errant councillor playing fast and loose with their sensitive personal information.

See here and here.

Watch here for further information and correspondence.

UPDATE   21st January 2013

Email in from a lead case officer at the ICO:

—– Forwarded message —–
From: [Lead Case Officer’s email address redacted]
To: Paul Cardin
Subject: Non-registration of 62 Wirral Councillors – FAO [Lead Case Officer’s name redacted]
Date: Mon, Jan 21, 2013 16:28

Dear Mr Cardin,

My apologies for not being able to reply sooner, I have been on leave and today is my first day back in the Office since Christmas.

I have been in communications with the Legal Services team at Wirral Council since you raised the matter of their councillors being un-registered.

On the 21 December 2012 we received 62 application forms for the individual councillors together with 1 cheque from the council to cover the 62 lots of £35 registration fees. I have no idea if the council will be re-imbursed by the individual councillors or whether the council is in fact paying for the registrations of their councillors.

If I remember rightly, a set of application forms was posted out in the name of Phil Davies and the legal services team then used that application form for the template for the rest of the councillors, obviously changing the data controller name each time to that of the respective councillor and a different registration number was created by us for each councillor when the forms were processed.

The forms were processed by our Notification Department on the 24th December 2012 and all of the councillors are registered at the same address (the Wirral Borough Council Offices address) so if you are wanting to do a search of the councillors registrations if you go onto our website and onto the public register page and put in the post code CH44 8ED then you should be able to see the list of the councillors that are now registered.

There was a covering letter with the application forms as I think they are waiting on 1 more application form but I think that is because of an upcoming election for a vacant seat? Perhaps I have got that wrong but I do recall there being a valid reason for the omission.

Hope this helps, like I say I am only just getting back into the swing of things and some of my recollections are a bit vague!!

Kind regards,

[Lead Case Officer’s name redacted]

Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

T. [redacted] F. [redacted] www.ico.gov.uk

From: Paul C
Sent: 18 January 2013 09:26
To: Notification@
Subject: FW: Non-registration of 62 Wirral Councillors – FAO [Lead Case Officer’s name redacted]

FAO [Lead Case Officer’s name redacted]

Dear [Lead Case Officer’s name redacted]

Please forward copies of the information we discussed last year: documentation to show that Councillor Phil Davies placed a ‘bulk order’ for 60+ Wirral Councillors’ data controller registrations.

I realise that you are currently on leave, but would be grateful if you could act on this request shortly after returning.

I hope you had a good break,

Regards,

Paul Cardin

The officer hasn’t forwarded what I asked for yet – copies of documentation in the form of correspondence / a ‘bulk order’ for 60+ councillors, but I’ll be chasing him up on it.  Hopefully I won’t have to place an FoI request…. and wait.

____________________________________________________________________

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Wirral #FoI news. Whistleblower ‘accidentally’ identified on Wirral Council Website

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11th July 2012

The following FoI request was placed today, after the identity of a Highways Department whistleblower was ‘accidentally’ made available to the whole world via the Wirral Council Website.

This was in relation to the HESPE contract, awarded to COLAS in 2008 and later found to have been riddled with impropriety.  The Director involved, whose own brother used to work for the winning bidder, was suspended from his job back in March of this year.  He has since been cleared with ‘no case to answer’, courtesy of somebody who spends a lot of time defending senior council officers in trouble, and has also watched several colleagues being either cleared, gagged, paid off or all three since he hung his boots up.

The offending letter was taken down quickly, but too late…. the damage was already done.

The place is in turmoil, and seasoned observers of Wirral Council have interpreted this behaviour as a calculated ‘shot across the bows’ of any existing staff, who may have been considering following in the footsteps of Martin Morton, Andy Campbell and the person involved in this case, Gary Downey (who is one of a group of courageous and as yet unnamed whistleblowers).

As far as Wirral Council are concerned the watchwords are ‘Whistleblower Beware’, given that those prepared to act in the public good seem to have been branded as troublemakers, threatened and hounded out of their jobs, had their identities unfairly revealed or had their personal health and wellbeing put through the mincer.  Compare this if you will to the treatment given to abusive senior officers.  As the anniversary of the Anna Klonowski Report passes, the abusers’ real identities are still jealously guarded, having been replaced by numbers – which cleverly subverts the pesky little process known as ‘Accountability’.

So a big thank you to the LGA ‘Improvement’ Board – whom I assume must have been endorsing the council’s crazed, swivel-eyed, tongue lolling, anti-democratic practices.  More depressing legal news reaches me connected to the behaviour of this woeful bunch.

Watch this space for updates.  The request is currently with Surjit Tour, new boss of Legal who, along with 3 other staff, has taken up the department’s workload since Bill Norman, former Director of Law, was recently paid off.

Here is the FoI request:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/copy_of_letter_published_on_webs#incoming-330708

UPDATE   12th November 2012

As you’ll see, there’s no real urgency attached for them, and it’s taken four months to acknowledge receipt.   Once again, they’re in breach of the Freedom of Information Act.

“Tell us something new” I hear you saying.

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:

PROTECT

29 November 2012

Case Reference Number FS50475062

Dear Mr Cardin

Your information request to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Thank you for your correspondence dated 6 October 2012 in which you complain about Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s failure to respond to your information request which is outlined below;

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/copy_of_letter_published_on_webs#outgoing-216044

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 temporarily 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.

Yours Sincerely

[Officer name redacted]
Case Officer
First Contact
Information Commissioner’s Office

UPDATE   18th January 2013

I gave them plenty of opportunity to respond (6 weeks plus), but nothing’s arrived – so I’ve sent the following to the ICO today:

From: Paul C
Sent: 18 January 2013 09:33
To: ‘casework@ico.gsi.gov.uk’
Subject: RE: ICO Response Re: Information request to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council[Ref. FS50475062]

Dear [Case office name redacted]

Wirral Council has failed to provide the information connected to this request, despite you writing to them several weeks ago.

In my own experience there have been several persistent contraventions and I thank the ICO for placing this organisation onto the current monitoring programme.

I would now request that you issue a Decision Notice with regard to this request in order to bring them into compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

I look forward to receiving a response from you in good time,

Best regards,

Paul Cardin
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UPDATED: Cheques, lies and video tape. Wirral Council incapable of apologising…

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10th November 2012

This first Freedom of Information request, placed with Wirral Council’s Information Governance section is looking for costs and further information around the reputed ordering and supply of a turquoise and green range of plush office furniture, reputedly amounting to £30,000 and ordered from a company called Jenkinsons Office Supplies.  In addition to this, rather than employing elbow grease in the traditional way, a new Town Hall machination, in the shape of a dishwasher was also placed on order, and presumably by now, this will be plumbed in and churning away.

FoI request here: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/new_furniture_equipment_for_offi

The second request is related to the “What Really Matters” consultation, recently undertaken by the council.  As part of this strategy, a top local creative design company, Mills Media, which numbers amongst its clients: Newsquest (publishers of the Wirral Globe); Cammel Laird; Shell; Muller, and the local police, was commissioned to create a top quality video (duration 13 minutes).

Here is a link to excerpts from the Wirral Council video, produced under the title “What Really Matters” and starring CEO Graham Burgess and Council Leader Phil Davies.

FoI request here: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/marketing_advertising_agency_wor

Mills Media were also on hand in November 2010 to cover this ‘momentous occasion’.

To finish on a positive, here are some words of comfort from Wirral Council’s new CEO Graham Burgess:

We therefore need to spend less on ourselves in order to help mitigate the impact of the cuts on our most vulnerable residents……

UPDATE   13th December 2012

Yesterday, the Wirral Globe picked up on the Mills Media FoI request and ran a story under the headline “Slasher Movie: Wirral Council Spends £5,700 on ‘cuts’ video” – to bring the Wirral public’s attention to the thousands that were spent on a professional video “starring Wirral Council’s political leader and its Chief Executive”:

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/10104361.UPDATED__Slasher_movie__Wirral_Council_spends___5_700_on__cuts__video/?ref=mc

I’ve managed to locate these shorter videos on the Council’s website (none of which feature Councillor Phil Davies):

Families and Wellbeing video (06:11)

[excerpt: “The Council has a duty to protect its most vulnerable adults, children and families”]

Transformation and Resources video (06:31)

[excerpt: “The Council is also proposing to reduce what is spent on marketing, through things like advertising…”]

Regeneration and Environment video (06:07)

[excerpt: “…First thing you told us was to spend less on ourselves…to do everything possible to reduce the impact of spending cuts…”]

I’m not sure what happened to the original 13 minute video, but the link from the Mills Media web page has never worked.  Maybe the Chief Executive’s introductory section and the three separate areas added up to 13 minutes originally?

UPDATE   18th December 2012

Here, we have proof that if you keep the pressure up on Wirral Council, eventually they will do something amazingly stupid.

They were found to have lied in response to this Freedom of Information request re: Mills Media and the “What Really Matters” video(s).

Here’s a link to an article in the Wirral Globe website

Somebody at the council decided to massage the figures regarding exactly how much was spent on video(s) made at Mills Media.  In response to my request which asked for everything across all departments for this financial year, they sent back an answer of £5,722.  Which misrepresented the true cost and was out by approximately £7,500 !

They were caught out lying, but refused to apologise and even roped in a learning disabled person to publicly back them up – which to me seems desperately cruel, low and devious of them.

Councillor Blakeley has reported this deception to the Information Commissioner and asked the Council to apologise to the Wirral public.

I expect to see a public apology soon – for lying – and hopefully for what they did to Ms Carter, and it will be reproduced on these pages.

UPDATE   21st December 2012

It looks like Chief Executive Mr Burgess is not capable of climbing down and accepting that his staff lied.  Instead of an apology, it’s yet another two finger salute from the Council to the local public:

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/10123040.No_public_apology_for_misleading_statement/?action=success

…in other news, Wirral have earned a gong from satirical magazine Private Eye – the prestigious golden bung award AND they’ve been forced to reveal a £5 million black hole in their accounts, as reported in the Wirral Globe.

But given this tendency to ‘mis-speak’, how do we know it isn’t £50 million?

UPDATE   7th January 2013

Still no apology.  More on this from our friends at Wirral Leaks:

http://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/vexed-sighs-and-videotape/

and…

http://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/sorry-seems-to-be-the-hardest-word/

Whistleblower Martin Morton speaks to Community Care Magazine

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BREAKING: Wirral Council. Costs are in for the Richard Penn ‘investigation’

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BREAKING NEWS – 14th January 2013

Liverpool Echo

The figures are in for the costs of Richard Penn’s long term investigation into previously suspended officers David Green, Ian Coleman, Bill Norman and David Taylor Smith.

The total invoiced is a whopping £47,020.

This breaks down as £28,171 for the bulk of it which involved the complex acrobatics involved in reaching a conclusion that Green had ‘no case to answer’, and £18,849 for neatly avoiding the professed daunting ‘legal complications’ associated with Coleman and Norman.  As for Taylor Smith, he remains a man of mystery.

Councillors and senior officers will no doubt regard… what am I saying ‘regard’?…. will present this as money well spent.  But it’s not their money.  It’s our money.  And I can guarantee that not one member of the local public will agree that a further fifty grand shoveled into a yawning black hole, with absolutely no accountability or reckoning for any of the abuse or impropriety that occurred is ‘money well spent’.

In fact, in an honest, law-abiding, fully mature, grown up and civilised democratic arena, it would be more likely to qualify as malfeasance in public office – but they can all relax, because there’s nobody watching.

The train now departing from platform 1, Hamilton Square, is of the gravy variety….

UPDATE   27th December 2012

It’s official.  The Director who, in league with his assistant Nigel Jenkins, brought bogus “Gross Misconduct” bullying charges against me in 2003 which fell apart, but without any comeback, now has ‘no case to answer’ over allegations of impropriety associated with the letting of a £40 million Highways Maintenance contract back in 2008.

I’d say everybody concerned, whether externally investigating, still working for the council like Nigel Jenkins or Colin Hughes, or recently ££departed like Steve Maddox or Bill Norman or Ian Coleman or David Garry is as pure as the driven snow, and presumably the public will have had £100,000 + of their council tax money and £811,000 in gags and pay offs well spent on this and similar debacles – particularly that hefty 9 months’ chunk of salary channelled “into the coffers” of David Green while he was off work suspended through the summer.

Now move along please…  move along…  nowt to see…  But before you bugger off, here for your perusal is a link to…

An ‘independent’ Report by public servant Richard Penn

I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but what’s worrying about the sections of this report I have read is Richard Penn’s sloppiness – or is it deliberate?  He gives undue prominence to the rabid conjecture and unfettered, unevidenced opinions of senior Wirral managers (all close colleagues of David Green), whilst not bothering to quote at any length from the group of whistleblowers…

….so far, it’s looking like yet another stitch up.  Where the hell will this end up?

More links to news on Richard Penn’s background:

‘Tedious’ LinkedIn stuff

http://www.1in12.com/publications/archive/stories99/January99.htm

Excerpt: “With an annual pay packet of over £100,000, Penn was one of the highest paid Council bosses in the land. He is now tipped to pick up some lucrative part-time work with the Equal Opportunities Commission which is likely to see his retirement income come close to his former full time take-home pay.”

http://www.ncefloodmanagement.com/whos-speaking/richard-penn

Excerpt: “…has acted as a Designated Independent Person (DIP) in a number of local authority statutory officer disciplinary cases”

http://www.scribd.com/doc/50963141/Minutes-of-Council-14th-March

Excerpt: “RESOLVED-(a) That the Council finds that Mr Davies is guilty of misconduct by virtue of:(i) his over aggressive behaviour to staff (he was abrasive,rude and confrontational on frequent occasions); (ii) his lack of judgement in the events of March 2010 in drinking and driving; and (iii) contributing to the failure to maintain the necessary trust and confidence by reason of his aggressive behaviour.  Those voting in favour: 37  Those voting against: 0

http://www.lgcplus.com/lgc-news/kerrier-dc-chief-exec-faces-disciplinary-action-over-leisure-contract-award/1404936.article

Excerpt:  “Richard Penn, an adviser to the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives, said: ‘Mr Cox has consistently rejected the district auditor’s criticism.  ALACE will continue to represent his interests in this matter and defend any action which his employer may decide to take against him.'”

I don’t think much of the Local Government Association’s grasp of appointing the right person for the job….  I wonder if they were right to recommend that Richard Penn, who spends much of his time defending the interests of senior council officers in trouble, is a suitable person to conduct a crucially important investigation into contract impropriety – by a senior council officer in trouble?

Apparently, Mr Penn, before he started defending Local Authority Statutory Officers, was a statutory officer himself – CEO at Knowsley Council ~ between 1980 and 1989.  A little birdy told me a loooong time ago that David Green also used to work at Knowsley Council.  I don’t know if this is true or whether David’s tenure coincided with Richard’s, but I’m checking it out.

If they are workplace colleagues from old it would put an entirely knew slant on this decision, wouldn’t it?

When I arrived at Wirral in Autumn 1996, David Green was in place at the District Labour Organisation (later the ‘Operational Services Division’), based in the Dock Road Depot in Wallasey.  He moved to the newly titled Director of Technical Services position (not ‘Borough Engineer’ note) I think in 2002, when Andrew Rhodes left.

But when did he originally arrive at the Dock Road Depot?  And where did he come from?  Can anybody help with this?

UPDATE   25th December 2012

Happy Christmas to everybody !

Peace on earth and good will to all men.  Particularly to David Green, Director of Technical Services, suspended back in March, but who has torn the wrapping paper from a very special present today.  He has been cleared of any prospective charges and, like so many before him, given a verdict of  ‘no case to answer‘.

Apparently the post of ‘Director of Technical Services’ was deleted from the structure recently and another new management structure has now come to pass.

So, as abusive Wirral Council staggers forward into the New Year, it’s yet another swift kick in the teeth to council tax payers, just to keep them in line, and a timely shot across the bows of any future whistleblowers…  people who may still have the ‘gall’ to raise serious concerns about their broken, basket case of an employer in the near or distant future.

If you are a potential whistleblower, working at Wirral Council and contemplating reporting either criminal conduct, blatant impropriety or serious malpractice – WATCH YOUR BACK !  In July of this year one of the anonymous whistleblowers involved in this case had his identity revealed and posted globally over the internetA n d   n o w   t h i s !

Wirral’s senior public servants,entrusted with preserving good governance post Klonowski, and promoting fairness and probity seem to prefer lurching back into acting as they always have done………..

i.e. With scant regard for integrity and the public good and instead, flying in the face of the fine words trotted out in the newly-robust and newly touchy-feely policies and procedures.

So I was wrong; David Green wasn’t gagged and paid off in a six figure sum like so many others before him.  He is returned to a shiny new as yet unnamed post with what looks like a clean bill of health.  And what of suspended Deputy Director of Finance David Taylor-Smith?  I don’t know, but will it be a similar fate?  No-one seems to know.

The update below this one speaks of a ‘Special’ meeting held last Thursday, at which the final item on the agenda was…

4.  Any Other Urgent Business Approved by the Chair.

I imagine this is where the dark deed may have been done.  It was announced today on BBC Radio Merseyside’s 9:00 AM news.  But that was it.  I waited, phone in hand on Christmas Day (how sad) to record the item on the 10:00 news, but it didn’t arrive.

I imagine a very practised and cynical opportunist, still safely ensconced in their miserable ‘communications’ role at the council, timed this announcement for release to the media, for consumption with our Christmas breakfasts.

It seems “No case to answer” is vying to become the dominant rallying cry for the gang of abusers still wielding the whip hand at woeful Wirral Council (see 7.1).

UPDATE   7th December 2012

A ‘Special’ Employment and Appointments Committee has been called for Thursday 20th December 2012.

This looks interesting because there are two senior officers still suspended: Director David Green (HESPE Contract suspension) and David Taylor Smith (suspended following release of Audit Commission’s report into the HESPE contract disaster).

Given the Council’s hyper-lenient treatment of:

  • Steve Maddox (£157,537)
  • Jim Wilkie (The council will pay more than £95,000 into Mr Wilkie’s pension fundIt is not yet clear if he will also receive three months’ worth of his £132,000 salary in lieu of notice
  • John Webb (£152,339)
  • Bill Norman (£151,416)
  • Ian Coleman (£82,500)
  • Howard Cooper (retired)
  • Rick O’Brien (moved)
  • David Garry (£46,584)
  • Mike Fowler (£109,496)
  • Maura Noone (£111,043)

TOTAL = £811,010

… and Anna Klonowski’s reluctance to lay any blame at the feet of councillors (and her very surprising reluctance to enquire into what happened at supported living accommodation in Balls Road, Birkenhead (“I don’t have the time”))…..

….what can we expect here?

It’s very close to Christmas.  Will Santa turn up with a bulging sack?  Definitely ONE TO WATCH.  Hopefully, pioneering members of the public will be allowed in to film it with their iPhones / Androids.

People who like to see senior abusers being paid off will be relieved to see that the Council Leader is in attendance.  Whilst publicly proclaiming, “We need get to the bottom of this, etc, etc”, if you check his and his colleagues’ histories, they’ve always  invariably voted in favour of allowing officers known to have been abusive, but with their identities concealed in the Klonowski Report, to leave, £weighted down and without too many questions asked.  Here’s the full list of attendees:

Attendee Role Attendance
Councillor Paul Doughty Chair Expected
Councillor George Davies Committee Member Expected
Councillor Phil Davies Committee Member Expected
Councillor Jeff Green Spokesperson Expected
Councillor Mark Johnston Spokesperson Expected
Councillor Adrian Jones Committee Member Expected
Councillor Peter Kearney Committee Member Expected
Councillor Ann McLachlan Committee Member Expected
Councillor Lesley Rennie Committee Member Expected

9th November 2012

I’ve been thinking back to that day in September 2003, when I returned to my work location at Bebington Town Hall for the last time.  I’d tendered my resignation from the Highways Department, and indeed from Wirral Council, and been invited to come in, empty out my desk and return whatever Council property I still had.  I also planned to say “goodbye” to colleagues and co-workers, something not on the official list of requirements.

There was a problem however with visiting the workplace, but not of my making.  During my 5 months’ absence on suspension (a neutral act), unnamed others had been taking the opportunity to generally trash my reputation.  And following an amateurish internal ‘investigation’ and the unsuccessful levelling of trumped up, gross misconduct ‘bullying’ charges, there were likely to be some embarrassed, unhappy individuals knocking about, feeling a bit done down and not wanting to see their vanquisher turning up unannounced.

In support of the fraudulent charges, I’d been told I was ‘out of step with everyone else’ – a default feature of the process of alienation otherwise known as ‘lodging a grievance’ at Wirral Council.  Admittedly, there may have been a grain of truth in this remark.  The everyday racist and disablist ‘banter’ certainly had me responding differently; either reaching for the car keys to get the hell out, or flaring up.

Maybe displaying a streak of independence, compassion or understanding for minorities, and some fire in your belly marks you out to any clique as ‘someone to be eliminated’.  I was later labelled ‘different’ at #QuackCWaC Council (neighbouring authority who ‘removed’ my statutory information querying rights) some time later, after lodging a complaint there.

I’ll concede this much ~ I always got by despite this, functioning and forming friendships, without the need for constant validation from managers and their sycophants, and succeeded in performing my job to a good standard.

Having a strong and supportive family and group of friends, I soon found I could breeze along easily without the shallow ‘support’ of paid up, on message, surplus to requirement drones, bending to the will of their seniors.

Despite the layer upon layer of crap that had been built up and thrown at me, there were still 2 or 3 stronger individuals left in the office *waves* who stayed committed to the facts throughout all this….. and who were astute enough to see through the bullshit.  The rest of the dumb hangers on, whether fully complicit or simply bystanding and keeping shtum, were happy to take the lies as read, not rock the boat and keep their own ambition of keeping out of trouble or climbing the greasy pole steadily on track.

So I arrived in work and parked up, noting that my UNISON shop steward’s car was there in the car park.  Not far away was the flashy number preferred by my line manager – and his manager’s car was there, parked in its numbered space.  A couple more colleagues’ battered jalopies were also in situ.

I strode in, works mobile and security pass in hand, ready to return them and prepared to confront whatever was awaiting me.  My ‘grandparent line manager’ greeted me nervously, looking a bit flushed.  He took my phone and pass and began to explain, as if it were needed, and as if he did this every day, how to empty the contents of my desk, then make myself scarce.

I then walked into an almost totally empty office.  It appeared my visit had  been announced earlier.  Despite all the cars, there was only one person in, who I’d worked with very happily for the last few years.  Of course, I had no idea what she’d been told or how complicit she may have been in my departure – probably not much, being further down the ‘pecking order’.  So this was left to one side and we had a good long friendly chat while I began to tip the contents of my desk drawers into a bin bag.

I did this at a very leisurely pace, expecting people to start drifting back to their work stations.  This was a busy office after all.  But nobody arrived.  So I went a bit slower.

Still…. no-one showed up.  Where had they all gone?   I continued to chat to my former colleague, but after about an hour and a half, I began to muse:  This is a ‘working office’, in the service of the public; there are jobs to do; street lighting columns (lampposts) to erect; old ones to take down…

These street lights wouldn’t look after themselves.  Yet my grandparent line manager (now back safely in his office) seemed happy to allow these public servants to come in, park up and hide somewhere else on site, away from their desks….

And that’s how it stayed.  Nobody turned up.  My grandparent line manager entered the office again and made noises along the lines “X has work to do… she can’t chat all day”.

So I left, and ambled back to the car park, my hypervigilant antennae noting that as soon as the door slammed the all clear was probably sounded and work on the maintenance and installation of Wirrals Street Lighting network kicked in, as normal.

http://www.easyvirtualassistance.co.uk/totwitter1.jpg

2 May 2012

From: Paul Cardin

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/suspension_of_director_david_gre

This FoI request was placed on 2nd May 2012, following the suspension of David Green, Director of Technical Services and head of the Highways Department, which occurred on 27th March 2012:

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/9614815.New_shock_rocks_Wirral_Council_as_highways_and_technical_services_director_is_suspended/

Some history

Back in 2003, David Green suspended me, when I was an Assistant Engineer, working for the Highways Department.  I’d been employed within the Street Lighting section at the Council since 1996 and had blown the whistle on long term irregularities attached to the carrying out of night time Street Lighting scouting rounds.

The Council presented my suspension as a ‘neutral act’.  However, very soon, a large recorded delivery envelope thudded onto the doormat.  It turned out there was to be an internal investigation and following this, the council levelled trumped up disciplinary charges, accusing me of a campaign of ‘bullying and harassment’.  Strangely, nothing had been recorded about this behaviour at the time it ‘occurred’ – probably because it hadn’t occurred.  But many months on, it seemed to me now that somebody’s creative juices had been flowing.  This pointed towards collusion between unknown parties, whilst I was safely out of the way.  The charges were poorly-evidenced at best, and magicked from thin air at worst…

My own original allegations regarding impropriety with public money were not acted upon and were quickly forgotten.  I suddenly found myself up to my eyes in refuting these fraudulent charges.  In the months spent away from work, I’d called upon my union, UNISON to help me in my predicament.  I’d provided my UNISON ‘representative’ with a dossier / diary of all the nasty stuff that had been going on in the lead up to my suspension, all carefully recorded with incidents, times, dates and locations.  Some of the detail of this was very unpleasant, even disturbing and I won’t go into that here.

When I handed this evidence across, I took the precaution of numbering the pages and glueing some of them together at the top.  This proved to be one of the the shrewdest moves I’d ever made.

When I turned up unannounced at the UNISON offices in Birkenhead one day to ask why they’d done nothing, the ‘representative’ tried to fob me off with empty excuses.  I then demanded the return of the dossier I’d left in his possession.  Sure enough, the pages were still glued together as I’d left them, several months before.

No-one had bothered to read it.

I decided to join what was then the Transport & General Workers Union (now UNITE) after being invited by the full time North West Regional officer (now sadly no longer with us).  He was a good friend of mine, a man of principle, and I’d known him since my schooldays.  He was disgusted by what the Council had done and was only too willing to offer guidance and support to me as a new member.

In summary, he wiped the floor with them.  When the September hearing arrived, attended by David Green, who was assisted by the then Head of Human Resources (and former UNISON full time officer), my union rep raised some very pointed questions.  He set about blowing the council’s counter-case full of holes, and enabled me to fill in with the facts, shoot it all down in flames, and finish them off.  Ultimately, David Green was forced to withdraw the falsehoods and to find another job for me at the council.  This was made all the more difficult by the fact that my reputation had been savagely trashed from within.

Certain middle managers who knew me, whom I’d worked under and who had until now valued my professional input, had suddenly located their yellow streak, closed ranks and fallen into step behind the spurious bullying accusations brought by their seniors.

Unknown to the council, while suspended, I’d naturally been spending my time busily looking for a job elsewhere – anywhere – to get me away from what I now regarded as something of a ‘hell-hole’.  This succeeded and I was delighted to move to a much better paid position in the private sector.  The timing of this had been exquisite for me – and for my long-suffering but very strong and supportive family!!

The new organisation was fairly local, but a world away from Wirral Council, being a professional and forward looking outfit, with none of the seedy, cloying, sexist / racist undertones, and certainly not steeped in unaddressed cultural backwardness.  In fact it was a very refreshing change.  Here was a modern workplace, where I didn’t need to spend all my time ‘looking over my shoulder’.  My input was encouraged, valued and well-rewarded.

Meanwhile Wirral Council, with its dreamt up allegations now lying in tatters, struggled on, promising to find me a position that didn’t involve a pay cut and further detriment.  While they did this, I took great pleasure in playing my trump card and resigning…… not forgetting to request a sum of back pay for work I’d done on Street Lighting scouting rounds that the council hadn’t paid me for – which didn’t go down too well with David Green.

Although many sister councils have now farmed out this sort of work, Street Lighting scouting rounds continue to this day to be carried out internally by Wirral Council officers.

Well, that’s at least some of my personal history in these affairs.

But to bring readers back up to date with the present…

There have been many twists and turns since David Green (whose brother used to work for COLAS) was suspended.  It started becoming clear that there were very serious and very clear failings within the HESPE contract that was awarded to COLAS back in late 2008.  This time around, there were a number of whistleblowers on the side of the truth, who’d turned to Frank Field after receiving short shrift and a predictable lack of support from inside the Council and then from the Audit Commission, who were consulted in March 2009.

Their allegations were compelling, serious and detailed – but the inertia that greeted them was profound and disturbing.  Frank Field for his part recognised that they were being fobbed off and seemed very appreciative of their contribution.  He was regularly quoted in the press, praising them to high heaven ~ a tactic which made some people, including me, feel very uncomfortable.  The public were not surprised when they very quickly saw Mr Field gushing in the media about the performance of the ‘new’ Labour council (the one that had tried and failed to cover up / minimise learning disabled abuse) and soon, the alarm bells began to ring:

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/9996154.EXCLUSIVE__Highways_whistleblowers_speak_out_following_departure_of_council_s_legal_chief/

The conclusion here is that politicians. simply. cannot. be. trusted.

I’m not going to go into forensic detail regarding the ins and outs of this situation, but it seems that at every turn, the council and its associated public ‘regulatory’ bodies have been found wanting.  Whether it’s Wirral’s so-called Internal Audit (formerly run by David Garry) and their bizarre act of giving “3 stars” (a ringing endorsement in anyone’s book) to the highly-flawed HESPE contract; or the contribution of District Auditor Michael Thomas, producing an initial review which very belatedly (September 2010) found little wrong with the HESPE disaster, before being compelled to ‘look again’, only to find in June 2012 after the imposition of delay upon delay by Wirral Council  that David Green ‘probably broke EU rules’ and much more…  link: http://fraudnews.eu/?p=2091 ;or the Serious Fraud Office turning Frank Field’s request down and failing to investigate the conduct of the contract.

Private Eye, Issue 1326 ~ 2nd Nov 2012

Here, updating us further still, is a clip from the current issue of Private Eye – unlucky for some, page 13 – Rotten Boroughs:

Wirral Council are making a habit of appearing within these pages

Compromise Agreements ~ Their Impact on Equal Pay Claims

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All the old content has been moved across and nothing else has changed.

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www.wirralinittogether.wordpress.com

A landmark judgment was announced recently by the UK Supreme Court, allowing equal pay claims to be brought in the Civil Courts, where in the past the only route was through the Employment Tribunal:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/25/victory-birmingham-equal-pay?newsfeed=true

A key factor in this decision is the differing timescales or eligibility periods between the Employment Tribunal and the Civil Court processes.  In the past, Equal Pay claims would time out after six months of leaving employment – a constraining factor which had always played into the hands of the employer.  However, the civil courts allow a greater and far more reasonable 6 year period of opportunity – vital when preparing more complex cases, or in allowing employees who may be unaware that they have suffered through unequal pay, more time to discover the facts and take up legal support in order to prepare a case.

The above link refers to a number of determined female employees, 170 in total, who had worked for Birmingham City Council, and who brought their cases to the High Court against a background of double-dip recession, austerity and central government cuts, in a climate where many large council employers were busy cheaply shedding posts across a number of years.

Many councils, including Cheshire West and Chester for example, have been encouraging employees either made jobless, taking voluntary redundancy or early severance / retirement, to consider taking small financial settlements and sign compromise agreements.  These are legal documents which take the form of full and final settlements.  They’re written up ostensibly in order to give a “clean break”, but motivated by self-interest as they encourage the ex-employee to enter a binding contract to waive any legal claims against their former employer in the future.

Compromise agreements are powerful and pretty much all-encompassing instruments.  The only legal avenue which cannot be closed off in this manner is that of personal injury claims.  Each compromise agreement will usually cost the employer around £250 to draw up and process.  This cost will rise if the employer seeks to include gagging clauses, preventing the employee from talking about details of the contract or even the contract itself.  To make the document lawful and above board, employees, as signatories to the document, will need to access and receive legal advice as part of their exit procedure.

In January 2011, exercising my statutory Freedom of Information rights, I conducted research encompassing 345 English councils.

http://www.easyvirtualassistance.co.uk/page12.html

I asked these councils to provide details for the number of compromise agreements they had processed during the previous 6 years.  This was restricted to those drawn up in circumstances of dispute, such as grievances, investigations and whistleblowing cases.  If I’d requested ALL agreements, including those drawn up in redundancy situations or equal pay claims, it’s highly unlikely the councils would have been in a position, due to the sheer numbers involved, to provide the information without going above the £450 costs limit.  This is a provision within the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which takes into account an organisation’s resources / workload and is given to data controllers as one of the exemptions under which information which is held does not have to be released.

Some councils responded instantly, generally the smaller, well-run ones.  Many more took a few weeks to reply, but did respond within the 20 working days that the Act allows them.

To receive all the answers took many months, but eventually, following numerous internal reviews and 55 appeals to the Information Commissioner’s Office, I finally had answers from all 345 councils.  The last one to respond was my own council, the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral – an organisation which has been mired in scandal upon scandal, a very small portion of which is covered elsewhere on this blog.

In total, there were approaching 300 English councils who responded and provided figures, mostly for a period of 6 years, between 2005 and 2011.  Around 50 of them gave varying reasons for not responding, and engaged various exemptions within the Act, usually the costs exemption, claiming that the act of going through their records and providing the data would cost more than £450.  Others claimed that releasing the data would be an infringement on the ex-employees’ personal privacy.  I appealed many times with the Information Commissioner, but ultimately, only 22 appeals were successful in overturning the councils’ decision not to comply.

The total number of compromise agreements drawn up in circumstances of dispute, grievance, investigation and whistleblowing was 4,410 or an average of 15 per council.  Applying estimated costs of £350 per agreement (as such agreements are very likely to contain one or more gagging clauses), this works out to a total of £1,543,500.

The use of such agreements followed a trend which has been rising exponentially over the last 6 years.  One could reasonably speculate that council employers will be tempted to make even greater use of these agreements in equal pay and redundancy situations.

The graph above indicates steady growth in the use of compromise agreements in dispute circumstances over the last 6 years. 2010 figures were still working through, and with 55 requests refused, the adjusted figure may eventually fall into line with the rising historical trend.

Should compromise agreements as full and final settlements still be regarded as valid following the recent Supreme Court judgment – and there’s no reason to conclude that they won’t be – what a wise and profitable move it will have been for the employers who issued them.

However, what’s good for employers is not usually good for their staff…. or indeed their former staff.

Site Meter

#FoI Request ~ Departure of Chief Internal Auditor David Garry from Wirral Council

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All the old content has been moved across and nothing else has changed.

Thanks for your time, and for following and I’ll see you there soon:

www.wirralinittogether.wordpress.com


18th October 2012

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/departure_of_chief_internal_audi

See also this related blog post

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

On 17th October 2012, it finally became public knowledge that
disgraced Chief Internal Auditor David Garry – who had perversely
and inexplicably given the disgraced HESPE contract 3 stars – had
received permission, to leave his employment with Wirral Council.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/999130

Above is a link to a news story published today in the
Wirral Globe, which reported this matter, along with the departure
of the suspended Director of Law, Bill Norman. Once again, the
comments beneath the article indicate the strength of feeling
amongst a still outraged public.

The former CEO, Jim Wilkie, who himself is the subject of another
freedom of information request, currently breaching the FOI Act:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ag

…admitted to years of learning disabled abuse by the council.
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
and again in breach of the FOI Act:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/da

Despite the fine words trotted out in Appendix S2 of the Anna
Klonowski “Refresh and Renew” Supplementary Report, the Wirral
public have still 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 – which totalled over £700,000 plundered from
their bank accounts.

There were also abuses of power, as found by two independent
investigations – but which remain unpunished, and an admission to
learning disabled abuse here (See 7.1):

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgConvert

Please provide all information you have which is connected to the
departure of Mr Garry. This will relate to meetings, hearings,
discussions, reports, and may be stored in the form of recorded
minutes, verbatim and non-verbatim notes, emails, letters, memos,
aide memoirs, documents, whether electronically or manually stored.

Please confirm and provide full details of the existence of any
payments made to Mr Garry in relation to his departure. This will
include precise amounts, the method of payment and the budget from
which the payment was / is to be derived.

Please confirm details of the existence of any “compromise
agreement” or “confidentiality agreement” or “compromise
contract”or “confidentiality contract” agreed and signed by Mr
Garry 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.

In light of the [strangely] recent discovery by Wirral’s NOW
EX-Chief Internal Auditor David Garry that “compromise contracts”
were NOT being recorded but were being arranged behind closed
doors, beyond any councillor scrutiny and beyond view of the
public:

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents

…please describe the exact process that was followed and supply the
documents, reports, aide memoirs, notes, etc. that were created and
recorded as part of the NEW process. Please take a deep breath
before you do this, and ponder your overriding duty to act not out
of self-interest, but fairly and impartially in the unbending
service of us the public.

Please provide the names and addresses of all organisations /
bodies involved in providing legal advice to Mr Garry. 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 Garry in relation to any failures /
malpractice / abuse which may or may not have brought about his
departure from the Council.

If Mr Garry was provided with a “clean bill of health” regarding
his time served at the council, please provide a copy of this /
these document(s).

Please redact documents as you see fit, and remove any personally
sensitive information in accordance with the requirements of the
Data Protection Act.”

Please confirm which meetings have taken place. Presumably there
will have been at least one gathering called to scrutinise the
so-called “compromise contract” that was drawn up and agreed,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

For further context and background information, see the story of  Nigel Hobro, an accountant of 30 years’ standing, working for Wirralbiz, who blew the whistle on alleged malpractice at Wirral Council, attached to the BIG (Business Investment Grant) Fund:

http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2012/04/12/wirral-council-investigates-new-whistleblowers-claims-99623-30740243/

Mr Hobro has taken his issues to an employment tribunal, which was recently postponed due to a contributor’s illness.  Presumably he will have lodged a case against his former employer WirralBiz for discrimination or for unfair or constructive unfair dismissal ~ which is often what happens to whistleblowers.  The messenger is attacked.

Mr Hobro has also made some revealing remarks in the comments pages of the local media and has been very keen in his blog to get his message out there:

Here’s a WhatDoTheyKnow request, lodged in May this year, but not yet answered by the council five months on.  It is now at appeal with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The story was continued in the Liverpool Daily Post during the last week of September 2012 on page 9.  However for some reason, there is no web link to the story.

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#FoI request ~ Unscrutinised Machinations; Suspended Director of Law Departs Wirral Council

This site is moving to a new web address.  If you’re a follower, please browse to the new site and register again to continue to receive updates or email notifications.  The old ones will cease to work in around a month’s time, when the old blog is taken down.

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www.wirralinittogether.wordpress.com

17th October 2012

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/unscrutinised_machinations_permi/new

See also this related blog post

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

On 17th October 2012, it became public knowledge that suspended
Director of Law, Bill Norman had received
permission, as part of a secret, protected and apparently
unscrutinised process, concealed from public
view, to leave his employment with Wirral Council. According to the
press, this is believed to follow an external investigation stating
that he had “no case to answer” and to involve the granting of a
package approaching £150,000 in public money.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/999130…

Above is a link to a news story published today in the
Wirral Globe, which reported this matter. Once again, the comments
beneath the article indicate the strength of feeling amongst a
still outraged public.

The former CEO, Jim Wilkie, who himself is the subject of another
freedom of information request, currently breaching the FOI Act:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ag

…admitted to years of learning disabled abuse by the council.
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
and again in breach of the FOI Act:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/da

Despite the fine words trotted out in Appendix S2 of the Anna
Klonowski “Refresh and Renew” Supplementary Report, the Wirral
public have still 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 – which totalled over £700,000 plundered from
their bank accounts.

There were also abuses of power, as found by two independent
investigations – but which remain unpunished, and an admission to
learning disabled abuse here (See 7.1):

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgConvert

Please provide all information you have which is connected to the
departure of Mr Norman. This will relate to meetings, hearings,
discussions, reports (including the report of Mr Richard Penn, the
external investigator), and may be stored in the form of recorded
minutes, verbatim and non-verbatim notes, emails, letters, memos,
aide memoirs, documents, whether electronically or manually stored.

Please confirm and provide full details of the existence of any
payments made to Mr Norman in relation to his departure. This will
include precise amounts, the method of payment and the budget from
which the payment was / is to be derived.

Please confirm details of the existence of any “compromise
agreement” or “confidentiality agreement” or “compromise
contract”or “confidentiality contract” agreed and signed by Mr
Norman 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.

In light of the [strangely] recent discovery by Wirral’s NOW
EX-Chief Internal Auditor David Garry that “compromise contracts”
were NOT being recorded but were being arranged behind closed
doors, beyond any councillor scrutiny and beyond view of the
public:

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents

…please describe the exact process that was followed and supply the
documents, reports, aide memoirs, notes, etc. that were created and
recorded as part of the NEW process. Please take a deep breath
before you do this, and ponder your overriding duty to act not out
of self-interest, but fairly and impartially in the unbending
service of us the public.

Please provide the names and addresses of all organisations /
bodies involved in providing legal advice to Mr Norman. 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 Norman in relation to any failures /
malpractice / abuse which may or may not have brought about his
departure from the Council.

If Mr Norman was provided with a “clean bill of health” regarding
his time served at the council, please provide a copy of this /
these document(s).

Please redact documents as you see fit, and remove any personally
sensitive information in accordance with the requirements of the
Data Protection Act.”

Please be mindful that as Mr Norman was the “Director of Law” and
fulfilling that role, and paid / rewarded in line
with that role as part of these as yet secret arrangements, I am
making you aware that case law within this area, combined with the
legitimate and compelling public interest demands a far greater
degree of openness.

As yet, I can find no evidence either in the press or on the
Council website that this departure has received ANY democratic
scrutiny by elected officials. Please confirm which meetings took
place. Presumably there will have been at least one gathering
called to scrutinise the so-called “compromise contract” that was
drawn up and agreed.

Please also confirm whether the July suspension of Mr Norman and
his two colleagues was carried out correctly i.e. it followed to
the letter the guidance laid out within the Local Government Act
2000 and was mindful of the extra protection that is afforded to
Directors of Law and Finance.

If Mr Michael Frater, local gov troubleshooter [now departed] made
an error in suspending the two officers Norman and Coleman, and
this has “blown up in his face” and potentially caused a situation
in which we may find ourselves today i.e. shot in the foot;
compromised; picking up the pieces, and paying off officers who
have had their employment rights breached, then please confirm it
if true, and release all the documents which relate to it,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

18th October 2012

According to Principal Committees Officer Andrew Mossop, the relevant minutes were added to the website yesterday, almost a whole month after the Employment and Appointments (Compromise Contracts) meeting took place.

This relatively new committee was established in April 2012.  As we all know, mucho concealed machinations will have transpired before then.  Anyway…. drip, drip, drip….

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=656&MId=4224&Ver=4

Pay-offs ~

David Garry’s breakdown

Total to the tax payer: £46,584.

People will wonder, “Why did the Chief Internal Auditor have to go?”  Is it anything to do with the HESPE Highways Contract awarded to COLAS, now lying in tatters?  Can it be related to the lack of audit oversight which was allowed to occur under Mr Garry’s watch?  Can it be connected to the perverse decision to award “3 stars” (whatever that means – sounds like an endorsement to me) to the whole rotten process?  Did David Garry receive a “clean bill of health” within his compromise agreement, intended to reassure any unwitting employers thinking of appointing him in the future, following this fiasco?  We need to know!

Bill Norman’s breakdown

Total to the tax payer: £151,416.

The reason given for the former Director of Law’s departure is “Redundancy/Severance payment”.  Presumably the post of “Director of Law” now lies redundant, obsolete; to be deleted from the staff structure…. or have I got this wrong?  Experience tells us such issues are approached differently on Wirral.  Will the position be given a new, fresher title…. one to key in with the positive spin, with the supporting machinations whipped into a frenzy, as the media machine churns onwards and “moves forward”.

Did anybody ever read and digest the Klonowski Supplementary Report ~ the absurdly titled “Refresh And Renew”, with its fine words promising accountability before the public?  Or does that and the full report sit on a shelf somewhere, unheeded, gathering dust ?

Sharp-eyed readers of the Council minutes will have spotted that the meeting called on 20th September 2012 was just one day prior to the reporting of the external investigator, Richard Penn, on 21st September 2012.  Which reminds us of the release of the two senior DASS oficers the day before the release of the full Klonowski report.  “Manipulation” and “massage” appear to be writ large not just through the minutes produced on the website, but in the actions and the exquisite timing of the actions of Wirral’s “inner ring”.

What kind of an organisation would draw up and present a compromise agreement the day before a crucial investigation finally reports its findings.  What kind of an organisation would allow a suspended employee to leave in the event that the investigation came up with “no case to answer” – which is precisely what transpired.  What the hell is going on here?