Fine words – but where Wirral Council’s concerned, they’re always a hostage to fortune

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Here’s a link to a fine Wirral Council document.  ‘Fine’ because its stuffed with nice sounding, positive words – strong, decisive ones.  Only later – much later – to be revealed as shitty, deceitful and hollow.  The abusive council which promised so much… but delivered nothing.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=18972

It’s the process of bogus, pained self-flagellation / feigned victimhood that workplace bullies lurch towards when caught in the act.  Like rabbits in the headlights, they’re briefly stunned; but not missing a beat, they quickly recover.  Soon they’re up and running again, promising not to be so awful to their staff again in the future.  Their staff – the people they’ve described so many times in the past as ‘our most important asset’.

“Never again”, they will say. “This time….  it’s for real.”

But because they have all the power, they’ll quickly remind you that they’re the ones who are best placed to sort it all out.  They’ll start by making an earnest pledge to the watching public.

“We will stop at nothing in pursuit of the truth.  Lessons will be learned.  We will make the people responsible for this atrocious conduct (i.e. we the councillors / senior officers and our on-message sycophants) fully accountable…. and we are determined to succeed.  We are committed to fixing this organisation, and  moving forward.  We will start by calling for an immediate and robust review of all the relevant policies and procedures.”

This will be their call to ‘action’.  They may even call the whole thing an “Action Plan“.  Because that sounds positive.  Unless like Wirral, you happen to be on Action Plan number 94 for whatever year, with the list of self-generating scandals and fiascos growing ever longer:

  • (to be continued…..)

The experienced council watchers among you are now seeing phrases trotted out such as ‘we need to draw a line under it’ or ‘this council has to move forward’ or ‘that’s historical and happened such a long time ago’.

Here’s a reminder of Councillor Denise Roberts’ amendment from way back when – otherwise known as ‘the ‘series of unfortunate events defence’ – stuffed to the gills with the corrosive language of avoidance – which despite or because of LGA involvement, still epitomises to this day Wirral Council’s inability to take onboard and recognise its own desperate failings.

As the desire to cover up gathers fresh momentum, a public inquiry and / or special measures are desperately needed – to stem the haemorrhaging of £millions more of our money into the burgeoning black hole of Wirral councillors’ and senior officers’ creation.

Now…!

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Was Anna Klonowski’s investigation truly independent? Wirral Council still to reply – 9 months on

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

The above FoI request was placed in May 2012.  Last spring.  Wirral Council acknowledged receipt 7 months later in December.  This winter.  So it’s the customary, not exactly timely response.

It’s pretty much the kind of thing we’ve come to expect when approaching Wirral Council in good faith for public information ~ a  towering and pretty impregnable brick wall of inertia.

You might gain the impression they frankly don’t give a damn.

Link to news that Wirral will be the only council in the land, monitored by the Information Commissioner – starting in January 2013

But at least while they sit in silence, and in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, and we continue to wait for something to happen, we have an opportunity to discuss the issues brought up in this request, one by one.

  • AKA Associates, headed by local government consultant Anna
    Klonowski has a track record of working with Wirral Council, in the
    areas of training of senior officers and councillors, consultation
    on governance, and “independent” investigation. According to press
    reports, and the council website, it appears AKA’s associations
    with the Council as an “independent” consultant are ongoing and
    developing further

That’s right.  This ‘independent’ external investigator had a prior association with Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, which began five years before AKA were appointed to externally investigate, back in 2006.  It took the form of ‘governance training’ provided to senior officers and councillors.

Despite several written requests – here is a selection from Twitter – I’ve never been provided with any information to allay public concern over the true impartiality or ‘independence’ of the Klonowski inquiry.  The people involved are all public servants, working for you and me, but there are serious, compelling and ongoing questions, raised in the interests of openness, transparency, fairness and democracy, but yet to be answered:

  1. Why was AKA chosen ahead of other qualified individuals and organisations – many without a prior association?
  2. What exactly were the company’s credentials for taking on such a complex and wide-ranging inquiry?
  3. Did Councillor Green’s choice fully comply with the Council’s policy and procedure for the commissioning of external investigations?
  4. With being a former trainer, did AKA stand to gain or lose in any way by the decisions / findings / recommendations reached?
  5. Why did AKA fail to investigate Balls Road Supported Living in the same way West Wirral was looked at? (The AKA “not enough time” excuse was inadequate and may have breached the remit)
  6. Why did AKA stubbornly refuse to minute or dual-tape-record their investigations with participants of the external review despite many requests?  The chance to record a completely accurate version of events was quickly lost forever

Why do these questions need to be answered?  Because AKA do not appear to have declared any prior interest or affiliation when the then leader Jeff Green commissioned them to carry out a review which eventually cost the local taxpayer £250,000.

Also, having a prior connection, that of providing governance training to councillors and senior officers, Anna Klonowski Associates seems to have stood to gain (or lose), dependent on the eventual outcome.  It’s not in the interests of the wider public, to entrust an organisation whose fortunes clearly rode on the outcome they themselves would reach.  In fact, it seems to have been a forseeable and avoidable conflict of interest which could have interfered with the nature of the conclusions eventually arrived at.

AKA found that all 66 councillors were completely blameless – which many existing staff, former staff, and members of the public understandably found astonishing.  The problem for AKA was: if they’d found a number of councillors culpable, it may have interfered with future funding decisions, and put an end to their association with the council; an association that AKA had spent  many years building and nurturing.  With ‘playing safe’, and clearing the decision makers, there was no direct obstacle to AKA continuing to provide their ongoing consultancy services.

I’m not saying this is what actually transpired, and that these were the reasons for the decisions made – but we can’t rule anything out or in – because there has been either silence or a dearth of information.  And to the sceptical, hard-bitten Wirral Council watcher, there was always the potential for ‘shenanigans’ to occur.  And given the council’s proven historical abuse of power, this would not look out of place.

The public can’t be blamed for harbouring serious misgivings – doubts which have never been safely put to bed.

(More to follow…..)

I wonder what’s happening with this?  I haven’t heard a thing

— Wirral In It 2gether (@Wirral_In_It) January 13, 2013

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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#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.

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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 ~ Discovery of Wirral Council’s failure to record compromise agreements

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

Face of a man who is covering his eyes uid 1460818

“Let’s close our eyes everyone.  Because then….

….it’s not really happening”

Total numbers for Compromise Agreements (full & final settlements for departing employees)

I lodged a previous request on this subject back in January 2011.  This was one of 345 separate requests made to English councils at the time.  Wirral trailed in 345th…. the very last council to respond, taking 216 working days to provide the following:

2006: 2
2007: 1
2008: 3
2009: 2
2010: 4

The FoI / DP gagging clause had never been used.

I thought, given the Chief Internal Auditor’s recent finding of high priority fundamental risks in this area, and a failure to scrutinise and record anything, not only was I left scratching my head on how they’d provided figures for years 2006 to 2010, but the time had come to try and draw back the veil that’s been cynically pulled across, shine a spotlight into the gloom, and update the public on how many compromise agreements were issued throughout 2011 – a year of great turbulence for the Council.

Compromise agreements are important and sombre legal documents, and often contain “gagging clauses” in order to keep the employee and the issuing body quiet.  They rule out future legal recourse and are associated with the handing over of large sums of public money, aimed at pacifying complainants, whistleblowers (who can’t in law actually be gagged) or those who have been subject to disciplinary allegations or investigations.  In other words ~ they are the lynchpin to an extremely touchy and sensitive area.

Sharp-eyed readers may have spotted in the above report that David Garry, Chief internal auditor, has failed to highlight the subject of  ‘compromise agreements’ in the introduction to the report, whilst making room for and headlining more mundane subjects such as “the overdue audit of Bidston Village Primary School”.

In her report, independent investigator Anna Klonowski has already headlined that such dysfunctional, secretive behaviour, followed by a peculiar brand of selective reporting is all in a day’s work for Wirral Council, ending her 249 pages with, “If positive and constructive change is to occur a clear articulation of ‘this is how we do business in Wirral’ needs to be developed and modelled every day by those in leadership positions throughout the tiers of management.  This will need to be supported by the development of an ability to constructively challenge those who do not adhere to these behaviours.” *waves at Mr Garry*

So, on it goes despite Klonowski.  The habitual kneejerk lurch towards the dysfunctional…. continuing ‘as abnormal’.  The “Wirral Way” of doing things never bodes well for anyone banking on integrity breaking out, or ideals such as openness, transparency, and the free and unhindered flow of information.

Maybe it’s just too early to usher in normality.  And with no accountability in sight, maybe normality is a bridge too far?

Here is the new FoI request, which was lodged today:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/total_annual_figures_for_comprom_347

Please check back for updates.

UPDATE   9th October 2012

Appended to the above FoI request:

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

In relation to the above request, please also supply the figures
for THIS calendar year, 2012, to date. As follows:

Following on from the 2011 END DATE of the previous request….the
annual figures for the total number of current employees or
ex-employees of Wirral Borough Council who have signed compromise
agreements directly related to the resolving of dispute(s) /
grievance(s) / internal and external investigation(s) /
whistleblowing incident(s).

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

UPDATE    30th October 2012

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan
Borough Council’s handling of my FOI request ‘Total Annual Figures
for Compromise Agreements, etc.’.

You have failed to respond to this query within the statutory 20
working days allowed. Please ask a senior officer to carry out an
internal review and also provide the person’s name, role and
contact details including phone number. Please also provide a
receipt for my request for review.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/to…

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

UPDATE   28th November 2012

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

It is now over 20 working days since I requested an internal
review.

As you are again in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, I
will now turn to the Information Commissioner and lodge an appeal /
complaint,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

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UPDATED – Analysis of 14 Freedom of Information requests to Wirral Council – verdict is not good…

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I don’t profess to be an expert where Data & Information Governance are concerned.  I have a layman’s self-taught appreciation of FOIA and DPA.  Experts will find fault in the following analysis, but I hope I’ve covered the basics adequately.  As time goes on, I will update the times and insert more context and background information on each request.

14 x FoI requests to Wirral Council – 2011 to present day

The majority of these requests (10) contain multiple breaches of Statutory Law.

1.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/meeting_between_party_leaders_an#outgoing-220406

Summary: Requesting information around important initial meeting held between Anna Klonowski and all Wirral party leaders.

Date of request:     12th Oct 2011

Age of request in working days:      315 and counting

Response within 20 working days: reply on Day 20

Internal review requested:      9th Nov 2011

Working days for internal review to report:     281 and counting (breach of Statutory Law)

Request completed: NO

Note: Amid a background of proven malpractice, bullying and the targetting and disposal of a whistleblower, along with serious failures in governance, the council press office notified the Liverpool Echo to advise them of this meeting.  In response to this FoI request, Wirral described it as “an informal gathering that didn’t require minuting”.  Whereas the Liverpool Echo headline had screamed: “Wirral Council Leadership Hangs in the Balance”.  After 315 woring days, I still await a measured and reasoned response.

I still await an internal review, originally requested over a YEAR ago.

2.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dass_recent_departure_of_two_sen#comment-30487

Summary: Requesting information around two ex DASS senior officers, gagged, paid off, allowed to leave, but never disciplined.

Date of request:     11th Jan 2012

Age of request in working days:      233

Answered within 20 working days: reply on Day 21 (breach of Statutory Law)

Appealed with ICO:      13th Apr 2012 

Working days for council to respond:     169 (breach of Statutory Law)

Decision notice:     Published

Request completed: FS50438500 – Click to read ICO Decision Notice

Rosemary Lyon requested a 14 day extension.  Surjit Tour requested a 7 day extension.  Both granted.  Both deadlines missed.

I’m currently waiting for the ICO to publish the Decision Notice on this.  It’s been presented to me by the ICO as a “complex” decision.  I regarded it as a pretty straightforward case of failure to discipline officers and the enablement of future abuse.

UPDATE   December 2012

The decision notice is now in.  The ICO appear to regard ‘personal privacy’ as more worthy of its attention than a dangerous threat to the wellbeing of learning disabled people.  But the least said about that the better.  The decision is being appealed to the First Tier (Information Rights) Tribunal.

3.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/senior_officers_requirement_to_d#comment-29981

Summary: Requesting information on Senior Officers’ register of declared interests.

Date of request:     20th Jun 2011

Age of request in working days:      344

Answered within 20 working days: reply on Day 27 (breach of Statutory Law)

Internal review requested:      13th Aug 2011

Working days for council to respond:   Internal Review  not carried out (breach of Statutory Law)

Request completed: NO

Appealed with ICO:     15th July 2012

Decision notice:     Published

ICO reference No.     FS50416628 (Click to read ICO Decision Notice)

Contempt of Court proceedings are potentially about to be issued, depending upon the response I receive to the following email, sent this evening:

From: Paul C
Sent: 04 September 2012 21:15
To: ‘casework@ico.gsi.gov.uk’
Subject: Freedom of information request re: Wirral Council Register of Senior Officers’ interests FS50416628

FAO [Senior Case Officer’s name redacted]

Dear [Senior Case Officer’s name redacted],

Further to the Decision Notice you issued to Wirral Council dated 13th August 2012, 35 calendar days have now expired, but I have not received any contact from Wirral Council specifying to me whether it holds further information which falls within the scope of my request as required by Section 1(1)(a) of the Act.

Neither have I received any further information contingent upon the Council’s consideration of any further information it holds for disclosure to me, the complainant, as required by section 1(1)(b) of the Act.

Neither have I had any indication that the Council has considered any information which it does hold for disclosure bearing in mind the First Tier Tribunal’s decision in the case of Greenwood v ICO (EA/2011/0131 & 0137).

I therefore request that you take this case to the next stage and also update me with the details of any action that you are taking,

Best regards,

Paul Cardin

11th October 2012

After 16 months, Wirral Council has finally and reluctantly provided some information on the declared interests of 26 x Senior Officers.  Given that Wirral are making frequent claims to a newly emerging climate of transparency and openness, I have no idea why it took them so long.  I haven’t yet checked whether the list is complete and includes all of the council’s officers above the pay level of £58,200  (a stipulation made at the Information Tribunal in the case of Greenwood v ICO (EA/2011/0131 & 0137), but will be doing so in the near future.

Here’s a link to the blog post specifically covering this and holding links to all the information that Wirral Council supplied.

The Council have now provided information, however it was provided piecemeal, over several days, in shoddily presented documents, and has not come up to standard.  I have now asked the ICO to consider issuing an Enforcement Notice.

The ICO, true to form, has backed the Council.  However I’m querying why they’ve allowed the Council to claim a Section 40(2) exemption on an obvious conflict of interest – which patently cannot  represent personal data in any shape or form.

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

Summary: Requesting copy of a letter published on Council website “mistakenly” identifying Highways Contract whistleblower.

Date of request:     11th Jul 2012

Age of request in working days:      120 and counting

Answered within 20 working days:      no answer (breach of Statutory Law)

Internal review requested:      11th Aug 2012

Working days for council to respond:     89 (breach of Statutory Law)

Request completed: NO

Appealed with ICO:     6th October 2012

5.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/helpline_regarding_illegal_delay#outgoing-216036

Summary: Requesting information on results of a helpline set up following exposure of a hidden, illegal 4 week delay on care packages.

Date of request:     8th May 2012

Age of request in working days:      112

Answered within 20 working days:      reply on Day 66 (breach of Statutory Law)

Internal review requested:      6th July 2012

Working days for council to respond:     112 (breach of Statutory Law)

Request completed: NO (currently considering appeal to ICO)

Appealed with ICO:     Reply received from Wirral Council on 10th October 2012

Please see the following blog post for comment and analysis of the information received:

https://easyvirtualassistance.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/wirral-councils-unlawful-implementation-of-a-4-week-delay-on-social-care-packages/

6.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/agreed_departure_of_chief_execut#comment-29785

Summary: Request for information regarding the departure of CEO Jim Wilkie, again shrouded in secrecy, possibly gagged, paid off.

Date of request:     7th Jun 2012

Age of request in working days:      144 and counting

Answered within 20 working days:      no answer (breach of Statutory Law)

Internal review requested:      6th July 2012

Working days for council to respond:     no answer (breach of Statutory Law)

Request completed: NO

Appealed with ICO:     5th October 2012

7.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/consultant_anna_klonowski_declar#outgoing-210386

Summary: Request for information around Anna Klonowski’s declarations / costs / nature of association with Wirral Council.

Date of request:     12th May 2012

Age of request in working days:      162 and counting

Answered within 20 working days:      no answer (breach of Statutory Law)

Internal review requested:      11th July 2012

Days taken for council to respond:     no answer (breach of Statutory Law)

Request completed: NO

Appealed with ICO:     6th October 2012

8.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/suspension_of_director_david_gre#incoming-286811

Summary:     Requesting information relating to the procedure of suspending a Director and the potential consequences.

Date of request:     2nd May 2012

Age of request in working days:      170 and counting

Answered within 20 working days:      no answer (breach of Statutory Law)

Internal review requested:      4th September 2012

Days taken for council to respond:     no answer (breach of Statutory Law)

Request completed: NO

Appealed with ICO:     6th October 2012

9.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/out_of_hours_monitoring_of_stree#incoming-286806

Summary:     Requesting information on street lighting night-time scouting rounds; areas; frequency; responsible contractor, etc.

Date of request:     5th May 2012

Age of request in working days:      36 (completion time)

Answered within 20 working days:      reply on Day 23 (breach of Statutory Law)

Internal review requested:      N/A

Days taken for council to respond:     N/A

Request completed: YES

Appealed with ICO:     N/A

10.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/request_for_copies_of_correspond_2#outgoing-199397

Summary:     Requesting copies of corresondence between Council & DLA Piper UK LLP – law firm assigned work within AKA report

Date of request:     4th Feb 2012

Age of request in working days:      179 and counting

Answered within 20 working days:      no answer (breach of Statutory Law)

Internal review requested:      6th March 2012

Days taken for council to respond:     no answer (breach of Statutory Law)

Request completed: NO

Appealed with ICO:     21st April 2012

11.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/stephen_maddox_former_chief_exec#comment-26245

Summary:     Requesting information relating to early departure of former CEO Steve Maddox; payments, correspondence, etc.

Date of request:     3rd January 2011

Age of request in working days:      296 (Completion time)

Answered within 20 working days:      reply on Day 31 (breach of Statutory Law)

Internal review requested:      26th April 2011

Days taken for council to respond:     no answer (breach of Statutory Law)

Request completed: YES

Appealed with ICO:     26th July 2011

ICO Reference No.       FS50406724 – Click to read Decision Notice

Ultimately, although this took well over a year, the ICO made the council produce the following report:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/56617/response/256393/attach/html/3/ER.pdf.html

12.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/letters_sent_to_abused_learning#comment-23443

Summary:     Requesting copy of reimbursement letter to abused tenants of three supported living establishments in Moreton, Wirral

Date of request:     29th Oct 2011

Age of request in working days:      18 (completion time)

Answered within 20 working days:      reply on Day 18

Internal review requested:      N/A

Days taken for council to respond:     N/A

Request completed: YES

Appealed with ICO:     N/A

13.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/total_figures_for_referrals_to_p#incoming-206071

Summary:     Requesting information on how many times the Council had been referred to the Press Complaints Commission.

Date of request:     23rd Aug 2011

Age of request in working days:      7 (completion time)

Answered within 20 working days:      reply on Day 7

Internal review requested:      N/A

Days taken for council to respond:     N/A

Request completed: Yes

Appealed with ICO:     N/A

14.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/total_annual_figures_for_comprom_18#comment-19204

Summary: Requesting information on how many compromise agreements / gagging clauses issued by the Council in the last 6 years.

Date of request:     1st Jan 2011

Age of request in working days:      216 (completion time)

Answered within 20 working days:      reply on Day 64 (breach of Statutory Law)

Internal review requested:      31st March 2011

Days taken for council to respond:     40 (breach of Statutory Law)

Request completed: YES

Appealed with ICO:     Yes.  The Council eventually sent the information after a total of 216 working days.

Appealed with ICO:     N/A

The following spreadsheet, covering the above 14 FoI requests is provided to assist the reader in comparing the appalling average response times displayed here with those given in this cynical report, issued by Wirral Council dated 6th September 2012.

The average waiting time on these requests is 26 weeks / six months / half a year.  It seems the awkward and potentially “sensitive” nature of these requests has had an impact.  A subject like “Street Lighting night-time scouting rounds” has been a whole lot easier to deal with than  “pay offs and gags for senior officers, suspected to be involved in learning disabled abuse and disability discrimination”.

Click on the links in Column 1 to view associated press articles.

Subject Date Time Time Completed Links
summary originally Waited Waited
lodged (working (expressed
days) in weeks)
Info around important initial meeting held between Anna Klonowski and all Wirral party leaders. 12/10/2011   248   49   No   1.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/meeting_between_party_leaders_an#outgoing-220406
Info around two ex DASS senior officers, gagged, paid off, allowed to leave, but never disciplined. 11/01/2012   183   36   No   2.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dass_recent_departure_of_two_sen#comment-30487
Info on Senior Officers’ register of declared interests. 20/06/2011   330   65   No   3.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/senior_officers_requirement_to_d#comment-29981
Copy of letter published on Council website “mistakenly” identifying Highways Contract whistleblower. 11/07/2012   53   10   No   4.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/copy_of_letter_published_on_webs#outgoing-216044
Info on results of helpline set up following exposure of hidden illegal 4 week delay on care packages. 08/05/2012   99   19   No   5.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/helpline_regarding_illegal_delay#outgoing-216036
Info regarding the departure of CEO Jim Wilkie. 07/06/2012   77   15   No   6.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/agreed_departure_of_chief_execut#comment-29785
Info around Anna Klonowski’s declarations / costs / nature of association with Wirral Council. 12/05/2012   95   18   No   7.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/consultant_anna_klonowski_declar#outgoing-210386
Info relating to the procedure of suspending a Director and the potential consequences. 02/05/2012   103   20   No   8.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/suspension_of_director_david_gre#incoming-286811
Info on street lighting night-time scouting rounds; areas; frequency; responsible contractor, etc. 05/05/2012   23   4.6   Yes   9.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/out_of_hours_monitoring_of_stree#incoming-286806
Copies of correspondence between Council & DLA Piper UK LLP – law firm assigned AKA report work. 04/02/2012   165   32   No   10.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/request_for_copies_of_correspond_2#outgoing-199397
Info relating to early departure of former CEO Steve Maddox; payments, correspondence, etc. 03/01/2011   296   59.2   Yes   11.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/stephen_maddox_former_chief_exec#comment-26245
Copy of reimbursement letter to abused tenants of three supported living establishments. 29/10/2011   18   3.6   Yes   12.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/letters_sent_to_abused_learning#comment-23443
Info on how many times the Council had been referred to the Press Complaints Commission. 23/08/2011   7   1.4   Yes   13.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/total_figures_for_referrals_to_p#incoming-206071
Info on how many compromise agreements / gagging clauses issued by the Council in the last 6 years. 01/01/2011   216   43.2   Yes   14.     http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/total_annual_figures_for_comprom_18#comment-19204
           
Average 136 27 5 completed
waiting times days weeks 9 outstanding

UPDATE: Wirral Councillor humiliates himself AGAIN. Trashes a critic… then breaches his data privacy

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Silhouette of man behind screen uid 1426555

On 17th August I had a moment of weakness, and posted a comment to the following website: http://seacombelabour.org/

Normally I wouldn’t associate myself with two bit party political setups, but on this occasion, curiosity got the better of me.  I’d been a frustrated observer of local politics for some time and had watched in horror as a whole catalogue of serious, systematic abuse of learning disabled people (the plundering of 16 tenants’ bank accounts to the tune of well over £500,000), disability discrimination …and much more, appeared to be getting “managed” out of existence by a succession of party political manoeuvres – decisions that in my opinion have long been masquerading as “democratic” / publicly mandated ones!  All of this aimed at “covering backsides” and flying in the face of the compelling and legitimate public interest.  The public were understandably outraged, and this had been fuelled by witnessing years of abuse on their own doorstep.  People were calling for councillors to act and for heads to roll.

However, incestuous and self-serving voting patterns sidelined the public interest and cemented the last leader of the council Steve Foulkes in position on top of a pyramid of power.  The status quo continued by varying degrees to conceal, minimise, deny, obfuscate and do everything it could to avoid accountability for some of the most disgraceful, abusive conduct, until an admission was finally made by the Chief Executive Officer.  Following this, Foulkes had to go.

See paragraph 7.1 of the following document, authored by Jim Wilkie, Chief Executive Officer at the time, which was prised out of the council by courageous whistleblower Martin Morton.  After years of lies, proven bullying, empty assurances, bogus investigations and woefully inadequate reimbursements, the public finally got something we could all hang our hats on – a professional, comprehensive, independent (although sadly not perfect) investigation by AKA associates, which revealed the whole sordid picture of malpractice and abuse of disabled people, perpetrated for years by unelected senior officers of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (although an “inner ring” of power still keeps openness and transparency on a tight leash, and prevents  the public from fully accessing the so-called “full” report, in order to observe and identify exactly who did what).  Quite apart from the ongoing lack of accountability, questions continue to pile up.  Who knows the extent to which any abusive officers may have been protected by elected representatives – our councillors?

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=21125

That’s the scene set and ‘the prologue’ out of the way.  Now to the nitty-gritty.  Here’s the comment I posted, perhaps a little naively, but all done in good faith to the Seacombe Labour website on 17th August:

This comment wasn’t published immediately.  In fact it wasn’t published at all – at least not ALL of it.  The message “Your comment is awaiting moderation” was there for the next three days.  Eventually my PC crashed, as it tends to do, and being a busy person, I naturally forgot all about it.

Imagine my surprise when I was browsing Twitter earlier today and came across this link:

https://twitter.com/MarkForSeacombe/status/240876286459916288

I clicked and followed, turning up at the Seacombe Labour website.  “Hmmm, something familiar about that bearded gentleman.  Wasn’t I here the other week for something or other?”  Soon, it all came flooding back, as I was greeted by an eerie set of what can only be described as abnormal machinations.  Here, laid out before me was the kind of thing Anna Klonowski had described so precisely within her excellent 250 pager.

This was a prime and extremely cynical example of how to take a local Seacombe resident / voter’s words and mangle their context in a way that promotes your own twisted agenda.  I felt cheated because I’d posted the thing in good faith, hoping to see the webmaster bravely publishing and going with an opposite viewpoint – but this was the tacky and sordid outcome… It’s the kind of cowardly thing you might expect in a war – but not from the enemy – from the colleague who shoots you in the back, then rifles through your pockets before defecting to the other side.

I’ve taken the precaution of screen-capping this article for readers’ consumption (just in case the webmaster does a Councillor Blakeley i.e. has a sudden attack of self doubt and deletes it all).  So here it is, protected for posterity:

My contribution detailing how proven abuse was inflicted on some of  Wirral’s most vulnerable residents, and how the perpetrators of that abuse were protected and gagged has been meddled with, then served back up by an elected councillor who describes it as “propaganda” and a “rant” (probably more accurate).  This is irresponsible.  Especially when the Wirral public have been expecting acknowledgment and accountability.

Should you see a disabled person being abused in the street, or a hate crime taking place, there’s a local body that has been entrusted with acting upon that abuse.  Who is that body?

Step forward Wirral Council.  Sadly, the party currently in power boast a serving councillor who appears to regard the reporting of historical and proven abuse of disabled people, currently being acknowledged and reimbursed to a higher value, as “propaganda”.  We can only conclude that lessons have not been learned (well, we all knew that didn’t we?)  We now need to know whether the party leader endorses his colleague’s strange, muddled and miserable take on events.

It looks like the contents of the offending website mark another sad milestone on this ‘journey’ – not just for the people of Seacombe, but for all down-trodden and long-suffering people throughout Wirral and beyond.

UPDATE   4th October 2012

The same councillor has once again been criticising me on his website.  This may have been a late response to the following, which was a comment (again, not published) posted on 9th September 2012 to his website, Seacombelabour.org:

The councillor responded as follows on 25th September 2012, possibly in reaction to the above offering.  I don’t frequent sites like these, but today, a very helpful and public-spirited person pointed me in the direction of the latest comments, for which I’m extremely thankful.   In reproducing this, I’ve been forced to remove an important piece of information you’ll notice.  The councillor, if he takes his role seriously, will be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office as a data controller.  I certainly hope he is:

You may have spotted the error he’s made in posting an email address as a “link” to a website.  Well, I’ll forgive him for this.  It’s a common error for inexperienced IT users to mix up email addresses with hypertext transfer protocols.  I used to do it all the time.

But…. error or not…. I’m afraid I can’t forgive the councillor for publishing my email address on the internet without my permission.  This appears to be bordering on a malicious action, and may lead to problems for me because it could open the floodgates to spam or hate mail.  I am now considering whether to approach the Information Commissioner’s Office in order to advise them that a data controller (Hmm. that was wishful thinking: Ed), an elected councillor resident on Wirral, has breached my privacy.

I do hope that this councillor is registered with the Information Commissioner as a data controller.

In order to indicate some ‘previous’ by the Council itself, I may also advise the Information Commissioner of Wirral Council’s recent publishing of a whistleblower’s name – within a document which was also “inadvertently” published on the internet – but which will have served as a timely “shot across the bows” for any existing employee considering blowing the whistle:

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/2012/07/11/wirral-council-exposes-whistleblower-s-name-on-website-100252-31368891/

… it seems Anna Klonowski’s abnormal machinations are still very much alive, being nourished and churning away like there’s no tomorrow.

UPDATE 5th October 2012

Councillor, if you’re reading this, please check whether you are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office as a data controller.  I think you’ll find it’s a requirement when dealing with large numbers of residents’ personal details.   It’s relatively cheap, costing only £35 per year to subscribe.  When you’re a paid up subscriber, and “showing willing”, you’re also liable to a more favourable ear from the ICO if found to be playing fast and loose with privacy laws again.

I’ve looked for your details here: http://www.ico.gov.uk/what_we_cover/register_of_data_controllers.aspx but can’t find any person registered under your name at your Seacombe address.  I would suggest that you make this commitment forthwith, and tell any of your colleagues who may also be breaching procedure as soon as possible before any concerned citizen reports the matter.

See this November post to the blog, taking this matter further, with ALL councillors and the Information Commissioner’s Office.

I won’t comment on “phone etiquette” for now, but thank you for removing my email address from public view on your website, which people can now link to safely:

http://seacombelabour.org/page/2/

UPDATE   9th October 2012

Emailed enquiry to Head of Information Governance at Wirral Council:

9th October 2012

Dear FoI Lead Person [name redacted],

Please confirm whether Wirral Councillors are required to register individually with the ICO as data controllers, and therefore need to subscribe with a £35 annual fee; or are their responsibilities covered by Wirral’s own corporate subscription as a data controller?

Many thanks,

Paul Cardin

…response from the council and further follow-up enquiries here:

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Anna Klonowski leaves her commission at Wirral Council – and Michael Frater’s departure

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I received an email this morning from Local Government Consultant and external investigator Anna Klonowski, in response to an email I sent last night regarding years of disability discrimination at Wirral Council – as discovered by Mike Smith of the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

From: Anna Klonowski
Sent: 27 July 2012 08:58
To: Paul C; Michael Frater
Cc: Graham Burgess; Green, Jeff E.; Phil Davies; Joyce Redfearn
Subject: Re: Disability Discrimination

Dear Mr Cardin,

I am no longer a member of the Wirral Improvement Board and have no commission with the Council. As a result I am unable to assist you further.

Kind regards

Anna

Anna Klonowski
Managing Director
AKA Ltd

www.akalimited.co.uk

Office Tel: 07824 531919


I’ve now decided to raise the issue of historical disability discrimination with Michael Frater, the LGA troubleshooter.  He is unlikely to be told about it by anybody, so I see it as my duty to make sure he gets all the information, acts on it now, prevents it recurring, and earns his money.

From: “Paul C” 

Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2012 23:36:27 +0100

To: Michael Frater

Cc: ‘Anna Klonowski’; Graham Burgess [email returned – address not known]; ‘Green, Jeff E. [Councillor]; Phil Davies [Councillor]

Subject: Disability Discrimination

Dear Mr Frater,

Back in 2010, I visited one of Angela Eagle MP’s surgeries and raised the subject of Wirral Council’s unlawful charging policy.  This was something that I regarded as systematic disability discrimination.

This discrimination had been committed both prior to and since Social Services’ senior staff ignored the detailed submissions of a whistleblower (Martin Morton), who had told them it was wrong and unlawful.  But the Adult Social Services Department continued to deduct payments from the bank accounts of 16 learning disabled residents of three supported living accommodations in Moreton, Wirral.  It is believed this unlawful charging occurred for a period of up to 9 years, perhaps longer.  As you will be aware, Mr Morton, in return for his public-spirited actions was forced out of his job, and I believe he is now unemployed.

Quite apart from the proven bullying and alleged mobbing of Mr Morton, I viewed the taking of this money from vulnerable people as disability discrimination, as did Mike Smith, the Chair of the Disability Committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.  In addressing Angela Eagle’s initial query, Mike Smith had written to her on 29th December 2010, confirming this and I attach his letter for you to read.

Within the letter, Mike Smith states that this was disability discrimination, because he disagrees with Bill Norman’s opinion on it.  He goes on “…Mr Cardin’s concerns should be included in the inquiry (Anna Klonowski inquiry), in order to identify whether there are other issues or systemic problems that need to be addressed.”

In other words, disability discrimination was “a given” – and the inquiry should now focus on looking for other issues or problems needing to be addressed.

However, whether through breakdown of communication, malpractice or incompetence, the law firm assuming the “disability discrimination role”, DLA Piper UK LLP (see pp. 240 to 249 of AKA report), did not address Mike Smith’s concerns at all.  They were either instructed, or took it upon themselves to adopt a much narrower remit, determining whether or not there HAD BEEN disability discrimination throughout a number of different time periods, eventually deciding overall that there hadn’t.  Which flew in the face of Mike Smith’s opinion and failed to address his stated requirements.

Prior to this letter, the now suspended Director of Law Bill Norman had reached his own conclusion, in Mike Smith’s opinion wrongly, that there hadn’t been disability discrimination.  I am concerned that a reasonable assumption by any third party would consider this arrangement to be suspect, given that Mike Smith’s concerns weren’t addressed, and that large amounts of public money in the form of solicitors’ fees were involved.

As I’m sure you will appreciate, unaddressed disability discrimination is an extremely urgent, serious and compelling subject, and I would be very grateful if you could acknowledge receipt of this email and then make enquiries of Anna Klonowski, Bill Norman, Surjit Tour and any other officers who may have been in a position to allow sloppiness or malpractice to creep in where it should not be permitted to,

Best regards,

Paul Cardin

UPDATE   27th August 2012

Although the above email, dated 26th July was sent into the ether over a month ago, I’ve had nothing back from Michael Frater.  I’ve decided to email Joyce Redfearn, the chair of the LGA Improvement Board instead, hopefully to shake things up and get them a bit more motivated.  This is after all an important issue.  We shouldn’t allow things to slide and permit DLA PIPER UK to get away with what many now regard as sloppy practice, possibly aimed at saving the Council (who commissioned AKA and presumably footed the bill for DLA Piper’s toil) a hefty compensation bill – yes – how shockingly cynical our world has become:

From: Paul C
Sent: 27 August 2012 22:20
To: ‘Joyce Redfearn’
Cc: ‘Michael Frater’; Paul Burstow; ‘Angela Eagle’
Subject: FW: Disability Discrimination

Dear Ms Redfearn,

There’s an important issue covered in the emails below; that of Wirral Council’s historical disability discrimination, carried out deliberately over several years – raised with the Equality and Human Rights Commission some time ago, and with Mr Frater last month.

However, despite being “remunerated” a reported £1,200 per day, he has failed to acknowledge the original email, nor the reminder sent recently.  I’d appreciate it if you could acknowledge receipt of this one with me, and then discuss and action the matters raised with Mr Frater, possibly during the Improvement Board sessions which you are privileged to chair.  You may wish to remind him that the issue has now been taken up again with my local MP Angela Eagle, in part due to his ongoing failure.

I was told today that Paul Burstow MP, the minister concerned, is writing to me this week to update me on the related issue of an ongoing threat of abuse to vulnerable people – on Wirral and further afield, created and enabled by Wirral Council’s quite calculated failure to safeguard their wellbeing,

Best regards and thank you in advance,

Paul Cardin

UPDATE   2nd September 2012

I’ve received the following reply from Joyce Redfearn, chair of the LGA Improvement Board at Wirral Council:

Dear Mr Cardin

I am acknowledging receipt of your email as you requested.

The issue you raise is one to which Wirral Council should respond .  Mr Frater has now left the Council so I am forwarding your email to the acting Chief Executive Mr David Armstrong who will ensure that your email receives appropriate attention.

Best wishes

Joyce Redfearn


By my estimate, Michael Frater earned approximately £75,000 for his stint of 3 day weeks  at Wirral.  If you divide £75,000 by £1,200, you arrive at the number of days worked, which is…. 62 and a half.

It’s a relief that he wasn’t taken on for a whole year, because this would have translated to an annual salary of  approximately £313,200.

It’s also a pity he couldn’t respond to my July email (see above) and say, “This is nothing to do with me…. this is for the Council to address” – maybe because this would have flown directly into the face of just about everything those big names in central government e.g. Grant Shapps, Paul Burstow have been shouting… that the LGA has been sent in to sort the place out !

And alas, the Wirral public won’t get any answers from the troubleshooter.  Mr Frater has now packed up and gone…