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

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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.


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:


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,


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 Council to be monitored AGAIN for poor performance by Information Commissioner

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21st December 2012

As Christmas approaches, it was announced today that Wirral Council are one of only 4 public bodies to face a three month period of ICO monitoring, commencing in January 2013.  They are the only English Council to face the regime this time around.

It’s happened before, but the same staff and councillors appear to have learned very little; unlike the other 18 (count them) councils mentioned at this link – who appear to have upped their game and not re-appeared on the list this time.  Is this second appearance on the ‘naughty list’ another first for Wirral?  Who knows?  But they could begin to make a habit of it, given the convergence of their deep-seated,  unchecked arrogance and the wider climate of cuts.

Having dealt with Wirral Council for some years, the news doesn’t surprise me one bit.  Let me reassure you, they are every bit as bad as this decision to monitor implies – and probably worse.  I won’t trot out all of my dismal experiences here, but here’s a link to some analysis of a few of my own requests, which will be updated in the New Year, but should give you a flavour of the inertia that the public are greeted with by default – and the level of importance this council attaches to the public’s statutory right to Freedom of Information and Data Protection.

In the following article, whoever the Liverpool Echo interviewed from Wirral felt it necessary to blame the public once again by indicating that one citizen is the source of a fifth of all complaints.  And yet again, there’s an inability to acknowledge that they’ve been mired in scandal upon fiasco upon further scandal since well into the last century.


As I’ve said before, no organisation can grapple with a deep-seated problem such as this until self-awareness fully hits home and it stops going down the easy route of blaming other people for its own desperate, self-inflicted failures.

As far as Freedom of Information is concerned, with the wider climate of cuts and job losses, and with Wirral Council’s tendency to hit out and take potshots at the public who voted them into power, I expect more of the same and for the abusive masters clutching the whip hand to thrash about and sink even deeper into the miserable black hole of their own creation.

Wirral just don’t get it – Freedom of Information report to Councillors- 3rd September 2012

Please see the following link to an article in the Wirral Globe, dated today, 3rd September 2012:


Then read the following report, written up by Wirral’s “Head of IT Services”.  My first observation is… Why mix in LGO complaints with FoI complaints?  Not very helpful to conflate the two, and a muddying of the water.


As far as Freedom of Information goes, much of the emphasis throughout this report seems to fall upon unnamed members of the public, who’ve had the temerity to raise a large number of requests.  There’s a reference to a table titled, “Top Ten Originators of FOI Requests” – a kind of rogues’ gallery, which is worth reproducing here.

Good that they resisted the urge to reproduce citizens’ names publicly in this report.  That would have been both stupid & outrageous.

Originator 1 has made eleven times more requests than Originator 2.  I’d suggest that if, as the data controller, you’re justified in going down the road of blaming a small number of people making a large number of requests – which you certainly are not – then this is your problem person !  1 person making 245.  There’s no need for the rest of the table in fact.

And who exactly decides what is excessive?  Are Originators 8, 9 and 10, (making 7 requests each in a whole year) too much for Wirral Council to cope with?  Do they deserve to be lumped in?  Give us a break !

It’s quite clear that “Originators” 2 thru 10 are merely “padding” – having only made between 22 and 7 requests in the whole year, or a total of 98 and an average of just over 10 (less than one a month) between them.  Can they really be part of a groundswell of unseemly and pernicious FoI requesting breaking out all across Wirral?

As rumour and innuendo seem to have been given free rein, it appears our elected councillors, the intended recipients of this report, are being urged to believe that despite the council doing its utmost, a small number of people (with an axe to grind?) …are making life very difficult for hard-pressed FoI officers.  How can staff cope if the sheer volume of requests prevents them from doing their jobs effectively?

It doesn’t suit the report’s author to bring everything into context and refer to any of the important statutory provisions and protections detailed within the Act.  It seems to have been more convenient for him to invoke an ‘out of control public’, egged on by stories in the newspapers, then juxtapose that alongside carefully selected keywords e.g. vexatious; repeated; obsessive; harassing; causing distress; significant burden; distraction; disruption; annoyance; lacking serious purpose or value.

Neither does Mr Paterson mention the fact that Wirral have dedicated only two staff to the problem ~ one data / info professsional and an admin assistant.  Which kind of sums up the level of importance Wirral have attached to addressing the public’s statutory information and data querying rights.

Sadly, the report’s purpose is to run, headlong, with the tactics of smear.  The heavy hint to councillors is that all of these requests are somehow “vexatious”.  There’s no reference to the fact that a person / requester cannot be vexatious,  because the truth would be inconvenient in this case – and detract from the message.

In addition to the above, the formal ICO description of the “vexatious request” is helpfully given to councillors by the report writer – seemingly intended to “point them in the right direction”.  And despite the report’s clear desire to cast far and wide for blame, rather than look inward, and perhaps put the focus onto the council’s own resources, there are some curious omissions closer to home:

  • The person making 245 requests in the last year has not been challenged for placing vexatious requests – possibly because not one of those requests is repetitious, invalid or frivolous in any way and therefore cannot be refused under the Act.  Well, I can’t think of any other reason not to get tough with “Mr Sheffield” !
  • The Freedom of Information Act 2000 makes absolutely no provision for data controllers to shift the blame across to “requesters who make a large number of requests” in order to mask their own poor performance – which the council will know – but it seems they’d rather gloss over all that and spin some irresponsible nonsense to the wider public (Wirral Globe) & councillors (the report)
  • The Freedom of Information Act 2000 doesn’t place a limit on the number of requests an individual can make to any particular data controller.  Every public body, including Councils, NHS Trusts, the police, has statutory obligations, and is required to meet and resource those accordingly.  Wirral’s information governance appears woefully under-resourced, with practitioners preferring instead to fail, plod on, muddy the water, and stir up a cynical smoke screen
  • The erstwhile head of FoI, and Acting Chief Executive Ian Coleman is currently suspended from work

There’s another angle.  Wirral compares itself to “other local authorities” and claims that it is receiving a “disproportionately higher amount of enquiries compared to those of a similar size”.  The public don’t doubt that at all, but there ARE reasons for this.  There are some rather startling yet unacknowledged facts; in the shape of quite horrendous albatrosses, draped across the shoulders of Wirral Council:

The above list is by no means exhaustive.  Wirral recently let slip the identity of another public-spirited whistleblower. It was published in full view of the world on the council’s website.  Many have interpreted this as a deliberate “shot across the bows” of any principled staff members who may be contemplating blowing the whistle themselves.

There are countless more scandals and fiascos, too numerous to mention.  Predictably, ‘other councils’, similarly sized or not, don’t tend to boast such horrific roll-calls of bullying, historical malpractice, attempted cover up, repeated abuse and suspected impropriety, going back well over a decade, and on into the last century.  Hence, the all too understandable response from the public, a legitimate and compelling desire as concerned citizens (who hand over a great deal of money in council tax): to find out what the hell is going on.

Given the above Council report, which is just the latest addition to the ongoing fiasco, the people of Wirral must be doubtful that those at the top have ever digested and fully understood the AKA report.  With the situation so dire, and with vulnerable people still struggling under this basket case of a Council, self-awareness is all.  Sadly, the top people appear myopic at best, blind at worst to progressive solutions – and are falling into the same old traps all over again.

There’s no perceived commitment to good old-fashioned public service – despite the calling in of an LGA “improvement board” – which has already been seen to omit important issues raised by the local public from the minutes of its public meetings.  I attended an improvement board meeting on 22nd June this year, went before them and lodged a clear and detailed question on accountability for people believed to have been involved in abuse.  These were two former senior officers who dodged any disciplinary sanction, and were then paid off and gagged (total £220,000) within a legal document.  When the minutes arrived, they’d been generalised; homogenised, with all the discomfiting points related to the clear enabling of abuse omitted.

Thank you Wirral.  Job done.  How convenient.  How self-serving; but not very open; not very transparent; not at all accountable, and certainly NOT an “improvement”.

The fact we’ve had no reckoning for past abuses means they’re still locked into complete denial ~ spinning, protecting, shielding and concealing everything within a destructive vacuum – a kind of black hole that consumes all, destroys any light, and succeeds only in “churning out heat and smoke”; the intention being to protect the power, obscure the issues, and pave the way for future speculators to descend into a pit of abuse, knowing they can emerge clean, and loaded down with a stash of easy money to disappear with over the horizon when the time comes.

That’s what happens with proven basket case authorities, blind to accountability.  Chancers and those on the make see an opportunity – and become desperate to join in and raid the public purse – where they know there’s a good chance they’ll get away with it.

Link to total number of Wirral WhatDoTheyKnow FoI requests & number of concerned citizens following this authority

24th November 2012

Word on the street is that Geoff Paterson, author of the above disingenuous and smearing report will be looking for a new job soon.

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Gagging Clauses – Comment added to Opendata Consultation – October 2011

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The following comment has been added to the Government’s Opendata Consultation (recently ended):

“Two UK Councils have implemented a means of preventing ex-employees from exercising their future FoI / DP querying rights.  These were drawn up within compromise agreements following internal disputes.  These are Cheshire West and Chester Council, who have stated they will use the ‘ban’ again and Brent Borough Council.

The Information Commissioner has confirmed that the practice does not breach either Act.  No breach is committed because the recipient of the ‘ban’ will not make a request for fear of being pursued through the courts by the ex-employer.

The recipient of the ‘ban’ would need to make a request, have it turned down by the data controller quoting the ‘ban’ as the justification for withholding information.  The ICO would then step in, because its own opinion is that the only means of withholding data is through an exemption written into the Act.

However, there is a loophole waiting to be exploited here. Councils who have a lot of ‘dirty washing’ they don’t want to hang out in public, could use this tactic as an ongoing means of concealment.  There is even scope for them to feel emboldened, and to continue behaving immorally or unlawfully, because they have an effective means of covering up.

I feel the Act needs to be changed or a judicial review should be sought to prevent this happening.

At the moment, we have a situation where councils are free to claim a commitment to openness and transparency, whilst breaching their own internal data and information policies and breaching the spirit of the FOIA and the DPA.”

Thu, 27/10/2011 – 10:52 — Paul Cardin

More here: tinyurl.com/65ebm5o (Page 6)

And here: http://tinyurl.com/6gaf2ts

And here: http://tinyurl.com/3sufvqo

Link: http://data.gov.uk/opendataconsultation/questions

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