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

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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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UPDATED – Concealing malpractice / enabling abuse with a Compromise Agreement / Gagging Clause

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FoI and Local Authority Gagging Clauses

Some years ago, a council employee, in dispute and soon to lose his job, opted to sign a compromise agreement.  The document and its terms were placed before him, as a ‘full and final settlement’.  All arrangements were funded by the employer; independent legal advice was given, and the solicitor’s signature secured.  All legal requirements had therefore been met.  The employee’s signature on the dotted line would forfeit his right to an Employment Tribunal, along with the option to pursue any existing or future legal claims against the employer.  All appeared to be in order and the employee’s pen hovered.

But an extra clause had been inserted, compelling him to forgo his right to submit any request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the Data Protection Act 1998 – from that day forward – and not apparently restricted to this employer.  This very particular “gagging clause”, perhaps in use for the first time, had been devised by the local authority’s legal team.

It was a very difficult decision to make even without this, and much rested upon it.  In addition to the loss of his job and the personal upheaval, there was now an underlying legal poser to wrestle with, “Can I successfully contract out of my FOI / DP information request rights?”

But the deal was soon done, and a promising career was cut short, the pain eased slightly by the payment of a small ‘redundancy’ amount.

Such was the life-changing power in the hands of a consensus of council top brass, brought together for the closing chapter of a bitter and entrenched dispute, spanning almost 3 years.  With a failed raft of trumped up disciplinary charges recently behind them, careful steps were now being taken to save face and reach agreement.  Confidentiality shrouded everything.  The employee, a family man with young children, knew he wouldn’t be welcomed back.  Blowing the whistle had lost him his livelihood.  He’d faced a stark choice: sign here, and accept what’s on offer, or sign there, fortnightly at the job centre.  Concede, or take your chances at an employment tribunal in the New Year, where the outcome will be a lot less certain.

And come January, once the situation had calmed and the adrenalin levels had dropped, another question came to the forefront – “What would the legal consequences be of an approach to the council for information?”

This was where the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) first went onto the record:

“If your former employer refused to deal with your requests they would be likely to be in breach of the above legislation……. However if you exercise your information request rights there may be consequences such as legal action for breach of contract. Whether the clause you mention is a fair contract term would depend on the particular circumstances involved and the nature of the agreement you signed.”

The special gagging clause in use here had provided a unique twist, pressing the ICO into declaring an unusual, double-edged stance.

I decided to conduct some ‘WhatDoTheyKnow’ research into this, which began when snow covered the ground.  I approached 345 English councils, requesting annual totals for compromise agreements and FOI / DP related gagging clauses – drawn up in circumstances of dispute, grievance or whistle-blowing.  I discovered a rising trend with time, and to date, have unearthed 4,410 agreements, equating to an average of 15 per council over the last 6 years.  As for the clauses, unlike the January 2011 snow, they were extremely thin on the ground.  Where they do exist, they’re a ‘fail-safe’, used to supplement the one in general use – which follows a more established path: to deter signatories from discussing their workplace woes at career end and beyond.  There is always a threat of “clawback” – whereby an employee breach would involve the employer suing for the return of the full amount received in settlement.  In a victory for one-sidedness however, the penalty for a post agreement employer breach remains elusive, possibly mythical.  The only parties generally permitted to know about the existence and wording of such agreements are the employee’s direct family, professional advisers, and the tax people.

There is at least one agreement however, where the gagging clause in use pushes the bounds of confidentiality to a startling extreme.

Back in November 2008, a social worker (let’s call him Mr X) blew the whistle on his council employer.  After being let down by the Audit Commission and CSCI (later the Care Quality Commission), he turned to the press.  His gagging clause was specific and cost the council £500.  They also handed over £44,500, and sought to prevent him from discussing with ANY third party, an entire range of whistle-blowing concerns.  The detail of these was shameful: financial abuse of disabled tenants – amounting to the unlawful deduction of £700,000+ from many of the council’s most vulnerable residents over several years; an ongoing refusal by senior managers to acknowledge that the practice was unlawful and should cease, and a campaign of bullying and abuse of power.   The council’s behaviour towards its own tenants (four of whom have since died) has since been ruled as disability discrimination by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.  An apology was also issued to Mr X for proven management bullying and abuse of power.  Worryingly, if he had ‘stayed bullied’, and not breached the gagging clause by going to the press, the public would never have known of the scandal; of the council’s failure to act; its lurch to secrecy; the public money squandered, and the protection and concealment that was gained by drafting a compromise agreement.  The public interest would have been so neatly circumvented.

Upon signing such an agreement, from the employee’s perspective, an onerous double layer of security descends.  They are told on the one hand, that they cannot take a specified action, and on the other, that they cannot reveal the existence of the agreement itself.  The effect: a hidden pact, funded by public money, draws a veil over the placing of a dubious gag, and potentially, details of the most deplorable behaviour.

It’s neat, it’s effective, and it’s going on everywhere.  But how many information governance or legal professionals in the public sector would regard such an approach reasonable, lawful, enforceable, or morally justified?  Is the levelling of the FOI / DP gag ultra vires?  Does the tactic sit well with publicly-funded bodies, amid their ongoing claims to openness and transparency?  Or is it an impulsive lunge towards institutionalised reputation management, done to conceal at all costs, and to make damn sure the employer emerges unscathed, with whatever’s hidden never seeing the light of day?  In the Mr X case, was there a collective sigh of relief as the ink dried on the paper, and as foul conduct and a multitude of publicly-funded sins were swept under the carpet?  A recent review undertaken by an independent consultant found the council involving itself in learning disabled abuse over a protracted period.

Central Government, the unions and most regulators regard compromise agreements and gagging clauses as justified, through the need to cut legal costs, avoid tribunals, and conserve public funds.  The process is often dressed up as ‘supporting employees’.  With free legal advice on tap, how can employees claim ignorance of the process and its consequences?  They can walk away with a financial settlement for their troubles, and ‘grasp the opportunity for a fresh start’.

But this can be at extreme personal cost.  Mr X had his life turned upside down, and was hospitalised due to the stress he had been placed under.  Not surprisingly, he holds a different view, “Compromise agreements should only be used in business sensitive cases.  They should never be used to suppress issues in the public interest.  They are consistently used as a reputation management tool and are an abuse of power.”  In Mr X’s case, the gag had a thoroughly chilling effect.  Such was the employer’s fear of exposure, the perfectly reasonable step of seeking legal advice would have breached Mr X’s agreement.

In June 2011, under threat of litigation led by Hugh Tomlinson QC, the council which had ‘opted out’ of its FOI / DP obligations backed down and withdrew the gagging clause, restoring the ex-employee’s rights.  The monitoring officer responsible for the ‘ban’ has moved, perhaps where he belongs, into the private sector.

Mr X’s ongoing battle with his council adversary and former employer has now moved to the ‘accountability’ stage.  A long awaited 250 page report, drawn up by the independent consultant and costing £1,000 per page has now been placed in the public arena, albeit anonymised to protect those potentially culpable.  However, the council, displaying a rather loose grasp on the true meaning of ‘accountability’, was not prepared to discipline two senior Social Services officers found to be at fault.  Instead, despite acknowledging years of learning disabled abuse, the council pre-empted the report’s release by allowing the two to depart their posts quietly and by ‘mutual consent’, probably under compromise agreements, probably “paid off” and potentially in receipt of positive or neutral work references to furnish to any future employers.

These two officers received an equal share of £220,000 of public money.  Many people believe this was paid to buy their silence, keep them ‘on side’ and prevent them from dropping very senior personnel into hot water.

Paul Cardin

http://www.easyvirtualassistance.wordpress.com

Twitter: @eVirtual_Assist

1st October 2012

Link: Damning Internal Auditors’ report on Metropolitan Borough of Wirral’s approach to “Compromise Agreements”.

Within this post, there are some striking similarities to the content of the above article.

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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…

Is this ‘death by bureaucracy’? Exposing Disability Discrimination at Wirral Council

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Two years ago, back in 2010, I approached my MP, Angela Eagle, with concerns that there had been systematic disability discrimination at Wirral Council.  She contacted the Equality and Human Rights Commission in order to pass on these concerns.  In December of that year, she received the following letter in response:

As is spelled out clearly in the letter, Mike Smith found that there had been Disability Discrimination committed by Wirral Council.  This discrimination was financial and it had occurred for a period of up to 9 years, despite whistleblower Martin Morton informing his seniors early on that it was going on and that it was wrongIn return for his good faith, public-spirited actions, he was bullied, allegedly mobbed and forced from his job.

In the West Wirral case, there were 16 learning disabled residents affected, who over the period in question, had approximately £500,000 deliberately and unlawfully taken directly from their bank accounts.  When referring to these issues, the council, the media and various “watchdogs” consistently use the word “overcharging”.  However this word is inappropriate, unhelpful and simply keys in with the desire by those still in power to minimise, deflect and dilute the seriousness of what happened.

Following the exposure of this discrimination, the council put in place a “retrospective charging policy” (in itself legally dubious) which was supposed to ensure that the affected tenants, five of whom have since died (their estates), would receive a proportionate share of £243,000.  Here is the original FoI request asking for a copy of the form that was sent to tenants for them to claim back the unlawfully deducted sums.  However the alarm was quickly raised that these sums were to be treated as “windfalls” by the Department for Work & Pensions, and would adversely impact on tenants’ existing benefits.

It’s now uncertain how much of this money has in fact been reclaimed or whether the tenants were made to suffer twice through no fault of their own.  I’m currently planning to contact LGA troubleshooter Michael Frater and / or Wirral’s new CEO Graham Burgess in order to discover the actual amount reclaimed.  If this isn’t successful, I’ll make another FoI request through the www.whatdotheyknow.com website.

Wirral Council’s Director of Law, Bill Norman, mentioned in the above letter – and since suspended from his job, before departing the organisation with a large pay off – believed that there had not been any disability discrimination:

…but Mike Smith disagreed with Wirral’s (now former) Director of Law, and requested that the issue be passed to Anna Klonowski Associates – the external investigator who had been commissioned to carry out an independent enquiry by one time council leader Jeff Green.  AKA in turn, commissioned a large law firm, DLA Piper UK LLP, to carry out the disability discrimination element of her investigations.  The full version of the Klonowski report was published in early January 2012.  It found that there was no disability discrimination.  Link to section on disability discrimination here:

AKA Discrimination issues

However, this issue is not dead, because the opinion of Mike Smith of the EHRC cannot be written off or sidelined in this way.  This sort of question is a regular consideration for him, is straightforward in this case, and does not allow for motive and intent.  He stated quite categorically that disabled people had been overcharged (and therefore had been discriminated against).

I believe on a clear reading of the above letter that Mr Smith established there was disability discrimination and went on to recommended that it was passed to the AKA enquiry to enable them to:

A. Assess how far it extended

B. Assess the impact it may have had

C. Assess how it could be addressed

But DLA Piper UK LLP somehow got hold of the wrong end of the stick, were badly instructed or completely misunderstood the contents of the Mike Smith EHRC letter, opting instead to pass a judgment on the “existence or otherwise” of disability discrimination, rather than establishing the true extent of proven discrimination, rooting it out and dealing with it.

The fact that Director of Law Bill Norman, who with then CEO Jim Wilkie visited the offices of the EHRC on 13th July 2011, was later suspended from his role casts further doubt upon the safety of the DLA Piper conclusion of “no disability discrimination”.

Councillor Simon Mountney had attempted to present copies of the above EHRC letter for consideration by the Council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee when it sat on 18th January 2011.  However this was blocked by the chair, Moira McLaughlin for the reason that she hadn’t been advised about it before the start of the meeting.  Upon taking advice from a solicitor seated next to her, and reading the contents of the letter, she was heard to say to the room in general, “You don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers  do you?”  This was a reference to the following news article, which had appeared in The Wirral Globe that week:

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/8788691.Watchdog_accuses_Wirral_Council_of_discrimination_against_disabled_people/

I am hopeful that since the LGA have set up an “Improvement Board”, which is reportedly aiming to discover where it all went wrong, and to turn around the performance of this failed council, there may be a chance to:

A. Re-establish and re-invigorate Mike Smith’s original finding of disability discrimination

B. Dispense with the bizarre DLA Piper UK conclusion

C. Progress towards making the real perpetrators accountable

I made a serious and comprehensive standards complaint against Councillor Moira McLaughlin some time ago, but by the time these issues came up for consideration, she had become Mayor and the complaint was unsuccessful.  Here is a copy of the decision:

The now suspended Director of Law, Bill Norman played a leading role in this failed complaint.  Since his status and former position has come under question, I will consider applying to resubmit this complaint.  There is currently an anticipation of a number of separate serious charges being brought against him (now departed from the council) and his suspended colleagues, Ian Coleman (now departed from the council), David Taylor-Smith and David Green.  This will be in response to their potential involvement in massive failings in corporate governance, accompanied by huge losses of public revenue.

I placed an FoI request with Wirral Council in February 2012 asking for copies of all correspondence between DLA Piper UK LLP and Wirral Council, but it’s followed an identical path to that of numerous other requests, and has been added to a lengthening list of requests that are quite simply not being addressed or acknowledged.  These now have an average response time of over 6 months:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/request_for_copies_of_correspond#outgoing-193727

Here is a link to an associated Freedom of Information request made to Wirral Council, regarding law firm DLA Piper, which requests 8 separate and relevant pieces of information, but which has also run long overdue:

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

The man previously in charge of Freedom of Information at Wirral Council is the now departed Acting Chief Executive Ian Coleman.

UPDATE   2nd August 2012

I recently sent an email to Wirral’s Director of Adult Social Services Graham Hodkinson to request figures for how many of the financially abused tenants of the three Moreton Supported Living establishments had received what was termed “reimbursement”.  Originally, approximately £500,000 was unlawfully taken, however only about half of this was returned due to the imposition of what many people regarded as a legally dubious “retrospective charging policy”.

Here are the figures, supplied this afternoon.  At this stage, it’s uncertain whether the tenants were ‘clobbered’ again by having their benefits reduced due to receipt of a so-called “windfall” (most people would regard this as outrageous, as the money was taken unlawfully in the first place – and why on earth should people be made to suffer twice through no fault of their own?)

I’ve thanked Mr Hodkinson’s staff for providing this information, and have asked for further information to clarify whether the recipients’ benefits were adversely affected.  I’ve been told that the information is held, and it is being prepared for publication in a report to the Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee in September, which will be made accessible on the Council website.

UPDATE   24th August 2012

Angela Eagle has been in touch today by letter:

Letter to David Armstrong, Acting Chief Executive of Wirral Council:

Letter to Mike Smith, Chair of the Disability Committee of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission – most relevant letter with regard to the subject of Disability Discrimination:

In addition to the above ongoing threat of abuse, caused by the council’s concealment of identities within the AKA report, and its reluctance to discipline its own officers, in his letter dated 29th December 2010 (see above), Mike Smith of the Equality and Human Rights Commission asserted that there had been disability discrimination committed by Wirral Council when for a period of many years they unlawfully debited sums from the bank accounts of 16 tenants living in supported accommodation in Moreton, Wirral.

This conclusion was in my opinion inescapable.  Mr Smith then asked Anna Klonowski Associates to “identify whether there are other issues or systemic problems that need to be addressed.”

However, for whatever reason, Anna Klonowski may have been forgetful, negligent or may have instructed DLA Piper Solicitors incorrectly.  How is this even possible, given the subject matter?  They appear to have addressed this matter with entirely the wrong purpose; that of finessing a position where Mike Smith’s verdict of disability discrimination could be refuted – which ultimately, it was.

Within the AKA Report, DLA Piper Solicitors duly arrived at the opposite conclusion to Mike Smith.  Wirral Council have now breached Statutory Law in not responding to give a reason why they are not supplying copies of the correspondence that passed between DLA Piper Solicitors and themselves.

I am now hopeful that Mr Smith will re-read his original letter to Angela Eagle MP, and digest the relevant appendix to the AKA report, along with compelling evidence I am planning to supply, before reasserting his original finding – that there was disability discrimination committed by Wirral Council – and not just in Angela Eagle’s constituency.  It also occurred in a number of other Wirral Supported Living establishments.

I still await Wirral Council’s response to the DLA Piper freedom of information request, which was lodged back on 4th February 2012:

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

In it, I requested copies of all correspondence between Wirral Council and DLA Piper UK LLP Solicitors, but the Council have been dragging their feet for an awfully long time now.  I have been forced to appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office once again.  I do wish the penny would drop, and Wirral Council would realise that their blanket refusals are only putting off the inevitable.

Smearing 10 members of the Wirral public in order to mask your own poor performance (which the council have now done in this report) won’t wash with the ICO.

UPDATE   30th August 2012

Email trail forwarded to Joyce Redfearn, chair of Wirral Council’s ‘Improvement Board’.  She passed this on in turn to the Acting Chief Executive at the time, David Armstrong – who failed to respond

From: Joyce Redfearn

Sent: 30 August 2012 15:07

To: Paul C

Cc: David Armstrong; Graham Burgess

Subject: Re: Disability Discrimination
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


On 27 Aug 2012, at 22:20, Paul C wrote:
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 Equalities 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


From: Paul C

Sent: 23 August 2012 14:26

To: ‘michaelfrater@wirral.gov.uk’

Cc: ‘graham.burgess@blackburn.gov.uk’; ‘Green, Jeff E. (Councillor)’; ‘phildavies’; ‘eaglea@parliament.uk’

Subject: FW: Disability Discrimination
Dear Mr Frater,
We are approaching a month since I sent the email below, but I haven’t received a response.
When you have the opportunity, I would very much appreciate an acknowledgment and response,
Many thanks,
Paul Cardin


From: Paul C

Sent: 26 July 2012 23:36

To: ‘michaelfrater@wirral.gov.uk’ Cc: ‘Anna Klonowski’; ‘grahamburgess@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘Green, Jeff E. (Councillor)’; ‘phildavies’ 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
<AngelaEagle1.pdf><AngelaEagle2.pdf><AngelaEagle2a.pdf>

<<<<<<<<<<18th November 2012 Annotation: David Armstrong has NEVER responded, to this or any other email I’ve sent with the subject line “Disability Discrimination>>>>>>>>>

UPDATE   25th September 2012

This afternoon, I rang The Information Commissioner’s Office for an update on the above freedom of information request.  I was told that the case was escalated in July 2012, but the team dealing with such cases are currently dealing with those escalated in May 2012.

So, given this rate of progress, in another two months’ time, my case will be dealt with.  Not exactly heartening is it, given the subject matter?

I will ring the senior ICO manager in an attempt to get him to promote it and have it dealt with quicker.  This is unaddressed disability discrimination after all.

UPDATE    26th September 2012

Email to Complaints manager, Information Commissioner’s Office

Case FS50445302
FAO [Manager’s name redacted]
Dear [Manager’s name redacted],
I spoke with your colleague [investigating officer name redacted] yesterday regarding this case.  It is another one in which Wirral Council, through unexplained delays, appear to have breached Statutory Law.
The case relates directly to disability discrimination and to the finding of Mike Smith of the Equality and Human Rights Commission that the Council discriminated against at least 16 learning disabled people across an 11 year period, the result of which was £700,000 plus being unlawfully debited from their bank accounts in charges.  This finding was reached in early 2011.
The independent Anna Klonowski reported in January of this year, finding that there was no disability discrimination – however, in my opinion, it was not within the remit of the law firm DLA Piper UK LLP, the firm assigned to this area of work, to arrive at this conclusion.  I complained to my own MP, Angela Eagle originally in late 2010 about disability discrimination and I am hoping to have Mike Smith’s finding verified in order that the council can be made legally liable to recompense the recipients of what was calculated discrimination.
I am aware that the ICO complaints department is extremely busy and under-resourced, but in order to bring a decision about as soon as possible, expediency in aiming to access the important correspondence between the council and the law firm is crucial, and I would be very grateful if you could use your power as complaints manager to advance the case and have it dealt with more quickly.
If you need to discuss this issue my mobile phone contact number is [contact number redacted]
yours sincerely,
Paul Cardin
UPDATE   4th October 2012
Good news.  I’ve had an email from a senior case officer at the ICO:

PROTECT

 4 October 2012

 Case Reference Number FS50445302

 Dear Mr Cardin

Further to our letter of 9 July 2012, I write to inform you that your case has now been allocated to me to investigate and to inform you of how I intend to resolve the matter.

It is clear that Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council have failed to provide a response to your request despite the ICO’s intervention in June 2012. I therefore intend to issue a decision notice requiring Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council to provide you with an adequate response in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I hope to issue the decision notice within the next 2 weeks. 

I trust this is satisfactory.

Yours sincerely

[Name redacted]
Senior Case Officer

It’s not the required outcome, at least not yet…. but it’s another Decision Notice (which is a legal document) to add to the ever-growing pile.  This is likely to shine the spotlight onto Wirral Council’s methods, and is potentially another nail in the coffin of the disability discrimination, perpetrated for over a decade by this council.
UPDATE 10th October 2012
The decision notice FS50445302 was received today and is reproduced below:

This Decision Notice is now up on the ICO website, and can be linked to here:

http://www.ico.gov.uk/~/media/documents/decisionnotices/2012/fs_50445302.ashx

I noticed today that Wirral has received 17 Decision Notices so far.  For comparison purposes, Birmingham City Council – the largest UK Local Authority – has received only 10.  Kent County Council, another biggie, has received only 6.  This would seem to indicate Wirral are getting something wrong.

Another telling area is that of “complaints”.  An appeal can form 1 complaint, or if more complex be broken down into a number of separate ones.  Wirral’s 17 Decision notices make up a total of 38 complaints.  36 of these have been upheld or partially upheld on behalf of the complainant.
Turning to the subject matter, once again Wirral haven’t responded since February this year, and are in breach of Statutory Law, having failed to meet their obligations under the Act.
I suspect they will eventually plead legal privilege on this. (Did you know that data controllers are allowed to change their reasoning for withholding information as the process pans out?  That’s right.  If the first, second or third excuse doesn’t fit the bill, let’s try a fourth)….. is it any wonder the process can become SO painful and drawn out for requesters?  The chances are Wirral will soon end up back under the Information Commissioner’s own particular version of  ‘special measures’, having learned nothing since the last time this happened.
They now have until 14th November 2012 to provide the information or issue a valid refusal notice under Section 17(1).
UPDATE   14th November 2012
Nothing in yet.  Tomorrow, I’ll pick this up again and take it on to the next stage with the ICO.
UPDATE   9th November 2012
the following link contains some rather disturbing news about the Disability Committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Mike Smith’s future as chair:
UPDATE   18th November 2012
Second emailed reminder sent this morning to David Armstrong, former Interim Chief Executive.  He was contacted in August on my behalf by Angela Eagle MP, but has never responded:
From: Paul C

Sent: 18 November 2012 09:54
To: ‘davidarmstrong@wirral.gov.uk’
Cc: ‘grahamburgess@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘joyceredfearn@gmail.com’; ‘eaglea@parliament.uk’; ‘Tour, Surjit’
Subject: RE: Disability Discrimination

Dear Mr Armstrong,

Have you responded yet to my local MP’s urgent letter, dated 23rd August 2012, sent to you months ago?

This ongoing lack of response doesn’t bode well and is not in keeping with your role / responsibilities as a senior public servant.  Please check again the subject matter of this email.  Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council are entrusted with important obligations where the welfare of vulnerable and disabled people are concerned.  However, all the evidence taken together seems to point to them being near the ‘bottom of the pile’ where the council’s priorities are concerned.

I look forward to hearing from you this coming week,

Best regards,

Paul Cardin

From: Paul C
Sent: 22 September 2012 23:25
To: ‘davidarmstrong@wirral.gov.uk’
Cc: ‘grahamburgess@wirral.gov.uk’; ‘joyceredfearn@gmail.com’; ‘eaglea@parliament.uk’
Subject: Disability Discrimination

Dear Mr Armstrong,

I still await some acknowledgment or response to the issue that was raised with you recently in a letter from Angela Eagle and also in an email from Joyce Redfearn (both attached).  If the matter has been passed onto somebody else, please advise who,

best regards,

Paul Cardin

UPDATE   19th November 2012
Email in today from the ICO:

PROTECT

19 November 2012

Case Reference Number FS50445302

Dear Mr Cardin

I am writing in response to your email of 15.11.12.

I have called the council today to enquire why it has not yet complied with the decision notice dated 16.10.12. This will be looked into by the council and it will get back to me later today or tomorrow.

The Commissioner has discretion as to how to deal with public authorities who have not complied with a decision notice and whether to deal with such a failure as contempt of court pursuant to section 54 of the FOIA. Once I have heard back from the council I will contact you again to inform you how ICO intends to deal with this matter.

Yours sincerely
[officer name redacted]
Senior Case Officer
____________________________________________________________________

This refers to the FoI request FS50445302 (asking for correspondence between Wirral Council and solicitors’ firm DLA Piper.  This one is now 9 months old and the process of extracting responses and answers has become slow and painful.

Recently, the Council finally did come up with a Section 41 Exemption (Protecting the confidentiality of information belonging to a ‘person’ (DLA Piper)).
However, I believe this exemption to be inappropriate and unsatisfactory – and also not engaged as regards correspondence which the Council has generated (which is simply not covered by a Section 41 exemption).
The Council’s attempt to engage Section 41 is detailed here:

Link to this

My response was as follows:

From: Paul Cardin

23 November 2012

Dear Lyon, Rosemary A.,

Firstly, please provide all correspondence generated by yourself
(under the terms of the original request).

I don’t believe the information that the council generated with
regard to this can be covered by a Section 41 Exemption. Having
already travelled as far as the Information Commissioner’s Office
and received a legal document in the form of a ‘Decision Notice’
instructing you to act, I look forward to receiving this forthwith,
without any need to internally review or put any further obstacles
in the way (I don’t think the FOI Act permits an internal review
AFTER a decision notice has been sent.)

Secondly, as for the information generated by DLA Piper UK LLP, I
believe there is an overriding public interest attached to the
release of the information.

• Wirral Council has a statutory duty to protect its vulnerable
people – for the good of society. It has quite deliberately failed
in this through unlawfully taking at least £700,000 from the bank
accounts of many disabled Wirral people over a period of many
years. When informed in great detail about this internally by
Martin Morton, the council failed to stop it, bullied him out of
his job, and carried on doing it – see the findings of the Martin
Smith and Anna Klonowski Independent reports. The Equalities and
Human Rights Commission found that this amounted to disability
discrimination – the very subject matter of this request

• As a result of this disability discrimination, vulnerable members
of the public have had their wellbeing adversely affected. Flowing
directly from this, their ability to defend themselves against the
threat of abuse has been severely diminished, because their
confidence in their statutory protector – the local council (who
now deny them access to information) – has been so badly damaged.
The council itself has been forced to admit to abuse of learning
disabled tenants

• Despite this admission, there has been no reckoning or
accountability yet for any of the councillors or senior public
servants directly involved in these scandals – indeed currently,
there is a drive (originating with the Council’s legal head) to
keep the names within the investigation reports hidden. The public
are still waiting for ‘right to be done’ – for the good of society.
But whilst they wait, there have been pay offs and there have been
gagging clauses, used to stop former employees talking, concealed
within compromise agreements. And there have been six figure sums
paid to silence people who were found by independent investigations
to have been connected to abusive behaviour towards vulnerable and
disabled members of society

• Given the history of failed governance, which has also spread
into other council departments, vulnerable people and their carers
now need to be able to seek redress and rebuild their confidence in
the body which is entrusted with looking out for their welfare.
They can do this by gaining access to information and to areas that
appear to have been deliberately closed off through confidentiality
– the written exchanges between the council and the law firms whose
services are continuing to be purchased with large amounts of
public money. Confidentiality is a factor; I don’t deny this; but I
believe it is dwarfed by the urgent need for transparency, for the
legitimate and compelling public interest to be satisfied, and
ultimately for the good of society

• I don’t believe in this case that confidentiality can be a
justified obstacle to openness and transparency and the good of
society. There are now some very compelling questions that need to
be asked of the law firm DLA Piper. Such as, how they arrived at a
finding that there was no disability discrimination? How did the
EHRC suggestion that disability discrimination, once confirmed, and
investigated to see where it occurred, and how far it spread –
become completely subverted – and changed to a remit which failed
to acknowledge and recognise the EHRC finding, and looked simply
for whether disability discrimination had occurred or not – only to
find that it “hadn’t occurred”?

• On Wirral, where so much suffering has been caused over such a
long period of time (10 years plus). I don’t believe that grave
matters such as systematic abuse and disability discrimination, and
the correspondence surrounding this, can be blocked through a
Section 41 exemption on the grounds of ‘confidentiality’. The good
of society is paramount and needs to be served in this case

I will be contacting the Information Commissioner’s Office for
further advice,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

UPDATE   25th November 2012

Updating email sent to the ICO this morning:

From: Paul C [mailto:info@easyvirtualassistance.co.uk]
Sent: 25 November 2012 07:30
To: ‘casework@ico.gsi.gov.uk’
Subject: FW: Response to email of 15.11.12[Ref. FS50445302]

Dear Deborah Clark,

Thank you for your email of 19th November 2012.

On 22nd November 2012 I received a response from Rosemary Lyon, a solicitor at Wirral Council, who informed me that the council was relying upon a Section 41 Exemption within the FOIA.  Whilst I regard Confidentiality as an important factor, given the circumstances, I do not accept this as adequate justification to continue withholding the information in this case.

In accordance with ICO Awareness Guidance 2, I also believe Wirral Council is incorrect in applying Section 41 to information generated by the council itself.

 

“The exemption does not cover information which the public authority has generated itself, although it may cover documents (or parts of documents) generated by the public authority if these contain confidential information provided by a third party.”

The ICO Advice note clearly disallows the blanket withholding of this information.  Section 41 is therefore not engaged with regard to the majority of the content of this correspondence.  I would now like you to enforce my subsequent request and require Wirral Council to publicly disclose their own generated correspondence in accordance with ICO Awareness Guidance 2.

As for the correspondence generated by DLA Piper, I have advised Wirral Council that I am not happy with their response and that I plan to return to the ICO for advice.  I have set out my reasoning in a reply which is reproduced on the WhatDoTheyKnow website at the following link.  This reasoning is also provided to the ICO in order to help you further my case for disclosure:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/request_for_copies_of_correspond#outgoing-193727

In light of the ongoing controversy surrounding two independent investigations which found bullying; abuse of power; abuse of disabled people; serious failures in corporate governance, but no accountability for those involved – followed by the subsequent attempted suppression of information, my justification for disclosure of this correspondence is set out in the terms:

“The need for Confidentiality v The Public Good”.

Disability discrimination by Wirral Council (who have a statutory obligation to protect the welfare of disabled people) was originally found by Mike Smith, Chair of the Disabilities Committee of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in December 2010, and has been taken up on my behalf by my representative in Parliament, Angela Eagle MP.

I look forward to receiving your advice on this matter in the near future,

Best regards,

Paul Cardin

UPDATE   26th November 2012

An answer has arrived and its not good news!  This looks like ‘back to square one’.  Is this what’s known as death by bureaucracy?

PROTECT

26 November 2012

Case Reference Number FS50445302

Dear Mr Cardin

Further to your email of 25 November 2012, as the council has now responded to your request but applied an exemption to withhold the information, a new case will be set up to deal with the complaint and you will be contacted by our First Contact department in due course.

Yours sincerely

[Officer name redacted]
Senior Case Officer
_____________________________________________________

I recently received a response from James Baldwin, who appears to be Angela Eagle’s parliamentary assistant.  He sent me a letter he’d received that day from Vivienne Stone of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Here is the letter:

29 11 12 - Vivienne Stone EHRC page 129 11 12 - Vivienne Stone EHRC page 2

29 11 12 - Vivienne Stone EHRC page 3

What’s really perplexing about this letter is in the underlined section above, Vivienne Stone appears to be denying the contents of Mike Smith’s original letter, sent in late December 2010 (see the top of this post).  Mike Smith’s letter never advised Wirral to appoint anybody to ‘look for disability discrimination’.  It had already been found.  We also can’t satisfy ourselves on what transpired between Sheila Kumar, Jim Wilkie and Bill Norman on 13th July 2011.  Are there any minutes for this meeting?  Was Mike Smith’s opinion ignored or overriden?

There is no absence of detailed information – because Mike Smith received enough information in 2010 to confirm that there had been years of disability discrimination towards learning disabled Supported Living tenants.

It was then a case of Anna Klonowski going away, investigating and seeing how this had impacted and how far it extended.

Chief Executive Jim Wilkie was later forced to leave the council.  Bill Norman was later suspended, along with three of his colleagues and, although ultimately he had ‘no case to answer’, I believe that from this point, his historical opinion that there was ‘no disability discrimination’ became tarnished.

It is time to reaffirm Mike Smith’s original findings,  and act upon over a decade of disability discrimination, carried out by Wirral Council, a body which has a statutory obligation to protect the welfare and interests of its own disabled people.

UPDATE   6th December 2012

David Armstrong replied today to the letter that Angela Eagle sent him on my behalf back in August.  Remember August?  No, thought not.

My comments are in black.

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your emails.

My understanding is that the new Chief Executive wrote to you in October advising that there would be a single point of contact with the council, Surjit Tour, the Acting Director of Law in order to provide a focused point of communication on the matters you are raising with the council.  (But did the new Chief Executive write to Angela Eagle, to acknowledge the original letter? If not, why not?)

Prior to ceasing to be the Acting Chief Executive on September 3rd and reverting to my base position in the Children and Young people’s Department I tried to deal with the outstanding matters from my period in the Acting Chief Executive post.  I can only advise you to raise outstanding matters with Surjit as requested by the Chief Executive.  (Why didn’t you advise both Angela Eagle and me of this course of action back in August?) I will also speak further with Surjit on this matter.

I felt that the new Chief Executive’s email was very clear re future contact.  If you felt it needed additional confirmation of the position from me and I did not provide that, then I apologise. (Thank you.)

In respect of the matters raised, I feel that only Surjit can answer the question from yourself and Angela Eagle, MP re the redaction of some names in the AkA report,.  I was present when this matter was discussed at council and my recollection is that some changes were made to redacted material following consideration of the report. (Surjit Tour has not made any attempt to answer this point.  It is preventing those complicit in abuse / disability discrimination from being identified.  Do I have to send all my emails again or being met with a wall of silence, somehow fathom their whereabouts and exactly whose in-tray they may be sitting in?)

In respect of your allegation re council staff, current or former being a threat to people with disabilities and represent a threat to their safety, Angela Eagle MP asked you to share the evidence you had with her and the Police.  In your reply of the 25th August you said you would need some time to gather evidence together.  I am not in a position to know whether this has happened but it does seem to be the logical next step in relation to the situation as you set it out in your emails. (It has happened.  I am waiting for Angela Eagle to respond and have been since September.  So much for ‘urgency’.)

I will discuss the matter further with Surjit Tour and am sharing this reply with him and Angela Eagle, MP.

Tina Lloyd on behalf of

David Armstrong

Deputy Director CYPD and

Assistant Chief Executive

Wirral Council

UPDATE   13th January 2012

Reminder to the ICO:

From: Paul C [mailto:info@easyvirtualassistance.co.uk]
Sent: 13 January 2013 22:52
To: ‘casework@ico.gsi.gov.uk’
Subject: RE: Application of exemption[Ref. FS50445302]

Dear [Senior officer name redacted],

I have not been contacted in a very long time by your ‘First Contact Department’.

Please can you re-acquaint yourself with the issues and respond, with advice on what is happening?

Many thanks,

Paul Cardin

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