10th November 2012
This first Freedom of Information request, placed with Wirral Council’s Information Governance section is looking for costs and further information around the reputed ordering and supply of a turquoise and green range of plush office furniture, reputedly amounting to £30,000 and ordered from a company called Jenkinsons Office Supplies. In addition to this, rather than employing elbow grease in the traditional way, a new Town Hall machination, in the shape of a dishwasher was also placed on order, and presumably by now, this will be plumbed in and churning away.
FoI request here: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/new_furniture_equipment_for_offi
The second request is related to the “What Really Matters” consultation, recently undertaken by the council. As part of this strategy, a top local creative design company, Mills Media, which numbers amongst its clients: Newsquest (publishers of the Wirral Globe); Cammel Laird; Shell; Muller, and the local police, was commissioned to create a top quality video (duration 13 minutes).
Here is a link to excerpts from the Wirral Council video, produced under the title “What Really Matters” and starring CEO Graham Burgess and Council Leader Phil Davies.
FoI request here: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/marketing_advertising_agency_wor
Mills Media were also on hand in November 2010 to cover this ‘momentous occasion’.
To finish on a positive, here are some words of comfort from Wirral Council’s new CEO Graham Burgess:
We therefore need to spend less on ourselves in order to help mitigate the impact of the cuts on our most vulnerable residents……
UPDATE 13th December 2012
Yesterday, the Wirral Globe picked up on the Mills Media FoI request and ran a story under the headline “Slasher Movie: Wirral Council Spends £5,700 on ‘cuts’ video” – to bring the Wirral public’s attention to the thousands that were spent on a professional video “starring Wirral Council’s political leader and its Chief Executive”:
I’ve managed to locate these shorter videos on the Council’s website (none of which feature Councillor Phil Davies):
Families and Wellbeing video (06:11)
[excerpt: “The Council has a duty to protect its most vulnerable adults, children and families”]
[excerpt: “The Council is also proposing to reduce what is spent on marketing, through things like advertising…”]
[excerpt: “…First thing you told us was to spend less on ourselves…to do everything possible to reduce the impact of spending cuts…”]
I’m not sure what happened to the original 13 minute video, but the link from the Mills Media web page has never worked. Maybe the Chief Executive’s introductory section and the three separate areas added up to 13 minutes originally?
UPDATE 18th December 2012
Here, we have proof that if you keep the pressure up on Wirral Council, eventually they will do something amazingly stupid.
They were found to have fibbed in response to this Freedom of Information request re: Mills Media and the “What Really Matters” video(s).
Here’s a link to an article in the Wirral Globe website
Somebody at the council decided to massage the figures regarding exactly how much was spent on video(s) made at Mills Media. In response to my request which asked for everything across all departments for this financial year, they sent back an answer of £5,722. Which misrepresented the true cost and was out by approximately £7,500 !
They were caught out fibbing, but refused to apologise and even roped in a learning disabled person to publicly back them up – which to me seems desperately cruel, low and devious of them.
Councillor Blakeley has reported this deception to the Information Commissioner and asked the Council to apologise to the Wirral public.
I expect to see a public apology soon – for being dishonest with the public – and hopefully for what they did to Ms Carter. If it arrives, it will be reproduced on these pages.
UPDATE 21st December 2012
It looks like Chief Executive Mr Burgess is not capable of climbing down and accepting that his staff fibbed. Instead of an apology, it’s yet another two finger salute from the Council to the local public:
…in other news, Wirral have earned a gong from satirical magazine Private Eye – the prestigious golden bung award AND they’ve been forced to reveal a £5 million black hole in their accounts, as reported in the Wirral Globe.
But given this tendency to ‘mis-speak’, how do we know it isn’t £50 million?
Later insertion: It wasn’t £50 million – I overestimated it. Including the swallowing up of the entire council bank reserves, it’s actually another £38 million………..
UPDATE 7th January 2013
Still no apology. More on this from our friends at Wirral Leaks:
UPDATE 14th February 2013
Here’s the latest update:
A response received today from a “performance” manager at Wirral Council.
And in return, the most sincere Happy Valentine’s Day wishes go from all here at WirralInItTogether to those pulling the strings at the centre of the council’s frozen heart.
I had what could be described as a frustrating, but informative (I’m now realising how deeply-deluded some of the staff are) phone conversation with an officer today. I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like this…
Hello, Xxxxx Xxxxx?
Hi, I’m calling in response to your WhatDoTheyKnow update [“What Really Matters” video] and about the discrepancy between the figures declared previously [7,440 pounds] and the actual undeclared figures [13,162 pounds].
Yes. That’s been dealt with in today’s response.
I’m sorry, but I don’t think it has been dealt with. Can you point me to the section in today’s response that addresses the discrepancy between the figures declared and the actual figures?
That’s been dealt with in today’s response.
You are in breach of the law, Xxxxx.
Well, that’s only your opinion. It’s not my opinion.
On this occasion, and on countless other occasions you have taken longer than the 20 days allowed within the FOIA.
We do our absolute utmost to comply with the law.
Well, you’re not trying hard enough. You are currently the only council in the land being monitored by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Your request was dealt with in today’s response.
It doesn’t matter how many times you say “Your request was dealt with….”. It obviously wasn’t and I am once again forced into appealing to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
That’s your choice.
Are you happy to sit there and tell untruths on behalf of senior officers as long as the wages come in at the end of the month?
I’m not telling untruths.
Who is your supervisor? I would like to speak to them.
Surjit Tour. He’s in a meeting.
Surjit Tour may as well be a “black hole“. Nothing ‘sent in’ ever re-emerges. It looks like I’m appealing to the ICO again.
…There was much more but I won’t bore you with it. In summary, they’re still fibbing. Somewhere in the Council there is an invoice made out for £13,162 and when we add on VAT it will amount to £15,794 – there or thereabouts.
I’ll give the last word to pioneering website Wirralleaks. This was their take on it – including a photocopy of order number 224543 – dated 4th September – so no confusion on the dates. This order predates my FoI request by a good two months.
The creator’s identity and the figures involved have been deleted to protect commercial confidentiality, but I suspect this is the “smoking gun” and the reason behind Wirral Council’s (latest) failure to tell the truth:
I sincerely hope the council are not trying to maintain or imply they’ve gone through a competitive process and accepted the lowest bid, whilst secretly selecting the highest bidder for the job – because that would not exactly be the best use of council tax payers’ money if it were true. In fact, if it were true it would be scandalous.
ps. Councillor Blakeley (who’s attached himself to this story) has me blocked on Twitter and also from commenting on his WordPress website.