Regular readers of the blog will be well aware of this one, and the depressing depths to which senior officers and councillors of Wirral Council have plummeted in order to draw a concealing veil across disability discrimination – as found by Mike Smith, former Chair of the Disability Committee of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission.
This was 2010, and in the meantime, the pendulum has swung the other way. However, do not despair… the whole thing’s just taken a promising turn… or has it? Please read on…
The outrageous behaviour I refer to was played out during the time of previous Director of Law, Bill Norman. This occurred when Anna Klonowski was in town; you know, the “independent” external investigator who we paid a total of £377,000 (not £250,000), but whose independence was never verified because her organisation didn’t have to satisfy any safeguarding conditions within an “External Investigations Policy”…
…because, er… Wirral don’t have one.
So once over that low hurdle, one of the established Wirral governance trainer’s next awkward tasks was to appoint a fearless and impartial legal representative. Law firm DLA Piper soon stepped up to the mark and, fully aware of their remit, pored over the evidence supplied and made a decision in the public interest.
A salaried solicitor came up with the bizarre and rather insulting finding that there had been no disability discrimination
…although two senior council officers from Social Services spent 9 long years plundering £736,756.97 (but most likely a helluva lot more) from at least 16, but an undeclared greater number of learning disabled tenants of supported living establishments across Wirral. This unlawful and calculated act caused immense suffering and hardship. Well it would, wouldn’t it? I believe some of the victims still await the return of their money more than 3 years later.
To sum up, a local authority, in 21st century Britain, with a statutory obligation to look out for and protect vulnerable persons within its jurisdiction, instead actually ganged up on them, knowing there’d be no scrutiny from pisspoor councillors, and stole a mammoth six figure sum of money from their bank accounts…. yet still, a law firm (and later Judge Christopher Hughes OBE of the First Tier Information Tribunal) appear to have given the abusive council the thumbs up.
Former Wirral social worker Martin Morton, now without a career and unemployed, blew the whistle on a number of acts of malpractice which verged on the criminal, including this one – and this was the headlining story in the newspapers at the time – the story which stuck fast in the hearts and minds of the local public.
Now, let’s fast forward to where it is today.
Here’s the FoI request I placed WAY back in February 2012:
As you can see, it was appealed to the ICO and a Decision Notice arrived recently dated 3rd October 2013, 20 months after the original request was lodged.
The ICO found positively, and in favour of the public interest. Wirral Council then had 35 days – from 3rd October 2013 – to supply the information I’d requested (correspondence between the council and the lawyers), which was wrongly withheld under Section 41. The council had withdrawn their reliance on a Section 42 exemption, and used Section 41 wrongly (which I’d realised very early on).
Yesterday, this deadline arrived. Upon ringing the Law Department and speaking to a Wirral Solicitor, I discovered that they’re appealing against the ICO finding.
What makes this decision to appeal extremely perplexing is… it’s being accompanied separately by large helpings of overblown flannel and PR claptrap that they’ve been dishing up to the local media:
- they’re ‘turning a new page’…
- they’ve ‘won the war’…
- they now need to ‘fight for the peace’…
- …’everything’s looking rosy…’
HOW can this latest lurch to the ££expensive services of m’learned friends be a sign that the penny’s dropped, and they’re finally facing up to their own scandalous malpractice?
If they’d actually learned any lessons, they’d be throwing open the books.
But no, here they are once again, slamming down the shutters and closing up shop, adding insult to injury, just like the bad old days.