9th June 2014
Below is a report from Local Government Lawyer, explaining a recent First Tier Information Tribunal ruling in favour of Wirral Council:
…from which the inconvenient phrase ‘disability discrimination’ has been omitted.
And here’s a Wirral Globe article, which explains some of the background.
Sharp-eyed readers, knowing the history to this, or perhaps seeing the name DLA Piper LLP referred to, will remember how this issue raised its ugly head back in 2010, when I contacted my local MP, Angela Eagle, to tell her about what I regarded as out of control, unaddressed disability discrimination being meted out by the local council. This was the original Martin Morton whistleblow or ‘protected’ disclosure.
With utter disregard for its duty of care towards employees, the council, under former leader (and now Mayor of Wirral) Steve Foulkes, reacted in a no holds barred, bitter display of retribution, and Mr Morton was very quickly bullied, mobbed and forced out of his job.
Anyway, to compound it further, the upshot is that a judge and two colleagues on this tribunal have now stepped in and again protected those senior public servants who, via undercover methods, and without anybody asking them to do it, set out on an as yet unknown course which ultimately found that there was no disability discrimination.
Over 10 years ago, two senior officers at Wirral Council set up mechanisms which repeatedly and unlawfully plundered the bank accounts of at least 16, but an unspecified greater number of learning disabled tenants of supported living establishments on Wirral.
The haul amounted to £736,756.97p – and it continued despite social worker Martin Morton’s protestations.
With Mr Morton long gone, and by stark contrast, the two abusive officers dodged disciplinary action and left the authority, with the blessing of then CEO James Wilkie, two days before the release of the full AKA report, and apparently with clean bills of health, pausing only to divvy up a bumper pay off of £220,000…
Not long before this, we all remember how Anna Klonowski, the external ‘independent’ investigator, had suddenly pulled up short at the last fence and failed to look into the questionable role played by certain Wirral councillors, despite uncovering plenty of evidence to proceed upon.
Around the same time, although the opportunity was there, her company, AKA Associates, bizzarely refused to look into further financial-abuse-affected supported living sites, including Balls Road, a Birkenhead location, where it’s alleged that the same kind of relentlessly crooked, cruel, and callous behaviour was rampant, dwarfing what had been uncovered elsewhere.
But AKA Associates gave the feeble excuse that they ‘didn’t have the time.’
Not only had these learning disabled people’s statutory protector gone AWOL, trashing its obligations towards them, but investigators AKA, who could have been a force for good and a knight in shining armour, began inexplicably pulling its punches.
(Total amount of public money channelled into AKA Associates bank account during and after the investigation ~ £377,000 approx).
Way back in 2011, after being approached by Angela Eagle, Mike Smith, then Chair of the Disabilities Committee of the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission recognised that there had indeed been disability discrimination.
He’d understandably and in all good faith, written this letter, (concealed from the public by Councillor Moira McLaughlin), instructing AKA Associates to feed this finding into their investigation, in order to discover the true extent of the problem.
But AKA for their part seemed to ignore this, appointing DLA Piper admittedly – but appearing to give them alternative, now HIDDEN (thanks to the tribunal) instructions.
But the 64,000 dollar questions here are: To what extent were proven power abusers Wirral Council involved in this shenanigans – and exactly what information was taken and disclosed to the tribunal?
Following the above ruling, it appears the public interest has been sidelined and is now unlikely to get anywhere near the crucial information, thanks to a judge and tribunal who, looking at one passage in particular, potentially may even have been shielded from the existence of disability discrimination.*
As for the welfare of Wirral’s disabled people and the greater good, I’d just like to confirm…
…this is far from over. I will now be doing my utmost to contact the judge concerned, .
*Excerpt: “The Tribunal took into account that the contents of most of this information was particularly anodyne and insofar as it contained anything of substance, did not, on the face of it, contain anything of particular public interest which might otherwise call for disclosure. Thus, albeit [certain] documents…. were not exempt by virtue of section 31, they were by virtue of section 42.”
How we arrived at this point. Further crucial reading:
The Judge’s response and that of the Registrar to the General Chamber are covered here