23rd October 2014
Back on 6th October 2013, we placed this FoI request with Wirral Council, in an attempt to shine some light on how the above stonking sum of public money was paid across, no questions asked, to an anonymous senior public servant, then expertly covered up.
It turns out the senior officer is female – a little nugget which took over a year to emerge, but which narrows it down a bit.
For better or for worse, and we suggest the latter, we all have our own ideas about who this lady may be and what her true motivation was. The issues were covered earlier here.
After the news emerged, in early October just over a year ago…
- we lodged the FOI request (6/10/13)
- the wheels ground exceeding slow
- the internal review failed (29/11/13)
- an appeal was placed with the ICO (29/11/13)
- the wheels ground exceeding slow… again
- we sent a reminder (14/04/14)
- the anniversary of the request came and went (6/10/14)
- we sent another reminder (23/10/14) and received a response (reproduced below)
And here we are today, reading in the Wirral Globe that Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead, is suddenly demanding compensation for a group of alleged “whistleblowers” (See: well dodgy £multimillion COLAS Highways Contract; suspension of David Green, Bill Norman, Ian Coleman and David Taylor Smith, followed by the “no case to answer” Richard Penn whitewash)
Frank Field is demanding these “whistleblowers” are paid the same sum of money as the above anonymous female senior officer (£48,000) for the severe hardship they’ve endured ever since they went public.
We’re not sure whether the £48,000 demanded is for each “whistleblower”, or to be shared equally between all of them – this crucial detail is not spelled out in the Globe (or Echo) articles. We the public (providers of council tax cash under threat of imprisonment) appear to have become an afterthought. We don’t get to discover how many are in this group. If there are say, 12 “whistleblowers”, the sum will be either £4,000 each – hardly a life-changing sum – or £576,000 between them. In which case, dig deep readers…!
A reasonable assumption (what the hell is reasonable around these parts?) would be that there are say, 5 “whistleblowers”, and they’ll get an equal share of £240,000 if Graham “Mistakes” Burgess agrees to Frank Field’s urgent demands at tomorrow’s Friday 24th October showdown between the great men.
But what on earth is behind these demands? We think we should be told! So in the absence of hard facts, here’s some back of a fag packet conjecture…
Is Frank allegedly:
- acting from the goodness of his heart? (Although he is a politician remember)
- on a party-political damage-limitation mission after being made ‘an offer he can’t refuse’ i.e. not in a position to resist and being compelled forward by separate events unknown to the world at large?
- down on his luck; has grown to know, cherish and gradually come to love these former council employees, and is now desperate for the relationship to continue
- losing it?
It certainly appears nobody outside this ‘special interest group’ knows what Frank Field’s motivations are. Or if they do, they’re not saying.
Anyway, back to the October 2013 urgent FOI request. Below is a missive received only today from the Information Commissioner, stalwart protector of bullies, payoffs for bullies; and enabler of cover ups for bullies.
So for months and months and months, Daniel Perry, case officer, has been waiting for Wirral Council to get their act together and send an important submission referring to the concealed squandering of nearly 50 grand of our cash.
As we sat and waited, we had no clue that the ICO were still sitting on their hands, hoping against hope that the power abusing council would one day come good and act within the law.
Also, when these three information notices were issued on 5th September, nobody told me, the requester.
Remember, this is the council that’s been through not one but two imposed monitoring periods due to their desperately cynical opposition to all things FoI.
And if that wasn’t enough, this is the council whose CEO Graham “Mistakes” Burgess then had to go through the humiliation of…
Promising Sir that he would ‘pay attention in class, hand in his homework on time and not jolly well sit there ignoring what Sir had been repeatedly trying to drum into him; by signing an undertaking, announcing his intentions publicly to all of his classmates, and assuring every last one of us that from now on, he’d pull his jolly well socks up.’
But Burgess didn’t even make that public announcement. He delegated. He got his chum Blott to do it in a newspaper, (the online version that few of us ever see) without even bothering to signpost to Joe Public what it was actually all about. What a first class wheeze!
And here we are now. This IS the future.
Not so long ago, in April of this year, Councillors Sykes, Whittingham, Muspratt, Hodson, Gilchrist and super director Joe Blott were in one of the committee rooms, patting each other on the back, and publicly singing the praises of yet another glowing internal FOI report re: the council’s “vastly improved FOI performance”. But once again, true to form, it all seems to have fallen away, and now stands forlorn and exposed as self-deluding bluster, trotted out to make the power abusers feel good about themselves.
Again, it’s a case of “To hell with…
- the ICO
- the public interest
… because we know better !”
We’ve got to admit, as experienced requesters, we’ve never noticed the slightest trace of improvement, over many years. In fact, it’s been repeatedly, consistently and depressingly d i r e.
So if you’re reading this Councillors… we don’t do easy requests like,”How many bats are flitting about the belfry of Wallasey Town Hall?” No, we get in there, dig deep and give headaches to power abusing public servants, which is our inalienable right.
We were once ‘banned’ from making FoI and data protection requests, and even though it was a neighbouring council that reached for these draconian measures, your conduct continues to be abysmal, and it is you who will continue to be targeted with non-vexatious queries.
In summary, we have a few questions…
- when did the wheels fall off …again?
- was that ‘glowing’ FoI report just dreamt up, creative bilge, dished out to deceive, frustrate and confound?
- precisely when are you all going to stop congratulating each other, see through the spin, stop accepting senior officers’ outlandish spiel as gospel, muster up some courage, bang a few heads together, get in touch with the regulator about the missing 48 grand, and put a bomb under the seat of whoever’s actioning those other two urgent requests sitting there languishing, forgotten and gathering dust in the ‘too difficult’ tray?
p.s. The two additional unaddressed requests:
Summary: A blind refusal to admit that 834 compromise agreements issued in redundancy circumstances were in fact compromise agreements, coupled with a misguided insistence that they “didn’t need to be recorded as such”. These agreements alone cost the public purse a cool £62,500.
Summary: Departure of controversial Chief Internal Auditor David Garry from Wirral Council (Google “Nigel Hobro, whistleblower”). Check out the date of the original request………………..18th October 2012. Just over two years old.
UPDATE – 2nd November 2014
A decision notice is in for FS50524181 – see above – finding in favour of the abusive council – but within it there is no mention of ANY long-awaited submission by Wirral Council. Once again, we sense manipulation / incompetence on the part of those who really should know better.
They seem to think we’re stupid and will be content to be fobbed off with lazy assurances, can’t-be-arsed behaviour and decisions that serve nobody but themselves and the abusers they’re supposed to be there to regulate.
Here we go again. I’ll be ringing Andrew White / Daniel Perry tomorrow morning. Full decision notice to follow soon…
Email to Case Worker:
From: Paul C Sent: 02 November 2014 10:19 To: ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ Subject: RE: ICO Case FS50522678[Ref. FS50522678]
Cases FS50521828, FS50522678, and FS50524181
Dear Mr Perry,
Please confirm as appropriate. The ICO deadline of 28th October has passed and:
- all three cases have been referred to the enforcement team
- the required information has been received for only 1 (or 2) cases and the outstanding case(s) have been passed to the enforcement team
- the required information for all three cases has been received from the council before the above deadline and we are now acting upon the information received
I am aware that you have issued a decision notice for FS50524181. I have concerns with the extent of the information contained and will contact you separately.
Please respond with full clarity asap,