The Information Commissioner Defends a Broken, Basket Case Council

14th November 2014

In October 2013, roughly a year ago, it was revealed that a Wirral Council senior officer (gender not given at the time) had been paid the sum of £48,000 as compensation for “hurt feelings”, apparently after being bullied.

There was never any official media statement, story or press release from on high.  It seemed to be a leak, coming via unofficial channels, possibly from an insider who’d gotten wind of it, and decided the public needed to know.  Or possibly in line with numerous other council leaks, done to further a hidden agenda and subsequently not reported to the ICO as a data breach, strangely.

Rumours began to circulate and have done for a year as to the identity of the person involved.  To shine a little more light and narrow it down, some more helpful nuggets came out, revealed in an article which described a very public action by an unusually philanthropic Frank Field MP.

The intervention of this local heavyweight appears to be final confirmation that yes, the public money (our money) was definitely paid across, despite Burgess’ and Davies’ desperate desire to impose a lockdown and deny all existence of the fact that the payment was made.

Frank’s purpose now, apart from embarrassing the leader and the CEO, is to ‘hammer out’ compensation to an undisclosed number of highways whistleblowers in the same sum of money – £48,000.

Check out this FoI request, asking for details of the meeting, etc.

It finally emerged in the first version of the Wirral Globe article that the person who received the £48k, was a female senior officer.

The article has since been ‘updated’ to remove any reference to gender.  But too late, the cat was already out of the bag – an unfortunate state of affairs, ironically caused by Frank Field – and the kind of situation HESPE complainant Gary Downey is all too familiar with, to his cost.

There aren’t many females at the top of Wirral Council, and I imagine those who pride themselves on their hard work and integrity will be absolutely seething since Frank Field dropped his little bombshell at the Wirral Globe (which also referred to how the target of the bullying was perversely still in post).  These female officers, who should know full well the identity of the complainant, may now be having thoughts like:

  • “I wonder if my nearest and dearest thinks it was me who got the £48,000, but I’ve been keeping quiet about it?”
  • “I wonder if my staff suspect it was me who was paid off and have now lost all trust in me as figurehead of the department?”
  • “I wonder whether my own career is now on the skids, with all the uncertainty created?”
  • “Why is it that she seems to have the ear of the movers and the shakers?”  (nothing to do with any buildings on King Street, Wallasey)

Yes readers, there’s nothing like a little mean-spirited subterfuge to destroy the morale of an organisation’s top personnel, creating a destructive trickle down effect.  Cheers Frank.

And given the recent black as soot history of this basket case, is it any wonder there’s a bail out of senior persons building and gathering pace right now?

Here’s a link to the Wirral Globe Frank Field “hammering it out” article.

_______________________

The Freedom of Information angle

The other day I finally received a Decision Notice from the ICO, in response to an FoI request I’d placed upon hearing about the missing £48,000 (I think ‘missing’ is a fair description of the status of our cash, a year on).  Something tells me it certainly won’t be recorded properly in the declared ‘public accounts’.  In fact we’re slap bang back in the sad old, mad old, bad old days.  Who remembers that gut-wrenching moment when we discovered the £45,000 bid to purchase Martin Morton’s silence had been deceitfully recorded under “new suppliers”?

Here’s that Decision Notice:

wirral48k1 wirral48k2 wirral48k3 wirral48k4 wirral48k5 wirral48k6 wirral48k7 wirral48k8

Despite the Information Commissioner’s misguided endorsement of these events, there’s been absolutely no trace of public oversight here.  Neither has there been any internal elected member scrutiny.  To add insult to injury, the deceitful conduct was quickly and arrogantly covered up by soon to depart CEO Graham “Mistakes” Burgess, aided and abetted by leader Councillor Phil Davies and another 65 bumps on a log, laying prostrate.

Here’s an assumed sequence of events, much of which seems to have occurred in a calculated manner, between public servants, moving in the shadows, in secretly convened gatherings, operating beyond any measure of accountability, and completely behind closed doors.

With the threat of elected member scrutiny safely put to one side, the only people who appear to know the precise details are those involved, presumably including Leader Davies and CEO “Mistakes” Burgess.  These events hold the potential to create seismic tremors if and when the closer truths are exposed, so all those involved had to be on message, and determined to stay one step ahead of accountability:

  1. A senior female officer of ‘improved’ Wirral Council is allegedly bullied – presumably by a very senior person (councillor or officer)
  2. The female officer complains about being bullied
  3. A hidden unofficial process commences at the ‘open and transparent’ council, the outcome of which is a concealed payment to the female officer of £48,000 in public money, reportedly as compensation for ‘hurt feelings’
  4. Apparently, no external or internal investigation was mounted in order to arrive at a reasonable assessment of ‘detriment suffered’.
  5. Without any investigation, in line with internal policies and procedures, one which would result in a set of findings, how did the sum of £48,000 materialise?  Or was it just plucked out of thin air?
  6. Presumably, the payment was made because she was bullied, but what remedy was applied to the senior bully?  How can they remain in post?
  7. If the anonymous senior bully was not disciplined, do we assume they’ve received protection from the CEO? (who, let’s face it, did send an email which slammed the shutters down and appeared to be an attempt to distract councillors)
  8. With no accountability, there’s a risk they will do it again and further money will be squandered
  9. Events do not appear to have followed those which would be routinely followed for a junior officer, i.e. grievance lodged; bullying target’s “outcome” requested; formal or informal internal investigation conducted by another department;  investigating officer writes report; hearing convened.  But why?
  10. An anonymous person with at least a sliver of integrity remaining hears about the outrageous goings on and, wanting to be the first participant to act in the public interest, blows the gaff to the media. (But see the other possibility mentioned above)
  11. Graham “Mistakes” Burgess sends a global email to councillors, the contents of which are reported as  simply a reassurance that no compromise agreement was signed that was based upon member behaviour
  12. The subject is raised with the council leader by Councillor Jeff Green, but Davies, the leader, deliberately dodges the question and refers him to the Burgess email – see veil of secrecy story in Wirral Globe
  13. The above interplay is summed up in the blandest and most vague of terms (see 33) in these minutes for the Monday night meeting.  
  14. Kafka spins in his grave

Please take a couple of minutes to view the leader’s response to the loss of a similar sum just a week later on 16th October (£45,000) – where his selective ‘outrage’ was clear to behold.

The difference here: this was external fraud – a deplorable crime which was quickly taken up by no less than the Metropolitan Police, who were reported as “actively pursuing the case”.

Sadly for us the public, the internal scammer of just one week earlier who succeeded in wangling £3k more, appears to have received kid glove treatment, a favourable ear, and to have gotten off very lightly.

So too has the alleged ‘bully’ it appears.

I now have 28 days to appeal this to the First Tier Information Tribunal.

About Wirral In It Together

Campaigner for open government. Wants senior public servants to be honest and courageous. It IS possible!
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6 Responses to The Information Commissioner Defends a Broken, Basket Case Council

  1. Bobby Fortyseven says:

    Bloody forty eight thousand pounds! Bloody hurt feelings! I wish someone would pop round bloody here and hurt my feelings and I got slipped forty eight thousand pounds. Hurt feeling my neighbours right testicle!
    I’ll tell you what can hurt your bloody feelings and make you go all bloody sensitive. Getting told to fix bloody bayonets and ordered to charge at a nest of machine guns. That’ll get your muttering, ‘me bloody feelings are hurt’. And it’s no good telling your skipper, ‘you’ve just hurt me bloody feelings. I demand forty eight thousand pounds’. More than likely, he’d fix his own rotten bayonet and shove you out over the wire howling, ‘and don’t come bloody back fatso’.
    Whoever this ‘Doris’ is she wants to hack my bloody email in box and read what folk think and say of me. That’d make her think. That’d make her wince. Forty eight bloody thousand pounds, slipped out of the public purse and nobody was ever supposed to know. Bloody hell!
    And they wonder why Cardin keeps going. Onward and in this case, bloody downwards, relentlessly pursuing the truth about where the money is going. Mind, it’s actually buggar all to do with Cardin. When he decided to produce his dartboard, or as I saw it, a bloody Ouija Board, listing the names of the girls who may have had the misfortune to become so bloody hurt that they needed forty eight bloody thousand pounds of our money to ease the pain, it was actually God who was behind the thought processes. Yes! God. God is behind everything. He’s into the bloody lot. Quite why he decided that it’d be a good idea to force the hierarchy of Wirral Council to feel compelled to dish out forty eight thousand pounds is a bloody mystery to me.
    Course, he obviously knows what he’s doing. He must do but there are times when his roundabout way of doing things leave one muttering, ‘what’s his purpose. What’s he got in store for us’.
    And he has got something in store for us. By sanctioning this payment of forty eight thousand pounds he’s set off a chain of events that’ll end in God getting us to go where he wants us to be.
    I reckon he’s rubbing our noses in it. Getting us so pissed off we’re all going to kick off, gather together in a howling mob and storm the Town Hall.
    And before any of you think me mad, ask yourselves why your reading this undiluted rancid Codswallop. Yes! Gods willed you to do it. Just like he’s given us The Syphilis. Disturbed and generally disappointed that vast areas of the Wirral have become overwhelmed by Dogging Assocuations, he’s given us the Syphilis so that well think twice before we writhe around on the bonnet of some parked car in pursuit of sexual gratification.
    This is the way he does things. In an entirely roundabout way that’s intended to alter the course of future events. Course, if you’ve got the Syphilis I don’t suppose it’ll be much consolation knowing that God gifted it to you. You’d be an odd sort if you thought, ‘thank you Lord for giving me the Syphilis’ especially if you’ve no affiliation with a Dogging Association.
    There! I’ve said what’s on me mind!

  2. E O'Neill says:

    An excellent result, Mr Cardin.

  3. jonatham hardaker says:

    Paul is it 48 for a bulls eye or is it 50 I cant quite remember???

  4. John Brace says:

    From your senior officer list of females you’ve left out Chris Hyams, the Head of Human Resources who I’m sure due to her job description I’m sure has more knowledge as to who this payment was made to than you have. 🙂

    I have a number of legal invoices in the office for Wirral Council for 2013-14 that are HR related that I got as part of the audit. Maybe I should crosscheck the dates to see if any relate to this little mystery. 😀

    After all as we both know Wirral Council before getting to the stage of such a payout usually seek legal advice on HR matters (whether external and/or internal).

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