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 former Highways Department alleged “whistleblowers” in the same sum of money – £48,000.
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 evident 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?
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:
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 unannounced, 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 directly 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 handling it had to be on message, and determined to stay one step ahead of accountability:
- A senior female officer of ‘improved’ Wirral Council is allegedly bullied – presumably by a very senior person (councillor or officer)
- The female officer complains about being bullied
- 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’
- Apparently, no external or internal investigation was mounted in order to arrive at a reasonable assessment of ‘detriment suffered’.
- 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?
- Presumably, the payment was made because she was bullied, but what remedy was applied to the senior bully? How can they remain in post?
- 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)
- With no accountability, there’s a risk they will do it again and further money will be squandered
- 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?
- 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)
- 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
- 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
- The above interplay is summed up in the blandest and most vague of terms (see 33) in these minutes for the Monday night meeting.
- 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.