7th July 2015
Some years ago, Wirral Borough Council’s reputation lay in complete tatters, after a number of Social Services’ senior officers had been found financially abusing disabled supported living tenants in their care – at three locations in Moreton, Wirral.
This abuse went on for NINE long years, even though a social worker told them very early on what they were doing was illegal and morally wrong.
But the officers dishing out the abuse ignored his warnings, isolated him, bullied him, mobbed him and drove him out of his job.
That employee was social worker Martin Morton. Eventually he decided he was not going to “stay bullied”. He blew the whistle to the local press, brought in the Audit Commission, and fought for wide ranging external investigations into bullying, power abuse, and serious failures in high level governance.
Many years later he was finally vindicated – completely – and offered his job back. Very wisely, he refused to return, knowing that the then CEO, Graham Burgess, and the gathering politicians simply wanted a photo opportunity, and that he’d be voluntarily returning to a complete basket case, where the bullies, abusers and psychopaths still held sway.
This was because there was a larger, and very much more intractable problem. The council, being headed up by elected and non-elected abusers of power, eventually ‘vindicated itself’.
It dodged all accountability for those involved, and spent over £1 million in public money frantically gagging and paying off a growing number of senior officers who’d been up to their necks not just in this particular scandal, but in several serious departmental failures that began to break out like wildfire, here, there and everywhere.
The elaborate cover up of all this was complete when, instead of calling in external inspectors to have a clear out of the crooks, the power abusers went for the dubious but safe option of appointing the UK Councils’ ‘Trade Union’, the paid up, funded by us, on message and very, very much complicit and compromised Local Government Association.
As expected, and at huge, undeclared public expense, they did a year long whitewash that stank to high heaven, which eventually reached its findings and made hollow promises to the local public that Hey Presto! all was once again rosy.
However, because the same power abusers remained in post, and because the names and full identities of abusers in the Martin Smith and AKA Reports remain deliberately blacked out to this day, the cancer has continued to spread …and the scandals, failures, cover ups and denials are continuing with renewed vigour…
We found out about Mike Fowler’s appointment to Brook Young People on 5th July 2015, and were surprised to learn that this one-time Wirral DASS senior officer, a key player in the nine year abuse of Wirral’s supported living tenants, had been employed at this charity since November 2012.
The above item, from civilsociety.co.uk makes no mention of Wirral, opting to be vague about it and to label Fowler’s former employer “a northwest council”. This sleight of hand conveniently prevents would-be charity donors from putting the key words “Mike Fowler” and “Wirral Council” together, locating all sorts of horrors on the internet and holding onto their money.
It appears that spending nine long years corporately abusing; financially abusing; discriminating against disabled people; unlawfully plundering their bank accounts of a grand total of £736,756.97 whilst assuming that the victims would have no hope whatsoever of getting their money back, is no bar to picking up a senior charity role in the future.
When Wirral were eventually forced to return the full amount (after failing to acknowledge the true total three times and offering peanuts instead), the DWP treated the returned money as “windfalls” and threatened to dock the benefits of the disabled people receiving it. Did Fowler and co. envisage this cruel eventuality as they unlawfully banked the cash?
We don’t think so.
Fowler left Wirral in early 2012, two days before the release of the damning, extensive (but not too damning and not too extensive) Anna Klonowski Report into failures in governance, abuse and disability discrimination.
Because he’d left, along with his Social Services colleague Maura Noone, he was rendered untouchable, and at no time risked being held accountable. He had the then CEO James Wilkie to thank for the careful timing of his and Noone’s departure.
Bizzarely to all who’d been watching this scandal, Mike Smith of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, who’d found this to be a clear-cut case of disability discrimination was quickly removed from his very senior post. The disability discrimination issue was included in the Klonowski Report for further exploration – but instead was refuted and finally torpedoed by Klonowski’s own company lawyers, DLA Piper LLP.
Brook is the name of his new organisation, a sexual health charity, which exists to support young people. Executive Director of Finance and Corporate Services is Fowler’s title. It’s probably safe to assume he’s kept a low profile and patiently allowed the dust to settle before safely emerging blinking into the daylight and before the public gaze once again.
He publicly identified himself here in October 2014, nearly two years after relaunching his career.
The CEO of Brook Young People when Fowler was appointed was Simon Blake OBE, now CEO at the National Union of Students, and latterly deputy chair of Stonewall UK. Was it he who appointed Fowler, or was it the Brook trustees?
I’ve been regularly tweeting @simonablake and @rosylight (current Brook CEO) in determined attempts to get them to comment on what looks like somebody’s deeply immoral conduct – the employment of Fowler. But to no avail.
These are the trustees:
- Eve Martin, Chair
- Alastair Bridges, Treasurer
- Polly Goodwin, Vice Chair
- Scott Bennett
- Jacky Chambers
- Dr Rachael Jones
- Pete Lawson
- Phillip Noyes
- Sue Ryrie
- Clare Taverner
- Linda Thomas
- Charlotte Warner
- Leon Ward
- Jo Youle
And these are the Brook trustees’ values:
Even when the game was up at Wirral, and Fowler and his colleague Maura Noone were forced to leave, it wasn’t sudden plain sailing for the targets of their disability discrimination OR the Wirral Public.
Insult was added to injury when it was quickly revealed in Private Eye that they’d each pocketed £110,000 in public money for their troubles. Not only this; they were granted protection in the form of a gagging clause within their compromise agreements. This prevented them from spilling the beans about the abuse they’d been involved in.
It also handily muzzled the issuing body, the council itself, stopping them from talking about it too.
There are also strong suspicions that a “clean bill of health” in the shape of a positive reference will have been issued to Fowler and Noone, to help them secure a new position elsewhere. All done as part of the deal, which it seems worked – a situation we are not happy to report.
Under Fowler’s financial stewardship, Wirral’s Department of Adult Social Services were giving accreditation to ‘care’ companies later found to have been up to their necks in hideous ongoing abuse, the creation of false bank accounts, threatening behaviour and even foul criminal conduct and evictions of disabled tenants.
Here’s a link to the in-depth – but not too in-depth (councillors in the frame were never investigated) external investigation carried out by Anna Klonowski Associates:
(For ease of navigation, Mike Fowler is protected behind “Employee 13” in this report. Maura Noone’s identity is protected behind “Employee 22”)
Here is an FOI request that was refused. An application for Fowler’s exit interview, however tellingly, the council made an admission to Fowler’s identity within its response
The actual truth of this situation has been spelled out in summary, here on the Whatdotheyknow.com website by the original whistleblower Martin Morton. The callous conduct went on uninterrupted for years and years. But in return for his brave defence of vulnerable people and his public-spirited actions, Martin was targeted, and remains unemployed to this day.
As we said earlier, we’ve been tweeting both Simon Blake OBE (former CEO of Brook) and Jules Hillier (Current CEO of Brook) but nothing’s come back.
So it’s Plan B. We’ll be approaching the trustees of Brook, to see if they do in fact operate in accordance with the Seven Nolan Principles of Public Life.
We shall see… but for now… given the council’s statutory obligation to look out for the interests of its own vulnerable disabled tenants …
… reader, does all this seem fair to you?
11th July 2015 – update