Frank Field’s unwanted Labour newspaper, paid for by you. Can the Information Commissioner see sense and block it?

17th August 2016

In the teeth of mounting concern, Wirral Council are ploughing ahead with Frank Field MP’s unheralded pet project, that of venturing into the dying newspaper industry by publishing and delivering a monthly newsletter, Wirral Today, funded by our cash (£270,000 per year).  This started life as a Birkenhead only idea, but grew and grew.

It will be despatched, like it or not, to 145,000 Wirral dwellings … and flies in the face of central government guidelines.

The justification we’re told is that following a detailed consultation, the population feel poorly informed by the local press, have united as one and are banging the door down at the council demanding information, information, information.

If the council are to be believed, every man and his dog has suddenly become politically aware, deeply-engaged, and want the council’s newspaper because – all of a sudden – council senior people are not a gang of corrupt, self-seeking, oppressive bureaucrats and jobsworths and the people of Wirral are suddenly queuing up, gagging for their output.

As good as gone is Wirral Council’s dire history as long as your arm of self-inflicted scandal:

Freedom of Information request

We placed an FOI request for certain curious information regarding this monthly newsletter three months ago on 20th June 2016.  Here is a link to it:

The crux of it is a minute taken from a Birkenhead Constituency Meeting held on 24th July 2014 which reads as follows:

“The Constituency Manager updated the Committee on the latest position in relation to the newsletter for Birkenhead and indicated that there may be some legal implications that needed to be further explored prior to publication and circulation.

The Head of Legal and Member Services advised the Committee that there was a need to ensure that the newsletter would not breech [sic] any aspects of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity (the Code) and suggested that the decision on this be deferred and brought back to the next meeting of the Committee.

So, correct us if we’re wrong here, but plain as the nose on your face were the doubts put forward by the Head of Legal and Member Services, Surjit Tour.

Mr Tour clearly expressed caution and stated the reason for this: a need to ensure that publishing the Birkenhead newsletter (back then, four times a year) would not breach the central government guidelines (see the underlined bit above).

Now we’re wondering how the situation has altered so dramatically, and instead of having second thoughts about a four times a year Birkenhead only newsletter, it’s now full steam ahead with a 12 times a year Wirral-wide one !!

Here’s the Wirral Globe article on this

How could Surjit Tour’s publicly stated misgivings have been allayed?  We have a good idea how this place ‘works’ behind the scenes so…..

  • Were any secret meetings held in darkened rooms?
  • What was said?
  • Were any favours called in?
  • Was anybody subjected to towel flicking or Chinese burns?

We just don’t know, and our rather detailed FOI request fired over the battlements at “fortress Wirral” has been met with a raised drawbridge.

So off we go down the road most travelled, and it’s the customary appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office.  We won’t go into too much detail here so as not to ‘aid the enemy’, but despite Wirral solicitor Rosemary Lyon’s detailed references on the WhatDoTheyKnow website to various case law, we believe we have an excellent public interest case ourselves – and are prepared to take this one all the way to Tribunal.

Finally, we don’t believe a Labour-dominated, bullying (proven) council, controlled by a loose cannon, politically-driven MP – and which has enjoyed carte blanche to do what the hell it likes – will be content with stuffing the pages of a hard fought for newsletter – Frank’s pride and joy – with tedious information about dog poo, potholes and how many streetlights are being switched off this month.

They’re crazed propagandists and power abusers and Martin Liptrot will be itching to stuff the thing cover to cover with page upon page of dreary, party-political dogma.

Not straight away of course.  It’ll be a case of – drip – drip – drip … let’s see what we get away with this month … drip – drip – drip … steady as she goes … drip – drip – drip … we did it, no-one noticed, lol … drip – drip – drip … right, let’s turn it up a notch … gush – gush – gush …

…and before we know it, it’ll be too late.

It’s a process known as consolidation of power and yes, it is deeply cynical and yes, they will not be able to help or contain themselves and yes, this was the sole reason for doing it in the first place.

p.s. As the “Vote Labour, you know it makes sense” medicine seeps in via Wirral Today, stand by for eye-watering amounts of your council tax money splurging out – on expensive barristers like Robin Hopkins of 11KBW in an epic, hideously misconceived, long, drawn out legal battle with central government – which will happen if our approach to the Information Tribunal fails.

Toodle Pip !!

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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2 Responses to Frank Field’s unwanted Labour newspaper, paid for by you. Can the Information Commissioner see sense and block it?

  1. Bobby47 says:

    Lovely! We all need good news. Glad tidings and happy tales of notable public service achievements will be the trigger to stop many of the lads, hitherto desperately unhappy and bewildered by the scale of the mounting debt generated by ‘transformation’, ’emerging thoughts’ ‘positive outcomes’ and the ‘passion’, from scaling high publicly owned buildings and jumping off into the dreadful abyss or wading into the Mersey waist bloody deep, pulling out a small pocket derringer and blowing their brains out screaming, ‘I’m ready Jesus. Come and get me’.
    Just the bloody job I say! Happy news about a carefully staged and managed Litter Pick, a few prestigious awards to some well meaning voluntary groups or a cleverly crafted piece that tells how the Council wasted ten million quid instead of thirty million will be sure to ensure that this ‘rag’ will become a jolly good read to any poor soul stuck between a need to step in front of a thirty tonne fully laden Concrete Mixer or a desperate need to see an end to the misery of waking up every single bloody day cognisant that it’ll be another fourteen hours before you can scurry back up stairs, stagger into bed and dream of a better life and a hope that the entire legion of highly paid suits will all take up Cockle Picking and be consumed by the sand and brine.
    And you can be sure of one single thing. Lots of shiny, happy, clappy suits stood their alongside some pointless monument to stupidity, grinning their fat faces off as we sit there staring at the photographic image howling, ‘you bastards’. Yep! Just the thing we need. A politically driven newspaper produced in collaboration with the hierarchy of all our public services that tells you to be happy and celebrate the glory of it all and be content that the bloody outsourcing of just about everything that was once meaningful or worthwhile has gone and lost forever to a Labour group who lost their way and became seduced by power, money and personal glory.


  2. Pingback: Brighton Street | Wirral In It Together

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