Thousands endangered in Reading. Here’s the FOI request spelling it all out. Yet still… Wirral Council FAILED

15 04 17 - surreal wirral

The story so far

See the following links for more on the unfolding situation in Reading:

An emergency safeguarding message has been left with our representative on Wirral Council, Seacombe Councillor Adrian Jones – 4th June 2018

The causal link between a Wirral Council failure and a safeguarding emergency – 5th June 2018

Safeguarding Emergency. An updating email to Councillor Jo Lovelock, Leader of Reading Council – 13th June 2018

Reading Council latest. We hate saying “We told you so…” but… – 14th June 2018

It looks like holding Wirral and Reading Councils to account is not going to be easy

Reading Council latest. The emergency safeguarding situation. Here’s some “Private Eye” cuttings.


 

We’ve been taking some time to dig back over the period of 2011 through to early 2012 and have unearthed some very uncomfortable reading for two local authorities who’ve recently decided to block us on Twitter, these being Reading Council (@ReadingCouncil), and before them, Wirral Council (@WirralCouncil)

If you’ve been reading this blog lately, you’ll be aware that between them they set about cooking up an almost perfect recipe for disaster that has now gone full circle as thousands of vulnerable adults in the Reading area queue up to be potentially abused by a former Wirral senior officer, a proven abuser who escaped any sanction for her sins, was protected, gagged and given a clean bill of health.

The whole scenario is a horrendous mix of *calculated* and *reckless*. 

The reason that this came about was because in January 2012 the then CEO of Wirral Council was desperate to ensure that he didn’t get dropped into the poo poo by any vindictive person getting disciplined as a result of a looming independent report into a Social Services scandal.  As the day of reckoning approached, there were two potential candidates lining up for this role in the shape of Maura Noone and Mike Fowler.

So before he retired on ill health and with a fat pay-off of £111,000 not long after this episode, he took care to ensure that their palms were greased with £220,000 in public cash, and that they and Wirral Council itself were gagged inside what were then known as “compromise agreements”.

These things are still legal, still despoiling our lives and have had their names changed to “settlement agreements”.  To give you an idea of the size of the problem, between 2005 and 2011, an estimated £226 million in pay offs was linked to their use among local authorities.

In a separate overlapping survey, undertaken between 2010 and 2015, a further £226 million was squandered.

Their purpose can be manifold, but you can almost guarantee that where senior officers are concerned, they receive them after threatening to fall foul of either statutory law or becoming a danger to the issuing body’s reputation.  So if you’re a panicking CEO, you reach for these babies to shut the bastards up and to protect yourself from any spiteful comeback …using council tax payers’ cash to grease the path and help you along this rocky road.


 

Anyway, onto the next subject …this absolutely epic FOI request.  The following section is the entire contents of this query, which we made to Wirral Council via the excellent WhatDoTheyKnow website on 11th January 2012.  Yes, SIX years ago.  This disaster really has been brewing that long.

We stuck to the task and finally got the answer – or part of it – in November of the same year, 10 months later.

If you’ve been following this story, you will already appreciate what we were telling Wirral Council back then, that they were headed for a fall, that if they failed to act in the public interest and punish these two abusers, that if they continued to protect them, they would be storing up trouble that would come back and bite not just them, but other unknown employers and more importantly, unknown numbers of innocent, vulnerable people in the future.

So what did they do?  Nothing.

The Council failed, the courts failed and the Information Commissioner’s Office failed.  We got a hattrick of dead beat institutions with their hands in each other’s pockets, that placed the interests of these two abusers ahead of vulnerable citizens.

And all done in their frantic desire to close ranks, tick boxes, cover each other’s arses and be as goddamn obtuse and unfeeling as only the most toxic, closed off, out of touch, blue sky thinking  bureaucrats can be.


 

Here’s the link:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dass_recent_departure_of_two_sen


 

DASS – Recent Departure of Two Senior Officers

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

The request was partially successful.

 

Paul Cardin 

“Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/946300…

Above is a link to a news story published this week in the Wirral Globe, which reports the departure “by mutual consent” of two senior officers, presumably involved at the very least, in disabled abuse.

This story relates to the findings within the AKA (Anna Klonowski) report, and the learning disabled abuse which was admitted to by the Council in this document (see 7.1):

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgConvert…

Please provide all information you have which is connected to the departure of the above two senior members of staff. This will relate to meetings, hearings, discussions, and may be stored in the form of recorded minutes, verbatim and non-verbatim notes, emails, letters, memos, aide memoirs, whether electronically or manually.

Please confirm and provide details of the existence of any payments made to the two members of staff in relation to their departure, collectively or individually. This will include precise amounts, the method of payment and the budget from which the payment was derived.

Please confirm details of the existence of any “compromise agreements” signed by the two members of staff. This will include confirmation of any ‘gagging clauses’ and whether a positive / neutral / negative reference was provided regarding potential future employment.

Please provide the names and addresses of all organisations / bodies involved in providing legal advice to the two departing officers. Please also provide details of meetings which occurred including times, dates and matters discussed.

Please confirm the details of any disciplinary charges either planned or levelled against the two officers in relation to the failures which brought about their departure from the Council.

If either or both of the two officers were provided with a “clean bill of health” regarding their time served at the council, please provide a copy of this / these document(s).

Please redact documents as you see fit, and remove the names of two departing officers in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act”

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin


 

Paul Cardin 

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

With regard to the previous FoI request, please amend paragraph 4. to read:

Please confirm and provide details of the existence of any payments / awards / rewards / bonuses made to the two members of staff in relation to their departure or their prior employment, collectively or individually, given as part of a “leaving package”. This will include precise amounts, the method of payment / award / reward / bonus and the budget from which the payment / award / reward / bonus was 
derived.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin


 

Lyon, Rosemary A., Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council 

I am writing to give you notice under Section 17 (2) (b) of the Freedom of 
Information Act 2000, that the Council considers that the exemption 
contained in Section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, may 
apply to your request, but that the Council has not yet reached a decision 
under Section 2 (b) of the Act as to whether an exemption will apply, 
having regard to the public interest test, and in those circumstances, the 
Council requires additional time beyond the initial 20 working days.

The exemption in Section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 
provides that:

Any information to which a request for information relates is also exempt 
information if:

(a)   it constitutes personal data which do not fall within (1) and

(b)   either the first or second condition is satisfied.

The first condition, is that the disclosure of the information to a member 
of the public otherwise than under this Act would contravene

(i)    any of the data protection principles.

I have had regard to the Information Commissioner’s Office Guidance 
concerning time limits (Good Practice Guidance No 4). I consider that the 
public interest considerations are exceptionally complex and in those 
circumstances that the estimate of time required for the Council to make a 
decision on your request is 14 days from today, namely by 22 February 
2012.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

Rosemary Lyon,

Solicitor,

Wirral Borough Council


 

Paul Cardin 

Dear Lyon, Rosemary A.,

Thanks for your response.

I am disappointed with your response, however thank you for explaining the situation and I look forward to receiving your full response within the next 14 days, namely by 22nd February.

May I remind you that I DID specify that any documents supplied could be redacted? This was done in order to protect the identities and the expectations of protection under the DPA that the two officers would expect (regardless of the likelihood that they had both been involved in learning disabled abuse over a protracted period of up to 9 years),

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin


 

Flashing Blade left an annotation ()

This is outrageous. This is public money and we have a right to know just how much public servants are paid. We know their salaries and thus should be entitled to know how much they get paid off.


Pete Sheffieldleft an annotation ()

I smell expensive external legal advice…


 

Tour, Surjit, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council 

Dear Mr Cardin

Further to the above matter, please note that I am now dealing with your 
request for information.

I note that Rosemary Lyon confirmed that a decision would be provided to 
you today. Unfortunately that will not be possible. In order that the 
public interest test can be considered fully, I will require a further 
short period of time to complete my assessment and evaluation of the 
complexities arising in relation to the public interest test in this 
matter.

Accordingly, I confirm that a response will be provided to you on or 
before Friday, 2 March.

I apologise for the delay in providing a response to your request for 
information.

Yours sincerely

Surjit Tour

Head of Legal & Member Services

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council


Heston O Riley left an annotation ()

Surely it should not be a problem getting this info ? After all the new Leader wants openness and transparency. In fact he himself is asking the same questions being asked here.


 

Pete Sheffield left an annotation ()

You presume that the officers are working with the Leader of the Council. They work for him… but not necessarily with him. 

You may be interested in the leaked email exchange about the library report where Bill Norman seems not to be forward in sharing information with Mr Green. Mr Green seems understandably rather irate. 

http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/da…

It may be on John Brace’s blog.. but I have read the larger exchange which was quite entertaining.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

I placed a call with Mr Tour today to check on progress with this request.

I was informed that he was “in a meeting”. I left my number for him to call me back with any news, but he failed to return the call.

Time’s now up on this request and I will be placing an appeal with the Information Commissioner, along with extensive background details in support of the appeal. I believe there is a compelling public interest element in this case – one that presses for early and detailed disclosure. I do not agree that there are ‘complexities’.

I believe Wirral Council are once again completely out of order, dragging their feet in a situation where it now seems increasingly likely that two abusive senior officers, instead of being faced with gross misconduct charges, may have been handsomely rewarded and shielded for their part in up to 9 years of systematic learning disabled abuse.

The local public place trust in their public servants to act fairly, displaying moral fibre and in defence of the public interest.

We are yet to witness any accountability where these two officers are concerned.


 

Pete Sheffield left an annotation ()

It is all too common that the only way to gain transparency from WBC is via the ICO.


 

John Brace left an annotation ()

It’s a shame I didn’t know about this the day before yesterday, as Surjit Tour crept in late and sat next to my wife. He did make two apologies for being fifteen minutes late though. 
http://johnbrace.com/2012/03/20/licensin… . Personally I don’t like the way councillors are so creepy towards him, but as he’s the head of Legal and Member (Member = in the main councillor) I suppose that’s why! You’d probably get more sense out of AKA, AKA’s lawyers or the LGA, have you considered making the FOI request to those as from what I remember government contractors are covered by the FOI legislation. It really does smack of a cover up though because the local elections are on the horizon…. as long as the officers can hold out to 29th March they can “kick it into the long grass”…


 

Pete Sheffield left an annotation ()

If you could remind him that he is responsible for 14 outstanding internal reviews, and of the multitude which have gone to internal review due to lateness he is still yet to explain why any of them were not answered on time. 

His performance is much like his timeliness to his meetings.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

I’ll think about all your suggestions John. Thanks for that.

Could I suggest that you follow my requests by email? That way you’ll be notified immediately if there’s a development.

Thanks again.


 

John Brace left an annotation ()

Yes I’m following this one by email as of yesterday, as I have more info on it already. Next time I see Surjit Tour I’ll remind him.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

An appeal regarding this request was lodged on 3rd March 2012 with the Information Commissioner, who have yet to respond.

Wirral Council have once again fallen silent.


 

Pete Sheffield left an annotation ()

I see the new regime of transparency is in full swing. Maybe this could be brought up at the meeting with senior officers on thursday, where they are to be reminded that they are public servants.


 

Paul Cardin 

Dear Tour, Surjit,

Since your organisation fell silent on this request, the Information Commissioner’s Office was urged to send you the following letter on 13th April 2012, almost a month ago:

http://tinyurl.com/ca3x9hj
http://tinyurl.com/cauoot5

The ICO gave you a generous 10 days to respond. I gave you much longer. It warned you of the consequences of not co-operating, or not responding adequately, without good reason, to perfectly valid public requests. However once again the request has fallen upon stony ground.

This has resulted in my having to notify the ICO again today, in order for them to take it to the next stage. I have appraised the ICO fully on the shameful history to these events and a decision notice may be issued very shortly, which will almost certainly not find in favour of Wirral Council; indeed the matter may be taken to the First Tier Tribunal. If this is the case, I will be pursuing it personally as I and many other local people believe it is time for a light to be shone into some very murky recesses.

A huge public interest has built up around this case. Indeed, if you type the following 2 word phrase into Google, “Departure Officers”, this particular request comes out TOP, ahead of all other items with those particular words.

It is now incumbent upon those at the top of this council, who still appear to be failing, to allow the local public to see whether true accountability is in fact being deliberately circumvented.

This kind of evasive behaviour would in fact be consistent with the depressing findings laid out within both the Martin Smith and Anna Klonowski reports – in brief, a bullying council where the abnormal had become normal.

I thought it only courteous to notify you of the latest developments,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

I placed a call with Mr Tour again at 3:15 pm today to check on progress with this request, and to impart some new information to him. 

I was informed that he was “on the phone”. I left my number for him to call me back, but he failed to return the call. 

I called back at 3:50 telling the lady it was urgent, and I was told he was “still in a meeting”. I said he wasn’t in a meeting before, he was on the phone. Rather unhelpfully, she then told me she hadn’t had the chance to pass any message to Mr Tour. 

The situation has now become rather more urgent – in fact a dangerous (if entirely predictable) situation is developing. 

One of the anonymous departed officers has begun “advertising his/her wares” on the LinkedIn website, however nowhere within his/her profile is there any reference to alleged abuse or the Chief Executive Officer’s admission to the abuse of learning disabled people, engaged in by Wirral Council (see 7.1): 

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgConvert… 

Neither is there any reference to his/her departure from Wirral in highly controversial circumstances and “by mutual consent”, with the timing (just before release of the Anna Klonowski report) and the strong added suspicion of his/her receiving a large pay off. 

I have now asked the ICO to escalate this request, because without the Council providing all the NECESSARY information in the legitimate and now urgent public interest, there COULD be a potential danger to vulnerable or disabled members of the public should this officer be unwittingly appointed in a senior role by a different Council, public body or service provider in the care sector in the near future. 

We are yet to witness any accountability – not just where these two officers are concerned, but on a much wider basis, for any officer or member connected to the learning disabled abusive practices admitted to by the Chief Executive of Wirral Council. 

This situation is now starting to get out of control and may be getting dangerous. I am hopeful that the ICO can apply enough pressure onto Wirral Council to convince them of the need to act and to act now.


D. Speers left an annotation ()

Is Eric Pickles the LA Minister?http://www.communities.gov.uk/corporate/…believe the Gov Transparency Tsar Tim Kelsey may have an interest toohttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Kelsey
Cant see it making a huge difference but it may wake them up!


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

To Transparency Department, Cabinet Office. 17th May 2012

http://tinyurl.com/cqlz99n

 

(Copy of above letter follows…….)

To Cabinet Office Transparency Dept on 17th May 2012

Details of original FoI request here:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dass_recent_departure_of_two_sen

Dear Sir,

There is a dangerous situation developing in my borough, which has been created by the failure of a council to apply disciplinary sanctions and make senior officers fully accountable following learning disabled abuse, and an ensuing failure to release vital information around this in the legitimate public interest, and in the interests of transparency.

One of two senior officers who left this council through “mutual consent”, potentially paid off, and almost certainly under a compromise agreement with a ‘gagging clause’ is now looking for work on the LinkedIn website.

(link removed to protect identity of individual)

Although the council’s CEO has admitted to learning disabled abuse; see 7.1:

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=21125

…there has been zero accountability to follow.  Moreover, it looks as though the above two departing officers have been rewarded and had their activities effectively concealed.

I tried to notify the Council’s Monitoring Officer today of this danger, but without success.  I have very briefly notified Tim Kelsey at @tkelsey1 of this on Twitter today,

best regards,

Paul Cardin


 

Helen Hale left an annotation ()

“Accordingly, I confirm that a response will be provided to you on or before Friday, 2 March”

Hmmm… it hardly instills confidence in the Borough’s legal dept if it takes them this long to decide whether an exemption under Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 can be applied.

It’s outrageous that there has been no further explanation for the delay in this case, and like you say extremely worring that either of these people could potentially be employed in a senior position of trust with responsibility for vulnerable adults again.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Rang again early afternoon to speak to Surjit Tour. “In a meeting” was the answer. Left my number again and asked them to ask him to call me back. Nothing. Rang again at 12:40 pm. “Not in his office” was the answer. But she assured me that Mr Tour will call me back.

Mr Tour called me back at 1:50 pm. I told him about the dangerous situation which had come about, that I was aware of his own involvement in it, that it was foreseeable, and that I felt action was needed to prevent the two officers who had left the council in January being taken on unwittingly in a senior role, which may have responsibility attached to it for the welfare of vulnerable / disabled people.

He disagreed that it was a ‘dangerous situation’.

I remarked that the public have yet to see any accountability for proven abuse and bullying. Mr Tour regards these as ‘allegations’. I said they’d been proven following two detailed investigations. He said this was only ‘my opinion’.

I told him that I’d received an email from Mike Thomas (local District Auditor) promising to look into the situation and see ‘whether there are any issues to consider’ or ‘action to take’.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Letter from District Auditor. 10:42 / 29/5/12:

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your email and the attachments. Have you received any further response from the Council with regard to your request under the Freedom of Information Act, or is the attached the latest position?

Yours sincerely

Michael Thomas
District Auditor

And my response – 11:28 / 29/5/12:

Dear Mr Thomas,

No – they haven’t responded to me. But I contacted and spoke to Surjit Tour in a phone call yesterday, after months of trying.

Worryingly, he does not agree that the current situation, that of a former employee, potentially implicated in learning disabled abuse, being at liberty to take up a similar role elsewhere, is threatening or dangerous. [when asked why this process had taken so long] He said the council had ‘been busy’. However, nowhere within the Freedom of Information Act is any allowance made for the size of a data controller’s workload, or its ability to efficiently use its available resources.

He informed me that he would be responding to me ‘by the end of this week’, and to the ICO, following an urgent letter they sent to the council over 6 weeks ago.

I hope this information helps,

regards,

Paul Cardin


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

The Chief Executive, who was in place when these two officers departed, has been off ill since February 2012 and has now applied for early retirement. The same course was followed by his predecessor (Steve Maddox).

The application will be heard on 7th June 2012. See following Wirral Globe article:

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/974093…

If he does leave, which is now almost certain, he and the two Social Services officers who avoided censure will be completely beyond accountability for the role played in these events.

The public interest appears to have been effectively sidelined.


 

Pete Sheffield left an annotation ()

And so inability, incompetence and complicity in abusive practices effectively rewarded.


 

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

Come to the next Wirral Council/LGA Improvement Board meeting then and ask your questionshttp://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDoc… ….

you can go before or after me..


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Thanks for the invite. I’ll do my best to attend. Here is a link to John Brace’s website, which indicates the details of a Conservative amendment, put forward to the Employment and Appointments Committee called on 7th June 2012 to consider the application for early retirement lodged by the now ex-Chief Executive Officer Jim Wilkie. We can see from the detail, that the two senior officers did in fact sign compromise agreements, however on behalf of the compelling public interest I will continue to press the council for a full declaration on ALL points of the above FoI request: 

http://johnbrace.com/2012/06/07/employme…


 

Paul Cardinleft an annotation ()

Escalated with a senior ICO manager yesterday.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

After urgently notifying him almost a month ago, I received a direct message from @Tkelsey1 (Tim Kelsey) on Twitter this morning, basically telling me I’m barking up the wrong tree. He said I need to take this FoI request to the Head of The Care Quality Commission.

I will do this, but I imagine I’ll be passed around the houses, possibly referred to the ICO, or maybe to the Cabinet Office’s transparency and Open Data guru, Tim Kelsey.

A month on, the threat remains either ignored or deliberately unaddressed.


Peter Harrison left an annotation ()

Looks like Wirral Council have something to hide here!


D. Speers left an annotation ()

“Ever decreasing circles”……who is accountable then? 
Well done on sticking with it! Its not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog GGGGGrrrrr!


 

Tour, Surjit, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council 

Dear Mr Cardin,

Further to our telephone conversation in relation to this matter, I have 
set out below the Council’s response to your Freedom of Information 
request.

I apologise for the delay in responding to you.

My response relates to your request for information contained in your 
email of 11 January 2012. The request was as follows:

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

[1]http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/946300

Above is a link to a news story published this week in the Wirral Globe, 
which reports the departure “by mutual consent” of two senior officers, 
presumably involved at the very least, in disabled abuse.

This story relates to the findings within the AKA (Anna Klonowski) report, 
and the learning disabled abuse which was admitted to by the Council in 
this document (see 7.1):

[2]http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgConvert

Please provide all information you have which is connected to the 
departure of the above two senior members of staff. This will relate to 
meetings, hearings, discussions, and may be stored in the form of recorded 
minutes, verbatim and non-verbatim notes, emails, letters, memos, aide 
memoirs, whether electronically or manually.

Please confirm and provide details of the existence of any payments made 
to the two members of staff in relation to their departure, collectively 
or individually. This will include precise amounts, the method of payment 
and the budget from which the payment was derived.

Please confirm details of the existence of any “compromise agreements” 
signed by the two members of staff. This will include confirmation of any 
‘gagging clauses’ and whether a positive /neutral / negative reference was 
provided regarding potential future employment.

Please provide the names and addresses of all organisations /bodies 
involved in providing legal advice to the two departing officers. Please 
also provide details of meetings which occurred including times, dates and 
matters discussed.

Please confirm the details of any disciplinary charges either planned or 
leveled against the two officers in relation to the failures which brought 
about their departure from the Council.

If either or both of the two officers were provided with a “clean bill of 
health” regarding their time served at the council, please provide a copy 
of this / these document(s).

Please redact documents as you see fit, and remove the names of two 
departing officers in accordance with the requirements of the Data 
Protection Act

You amended this request on 11 January asking that paragraph 4 be amended 
to the following:

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

With regard to the previous FoI request, please amend paragraph 4. to 
read: 
Please confirm and provide details of the existence of any payments/ 
awards / rewards / bonuses made to the two members of staff in relation to 
their departure or their prior employment, collectively or individually, 
given as part of a “leaving package”. This will include precise amounts, 
the method of payment / award / reward /bonus and the budget from which 
the payment / award / reward /bonus was derived.

I have had regard to the Codes of Practice on the discharge of the 
obligations of public authorities under the Act and to relevant Guidance 
issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (‘ICO’).

I have had due regard to both Section 1 of the Act which provides a 
general right of access to information, and the assumption in favour of 
disclosure of information.

I am writing to give you notice under Section 17(2)(b) of the Freedom of 
Information Act 2000, that the Council considers that the exemption 
contained in Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, applies 
to your request.

The exemption in Section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 
provides that:

Any information to which a request for information relates is also exempt 
information if:

(a)     it constitutes personal data which do not fall within (1); and

(b)     either the first or second condition is satisfied.

The first condition, is that the disclosure of the information to a member 
of the public otherwise than under this Act would contravene:

(i)      any of the data protection principles.

I consider that the first data protection principle would be contravened. 
The first data protection principle provides as follows :- (Schedule 1 of 
the Data Protection Act 1998):

Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, 
shall not be processed unless—

E+W+S+N.I.

(a) at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and

(b)  …

I consider that none of the conditions in Schedule 2 would be met, 
particularly the sixth condition, which provides that:

The processing is necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests 
pursued by the data controller or by the third party or parties to whom 
the data are disclosed, except where the processing is unwarranted in any 
particular case by reason of prejudice to the rights and freedoms or 
legitimate interests of the data subject.

The unfairness arises, in my view, because the nature of the information 
sought includes personal information that if disclosed could prejudice the 
individuals in question, particularly the legitimate employment prospects 
and opportunities that the individuals may wish to pursue. Irrespective of 
the circumstances surrounding this matter, the individuals have legal 
rights and interests (given the provisions of the legislation referred to 
above) that the Council must consider and have particular regard to. I 
consider such matters to outweigh the legitimate interests pursued by 
third parties. This exemption under Section 40(2) of the 2000 Act is an 
absolute exemption and not subject to the public interest test.

Accordingly, I am unable to disclose the information requested for the 
reasons set out above.

You have the right under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 
to ask for an internal review in respect of the refusal of your request 
and of the use of the exemptions under Sections 41 and 22 of  the Act. Any 
request for an internal review should be sent to Mr Bill Norman, Director 
of Law, HR and Asset Management, Wirral Borough Council, Town Hall, 
Brighton Street, Wallasey, CH44 8ED, email [email address]

If you are dissatisfied with the Council’s response you also have the 
right to complain to the Information Commissioner, whose address is the 
Information Commissioner’s Office,

Wycliffe House 
Water Lane 
Wilmslow 
Cheshire SK9 5AF

[3]www.ico.gov.uk 
Tel: 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 54 57 45 
Fax: 01625 524510

Kind regards

Surjit Tour

Head of Legal & Member Services

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council


 

Pete Sheffield left an annotation ()

This response does not answer specific parts of your request but applies a blanket response rather than looking to answer its composite parts. 

I think relying on the data protection act to deny answering the bulk of your points is a blunt tool and does not apply to the many of the individual parts of the request. 

Structuring the request into its parts may yield better results or passing it back to the ICO to get an appropriate response. 

The wait of 26 weeks for it to be bluntly refused is outrageous.


 

Paul Cardin 

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s handling of my FOI request ‘DASS – Recent Departure of Two Senior Officers’.

I disagree with and challenge your attempt to engage Section 40(2) of the Act for the following reasons:

I don’t believe that any of the information I have requested risks either identifying the two individuals or prejudicing / damaging their employment rights or future prospects. My request remains the same and I therefore ask that you review it as it stands.

May I remind you that I specifically asked you in January to redact any information which might risk identifying the two officers, such as names. This was done to avoid you trying to engage Section 40(2).

You appear to have placed the employment rights of two senior officers who are widely believed to have been deeply involved in carrying out years of abuse of learning disabled people above the rights of disabled people themselves.

There is a growing risk here, since one of the officers began seeking another job via the LinkedIn website, that vulnerable people may be placed at risk of abuse if a new employer unwittingly takes on one of these people (both are highly qualified individuals).

When accountability for these two officers was bypassed by Wirral Council, and we’ve since had it confirmed by Councillor Jeff Green that compromise agreements with gagging clauses were issued and signed, anybody could have regarded this kind of threatening outcome as forseeable and avoidable. However this danger doesn’t seem to have occurred to Wirral Council. Indeed every action on the part of the Council in relation to this situation seems to have encouraged or even enabled, unwittingly or not, the risk of further abuse to appear once again.

Now that they’ve both been gagged, I regard the risk of one of these people becoming employed where they are at liberty to abuse as a likely one, and far more compelling and in need of addressing than your overriding wish to protect their job prospects. Indeed I find it difficult to comprehend the ongoing loyalty and protection you are prepared to extend to a couple of ex employees. I am also baffled as to why their employment fortunes are placed ahead of the safety and wellbeing of any number of vulnerable / disabled people who may be placed at risk due to a resounding failure to protect them.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: 
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/da…

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin


 

Flashing Blade left an annotation ()

This reminds me of Chloe Smith on Newsnight last night. 

How much public money where these people given. There, that make it simple ?


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

There is now a very disappointing response in from the Information Commissioner’s Office. My current conclusion is that employees’ privacy trumps the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable / disabled / elderly people: 

12th July 2012 

Case Reference Number FS50438500 

Dear Mr Cardin 

I am writing to you concerning 2 complaints which you have made to the Information Commissioner regarding Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council. 

FS50416628 – Your request for information on the records of senior officer’s personal interests which are held by the council 

FS50438500 – Your request for information on two senior council officers Council who left their posts by mutual consent following the findings of the AKA report 

Both of these cases have now been allocated to me to investigate. 

As regards FS50416628 I have written a decision notice which is currently with the signatory for consideration. 

As regards FS50438500 I note from the wdtk website that the council has now responded to your request, albeit by repeating its initial response to you of February 2012. 

Having looked at this request I have to say that I do not believe that you will be able to obtain this information from the council. If your assumptions are correct then the information relates to potential disciplinary matters. At the least it relates to employment matters relating to the two individuals, and how it came about that they left their positions with the council. This is, for the most part, a private matter between the council and the individuals’ concerned. I will explain further. 

I have noted that concerns have been raised about the possibility of compromise agreements being paid out by the council. You have also suggested that the timing of the individuals’ departure has left questions about their reasons for leaving their posts and whether this relates to the Anna Klonowski Report findings. I note that questions surrounding their departure have also been asked in the media. 

You have said to the council that you are happy for it to anonymise the information before disclosing it to you. It seems likely however that a motivated individual could obtain that information by various means should they decide to do so. My initial research also suggests that it is fairly widely assumed who the two individuals are and that these assumptions are available on the internet. I also note your further comment to the council that one of the individuals concerned has now advertised on “Linked in”. Clearly therefore you already know, or have assumed who this person is, and so any redaction of identity alone would not be sufficient to anonymise the information (presuming that your assumption is correct). Given this I do not believe that the council can anonymise the information by merely redacting the names or the job roles of the individuals concerned. 

This means that the information would be personal data for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998 and that the data protection principles would apply to the disclosure which you are asking the council to make. 

Where personal data is under consideration the first data protection principle requires that the disclosure of the information is ‘fair and lawful’. In general this relates to whether the individual would expect information about them to be disclosed. In the case of a disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act this would be an expectation that information about them might be disclosed to ‘any member of the public’. This is because a disclosure under the Act is considered to be global rather than just to the applicant. When making this decision the Commissioner can consider whether any of the other circumstances of the case would make a disclosure of the information fair. 

The Commissioner therefore needs to consider whether the individuals would expect that detailed information about the circumstances which led them to leaving their positions within the council would be disclosed to any member of the public. If that is not the case I must consider whether the circumstances of the case would make that fair in any event. 

The first thing to consider is that, in general, employers are under an implied duty of confidence to keep personal information on their personnel confidential. Assuming that your presumptions are correct, this information may relate to the individuals disciplinary history or records. The First-tier Tribunal has provided strong guidance in relation to the disclosure of employees’ disciplinary files. In many cases in the past they have found that it would be unfair to disclose such information. For instance I would draw your attention to the Tribunals decision in Waugh v ICO & Doncaster College (EA/2008/0038) available at 

http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DB… 

Similarly, in Lord Dunboyne v IC (EA/2011/0261 & EA/2011/0303) the Tribunal stated that: 

“The Tribunal has – and will continue to – recognise the strong expectation of staff members that disciplinary matters are personal and to be kept private.” 

This is of course working to an assumption which you raised that their reasons for leaving relate directly to the findings in the Anna Klonowski Report. That is not a proven fact however and you recognise this within your request for information. The alternative is that the individuals left for entirely other, unrelated reasons. If that is the case there appears to be a lesser argument for the employees’ expectations of privacy to be overridden. A disclosure of the information under those circumstances would therefore be even less likely to be ‘fair’. 

Presuming that your assumption is correct, the wider issues surrounding this case can be taken into account in balancing whether a disclosure of the information would be fair. In some circumstances the legitimate interests of the public in having access to particular information can make a disclosure fair in spite of an individual’s general expectations that that information would not be disclosed. The arguments for this do need to be strong however due to the strong counter arguments supporting the privacy of the individuals. 

It is suggested that these individuals are relatively senior council officers. This can also be taken into account in the balance. In essence, where a senior officer is concerned they should have a greater expectation that a disclosure of information about their actions may be necessary in order for the authority to be transparent and accountable to the public. This extends to any severance payments that the council made to them given that this would be paid from public funds. These are not of themselves overriding factors however and the decision still needs to be balanced and based upon all of the circumstances of the case. 

However I must also bear in mind that the information that you requested does not specifically relate to the council’s actions or inactions which led to the Anna Klonowski report findings. You have asked for detailed information about the individuals leaving their posts. The information therefore relates more to the private lives of those individuals rather than to the council’s accountability. 

Details of the council’s response and the actions it has taken following the report would attract a much stronger public interest argument towards disclosure. The release of the Anna Klonowski report has to some extent already opened the council’s actions to scrutiny, however there is a public interest in the disclosure of the actions it has taken in response to that report so that the public can be reassured that this will not occur again. The issue is where this impinges on personal privacy. 

Although the council needs to be transparent and accountable for its actions, it also needs to comply with its legal obligations as regards the privacy of the individuals concerned. The information you have asked for goes to the heart of the individuals’ personnel matters with their employer. In effect, your request was widely drawn and encompasses the entire personnel process which led to the individuals’ leaving their posts at the council. As a result, any disclosure would be much more intrusive into the private lives of the individuals concerned. 

I note your argument that one of the individuals concerned now appears to be advertising on Linked In’ however this not an issue which we are able to consider as relevant to the disclosure of the information that you have asked for in this case. 

Balancing the above, I do not believe that a strong enough case can be made for the disclosure of the information to be ‘fair’ to the individuals concerned. In the terms of the Data Protection Act, the legitimate interests of the public in having access to that information do not override the fact that a disclosure would be an unwarranted intrusion into their private lives and affairs. 

I realise that you will be disappointed that you are not able to obtain all of the information which you have asked for. Whilst I accept that if your analysis is correct there are certainly legitimate public interest arguments for some information to be disclosed, there are however also very strong arguments for information relating to an individual’s performance, personal privacy and their personal, private dealings with their employer which counterbalance, and override these interests in this case. 

Having said this, there may be a stronger case for the council to disclose any severance payments which it has made. The Accounts and Audit (Amendment No. 2) (England) Regulations 2009 require local authorities to publish severance payments for staff earning over £50,000, and in respect of those earning over £150,000, to publish both the amount and the name of the individual. I have therefore written to the council and asked it to let me know whether it is obliged by these regulations to publish any amounts paid to the individuals as severance payments, and if so, when it intends to make this information available. I will write to you again regarding this once I have received the council’s response. 

Yours sincerely

[name of public servant removed] 
Senior Case Officer


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

12th July 2012

Case Reference Number FS50438500

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for speaking to me on the telephone this morning. 

Following our discussion I am writing to confirm that, as requested, I will continue with our investigation and produce a decision notice on this case.

I hope that this is helpful to you. 

Yours sincerely

[name of public servant removed]
Senior Case Officer


 

Pete Sheffield left an annotation ()

It may be that both the officers that you requested the information about.. have been having a look on your LinkedIn profile. Maybe you could ask them direct?


 

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

“It may be that both the officers that you requested the information about.. have been having a look on your LinkedIn profile. Maybe you could ask them direct?” 

The officers as two individuals are under no obligation to respond as they aren’t covered by the FOIA legislation as they’ve left the employment of Wirral Council. 

The issue was brought up by the Tories during the former Chief Executive/Head of Paid Service’s early retirement.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

A detailed running commentary on this situation is being kept here:

https://wirralinittogether.blog/2012/05/20/departure-of-two-senior-officers-and-now-a-chief-executive-officer-from-wirral-council/


Paul Cardinleft an annotation ()

Following email received from the ICO case officer: 

30th August 2012 

Case Reference Number FS50438500 

Dear Mr Cardin 

Thank you for your email. I have been waiting for a copy of the withheld information from Wirral Council. I received a response on 21 August 2012 and am therefore currently drafting a decision notice on your complaint. 

I hope that this is helpful to you. 

Yours sincerely 

Senior Case Officer 

….Wirral Council had him waiting around a month. I’m hopeful there may be a decision notice on this, arriving next week.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

14th September and still nothing from the ICO. I await their decision notice before I consider my next move in the process. 

On a related issue, Angela Eagle MP and Mike Smith of the Equality and Human Rights Commission will be looking into instances of disability discrimination committed by Wirral Council.
https://wirralinittogether.blog/2012/07/24/disability-discrimination-at-wirral-council-angela-eagles-role-and-more/


 

Paul Cardinleft an annotation ()

I’ve received this email from the ICO, dated 19th September 2012: 

Case Reference Number FS50438500 

Dear Mr Cardin 

Thank you for your emails regarding your complaint about Wirral Council. I’m sorry I missed your call today. 

As an update, I have just completed the draft of your decision notice today. From this point the notice will go into a validation process which can sometimes take a number of weeks. Notices can sometimes be issued faster than this however it is dependent upon the workload of the signatory, the complexity of the notice and whether the notice needs to go through a review by the Commissioner’s policy department. It is therefore possible that the notice will be issued shortly however I am not able to specifically confirm that that will be the case. 

I’m sorry that you have not received the notice earlier than this however decision notices are legal documents and therefore require careful thought and analysis. They can therefore take some time to complete as we need to be sure that we are fully aware of all the facts and that we apply the law carefully to those facts. 

As regards the response to your earlier emails we try to respond to all requests for updates on complaints within 14 days. I hope that this is helpful to you. 

Yours sincerely, 

[Officer name redacted] 

Senior Case Officer


 

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

“and therefore require careful thought and analysis.” 

So, don’t worry Wirral Council ICO can do your thinking for you! 😉


 

Chris left an annotation ()

I have been a victim of WBC corruption – the senior 2 officers mentioned have had a murky past, working for DASS. Their delaying tactics, to suppress the truth coming out & reaching the public, is well known and understood. They try thier best to preserve their insular policy to keep their suspicious dealings and conduct within. 

FB


 

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

” They try thier best to preserve their insular policy to keep their suspicious dealings and conduct within” and away from their line managers, their managers, the politicians, the press and the public.


 

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council 

Thank you for your further correspondence below, further to this Wirral 
Council can confirm the following information in respect of your enquiry.

The Positions and salaries of the senior officers referred to, Head of 
Support Services   Finance Department and Assistant Director, Head of 
Wellbeing department of adult social services.

Both their salaries were 73,352

I trust you find the information of use and I have copied the ICO in on 
this reply, kind regards.

Tracy O’Hare

Information Management

Wirral Council


 

Paul Cardin 

Dear InfoMgr, FinDMT,

I never asked for the positions and I never asked for the salaries of these two alleged abusers. Please re-read what has gone before and provide the information I have requested.

What’s important here is that no other vulnerable and disabled people become victims to abuse. Your ability to answer this request may play a small part in preventing this from occurring again,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin


 

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

You’d think Wirral Council worked to Chatham House rules, by their reluctance to release names two of their former senior employees!


 

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

Re-read the request and you’ll find you later amended the request and changed paragraph 4 to request the information (some of which) they’ve now released.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Long way to go yet.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Quote… “…given as part of a leaving package.”


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

I made this request and I KNOW precisely what I’m after here. The council haven’t provided a single thing I’ve asked for yet… not one.


D. Speers left an annotation ()

Interesting use of language and interpretation of request! 
Defies belief! Well done on tenacity!


 

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council 

Good Morning,

With regard to your complaint with the ICO, please find below the 
information the Council can disclose to you; this relates to the 2 
payments made by the Council.  

There was a total payment made in each case which was severance pay + 
notice + 3 months pay.

 

Head of Support Services   Finance Department

109,496.45 which compromised:

74,276.52 (Severance)

16,881.93 (equivalent of 12 weeks notice)

18,338.00 (3 months salary)

 

Assistant Director, Head of Wellbeing DASS

111, 042.95 which compromosed

75,823.95 (Severance)

16,881 (equivalent of 12 weeks notice)

18,338 (3 months salary)

 The Council remains of the opinion that other information requested is 
exempt from disclosure under Section 40(2) of the FOIA as it contains 
Personal Data.  The council considers that it would be unfair on the 
individuals concerned to disclose this personal data and therefore would 
be in breach of the 1st principle of the DPA 1998. 

I have copied the ICO into this response.

Kind Regards

Jane Corrin

Information Manager

Wirral Council


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

OMG ~ I had to squeeze that out of my public servants didn’t I? Wirral Council’s failure to discipline these two, and Wirral Council’s enabling of further abuse (by concealing and protecting the damning details inside a legal document) means these two people, if employed in the care sector again, remain a threat to any number of vulnerable and disabled people.


 

Flashing Blade left an annotation ()

And everyone on the Wirral knows who they are


 

Helen Hale left an annotation ()

So to summarise… the two officers (who the majority of Wirral residents know the name of) were initially suspended, then cleared of any wrong doing and allowed to return to work, then found to be guilty after all and paid off with £220k of OUR money, and given free reign to do the same elsewhere?


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Yes. And Council Leader Phil Davies chaired the meeting which absolved them of responsibility for abuse of learning disabled people following a sham investigation initially. He also voted to allow the council leader Wilkie, who presided over all this to depart with a big pay off in June this year – after making public proclamations about ‘getting to the bottom of all this’ – which he never ever did.


 

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

Is it the employees involved leaving you have a problem with Paul Cardin or the fact that they were given a “golden goodbye”? 

One could make a public interest argument that it’s better to have different people than keep the same people making the same mistakes? After all better to pay a few thousands now to show them the door than £millions later?


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Scarlet Pimp, if u don’t know what’s motivating me after reading the above…. You’ll never know. Haha


 

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

As explained previously the names of the DASS employees have been made public and some of Wirral Council is embarrassed by the whole matter. Let’s face it Cllr Foulkes is no longer Leader as a result of how this went and some Labour councillors got less in allowances as a result! 

These two people were management. They are no longer employees at Wirral Council, yet you seem to want Wirral Council to reveal information they’ll fight tooth and nail not to reveal. You know as well as I do they will take this all the way to ICO and then drag their heels some more. 

No, Wirral Council plays the FOI game too well, only accountability anyone will ever get is either a public inquiry or court cases or both and by court cases I mean criminal ones and civil ones… but I’ve meddled enough.


 

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

This is unaddressed abuse, enabled for the future within a legal document. Loud and clear. 

The difference between you and me Scarlet Pimp is I’m not so easily pleased. 

I don’t regard “embarrassment” or a change of leader or the deduction of a trifling amount of small change from some councillors as a reckoning. Far from it. 

This was disgusting, outlandish, atrocious and contemptible abuse, carried on in a calculated manner over many years, backed up by bullying and harassment. You know all the sordid details. 

I have absolutely no political ambitions, so I tend to fire straight from the hip. Whereas some campaigns are suspect, because they’re partly ‘on message’, somewhat compromised, not wanting to rock the boat too much, not wanting to damage the status quo, and by extension their own future prospects. Such powderpuff antics tend to pull their punches and settle for a whole lot less.


D. Speers left an annotation ()

Carry on Paul, 
You seek accountability and evidence of lessons learned….and Wirral are still fish wrestling! I admire your tenacity and really cant understand the “draw a line” attitude. People who were bullied cant just draw a line that easily! There was corruption here which was eye watering and accountability must result. 
All best wishes 
Dee


John Hannigan (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

They seek him here they seek him there
They seek the S P everywhere
Mr. Cardin who is this Scarlett pimpernal 
If he thinks Wirral Adult SS were evil and rotten years ago, then wait for the outing of Wirral Childrens SS of today 2012.
These people are worst then ever, all our children of Wirral could soon be suffering and become victims of their vile corruption cover-ups and incompetence.
This is about vunerable childrens actual lives Paul not just abuse.
Let Scarlett investigate and comment on the real evil that is Wirral SS of 2012 not years ago.
You all might have stopped the abuse of adults whilst unwittingly missing the Children’s plight of today. They need your help NOW!!!!!!

****NOTE*** As forecast by John Hannigan, Wirral Council Children’s Services later plunged into the mire, went through a public scandal, underwent a serious case review which was rendered SECRET, and was inspected by  OFSTED and deemed INADEQUATE. A number of senior officers and councillors were forced to fall on their swords.


 

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

“The difference between you and me Scarlet Pimp is I’m not so easily pleased. ” 

Well put it this way, when you’ve seen violence used against your family and you’ve been made a political prisoner on trumped up allegations (and seen the same done to close family) you may realise that the prejudice towards those with a disability is so deeply entrenched in the public sector on Merseyside that it’s difficult to know where to start to change it. 

“I don’t regard “embarrassment” or a change of leader or the deduction of a trifling amount of small change from some councillors as a reckoning. Far from it. ” 

Leaders set the culture of an organisation, a culture developed amongst the political class that allowed this to happen on a rationale I find hard to put into writing. Even after some councillors were retrained they carried on with abuses of power and showing their prejudices as clear as day in plain sight. Some display attitudes at times that are so old-fashioned I wonder if I’ve gone back in time. 

“This was disgusting, outlandish, atrocious and contemptible abuse, carried on in a calculated manner over many years, backed up by bullying and harassment. You know all the sordid details. ” 

Sadly, due to the way I’ve been treated (which is in no way meant to minimise the way others have been treated), I seem to be heading inexorably down a path that leads to somewhat problematic personal consequences. 

“I have absolutely no political ambitions, so I tend to fire straight from the hip. Whereas some campaigns are suspect, because they’re partly ‘on message’, somewhat compromised, not wanting to rock the boat too much, not wanting to damage the status quo, and by extension their own future prospects. Such powderpuff antics tend to pull their punches and settle for a whole lot less.” 

Such ideological crusades you are entitled to persue if you so wish, but I went “off message” a long, long time ago, maybe the message to me even got lost in the post. As to powderpuff antics, I haven’t used powderpuff since my days on the stage at the Glenda Jackson theatre, but then this whole sorry saga does have its share of drama queens, who have done their best to shed crocodile tears and blame others when the finger of blame is pointed at them.


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Here is a link to an article, setting out what I feel is the background and true motivation behind Wirral Council’s very poor response times. 

Notably, there are just 2 people dedicated to Freedom of Information and Data at this council (one professional and one admin assistant) – which says it all really. 

http://wirralinittogether.wordpress.blog/2012/09/03/abusive-wirral-council-slyly-blames-10-members-of-the-public-for-its-woeful-foi-performance/


Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

June 2018. 
As predicted, both of these proven abusers have secured senior roles in “caring” positions. 

Mike Fowler at the charity Brook Young People 

https://wirralinittogether.blog/2015/07/…

Maura Noone as Head of Adult Social Care at Reading Council 

https://wirralinittogether.blog/2018/06/…

Despite Council, ICO and tribunal assurances, a dangerous safeguarding emergency is indeex now unfolding at Reading Council. 

Both councils have blocked me on Twitter.


 

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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