12th April 2016
My name’s Paul Cardin. I live in Wirral in the North West of England, and blog regularly on a number of issues: Freedom of Information, farcical ‘local democracy’, and council abuse. The main purpose of building these pages is to shine a spotlight onto abusive Wirral Council (see 7.1) and to get the message out there that there’s a large scale and very expensive scam going on right under our noses. This is in the form of a heavy, concealing blanket being thrown over embedded corruption and malpractice. We are enabling this with our votes, and by ploughing unknown £millions into it through our council tax.
The string of council scandals which led up to this go back to the last century and are well-documented, thanks largely to whistleblower Martin Morton and The Wirral Globe. These revelations were extremely serious and detailed, and with time, were vindicated one by one. Despite the council’s valiant attempts to cover them all up, they began mushrooming and spreading, from Social Services back into central governance and over into Highways. Millions upon millions of pounds have also gone missing, which is now becoming clearer as historical bad debts are laid bare. But despite a number of expensive external so-called ‘independent’ investigations, no proper reckoning has ever arrived for any of the abusers, offenders, or those up to their necks in long term malpractice.
Although the council has admitted to:
- long term abuse of learning disabled tenants
- the abuse of power
- the bullying of staff
- serious failures in top level governance
- £millions in uncollected “bad debt”
…the current position after two long years of apparent ‘bloodletting’ is this:
…nobody is an abuser, nobody is a bully, nobody has failed, nobody has lost or stolen any money.
These paradoxes persist because the legitimate and compelling public interest – the demand for accountability – is being ignored, stifled and sidelined – all with the ongoing assistance of a Local Government Association…. wait for it…. ‘improvement’ board.
Whistleblowers, complainants or members of the public who want to establish fairness and engage in the democratic process are being blamed, or otherwise tarnished for having the temerity to ask reasonable, if difficult questions. Their contributions to the debate are being deliberately omitted from the record and struck from the minutes of public meetings. Members of the public are even being illegally herded out of these meetings – to permit shadowy and secretive gatherings to convene.
A growing number of senior officers, widely regarded to have been involved in malpractice, are being paid off in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, and / or cleared with ‘no case to answer’. Cause and effect means an increasing number of the wider Wirral electorate is unlikely to ever vote again for an overwhelming majority of pisspoor councillors. These are the “El Dorada” or gilded ones, who had it good during the abusive years, still hanker after the spoils of power abuse and want this house of plenty to continue uninterrupted.
In cahoots with senior officers, they still protect each other, pretend to a ‘new dawn’, and feign ‘resolve’ and ‘anger’, whilst secretly attempting to close down public debate, and limit access. They continue to strive behind the scenes, or sometimes openly, at putting a stop to genuine public involvement.
These elected officials are nothing more than gutter dwellers, up to their necks in the mire, their snouts soiled from the trough, striving only for their own personal / political gain… like they always have done, like they always will do, and always at our expense.
Myself and a number of concerned others, who’ll remain nameless, possess sharp swords and tend to swing them around a lot, slashing or lopping heads off the many headed Hydra that is this monstrous, ugly council and its dumb, self-generating fiascos and scandals.
Running scared, and completely blind to accountability, the creature constantly snaps away, abusing power, trashing the area’s reputation and draining the local public’s time, council tax money and patience. The minute you decapitate one rotten, festering, venom-spewing head, a new one sprouts in the shape of the latest scandal.
It shames me to admit that I was once an employee of Wirral Council Highways – but resigned in 2003 after blowing the whistle on serious impropriety – more here.
I also worked for #QuackCWAC ~ Cheshire West and Chester Council – but after making a complaint, which throughout two long years was never addressed, I was forced from my job and became subjected to a ban on accessing information and data. This was the work of ex-Wirral Head of Legal Services Simon (Gotcha) Goacher – who flew headlong into the face of all modern concepts of openness, transparency and the free flow of information – by aiming to remove my statutory information and data querying rights. This lasted between October 2009 (the time of my departure) and June 2011 – a period of 20 months.
Leading privacy counsel Hugh Tomlinson QC, whose involvement caused the council to back down very quickly, believed the tactic of banning future requests was unlawful. The Information Commissioner endorsed this, stating that not only was the council’s tactic likely to breach the FoI Act, it also appeared to be a contravention of the Human Rights Act. It quickly received short shrift here, on this very well-respected website.
So a piece of friendly advice to Simon for the future should he line up against the big boys once more: it may give you a transient ‘thrill’ to abuse your position and hit out at those who can’t readily hit back, but statutory rights can’t be removed – full stop. Er… that’s why they’re given to us in the first place. So don’t even go there. Didn’t they teach you that on day 1 of your law degree?
Anyway, moving on…. Witless #QuackCWaC (minus Gotcha who’s now fled to the private sector) maintain to this day that it was lawful and were on the record stating they’d deploy the tactic again in the future as and when required. The threat’s now been quietly withdrawn, but there have been no guarantees given, much less an apology for the democratically unscrutinised conduct of the past few years, nor for any distress caused.
Feckless #QuackCWaC councillors, never quick on the uptake, are still content to grant manipulative senior officers carte blanche to do what the hell they like, even if it contradicts their glossy, touchy-feely public policies – the ones stuffed to the gills with nice-sounding but hollow assurances.
More recently, I’ve turned to making probing FoI requests to Wirral Council, in order to try to get to the bottom of the council’s long term abuse of power and their reactionary targeting of whistleblowers.
I’ve also concentrated on their callous financial abuse of disabled people (going back to 1997. They plundered £700,000+ from learning disabled tenants’ bank accounts – see picture below), before indulging in the more recent cop-out tactics of gagging and paying off abusive senior officers (running total now £1 million plus in public money).
Then there was the mounting of a lopsided investigation here and another one there, and the welcoming of senior suspendee, David Green, back into the fold in highly controversial circumstances. I’m hearing that this individual is yet to return well over a month since the invite was sent. Definitely one to watch…
Well we did watch, and eventually he did return, but his job had disappeared. He was then made redundant and was paid off to the tune of £103,234. During his time off suspended / kicking his heels he received well over a year’s salary.
The investigator, Richard Penn, who was called in to investigate whether an interest had been declared, er….. failed to correctly declare an interest.
After two years of constant activity, and after repeatedly coming up against a towering wall of inertia, be it Wirral Council or their ‘regulator’ the ICO, I like to think I’ve contributed, along with certain others, towards having Wirral Council monitored by The Information Commissioner between January and March 2013.
So…. job done. But will this be enough? They’ve been monitored before but appear to have learned very little. What other sanctions does the ICO possess for recalcitrant offenders who just don’t get the message?
This looks promising – the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham’s opinion of Wirral Council:
Whenever you see or hear a Wirral ‘spokesperson’ talking to the media, it seems they’re briefed to keep ‘on message’ and to never, ever refer to the ongoing backdrop of disaster, interwoven by fiasco, quickly pursued by cover-up that’s become the accustomed ‘Wirral Way’. It’s as though nothing dodgy has ever happened; like badly-programmed automatons, they prefer instead to blindly lurch on, issuing jargon, glossing over it, assuming we’re stupid, simplisticly comparing Wirral to “other similarly sized councils”.
Here are some more hideous, snarling ‘Hydra heads’ that have recently sprouted: