Liverpool City Region Combined Authority decides to freeze Mersey Tunnels cash tolls for 2016/17 at 2015/16 levels, reduce Fast Tag tolls in 2016/17, not charge tolls on Christmas Day 2016 and no tolls for emergency vehicles

                                                              

Councillors on the Merseytravel Committee met on Thursday afternoon to decide on a recommendation on Mersey Tunnel tolls for 2016/17. Their recommendation was accepted at a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority that met the following day on Friday morning.

You can view video of the Merseytravel Committee meeting on Youtube below (starting at agenda item 6 (Mersey Tunnel tolls).

Merseytravel Committee meeting 4th February 2016 starting at agenda item 6 (Mersey Tunnel tolls) (1m45s)

You can view video of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting on Youtube below (starting at agenda item 10 (Mersey Tunnel tolls 2016/17) below.

The decision made was that cash tolls would be kept the same for 2016/17 as they were in 2015/16. The cash toll levels decided for 2016/17 are shown below.






Vehicle Class2016/17 Cash toll
1£1.70
2£3.40
3£5.10
4£6.80

The price for Fast Tag tolls was reduced for 2016/17. Below is a table of 2016/17 Fast Tag tolls compared to 2015/16.






Vehicle Class2016/17 Fast Tag toll2015/16 Fast Tag toll
1£1.20£1.40
2£2.40£2.80
3£3.60£4.20
4£4.80£5.60

There were also other changes agreed for 2016/17. Tunnel tolls will be waived for all classes of traffic between 10 pm on Christmas Eve (24th December 2016) to 6 am on Boxing Day (26th December 2016). All designated emergency vehicles will no longer have to pay tolls in 2016/17.

These were the votes on the Mersey Tunnel tolls decision at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting.

FOR THE PROPOSAL (4)
Mayor Joe Anderson (Liverpool City Council) FOR
Cllr Phil Davies (Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council) FOR
Cllr Andy Moorhead (Knowsley Council) FOR
Cllr John Fairclough (Sefton Council) deputy for Cllr Ian Maher (Sefton Council) FOR

ABSTENTION (1)
Cllr Rob Polhill (Halton) ABSTAIN

Reacting to the decision, John McGoldrick representing the Mersey Tunnels Users Association stated that “the [Liverpool City Region Combined] Authority would still be making a massive profit from the Tunnels and that most users of the Tunnels would not be seeing the reductions in tolls promised last year.”;

During the meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Cllr Phil Davies (pictured below) said,

Cllr Phil Davies speaking about Mersey Tunnel tolls for 2016 17 at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting on the 5th February 2016

Cllr Phil Davies speaking about Mersey Tunnel tolls for 2016 17 at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting on the 5th February 2016

“Yeah, I’d just like to say a few things about this. I welcome the recommendations of Merseytravel yesterday and the recommendations in this report.

Errm, I think I just need to record the fact that I’ve been involved in the errm the Task Group that’s been looking at this so, this issue errm, but I clearly wanted to, to hear what the outcome of the meeting is today was and I do endorse the approach.

I mean from each err, errm, we did make a commitment in the devolution deal that we gain control of the finances of the Mersey, Mersey Tunnels, errm and certainly you know, wearing my Wirral hat, I think this is definitely a big move forward, errm.

You know, the id.., the fact that the errm the cash toll has been frozen for a further year is great news but even more importantly the Fast Tag, which is effectively a local discount, is being reduced by 20p. So that would mean that errm, there’ll be a 50%, 50p discount per a journey, using the Fast Tag which if you’re travelling, if you’re travelling each day, it could be a saving of £5 a week.

So I think this is err, you know if I can use the expression, I think this is the kind of devolution dividend deal if you like, the deal that was signed with government, I think it will help local people who use the Fast Tag and local businesses. Errm and I really think this is a good demonstration of the value we’re getting already from the devolution deal but finally Chair I’d like to say I’m hoping in future err years we can go even further.

I think we need to do err more work, err more, I know there are more discussions errm err going on with government about us gaining even greater control over the finances of the Tunnels. Certainly from a personal point of view, I’d like to see us continue to drive down the costs of the err tunnel tolls for residents particularly local users, but I do welcome the recommendations in the report. Thanks Chair.”

 

Just for clarity, the discount for Fast Tag users (compared to cash tolls) for 2016/17 is not 50% as stated by Cllr Phil Davies. It’s (to the nearest percent) 29% for class 1, 29% for class 2, 29% for class 3 and 29% for class 4.

The new tolls for 2016/17 will come into effect on Sunday 3rd April 2016. If you wish you can apply for a Fast Tag on the Mersey Tunnels website here.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.

Would you like to see what 19 pages of invoices paid by Merseytravel looks like for Smartcare, project management, police community support officer costs, the Stop Hate Line service, temporary closure of a bus interchange, bus subsidy, a temporary traffic regulation order, EPI sign licence, scanning and flexible hours annual hours consultancy?

                                                                

Below is an index page for month one and some of the invoices I requested to inspect at Merseytravel last year (financial year 2014/15) during the period each year when citizens can inspect matters such as invoices. The legal right to do this is outlined in s.15 Audit Commission Act. Each invoice is connected to a payment made by Merseytravel (or to give it its formal name the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive).

The thumbnails below are invoices for payments to ECEBS Ltd (£1,500), Weston-Projects Limited (£4,504.92), British Transport Police (£13,698.87), Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside (£39,213.72), Stop Hate UK (£3,500), Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council (£650), Your Travel Borough Wide Ltd (£3,538.46), Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (£903), Trapeze Group (UK) Limited (£6,100), Service Point UK Ltd (£3,500) and Crown Computing Limited (£1,000 + £1,125.40 + £1,500). All figures are exclusive of VAT.

These invoices relate to the first 13 lines on the index page.

Due to small text size on some of the invoices, it means that the text on some of the thumbnails will be difficult to read or not readable. However the thumbnail images of the invoice below are each linked to a high-resolution image. If you want to view at the original resolution just click on the image.

The invoice from Wirral Council is for £903 for "COSTS IN RESPECT OF TEMPORARY TRAFFIC REGULATION ORDER. WOODSIDE BUS STATION, BIRKENHEAD. ORDER NUMBER 88003977. REF: JESSICA".

JESSICA is an acronym which stands for Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas. Merseytravel run Woodside Bus Station which is outside Woodside Ferry Terminal.

Merseytravel 2014 2015 audit Month 1 index page ECEBS Ltd to MERSEYRAIL ELECTRICS 2002 thumbnail

Merseytravel 2014 2015 audit Month 1 index page ECEBS Ltd to MERSEYRAIL ELECTRICS 2002 thumbnail

Invoices
Month 1
Name
ECEBS LTD
WESTON-PROJECTS LIMITED
BRITISH TRANSPORT POLICE
POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER FOR MERSEYSIDE
STOP HATE UK
SEFTON M B C
YOUR TRAVEL BOROUGH WIDE LTD
WIRRAL BOROUGH COUNCIL
TRAPEZE GROUP (UK) LTD
SERVICE POINT UK LTD
CROWN COMPUTING LIMITED
CROWN COMPUTING LIMITED
CROWN COMPUTING LIMITED
LOCAL SOLUTIONS
FOURPOINT MAPPING
OPTEVIA LIMITED
OPTEVIA LIMITED
BIKERIGHT
BIKERIGHT
FOURPOINT MAPPING
FOURPOINT MAPPING
OEFICEXPRESS
TRUEFORM ENGINEERING LTD
KENYON FRASER
KENYON FRASER
NATIONAL QUALITY ASSURANCE LTD
MOTT MACDONALD LTD
MOTT MACDONALD LTD
OFFICEXPRESS
APPIUS INTERNATIONAL LTD
ARTOPIA
LIVERPOOL CITY COUNCIL
VOCUS UK LTD
MOTT MACDONALD LTD
SEFTON M B C
BIRCHAM DYSON BELL
FACELIFT (GB) LTD
FACELIFT (GB) LTD
QA LTD
QA LTD
QA LTD
COUNSELLING SOLUTIONS NORTHWEST
WEIGHTMANS LLP
BIRCHAM DYSON BELL
ALLAN PILCH & CO
DAVIES WALLIS FOYSTER
XEROX UK LTD
HAYS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
HAYS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
HAYS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
HAYS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
VEALE WASBROUGH VIZARDS
RSTCS LTD
BIRCHAM DYSON BELL
NEXUS
DLA PIPER UK LLP
MERSEYRAIL ELECTRICS 2002 LTD

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After 2 years, 10 months and 3 ICO decision notices will Wirral Council finally provide a response to a FOI request about councillors?

                                                                            

ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo

ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

Last week I received another decision notice from the Information Commissioner’s Office through the post about this freedom of information act request I made to Wirral Council on the 29th March 2013.

Yes it’s now 2016, but this request has already been the subject of decision notice FS50509081 (dated 8th September 2014) (9 pages) and decision notice FS50569254 (dated 29th July 2015) (13 pages).

This decision (decision notice FS50596346) dated the 25th January 2016 is 11 pages long.

Frankly, after two years and ten months of arguing over this request I doubt (although this is just my opinion) that either Wirral Council or myself will want to appeal the decision to the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights). Although one can never quite tell with Wirral Council.

Out of the remaining four parts to this request, Wirral Council released the minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group meeting of the 19th April 2011 a fortnight before the decision notice is dated.

So the decision notice relates to minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers and Teachers Joint Consultative Committee, minutes of a meeting of the Members’ (Members’ means councillors) Training Steering Group and minutes of a meeting of the Members’ Equipment Steering Group.

All these committees met behind closed doors and had councillors appointed to them.

The information in the minutes of the meetings of the last two groups are about training of councillors, use of electronic equipment, developing the Council of the Future, spending, service delivery models and proposals for improvement and potential change.

Surjit Tour made the decisions that releasing this information would be "prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs". There’s a long bit of the decision notice that goes into ICO’s assessment of the public interest test. ICO disagrees with Surjit Tour with regards to two out of the three sets of minutes requested. ICO’s view is that the public interest test weighs in favour of disclosure of the minutes of the Members’ Training Steering Group and minutes of the meeting of the Members’ Equipment Steering Group.

They do however agree with Surjit Tour over the minutes of the Headteachers’ and Teacher’s Joint Consultative Committee, although I’ll point out I find their arguments over a "chilling effect" over what was said at a meeting three years ago rather strange!

Below I include a copy of the decision notice (above is a summary). Although it states I didn’t submit public interest arguments, I did in a document marked "reasons for appeal" (in fact I have an email from the case officer referring to it). However the reasons for appeal have seemingly either not been read or ignored by the person writing the decision notice.

The result of the decision notice is that Wirral Council (or I) can appeal the decision within 28 days of the decision notice to the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) or if the decision is accepted they have to respond by providing the minutes relating to the meetings of the Members’ Training Steering Group and of the Members’ Equipment Steering Group within 35 days.

A copy of the text of the decision notice is below (although there may be some minor formatting changes between this web version and the print version). Eventually it should be published (without my details) on ICO’s website.


Reference: FS50596346

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)

Decision notice

Date: 25 January 2016

Public Authority: Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council
Address: Wallasey Town Hall
Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED

Complainant: John Brace

Address: Jenmaleo
134 Boundary Road
Bidston
Wirral
CH43 7PH

Decision (including any steps ordered)



1. The complaint concerns a request for the minutes of three separate committee meetings. Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (‘the Council’) has refused to release this information. The Council says it is exempt under section 36 of the FOIA (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) and that the public interest favours the information being withheld.

2. The Commissioner’s decision is that sections 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) have been correctly applied to the requested information and that the public interest favours withholding some of the information (item 15). However he finds that the public interest favours releasing the remainder of the information.

3. The Commissioner requires the public authority to take the following step to ensure compliance with the legislation:

  • Release items 18 and 19 to the complainant.

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Reference: FS50596346

4. The public authority must take this step within 35 calendar days of the date of this decision notice. Failure to comply may result in the Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court.

Background


5. The request that is the subject of this notice has been subject to two previous decision notices – FS50509081 and FS50569254. Of relevance to this notice, FS50569254 found that the Council had incorrectly applied section 14(1) (vexatious request) to four parts of the 26 part request. The Commissioner ordered the Council to disclose this information or issue a fresh refusal notice.

Request and response



6. On 29 March 2013, as part of the wider request referred to above, the complainant had written to the Council and requested information in the following terms:

“Please could you provide minutes of the previous meetings of the following committees…
… 15. Headteachers and Teachers JCC
18. Members’ Training Steering Group
19. Members’ Equipment Steering Group
26. Safeguarding Reference Group…”

7. As a result of the Commissioner’s decision in FS50569254, the Council provided the complainant with a new response on 3 September 2015. It said that these four parts were exempt from disclosure under section 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) and that the public interest favours withholding the information. It said part 26 of the request was also exempt under section 40 (personal data).

8. Given the history of this request, the Council did not undertake an internal review and the matter was referred to the Commissioner. However, as part of the Commissioner’s investigation, the Council did review its response and reconsidered its response with regard to part 26 of the request. It withdrew its reliance on section 36 and section 40 and disclosed this particular information to the complainant on 11 January 2016.

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Reference: FS50596346

Scope of the case



9. The complainant had contacted the Commissioner on 7 September 2015 to complain about the way the four parts of his original request for information had been handled.

10. The Council has now disclosed part 26 of the requested information to the complainant. The Commissioner has therefore focussed his investigation on the Council’s application of the exemption at section 36 to parts 15, 18 and 19 of the request and its public interest arguments.

Reasons for decision



Section 36 – prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs

11. Section 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) of the FOIA says that information that is held by a public authority is exempt if, in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person, disclosing it would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank provision of advice, and the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.

12. Section 36 differs from all other prejudice exemptions in that the judgement about prejudice must be made by the legally authorised, qualified person for that public authority. The qualified person’s opinion must also be a “reasonable” opinion, and the Commissioner may decide that the section 36 exemption has not been properly applied if he finds that the opinion given is not reasonable.

13. Other than for information held by Parliament, section 36 is a qualified exemption. This means that even if the qualified person considers that disclosure would cause harm, or would be likely to cause harm, the public interest must still be considered.

14. In determining whether the Council correctly applied the exemption, the Commissioner is required to consider the qualified person’s opinion as well as the reasoning that informed the opinion. Therefore in order to establish that the exemption has been applied correctly the Commissioner must:


  • ascertain who was the qualified person or persons

  • establish that an opinion was given by the qualified person

  • ascertain when the opinion was given; and

  • consider whether the opinion was reasonable.

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Reference: FSSOS96346

15. The information in question concerns the minutes of a Head Teachers and Teachers Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), action minutes of a Members’ Training Steering Group and actions from a Members’ Equipment Steering Group.

16. The Council has explained to the Commissioner that the qualified person in this case is the Council’s Head of Legal and Member Services who, under section 36(5)(o)(m), is authorised as the Monitoring Officer.

17. The Council showed the information in question to the qualified person on 27 October 2014, with an opinion on it sought under section 36(2)(b)(i) and 36(2)(b)(ii), as explained at paragraph 11. The Council says the qualified person met and discussed the information on several occasions with one of his solicitors and the Records and Information Manager. The opinion was given on 31 October 2014. The Council explained to the Commissioner that the request for information was originally submitted in March 2013 and confirmed that the qualified person’s opinion was sought in October 2014.

18. The qualified person upheld the view submitted to him that disclosing the information held in items 15, 18 and 19 would inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.

19. With regard to item 15 — the Head Teachers and Teachers JCC – the qualified person considers that the information contained within these minutes concerns important matters which require consideration and deliberation. These matters include: comprehensive and fundamental reviews associated with the education sector; the current structure and service delivery models of education; budgetary options and proposals for improvement and potential change. The qualified person says that deliberating all these matters needs a “safe space” and, in his opinion, disclosing the requested information would be likely to have a “chilling effect”. This would inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views between Members, officers and other representatives.

20. The qualified person additionally considers that any disclosure would be likely to undermine the ability of this group, and those advising this group, to express themselves in a frank and open manner. This would then lead to poorer decision making. The qualified person considers that it is crucial that this group is able to exchange views in an open and frank manner for the reasons set out above.

21. With regard to items 18 and 19 — the Members’ Training Steering Group action minutes and actions from Members’ Equipment Steering Group — the qualified person says that the information contained within these

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Reference: FS50596346

sets of minutes relates to important matters affecting elected Members, which requires consideration and deliberation. Matters debated include: elected Members’ training; use of electronic equipment; developing the Council of the Future; spending; service delivery models and proposals for improvement and potential change.

22. The qualified person says that this level of debate also needs a “safe space” to effectively engage the participants. In his opinion disclosing this information would be likely to have a “chilling effect” that would inhibit the free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views between elected Members and officers. Furthermore, disclosure is likely to undermine the ability of these steering groups’, and those advising these groups, to express themselves in a free and frank manner. This would then lead to poorer decision making.

23. The Commissioner first notes that the Trust has sought the opinion of its Monitoring Officer. He is satisfied that the Monitoring Officer is a suitably qualified person. This is because the Monitoring Officer post within a local authority has the specific duty to ensure that the council, its officers and its elected members maintain the highest standard of conduct in all they do. It is one of three posts that local authorities have a legal duty to have, the other two being the Chief Executive and
the Director of Finance.

24. In order to determine whether the exemption is engaged the Commissioner must then go on to decide whether the qualified person’s opinion in this case is reasonable. This involves considering:

  • Whether the prejudice claimed relates to the specific subsection of section 36(2) on which the Council is relying

  • The nature of the information and the timing of the request; and

  • The qualified person’s knowledge or involvement in the issue.

25. The Commissioner has also issued guidance on section 36 of the FOIA. With regard to what can be considered a ‘reasonable opinion’ it says the following:

“The most relevant definition of ‘reasonable’ in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is ‘In accordance with reason; not irrational or absurd’. If the opinion is in accordance with reason and not irrational or absurd — in short, if it is an opinion that a reasonable person could hold — then it is reasonable.”

26. It is important to note that when considering whether the exemption is engaged, the Commissioner is making a decision not on whether he agrees with the opinion of the qualified person, but whether it was reasonable for him or her to reach that opinion. The test of

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Reference: FS50596346

reasonableness is not meant to be a high hurdle and if the Commissioner accepts that the opinion is one that a reasonable person could hold he must find that the exemption is engaged.

27. The Council is relying on subsections (b)(i) and b(ii) of section 36(2), namely that disclosing the withheld information would, or would be likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice, and the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The qualified person in this case has said that prejudice, namely a “chilling effect” on the provision of advice and exchange of views that would lead to poorer decision making, would be likely to occur if the information were to be disclosed (rather than would occur).

28. The Commissioner accepts that it is important that the Council’s meetings are conducted openly with participants able to contribute candidly and to discuss issues freely. The Council and the public can then be confident that decisions made at these meetings are likely to be robust. He therefore accepts that the prejudice the Council is claiming does relate to section 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii).

29. The Commissioner has referred to the information requested at parts 15, 18 and 19 of the wider request. The information concerns meetings that took place in February and March 2013, shortly before the complainant submitted his request. In his view, the meetings are unconnected to each other or to one wider matter.

30. The Commissioner notes that the qualified person has had several discussions with a solicitor and the Records and Information Manager about the matter. He considers that, although the qualified person did not participate in the meetings in question, the qualified person would understand the nature of the meetings and have a good knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the request.

31. Having undertaken the above review of the qualified person’s opinion, the Commissioner is satisfied that, in the circumstances, it is a reasonable opinion ie it is not irrational or absurd. Therefore, the exemption at section 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) is engaged with regard to items 15, 18 and 19.

Public interest test

32. In most cases, even when the qualified person has given their opinion that section 36(2)(b) is engaged, the public authority must still carry out a public interest test. The qualified person’s opinion will affect the weight of the argument for withholding the information. If the qualified person has decided that disclosure would prejudice, this will carry a greater weight than if they said

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Reference: FS50596346

disclosure would be likely to prejudice.

33. The qualified person’s opinion brings weight to the arguments for withholding the information; the significance of this weight will vary from case to case. When considering a complaint regarding section 36, if the Commissioner finds that the opinion was reasonable, he will consider the weight of that opinion in the public interest test. This means that he accepts that a reasonable opinion has been expressed that prejudice would, or would be likely to occur, but he will go on to consider the severity, extent and frequency of that prejudice in forming his own assessment of whether the public interest test dictates disclosure.

34. In his guidance on section 36, the Commissioner says that it should always be possible for the public authority to review the public interest arguments. The Commissioner gave the Council the opportunity to do this during the course of his investigation. The Council confirmed on 14 January 2016 that it continues to rely on its arguments from October 2014.

Public interest arguments in favour of disclosure

35. With regard to item 15, the qualified person says that disclosing these minutes would give the public insight into the processes involved within the Council for decision making on important issues of the day. Disclosing these minutes would also demonstrate transparency with regard to internal processes and with regard to the exchange of views and advice.

36. With regard to items 18 and 19, the qualified person says that disclosure of these action minutes would give an insight into how the Council analyses and reviews information with a view to shaping and
developing for the future. These action minutes would also allow the public to see proposals that the Council is considering.

37. The complainant did not submit any public interest arguments.

Public interest arguments in favour of maintaining the exemption

38. The qualified person considers that the public interest favours maintaining the exemption with respect to these three items of information because disclosing the information would restrict the free and frank exchange of views, would inhibit the giving of advice and guidance and would potentially have a detrimental effect on the work of these groups and those taking part in their discussions. He says that the Council relies on the ability to have a “safe space” to enable it to

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Reference: FS50596346

make the most appropriate decisions for elected Members, officers and the people of Wirral.

Balance of the public interest

39. The Commissioner first of all notes that the qualified person has said that releasing the information would be likely to inhibit free and frank advice and exchange of views. This potentially brings less weight to the argument for withholding the information than would inhibit.

40. In his published guidance on section 36, the Commissioner notes at paragraph 45 that 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) are about the processes that may be inhibited, rather than what is in the information. The issue is whether disclosure would inhibit the processes of providing advice or exchanging views. In order to engage the exemption, the information requested does not necessarily have to contain views and advice that are in themselves notably free and frank.

41. On the other hand, if the information only consists of relatively neutral statements, then it may not be reasonable to think that its disclosure could inhibit the provision of advice or the exchange of views.

42. Paragraph 46 of the Commissioner’s guidance discusses the terminology used in the exemption, as follows:

  • ‘Inhibit’ means to restrain, decrease or suppress the freedom with which opinions or options are expressed.
  • Examples of ‘advice’ include recommendations made by more junior staff to more senior staff, professional advice tendered by professionally qualified employees, advice received from external sources, or advice supplied to external sources. However, an exchange of data or purely factual information would not in itself constitute the provision of advice or, for that matter, the exchange of views.
  • The ‘exchange of views’ must be as part of a process of deliberation.

  • ‘Deliberation’ refers to the public authority’s evaluation of competing arguments or considerations in order to make a decision.

43. As in this case, arguments under section 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) are usually based on the concept of a ‘chilling effect’. The chilling effect argument is that disclosure of discussions would inhibit free and frank discussions in the future, and that the loss of frankness and candour would damage

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Reference: FS50596346

the quality of advice and deliberation and lead to poorer decision making.

44. Public officials are expected to be impartial and robust when giving advice, and not easily deterred from expressing their views by the possibility of future disclosure. It is also possible that the threat of future disclosure could actually lead to better quality advice. Nonetheless, chilling effect arguments cannot be dismissed out of hand.

45. Chilling effect arguments operate at various levels. If the issue in question is still live, arguments about a chilling effect on those ongoing discussions are likely to be most convincing. Arguments about the effect on closely related live issues may also be relevant. However, once the decision in question is finalised, chilling effect arguments become more and more speculative as time passes. It will be more difficult to make reasonable arguments about a generalised chilling effect on all future discussions.

46. Whether it is reasonable to think that a chilling effect would occur will depend on the circumstances of each case, including the timing of the request, whether the issue is still live, and the actual content and sensitivity of the information in question.

47. The Commissioner has reviewed the information in question. Items 15 and 19 are minutes/actions from meetings held February 2013, item 18 is the action minutes from a meeting that was held in March 2013. At the time of the complainant’s request therefore, the meetings in question were very recent and the subjects under discussion would still have been live at the time of the request.

48. Item 15 is the minutes of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee meeting on 28 February 2013 and is described as such ie as ‘Minutes’. As such they summarise the discussion that occurred in the meeting. The content of the minutes is as described at paragraph 19. They include summaries of participants’ exchange of views and their evaluation of particular proposals in order to reach a decision. The Commissioner considers that this Committee would have needed a safe space in which to freely and frankly deliberate on important and potentially sensitive matters such as fundamental reviews associated with the education sector; the current structure and service delivery models of education; budgetary options and proposals for improvement and potential change.

49. Given the closeness between the meeting in February 2013 and the original request for its minutes in March 2013, the Commissioner is persuaded that releasing these minutes may have been likely to have a chilling effect on subsequent meetings of this Committee. He agrees

9



Reference: FS50596346

with the Council that the public interest favours this particular information being withheld in order to protect the Committee’s ability to make decisions based on full and frank discussions.

50. The Commissioner has next considered items 18 and 19. Item 18 — the Member Steering Group – is described as ‘Action Minutes’. For the most part, only the agreed actions that resulted from the discussions are noted, with a brief summary of one or two points. Item 19 — the Members’ Equipment Steering Group’ — is described as ‘Actions’ and only agreed actions that resulted from the discussions are noted.

51. The Commissioner recognises that the meetings took place shortly before the request was submitted and that the matters under discussion were still live at that time, to some degree. However, he does not consider that the matters under discussion — elected Members’ training and equipment needs — is of sufficient sensitivity that disclosing the information would have a chilling effect on subsequent meetings of these two groups, and inhibit the process of providing advice or exchanging views. In addition, the overwhelming majority of the information held in these two documents is agreed actions, very briefly summarised, and not summaries of broader discussion and deliberation on these two matters. The Council has said that releasing this information would be likely to inhibit free and frank advice and exchange of views but its evidence for this is somewhat generic and consequently not strong. As a result, the Commissioner considers that the public interest favours releasing items 18 and 19 in the interests of transparency.

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Reference: FS50596346

Right of appeal



52. Either party has the right to appeal against this decision notice to the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights). Information about the appeals process may be obtained from:

First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights)
GRC & GRP Tribunals
PO Box 9300
LEICESTER
LE1 8DJ

Tel: 0300 1234504
Fax: 0870 739 5836

Email: GRC@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.justice.gov.uk/tribunals/general-regulatory-chamber

53. If you wish to appeal against a decision notice, you can obtain information on how to appeal along with the relevant forms from the Information Tribunal website.

54. Any Notice of Appeal should be served on the Tribunal within 28 (calendar) days of the date on which this decision notice is sent.

Signed …….(signature of Pamela Clements)………..

Pamela Clements
Group Manager
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

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How much did taxis cost for councillors at Wirral Council through a contract with Eye Cab Limited between September 2014 and March 2015?

                                                           

Eye Cab Ltd taxi invoice Wirral Council October 2014

Eye Cab Ltd taxi invoice Wirral Council October 2014

During the 2014/15 audit I requested the contract between Wirral Council and Eye Cab Limited for LOT 4 (councillors taxis) called the Passenger Transport Contract. This is what the contract states about the invoices (pages 22 to 23):

2.3.8 Invoicing

Invoices should be submitted once a month for all journeys undertaken by Councillors for official business only. There will be no payment in advance for journeys. The invoice should contain the following information

  • Journey collection and arrival destinations

  • Date and time of journey

  • Name of the Councillor ordering the journey
Invoices will be paid at the price agreed between Wirral Council and the Contractor at the time of award of contract. If an overcharge is identified on an invoice a credit note will be required from the Contractor or a deduction for the amount owed clearly identified on the following invoice.

Invoices should be forwarded to:-

Carl Thompson
Legal and Member Services
Wallasey Town Hall
Brighton Street
CH44 8ED

However when I made a Freedom of Information request for the invoices for September 2014, October 2014, November 2014, December 2014, January 2015, February 2015 and March 2015, this was the response I got.

The invoices supplied don’t contain the times of journeys, or the journey collection or arrival destinations!

Wirral Council have also tried to black things out on these invoices (incompetently I might add with an image mask) because they class them as personal data.

All the underlying images of the invoices are still there as they’re using an image mask (that is the file contains two images that of the underlying invoice and over the top a further image used as a mask to black certain bits out).

Let’s start with the junior officer name at Wirral Council they blacked out which is Thompson, Carl S. [carlthompson@wirral.gov.uk].

Here’s the mobile phone number from this invoice: 0798 944 6652. I might point out that Eye Cab Limited publish this mobile phone number on their Facebook group page anyway.

Below are the totals by councillor for each invoice. The below are just journeys through this contract. It is possible for councillors to pay for taxi journeys themselves, then claim the money back from Wirral Council, in which case those figures would not be included below.

Invoice dated 27th September 2014 (LOT4/2)

Councillor Total Amount

Pat Hackett £5.20
Ron Abbey £43.40
Steve Niblock £9.40
Moira McLaughlin £42.80
Irene Williams £8.00

Invoice dated 4th October 2014 (LOT4/2)

Councillor Total Amount

Ron Abbey £56.60
Moira McLaughlin £16.00
Bill Davies £6.60

Invoice dated 4th October 2014 (LOT4/3)

Councillor Total Amount

Ron Abbey £34.00
Moira McLaughlin £31.00

Invoice dated 11th October 2014 (LOT4/5)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £26.80
Ron Abbey £71.60
Bill Davies £6.60

Invoice dated 18th October 2014 (LOT4/6)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £26.80
Pat Hackett £5.20
Ron Abbey £51.00

Invoice dated 24th October 2014 (LOT4/7)

Councillor Total Amount

Ron Abbey £76.00
Moira McLaughlin £31.50
Bill Davies £6.60
Muspratt £10.80
Pat Hackett £5.20

Invoice dated 31st October 2014 (LOT4/8)

Councillor Total Amount

Pat Hackett £5.20
Moira McLaughlin £18.80
Ron Abbey £71.00 *for two journeys includes waiting time of 5 minutes (£1) and 10 minutes (£2)

Invoice dated 8th November 2014 (LOT4/9)

Councillor Total Amount

Pat Hackett £15.60
Muspratt £12.20
Moira McLaughlin £33.40
Bill Davies £6.60
Niblock/Davies £10.80
Irene Williams £8.00
Ron Abbey £51.00

Invoice dated 15th November 2014 (LOT4/10)

Councillor Total Amount

Irene Williams £17.40
Pat Hackett £19.40
Steve Niblock £28.20
Bill Davies (down on invoice as W J Davies) £13.20
Moira McLaughlin £9.40

Invoice dated 22nd November 2014 (LOT4/11)

Councillor Total Amount

Steve Niblock (down on invoice as S. Niblock) £28.20
Moira McLaughlin £40.40
Bill Davies (down on invoice as W J Davies) £6.60
Irene Williams (down on invoice as I. Williams) £8.00
Muspratt (down on invoice as C. Muspratt) £12.20
Pat Hackett (down on invoice as P. Hackett) £11.80

Invoice dated 29th November 2014 (LOT4/12)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £18.80

Invoice dated 6th December 2014 (LOT4/13)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £9.40
Steve Niblock (down on invoice as Steve Nibkock) £37.60

Invoice dated 13th December 2014 (LOT4/14)

Councillor Total Amount

Steve Niblock (down on invoice as Steve Nibkock) £49.80
Moira McLaughlin (down on invoice as Moira McGlaughlin) £18.80
Bill Davies £13.20
Muspratt (down on invoice as Clr Muspratt) £12.20
Taxi Share £12.20

Invoice dated 20th December 2014 (LOT4/15)

Councillor Total Amount

Steve Niblock (down on invoice as Steve Nibkock) £59.20
Muspratt (down on invoice as Clr Muspratt) £12.20
Denise Realey (down on invoice as Denise Reaty) £8.00
Pat Hackett £11.80
Moira McLaughlin (down on invoice as Moira McGlaughlin) £10.80
Irene Williams £8.00

Invoice dated 10th January 2015 (LOT4/16)

Councillor Total Amount

Pat Hackett (down on invoice as P. Hackett) £11.80
Moira McLaughlin £79.40
Bill Davies £16.00

Invoice dated 17th January 2015 (LOT4/17)

Councillor Total Amount

Pat Hackett (down on invoice as P.Hackett) £9.40
Moira McLaughlin £28.20

Invoice dated 24th January 2015 (LOT4/18)

Councillor Total Amount

Irene Williams £8.00
Bill Davies £6.60
Moira McLaughlin £9.40
Niblock/Davies £12.20

Invoice dated 31st January 2015 (LOT4/19)

Councillor Total Amount

Steve Niblock £10.80
Bill Davies £6.60
Moira McLaughlin £28.20

Invoice dated 7th February 2015 (LOT4/20)

Councillor Total Amount

Steve Niblock £31.00
Moira McLaughlin £73.80
Williams/Muspratt £12.20
Irene Williams £9.40

Invoice dated 14th February 2015 (LOT4/21)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £9.40
Steve Niblock £9.40

Invoice dated 21st February 2015 (LOT4/22)

Councillor Total Amount

Bill Davies £19.80
Irene Williams £8.00
Moira McLaughlin £9.40
Davies/McLaughlin £10.80

Invoice dated 28th February 2015 (LOT4/23)>

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £18.80
Bill Davies £18.40

Invoice dated 7th March 2015 (LOT4/24)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £59.20

Invoice dated 21st March 2015 (LOT4/25)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £28.20
Bill Davies £13.20
Irene Williams £8.00
Niblock/Davies £12.20


Grand totals (September 2014 to March 2015)

Cllr Pat Hackett £5.20 + £5.20 + £5.20 + £5.20 + £15.60 + £19.40 + £11.80 + £11.80 = £79.40

Cllr Ron Abbey £43.40 + £56.60 + £34.00 + £71.60 + £51.00 + £76.00 + £71.00 + £51.00 = £454.60

Cllr Steve Niblock (figures for Niblock/Davies not included here) £9.40 + £28.20 + £28.20 + £37.60 + £49.80 + £59.20 + £10.80 + £31.00 + £9.40 = £263.60

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (figures for Davies/McLaughlin not included here) £42.80 + £16.00 + £31.00 + £26.80 + £26.80 + £31.50 + £18.80 + £33.40 + £9.40 + £40.40 + £18.80 + £9.40 + £18.80 + £10.80 + £79.40 + £28.20 + £9.40 + £28.20 + £73.80 + £9.40 + £9.40 + £18.80 + £59.20 + £28.20 = £678.70

Cllr Irene Williams £8.00 + £8.00 + £17.40 + £8.00 + £8.00 + £8.00 + £9.40 + £8.00 + £8.00 = £82.80

Cllr Bill Davies £6.60 + £6.60 + £6.60 + £6.60 + £13.20 + £6.60 + £13.20 + £16.00 + £6.60 + £6.60 + £19.80 + £18.40 + £13.20 = £140.00

Cllr Muspratt (does not include Williams/Muspratt) £10.80 + £12.20 + £12.20 + £12.20 + £12.20 = £59.60

Cllrs Niblock/Davies (note not included in Cllr Steve Niblock’s amounts above and there are three councillors with the surname Davies) £10.80 + £12.20 = £23.00

Taxi Share £12.20

Cllr Denise Realey £8.00

Cllrs Williams/Muspratt (note not included in Cllr Muspratt’s amounts above and there are three councillors with the surname Williams) £12.20

Cllrs Davies/McLaughlin (note not included in Cllr McLaughlin’s amounts above and there are three councillors with the surname Davies) £10.80

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.

Posted by: John Brace | 26th January 2016

Why did I blow the whistle to Merseytravel?

Why did I blow the whistle to Merseytravel?

                                                            

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 26th January 2016

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 26th January 2016

Below is an email I’ve just written about what happened today. I look forward to reading your comments on it. If I had faith in the whistleblowing procedures at Merseytravel I would not see the need to publish it, however these remarks do not inspire me with confidence. I realise I tend to get a bit verbose

I wonder what the response will be?

 

CC:
“Louise Outram (Monitoring Officer, Merseytravel)” <louise.outram@merseytravel.gov.uk>,
“Stephanie Donaldson (Head of Internal Audit, Merseytravel)” <stephanie.donaldson@merseytravel.gov.uk>,
“Liz Carridge (Press Office, Merseytravel)” <liz.carridge@merseytravel.gov.uk>,

Angela Sanderson (Monitoring Officer, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority)” <angelasanderson@sthelens.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Anthony Carr (Chair, LCRCA Audit Committee)” <anthony.carr@merseytravel.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Pam Thomas (LCRCA Audit Committee)” <pamela.thomas@liverpool.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Nina Killen (LCRCA Audit Committee/Scrutiny Panel)” <nina.killen@councillors.sefton.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Andy Moorhead (LCRCA Audit Committee/LCRCA)” <andy.moorhead@knowsley.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Rob Polhill (LCRCA Audit Committee/LCRCA)” <rob.polhill@halton.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Mike Sullivan (LCRCA Audit Committee/Scrutiny Panel)” <mikesullivan@wirral.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Kevin Wainwright (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <kevan.wainwright@halton.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr David Baines (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” St Helens c/o <cllraburns@sthelens.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Lawrence Brown (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <Lawrence.Brown@liverpool.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Anthony Burns (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <cllraburns@sthelens.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Eddie Connor (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <
eddie.connor@knowsley.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Patrick Hurley (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <
patrick.hurley@liverpool.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Allan Jones (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <cllrajones@sthelens.gov.uk
>,

Cllr Anita Leech (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <anitaleech@wirral.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Sue McGuire (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <
sue.mcguire@councillors.sefton.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Michael O’Brien (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <
michael.o’brien@councillors.sefton.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Marie Stuart (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <marie.stuart@knowsley.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Bill Woolfall (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <Bill.Woolfall2@halton.gov.uk
>,
“Frank Rogers (Interim Chief Executive/Interim Head of Paid Service, Merseytravel)” <frank.rogers@merseytravel.gov.uk
>,
“Mayor Joe Anderson OBE” <mayor@liverpool.gov.uk
>,
“Councillor Phil Davies” <phildavies@wirral.gov.uk
>,

Councillor Barrie Grunewald” <CllrBGrunewald-Leader@sthelens.gov.uk>,
“Robert Hough CBE” <
info@liverpoollep.org>,
“Councillor Ian Maher” <ian.maher@councillors.sefton.gov.uk
>,

Ian Warwick (KPMG)” <ian.warwick@kpmg.co.uk>,
“Richard Tyler (KPMG)” <Richard.tyler@kpmg.co.uk>,
“Karen Christie (Knowsley press office)” <Karen.Chritie@knowsley.gov.uk>,
“Liam Robinson (Chair, Merseytravel)” <liam.robinson@liverpool.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Steve Foulkes (Merseytravel)” <stevefoulkes@wirral.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Jerry Williams (Merseytravel)” <jerrywilliams@wirral.gov.uk>,

Cllr Ron Abbey (Merseytravel)” <ronabbey@wirral.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Les Rowlands (Merseytravel)” <lesrowlands@wirral.gov.uk
>

Subject: protected disclosure (Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998)

Dear all,

I am making this protected disclosure to Merseytravel, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council and KPMG.

Basically I am blowing the whistle and as I have little confidence in these matters being taken seriously by the public sector or addressed in a satisfactory manner I am also taking the step of publishing these concerns.

Obviously there are other routes I can go down other than this, but I hope this will resolve matters.

From this part onwards I will number the sections for ease of reference in replies to this communication.

1.
Introduction

I am a member of the press called Mr. John Brace. Part of my job is covering public meetings of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. For clarity I am both a member of the broadcast media (as I film such meetings) and new media as I write online about these meetings. I write online at http://johnbrace.com/ , which last month (December 2015) had an audience of around 3,345 readers. I publish the video I record on the Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/level80 which in December 2015 was viewed for a total of ~87 hours.

2.
Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014

On the 6th August 2014 a piece of legislation called the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 came into effect. These can be read at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/2095/contents/made and I will briefly summarise some of the main changes it made relevant to this protected disclosure:

a) it changed the existing legislation to place a positive duty on certain public bodies that now had to allow filming at their public meetings (regulation 4(5)),

b) it changed the existing legislation to make it clear that such recordings of public meetings could be published (explicitly mentioning the internet) (regulation 4(5)),

and

c) Please note in order to allay any confusion in what I am about to quote, I will point out that s.100J of the Local Government Act 1972 (which defines various terms used in Part VA means that “principal council” includes a combined authority.

This is a quote from regulation 4(5) which modifies the Local Government Act 1972.

“A person attending a meeting of a principal council in England for the purpose of reporting on the meeting must, so far as practicable, be afforded reasonable facilities for doing so.”

3. 26th January 2016
On the morning of the 26th January 2016 I attended the Merseytravel Offices which are at No 1 Mann Island, Liverpool, L3 1BP. For the purposes of brevity I will refer to this location as Merseytravel HQ.

This was to attend and report on a public meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee which was scheduled to start at 10.30am. I was there with my wife and colleague Leonora Brace.

There was also at least one other member of the public present during the meeting called Ian Warwick, who works for the external auditors KPMG to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

4. What happened

We arrived at the ground floor of Merseytravel at approximately 10 am.

The meeting was to be held on the first floor of Merseytravel HQ (in a room called the Authority Room).

We were told by the receptionist (I have a recording of this conversation on tape which can be supplied) that we would not be permitted to go through the barrier to this meeting (which started at 10.30am), until 10.45am.

Obviously had we taken her assertion at face value (and it causes a certain degree of work place stress to have to continually fact check what a public sector employee states to us) this would have been a breach of our rights to attend the public meeting and report on the public meeting.

There have been times in the past at Merseytravel HQ when we have arrived in plenty of time before a meeting has been to start.

However to give an example of what happened once, we had been kept waiting and not permitted to go to the room where the meeting is held until well after the meeting had started (by the time we were allowed to attend it was from memory had started thirty minutes before). It then causes us embarrassment to arrive late to a meeting when we had indeed on that occasion arrived in plenty of time. It made it impossible then for example to report on agenda items that had already happened.

Public meetings start at different times. For example these are the start times of public meetings held at Merseytravel HQ this month (I include the cancelled Combined Authority meeting scheduled for the 22nd January 2016 too):

11.00am, 11.15am, 10.30am, 2.00pm, 2.00pm, 2.00pm.

There are other public meetings held in Merseytravel HQ too such as the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority (also known as the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority) which start at 1.00pm.

Invariably due to the confusion caused by the receptionist stating that we wouldn’t be able to go into the meeting until 10.45, I had to double-check the time of the meeting using the guest wi-fi.

I found out that the meeting was supposed to start at 10.30am. The receptionist was therefore wrong in her assertion that we should not be allowed in until 10.45am.

I also took the opportunity to read the Combined Authority’s policy on filming.

The Monitoring Officer for the Combined Authority is Angela Sanderson. She does not work for Merseytravel, but for St Helens Borough Council.

The agreed filming policy for the Combined Authority meetings (which presumably covers meetings of its Audit Committee) is based on that originally adopted by Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council. It was agreed on the 22nd September 2014.

It can be viewed here http://councillors.knowsley.gov.uk/documents/s30342/140919%20delegated%20report%20filming.pdf?StyleType=standard&StyleSize=none .

In that policy the phone number of 0151 443 3536 (the press office of Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council) is given for enquiries.

However Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council have (as far as I know) no part in the public meeting of the Liverpool City Combined Authority Audit Committee of the 26th January 2016.

The papers for the meeting are published on Merseytravel’s website, see http://moderngov.merseytravel.uk.net/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=336&MId=1343 and the minutes are taken by a Merseytravel employee.

Here is a transcript of part of my conversation I had with the receptionist (who seems a textbook example of the doctrine of “superior orders”) to the extent below:

John Brace: This is the filming policy they use here, it’s the Knowsley Council one they use because they’re the ones that administer the Combined Authority and it says,

“Anyone wishing to do so is asked to inform them in advance to ensure any necessary arrangements can be made.”

So does that mean you need to ring the press office here or Knowsley?

Denise (who has a phone on her desk) (Merseytravel employee): No, they’ve given me instructions not to let any members of the public in there.

John Brace: No what I’m saying is your filming policy …

Denise (who has a phone on her desk) (Merseytravel employee): up until 15 minutes before until someone else is in that room.

John Brace: Sorry this is something different. Your filming policy says you request to be informed in advance of the meeting, so that’s what I’m doing.

Denise (who has a phone on her desk) (Merseytravel employee): Yeah, yeah.

John Brace: So what I’m saying is, it says media enquiries to be conducted to the Communications Team, does that mean

Denise (who has a phone on her desk) (Merseytravel employee): There you go, there’s Louise.

5. The conversation with Louise Outram

Before the public meeting started, myself and Leonora Brace had a conversation with Louise Outram (who as far as I know is the Monitoring Officer for Merseytravel) about these matters.

I will point out at this stage that this is not the first conversation I have had with Louise Outram about these issues.

Louise Outram: OK, Mr & Mrs Brace, can I take over here please?

Louise Outram: What’s the problem this morning?

John Brace: Well, the filming policy does say you require advance notice, so I was just asking whether that goes, because the policy was Knowsley’s policy so I’m not sure whether that phone number is Knowsley’s press office or your press office?

Louise Outram: Err, that looks like Knowsley’s number.

John Brace: Ahh, OK.

Louise Outram: Well I think it’s been accepted that you will film. We don’t have a problem with that. We can’t gain access to the building until there’s a committee officer within that room.

Leonora Brace: Yeah, but surely we can go upstairs and sit outside?

Louise Outram: No, you can’t. It’s a public, this is the public area and the meeting is a public meeting and we will afford you the reasonable facility to film.

Fifteen minutes before the meeting gives you sufficient time to set up your camera and at fifteen minutes before the meeting there’ll be a democratic services officer in that room.

We cannot allow the public unrestricted access to this building. We’ve got private tenants and public offices.

John Brace: Well we’ve seen plenty of members of the public go through when we’ve just been here in this short period for instance there’s one of your auditors from KPMG that doesn’t actually work for Merseytravel has gone through. You know other people have gone through into what you term as a non-public area. So,

Louise Outram: They, those officers have a legitimate meeting in this building. You have a right to the public meeting. The public meeting doesn’t start until 10.30, it’s only 10 o’clock now.

John Brace: You said 10.30, is that

Louise Outram: Yes.

John Brace: correct? I’ll just check on that, because I thought the time was different on the website,
Louise Outram and Leonora Brace: No, it’s 10.30.

John Brace: If you look here I’ll just show you, oh yes it says 10.30. Sorry I’m thinking of another one that starts at 11.15,

Louise Outram: They’re all different times unfortunately, so it is important to check the time.

(a number of people speak at once)
Louise Outram:
Yes, as soon as a Committee Officer, a Democratic Services Officer is in that room, they’ll advise Denise and Denise will allow you access up to that room to set up your camera, in the place that you normally set it up.

John Brace: The only other thing is that Leonora was saying is she’s a ********. The problem with sitting here opening and closing a lot it does get quite cold and draughty down here.

Louise Outram: Well I’m afraid we can’t do anything about that. The door has to open and close. I mean all I would suggest is that you arrive at 10.15 or fifteen minutes before whatever meeting time is scheduled and in doing that you will then be afforded the facility to come through.

John Brace: Well today for instance, as you know there’s bad weather and disruption to the transport network so it’s only advisable to leave a bit of extra time.

Louise Outram: Well I can’t allow you into the room until there’s a democratic services officer. Denise will advise you when that is. So if you’d like to sit, you’re more than welcome to sit here.

If you’d like to walk around the block, you’re more than welcome to do, but they’ll allow you in fifteen minutes before the meeting starts. OK, alright? I’ll notify Democratic Services that you’re filming again today. We do generally take it as read that you are afforded facilities to do that, so, we’ll, that’s not a problem, ok?

John Brace: Well another question I want to ask is, it states err “reasonable facilities” in the regulations, but it doesn’t actually state what they are so, is there some kind of understanding between us as to what they are or what?

Louise Outram: You come in, you are there are seats available, you generally set your tripod up, you generally move it around as in the camera around, so

John Brace: Sorry receipts?

Louise Outram: There are seats available for the public and you generally.

John Brace: Sorry I thought you said receipts.

Louise Outram: No,

(laughter)

John Brace: It’s the echoes in here isn’t it?

Louise Outram: No, you generally sit yourself in a particular position which affords you a good view of the, I mean I’ve seen your films, you know it affords you a good view of the Chamber and people are reminded to use their microphones, so we do try and ensure you get a good video of the meeting.

So I think we afford you reasonable if not very good facilities!

(laughter)

Louise Outram: The legislation unfortunately doesn’t describe anything formal but, and it doesn’t give any guidance as well, so I would say we (unclear)

I think so, I think you’re getting yourself a good spec.

Leonora Brace: It’s nearly ten past now!

Louise Outram: Well the Democratic Services officer will notify Denise and she’ll allow you access through.

John Brace: But it’s not Denise’s decision?

Louise Outram: She’s acting on instructions from ourselves.

John Brace: Oh I was trying to explain to Leonora, that she was getting instructions from above, it’s not her decision to make.

Louise Outram: It’s not Denise! (laughter)

John Brace: Does that help at all or not?

Leonora Brace: No.

6. Conclusion

There are many issues this raises.

For example the public sector equality duty (which was ironically raised by Cllr Pam Thomas at the meeting we were at). .

For example the area Louise Outram insists we wait in has no access to water or toilets.

This discriminates against two people with protected characteristics as Merseytravel is fully aware why we would require greater access to these than others.

To give one example, the pollution found in Liverpool City Centre, where Merseytravel HQ is based makes me thirsty because I’m an asthmatic.

Merseytravel is fully aware of the disability I have and the nature and extent of those disabilites as a District Judge at Birkenhead County Court found in the past that Merseytravel had discriminated against me three times (but accepted Merseytravel’s defence that on each occasion it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim).

One could regard denying me access to water in such circumstances as degrading treatment contrary to Article 3.

Are we expected to bring our own water to such meetings?

Article 2 deals with freedom of movement which is again restricted.

It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way this is incompatible with a Convention Right (s. 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998).

Merseytravel states that it prides itself on good industrial relations with its workforce. We both work in Merseytravel HQ, yet not for Merseytravel. Yet Merseytravel management unilaterally imposed this new policy upon us without formally consulting us first.

I hope I will receive a satisfactory response to the issues raised. Not just for my benefit, but for that of Leonora, other members of the media who attend public meetings at Merseytravel HQ and indeed the wider public who may wish to do so.

Long drawn out legal cases are neither beneficial to either Merseytravel or myself, adverse press criticism is about the only tool I have to bring about change.

Merseytravel is part of the public sector and should be able to resolve this issues well before they get to this stage.

I would hope that after having read the above that matters will change.

However realising how difficult cultural attitudes are to change in an organisation, I am not hopeful of a quick resolution to these matters.

I can be contacted in the following ways:

Address: Jenmaleo, 134 Boundary Road, Birkenhead, CH43 7PH
Email: john@johnbrace.com
Tel: 0151 512 2500 (but please not that due to the nature of my work you are highly likely to just get the answering machine)

P.S. Last year I heard Mayor Anderson (now Chair of the Combined Authority) state at a public meeting how hurt he was when decisions affecting his employment with Chesterfield School were made without prior consultation and about his political beliefs as a trade unionist.

If Merseytravel have behaved in the way I describe above (which I have the tape to prove), then management is not acting in accordance with the political belief of the Chair of the Combined Authority who is answerable to the public for its functioning.

I would also like it confirmed (as three senior managers at Merseytravel, Stephanie Donaldson, Liz Carridge and Louise Outram) were involved in trying to persuade me to alter the article here:

Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”
http://johnbrace.com/2014/11/25/merseytravels-head-of-internal-audit-brands-whistleblowing-as-mickey-mouse-complete-nonsense/


that these actions described above haven’t been implemented by Merseytravel management in response to that matter.

Yours sincerely,

John Brace


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