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Posted by: John Brace | 15th July 2013

Wirral Council (15th July 2013): Whistleblower Motion (Chief Executive’s statement)

In what was a stormy evening at Wirral Council and Cllr Mitchell’s first full length Council meeting in the Chair as Mayor, the Chief Executive Graham Burgess issued a written statement to councillors and the public about the Conservative’s notice of motion on whistleblowing. His statement is reproduced below.

Statement from the Chief Executive

I would like to firstly advise a note of caution to all Elected Members when it comes to discussing individual cases. The Council in this instance has been requested to deal directly with Mr. Morton’s solicitor to seek a resolution to the outstanding issues. We are keen to reach a resolution at the earliest opportunity and have corresponded with Mr. Morton’s Solicitor to that effect.

I must also draw Council’s attention to the recent judgement by Mr. Justice Hughes in the first-tier tribunal between the Apellant [sic] and the Information Commissioner. Judge Hughes upheld the Information Commissioners decision to uphold this Council’s refusal of personal information relating to the Officers alluded to in this question. This followed his appraisal of the AKA report and all relevant information provided.

In particular it is important that Members note the following conclusions:

The information which the complainant has asked for is detailed information on personnel matters relating to the individuals concerned. This goes much further than a request to detail of any severance payments made to the individuals. It is also about the terms under which they left the authority. The public interest in knowing whether appropriate policies and procedures were followed or whether the council acted inappropriately in terms of the events outlined in the report has been served by the disclosure of the report.

The individuals identified with in the report had not been convicted of any crime. Public accountability for failing is within the Council’s practices and rests with the Council as a whole rather than with individual officers.

He concluded by finding that while there was a legitimate public interest in understanding how the Council had reacted to the report; this information would not help with that process and a balance had to be struck with respect to the rights of the individuals concerned. He found that:-

Any pressing social need for greater transparency on the Council’s reaction to the report would not be met by a disclosure of this information. He therefore considers that it would be unfair (and given the implied confidentiality of the employer/employee information, unlawful ) for the purposes of the first data protection principle for that information to be disclosed. 

In the light of the above judgement we do not consider that it would be lawful or practical to allow a further investigation into the circumstances surrounding the departure of the two Officers in question.


Responses

  1. Thats why I they had no whitewash in B&Q today!

  2. This judge can say what he likes (and Graham Burgess can parrot them ad nauseum…)

    BUT…. here are the facts.

    o These two officers were involved in abuse – Employees 13 and 22 – as revealed in detail by Anna Klonowski
    o These two officers were gagged within compromise agreements
    o These two officers received clean bills of health, enabling them to pick up highly-paid jobs in the future
    o The details of their abuse and the circumstances of their departure became concealed and protected because a club now hovered over their heads, waiting to fall on them if they breached UK law by revealing details of their departures
    o UK law concealed, protected and enabled future abuse against disabled people
    o Judge Hughes placed the data privacy of two abusers AHEAD of the wellbeing of any number of disabled people – should the two serial abusers pick up a job in the future
    o Judge Hughes accepted an ICO officer’s version of events which stated that “The council made mistakes”. This was simply false and was not checked out or followed up by the court
    o Anna Klonowski NEVER stated that the council ‘made mistakes’. She stated that the council’s officers actions were deliberate as part of deep failures in governance
    o Judge Hughes stated that the fact the two officers left their employment the DAY BEFORE the release of the Anna Klonowski report was unremarkable. It didn’t look innocent to the Wirral public
    o The ICO stated that the names of the two officers were available to the public, but chose to carry on protecting and anonymising their identities. A failure which was compounded in the court decision by Judge Hughes

    • The judiciary in this country are independent, but not everyone agrees with the conclusions they reach. The FOI decision only relates to releasing information to the public, not to councillors. As pointed out last night in order to do their role they receive information in confidence for example that at an employee’s appeal against dismissal or grievance hearing.

      The Head of Paid Service/Chief Exec at the time was Jim Wilkie, who you’d assume would know a little about why the two officers left in the manner they did. However as he retired early, it’s unlikely the public will ever really know what happened.

      Do you have a link to the full judgement of the first tier tribunal?

  3. […] to an exemption under section 30 of the Freedom of Information Act”, which considering the Chief Executive’s statement at the same meeting that information relating to the departure of two Department of Adult Social Services officers […]


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