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Posted by: John Brace | 7th January 2016

Incredible: FOI reveals “the Council are seeking to draw a line under matters in relation to Mr Morton”

Incredible: FOI reveals “the Council are seeking to draw a line under matters in relation to Mr Morton”

                                                       

Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee  Wirral Council  3rd November 2014   L to R Legal adviser who was missing Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Chair), Clare Fish and Graham Hodkinson

Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee Wirral Council 3rd November 2014 L to R Legal adviser who was missing Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Chair), Clare Fish and Graham Hodkinson

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations” (George Orwell)
 

There are many areas of journalism the public sector wished I hadn’t written about. For example claiming an email from Graham Burgess inviting some councillors to the Open Golf Championship was fraudulent, then 5 minutes later executing a screeching U-turn.

Or as Mr. Tour put it before the U-turn, “This is clearly a serious matter and I formally request that you immediately remove the email and the associated commentary concerning this subject matter from your blog.” Yes it seems even Mr. Tour can get quite cross!

The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service press office repeatedly phoned asking me to remove this multi-million pound PFI contract. Merseytravel’s press office were horrified at my reporting of their Head of Internal Audit stating at a public meeting that some whistleblowing was “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”.

And of course after the story INCREDIBLE: £2,877.35 spent by Wirral Council last year in previously hidden payments on taxis for Labour councillors! Wirral Council decided to just downright ignore my FOI requests.

This is the public sector, I’m writing news that falls within the George Orwell quote above, news that from a public relations perspective “they” don’t want the public to know.

I think if I could be paid off with a generous pension and a large six-figure redundancy payment and a confidentiality agreement, they’d have tried it by now!

So it’s time for some more public interest journalism. Something that falls within the George Orwell quote above.

This is an email which sums Wirral Council up, but I’d better explain. Emma Degg was the head of the press office, Surjit refers to Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer/Head of their Legal Department), Joe Blott has responsibility for industrial relations and is Surjit Tour’s line manager, Graham Burgess was Chief Executive and Joe Blott’s line manager.

Graham Hodkinson is in charge of Adult Social Services (you can read the war of words between him and Cllr Blakleley over Girtrell Court elsewhere in the press) and Rob Vickers, well I don’t like to spoil the surprise (but he’s not the famous rugby player of the same name).

This response to a FOI request was made through whatdotheyknow.com, but Wirral Council felt the information was so embarrassing that they didn’t want it published there.

So here it is, it falls within the George Orwell quote above, it’s something that someone else does not want printed here. Enjoy! Strangely Mr. Hodkinson doesn’t take on board Emma Degg’s advice about oversight and scrutiny, but have a read for yourself. You can read the Anna Klonowski Associates report on Wirral Council’s website and the appendices to the AKA report on this blog (they were never published by Wirral Council). However in order to understand the report please also read the key which shows that Service Provider 3 (referred to below) was Salisbury Independent Living (SIL) who sued Wirral Council for £3 million.


From: Vickers, Rob
Sent: 18 June 2013 08:09
To: Hodkinson, Graham R.
Subject: FW: Financial Liability

Hi Graham, I have now discussed this matter with Emma Degg, still no response from Surjit, Emma has advised that we should respond to Mr Morton as we would respond to anyone else and that our reply should be concise and cover the following – thank him for his Email, note his continuing oversight and scrutiny of the matters referenced and reinforce that the matter is subject to due process. The response should be in letter form and we should share letter with Joe Blott and Graham Burgess, due to wider matters relating to Mr Morton – the Council are seeking to draw a line under matters in relation to Mr Morton. Given the advice the letter would be as follows –

Dear Mr Morton

I write to acknowledge receipt of your Email dated 5th June 2013 and note your continued oversight and scrutiny of the matters you referenced allied to the AKA Report and specifically Service Provider 3. I can confirm that these matters are subject to due process and that we are seeking to bring matters to a conclusion.

Yours Sincerely

Robert Vickers

Graham, such a response is blunt but captures the advice provided, what do you think.

Rob



From: Hodkinson, Graham R.
Sent: 18 June 2013 12:52
To: Vickers, Rob
Subject: RE: Financial Liability

I would refer to continued interest as a citizen rather than scrutiny/oversight as below :

Dear Mr Morton

I write to acknowledge receipt of your Email dated 5th June 2013. Thank you for taking the time to write, setting out your views in relation to matters relating to a former care provider. I note your continued interest as a concerned citizen into the matters you referenced allied to the AKA Report and specifically Service Provider 3. I can confirm at this stage that these matters are subject to due process and that we are seeking to bring matters to a conclusion.

Yours Sincerely

Robert Vickers

Graham Hodkinson
Director of Adult Social Services
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Responses

  1. Mr Tour is like our own Keith Vaz. A wonderful asset to the community, and to the public interest, with seemingly only one expression.

    • I received a book from a kind reader over Christmas called “Not in the Public Interest”. I even thought of renaming the blog to that title!

      However I think you’re too harsh on Mr. Tour. There he is working hard, giving legal advice to politicians and senior officers.

      And what do they do? Ignore poor Mr. Tour, go ahead anyway with a reckless disregard for the legal position and then get themselves in hot water!

      He has a thankless job!

  2. Hi John

    I just need to confirm that I forwarded the information that was sent to me by Wirral Council because of your interest in all things FOIA.
    I did not ask you to put this story on your blog and you did so of your own volition and without my knowledge.This is most definitely not a complaint but merely a means to refute any suggestion that I am in collusion with you or anyone.
    However can I just say that if Wirral Council are seeking to draw a line under matters in relation to Mr Morton they are going the wrong way about it.

    Regards,Martin Morton

    • As you have your own blog, there’d be no need to ask me to write a story on mine.

      The reason I wrote this story was to show how Wirral Council saw dealing with the issues you raised as a PR/legal/former employee problem rather than having to deal with the issues raised and sort them out.

      Here’s my advice to Wirral Council on whistleblowing (which I will offer free of charge):

      Deal with whistleblowing in an honest and timely manner and trying to sort out the underlying problems that led to it and you will be applauded for taking this approach.

      Deal with whistleblowing as a PR problem or paying people to keep their mouths shut and you will be criticised!


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