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Posted by: John Brace | 22nd June 2016

What did Surjit Tour answer to questions about a Freedom of Information request to Wirral Council at the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) hearing (EA/2016/0033) (continued)?

What did Surjit Tour answer to questions about a Freedom of Information request to Wirral Council at the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) hearing (EA/2016/0033) (continued)?

                                                       

At the outset I will make four declarations of interests.

1) I am the Appellant in this case (EA/2016/0033).
2) My wife was my McKenzie Friend in case EA/2016/0033.
3) I made the original Freedom of Information request on the 29th March 2013.
4) I am referred to by name (Mr. Brace) in paragraphs 1, 4 and 5 of the witness statement of Andrew Roberts.


Hearing: EA/2016/0033
Court/Room: Tribunal Room 5, 3rd Floor
Address: 35 Vernon St, Liverpool, Merseyside L2 2BX
Date/time: 16th June 2016 10:15 am

First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) (General Regulatory Chamber)
First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC
First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake
First-tier Tribunal Member Dr. Malcolm Clarke

Appellant: Mr John Brace
First Respondent: ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office)
Second Respondent: Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council


The below is an incomplete record written up from my handwritten notes made at the hearing. The below does not cover some of the sections when I am speaking due to the difficulties in taking notes as doing that you end up facing the paper you’re writing on.


Continues from What did Andrew Roberts answer to questions about the Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee at the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) hearing (EA/2016/0033) (continued)?

Surjit Tour’s 11 A4 page witness statement can be read here.


Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016

Mr. Surjit Tour (the second witness for the Second Respondent Wirral Council) took the witness stand to face first questions from Wirral Council‘s barrister Robin Hopkins. He (Mr. Surjit Tour) was not sworn in.

Robin Hopkins gave him an opportunity to introduce himself.

Surjit Tour described himself as Head of Legal & Member Services and Monitoring Officer [for the Second Respondent Wirral Council].

Robin Hopkins referred him to the final copy of his [Surjit Tour’s] witness statement.

Robin Hopkins referred to his [Surjit Tour‘s] reasons for redacting parts of item 15 [Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee] and referred to page 225 (see image below) [Record of the qualified person’s opinion] in the bundle which was a record of the information and that he would be going through the process of making this recommendation.

EA 2016 0033 First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) GRC John Brace and Information Commissioner and Wirral Council page 225 Record of the qualified person's opinion

EA 2016 0033 First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) GRC John Brace and Information Commissioner and Wirral Council page 225 Record of the qualified person’s opinion

He asked Mr. Surjit Tour had he given this opinion?

Surjit Tour answered yes.

Robin Hopkins referred to items 1, 2 and 3. Below that it addressed separate to the other two as item 1 as document 15?

Surjit Tour answered yes.

Robin Hopkins referred to pages 226, 227 and 228 and specifically to his [Surjit Tour’s] reference to counter arguments, page 229 was his thinking and page 230. That was his [Surjit Tour’s] opinion which was made on the 31st October 2014?

Robin Hopkins said something else at this point and the First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC asked him [Robin Hopkins] to keep his voice up.



Surjit Tour referred in his answer that in preparation for the Tribunal hearing, he had gone over item 15 [Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee minutes] on a paragraph by paragraph basis, whereas in 2014 his [section 36] decision had applied to the whole document.

In a further answer he [Surjit Tour] answered that the decision was rational on the original date [it was made in 2014] and was still valid. However he wanted to refine that as a result of the inquiry and look at the detail of the document, part of which was put out.

First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC referred that it may have been practical [from Wirral Council’s point of view] but he disliked it. By disclosing the information he [First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC] realised that in doing so they [Wirral Council] were being pragmatic.

Surjit Tour answered the point.

First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC asked if there were any questions from the other two First-tier Tribunal Members?

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake said he had a follow-up question. He referred to Surjit Tour’s job as Head of Legal and Member Services. He said that documents would be prepared for Surjit Tour to agree and supervise with him having final sign off. First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked a point to which the answer Surjit Tour gave was part 2.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked if the Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee was one of those bodies that was appointed?

Surjit Tour answered yes.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked a further question to which the answer was yes.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked a further question about the JCC [Joint Consultative Committee].

Surjit Tour answered that it isn’t.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked if it was a meeting that meets in private, as opposed to a public meeting that was meeting in private after excluding the public?

Surjit Tour answered that it was a private meeting, not one covered by the Access to Information Rules, such as a public meeting held in exempt session.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked what was Surjit Tour’s understanding of confidentiality?

Surjit Tour answered him with a further question clarifying that he meant about the JCC [Joint Consultative Committee]?

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake confirmed that he did.

Surjit Tour replied that he attended his Directorate’s JCC [Joint Consultative Committee]. He didn’t choose the subject of subject matter. There were a variety of subjects at the Directorate’s JCC but the same principles applied. It was a forum of opportunity.

First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC asked if it was to Chatham House Rules?

Surjit Tour answered that it was a clear framework to oversee against. What mattered was it was a clear opportunity for the two to meet in dialogue about issues. It was candid and open communication, staff related that got to the nub of the issue and quickly. The platform was quite helpful and in order to resolve matters they had to move forward.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked Surjit Tour that in his role as Monitoring Officer did he have contact with councillors?

Surjit Tour answered yes.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked Surjit Tour what the expectation of councillors were?

Surjit Tour answered that the expectation was to see an opportunity to hear first hand the views and opinions of those in attendance on a range of issues. Primarily to listen but at the same time an opportunity to candidly discuss as much as they can.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked if would be fair to say it was at the political centre?

Surjit Tour answered that that was an inevitable element. The purpose was that issues were presented with an opportunity to hear first hand.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake referred to the two groups of professionals, management and politicians. Management and councillors is the broad definition he asked?

Surjit Tour answered yes.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked that when the request came in the minutes had not been signed off and were in draft form. The minutes that Surjit Tour decided on a year later, were they the final minutes in the area and does [Surjit Tour] know they are the same?

Surjit Tour answered that his understand was he had had all relevant information. He said that he does seek information if relevant.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake said that at the time of the request [29th March 2013] the minutes had not been signed off. By the time Surjit Tour was looking again [31st October 2014] they had been signed off. Was it the other set [of minutes] on which he gave his [section 36] opinion [in 2014]?

Surjit Tour said that he did understand and reassured him [First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake] that both documents were the same. His expectation was that all versions [of the minutes], including previous drafts and other variations he would have expected to see as part of the papers.

First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked if it would’ve been sensible to use the draft minutes?

Surjit Tour said it was dependent on the content or rather the final accuracy.

First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC pointed out that these were not fresh topics.




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Responses

  1. G’day John

    Talking of Sir Git he might have some more work today after getting under Ecca’s desk and having a chat with the invisible (to the public) CEO.

    “Highbrow” wrote to the dclg because the clowncil paid for Wirral “Funny” Bizz to tender for the European dosh.

    Such a kind lot. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    Dear Anna Canning,

    I acknowledge the receipt of the ubiquitous s36 defence.

    I will ask you another question here rather than launch another FOI,
    concerning the content of the report. After a further two months of course
    I will ask again for the report given that by then you would have been in
    possession of the reply of Wirral Borough Council for 14 months.

    My present query is, does Mr A Walker in his report mention the allegation
    that the delivery partner, Wirral Borough Council, probably broke EU
    procurement rules by paying for the work undertaken by wirralbiz in its
    tender process? This has been reported by myself to Europe directly
    providing the same evidence that I gave to Wirral Borough council itself.
    WBC response was that the invoices , some £9,000, had no backing sheets
    to determine what work had been done. It had seemed to me that given the
    compelling evidence that I had provided WBC tht they preferred the defence
    that they paid invoices without knowing for what they were paying rather
    than admit they broke EU procurement rules that might lead to civil
    actions by the other bidders , and indeed a substantial clawback by
    Europe.

    Please then can you answer whether the DCLG report alludes to this
    allegation?

    If it does not please provide me with an email address to forward the
    compelling evidence.

    Yours sincerely,

    nigel hobro

    Ooroo

    James

    They are rotten rotten rotten John

    • Well at least Wirral Council’s application of section 36 is challenged (repeatedly) by ICO decision notices and that hearing last Thursday.

      Although I’m sure a lot of people just give up instead of challenging decisions.

      I think the view in FOI circles is that s.36 is a reason to refuse of last resort.

      Hopefully the Tribunal decision in EA/2016/0033 (which I should get in the next 3 weeks) will provide further clarity on when s.36 decisions should/shouldn’t be made (or at least in that particular matter).

  2. G’day John

    Do you reckon that all those senior officers and 65 clowncillors really believe that three invoices didn’t have backing sheets.

    How many times do they have to be told that “Highbrow” has more evidence that you could jump over.

    Ecca why don’t you tell the stinking rotten liars to fess up.

    Ecca “Highbrow” has all the E V I D E N C E.

    You can deny it all as you take your £170,000.00 and be as low as “Ankles”.

    Ooroo

    James

    I bet they don’t have backing sheets now, I wonder if “Highbrow” does on his copies???????????????????????

    • Well there are two possibilities aren’t there.

      Either the contractor didn’t send Wirral Council backing sheets for the invoices or when Wirral Council scanned the invoices onto its electronic records management software (but that would depend on the year you’re referring to here is that after 2009?) the Wirral Council employee scanned the invoices, but not the backing sheets. Then presumably the original paper documents were destroyed.

      Even if Wirral Council lost the backing sheets, I think the contract (albeit there’s a dispute over it being signed) allows for them to go the contractor and inspect/copy their invoice/backing sheets. But oops as so many years have passed isn’t the contractor not trading?

      In fact as the contractor was doing work on Wirral Council’s behalf, the FOI request could be made to the contractor (albeit they would pass it on to Wirral Council) for the contractor’s copy of the backing sheets as Wirral Council seems to have either destroyed it, lost it, never had it or not know where to find it if they do have it!

  3. G’day John

    Referendum Day

    I am going to vote out to even it up a wee bit.

    Can you imagine the chaos if a miracle happened and the out vote won.

    They would have no idea what to do after years of being scallies.

    How could wirral dupe Europe?

    How could they cope being honest?

    The mind boggles.

    Honest accounting and auditing might have to return.

    Ooroo

    James

    Happy voting!

  4. G’day John

    So one presumes that all local politicians were losers in the vote?

    We will never find out because schtumm is their speciality subject.

    Especially in defending criminals.

    Ooroo

    James

    Stuart will always be a winner in my eyes.

    • No, not all, the Rt Hon Frank Field MP was on the Remain side.

      Paul Nuttall (UKIP MEP for the North West), Louise Bours (UKIP MEP for the North West), Steven Woolfe (UKIP MEP for the North West) were also on the Remain side.

      Or by "local politician" did you mean local councillors on Wirral Council?

      Some councillors were on the Leave side, others for Remain.


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