I think it is better to provide a chronology at this stage as to how this part of the request went (references are to this part of the request).
29th March 2013 FOI request made. 29th April 2013 Internal review requested due to lack of reply. 30th April 2013 Internal review sent by Wirral Council. Request refused on cost grounds (section 12), but offer made to send minutes of Safeguarding Reference Group. 30th April 2013 Clarification over meaning of request sent/internal review as response on 30th April 2013 was first response. 30th July 2013 Internal review changes reason from cost grounds (section 12) to vexatious or repeated request (section 14). 14th August 2013 Decision appealed to Information Commissioner’s Office. 19th June 2014 Wirral Council amends reason for refusal from vexatious or repeated request (section 14) to cost grounds (section 12). 8th September 2014 ICO issue decision notice FS50509081. Decision notice overturns cost grounds (section 12) reason, finds Wirral Council failed to provide advice and assistance (section 16) and hasn’t responded to request within 20 days (section 10(1)). Wirral Council given 35 days to provide information or different reason. 4th November 2014 FOI request for minutes of Safeguarding Reference Group refused on section 40 (personal data) grounds. 12th November 2014 Internal review of 4th November 2014 decision requested. 30th April 2015 After ICO intervention Wirral Council replies. Wirral Council refuses internal review on section 14 (vexatious or repeated request) grounds. Unknown date Decision appealed to ICO. 29th July 2015 ICO issued second decision notice (FS50569254). Decision notice overturns section 14 (vexatious or repeated request) reason for all of request except adoption/fostering panel part. Finds Wirral Council have breached section 10 (again). 3rd September 2015 Wirral Council respond to decision notice FS50569254. Minutes of Safeguarding Reference Group now refused on section 36 (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) and section 40 (personal data). 7th September 2015 Decision appealed to Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). 11th January 2016 Wirral Council supply minutes of Safeguarding Reference Group held on 19th April 2011.
Wouldn’t it have just been easier (as they made the offer to send the minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group in April 2013) to supply these minutes then? How much officer time was wasted in refusing six pages of minutes on a committee that 7 councillors sat on and at least 5 senior managers (although one wasn’t present for the meeting).
Three of the 7 councillors present are no longer councillors and at least three of the senior managers have either gone into early retirement or left Wirral Council.
There are 4 parts in the six pages of minutes where names have been blacked out. Did it really take 2 years, 9 months and nearly a fortnight to do this?
What was the point in spending over 2 years and 9 months refusing this request? The minutes they’ve supplied refer to a further meeting on the 20th July 2011 so although this is welcome, they may not be the right ones! I requested the minutes of the meeting immediately before my request on the 29th March 2013. Is the implication that the incoming minority Labour administration in 2011 scrapped the Safeguarding Reference Group (which was re-established on the 15th December 2014)? I’m not sure!
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A Town Hall Mystery: The Riddle of £32,074.98 spent on legal advice for employee who had already retired
The mysteries of Wirral Council’s legal invoices deepen and leave me scratching my head trying to unlock their puzzles. Two pages are particularly perplexing to me, so maybe one of my readers could help enlighten me with an illuminating comment or two?
The puzzle comes first in the form of this invoice for £28,422.44 from Eversheds for “Advice on governance and employment issues” and “Professional fees in conjunction with advising you on the above matter Period of Invoice 11 June 2012 to 31 July 2012 Your ref: Jim Wilkie”
How could they be advising Jim Wilkie on governance and employment issues as he no longer worked for Wirral Council? He’d retired!
Then as many readers of this blog know, Graham Burgess became Chief Executive/Head of Paid Service of Wirral Council on July 16th starting full-time in the September of that year.
However there’s a further invoice from Eversheds this time for £3,652.54 for the period 4th December to 28th December 2012 for “advice on governance and employment issues” and “Professional fees in connection with advising you on the above matter” again with a reference of “Jim Wilkie”.
This still leaves the question of who Frances Woodhead of Eversheds thought she was advising on governance and employment issues over the period of the first invoice? Based on the dates it can’t have been Jim Wilkie (as he’d retired days before the period covered by the invoice) and it can’t have been Graham Burgess as he was only made Chief Executive in the last two weeks of the seven week period covered by the invoice). So who was it that needed such expensive advice costing over £28,000?
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Letter to Cllr Steve Foulkes and Jim Wilkie from Local Government Association 11/11/2011 from Dr Gill Taylor of the Local Government Association
UPDATED: 14th April 2015
The second paragraph of page 1 of this letter contains the sentence:
"The Whistleblower, who had been dismissed by the authority, had made allegations against the backdrop of long standing concerns about Adult Social Care but also the wider corporate governance issues around the authority’s failure to recognise or act on information which it had received over a number of years."
"The Whistleblower" is Mr Martin Morton and he was not dismissed by Wirral Council. A compromise agreement was agreed between Mr Martin Morton and his former employer Wirral Council which ended his employment.
The Local Government Association have apologised to Mr Morton for incorrectly stating in their letter below that he was dismissed. They now realise this sentence in their letter was inaccurate and have asked for this amendment to be published here.
A report on what was discussed at Wirral Council’s Cabinet meeting held on the 14th October 2010 | Gritting routes | Sail project | IT tender | Social Services and the Care Quality Commission | House building | Apprentices | Blogs
Cabinet meeting (Wirral Council) 14th October 2010