Disclosure of 46 pages of PFI contractor’s banking details by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service described as “oversight”
The author of this piece is an Appellant in a First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) case involving Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.
Today, the eighteen councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority met. One of the decisions they agreed was a constitution which includes the following (Members means councillors), “Members should avoid public criticism of individual Officers, as it is unfair and oppressive.”
Last year during the 2014/15 audit, I requested the North West Fire and Rescue PFI contract. This is the PFI contract with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority for the Belle Vale, Birkenhead, Bootle/Netherton, Formby, Kirkdale, Newton-le-Willows and Southport fire stations on Merseyside as well as fire stations in Lancashire and Cumbria.
When it was published on this blog in October 2015, a former press officer working for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Lyndsay Young phoned me asking me to remove the contract from my blog. I explained why I wasn’t going to do so and alerted her to the 46 pages of bank account mandates and specimen signatures that I had not published.
Last week Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s Audit Sub-Committee met and discussed the Corporate Risk Register which included the risk of data loss and the possibility of regulatory action by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). I requested a press officer be present for this meeting so I could ask for a quote from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service about its disclosure of this information. This request was denied.
After Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan’s glowing comments at that meeting about the efforts Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service had taken to prevent data loss at the Audit Sub-Committee meeting, I emailed the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Services’ auditors Grant Thornton alerting them to this and also asked the contractor Balfour Beatty for a quote.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s position changed from their original “no comment” to an email requesting that the information be destroyed or returned (offering to pay any costs of doing so).
Louise McCulloch, Head of Media & PR for Balfour Beatty kindly gave us the following quote, “Last year, information relating to [the] North West Fire and Rescue (NWFR) [contract] in which Balfour Beatty has an interest, was inadvertently shared with an individual as part of a response to their request to the Fire and Rescue Authority under s 15(1)(a) of the Audit Commission Act 1998.
The Authority made NWFR fully aware of the oversight immediately. NWFR has taken the necessary steps to ensure no adverse impact.
NWFR has asked the Authority to request the individual destroy or return the information which has no public interest, which Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service has done.”
The 46 pages of disclosed information contain details of sort codes, account numbers, specimen signatures and names of those authorised to use various Barclays Corporate bank accounts connected to the PFI fire stations project run by Balfour Beatty.
Clearly this information should not have been disclosed to me, but it is worrying that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service seemed to only realise this had happened after I told them first in October 2015 and again in June 2016!
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REVEALED: Minutes of the "secret" public meeting that privatised 7 of Merseyside’s fire stations
REVEALED: Minutes of the “secret” public meeting that privatised 7 of Merseyside’s fire stations
A long time ago, in a county far,
It is a period of strife.
The rebel Conservative
and Lib Dem parties,
have won their first General
Election victory against
the Labour government.
During the battle, rebel
parties managed to steal secret
plans to the Labour government’s
ultimate weapon, private finance
initiatives, a financial device
with enough power to
cause mass privatisation.
Pursued by no one,
John Brace races home aboard a train,
with the secret plans that show
the Merseyside people which Labour
councillors signed up to this.
So for the first time, in an exclusive for this blog here are partial minutes of that meeting when councillors agreed to a massive PFI contract for many of Merseyside’s fire stations (Belle Vale, Birkenhead, Bootle & Netherton, Formby, Kirkdale, Newton Le Willows & Southport). Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority would pay the PFI contractor not just for rebuilding these fire stations, but for running these fire stations for many years after. The payments to the contractors made by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority increase each year under a formula linked to the rise in the Retail Price Index. The contracts that councillors agreed to at the meeting below make up the first three boxes on the left of the photo below.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
This report contains EXEMPT information by virtue of paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972
MERSEYSIDE FIRE AND RESCUE AUTHORITY
21st September 2010
PRESENT: Councillors Tony Newman (Chair), Jimmy Mahon, Dave Hanratty, Sharon Sullivan, Les Byrom, Colin Strickland, Robbie Ayres, Barbara Murray, Ted Grannell, Denise Roberts, Linda Maloney, Lesley Rennie, Gerry Ellis, Martyn Barber, Steve Niblock and Eddie Clein.
Apologies for absence were received from: Councillors Jimmy Kendrick and Andrew Blackburn Independent Member Keith Pickup
1. Preliminary Matters
The Authority considered if there were any declarations of interest, matters of urgency or items that may require the exclusion of the press and public because of the possibility of the disclosure of exempt information.
(a) The following declarations of interest were made in relation to items of business on the agenda:
Councillors Linda Maloney and Robbie Ayres declared an interest in Agenda Item 3 – CFO/138/10 – PFI Project Final Sign Off, as they both sit on St Helens Council Planning Committee.
Councillor Mahon also declared an interest to this item as he sits on Sefton Council’s Planning Committee.
The minutes of the previous meeting of the Authority, held on 24th June 2010 were approved as a correct record and signed accordingly by the Chair.
3. PFI Project Presentation
It was requested by the Assistant Chief Executive & Treasurer that Mr Skarratts – Fire Brigades Union representative be permitted to stay for the presentation and discussion of this item.
The Assistant Chief Executive and Treasurer and Mr. Schofield – PFI Project Manager gave a Power Point presentation to the Authority explaining the history of the Project from conception to the current day.
During the presentation Members were asked if they had a preference when building work was to commence as the building trade closes down for two weeks over the Christmas period.
(a) Members had no preference when the building work was to commence as it would seem pointless to start work mid December then to close it down again.
(b) Noted that Balfour Beatty had confirmed they would do their utmost to drive the work forward to catch up and meet the deadline.
4. PFI Project Final Sign Off
This Minute is EXEMPT under paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972.
Members considered Report CFO/138/10 of the Assistant Chief Executive & Treasurer concerning the Final Sign Off of the North West Fire & Rescue Services Private Finance Initiative Project.
(a) The Final Business Case be noted and endorsed, and its submission to CLG be approved;
(b) Arrangements for the North West Fire & Rescue Services PFI Project be approved on the basis of the financial terms and general principles contained within the report;
(c) The execution of the following documents (collectively known as “the Agreements”) be authorised:
The Project Agreement and its Schedules, being the principal agreement to be entered into between the Authority, Cumbria County Council and Lancashire Combined Fire Authorities (“the Authorities”) and Balfour Beatty Fire and Rescue NW Limited (“Project Co.”);
The Direct Agreement, being the agreement entered into between the Authorities, Nord LB and Dexia (“the Funders”) and Project Co. (“the Direct Agreement”);
The Collateral Agreements to be entered into between the parties set out below:
– The Authorities, Mansell Construction Services and Project Co.;
– The Authorities, Border Construction and Project Co.;
– The Authorities, Balfour Beatty Workplace and Project Co.;
– The Authorities, Blue Sky Architects and Project Co.;
– The Authorities, and any other principal building sub-contractors or relevant members of the professional team; and
– Any other Collateral Agreements required under the terms of the Project Agreement.
The Independent Certifier Deed of Appointment to be entered into between the Authorities, Project Co., the Funders and Gleeds;
The Co-operation Agreement being the agreement being entered into between (1) the Authority, (2) Cumbria County Council, and (3) Lancashire Combined Fire Authority in relation to the relationship between the Authorities for the duration of the Project (“the Co-operation Agreement”); and
Any other agreements, certificates, acknowledgements, waivers, notices, letters or other documents incidental to the documents listed above or otherwise necessary or desirable in connection with the Project.
(d) The Assistant Chief Executive & Treasurer (Kieran Timmins), or in his absence, the Director of Finance (Ian Cummins), be authorised to certify that the following contracts are intra vires in accordance with the Local Government (Contracts) Act 1997:
the Project Agreement and its Schedules; and
the Direct Agreement
(e) the Chief Executive & Chief Fire Office (Anthony McGuirk) or the Deputy Chief Executive & Deputy Chief Fire Officer (Michael Hagan) or the Assistant Chief Fire Office (Daniel Stephens) or the Assistant Chief Executive & Treasurer (Kieran Timmins) or the Director of Legal Services and Monitoring Office (Janet Henshaw) or the Deputy Clerk (Sarah Bourne) be authorised to execute the Agreements under seal on behalf of the Authority and agree that their execution of the Agreements should conclusively demonstrate approval by the Authority of the Agreements in their final form;
(f) the Chief Executive & Chief Fire Officer (Anthony McGuirk) or the Deputy Chief Executive & Deputy Chief Fire Officer (Michael Hagen) or the Assistant Chief Fire Officer (Daniel Stephens) or the Assistant Chief Executive & Treasurer (Kieran Timmins) or the Director of Legal Services and Monitoring Office (Janet Henshaw) or the Deputy Clerk (Sarah Bourne) (“the Relevant Officers”) as appropriate be authorised to take all necessary action in connection with the agreements, in consultation with Dickinson Dees LLP, the Authority’s legal advisers in relation to this Project; and in consultation with the Chairman of the Authority, or in his absence, the Deputy Chairman of the Authority;
(g) the Authority will indemnify any of the Relevant Officers in respect of any claims and costs relating to the contract arragements, provided that the Relevant Officer has acted reasonably and within the ordinary course of their duties.
(h) the Authority request the PFI Project Team to monitor the use of local economy and report back.
(i) Members placed their appreciation on record to the PFI Project Team for seeing the project through for the Authority.
(j) the Chief Executive & Chief Fire Officer placed his thanks on behalf of Officers to the Authority for supporting the PFI Project.
(k) noted that Kensington Fire Station was now complete; and
(l) requested information regarding Toxteth Community Hubs to be circulated to Members.