What was in Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s 2 page response to the FOI consultation?

What was in Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s 2 page response to the FOI consultation? Next is the response to the FOI consultation from the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. Again I’ll declare an interest as I’m alluded to in their response (in fact my profession is named) and my appeal to the Information Commissioners … Continue reading “What was in Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s 2 page response to the FOI consultation?”

What was in Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s 2 page response to the FOI consultation?

ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo
ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

Next is the response to the FOI consultation from the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.

Again I’ll declare an interest as I’m alluded to in their response (in fact my profession is named) and my appeal to the Information Commissioners Office last year is explicitly referred to in a report going to councillors next week.

Now by their own figures, responding to all the FOI requests over the whole of last year (2015) used up the equivalent of ~0.375 of a full-time employee.

From what I remember, this means that they allocate more resources to their press office than FOI.

Staff wide Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service had last year an estimated 700 firefighters and I’d estimate 300 staff that aren’t firefighters (of course this is directly employed staff, not staff employed by contractors).

So 0.0375% of its staff budget (approx) is spent on answering FOI requests, the equivalent of around a third of a job of a full-time employee.

Personally if I was on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority I’d be more worried about the other ~999.625 jobs, but there you go! It’s nice to see that they have some nice things to say about journalists in their response though and a report on FOI request will be considered by councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority next Tuesday afternoon. The agenda for that meeting is here and the Wirral Council councillors on it are Cllr Lesley Rennie and Cllr Jean Stapleton.

Below is the MFRA [Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority] response to the FOI consultation, which you can compare to Liverpool City Council’s response.

Although it states it’s from the MFRA [Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority] by the way it’s written “The Service considers” one assumes that as with LCC’s response it’s been drafted by officers. Unlike the attitude taken by Liverpool City Council Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service state they are "supportive of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act".

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority

Freedom of Information Call for Evidence

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (MFRA) would like to make the following comments in relation to questions 3 and 6 of the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information Call for Evidence:

Question 3:What protection should there be for information which involves candid assessment of risk? For how long does such information remain sensitive?

The Service considers that there should be some protection for public authorities in relation to the release of risk registers. High level information about risks and mitigation is appropriate for release and many authorities will publish this as a matter of course. When a request is made for detailed risk registers relating to on-going projects or activities, this is much more difficult for this Service to deal with. It is vital when ensuring that public services are being delivered effectively, that all risk are considered and that staff feel able to “think the unthinkable”. Often these risks are mitigated, but they still remain in risk registers and are open to misinterpretation or being sensationalised. The Service would request that consideration be given to risk registers of this type only being release after the project is completed.
Equally releasing risk mitigation measures prior to the completion of the project may compromise the
measures themselves exposing services to additional risk.

Question 6: Is the burden imposed on public authorities under the Act justified by the public interest in the public’s right to know? Or are controls needed to reduce the burden of FoI on public authorities? If controls are justified, should these be targeted at the kinds of requests which impose a disproportionate burden on public authorities? What kinds of requests do impose a disproportionate burden?

The Service is supportive of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, and values its role in allowing people access to information and giving them the right to find out about matters and decisions that affect them. However, use of the Act has become increasingly popular and the volume of FoI requests has increased over the years. For example, the table below shows the increase in requests to MFRS since 2011:


FoI Requests received

FoI requests believed to be for commercial purposes (as far as can be established with the information available)

2011 72 Not recorded
2012 82 Not recorded
2013 101 Not recorded
2014 138 13
2015 131 17

Dealing with this increase in requests has had an impact on the Service which for Merseyside Fire Authority undoubtedly places increased pressure on relatively small teams. Over the last four years, the Fire and Rescue Authority has had to make savings of £20 million as a result of Government spending cuts. The Authority is required to make a further £6.3 million savings in 2015/16. It is also clear that the Authority will also face further significant cuts over the course of the next Parliament. The Authority has already made significant reductions in its support services and staffing, which means there are fewer staff available to service FoI requests. To save £6.3 million in 2015/16, the Authority has identified another £2.9 million to be cut from support services, further reducing capacity.

Whilst the Service respects the rights of citizens to ask for information that may affect their lives and communities and recognises the role that journalists may play in seeking out inefficiencies or poor practices in the public sector, there is a cost associated with that. The staff collecting, collating, checking, redacting and authorising release of the requested information all have other work to do. As a result, dealing with a FoI request is likely to take staff away from core business.

What the Service believes is particularly difficult to justify is the extent to which commercial organisations use FoI to request information to develop new business leads or seek a commercial advantage. The private sector is effectively using the diminishing resources of the public sector for free, when those resources could be put to better use and there is no return on that investment for the public sector.

What we would ask the Commission to consider is either, levying a charge for such requests, or the ability for an organisation to refuse the request where the applicant is not able to demonstrate that the request is in the public interest.
Even when requests could be considered to be in the public interest, for example in relation to a public consultation on the Service’s plans, the enthusiasm of some members of the public to seek more and more detailed information can place significant pressure on a small authority. Five requests from one person for similar but subtly different complex information in the space of one or two months does result in disproportionate effort. This is despite the fact that individually, the cost of meeting the requests would not be sufficient to justify refusal and the subtle differences between requests rule out treating them as vexatious. It is the cumulative effect that has the impact.

It is also difficult to treat requests as vexatious or indeed classify the work required as excessive without it being perceived by the requestor or indeed the public or press as defensive – so in effect services provide the information for fear of being perceived as less than transparent.

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service has been recording the time spent by all officers involved in processing all FoI requests since July 2015 (32 completed requests). Given it was already keen to understand and share the impact of such requests with the Authority and Government departments.

As such the total time spent since recording began has totalled 153 hours spread across a range of staff from administrators to the Chief Fire Officer. This equates to an average of 4.8 hours per request. If this was applied to the total number of requests received so far this year it would total 629 hours or 90 working days. With the lost time costs in the thousands.

This is resource that can be ill afforded during these times of austerity, so it is vital that the FoI requests processed are of valid public interest and not to further the profits of a commercial organisation.

The Service has welcomed the opportunity to contribute to this call for evidence and looks forward to the publication of the outcomes.

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks:

What was Liverpool City Council’s incredible 6 page response to the FOI consultation?

What was Liverpool City Council’s incredible 6 page response to the FOI consultation?


ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo
ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

You can tell a lot about the culture at a public body by its response and reaction to issues such as FOI and filming of public meetings.

I had better declare an interest as a FOI request I made to Liverpool City Council is currently being considered by ICO for a decision notice.

Considering there were over 30,000 responses to the recent consultation on changes to FOI legislation it’s something that attracts a lot of strong feeling.

I’m going to start first with Liverpool City Council’s response to the consultation. Those who know Liverpool City Council may say that their response sums up their attitude. From the tone of their response they don’t like openness and transparency and recommend that the goalposts are moved to prevent having to respond to so many FOI requests (whilst displaying a lack of awareness as to why they receive so many FOI requests in the first place). I think that responses like this are often like a window on an organisation’s soul.

It gives some telling insights on the internal review process of FOI requests at Liverpool City Council with comment such as “that an Internal Review is unlikely to reach a different conclusion”, therefore they propose abolishing internal reviews.

They also want advance notice of decision notices so that they can for want of a better word nobble ICO to change what they don’t like as in LCC’s world decision notices are described as “inappropriate”.

Liverpool City Council

Rt. Hon. Lord Burns
Chair – Commission on Freedom of Information Cabinet Office
9th Floor
102 Petty France London

Evidence Submission on review of Freedom of Information Legislation

I write further to my letter of 12 October and with regard to the Call for Evidence document issued by the Commission on Freedom of Information on 9 October, enclosing for the attention of the Commission the formal evidence submission of Liverpool City Council.

I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge receipt of this submission and would again take the opportunity to affirm our willingness to continue to engage constructively with the Commission during the course of its review.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course. Yours

Ged Fitzgerald
Chief Executive


These matters all have a starting point and undergo a number of iterations before coming forward as formal options. It is essential that this process should not be undermined by requests being made for copies of any emails or communications which formed part of the iterative process of decision making. Ultimately the governance framework ensures any decisions taken are informed and legal. This is a cornerstone of any effective public authority – from Central Government to local authorities – and it is essential that this ability to develop policy, proposals and explore options is maintained otherwise it would impair the quality and ability of public authorities to make informed decisions.

The application of this Exemption requires a person qualified under the Act to give their reasonable opinion, and guidance has been issued by the ICO as to the acceptable format of this. It is clear from the consultation document as well as practical experience that there is a need for such Exemption otherwise the quality of both record-keeping and decision-making by public authorities would be impaired.

Current guidance issued by the ICO (“the evidence required by the ICO would be to assess the quality of the Qualified Persons reasoning process and assist in their determination as to whether a substantive opinion could be considered reasonable…”) would appear to indicate that once the Qualified Person has reached and recorded their reasonable opinion then the ICO may only require the production of such a record but may not compel the disclosure of the information to which the Reasonable Opinion relates.

The key issue is that the Qualified Person’s opinion and record of reasoning which includes the public interest test is recorded. The ICO have produced a template for this purpose. The Information Commissioners Guidance also indicates that the potential prejudice claimed arising from any such disclosures must be at least or exceed a 50% chance of occurring.

How long after should that remain sensitive?
An additional key aspect of the decision-making process of public authorities is the duration of how long information which falls under the Exemption may be withheld from disclosure on the basis of the opinion of the Qualified Person. Information relating to ‘internal deliberations’ should remain capable of being withheld from disclosure for as long as the public authority considers necessary. Whether the information held continued to be subject to non-disclosure would of necessity be a matter for the relevant public authority to determine. It would be inappropriate to set any form of definitive time limit after which information could be deemed to no longer be sensitive if published. The sensitivity of any specific piece of information directly relates to the subject of the information itself as opposed to the date when this was created. There should be no limitation as to the period which a Qualified Person may determine that such information should not be disclosed if the subject of a formal request.

The City Council would also consider that opinions issued by Qualified Persons should not be subject to overturn if reached on a reasonable basis and in a manner consistent with ICO guidance and using their standard template. An alternative and more appropriate mechanism would be for any such opinions to be published on the website of the respective public authority and referenced accordingly within the publication scheme of that public authority. This would satisfy the accessibility and transparency requirements for such declarations and for the purposes of Liverpool City Council it is the Monitoring Officer.

An anomaly which the City Council would bring to the attention of the Commission is that of how the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) allow an exception (as opposed to the term ‘exemption as used under FOIA) for internal communications under Regulation 12(4) (d) and yet no parallel exemption is extant under FOIA.

Recommendations from Liverpool City Council –

(i) Qualified Person Opinion & Publication – that the Section 36 Exemption be revised to state that the reasonable opinion of the Qualified Person, once drafted and recorded on the relevant ICO template and published to the website of the public authority and referenced within the Publication Scheme, that this may not then be the subject of further review by the ICO.

Questions 2 – this question relates purely to matters within the legislation which are applicable only to Central Government and as such no response is proposed to be made.

Questions 3 & 4 see response to question 6 below.

Question 5 – What is the appropriate enforcement and appeal system for Freedom of Information Requests? What is the appropriate enforcement and appeal system for Freedom of Information Requests?

Appeals & Internal Review
Current legislation includes provision whereby public authorities must provide an internal review process whereby requestors may ask the Public Authority to review the original decision of the Public Authority on their specific request.

The burden placed on public authorities in preparing responses to initial requests is further exacerbated by the requirement to undertake an Internal Review to assess the validity of its response, when in the first instance such responses are issued following careful consideration of information held in the context of FOIA legislation. In terms of the figures set out in this response below, in 2014 of 2,139 requests a total of 49 requestors sought an Internal Review. Of these, only 5 appeals were the subject of Decision Notices from the ICO with only 1 of which requiring any form of action from the City Council – approximately 0.00047% of all requests processed by the City Council.

It is our position that our approach to an FOI request is robust and thorough from the outset, and that the legislation is applied by trained experienced staff so that an Internal Review is unlikely to reach a different conclusion as evidenced by these statistics.

Essentially public authorities are being asked to repeat an assessment when undertaking an Internal Review and to undertake work twice when conducting reviews, which is inefficient and places an excessive burden on local authorities.

ICO Review
We would draw attention to the process which the ICO then undertakes when seeking information from public authorities in such instances when informing their own decision-making. Frequently the level of information sought by the ICO goes beyond that of verifying the information held or application of the exemption concerned and indeed the subject matter of the original request. This process can be both resource intensive and give additional uncertainty in those circumstances where the ICO seeks information or reasoning beyond that which could reasonably be expected on a specific case. We would seek greater clarity as to the remit of the ICO in such circumstances and of the extent to which they may undertake a review.

Decision Notices
Additionally, in concluding reviews, the ICO will then issue a Notice (Decision or Enforcement Notice) setting out their decision on the request concerned. We would suggest that this process be reviewed and aligned more closely to that used by the Local Government Ombudsman whereby any Notices proposed to be issued should firstly be sent to the public authority concerned for response. This would provide a fair and reasonable opportunity for public authorities and the ICO to address any clear factual inaccuracies, assist in maximising the value of any recommendations contained within the final Notice issued and possibly prevent a costly First Tier Tribunal being convened. The timescale for responses by the Public Authority to any Decision Notice to be 10 working days. The inclusion of unsubstantiated and factually inaccurate statements within ICO Notices, issued without opportunity to the public authority of correction or rebuttal, is inappropriate and requires addressing.

Applications to First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights)
The final opportunity for requestors – if unsatisfied with the outcome of a review undertaken by the ICO – is to submit an Appeal to the First Tier Tribunal. There is no threshold to be met before such applications are made and, in seeking to respond, public authorities are required to expend significant resources in responding. Only on the most fundamental principles of information law should this facility be available or otherwise a cost mechanism for such applications should be introduced in the same manner adopted for applications for Judicial Review.

Recommendations from Liverpool City Council –

(ii) Internal Review – that this mechanism be withdrawn on the basis that this offers no practical benefit for requestors and merely requires the duplication of effort by public authorities.

(iii) ICO drafting of Decision Notices – a requirement be introduced whereby the ICO in drafting a Decision Notice and prior to publication, be required to formally consult the subject public authority and allowing not less than ten working days for issues to be raised by the public authority. Such issues if not accepted by the ICO must be recorded as having been raised by the public authority.

(iv) Applications to First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) – a threshold or application fee be introduced for applications to the First Tier Tribunal, in a similar manner to that used for applications for Judicial Review.

Question 6 – Burden imposed under the Act and whether justified by the public interest in the public’s right to know

Public authorities are subject to detailed requirements set out in the Local Government Acts to date requiring the publication of information and prescribing how this is to be made available to the public. In addition, the introduction of the Local Government Transparency Code as statutory guidance introduced additional publication requirements on public authorities regarding openness and transparency in local government, which represents additional obligations beyond that already seen. Combined these elements demonstrate the breadth of requirements already inherent on public authorities to make information publicly available.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (and parallel Environmental Information Regulations 2004) place additional substantial burdens on public authorities. In terms of the resources public authorities are required to commit to dealing with Freedom of Information requests, there are a number of key points to be made.

Burden on Public Authorities
Under Section 16 FOIA and Section 45 Code of Practice, all public authorities are already under an obligation to give advice and assistance to requestors both in terms of framing requests as well as giving advice to bring such requests within the cost ceiling as laid down within the legislation. The current ceiling set out in the legislation is 18 hours, which is high in terms of resource and cost implications.

Firstly, by way of example of the experience of Liverpool City Council, the number of requests received in 2010 (1,217 requests) to the number of requests received in 2014 (2,139) shows an increase of 922 or in percentages of approximately 76%, and an increase in costs of approximately £150K per annum. This increase can be set against a context whereby the City Council has seen the funding it receives from Central Government reduced by 58% during the same period, placing substantial pressures on the viability of the delivery of essential services for its residents.

In real terms and using the figure for the average costs incurred in responding to an FOI request as set out in the Consultation Document issued by the Independent Commission, of £164 per request, the cost of responding to FOI requests based solely on this is £350K per annum to Liverpool City Council alone.

This does not take into account more complex, technical and detailed requests which have to be dealt with and which cost substantially more. The Council’s response rate within 20 working days was 88% in 2014.

The City Council would draw to the Commission’s attention the fact that that the average cost per request it has included within its consultation document is based on calculations undertaken in 2008.

It is highly probable that a similar calculation conducted today would reach a substantially higher ‘cost per request’ figure.

Table 1. Number of request received by Liverpool City Council in 2010 and 2014 and associated costs



Month received


Month received



£164 per request


£164 per request


Vexatious Requests
The City Council welcomes the revised ICO guidance. However there needs to be additional clear guidance within that around the real public interest rather than the private interests of unelected individuals or concerted campaigns which are a drain on public resources. This type of requestor continues to rise in terms of complexity and their impact on available resources.

Based on the experience of Liverpool City Council and using the average cost idicated above, a small number of “frequent requesters” are costing a disproportionate amount of time and resources responding to their requests, of up to £7,000 per individual. This needs to be reflected and addressed within a substantive manner within any Guidance issued by the ICO.

There are also resource implications even associated with dealing with frivolous requests such as “what is the total number of red pens bought by the Council in the past year”. Even though this is classed as vexatious a formal response to that effect is still required to be issued, effectively occupying valuable resources.

A further burden associated with FOIA is that of the limited charging mechanisms available under the legislation, specifically, under FOIA public authorities may only charge where the time to deal with the request exceeds 18 hours in total.

The current 18 hours threshold (Section 12) is itself a significant demand on Council resources in that a request can take up to anything just below that timescale and no charge can be made. This in effect is up to and two and half days work . This threshold should be reviewed in the light of some of the research undertaken to date i.e. the average time taken to respond to an FOI request by public authorities of 6 hours and 10 minutes with a lower threshold being established.

In terms of the current charging regime associated with Freedom of Information legislation, again the experience of Liverpool City Council in responding to requests is that the art of redacting specific documents can be very time consuming and should be included within the costs permitted when determining whether complying with a request may exceed 18 hours.

In terms of charging the approach set out in the Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 (EIR) assumes information will be available to inspect ‘for free’ but if information is asked to be supplied in a different format a ‘reasonable’ charge may be made for that supply. Specifically, this charge may extend to the time spent by Officers in responding to the EIR request and supplying the information. This differs to the approach adopted in FOIA and should be made consistent.

The City Council would also draw attention to the difficulties caused by the two disclosure regimes operable in the form of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR). There is considerable overlap between requests which may be received under FOI but which, by virtue of the wide definition under EIR should be considered under that regime. The City Council would seek to encourage greater consistency between both regimes, through either a single consolidating Act or through amendments to both existing regimes to provide for a single common charging mechanism and consistency of the requirements for exemptions and exceptions.

Technical Issues

An additional technical issue which we would seek to highlight is that of an Exemption (Section 21 absolute, class based) which is applied in those instances where information is either already in the public domain or accessible by alternative means. The legislation still requires this to be issued with a supporting Section 17 Refusal Notice. The City Council considers that the application of this Exemption should not require the issue of a Refusal Notice as no information is being withheld given it is either already in the public domain or accessible by other means to which the requestor is then directed. The use of a Refusal Notice in such instances can give rise to an Internal Review which of its nature would only generate additional unnecessary burdens for public authorities.

Recommendations from Liverpool City Council –

(v) 18 Hour Rule – that a review of the 18 hour limit beyond which charging or refusal is permitted be undertaken and consideration given to reducing this threshold to either 6 or 7 hours.

(vi) Charging/Reasonable recovery of costs – public authorities be given greater opportunity to levy charges for compliance with requests to ensure the recovery of reasonable costs associated with fulfilling requests which would include the time taken to redact any documents. To align the charging policies for EIR and FOI.

(vii) Vexatious Requests –that Guidance issued by the ICO in relation to dealing with Vexatious requests be further reviewed and strengthened in respect of frequent and persistent requesters

(viii) FOIA and EIR Alignment of Regimes – that a concurrent review be undertaken of the FOIA and EIR to ensure greater alignment of both pieces of legislation or one consolidating Act.

(ix) Refusal Notices – the requirements for issue of Refusal Notices be reviewed to remove requirements to issue these in such instances where a Section 21 (information in public domain or reasonably accessible by other means) Exemption is applicable.

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks:

In response to a FOI request Wirral Council pulls a rabbit out of a hat and the invoice mysteriously disappears!

In response to a FOI request Wirral Council pulls a rabbit out of a hat and the invoice mysteriously disappears!


John Booth with white rabbit
John Booth with white rabbit

Above is a picture of a magician with the famous white rabbit out of a magician’s hat trick. First the hat is empty, then the magician makes the white rabbit appear out of nowhere.

Wirral Council seem to be wanting to pull a similar magic trick when it comes to this FOI request. Let’s just recap what Wirral Council have stated so far.

On the 21st April 2015 Wirral Council refused this FOI request for the fees notes (note plural) on the basis of legal professional privilege (you can read the full text of that refusal here).

On the 11th June 2015 Wirral Council at internal review refused this FOI request for the fees notes (note plural) on the basis of commercial interests (you can read the full text of that refusal here). At internal review Wirral Council stated "The original responder considered the contents of the fees notes".

On the 27th October the Information Commissioner’s Office issued decision notice FS50585536 which required Wirral Council to produce the fees notes within 35 days.

On the 24th November Wirral Council produced one of the two which you can read about in Why did Wirral Council spend £48,384 on a London-based barrister in benefits battle with landlord?

However yesterday Wirral Council decided to show us all a magic trick.

The fee note for the £2,700 invoice, which they have been claiming for the past nearly nine months has been carefully considered by its officers when refusing this request (twice) has conveniently and somewhat mysteriously vanished.

Yes like the reverse trick of the white rabbit appearing out of nowhere and just when it would be contempt of court not to produce it, it vanishes!

Of course the observant among you will have long witnessed the "magic and miracles" that goes on at Wirral Council by its employees.

ED: 1/12/15 9:49 Just for clarity, here is the invoice this refers to which quite clearly states "See fee note attached for description of work".

I will finish with this clip of Sir Humphrey Appleby from Yes, Prime Minister. Wirral Council’s responses to FOI requests will be discussed by councillors on Thursday evening, in response to this Lib Dem motion.

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.

What’s in the 370 page whistleblowing report on Wirral Council’s grants to businesses?

What’s in the 370 page whistleblowing report on Wirral Council’s grants to businesses?

What’s in the 370 page whistleblowing report on Wirral Council’s grants to businesses?


ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo
ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

The BIG/ISUS whistleblowing issues have been already covered in extensive detail by this blog over the past few years. However the latest twist in this story was yesterday’s release of a 370 page 2012 internal audit report into the matter following ICO decision notice FS50559883.

Wirral Council have finally released an internal audit report dated 13th January 2012 that went to Bill Norman (then Monitoring Officer/Director of Law, HR and Asset Management at Wirral Council). Those with long memories will remember that Bill Norman was suspended later that year over the Colas matter, then in September 2012 councillors agreed he should receive £146k plus £5k legal expenses to leave.

Back to the BIG/ISUS matters and let’s just quickly recap the blog posts I’ve written on the many aspects of this matter as they provide some background. I’m sure there are one or two I may have left out (I remember I republished some of my earlier blog posts which contained the agreements for BIG/ISUS in the lead up to the special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee last October).

So that’s a brief summary of developments so far? So what does the new information reveal? It’s a report by an auditor at Wirral Council which details the allegations the two whistleblowers made, the investigations into those allegations and the auditor’s opinion as to whether the whistleblowers were correct or not.

The executive summary runs from pages 9-16 and details the allegations made by the two whistleblowers and whether what was inspected during the investigation substantiated or refuted these claims. Pages 17-20 go through each of the allegations in detail as well as whether each allegation is correct or not and the implications that follow. Pages 21-45 are the main report which at the end contain 14 recommendations. Had some of these recommendations been implemented in 2012, some of the unanswered questions surrounding this matter would have been dealt with much earlier, such as the transfer of assets from Lockwood to Harbac.

At the special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee in October 2014, councillors, officers and those speaking at the public meeting were warned not to refer to names of companies, yet the release of this 2012 audit report only removes the names of Wirral Council employees (and former employees). These matters are now out in the open (which should’ve happened before the Audit and Risk Management Committee met last year). Had this 2012 internal audit report been made available to councillors before that meeting the discussion may have been very different.

However it only came to light because of a FOI (Freedom of Information) request made by one of the whistleblowers and even then only after the Information Commissioner’s Office intervened with a decision notice. Certainly the whistleblowers must both feel vindicated by the conclusions reached in this detailed 2012 internal audit report.

The Liberal Democrat Group of councillors on Wirral Council plus the Green Party Councillor Pat Cleary have tabled the following Notice of Motion for the next Council meeting on the 12th October 2015 on the subject of FOI requests. It reads as follows:


This Council recognises that the Information Commissioner’s Office, as the independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest and to promote openness by public bodies, upheld 13 complaints against Wirral Council in the past year.

Of the 18 notices issued between 29 September 2014 and 24 August 2015, the majority (72%) of complaints were upheld.

Council believes that this is a matter for concern, requiring an explanation to its Members.

Council requests that lessons should be learned and applied from these decisions and questions whether Officers have been excessively cautious or defensive in their interpretation of the legislation.

Council, therefore, requests that the legislation is approached with greater regard to the ‘public interest test’ so that the risk of further reputational damage to Wirral can be reduced.

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks:

FOI response details reasons why Fort Perch Rock car park charging plans were opposed

FOI response details reasons why Fort Perch Rock car park charging plans were opposed

FOI response details reasons why Fort Perch Rock car park charging plans were opposed


Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015

After the U-turn last month on car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park, New Brighton I made a Freedom of Information request for the objections made during the consultation period.

In addition to a petition of objection which when the consultation finished had 876 signatures but now has 4,010 signatures there were nineteen written objections which included a thirteen page letter sent on behalf of the Wilkie Leisure Group.

Objectors referred to pay and display parking in Hamilton Square, Birkenhead and the reduction in visitors once charges for parking had started. Many objectors thought that car parking charges would put people off from visiting New Brighton. Some objectors thought that what charging would be unlawful. Others felt that Wirral Council ordering the pay and display ticket machines before the consultation on the proposed traffic regulation order started pre judged the outcome of the consultation.

The most detailed objection from Singleton Clamp & Partners Limited sent on behalf of the Wilkie Leisure Group stated:

The official reason for the U-turn given was the what was in the lease that meant that this could lead to parking charges elsewhere in New Brighton. Promenade Estates were quoted in a Liverpool Echo article by Liam Murphy that they would charge for parking at other car parks in New Brighton if charges at Fort Perch Rock car park were brought in.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.