Why after 2 years, 9 months and 13 days have Wirral Council U-turned on refusing a FOI request for minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group?

Why after 2 years, 9 months and 13 days have Wirral Council U-turned on refusing a FOI request for minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group?                                                     Before I start this epic tale, I would just like to point out that someone has started a petition demanding an apology from the Labour administration at Wirral Council … Continue reading “Why after 2 years, 9 months and 13 days have Wirral Council U-turned on refusing a FOI request for minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group?”

Why after 2 years, 9 months and 13 days have Wirral Council U-turned on refusing a FOI request for minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group?


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

Before I start this epic tale, I would just like to point out that someone has started a petition demanding an apology from the Labour administration at Wirral Council for their answer at the last Council meeting about information requests and their poor record on FOI requests.

A long time ago (29th March 2013), I made this FOI request for the minutes of meetings that happen behind closed doors (not public meetings) for committees that councillors sit on. Part of this request (part 26) was for minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group.

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).

The sixteen page serious case review about Child A, Child B, Child C & Child D referred to in the minutes dated 6th April 2011 can be found on Wirral Council’s website.

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!

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

Wirral Council’s DASS: “The Airing of Grievances (Part 2)” Appeals SubCommittee 3/7/2012

I notice the delayed grievance appeal from the 5th March 2012 (adjourned for a whopping 17 weeks (119 days) is going ahead tomorrow afternoon (as I write this on the 2nd July 2012).

It seems there is a delayed grievance appeal from an employee of Wirral Council’s Department of Adult Social Services. Representing the historically dysfunctional Department of Adult Social Services at the March meeting was none other than Employee 19 of the AKA report, dramatic drum roll Mr. Richard O’Brien.

No, it’s not the famous Richard O’Brien who used to present the Crystal Maze on Channel 4 in the 90s, and yes I invite you in the comments to state the similarities between Wirral Council and The Crystal Maze, but a guy that goes by the shorter moniker of Rick O’Brien. Who’s Rick you may ask? He is the Head of Branch, Personal Assessment and Planning (whatever that is!?).

Basically he lines managers the managers (that manage the social work teams) for Wallasey, Birkenhead, West Wirral etc… so it must be to do with an employee in that branch of DASS (which doesn’t narrow it down much!)

Brenda Hall is representing the other side, as she’s a branch negotiator for Wirral Council’s UNISON.

Getting out my handy “Who’s Who at DASS”, I find Rick O’Brien’s email address is richardobrien@wirral.gov.uk, which is interesting as Rick O’Brien (as reported as an exclusive on this blog last year) was one of the people who Bill Norman emailed on the 12th December 2011 about not publishing AK’s preliminary draft report.

Wasn’t he the same Rick O’Brien getting criticism in the comments section of the Wirral Globe and mentioned by name in a response to a FOI request involving four week delays in care packages?

Oh and also mentioned in this Wirral Leaks post about the Commissioning conference in London?

Hmm, well he certainly manages to get himself mentioned a lot (and it seems sometimes for all the wrong reasons)! But then it seems, a Pete Sheffield is just met with stony silence over a FOI request for Rick O’Brien’s job description.

But if memory serves correct he was also “Employee 19” in the now infamous “Anna Klonowski Associates Ltd (AKA) Independent Review of the Council’s Response to Claims Made by Martin Morton (and Others)”.

Ahh yes, that Rick. Oh well, apart from my frivolous uses of the <A HREF></a> tags, it’s nice to see there are still people at DASS with grievances to air. I had high hopes for the new Director of DASS, Graham Hodkinson, but it seems that he’s inherited a lot of problems from his predecessor in the role, Howard Cooper. How long will it before the public and employees again trust Social Services/Wirral Council to do the right thing and have a bit more accountability?

I feel at times writing about Wirral Council that it would be so much easier if getting information out of it wasn’t about as painful as pulling teeth, but it’s getting late so I will bring this to a close.

Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee 8th November 2011 Part 1, Howard Cooper retires, Minutes, Declarations of Interest, Site Strategy Review

The agenda and reports for this meeting can be found here.

Non-voting reps/co-optees (who are part of the committee)
Sue Lowe
Diane Hill (LINKS)
Sandra Wall (Older Peoples Parliament)

Councillors (part of the committee)
Cllr Mike Hornby
Cllr Geoffrey Watt
Cllr Sheila Clarke
Cllr Cherry Povall
Cllr Patricia Glasman (Chair)
Cllr Denise Roberts
Cllr Paul Doughty
Cllr Joe Walsh
Cllr Pat Williams
Cllr Bob Wilkins

Officers (there to advise the councillors and co-optees)
Howard Cooper (Interim Director of Adult Social Services, Wirral Council)
Kathy Doran, (Chief Executive NHS Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral (West Cheshire))
Gary Doherty (Acting Chief Executive, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust)
Peter Herring (Chief Executive, Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust)

The Chair Cllr Glasman said that Howard Cooper was retiring in December. She thanked him for stepping in last Autumn.

Howard Cooper said she was very kind and that he had enjoyed working on the huge changes over the last year and if he was stuck for what to do on a Tuesday night he knew where to come.

Cllr Glasman introduced the people on the committee, then moved to declarations of interest. Cllr Sheila Clarke declared a personal interest in item 8, Cllr Hornby declared an interest in item 5, Cllr Patricia Glasman also declared an interest in item 5.

The minutes were agreed, due to the long agenda the couple of items from the last meeting that required responses could be raised at the end of the meeting or taken up by email. The minutes were agreed.

Cllr Glasman started with the site strategy report including the report on the vascular site strategy review. She asked the committee to listen to the report, make any queries on items except vascular, then they would take questions, followed by the clinician’s report and Kathy Doran’s report.

Gary Doherty started by asking Tina Long and Sue Green to give an introduction to the report.