5 questions for Wirral Council’s auditors
Dear Mike Thomas (Grant Thornton),
I am writing to you in your capacity as the auditor for Wirral Council.
Last Friday I received a series of emails from Wirral Council’s Head of Legal and Member Services Surjit Tour about a comment left by an individual on a blog I write about Wirral Council. The comment made was about Graham Burgess (Wirral Council’s Chief Executive) and was in relation to his invitation to some Wirral Council councillors offering them tickets to the Open Golf Championship.
The first email from Mr. Tour contained the lines “This is clearly a serious matter and I formally request that you immediately remove the email and the associated commentary concerning this subject matter from your blog.
The Council would prefer to avoid taking action in respect of this entry; however, I must put you on notice that the Council will have little alternative but to consider alternative action should you refuse or fail to remove this entry from your blog forthwith.”
It transpired later that the email was genuine (despite Mr. Surjit Tour first claiming it wasn’t).
The Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) Order 2004 prevent local authorities providing insurance or indemnities to officers (or councillors) to start libel cases. However in this case Wirral Council’s Head of Legal and Member Services seemed to be making a threat of exactly that on behalf of Wirral Council’s Chief Executive Graham Burgess.
Other people have noticed comments about Wirral Council officers have disappeared from the local newspaper website (Wirral Globe), therefore I would like you to investigate and respond to the following questions please:
1. Has Wirral Council ever sued any individual or organisation since The Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) Order 2004 came into effect on the 23rd November 2004?
2. Why are the resources of the authority being used to make such threats when Wirral Council is barred in law from starting such a claim in the courts?
3. Is there currently any indemnity or insurance provided to officers within the terms of The Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) Order 2004 and if so which officers does this cover and at what cost (or approximate cost)?
4. If there is any indemnity or insurance provided to officers (or councillors) has this been agreed by councillors and if so when?
5. How many times over the last 12 months have the media (whether print, broadcast or online) received communications from Wirral Council threatening legal action unless they remove content?
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