The politics of jealousy: why Wirral’s 66 politicians need to be careful what they say about disability

The politics of jealousy: why Wirral’s 66 politicians need to be careful what they say about disability

Liverpool Carnival 12th July 2014

Liverpool Carnival Parade 2014: A number of wheelchair users taking part in the parade

The politics of jealousy: why Wirral’s 66 politicians need to be careful what they say about disability


Above is a photo of a carnival you will probably never get to see in a newspaper as it shows two disabled people in wheelchairs participating in the parade. So why am I showing you this and what relevance does it have?

For years, Wirral Council has got itself into trouble on disability issues. I’ll briefly recap, Martin Morton and the way Adult Social Services treated disabled adults, the proposed closure of Moreton Day Centre and now the proposed closure of Lyndale School.

The thread running through all of those is an extremely dangerous one to tell society. It’s one of withdrawing services for those with a disability or in the case of Martin Morton’s whistleblowing shamefully taking advantage of adults with disabilities as some of them due to the nature of their disability can’t stand up to organisations like Wirral Council without outside help.

So what sort of message does this give out? It’s one of jealousy of the vital services people require because of their disability. It’s one that fuels an increase in disability hate crime (much of which goes unreported). It’s one (that in the case of Lyndale School) thousands signed a petition against it going any further.

Disabled people are a part of society. I was brought up in the 80s and we were taught to be accepting and tolerant. When I was a teenager I went to school with a lad who had epilepsy, he used to routinely have fits and the school called an ambulance due to him knocking himself out. We didn’t treat him any differently though because of his epilepsy! We treated him as a friend.

In adult life I sat on a university committee of staff and students (I was there to represent the views of ~17,000 students). In what to some will seem an extremely ironic twist, the law library wasn’t accessible to wheelchair users as it was on the first floor. Despite our pleas, despite this being unlawful, the Chair of the committee was told that the university wanted to spend the small amount of money for adapting the building on other things. Disabled students weren’t a priority you see, not to senior management who came from a bygone age when people with disabilities didn’t go to university.

However, politicians have to be extremely careful when dealing with sensitive issues involving minorities. There’s a sensational over reporting of benefit fraud cases in the media. Officially more is lost to administrative errors than benefit fraud and the rates of benefit fraud are extremely low. Due to the press coverage this isn’t what some of the public think. Telling the public such boring facts sadly doesn’t tie in with the political line of some irresponsible tabloid sensational journalism.

So going back to Lyndale School. My views on it are well known and on public record. I don’t have any personal connection to the place other than having known its Chair of Governors Tom Harney for many years. The problem for Wirral Council is this though, it has a very chequered history involving disability issues that the public know about through the press. Such issues weren’t caused by one or two people being prejudiced but a culture at Wirral Council that allowed this to operate.

Now I know there are plenty of politicians at Wirral Council that know what happened in the past was wrong and despite what some people may think about politicians I know that many have a highly developed sense of right and wrong and know in their hearts when they’re asked to vote for something they don’t believe in. Yes, I’m being reasonable to politicians for a change.*

*A rare occasion I know.

The change has to start with them though, the rhetoric has got to change, the demonising of the disabled and minorities in society that they know can’t speak back has got to stop. For that they’ve got to look into their hearts. They’ve got to realise the damage their actions, that their words are doing to society at large, they’ve got to have some understanding of the consequences.

The people involved in the Lyndale School campaign are wonderful, pleasant people. Just because I wrote about what was happening I got sent a thank you card! I’ve never received a thank you card for a story I’ve written on this blog before (or since).

No, don’t be silly I’m never expecting a thank you card for writing about politicians but I’m trying to get across that the people involved with Lyndale School are very different to the political class. Unlike how certain politicians are being portrayed I don’t think many of the people involved in Lyndale School have even one ruthless bone in their entire body.

Yet this has been a struggle for them, they have families to care for and children with very complex and life limiting conditions. Many of them should be rewarded, applauded for the unsung work they do every day, unthanked by some politicians who now propose pulling the rug out from under their feet. The work of unpaid carers doing hard work in difficult circumstances saves the taxpayer billions each year.

The issues involving disability, culture, prejudice and stereotyping are extremely complex. They won’t be solved overnight. The law has changed, such legal battles have been won but society itself needs to catch up. My plea to politicians is to show leadership, to realise the sensitivities of these issues and to realise there are times when the politically right thing is to show compassion, humility and be flexible enough to have an open mind on such issues. The days of prejudice and stereotyping by politicians should be confined to the history books as they no longer have a part to play in 21st century society.

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Did officers breach Wirral Council’s constitution when they sent out the eviction notice for Fernbank Farm?

Did officers breach Wirral Council’s constitution when they sent out the eviction notice for Fernbank Farm?

Did officers breach Wirral Council’s constitution when they sent out the eviction notice for Fernbank Farm?


This is the story about what happened behind the scenes when the tenants of Fernbank Farm were sent an eviction notice in the July of 2012. However before this tale starts I need to explain about some of the people involved.

Bill Norman

The person above is Bill Norman. He was the Council’s Director of Law, HR (which stands for human resources) and Asset Management. On the 27th June 2012 he was suspended from work because of how the Colas contract was awarded, however it is important to point out that in September councillors found there was “no case to answer” with regards to wrongdoing on Bill Norman’s part. By this time his post had been made redundant so he signed a compromise contract and left the employment of Wirral Council and got a golden goodbye of £151,416 (comprising of £112,848 termination payment, £28,568 redundancy payment, £5,000 legal costs and £5,000 legal costs direct to Bill Norman). This brings us now to the next person.

Surjit Tour

Surjit Tour is the person on the left of this photo. During the period Bill Norman was suspended, (that is from 27th June 2012 onwards) he was Acting Director of Law, Human Resources and Asset Management.

On Friday 13th July 2012 an eviction notice was signed and so was a letter accompanying the eviction notice. The letter and two copies of each eviction notice were sent out to each tenant with a request that the second copy of the eviction notice was returned to Wirral Council.

The letter used is below and below that page one of the eviction notice (you can click on it for a more high resolution version). I have erased from both documents the home address of the tenant it went to, the name of which tenant it went to and the signature of the tenant from the copy of the eviction notice returned.

Letter accompanying eviction notice
Letter accompanying eviction notice

Eviction notice
Eviction notice (page 1)

Wirral Council has a constitution which determines how decisions are made and whether they’re made by officers or councillors. The detail of this was determined by a very dull bit of Wirral Council’s constitution at the time called Schedule 4: Scheme of Delegation to Officers.

Under section 38 it details the responsibilities of the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management.

“The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management is authorised,
In respect of Property Management functions:

(12) Authorise the grant and renewal of leases, tenancies and agreements of land and premises at current market rentals subject (where appropriate) to the receipt of satisfactory references and planning consent and (as appropriate) the termination thereof.

(14) Approve the review of rents reserved by existing leases and tenancy agreements of Council land and property at current market rental levels.

In respect of trading standards, environmental health and related functions and responsibilities:
(46) Subject to paragraph (2) below, take any action under any relevant legislation (and related statutory instruments) including, where relevant (but not limited to), the service of notices
Relevant legislation under this paragraph shall include but is not limited to:

Landlord and Tenant Acts 1954, 1985 and 1987″

Now obviously Bill Norman couldn’t authorise the renewal of the lease or approve an increase in rent or agree to an eviction notice being served because he was suspended so he would have hardly been given a look at this before it was sent out!

Section 14 deals with this eventuality (note the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management is one of the officers referred to in paragraph 2):

“In the event of a Chief Officer referred to in paragraph 2 not being available for whatever reason, his/her Deputy (or, where there is no officer designated as such, the next most appropriate senior officer of the department) shall be authorised to implement approved delegated arrangements.”

Now as Acting Head of Law, HR and Asset Management while Bill Norman was suspended, Surjit Tour was deputising for Bill Norman during his suspension. However Surjit Tour’s signature does not appear on the letter or the eviction notice.

Section 3(a) states

“3. (a) Unless otherwise provided for within this scheme every officer listed in paragraph 2, may authorise officers in his/her department/service area to exercise on his/her behalf, functions delegated to him/her. Any decisions taken under this authority shall remain the responsibility of the relevant officer named in paragraph 2 above and must be taken in the name of that officer, who shall
remain accountable and responsible for such decisions.”

However Bill Norman couldn’t authorise officers in his department to exercise functions on his behalf as he was suspended! However the letter went out in his name. Bill Norman’s name was at the top right of the letter and the person signing it had below their name “Director of Law, HR and Asset Management”.

Here’s a comparison between Surjit Tour’s signature (below) and the signature on the eviction notice.

comparison of signature on eviction notice to Surjit Tour's

Here’s the signature used on the letter (again it wasn’t Surjit Tour’s):

letter signature

So to conclude, the letter and eviction notice about the Fernbank Farm lease should’ve both been signed by the Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset Management (but weren’t). Instead they both went out in the name of Bill Norman (who was suspended). Bill Norman can’t have seen the letter and eviction notice before it went out, therefore how could he have authorised the officers that did sign the letter and eviction notice to do this on his behalf? If the signatures had been on someone else’s behalf pp would have been put before the signature to show that they were signing on behalf of someone else. This didn’t happen.

If Surjit Tour agreed to other officers signing the eviction notice and letter on his behalf (instead of signing them himself), then he didn’t have the authority under the constitution to do so as he was only Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset Management.

I think the most likely eventuality is that junior officers, who weren’t authorised under the constitution to make such decisions, signed the letter and eviction notice because Bill Norman was suspended and therefore unavailable. Surjit Tour should’ve been asked to do it, but if he had been asked, then why wouldn’t his signature be on the documentation? Therefore this seems to have been done without his knowledge.

So what are your views on this? Did junior officers sign off on something and make an unconstitutional decision? Is this maladministration? If the decision wasn’t properly made in the first place but Wirral Council went to court and got a possession order, what should happen next? Is this what Wirral Council mean when in a later letter dated 14th March 2014 they state “I do not believe the authority intentionally used the wrong letter in July 2012.”?

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High Court of Justice report The Queen on the application of John Michael Brace v Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council


In the High Court of Justice

Queen’s Bench Division

Administrative Court sitting in Manchester

In the matter of an application for Judicial Review

            The Queen on the application of




            Application for permission to apply for Judicial Review

            NOTIFICATION of the Judge’s decision (CPR Part 54.11, 54.12)

Following consideration of the documents lodged by the Claimant

Order by his Honour Judge Waksman QC sitting as a High Court Judge

Permission is hereby refused.


  1. The correct way for the Claimant to have proceeded on the basis of his complaint about other candidates’ non-compliance with s79 LGA 2000* was to have made an election petition within 21 days which he did not do and which, if he had, would have provided a safeguard in the form of provision for security of costs.


  2. Moreover this claim is out of time not only because just outside 3 months but because it was not made promptly given that the Claimant made the point before the challenged election took place. It is particularly important that if there is a JR claim at all in respect of such matters (see paragraph 1 above) that it is made very speedily so as to avoid any prejudice and costs incurred by the election having taken place. No extension is justified simply because the Claimant broke his arm.


  3. Accordingly, no arguable basis for JR.


Signed: D. ???????? Date: 23 August 2012

Where permission to apply has been granted, claimants and their legal advisers are reminded of their obligation to reconsider the merits of their application in the light of the defendant’s evidence.


Sent/Handed to the claimant, defendant and any interested party/ the claimant’s, defendant’s and any interested party’s solicitors on (date):


Ref No.

Notes for the Claimant

(1)       Where the Judge has refused permission a claimant or his solicitor may request the decision to be reconsidered at a hearing by completing and returning form 86B within 7 days of the service upon him of this notice.

(2)       If permission has been granted the claimant or his solicitor must within 7 days of the service upon him of this notice, lodge a further fee of £180.00 or a Fees exemption certificate if appropriate, to continue the proceedings. Failure to pay the fee or lodge a certificate within the specified period may result in the claim being struck out.

Notes to Defendants and Interested Parties

(1)       Where permission has been granted, a defendant and any other person served with the claim form who wishes to contest the claim or support it on additional grounds must file and serve –

(a) detailed grounds for contesting the claim or supporting it on additional grounds; and

(b) any written evidence,

within 35 days after service of the order giving permission. 

*Note although the judgement reads s.79 LGA 2000, I have linked to s.79 LGA 1972 as it appears to be an error in this judgement.

Census 2011 – Continued – Further Questions

Some of these I answered yesterday, but there are some more people have now.

Q. Why isn’t the question about religion compulsory?
A. It always has been voluntary (as far back as I can recall for at least the last 100 years). I’m not sure why it is now, but there used to be discrimination on religious grounds in the workplace regarding promotion for government jobs. Information on people’s religion has been used previously for ethnic cleansing. We only have to look to the history of Northern Ireland to see why it could cause problems if you made this a mandatory question as some people don’t trust government with this information.

Q. Why is there no question 17 in the census?
A. Q.17 is Can you understand, speak, read or write Welsh? so it doesn’t appear on the English Census.

Q. Is there a legal obligation to fill in the census?
A. Yes.

Q. What if I’m on holiday for the census?
A. You still need to fill it in, and if on holiday in the UK registered as a visitor where you are on the 27th March.

Q. Can I be fined for not filling out the census?
A. Yes.

Q. Can I refuse to answer some questions on the census?
A. Yes, the religion question. As to the rest I’m unusure.

Q. Does the government census get sold to marketing companies?
A. Census data is given away for free in its raw data form after 100 years and is used to compile statistics before that. Basically the answer is no.

Q. Is information on a census form checked?
A. There would be checks done on the statistics before they are published, however every detail on every census form returned won’t be double-checked.

Q. In what order are census forms sent out?
A. I don’t know.