In what was a stormy evening at Wirral Council and Cllr Mitchell’s first full length Council meeting in the Chair as Mayor, the Chief Executive Graham Burgess issued a written statement to councillors and the public about the Conservative’s notice of motion on whistleblowing. His statement is reproduced below.
Statement from the Chief Executive
I would like to firstly advise a note of caution to all Elected Members when it comes to discussing individual cases. The Council in this instance has been requested to deal directly with Mr. Morton’s solicitor to seek a resolution to the outstanding issues. We are keen to reach a resolution at the earliest opportunity and have corresponded with Mr. Morton’s Solicitor to that effect.
I must also draw Council’s attention to the recent judgement by Mr. Justice Hughes in the first-tier tribunal between the Apellant [sic] and the Information Commissioner. Judge Hughes upheld the Information Commissioners decision to uphold this Council’s refusal of personal information relating to the Officers alluded to in this question. This followed his appraisal of the AKA report and all relevant information provided.
In particular it is important that Members note the following conclusions:
The information which the complainant has asked for is detailed information on personnel matters relating to the individuals concerned. This goes much further than a request to detail of any severance payments made to the individuals. It is also about the terms under which they left the authority. The public interest in knowing whether appropriate policies and procedures were followed or whether the council acted inappropriately in terms of the events outlined in the report has been served by the disclosure of the report.
The individuals identified with in the report had not been convicted of any crime. Public accountability for failing is within the Council’s practices and rests with the Council as a whole rather than with individual officers.
He concluded by finding that while there was a legitimate public interest in understanding how the Council had reacted to the report; this information would not help with that process and a balance had to be struck with respect to the rights of the individuals concerned. He found that:-
Any pressing social need for greater transparency on the Council’s reaction to the report would not be met by a disclosure of this information. He therefore considers that it would be unfair (and given the implied confidentiality of the employer/employee information, unlawful ) for the purposes of the first data protection principle for that information to be disclosed.
In the light of the above judgement we do not consider that it would be lawful or practical to allow a further investigation into the circumstances surrounding the departure of the two Officers in question.