He who pays DLA Piper calls the tune

Martin Morton made this Freedom of Information request to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

This is a follow up to a recent FoI request to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC):

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/wi...

Information provided includes correspondence from Anna Klonowski to EHRC dated 17/1/11 which states-

"I have been commissioned by Wirral Council to undertake an independent investigation surrounding issues raised by a whistleblower in relation to Adult Social Services provided to service users with a learning disability

As part of this review I have been asked to include issues relating to allegations of discrimination on the grounds of disability .It is to this end that I have been passed a copy of Mr.Mike Smith's correspondence with Angela Eagle MP

In order that I may better understand the EHR 's (sic) position on this matter ,I should be grateful if you could ask Mr.Smith and/or his nominated representative if it would be possible to arrange a meeting to discuss his views and conclusions ?.Mr.Norman from the council would also like to attend this meeting.......".

EHRC further informed me that : "Members of EHRC met with Anna Klonowski for an informal exploratory meeting ,which was held in confidence without any prejudice to any consideration by the EHRC on the exercise of its enforcement powers.Hence there are no minutes of this meeting".

The Independent Review of WBC Response to Claims made by Mr Martin Morton prepared by Anna Klonowski considers the issue of Disability Discrimination on pages 241-245 but curiously no mention is made of this meeting nor is there any reference to EHRC Disability Chair Mike Smith's letter to Angela Eagle MP which states:

" I do not agree with the conclusions drawn by the Councils Director of Law (Mr.Norman) namely that discrimination did not occur because the residents were not overcharged for reasons relating to their disability.

Current discrimination law and supporting case law clearly establish that motive and intent are irrelevant to this issue.The fact that disabled people were subject to unlawful levels of charging (whether or not the cause was maladministration)".

Disconcertingly the Independent Review report concentrates solely on the legal opinion of Legal Rep 5

Legal Rep 5 states "under my terms of engagement ,I am specifically required to opine on the question of whether or not the Council has discriminated against the affected service users.Specifically,I am asked to comment on whether or not the Council's actions constitute disability discrimination.The relevant law for the periods under review is the Disability Discrimination Act 1995".

I understand Legal Rep 5 to be DL Piper LLP UK - which I understand to be part of the largest law firm in the world.

Legal Rep 5 states that " The Council's actions clearly indicate poor administration,but the fact that other persons were arguably treated more favourably than the residents of the Moreton properties,is not,in my view,indicative of the Moreton Property residents being treated in a discriminatory fashion"

Legal Rep 5 seemingly fails to consider that charges imposed upon 16 people with learning disabilities comprised 100% of disability benefits or the fact there was an existing charging policy which applied to other people or that there was specifically no consultation with people with learning disabilities and/or their representatives about this unlawful charge or that charges at their height amounted to £100+ a week whilst everyone else in the same circumstance paid precisely nothing.
Moreover there is absolutely no reference to case law to support this "view".

Therefore I would like to request the following information:

a) The information that was provided by Wirral Council and their representatives (including Ms.Klonowski)to DLA Piper to enable them to make their "legal opinion"

b) Confirmation as to whether that Wirral council's Monitoring Officer Bill Norman met with EHRC

c) Copies of any notes of the meeting with EHRC undertaken on behalf of the Council by Ms.Klonowski

d) All correspondence between Wirral Council/DLA Piper/Anna Klonowski outlining the the contracting and commissioning arrangements between the parties.

c) Full details and copies of terms of engagement of DLA Piper

d) A full copy of DLA Piper's legal opinion

d) How much DLA Piper were paid for their legal "opine" in relation to discrimination?

e) Following commitments made at Council meetings following the publication of the Independent Review report, how much in total have Wirral Council agreed to pay back to those who were unlawfully charged at Moreton properties and how much has been paid back so far?

Yours faithfully,

Martin Morton

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

It seems they're not doing anything about this one, which, given the subject of disability discrimination, looks extremely irresponsible.

More information on the same subject here:

http://easyvirtualassistance.wordpress.c...

Stefan Ellis left an annotation ()

This is a difficult one because there were people on the same project who did not pay this charge.Their understanding and therefore their disability was such that they would have queried why they were paying this charge.The people who were overcharged could have continued to be so right up to this week and would never have known.Their understanding of the value of money was (and still is) really limited.

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'He who pays DLA Piper calls the tune'.

Sincerely,Martin Morton

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/he...

Yours faithfully,

Martin Morton

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Good to see that you've asked for an internal review. The 'sister complaint' to this one, lodged in February and asking for copies of correspondence between Wirral Council and DLA Piper LLP has not been responded to, nor internally reviewed.

It's now appealed with the Information Commissioner's Office and heading towards an imminent decision notice.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/re...

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

They may state it exceeds the time limit of xx.x hours as it's a large request.

Martin Morton left an annotation ()

You may have a vested interest in suggesting that this is a large request Scarlet but it isn't.
In fact the answer to e)is already in the public domain in a Council Cabinet report dated 16/7/12.
It might have been useful to have been sent the link rather than read about it in the press.

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

Well I suppose my interest Martin, is I was at the meeting on 16th July 2012 that you refer to.

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

a) The information provided by Wirral Council to DLA Piper and Ms Klonowski to DLA Piper is covered by legal privilege, therefore even if it is held by Wirral Council it falls under one (or more) of the exemptions. Information provided by Ms. Klonowski to DLA Piper would not be covered by the FOI legislation.

b) He's currently suspended (so don't expect a quick answer), have you made also made a request to the EHRC as you may get a reply from them quicker?

c) Unless the notes were sent to Wirral Council it's only covered by the FOI legislation if you make the request to EHRC for their notes. There are a whole raft of exemptions that could apply though.

d) (Some) of this information is in the public domain already on Wirral Council's website as there are Cabinet minutes relating to this. The rest would be held by Wirral Council, but some would fall under exemptions.

c) You'd only get part of this.

d) It'd be classed as exempt.

d) You can have access to this.

e) You would be entitled to this.

Martin Morton left an annotation ()

Which is my point exactly.
A response either way would be nice.
I had a positive response from EHRC a long,long time ago.

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

Wirral Council seems to be waking up to FOI though, see table at 2.53. http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents...

It seems 26.6% of requests come from ten of us and I'm somewhere on that table and so I'm sure are you. I concede defeat to the person who submitted 245 requests over a year though! I really don't have that amount of free time.

Martin Morton left an annotation ()

Not guilty - I've only made 7 requests between 2010-12 and received 4 responses.
All responses were overdue.
I am compiling another FOI request tonight making a total of 8 meaning I have ,on average,made less than 3 a year for the past 3 years.

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

Depending on how you count (and Wirral Council's CRM records each contact separately even if it is connected to the same request), a request for an internal review to a FOI request is probably (although I'm not sure) counted as another request (making it two for some of your previous FOI requests). Therefore one FOI request could result in multiple contacts and possibly be counted more than once.

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

Oh and seven requests over a year is enough to feature in the top ten list (as either FOI requester 8, 9 or 10).

Martin Morton left an annotation ()

This FOI request takes on more significance as it would appear that the Council seems to have now partly or wholly rejected the legal "opinion" they paid for from DLA Piper.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

On the subject of the rogues' gallery of FoI requesters, the implication appears to be that these 10 people must somehow be 'vexatious' requesters with an axe to grind and nothing better to do mustn't they?

I've made 14 (but possibly 19 or 22 requests) in the last year. My average response time is 26 weeks i.e. 6 months or thereabouts. But this is moving with time and rising. Only 5 requests have been completed. The other 9 are outstanding and may be for some time. None of this or anybody else's poor treatment features in the report, which is rather careful, selective and manipulative with the statistics; and a mean-spirited cynical masterpiece of spin, slur, smear and innuendo it is too.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Here is a link to an article, setting out what I feel is the background and true motivation behind Wirral Council's very poor response times.

Notably, there are just 2 people dedicated to Freedom of Information and Data at this council (one professional and one admin assistant) - which says it all really.

http://easyvirtualassistance.wordpress.c...

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Good Afternoon,

Please see the attached response to your request for an internal review. I
do apologise for the length of time you have had to wait for this
response.

Kind regards

Jane Corrin

Information Manager

Wirral Council

 

 

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InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Good Morning,

Further to our email of yesterday please be advised that we are waiting on
a response to question 8 of your request but did not want to further delay
responding to you.

Kind Regards

Jane Corrin

Information

 

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Dear InfoMgr, FinDMT,

I refer specifically to your response to c)Full details and copies of terms of engagement of DLA Piper.

You ask : "Please confirm if you are referring to the engagement of DLA Piper by Wirral Borough Council whether jointly or singly on a specific matter and if so please specify that matter".

I will not dwell on the fact that I think you are being deliberately obtuse in this response as you know perfectly well from this FOI request as to the matter to which I am referring.

It is for this reason that I usually provide background information to my requests.
However I thank you - it is a salutory lesson that I must make my requests much more specific "so there is no misunderstanding".

The specific matter to which I am referring is the enagement of DLA Piper in matters relating to the Independent Review undertaken by AKA Associates on behalf of Wirral Council.This is primarily but not exclusively concerned with issues of Discrimination covered on page 241-5 of the AKA report( January 2012).

Please advise if you require even more specific information.

In consideration of the length of time I have had to wait I would respectfully request a prompt response to this reply,especially when there is every possibility I will be making an appeal to the ICO.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Morton

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Good Afternoon,
Thank you for your email below, please see attachment as Council's
response and I trust you find the information useful.
Kind Regards
Jane Corrin
Information Manager
Wirral council

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