Please provide details of meeting between Frank Field MP and Graham Burgess CEO

Paul Cardin 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,

For background and context, please follow Link No. 1 to a recent article in the Wirral Globe, and Link No. 2 to an article in the Liverpool Echo covering the same subject matter.

Link No. 1
http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/115497...

Link No. 2
http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/live...

Many interested members of the public / council tax payers will be reading this, and I will attempt to describe for them some of the background and reasoning behind this FOI request.

The subject of both of the above articles is public servant Frank Field MP's decision to make new representations on behalf of an unstated number of HESPE (former Colas Highways Contract) whistleblowers.

Within both articles, public servant Frank Field suggests openly that these whistleblowers have suffered damage to their careers and severe hardship since blowing the whistle, and accordingly should be paid the same amount as an anonymous public servant female officer who it is reported received a payout of £48,000 in public money for "hurt feelings" roughly a year go, in officially undisclosed circumstances.

These scandalous events, rather than being closely tracked, monitored and explained to the Council Tax paying public through a process of democratic public oversight, were instead actively covered up by public servant CEO Graham Burgess in concert with democratically elected leader and public servant Councillor Phil Davies.

Then, as a heavy concealing blanket was drawn across each of the potentially scandalising issues, what would have been perfectly justified questions were discouraged within the text of a global email sent by public servant Graham Burgess to all councillors.

A question that eventually did arise in the council chamber regarding the £48,000 payment was not answered by the democratically elected leader and public servant Councillor Phil Davies, who instead referred the questioner (public servant Councillor Jeff Green) to public servant Burgess' silencing email, which appears to have decreed from on high that the subject matter could not be talked about or explored - despite leader and public servant Phil Davies' frequent appearances in the local media, where he has repeatedly described Wirral Council as "improved" or "open and transparent".

I might suggest that this deliberate action enabled the matter to remain hidden from the electorate, and the participants to remain one step ahead of any notion of accountability.

Within Link No. 1 article, public servant Frank Field goes on to state how he will be meeting public servant Graham Burgess on Friday 24th October in order to "hammer out" some sort of agreement.

The following important details were not volunteered in either article:

o the number of whistleblowers
o whether £48,000 is requested by public servant Frank Field as payment for each whistleblower i.e. if there are 5 whistleblowers, a total of £48,000 x 5 = £240,000
o whether £48,000 is requested by public servant Frank Field as payment for ALL whistleblowers i.e. if there are 5 whistleblowers, £48,000 / 5 = £9,600 each.

The article at Link No. 1 suggests that a meeting was scheduled to occur between public servant Frank Field MP and public servant Graham Burgess on Friday 24th October 2014

However, the article at Link No. 2 suggests that the two public servants would meet "Today, i.e. 23rd September, the date of the article."

Assuming the meeting between these two public servants has now gone ahead, please provide documents you hold containing the following information:

1. The date, time and location of the meeting that was held between public servant Frank Field MP and public servant Graham Burgess addressing the subject matter of "pay outs to a number of former HESPE (COLAS Highways contract) whistleblowers"

2. The number of whistleblowers who are being represented / spoken for by public servant Frank Field

3. The number of persons who attended the meeting?

4. State whether all of the whistleblowers were invited to the meeting?

4. State how many whistleblowers attended the meeting?

5. State what was / were the outcome(s) of the meeting?

6. State how much public money in total was agreed would be paid to the whistleblowers?

7. State how much public money was agreed would be paid to each whistleblower?

8. State whether each whistleblower signed a compromise agreement?

9. State whether there was a gagging clause within the compromise agreement?

10. State whether there was a confidentiality clause within the compromise agreement?

11. State whether there were any penalty clauses within the compromise agreement?

12. State whether each whistleblower signed a confidentiality agreement?

13. State whether there was a gagging clause within the confidentiality agreement?

14. State whether there was a confidentiality clause within the confidentiality agreement?

15. State whether there were any penalty clauses within the confidentiality agreement?

16. State whether each whistleblower received a reference / clean bill of health for future use, in recognition of occupational services rendered / time spent working for the council?

17. I am purposely not requesting names, addresses, job roles or any information which could risk identifying personnel. With this in mind, please carefully redact any information which is provided in line with the Data Protection Act. However, please do not overstep the mark and conceal money totals i.e. payment amounts made to individuals. This is public money and the Wirral Public have a strong, legitimate and compelling interest in knowing how much of their council tax money may have been thrown at this problem on the whim of public servant Frank Field MP and public servant Graham Burgess.

18. Please provide the reasoning behind public servant Frank Field's sudden wish to attempt to satisfy the cases of these whistleblowers, after doing nothing for yonks.

19. Please provide copies of meeting minutes and/or non-verbatim or verbatim notes of the meeting between public servant Frank Field MP and public servant Graham Burgess.

Please do not lurch to secrecy in the same way public servant Graham Burgess did when he sent the silencing email to 66 councillors which concealed the fact that £48,000 of our money had been "flushed down the toilet" during a time of austerity for many,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr. Cardin,

 

I refer to your request for information contained in your email of 2
November 2014. Your request is as follows:

 

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

For background and context, please follow Link No. 1 to a recent article
in the Wirral Globe, and Link No. 2 to an article in the Liverpool Echo
covering the same subject matter.

Link No. 1
[1]http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/115497...

Link No. 2
[2]http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/live...

Many interested members of the public / council tax payers will be
reading this, and I will attempt to describe for them some of the
background and reasoning behind this FOI request.

The subject of both of the above articles is public servant Frank Field
MP's decision to make new representations on behalf of an unstated number
of HESPE (former Colas Highways Contract) whistleblowers.

Within both articles, public servant Frank Field suggests openly that
these whistleblowers have suffered damage to their careers and severe
hardship since blowing the whistle, and accordingly should be paid the
same amount as an anonymous public servant female officer who it is
reported received a payout of £48,000 in public
money for "hurt feelings" roughly a year go, in officially undisclosed
circumstances.

These scandalous events, rather than being closely tracked, monitored and
explained to the Council Tax paying public through a process of
democratic public oversight, were instead actively covered up by public
servant CEO Graham Burgess in concert with democratically elected leader
and public servant Councillor Phil Davies.

Then, as a heavy concealing blanket was drawn across each of the
potentially scandalising issues, what would have been perfectly justified
questions were discouraged within the text of a global email sent by
public servant Graham Burgess to all councillors.

A question that eventually did arise in the council chamber regarding the
£48,000 payment was not answered by the democratically elected leader and
public servant Councillor Phil Davies, who instead referred the
questioner (public servant Councillor Jeff Green) to public servant
Burgess' silencing email, which appears to have decreed from on high that
the subject matter could not be talked about or explored - despite leader
and public servant Phil Davies' frequent appearances in the local media,
where
he has repeatedly described Wirral Council as "improved" or "open and
transparent".

I might suggest that this deliberate action enabled the matter to remain
hidden from the electorate, and the participants to remain one step ahead
of any notion of accountability.

Within Link No. 1 article, public servant Frank Field goes on to state
how he will be meeting public servant Graham Burgess on Friday 24th
October in order to "hammer out" some sort of agreement.

The following important details were not volunteered in either article:

o the number of whistleblowers
o whether £48,000 is requested by public servant Frank Field as payment
for each whistleblower i.e. if there are 5 whistleblowers, a total of
£48,000 x 5 = £240,000
o whether £48,000 is requested by public servant Frank Field as payment
for ALL whistleblowers i.e. if there are 5 whistleblowers, £48,000 / 5 =
£9,600 each.

The article at Link No. 1 suggests that a meeting was scheduled to occur
between public servant Frank Field MP and public servant Graham Burgess
on Friday 24th October 2014

However, the article at Link No. 2 suggests that the two public servants
would meet "Today, i.e. 23rd September, the date of the article."

Assuming the meeting between these two public servants has now gone
ahead, please provide documents you hold containing the following
information:

1. The date, time and location of the meeting that was held between
public servant Frank Field MP and public servant Graham Burgess
addressing the subject matter of "pay outs to a number of former HESPE
(COLAS Highways contract) whistleblowers"

2. The number of whistleblowers who are being represented / spoken for by
public servant Frank Field

3. The number of persons who attended the meeting?

4. State whether all of the whistleblowers were invited to the meeting?

4. State how many whistleblowers attended the meeting?

5. State what was / were the outcome(s) of the meeting?

6. State how much public money in total was agreed would be paid to the
whistleblowers?

7. State how much public money was agreed would be paid to each
whistleblower?

8. State whether each whistleblower signed a compromise agreement?

9. State whether there was a gagging clause within the compromise
agreement?

10. State whether there was a confidentiality clause within the
compromise agreement?

11. State whether there were any penalty clauses within the compromise
agreement?

12. State whether each whistleblower signed a confidentiality agreement?

13. State whether there was a gagging clause within the confidentiality
agreement?

14. State whether there was a confidentiality clause within the
confidentiality agreement?

15. State whether there were any penalty clauses within the
confidentiality agreement?

16. State whether each whistleblower received a reference / clean bill of
health for future use, in recognition of occupational services rendered /
time spent working for the council?

17. I am purposely not requesting names, addresses, job roles or any
information which could risk identifying personnel. With this in mind,
please carefully redact any information which is provided in line with
the Data Protection Act. However, please do not overstep the mark and
conceal money totals i.e. payment amounts made to individuals. This is
public money and the Wirral Public have a strong, legitimate and
compelling interest in knowing how much of their council tax money may
have been thrown at this problem on the whim of public servant Frank
Field MP and public servant Graham Burgess.

18. Please provide the reasoning behind public servant Frank Field's
sudden wish to attempt to satisfy the cases of these whistleblowers,
after doing nothing for yonks.

19. Please provide copies of meeting minutes and/or non-verbatim or
verbatim notes of the meeting between public servant Frank Field MP and
public servant Graham Burgess.

Please do not lurch to secrecy in the same way public servant Graham
Burgess did when he sent the silencing email to 66 councillors which
concealed the fact that £48,000 of our money had been "flushed down the
toilet" during a time of austerity for many.

 

I consider that the information you have requested is exempt information
under Section 36 (b) (i) and (ii) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000,
(FOIA),because in the reasonable opinion of myself, as the authorised
person, disclosure of the requested information, would inhibit-

 

(i)the free and frank provision of advice, or

(ii)the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation.

 

I also consider that the duty to confirm or deny whether the Council holds
information of the description specified in the request ( Section 1 (1) of
FOIA )does not arise in relation to the information subject to the Section
36 (b) (i) and (ii) exemption because in my reasonable opinion compliance
with Section 1(1) (a) would have the effect of inhibiting the free and
frank provision of advice or the free and frank exchange of views for the
purpose of deliberation.

 

In reaching this opinion, I have had regard to the guidance issued by the
Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)” Prejudice to the effective
conduct of public affairs”, version 2.

In the case of Guardian Newspapers Ltd and Brooke v. Information
Commissioner and British Broadcasting Corporation (EA/2006/0011 and
EA/20066/0013, 8 January 2007, it was stated in paragraph 60 that “the
qualified person must take a view on whether there is or is not the
requisite degree of likelihood of inhibition”. I consider that if the
information requested were required to be disclosed, the conduct of
discussions by senior officers of the Council  concerning issues of
appropriate gravity would be fundamentally undermined.Such discussions
would have been inhibited had those senior officers not believed that they
would be kept confidential.  The prospect of disclosure of this
information would lead to less candid meetings. The likelihood of
prejudice is significant and weighty. Inhibiting the provision of advice
and the free and frank exchange of views, may impair the quality of
decision making of the Council and have a ‘chilling effect’ Paragraph 49
of the guidance states “If the issue in question is still live, arguments
about a chilling effect on those ongoing discussions are likely to be most
convincing”. It is also relevant to have regard to the sensitivity of the
information in question. I am satisfied as the authorised person, that the
qualified exemption contained in Section 36 (b) (i) and (ii) are engaged
having regard to the issues still being live and of a sensitive nature.

 

Where the Council finds that the qualified exemption is engaged then it is
necessary to consider the test under s.2(2)(b),of FOIA, namely that “in
all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the
exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information”.

 

Public interest factors against maintaining the exemption

·         Public interest in the promotion of  transparency and
accountability in relation to the

activities of public authorities

Public interest factors for maintaining the exemption

o Reduction of the ‘chilling effect’ when matters of particular
sensitivity are being discussed
o Reduces the likelihood of inhibition of future discussion in respect
of issues, which are still live and of a sensitive nature.

 

I consider that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs
the public interest in disclosing the information

 

I also consider that some of the information you have requested  is exempt
information under Section 40 (2) and (3) (1) (a) (i)  of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, in that you are requesting information which is
personal data, in respect of which you are not the data subject. I
consider that the disclosure of the requested information would contravene
the first data protection principle, that personal data shall be processed
fairly and lawfully, and shall not be processed unless at least one of the
conditions in Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act 1998 is met. I
consider disclosure of the requested information would have an unjustified
adverse effect on the individuals capable of being identified from the
information requested . I do not consider that any of the conditions in
Schedule 2 would be met and particularly Condition 6 of Schedule 2 in that
the processing would be unwarranted by reason of prejudice to the rights
and freedoms or legitimate interests of the data subjects.  I do not
consider that such processing would be necessary for the purposes of
legitimate interests pursued by yourself as a third party, being a member
of the public.

 

I am therefore refusing your request for information under Section 17 of
FOIA  on the basis that the exemptions contained in Section 36 (2) (b )(i)
and (ii) and Section 40 (2) of FOIA  apply to the requested information.
You have the right to request an internal review in respect of this
refusal of your request for information, which should be addressed to Jane
Corrin, Legal and Member Services, Transformation and Resources, Brighton
Street, Town Hall, Wallasey, CH44 8ED, [3][email address].

 

 

Sent on behalf of

Surjit Tour

Head of Legal & Member Services

and Monitoring Officer

Department of Transformation and Resources

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Town Hall

Brighton Street

Wallasey

Wirral

CH44 8ED

 

Email: [4][email address]

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/115497...
2. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/live...
3. mailto:[email address]
4. mailto:[email address]

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 'Please provide details of meeting between Frank Field MP and Graham Burgess CEO'.

I don't accept your decision to withhold this important public information. It is not justified. You are a publicly accountable body, and as such need to open up your workings to more transparency and public oversight. This process originally involved a payment of £48,000 which became deliberately shrouded in secrecy. At this stage, we don't even know if that happened because the council, a year and more later, have made no public admission, neither have they released it in their publicly declared accounts. This is unacceptable.

This new approach by Frank Field MP on behalf of the HESPE whistleblowers may involve the further payment of 4, 5, 6, 7 (who knows...?) multiplied by £48,000 - a large six figure sum of public money, being concealed and discussed at secretly convened, and potentially unminuted, unrecorded gatherings. All at a time of austerity for the public you are supposed to serve.

This is NO WAY to run a council.

The public of Wirral, having been so seriously short-changed in the past, cannot accept such secretive, unmonitored, undemocratic conduct from a so-called "improved" council.

Please ask a senior person to review this decision.

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

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for your email below.  Your original request was considered and
answered by the Council’s Monitoring Officer, who refused your request,
relying on section 36 exemption under FOI legislation.  The Reviewing
Officer, when a section 36 exemption has been relied on to refuse a
request, within a Local Council is The Chief Executive.

The Council’s current (outgoing) Chief Executive is Graham Burgess and it
would be inappropriate, in relation to your request, to ask him to conduct
an internal review.

 

I have discussed your request and sought advice from the Information
Commissioner’s Office (ICO).  They have advised that there is no automatic
right in law to an Internal Review when a FOI request is refused, although
many public bodies, including Wirral Council, routinely offer a review as
good practice.  They have suggested that a course of action open to you,
if you remain dissatisfied with the original response the Council gave to
you, is to contact the ICO directly.

The Council’s response to you is therefore in line with the advice from
the ICO - please contact them directly and we will await any instruction
from them, regarding any required action.

 

Yours sincerely

Jane Corrin

Information and Central Services Manager

Wallasey Town Hall

Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED 

 

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   You are free
to use it for your own purposes, including any non-commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge

 

From: Paul Cardin [[1]mailto:[FOI #237150 email]]
Sent: 02 December 2014 09:56
To: InfoMgr, FinDMT
Subject: Internal Review 847330 - Paul Cardin - Details of meeting between
Frank Field MP and Graham Burgess CEO

 

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 'Please provide details of meeting
between Frank Field MP and Graham Burgess CEO'.

 

I don't accept your decision to withhold this important public
information.   It is not justified.  You are a publicly accountable body,
and as such need to open up your workings to more transparency and public
oversight.  This process originally involved a payment of £48,000 which
became deliberately shrouded in secrecy.  At this stage, we don't even
know if that happened because the council, a year and more later, have
made no public admission, neither have they released it in their publicly
declared accounts.  This is unacceptable.

 

This new approach by Frank Field MP on behalf of the HESPE whistleblowers
may involve the further payment of  4, 5, 6, 7 (who knows...?) multiplied
by £48,000 - a large six figure sum of public money, being concealed and
discussed at secretly convened, and potentially unminuted, unrecorded
gatherings.  All at a time of austerity for the public you are supposed to
serve.

 

This is NO WAY to run a council.

 

The public of Wirral, having been so seriously short-changed in the past,
cannot accept such secretive, unmonitored, undemocratic conduct from a 
so-called "improved" council.

 

Please ask a senior person to review this decision.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on
the Internet at this address:
[2]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

 

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[FOI #237150 email]
2. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

The 'improved' council, backed by the ICO, asks ME to contact the ICO in order to remove the logjam (which I never created in the first place).

I asked for information. The system failed. The institutions and shortcomings in the law caused the problem.

Why do I have to write to the ICO - who already KNOW about this issue?

I'll do it, but these officials are wedged so far up their own derrieres, they grope around in self-imposed darkness, and can't be seen to lose face by having to 'bow down' to people who know what they are doing - people like me.

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

They refused your request on s.36 and s.40 grounds.

They are correct that an internal review of a s.36 decision goes to the Chief Executive. However although Graham Burgess is Chief Executive till 31/12/2014, I think he stops working on or around the 21/12/2014.

Wirral Council could easily consider any internal review of their s.40 refusal without having to get the Chief Executive to do it as that only applies to the s.36 exemption.

As to the internal review bit, well just appeal this to ICO. :)

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

ICO contacted today.

Dear Corrin, Jane,

As you will soon be welcoming the new CEO, Mr Robinson, to Wirral Council, please forward or print off this email and place it on his desk. I trust that you will update Mr Robinson on the lack of progress and his role in reviewing, addressing and resolving all of this.

Dear Mr Robinson,

Welcome to Wirral.

Please carry out an internal review of this FOI request, which was refused by Jane Corrin as Mr Burgess was about to retire and there wasn't a CEO available to do it.

You don't have to do it, according to the ICO, but I'm advised that your new employer, through a genuine desire to help, carries out internal reviews as part of 'good practice'.

Ms Corrin had advised me to contact the ICO in order to get further advice on this, which I did, but they never bothered to reply.

So I'd be very grateful if you picked up this particular ball and ran with it.

Welcome to Wirral Council and I look forward to the day when the local public can enjoy transparency, openness, accountability, and can tear down the obstacles to our data and information that have been placed in the way by your bullying, failing, power-abusing predecessors,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

ps. the bullying, power abuse and serious failures in governance were found by a number of independent external investigators