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A Really Rotten Borough
latest update 12 February 2010

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


Council Meeting
Monday, 2nd November, 2009 6.15 pm

Councillor Simon Mountney, when moving the motion said:

Every member or Officer of the Council is bound by a code of conduct.

Additionally, the department of Adult Social Services Managing Information and Knowledge policy document details specific responsibilities within that department.

When these codes are seriously breached or ignored both Officers and members alike lay themselves open to serious charges of misconduct in a public office. This can occur when someone wilfully neglects to perform their duty. This is a very serious issue.

In the year 2000 Mr Martin Morton, the Whistleblower, and at that time an employee of this council, first brought the unlawful and illegal over-charging of adults with learning disabilities at three properties in Moreton to the attention of senior managers within the Department of Adult Social services. He did this in accordance with the Code of Practice for social workers, of which, he was a practicing member and the Councils own Adult Protection Procedures.

Over the next eight years as he fought to protect the rights of those vulnerable and exposed individuals we as a council had entrusted into his care he was continually told his concerns were unfounded. Despite his continued allegations that individuals within his area of care were being subjected to continuing financial abuse both by Council and Private providers he was not only ignored by senior management but attempts were made to forcibly silence his concerns. This escalated into Bullying, Isolation and Hospitalisation. He was ostracized, forced to resign his post and made so ill that he considered suicide.

Throughout this entire episode Mr Morton is the only person who has acted with honesty, integrity and objectivity.

He was the only person to express concern at the mistreatment of vulnerable people and by his actions was the only person in this whole sordid saga to have his career destroyed.

Having been thwarted from resolving this issue from within by senior officers who have an attitude of “ I don’t care if I’m wrong I’m aloud to be” he was forced into becoming a Whistleblower. Via the Audit Commission, Mr Morton, raised his issues with an outside body who for the very first time, they listened to what he had to say and substantiated his claims. Throughout this period it appears that the department rather than attempting to right some of the wrongs done to many vulnerable people in its care, attempted to consistently and disturbingly cover up this issue.

From the outside it appears that a level of obfuscation and, and I use the word having given it great consideration, lies have been used to cover up this issue that is only now being unravelled to reveal the truth. It was initially reported by a senior officer within the department that “there was no outstanding financial liability” around this issue. The Director, then having had more than a month to arrive at some further figures reported to ARMC that some £78,000 was the limit of that liability. That figure now appears woefully short of the correct total.

Issues surrounding Balls Road were never at the heart of the PIDA process, it is the Director of DASS, who 12 months ago initially reported issues around 5 individuals living at Balls Road who it appears have been subject to an anomaly. Then it was reported by the Director that any reference to Balls Road had been stated in error and internal audit had accepted this, there was therefore no financial liability from Balls Road.

Members will now see that the Director is to take a further report direct to Cabinet regarding the Balls Road anomalies.

This issue has helped to destroyed the remaining semblances of trust the public had in this Council. Both by our actions and inactions this council must be held responsible for what it has put vulnerable people through. We must stop ignoring the powerful evidence be put before us. Should we now as a body chose not to act we will be responsible for condoning the financial abuse of individuals.

Proposed by Councillor Simon Mountney (7 minutes)
Seconded by Councillor Geoffrey Watt (3 minutes)

(1) This Council recognises that a number of concerns were raised by a Council ‘whistleblower’ in October 2007 under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which in turn has resulted in the Audit Commission issuing Wirral Council with a Public Information Disclosure report.

(2) Council notes the findings of the report:
• Although 30 accredited providers are used by the Council only 12 contracts have been signed and returned by providers.
• No formal arrangements have been established for the contract monitoring of
supported living providers.
• There are no arrangements at present for feedback from service users where there is dissatisfaction with services or where quality standards have not been met.
• There remains a substantial risk that users receiving services from one of the
Councils service providers are being charged unfairly.
• The Council does not always know the actual contributions that the provider rquires service users to contribute for services they provide. Consequently the Council is not in a position to know whether the aggregate of charges levied on
service users by the Council and contributions required by the provider are in
compliance with the guidance of fairer charging. It is not clear who is currently ensuring that these service users are receiving adequate protection for the risk
of financial abuse.

(3) Council notes the fact that these findings had previously been raised with officers of the Council by the whistleblower and, whilst thanking the Audit Commission for the production of this report and bringing the matter out into the open, condemns the fact that the Council’s own procedures are so defective as to have needed the Audit Commission’s intervention to bring them to the notice of the Council and the public.

(4) Council believes that this PIDA report and the Department’s unwillingness to bring to the Council’s attention the whistleblower’s concerns regarding the treatment of those in our care demonstrates a lack of effective governance, management and leadership within the Department.

(5) Therefore this Council instructs the Chief Executive to appoint an independent person of sufficient standing and experience to investigate these matters fully, speedily and rigorously and to bring their findings to the Council’s attention, including any disciplinary action, if required, at the earliest possible occasion.

Proposed by Councillor Denise Roberts (7 minutes)
Seconded by Councillor Ron Abbey (3 minutes)

Delete all text after the end of section (2) and replace with the following:

(3) Council notes the serious implications of the findings and recognises that they point to serious management failings in adult social services in the past over a long period of time. Council acknowledges these findings and notes that the Director of Adult Social Services has prepared a report addressing these failings and their consequences and that this will be presented to Audit and Risk Management Committee on 3rd November.

(4) In relation to allegations of bullying of the whistleblower, Council notes and supports Cabinets decision to instruct the Director of Law HR and Asset Management to commence an investigation into the treatment of the individual, in relation to allegations of bullying. Council also notes that an outside, independent person will conduct this investigation.

(5) Council welcomes the Audit & Risk Management Committee recommendation to reimburse service users at Bermuda Road, Curlew Way and Edgehill Road Moreton, between April 2003 and February 2006.

(6) Council also notes that the audit and risk management committee will tomorrow (3 November 2009) receive a report providing further information with respect to the charging that took place between the period 1997 - 2003, and based on that will make a recommendation on whether re-imbursement will take place for that period.

Proposed by Councillor Leah Fraser (7 minutes)
Seconded by Councillor Jeff Green (3 minutes)

In addition to the existing Conservative Notice of Motion add the following:

(6) This Council recognises that the concerns raised by Mr Martin Morton in October 2007 under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, and earlier to Senior Officers, are both well-founded and serious.

(7) Council further notes that in the twelve months since the PIDA was published

(a) It has now been established that a vulnerable group of people with learning disabilities in the care of this Council were unlawfully financially abused by this Council over many years. The full extent of this financial abuse and the level of unlawfulness is yet to be established, however, the original figure of £78,499.62 first quoted by the Director of DASS is now recognised as woefully short of the total amount improperly obtained from the residents within our care.

(b) Despite the contributions made by Directors and the most senior officers in its production, the most recent report by Internal Audit has gone only part of the way to revealing the truth. What is much clearer is that much of the evidence presented by Mr Morton and all of his relevant knowledge of this ongoing financial abuse has been ignored or mistakenly omitted from the report.

(c) This Council continues to applaud the efforts of Mr Martin Morton in attempting to ensure that the full extent of the financial abuse and wrong doing is brought into the open

(d) Council expresses its concern that the Cabinet member for Adult and Social Care is yet to make a full comment to the Audit committee or Council regarding how aware she was of this situation and why she had not taken any action prior to the publication of the PIDA report.

(e) Therefore this Council requests that the Chief Executive, in conjunction with the three party leaders selects a person of suitable standing, who is totally independent and fully qualified to carry out a full public inquiry into the PIDA report, in order to draw this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

Right of reply: Councillor Simon Mountney (7 minutes)
In his reply, Councillor Mountney named Councillors who had knowledge of the unlawful charging policy in 2005 and have therefore been a party to the cover-up.


Pat Williams - Liberal Democrat
18 January 2005 - chaired Social Care & Health Select Committee
14 February 2005 - chaired Social Care & Health Select Committee
22nd August 2005 - The LibDem member of the Charging Policy Consultation Group
July 2007 - chairing Martin Morton's grievance hearing, she allowed him to be bullied and threatened by senior officers, followed by briefing by Kevin Miller and Maura Noone.
2007 - told by a carer about the identical financial abuse of adults with learning disabilities by a private provider.

Denise Roberts - Labour
18 January 2005 - Social Care & Health Select Committee
14 February 2005 - Social Care & Health Select Committee
22 August 2005 - Charging Policy Consultation Group

Steve Foulkes - Labour
1 December 2005 - Cabinet

Moira McLaughlin - Labour
18 January 2005 - Social Care & Health Select Committee
1 December 2005 - Cabinet

Ann Bridson - Liberal Democrat
18 January 2005 - Social Care & Health Select Committee
14 February 2005 - Social Care & Health Select Committee

Labour and Lib/Dem members just did not want to know, and the Labour amendment was carried.

Cllr Jeff Green warned them that the truth will come out as soon as there is a political change in either the Council or nationally.
© copyright Wirral Borough Council. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting

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