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Sunday, 22 November 2009

Martin Morton's report to ARMC - 25 November 2009

The report writen by Martin Morton for the Audit & Risk Managemnt meeting on 25 November [next Wednesday, 6.15] has been published on the Wirral Council website.

The report has been castrated edited by Bill Norman, Director of Law, and can be read HERE.

It is too long to reproduce in its entireity, but these are the conclusions and recommendation:

5. Conclusions

5.1 It is by now beyond dispute that the Special Charging Policy was unfair:

- Several other anomalies were also identified ... – Social Services Committee (September 1999)
- “There is unfairness in the system ...” - [Officer C (DASS)] (2004)
- “The Group felt this (Special charging Policy) was unfair ...” – Charging Policy Review Group (2005)
- “The inequity of the Charging Policy has been a concern for some time ...” – [Officer I (DASS)] (2006)
- The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management considers the policy to have been “unreasonable” and therefore “unlawful” at specific times

5.2 What has become a matter of dispute is whether Wirral Council dealt appropriately and effectively with this “unfairness”.

The Report of Internal Chief Officer for ARMC on November 3rd ( para 3.2 p.8) states that:

“Further discussions and enquiries were made with DASS officers and managers. All were again open, co-operative and helpful......”

Whilst I do not believe that all DASS staff have been obstructive during Internal Audit’s investigation, I strongly refute that this if this has always been the case If so why have I spent nine years fighting for justice, and why did I lose the job that I was so strongly committed to? I have witnessed senior officers lie to ARMC as they blatantly did to the Audit Commission. (I shake my head in despair every time I hear reference to“daily living costs/funds”).

I have been constantly reminded of the proverb that I included in my original grievance/whistleblowing submission:

“If we keep up appearances we won’t be found out......”

Cllr. Abbey commented at ARMC on November 3rd on the “drip, drip ,drip” of informationthat has been a feature of this sorry saga.

The “drip, drip, drip” has been entirely of the Council’s making. I have taken several days leave from work, produced a series of reports (including this one) and provided information as requested to assist with ongoing investigations. If particular senior officers and indeed, particular Councillors had been truly “open, co-operative and helpful” I would not have had to get up at 4am to complete this report before I go to work.

Furthermore, I would not have lost my job, there would have been no PIDA report, no suspensions, no investigations, no special meetings, no solicitor’s fees, no Compromise Agreement, no payment of £45,000 to keep quiet, no need for a gagging clause, no adverse publicity and no possibility, as there is now, of the Council bringing itself into disrepute.

Whilst this case has been a terrible waste of Council resources, the personal, negative repercussions for me and my family have been incalculable.

5.3 Wirral Council’s response to this case has been to minimise
a) financial liability and b) serious malpractice.

I have detailed how the potential financial liability has grown exponentially from September 2008 from £0 to £243,700 as investigations have progressed.

I maintain that if I had not pressed ARMC the Council would have agreed to “take the hit” on the £78,499.62 figure detailed by Director of DASS in November 2008 and that as far as they were concerned would have been the end of the matter.

The council charged tenants of Bermuda Road, Curlew Way and Edgehill Road approximately £500K during the period 1997-2006 that I maintain was unlawful under the Special Charging Policy.

I fully understand that these are difficult financial times but that is no justification for unlawfully withholding money that is rightfully theirs from vulnerable people.

It should also be noted this is not just about the Special Charging Policy, this is about legitimate charges were not made, which, according to my calculations, amounts to a sum well into seven figures. Again I strongly refute the previously reported claim that the loss of income amounted to £300,000 especially when I was told by Mr. Norman three weeks prior to the publication of the report presented to ARMC the loss amounted to £580,000.

The tendency to minimise serious malpractice is reflected in the speech that Cllr. Denise Roberts gave to Committee on November 2nd 2009. Cllr.Roberts has kindly forwarded me a copy of her speech wherein she stated:

“What we are dealing with, quite frankly, is a mess that needs to be sorted out"

I would suggest that what we are actually dealing with is maladministration, financial mismanagement and an appalling abuse of power.

This tendency is also reflected in the comment that John Webb, (Director of DASS) made in his presentation to ARMC members on November 3rd 2009 about the observation made by Dame Denise Platt from the Commission of Social Care Inspection during a visit to Wirral on Mr. Webb’s first day as Director. She reasoned that the Department had found themselves in special measures because “Wirral couldn’t count”.

Might I suggest on the evidence of this report that DASS should never have come out of special measures?

If there is a single piece of evidence I would ask ARMC to consider it is the following email exchange which I have already referenced within this report and which I include in it’s entirety as it demonstrates so clearly the two issues I have highlighted about financial liability and serious malpractice.

emails removed as they already appear on this site

6. Recommendation

Despite the apparent complexities of this case I would refer members back to my email sent to the Audit Commission in September 2008 (para 2.11)

“It is matter of simply adding up what charges were made upon the tenants of 3 addresses between 1997 -2006 and paying it back....................”

I implore you not to be constrained by political affiliations and to make your decision in accordance with what is right and acknowledge the citizenship and legal rights of people with learning disabilities who lived at Bermuda Road, Curlew Way and Edgehill Road and who were subject to an unlawful charge.

Martin Morton
19 November 2009

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