Friday, 23 December 2011

Durham County Council: BINGATE update

Since my exclusive BINGATE post about [Durham County Council wasting money on waste bins on the 23rd November 2011 a number of others have since  published articles on the subject. Links below.

I am still waiting for a response to my Freedom of Information request in an attempt to identify if any councillors or officers enjoyed trips abroad as part of the tender process. The council has already exceeded the statutory 20 day deadline forcing me to request an internal review.

Council condemned over bin contract

Durham County Council condemned over bin contract

£4M Bins contract goes to foreign firm even though British bid is cheaper

Council slammed for awarding £4m bin contract to a GERMAN firm... even though British bid was £250,000 cheaper

Twin bin update

Council defends continental bins contract

Bin boss attacks £4.2m contract

Durham Council Offers £4m Bin Contract To Germans Despite Cheaper British Bid

German bins deal rubbished

£4.2m bin deal was not rubbish

The Northern Echo [link above] states that they exclusively broke the story on Monday 19th December 2011, nearly a month after I did :-)

Someone has also started a petition which is well worth signing if you want to protect British jobs.

Read all articles about Durham County Council on this blog

NHS boss on £25,800 a MONTH

THE boss of West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary has been paid £129,000 for his first five months in post, The Whitehaven News can reveal today.

Dr Neil Goodwin is the full-time interim chief executive of the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust.

The figure was revealed following a request to the Trust by The Whitehaven News under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. It equates to around £25,800 a month – similar to a year’s salary for some senior nurses.

Dr Goodwin started work at the cash-strapped Trust – now said to be in financial crisis – in June. The figure provided by the Trust through FOI was the total paid up until the end of October.

Sean Gibson, a regional organiser with the health union Unison, said: “It is a sickening amount of money at a time when many of his staff will not have a pay rise this year or next. Does this represent value for money considering his Trust is spending £1.2million per month over and above their budgets?

My comment: When will this madness end?

Read the full story from the source Whitehaven News

Thursday, 22 December 2011

2011 Public Authoirty Watcher's awards: The winners are.....

1st place Elected Representatives, Councillor 80 posts, Dodgy elected representatives 68 posts, Councillors 42 posts, MP 29 posts.

2nd place Watchdogs, Watchdogs 47 posts, Care Quality Commission 17 posts, Data Protection 17 posts, Local Government Ombudsman 12 posts

3rd place Police, Police 80 posts

Runners up, Andrea Hill 24 posts, NHS 25 posts, , Wirral Council 12 posts, Birmingham City Council 10 posts, Whistle-blowers 10 posts, LGA 10 posts, Social Services 10 posts

Councillor told to apologise for inappropriate expenses claims

A COUNCILLOR has been told to make a written apology after inappropriately claiming £350 in expenses.

Conservative councillor Barry Lobbett, who represents Bedworth North on Warwickshire County Council, inappropriately claimed more than 880 miles of travel expenses last year and has now been publicly reprimanded for the claims by the council’s standards committee.

Coun Lobbett had made £350 of inappropriate claims - including for Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council duties, for electioneering and for getting to and from a council officer’s retirement party. Conservative county council leader Alan Farnell demanded his colleague repay the cash. During further investigation Coun Lobbett insisted he misunderstood the rules.

My comment: That's what all people say when the are caught fiddling their expense . However, only elected representatives can get away a mild slap on the wrist. Any of his constituents who did the same would probably face the sack or even jail for fraud.

Read the full story from the source Coventry Telegraph

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Police Sergeant illegally evicts family from their home

A POLICE officer has narrowly avoided jail after throwing a mother out of her home.
Sergeant Christopher Hine unlawfully evicted the woman, who was renting a bungalow from him.

A court heard off-duty Hine, 50, his partner and two other men turned up to remove Catherine Baxter from the property. She was dragged out in tears, as shocked neighbours looked on.

Hine – Humberside Police's wildlife crime officer – has been given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, ordered to carry out 200 hours of work in the community and pay £1,400 costs.

My comment: A Police Sergeant who doesn't obey the law. Surely that is a sacking offence even if he escaped a jail term.

Read the full story from the source This is Hull and East Riding

Read all articles about the Police on this blog

Gedling Borough Council hounded mentally-ill pensioner over unpaid tax-bill

A MENTALLY-ill pensioner was hounded by a “blinkered and aggressive” council that ran up a bill totalling £200,000 by chasing a debt of just £1,900.

The council spent £50,000 in legal costs alone. But now a judge has ruled Gedling wrongly ignored the fact that Mr Evans was vulnerable. As a result, the legal action has been quashed.

Now the council must also foot the bill of £70,000 in trustee fees, plus Mr Evans’s legal bill of £80,000 — a total of £200,000, which is more than 100 times the original debt.

The bill relating to the failed prosecution of Mr Evans’s case will not be paid by local taxpayers. The council says it has an insurance policy to cover such expenses.

My Comment: Wow, I didn't know you could insure yourself against stupidity.

Read the full story from the source Dispatch

Read my earlier post on the subject

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Watchdogs: A system that is rotten to the core

The seriousness of this scandal cannot be overstated, for what we are witnessing is the systematic betrayal, not only of successive generations of children, but also of universities and employers who can now have little faith in the credibility of their qualifications.

From exam boards to the watchdogs who are meant to guard standards, the modern taxpayer-funded education system has been exposed as rotten to the core.

This crisis over exams has come about entirely because of politics and people in the sector acting for commercial gain. During Labour’s 13 years of rule, there was insidious collusion between the exam boards and government to mislead the public into thinking that standards were on the rise.

My comment: Over the last few years all Public Service Watchdogs, Ombudsmen and Commissions have manipulated the truth rather than improve standards within the bodies they are supposed to be watching. 

It is now practically impossible to identify a Public Sector Watchdog, Ombudsman or Commission that is now fit for purpose. All they do is mislead the public with manipulated reports to help the Government and the bodies they are supposed to be watching bury the truth . 

Essentially Public Sector Watchdog, Ombudsman or Commission have now become part of the problem not part of the solution.

Read the full story from the source Mail on -line
 
Read all articles about Watchdogs or all articles about the Care Quality Commission on this blog and all articles about the Local Government Ombudsman on my dedicated blog

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Another not fit for purpose (now ex) councillor

Nathan Bale, 31, the former constituency office manager of North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson, was given a two-year community order by magistrates in Bodmin who heard that he became "fixated" with child pornography after initially accessing the sordid material out of "morbid curiosity".

The former Lib Dem member of Cornwall Council, resigned for "health reasons" after his arrest in June.

Until his resignation Bale held the Bude North and Stratton seat on Cornwall Council for the Liberal Democrats. He took the seat in the June 2009 election, winning 72 per cent of the vote - the largest majority on the council.

My comment: The list of not fit for purpose Councillors and MPs just gets longer and longer.

Read the full story from the source The Independent

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Darlington Borough Council officer jailed for £100,000 construction scam

The former head of a local authority asbestos department has been jailed for his part in a £100,000 building scam.

Michael Skirving was part of a racket in which two other men, Martin Dougherty and James Burns, submitted bogus invoices to the council for work that was not carried out.

They were all handed prison sentences, along with Graeme Storey who told lies to police during the investigation.

The four men from Hartlepool were jailed at Teesside Crown Court yesterday.
Dougherty’s business MBN Roofing and Builders was paid £75,000 after submitting 15 fake invoices for work on jobs in Hartlepool, Billingham and Middlesbrough.

Skirving emailed Dougherty with instructions of what to put on the paperwork.
Burns submitted invoices through his James Print and Design firm totalling £33,000 for the supply of a cherrypicker in connection with work in Owton Manor, Hartlepool.

A spokeswoman for Darlington Borough Council said: “This case illustrates that dishonesty and fraud will not be tolerated by the council.

My comment:  But it was tolerated by the council long enough for them to defraud over £100,000.  It took 15 FAKE invoices before the council woke up. What if they hadn't been greedy and stopped earlier, would it have still been detected? Surely 1 fake invoice should be detected within days if they had their eye on the ball.

 Read the full story from the source The Construction Index

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Bradford Councillor, convicted fraudster and cat killer

Fraudster

Robert Payne, who has represented Keighley West since May 2008, lost control of the running of his business and failed to pass on a £3,587 tax refund to a client.

Judge Goss sentenced Payne to eight weeks’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months, with 100 hours’ unpaid work, and supervision from a probation officer.

He refused to resign because he needed the £13,000-a-year allowance to pay back the person he defrauded.

Read the full story from the source Telegraph & Argus

Cat killer

A CRUEL councillor, Robert Payne,  killed four pet cats by SMASHING them into the walls of his home. Their battered bodies were found strewn around Robert Payne's house amid shocking scenes of cruelty.

Magistrates in Bingley remanded him in custody because of the seriousness of the offences. He will be sentenced next month. 

Read the full story from the source The Sun

My comment: It's a ludicrous situation whereby a councillor who is guilty of serious fraud and of killing kittens can remain in office.

UPDATE 23rd December 2011: Ex-Bradford councillor jailed for swinging pet cats around his house.
 
He was jailed for five months for causing unnecessary suffering to the kittens and was handed a month to be served consecutively for breaching a previous suspended sentence for fraud.

My comment: If there is any justice in this world he will be sharing a cell with a cat lover.

Read the full story from the source Yorkshire Post

Read all articles about Bradford Council, all articles about Councillors and all articles about Cat killers on this blog. (Yes there are more than one.)

Friday, 25 November 2011

Suffolk County Council: Attempted cover up of their failure to scrutinise

I had been following the Andrea Hill/Suffolk County Council saga for some time before submitting the FOI reqest below.

At the time it was obvious to me that much of what was going on was due to a complete lack of scrutiny by the council. In order to confirm my suspicions I decided to submit an FOI request.

To reduce any chance of Suffolk County Council being able to find a valid reason to refuse my request I decided to limit my request to just one historic incident.

You can follow events below, all of which can be verified on the What Do They Know Website here. my additional comments are in blue italics.

However, what is more worrying than Suffolk County Council's scrutiny failure is their attempt to hide that failure from the public.

FOI to Suffolk County Council 1st June 2011
Your CEO is on record stating that her trip to America was funded by BT.

If your CEO is correct and BT did in fact pay all her costs, I would like any and all information regarding Suffolk County Council's scrutiny of her American trip in light of her business negotiations with BT and the fact that BT are on record stating “Given the Public Sector rules on acceptance of hospitality and the reputation and benefits of the programme, clients pay their own flights and accommodation costs.”
Suffolk County Council response 14th June 2011
The role of the Chief Executive within the relationship between the County Council and BT with regard to Customer Service Direct Ltd, is currently being reviewed as part of the investigation prompted by whistleblowing allegations.  It is not appropriate for the County Council to make any further comment at this time.
My comment: An FOI request is a request for information held not a request for a comment. 

Request for an internal review 14th June 2011
I am writing to request an internal review of Suffolk County Council's handling of my FOI request 'Scrutiny'.

A freedom of information request is a request for information held by the council at the time of the request. It does not require any comment by Suffolk County Council. I refer you back to my original request, either supply the information requested of a valid FOI exemption for refusing to do so.
A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/scrutiny
Suffolk County Council acknowledgement 15th June 2011
We are sorry that you are unhappy with the response to your access to  information request 3567.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) and Environmental
Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) we will conduct an internal review of
our response.

Internal reviews are conducted by the Head of Corporate Information and
Records and we aim to complete them within 20 working days.
Follow up to internal review request 23rd July 2011
Can you please tell me when I can expect to receive a substantive response to my internal review.
Suffolk County Council send internal review findings 29th July 2011
We confirm that Suffolk County Council holds the information requested.
However, the Council has determined that the information requested is exempt from disclosure, under the following provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act), namely:
♦  Section 30 - investigations and proceedings;
♦  Section 40 - personal information; and
♦  Section 42 - legal professional privilege.

The Council's reasons for relying upon these exemptions are explained in more detail below.  
Section 30
 
Under section 30(2): Information held by a public authority is exempt information if-  (a) it was obtained or recorded by the authority for the purposes of its functions relating to-...  (iii) investigations...which are conducted by the authority for any of the purposes specified in section 31(2)... and (b) it relates to the obtaining of information from confidential sources.
 

Further to the above, the purposes specified in section 31(2) include: (a) the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply with the law, (b) the purpose of ascertaining whether any person is responsible for any conduct which is improper,.... (d) the purpose of ascertaining a person's fitness or competence in relation to the management of bodies corporate or in relation to any profession or other activity which he is, or seeks to become authorised to carry on,...
 

If information held by a public authority is for the purposes of any of these functions and it relates to the obtaining of information from confidential sources, it is covered by this exemption.

This provision is principally intended to give protection to the identities of confidential sources so that those sources are not discouraged from approaching investigative bodies to inform on criminal or improper acts.  

Section 30 is a qualified exemption so is subject to a public interest test. The information can only be withheld if the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

This involves weighing the prejudice that may be caused to an investigation, or more generally to the investigatory processes of the public authority, against the public interest in disclosure. There is general recognition that it is in the public interest to safeguard the investigatory process. The right of access should not undermine an investigation nor dissuade individuals from coming forward to report wrong-doing.

In addition to safeguarding the anonymity of confidential information sources who came forward to contribute to the inquiry, in the knowledge that their names would not be publicised, the timescale is a key factor in the public interest test. Public interest in maintaining the exemption will be stronger while an investigation is being carried out. At the present time, both the person at the centre of the inquiry as well as other people involved are still employed by the Council.

There will also be a strong case for maintaining the exemption where keeping the information secret is important to the success of the investigation. Given that the process remains on-going in various respects, withholding information from disclosure is crucial to an effective outcome for all concerned.

While there is evident public interest in the information, in terms of promoting openness and accountability, sufficient information is already deemed to exist in the public domain to satisfy that public interest and so no added value would accrue from the disclosure of further information. Furthermore, there is a clear public interest in the authority being able to secure information from confidential sources in relation to investigations. Any disclosure of such information could have very serious consequences both for the individual sources and the future willingness of people to provide information.

In applying the public interest test in relation to this exemption, taking into account the above considerations, and including human rights issues and an assessment of the impact of disclosure on the success of the final outcome of the investigation, the Council's determination is, therefore, to withhold the information requested.

Section 40
Section 40 sets out various exemptions from the 'right to know' for information that is personal data protected by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). Personal data is defined in that legislation and includes any recorded information in any form relating to an identifiable living person. Personal data of any other person (third-party data) is exempt under section 40(2) if disclosure would breach one of the principles in the DPA. Generally this will mean balancing the legitimate interests of the public in having access to the information against the interests of the individual under the first principle of the DPA and, in particular, considering whether it is unfair to release the information.

The exemption is designed to address the tension between public access to official information and the need to protect personal information.

To be specific, the exemption will apply where disclosure of the personal data would breach one of the data protection principles set out in schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (provided for by sections 40(3)(a)(i) and 40(3)(b) of the Act). This is an absolute exemption, which means that if the condition is satisfied there is no additional public interest test to consider.

The first data protection principle states:

1. Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless-  (a) at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and (b) in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met.

The second data protection principle states:

2. Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes. 
The Council has determined that, given the nature of the inquiry, its focus, the information supplied by confidential personal sources, the witnesses and others involved that section 40(2) of the DPA is engaged throughout.

Having confirmed that personal data (section 40(7) of the Act confirms that the relevant definition is set out in section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998) is not only involved in the request but is its entire focus then it is judged that any disclosure would be unfair.

In assessing fairness, the Council considered the likely consequences of disclosure of the requested information on the individuals and the potential distress that might be caused - especially from the inevitable added intrusion that would ensue should the information be released. While there was undoubted media and public interest, there was also substantial evidence to date (especially from the various media) to suggest very strongly that any information disclosed would result in yet more damage and distress to the individuals involved.

Both the main individual and the others who contributed to the inquiry and its process did so in the reasonable expectation that their details would not be released. When the data was collected, the Council assured individuals that their details would not be disclosed.

There were high expectations of privacy. The presumption is in favour of protecting privacy, so the release of personal information will only be fair if there is a genuine reason to disclose.

A public authority will generally have to satisfy itself that:

♦  there is a legitimate interest in disclosure;
♦  the legitimate interest can only be met, or fully met, by the disclosure of  information which identifies individuals (i.e. the disclosure is necessary to that purpose); and,
♦  the disclosure would not involve unwarranted detriment to the individual’s privacy or other rights and legitimate interests.

It is accepted those expectations must be balanced against the needs of transparency and any presumption in favour of  disclosure, especially where the performance of public duties and the spending of public money are involved. It is also accepted that  senior officers should have a greater expectation of scrutiny in terms of how they carry out their public duties.

However, consent to disclosure was not provided. Further, the nature and content of the information were key factors in contributing to the argument in favour of withholding the information. Previous cases have pointed to the fact that information relating to an internal investigation or disciplinary hearing will carry a strong general expectation of privacy - even those involving senior staff.

The circumstances in which the information was obtained, i.e. primarily from confidential sources, is also an important factor.

As disclosure under the Act is considered disclosure to the public at large and not to the individual applicant, the legitimate interests of the public in disclosure needs to be balanced against the interests of the individual whose data it is. Therefore, there will be occasions where the requirement to demonstrate accountability and transparency, e.g. in the spending of public funds, will outweigh the rights of the individuals.

Ultimately, each case must be judged on its merits.

The Council believes that it is a reasonable expectation that the information would not be disclosed and that to do so would be unfair.

To confirm, therefore, Section 40(2) together with the condition in section 40(3)(a)(i) or 40(3)(b) provides an absolute exemption (no public interest test required) if disclosure of the personal data would breach any of the data protection principles. The Council has determined that to release the information would be unfair and so is withholding the information requested.

Section 42
Section 42 sets out an exemption from the 'right to know' for information protected by  Legal professional privilege (LPP). The exemption is qualified, meaning that it is subject to a public interest test.

LPP covers communications between lawyers and their clients for the purpose of obtaining legal advice, or documents created by or for lawyers for the 'dominant' (main) purpose of litigation. LPP can be lost if the information is shared with others.
LPP is intended to provide confidentiality between professional legal advisers and clients to ensure openness between them and safeguard access to fully informed, realistic and frank legal advice, including potential weaknesses and counter-arguments. Both parties to the inquiry benefited from such advice. Neither party was prepared to consent to its disclosure.

Where LPP applies, therefore, there will need to be strong public interest in disclosure to offset the inevitable strong public interest in favour of the exemption.

The Council examined the information and confirmed that it is covered by LPP and that the exemption is, therefore, engaged. It then considered the public interest. The balance weighed in favour of maintaining the exemption and withholding the information.

In favour of disclosure are the general public interests in the promotion of transparency and accountability, and the amount of money at stake  through the salary of the senior officer. Factors in favour of maintaining the exemption are the age of the information (issues affecting the inquiry are still being finalised and so are on-going), the importance of the principle behind LPP as applied, in this instance, to the inquiry, i.e. safeguarding openness in all communications between client and lawyer to ensure access to full and frank legal advice, the potential harm that disclosure might be likely to cause, and the significant personal interests of the individual at the centre of the inquiry.

The Council's determination is to withhold information requested.
My comment: If you ever receive a response like this to an internal review they body in question has got something to hide. 

Their response is typical of a council, or anyone come to that, when trying to avoid answering a question. They have introduced a number of fallacies, however, at the moment I will focus on just two. The straw man fallacy and Proof by verbosity  

The straw man fallacy: This is based on a misrepresentation of my FOI request.  They have created the illusion of having correctly refused my request by replacing it with a superficially similar yet not equivalent FOI request (the "straw man"), and refused it, without ever having actually refusing the original FOI request.

Proof by verbosity/intimidation: Sometimes colloquially referred to as argumentum verbosium - a rhetorical technique that tries to persuade by overwhelming those considering an argument with such a volume of material that the argument sounds plausible, superficially appears to be well-researched, and it is so laborious to untangle and check supporting facts that the argument might be allowed to slide by unchallenged.

My response to their internal review 29th July 2011
Thank you for your response. I will now submit a complaint to the ICO because you have wrongly used a recent investigation as a reason for not supplying historic information. As you should be aware the information I requested was from 2008 not 2011.

"I would like any and all information regarding Suffolk County Council's scrutiny of her American trip."

Therefore, one can only conclude from your response that no scrutiny took place during 2008 and if that is the case I can well understand you trying to hide the fact.
I submitted a complaint to the ICO which eventually resulted in,

Suffolk County Council 25th November 2011
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 (Information Commissioner Ref.:
FS50411735; Our Ref.: 3567)

I am writing with regard to your request under the Freedom of Information  Act 2000 to this Council concerning any information held from 2008 relating to any scrutiny of the former Chief Executive's trip to the USA.
You were dissatisfied both with the Council's initial response and with the outcome of the internal review which was carried out.

Quite properly you referred the matter to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for a decision.

At the time the your request was received, and subsequent internal review carried out, there was an on-going investigation into whistleblowing allegations relating the Chief Executive and no information was able to be disclosed.
Following discussions with the ICO, it can now be confirmed that no information is held. That confirmation has only come to light upon conclusion of the investigation.
I do appreciate that given the above process and actions, it has taken so long to determine that situation. On behalf of the Council, I must apologise for any inconvenience caused. However, I trust that this confirmation will, at least, enable the matter to be drawn to a close.
My comment: What a pathetic attempt at backside covering. Clearly Suffolk County Council haven't learnt any lessons. The question Suffolk County Council now need to answer is did they actually scrutinise anything their CEO did?

Read all articles about Suffolk County Council or all articles about Andrea Hill on this blog

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Exclusive: Durham County Council waste money on waste bins

I have just been emailed the following shocking story by an anonymous whistle-blower.

Apparently not long ago Durham County Council sent out tenders for around 250,000 two-wheeled bins. The responses they received included some from UK companies.

However, Durham County Council allegedly awarded the contract to a German company who were much more expensive than one of the UK companies.

The bins will be produced in Germany or France and then shipped to Durham for local  distribution.

It appears to be absolute madness that when we are trying to save taxpayer's money and save UK jobs that Durham County Council are spending an extra quarter of a million pounds with a foreign company for bins that could be produced cheaper in the UK.

In addition, how can Durham County Council justify this when they are trying to save £125 million by cutting services, thousands of council jobs and closing leisure centres, community centres and museums?

Furthermore, if Durham County Council sought the advice of consultants about which bins to buy the total additional costs will be much higher than £250,000.

If Durham County Council contact me I will gladly publish their side of this shocking story.

Is time running out for Durham County Council's wasteful ways?

UPDATE 24th November 2011: I have just  started to investigate, often when councils contract abroad a number of staff and/or members also get a mini holiday on the taxpayer or the company.

PS: If you have any information concerning BINGATE please let me know.

UPDATE 26th January 2011: Durham County Council will review its procedures following an outcry over its decision to pay a German firm £4.2m for new bins.

Lib Demcouncillor Mark Wilkes has now said the authority will look again at its procurement practices and the involvement of councillors in the process after he called for action.

“Following the issues about the bin contract, I checked back at the review of what information and access councillors should be getting in relation to contracts and tendering at county hall and discovered that many of the recommendations from two years ago had simply never been carried through,” he wrote in his on line blog.

My comment: What an indictment of the council. Councillors not being given the information necessary to reach a sound decision. 

Read the full story from the source Teesdale Mercury

Read all articles about Durham County Council on this blog

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Code of conduct for care workers is not the solution

Health care assistants and care workers who look after elderly people in England are set to be governed by a code of conduct and minimum standards.

The new regulations come amid growing concerns about the training and quality of care provided by some care workers with several cases being seen by the local government ombudsman for England, Dr Jane Martin.

Dr Martin has the powers to investigate what local authorities do, but she feels that there is a gap in the system when it comes to care workers.

She said: “It seems to me, if there were more safeguards around the qualification or perhaps the registration of care assistants, that would give me greater assurance that they were being properly vetted and employed to do a job that we had more confidence in.”

Read the full story from the source hc2d.co.uk

My comment: As usual the Minister and Ombudsman are backside covering by diverting attention away from the cause onto one of the symptoms. 

No code of conducts will ever stop the Baby P, the Winterbourne and the Wirral scandals. In addition Doctors and Nurses in the NHS already adhere to a code of conduct but that hasn't stopped the scandals in the NHS.

What the Minister and Ombudsman are attempting to do is tar all care workers/front  line staff with the same brush and put the blame onto them. Whilst there is no doubt some care workers/front line staff don't care the majority do, and the minister and the ombudsman shouldn't try and offload their own failures onto them.

In the three cases above in every single one was exposed because of a member of staff, not senior management, not the Ombudsman and not the Minister.  

In fact they were exposed in spite of the Local Government Ombudsman and Care Quality Commission who repeatedly ignore whistle-blowers and evidence whilst often accepting senior managements assurances that there are no problems. 

Were any of the whistle-blowers assisted or protected by the Local Government Ombudsman or the Care quality Commission or the Ministers responsible? NO. Watchdogs and Ministers only get involved  to cover their backsides when the damage has been done and only then to divert attention away from their own failings.

In every one of the three cases above (and in many of the NHS scandals) the cause can be traced back to the failures of senior management. Failures that an effective Watchdog and Minister would have put a stop to long before any symptoms developed. (Ironically many Pubic Sector Ombudsmen and Watchdogs are selected from that very group, which may help explain the problem.)

If senior management in any organisation are poor the culture of the whole organisation is  poor and most good staff will do one of three things, look for another job as soon as possible, whistle-blow and/or persevere hoping one day a Watchdog or Minister will realise what's going on and kick their senior manager's backsides. 

However, it never happens and as good staff leave senior management have no option but to replace them with anyone who will put up with their poor management skills and practices. Poor staff slowly replace good staff and uncaring carers slowly replace caring carers, For who else would put up with low pay and bad management for long? The culture of the organisation goes into rapid free-fall until we end up with a Baby P, a Winterbourne, Wirral and many NHS scandals.

Did a Minister, Watchdog, Ombudsman stop these unfortunate events, no they didn't, they only put their heads above the parapet after the events in an attempt to divert attention away from their own failures.

Until Watchdogs, Ombudsmen and Ministers stop trying to divert attention away from the cause, nothing will change, we will continue to lurch from scandal to scandal.

Remember the promises of Watchdogs and Ministers after every scandal, 'lessons will be learnt'? Well they obviously aren't for if they were they wouldn't keep happening and whistle-blowers and good staff would be protected not blamed.

The solution is to replace the current bunch of backside covering incompetents with Public Service Ombudsmen, Watchdogs and Ministers who are fit for purpose.

Read all articles about Watchdogs or all articles about the Care Quality Commission on this blog and all articles about the Local Government Ombudsman on my dedicated blog

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Another Watchdog, another whitewash, another failure

Watchdog probe into £32k expenses row is branded ‘whitewash'.

SPENDING watchdogs have been accused of a “whitewash” after praising changes made by a transport body that handed out £32,000 in expenses which could not be accounted for.

The Strathclyde Passenger Transport quango has been let off after deciding not to pursue two former employees who racked up £1,500 in expenses judged “personal and excessive” from a trip to Manchester on the day Rangers played in the Uefa Cup final.

The Accounts Commission last year found “serious deficiencies” in SPT’s handling of expenses and branded the taxpayer-funded junket to Manchester an “unacceptable use of public money”.

But now it says SPT has made “significant progress” in handling expenses claims and has taken concerns over the use of public money “seriously” by making improvements to its internal procedures.

My comment: Why do Watchdogs and Ombudsmen always suck up to the bodies they are supposed to be investigating? 

They aren't critiquing  an X factor contestant where the bad has to be tempered with the good so as not to upset the contestant too much.They're investigating fraud and wrongdoing perpetrated on the taxpayer for goodness sake. 

In any event how do future improvements mitigate past wrongs? 

Only in the wonderful world of public sector Watchdogs and Ombudsmen do to you get such a stupid approach to justice.

Read the full story from the source Scotsman

Read all articles about Watchdogs on this blog

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Do we want Lords, MPs and Councillors with a criminal record?

There are many examples of Lords, MPs and Councillors holding onto their jobs after they have been convicted of a criminal offence.

Whilst those with any remaining integrity resign immediately there is no law forcing them to do so and it is that loophole which those without integrity exploit.

Do we want criminals to hold office in the Lords, Parliament, Government and Local Authorities? I for one don't want a criminal involved with any governing body which is responsible for setting the laws and bye laws of this country.

It's ludicrous that a Lord, MP or Councillor who has been convicted of fraud, assault,  grooming a child or even worse can not only hold onto their taxpayer funded job but be involved in passing the laws and setting the rules for the rest of society.

It's also ludicrous that they can use their taxpayer funded expenses and attendance allowances to both fund their defence and where fraud was involved use taxpayers money to repay what they defrauded out of them in the first place.

However, whilst those who hang onto their jobs are to be detested what I detest more is those Lords, MPs and Councillors who may have done no wrong but refuse to change the system and plug this stupid loopehole.

Read all articles about Lords, all articles about MPs and all articles about a Councillor on this blog.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Other Watchdogs not just the CQC are unfit for purpose

NHS watchdog faces investigation as concerns mount over patient care.

The watchdog responsible for overseeing NHS hospitals and care homes is being urgently investigated by the Department of Health over a series of alleged failures that could have risked patient care.

DoH officials and NHS bosses have acted after mounting concerns about the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Guardian can reveal. The CQC's chief executive, Cynthia Bower, spent last Thursday morning being questioned by Una O'Brien, the health department's permanent secretary, before a team of Whitehall officials descended on the watchdog's headquarters in the City that afternoon.

The inquiry coincides with investigations by the National Audit Office and the Commons public accounts committee.

The Guardian has established that:

• The CQC misled parliament in its annual report, overstating the number of inspections and reviews of the NHS, independent healthcare and adult social care sectors it carried out. Rather than the 15,220 "inspections and reviews" it claimed to have undertaken in the year ending March 2011, it has now admitted to the DoH that the correct figure is 7,368.

• There has been rising disquiet over the CQC's "light touch" regulation. Until May 2011, when BBC's Panorama exposed the scandal of abuse at Winterbourne View, a private hospital for people with learning disabilities, the CQC had launched just one investigation.

My comment: I know for a fact that another watchdog double, and on occasions  treble count complaints to make themselves look more effective that they really are. 

The same watchdog also has used the 'light touch' approach so often they only ever investigate fully less than 1% of all complaints submitted. They also mislead people with their annual report and manipulate their customer satisfaction surveys.

The only difference between the Local Government Ombudsmen and the Care Quality Commission is that they haven't yet had a scandal which has drawn attention to their devious ways. It would appear that a scandal is the only way to get MPs to pay attention to the corrupt systems many of our watchdogs and ombudsmen operate.

One other similarity is that like the CQC the Ombudsmnen are recruited from the bodies they are supposed to investigate and that can't be right.

Read the full story from the source Guardian

Read all articles about Watchdogs or all articles about the Care Quality Commission on this blog

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Councillors 'desperate' to protect green fields

PROTECTING the greenbelt around Cheltenham remains a priority for borough councillors – but some fear they may be fighting a losing battle.

Councillor Colin Hay (LD, Oakley) said: "All of us are desperate to protect the green fields around Cheltenham."

But Councillor Klara Sudbury (LD, Charlton Park) said: "In all honesty, the choice we're being given is either we plan for urban sprawl on our green spaces or we get it anyway."

My comment: There is another way but not one that greedy councils would ever propose. Over the years councils have been increasing their demands via section 106 agreements (essentially nothing more than legalised bungs to allow planning permission). 

As a result in order to cover the cost of the bung developers have had to look for cost savings elsewhere. Paying less for land is one option - this is where Greenfield land comes into it's own, it's often a lot cheaper to buy and develop than Brownfield, so even after the cost of meeting the council's section 106 demands they can still make a profit. 

If councils want developers to develop Brownfield sites they are going to have to reduce their section 106 demands thus once again making them viable.

Read the full story from the source This is Gloucestershire

Our NIMBY elected representatives.

Fury for home owners booted out to make room for a high-speed rail link...but minister behind it halted a similar project in his own back yard.

Philip Hammond prevented a line from running through his own constituency but is backing the plans for Buckinghamshire.

In 2001, the former Transport Secretary, who has been the driving force behind HS2, spoke out against Central Railways’ plans for a freight line passing through his constituency.

‘A major threat has been posed to hundreds of households in my constituency along the length of the proposed route of the railway line,’ he said.

My comment: Aren't you just sick at the way some of our self serving elected representatives behave?

Read the full story from the source Mail on LIne

Read all articles about MPs on this blog

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A recent email copied to us grumpy old folk.

Today I received a copy of the email below. I thought I would publish here so it would receive a wider audience rather than just forwarding to a few hundred contacts. I am not aware of the original source of the email but it was obviously addressed to Mr Cameron.

Dear Mr. Cameron,

Please find below our suggestion for fixing the UK 's economy.

Instead of giving billions of pounds to banks that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan.

You can call it the Patriotic Retirement Plan:

There are about 10 million people over 50 in the work force.

Pay them £1 million each severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:

1) They MUST retire. Ten million job openings - unemployment fixed

2) They MUST buy a new British car.Ten million cars ordered - Car Industry fixed

3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage -Housing Crisis fixed

4) They MUST send their kids to school/college/university - Crime rate fixed

5) They MUST buy £100 WORTH of alcohol/tobacco a week ...And there's your money back in duty/tax etc

It can't get any easier than that!

P.S. If more money is needed, have all members of parliament pay back their falsely claimed expenses and second home allowances

If you think this would work, please forward to everyone you know.

Also.... Let's put the pensioners in jail and the criminals in a nursing home..

This way the pensioners would have access to showers, hobbies and walks.

They'd receive unlimited free prescriptions, dental and medical treatment, wheel chairs etc and they'd receive money instead of paying it out.

They would have constant video monitoring, so they could be helped instantly, if they fell, or needed assistance.

Bedding would be washed twice a week, and all clothing would be ironed and returned to them.

A guard would check on them every 20 minutes and bring their meals and snacks to their cell.

They would have family visits in a suite built for that purpose.

They would have access to a library, weight room, spiritual counselling, pool and education.

Simple clothing, shoes, slippers, PJ's and legal aid would be free, on request.

Private, secure rooms for all, with an exercise outdoor yard, with gardens.

Each senior could have a PC a TV radio and daily phone calls.

There would be a board of directors to hear complaints, and the guards would have a code of conduct that would be strictly adhered to.

The criminals would get cold food, be left all alone and unsupervised. Lights off at 8pm, and showers once a week. Live in a tiny room and pay £600.00 per week and have no hope of ever getting out.

Think about this (more points of contention):

COWS

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that during the mad cow epidemic our government could track a single cow, born in Appleby almost three years ago, right to the stall where she slept in the county of Cumbria?

And, they even tracked her calves to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 125,000 illegal immigrants wandering around our country. Maybe we should give each of them a cow.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Also; Think about this ... If you don't want to forward this for fear of offending someone -- YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM! It is time for us grumpy old folk to speak up!

Councils 'lose £7m in false bank account scam'

Councils have been conned out of more than £7m by criminals using information put on their own websites under transparency drives, a survey says.

The Audit Commission said officials were being tricked into making payments - intended for building firms and other contractors - into false bank accounts.

Among those duped were Cumbria County Council and South Lanarkshire Council.

My comment: Funny thing is that councils are always warning the public about scams but obviously don't heed their own warnings. Yet more do as we say not as we do? After all it's only taxpayer's money they are losing not their own, unfortunately.

Read the full story from the source BBC

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cambridgeshire Councillors, Snouts, Troughs and Censorship

Council censors 'snout' and 'trough' references from online debate after payrise.

A council removed all references to “snouts” and “troughs” from an online debate after councillors approved a 25% pay rise and voters accused them of greed.

When councillors awarded themselves the large increase, a new string of comments appeared and they were repeatedly accused of acting like “pigs to the trough”. But the authority decided it did not like the phrase and removed all uses of it from the debate and were then accused of censorship.

My comment: Greedy councillors putting their snouts in the public cash trough and then censoring public debate about them doing so. Just how corrupt can a councillors get?

Read the full story from the source The Telegraph

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Councillor guilty of beating up teenage girlfriend

Kyle-Noel Taylor had been charged with four counts of assault by beating 18-year-old Rebecca Jackson earlier this year.

And following a trial, the 19-year-old, who denied the charges, was yesterday convicted of attacking her on January 6, January 22, January 25 and March 24.

North Staffordshire Magistrates' Court had been told one of the attacks took place just hours after he returned home from a Newcastle Borough Council meeting.

Taylor, who remains a Kidsgrove town and Newcastle borough councillor, had been suspended from the Labour Party pending the outcome.

A conviction for assault does not disqualify Taylor from serving as a councillor but if he is sentenced to six months or more in prison, he will automatically lose his seat. A council spokesman said: "He's going to be sentenced on December 1 and until then he remains a councillor."

My comment: No wonder people have no faith in councils when convicted criminals can serve as a councillor as long as they are sentenced to less than 6 months in jail. No doubt if he gets less than 6 months the council will continue to pay his allowances as well. What a stupid system.

Read the full story from the source This is Staffordshire

Friday, 4 November 2011

Cleveland Police officers face investigation

A CORRUPTION investigation has been launched involving Cleveland Police after officers were accused of perverting the course of justice.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating after five people walked free from court this week.

But it has now been alleged that Cleveland Police officers themselves perverted the course of justice.

My comment: Looks like another story that will bring the Police into disrepute.

Read the full story from the source Darlington and Stockton Times

Read all articles about the Police on this blog

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Official at benefit cheats prosecution agency avoids jail for fraud

AN OFFICIAL at the agency which prosecutes benefit cheats has avoided a jail sentence for paying more than £12,000 of public money into his own bank account.

Trusted worker Mark Goldsmith-White defrauded the Department for Work and Pensions by issuing false payments in the name of previous claimants, a court heard.

He was given a 24-week jail term suspended for two years and must complete 240 hours of unpaid work. Costs of £100 must also be paid.

My comment: Another example of how public official avoid jail when others would have been jailed.

Read the full story from the source This is Plymouth

Monday, 31 October 2011

Kent County Council’s Head of Energy Procurement charged with fraud

Kent County Council’s Head of Energy Procurement, Ross Knowles, was charged with counts of fraud by abuse of position and one count of money laundering at a court in Kent last month. He pleaded not guilty.

So Knowles and his organisation were buying energy on behalf of local authorities and other public bodies. But it is claimed that “management fees” from Centrica and Npower somehow found their way to him rather than to LASER or Kent CC. There’s no suggestion that the firms involved knew the money was allegedly going to him personally – so it will be interesting to see how the prosecution suggest that was organised, if the firms presumably thought their payments were going to a legitimate recipient.

My comment: We will have to wait and see what the outcome is but lack of scrutiny appears to have played a part.

Read the full story from the source Spend Matters

Read all articles about Kent County Council on this blog

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Police Inspector was part of South Wales paedophile ring

A POLICE force has described one of its former inspectors as “abhorrent” after he admitted being part of a paedophile ring which discussed abusing young children in online chatrooms.

Geraint Lloyd Evans would hold regular internet discussions with other paedophiles across South Wales in which they would discuss abusing children under the age of 13.

The 47-year-old, of Purdey Close, Barry, admitted conspiring to incite engagement in unlawful sexual activity with a child under 13 during an appearance at Swansea Crown Court.

In the first case of its kind, the former policeman, who was previously stationed in Bridgend but was sacked by South Wales Police last month, also admitted possessing more than 170 extreme pornography images including bestiality.

My comment: If you can't trust a Policeman just who can you trust. Certainly not a politician.

Read the full story from the source South Wales On Line

Read all articles about the Police on this blog

Wirral Council admit guilt but why no sackings or resignations?

Wirral Council: Corporate Governance Cabinet Committee - 26/10/11 

7.1 A vulnerable group of people with learning disabilities in the care of Wirral Council was abused by this Council over many years. It is imperative that the Council addresses all the weaknesses that contributed to this unacceptable outcome.

My comment: A vulnerable group of people with learning difficulties could only have been abused by Wirral council if their senior management and members were not fit for purpose. So it's ludicrous for those very people to now suggest it is imperative for them to address their weaknesses. Good management would have either ensured the problem didn't arise in the first place or failing that put a stop to it at soon as it was brought to their attention.

Neither would good management  have sacked the whistle blower and sat their arses for years compounding the injustice they would have sacked the perpetrators and thanked the whistleblowere as soon as it was brought to their attention.

What is needed to bring confidence back to the residents of the Wirral is a root and branch clear out of all cabinet members, all senior management and all those guilty of perpetrating the offence.  

If that doesn't happen I suggest the good people of the Wirral vote every cabinet members out at the earliest opportunity. 

Read the full committee meeting notes PDF

Read all articles about Wirral Council on this blog

Flintshire Council’s £3m consultants’ bill

FLINTSHIRE Council spent almost £3 million on consultants in just 12 months.

The latest figures from the council’s audit team have revealed that during the second half of 2010/11 £1,610,898 was spent on employing 146 consultants.

Earlier this year the council came under fire when it emerged £1.25 million was spent employing consultants during the first half of 2010/11, despite a total workforce of more than 8,000.

The council’s human resources department racked up the highest bill spending a total of £438,263 on 16 consultants in just six months, followed by the environment department which spent £366,403 employing 67 consultants.

My comment: If council staff need consultants to help them do their job then they should be sacked and replaced by those who can do their job without having to resort to expensive external consultants to do their job for them. It's not bloody rocket science.

Read the full story from the source The Leader

Read all articles about Flintshire County Council on this blog

Pembrokeshire County failed to take disciplinary action over false reference

No disciplinary action has been taken by Pembrokeshire County Council after it was revealed a school provided false information in a reference for a former member of staff who had been dismissed for sexual misconduct with a young person.

According to the joint Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) and Estyn report “a school provided false information in a reference for a former member of staff stating that they had resigned from their post when in fact they had been dismissed for sexual misconduct with a young person”.

My comment: A school provided a false reference which allowed a person to hide the fact that they had been dismissed for sexual misconduct and the council take no action. Another example of this country going down the drain.

Read the full story from the source Western Telegraph

Read all articles about Pembrokeshire County Council on this blog

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Seven Leicester city councillors are chased for council tax

Seven city councillors were chased up for late payment of council tax bills, it has been revealed.

Officials said they had to send warning letters to a number of politicians to recover nearly £900 of outstanding debt in the last financial year.

In each case, the sum was eventually paid but five of the councillors – two Liberal Democrats and three Labour members – had to be sent at least a second warning before they settled the bill.

My comment: A few more do as we say not as we do councillors.

Read the full story from the source This is Leicestershire

Read all articles about Leicester City Council on this blog

Friday, 14 October 2011

Policeman jailed for lying under oath

A Greater Manchester Police officer has been jailed for 12 months after he lied under oath to escape a driving ban.

PC Myles Hughes, of Macclesfield, Cheshire, persuaded barman Paul Doyle to lie for him after he was caught driving over the limit in April 2010.

He claimed it was not his fault as Doyle, also 35 and from Macclesfield, had served him the wrong drinks.

Both admitted perjury and were jailed for 12 and four months respectively at Liverpool Crown Court.

My comment: At least he was caught and punished for lying, how many people get away with it? 

Read the full story from the source BBC News

Read all articles about the Police on this blog

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Southwark Councillor groomed a blackmailer

A Labour councillor who campaigned with Harriet Harman is facing jail after he today admitted sending a '15-year-old schoolgirl' graphic online messages.

John Friary begged the man he thought was a teenager for racy pictures and arranged to meet 'her' for sex after she contacted him on the internet.

The 53-year-old thought he was exchanging explicit online chat with a teenager called 'Hannah' but was really the victim of a scheming blackmailer who planned to extort money from him.

Following his arrest he was sacked as the cabinet member responsible for community safety at Southwark Council and resigned as a councillor.

My comment: Another not fit for purpose councillor. Responsible for community safety? You couldn't make it up.

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Basildon Councillor and their register of interests

A SENIOR councillor is being investigated for failing to declare property he owned in the borough.

The standards sub committee referred the matter to Dawn French, council monitoring officer, for investigation.

David Dadds, former deputy cabinet member for resources, failed to declare a connection to three business premises in Basildon Council’s register of interests.

All property owned in the borough must be updated within 28 days.

Mr Dadds’ properties were not declared for between four years and six months, until July.

My comment: How can it be right that a breach of a council's code of conduct is investigated by a council officer? That's just plain stupid.

Read the full story from the source Basildon Recorder

Where do some council cabals get their ideas from?

It would appear many of them get them from an old Charlie Chaplin film. One which was originally intended to be a comedy spoof of Hitler NOT a training film on how to run a council.

Is your council one of those controlled by a cabal who believe that democracy is flagrant, liberty is odious and freedom of speech is objectionable?

video

Monday, 10 October 2011

Workers return to Stoke-on-Trent City Council after being made redundant

COUNCIL workers who pocketed £330,000 in redundancy payments later returned to work for their old employer in new roles.

One redundant worker who agreed a redundancy package with Stoke-on-Trent City Council spent just 27 days away from the authority before returning to a new job.

A further two workers waited just 32 days after agreeing a settlement before being re-employed at the council.

Figures obtained by The Sentinel show £330,603 has been paid out in compensation packages, which includes the notice period, to 25 workers who have since taken new jobs with the authority in the last six years.

It has also emerged that eight members of staff are "double-dipping" – claiming a pension after retiring from their positions with the council, but now being paid wages for a new job.

Critics have blamed "bad management" and claim the workers should have been re-deployed within the authority, instead of being allowed to pocket pay-offs first.

My comment: Another public sector 'you couldn't make it up' story. It's only taxpayer's money they are wasting so I don't suppose they care. The person who allowed this to happen should be sacked and never allowed back.

It is clear from other articles on this blog that  officers not councillors control Stoke City Council. 

"FIFTEEN top officers at Stoke-on-Trent City Council claimed a share of £115,000 in expenses for moving house to take up their jobs, but none of them actually moved to the city." Read more here.

"Newly elected councillors in Stoke-on-Trent are being asked to sign what is effectively a gagging order that prevents them ‘criticising’ the City Council." Read more here.

Read the full story form the source  This is Staffordshire

Read all articles about Stoke-on-Trent City Council on this blog

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Worcestershire County Council: A tragic death because they ignored a whistle-blower and failed to protect a vulnerable child!

Teacher reveals she warned Kidderminster school about Dana Baker abuse.

A TRAINEE teacher, who was told to “back off” after she discovered a pupil was being abused, last night said the tragic teenager might still have been alive today if she had been helped.

Desperate Dana Baker summoned up the courage to confide in teacher Vicki Shakespeare about her abusive relationship with a paedophile karate instructor from Birmingham.

But when the 35-year-old English tutor tried to sound the alarm so that the underage Kidderminster schoolgirl could get help, she was rebuffed by the authorities – and Dana was later found hanged.

Vicki told the Sunday Mercury how she was horrified when Dana opened up to her about the nightmare love affair with predatory paedophile Jaspal Riat, from Handsworth.

She claims she immediately informed a child protection officer at Wolverley CE Secondary School, only to be told: “I already know about it. You are not the first to tell me. I’ve heard it all before. She is telling everyone. You are too involved. You need to back off. She is an attention-seeker.”

Speaking for the first time after the two-week trial, which found Riat, 48, guilty of the abuse, key witness Vicki said: “I was asked in court if I was happy with the way the school had handled Dana’s situation.

“I said ‘no’ then, and I stand by that now.

A Worcestershire County Council spokeswoman said: “A Serious Case Review following Dana Baker’s death is ongoing, to which Wolverley CE Secondary School has contributed.

“Unfortunately, we cannot comment in any detail on individual cases but we can confirm that the school followed all of the appropriate pastoral care and safeguarding procedures.

My comment: Yet another council ignoring a whistle-blower and a vulnerable child and yet another council investigating itself. Just what does it take to bring the people who ignored the whistle-blower and the child to book?  

Read the full story from the source Sunday Mercury

You can also read more about the background to this tragic case here

Sex case karate instructor jailed for 8 years. A 48-year-old karate instructor who seduced a “vulnerable” 13-year-old Wyre Forest girl pupil and had regular sex with her was jailed for eight years today.

 Jaspal Riat's “despicable” behaviour towards Stourport High School and Sixth Form Centre student Dana Baker drove her to attempt suicide and she did kill herself when she was 16, Gloucester Crown Court heard.

My comment: School, council and social service all failing to protect  a vulnerable child?

Here is a clue to why Worcester County Council may have thought the Karate Instructor's actions were acceptable.  

Read all articles about Worcestershire County Council on this blog

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Rochdale Council documents found outside football ground

Hundreds of council documents containing personal information were found strewn across the street outside a football ground.

Fans on their way to Rochdale's home match with Wycombe at Spotland found lists of names, addresses and phone numbers and a series of political papers.

They included parts of the electoral register, a list of Labour party members in areas of Rochdale and planning applications.

Town hall bosses have now launched an investigation to establish how the documents were lost.

My comment: Proof, once again, that you can't trust a public authority with our personal information.

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

Read all articles about Rochdale Borough Council on this blog

Cabal controlled Councils?: Your suggestions

Tweet 1

"What does it take to create a council cabal? Leader + CEO + others that will play by THEIR rules + a large proportion of weak councillors."

Tweet 2 

"Examples of Councils controlled by cabal? Now or in recent past, Wirral, Suffolk, South Tyneside, Carmarthenshire, Barnet, your suggestions."

Responses
 
AliceBlundrland Alice in Blunderland @publicwatcher You can add Rhondda Cynon Taf to the list and I expect Caebrwyn will have something to say on the subject as well.

TimMinogue Tim Minogue @publicwatcher Sunderland, Kent, H&F, Cotswold, Pembrokeshire ... cabinet system makes it almost inevitable.

NCCLols Andy @publicwatcher I would suggest Nottingham is in that group.

InsideCroydon Inside Croydon  @publicwatcher: Examples of Councils controlled by cabal? @TimMinogue Try #Croydon

cwaccwatcher CWaC Council Watcher @publicwatcher "Examples of Councils controlled by a cabal?" I think Cheshire West and Chester Council should be included.

caebrwyn Jacqui Thompson @publicwatcher #carmarthenshire council is moving beyond 'cabal' and entering the 'junta' stage...

More to be added 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Is one Watchdog starting to show a little backbone?

BBC Scotland

The Scottish public services ombudsman has strongly criticised local authorities and housing associations for their handling of complaints.

Jim Martin said complaints systems were often cumbersome and bureaucratic.

Of the complaints investigated by the ombudsman’s office in 2010-11, a total of of 34% were upheld either fully or partly.

Mr Martin said: “To put this another way, in over a third of cases that had already been investigated by the local service provider through multiple, often lengthy stages of review and appeal, that provider had got something wrong.”

Press Association

Ombudsman Jim Martin complained there was a “lack of customer focus in public services”.

He made the accusation in his annual report as he called on public-sector organisations to try to meet a “gold standard”.

However, he said: “In too many cases, particularly in local authorities and housing associations, complaints systems are confusing, difficult to access, slow, cumbersome and overly bureaucratic.”

Local Government Ombudsman Watcher

The Scottish Public Service Ombudsman has wrong footed the Local Government Ombudsman by criticising complaints systems, something the Local Government has never done.

Worse still, the system he criticises is the system adopted by the Local Government Ombudsman, 'confusing, difficult to access, slow, cumbersome and overly bureaucratic'.

Malice In Blunderland

Good job he [Scottish Public Service Ombudsman] knows nothing about the Pigs Ear situation we have to tolerate here in Wales is all I can say.

And that includes the LGO. Lots of people no longer bother to use the LGO even with very serious complaints as we now realise its a pointless waste of time and energy. As a result things do not improve.Underneath everything is in a mess.Everyone just carries on regardless knowing that they can.

I think a while back the WLGO was bragging about how complaints had  dropped.We know why. Jump through hoops and if you are lucky to be chosen only 'recommendations' can be made which are 'ignored'.

Bottom line is that many do not have anywhere they can take their complaints to that take them seriously. Insult is added to injury as well as injustice.

Here is a reminder again of a dreadful situation involving RCTCBC that is still ongoing and unresolved as it is being 'ignored' .I think this case sums it all up. The system is a joke. On us.

My comment: It's about time all our useless watchdogs stopped supporting the bodies they are supposed to be watching and started to do the job they are paid to do. If they did maybe we wouldn't have the Wirral Council type scandals, the Baby P type scandals, the Winterbourne type scandals, the North Staffordshire NHS type scandals and many, many more.

Read all articles about our various watchdogs on this blog. 

Wirral Council: Vote of no confidence in the leader

Read all articles about Wirral Council on this blog and you will gain an understanding of just how bad Wirral Council is and why there is a vote of no confidence in the leader.

My comment: There is no doubt Steve Foulkes, as a council leader, is not fit for purpose. The problem is, as it is with many councils, that a small group of people have a stranglehold over the council and can seed all committees especially scrutiny committees with their 'friends' so they can do two things, keep themselves in power and stop the truth getting out. This kind of system shouldn't have been allowed to develop in the first place but now it has it must be eradicated without delay from all councils not just Wirral.

No confidence in the Leader of the Council

Following a series of damning independent reports into the running of Wirral Council, I, along with Cllr. Lesley Rennie have submitted a motion calling for the removal of Cllr Steve Foulkes as leader of Wirral Council.

This is necessary because of the exposure of a catalogue of failures, some contained in yet another secret report, occurring under Cllr Foulkes’ leadership, which are bringing the Borough into disrepute.

People, both inside and outside the Council, are deeply concerned at the repeated stream of revelations and scandals. It is clear that Cllr. Foulkes and the one party Cabinet he leads is not able to provide the leadership the Council needs at this critical time.

Instead of seeking to bring the Council together to solve these issues, Cllr. Foulkes is reverting to his bunker – unable or unwilling to listen to more than a few of his most trusted Labour lieutenants – while the residents of Wirral and the rest of the Council looks on in horror and disbelief at the revelations.

Wirral Council must change, the warning signs of what his leadership was doing to Wirral were clear to those that had suffered under it, which is why I commissioned this latest independent report.

Cllr Foulkes has refused to accept accountability for his failures and step down of his own accord. It is now time to blow away the corrosive culture he has allowed to develop, where questioning and transparency are discouraged and staff intimidated into taking actions to protect those at the top. Trust has been lost. More bluff and bluster will not do. The current Leader of the Council is part of the problem, not the solution.

The call for Cllr. Foulkes to step down will be decided by Council on 17th October.

The full motion is:

In accordance with Article 7.3 (iii) (d)
Proposed by Cllr Jeff Green
Seconded by Cllr Lesley Rennie

Council notes

1) That under Councillor Foulkes’ leadership Wirral residents have had to endure
Two Public Information Disclosure Act Reports
A Secretary of State intervention leading to the Sue Charteris Library Report
Audit Commission Red Flag
A damning Care Quality Commission Report
A number of issues raised by the Director of Finance in the Council’s own Corporate Governance Statements
District Audit qualification of the Council’s ability to secure Value for Money from a contract let under his leadership

That under Cllr Foulkes’ leadership extra ordinary failings have become ordinary

The overt politicisation of the Council’s administration, starting with the break up of the all party approach to Council governance and the dismissal of Conservative members from an all party Cabinet. Council believes this excluding tendency was compounded by his dismissal of Conservative members from the all party ‘HESPE Council members working party’

The erroneous claim by Cllr Foulkes himself that “the Martin Morton affair had proved that anyone within the council with a complaint – ‘or a whistleblower, as the term has been used in this case’ – would have their grievances properly investigated and acted upon.” Leading Martin Morton himself to give the withering response that “This reinforced the experience repeated over the last few years of living in a parallel universe where wrong is right, bad is good and lies are truth”.

The warnings from Council members following the SAR Libraries debacle of the damage his macho approach to leadership was doing to Wirral and that and that its culture, under his leadership, had become one of secrecy, fear and intimidation.

That in Cllr Foulkes’ current role as Cabinet member for Finance he has refused to share any ideas or plans to meet the Council’s reported £25 million budget shortfall with the public or the Council’s Scrutiny Committees

2) Council believes the published elements of the AKA report highlight

The leadership failings of Councillor Foulkes who by refusing members calls to order an independent inquiry himself into the Martin Morton affair attempted to sweep aside Council members genuine concerns.

Cllr Foulkes’ assertion that Mr Morton’s grievance (generated from his concerns for some of the most the most vulnerable people in Wirral) had been properly investigated and acted upon were nothing short of appalling and have now been shown to be, as members said at the time, breathtaking in their complacency, cruelty and incompetence.

He presided over a corrosive culture leading to back covering, secrecy, intimidation and machination

3) Council further believes:

n A one party Labour Party Cabinet Committee to refresh and renew the Council’s Governance is an inadequate response to what are extraordinary failings

n The AKA report is shaming and means we cannot go on as we are and an extraordinary response is required from the Council to respond to the failings highlighted

n The lack of action on the Council Notice of Motion recommendations calling for the reintroduction of an all party Committee system of governance demonstrates Cllr Foulkes unwillingness to adopt the inclusive approach to leadership now demanded

n That accountability starts at the top

4) Council resolves

i) That Cllr Foulkes be removed from the office of leader of the Council with immediate effect.

ii) That Council elect a new Leader in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 5B

iii) To take all necessary steps to establish and convene an all party Council Advisory Committee of 11 members (4.5.2) to oversee and guide the long term process of refreshing and renewing the Council’s governance arrangements. The terms of reference for this Advisory Committee to be initially determined by the Director of Law

iv) That with effect from the 1st November 2011 increase the size of the Employment and Appointments Committee by one to nine places (4.4.1) and decrease the size of the Planning Committee by one to 11 (4.5.2)

5) That the next Leader of the Council is recommended to

1. Adopt an inclusive approach to decision making, taking account of different points of view from across the Council and seeking all party engagement through an all party Cabinet/Executive Board.

2. Take immediate action, working with all political groups, to develop a committee system and supporting scheme of delegation to be completed by December 2011 and submitted to Council for adoption as soon as practicable.

3. Take immediate action, working with all political groups, to reconfigure the existing Scrutiny arrangements to allow a shadow committee system to be implemented to advise the new Leader and, using current strong leader powers of delegation to facilitate this as necessary, to be in place and in use by January 2012 at the latest with reference to extraordinary meetings of the council, if required, prior to implementation.

4. Review and, where necessary, remove or amend current officer delegations given by the Leader of the Council (including those relating to the Strategic Change Programme) to ensure transparency, effective democratic oversight and good governance.

From the original source Councillor Jeff Green

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