Thursday, 30 June 2011

Norfolk County Council Social Services failure

A Parkinson's sufferer was left to die in his wheelchair as his frail wife lay helpless on the floor next to him after they were neglected by social services.

Staff were supposed to call in on Kenneth Mills, 82, four times a day because he was unable to look after himself and could not rely on his wife.

But he had been left unattended for three days when he was found by his horrified son Jeremy at their home in Caistor St Edmund, near Norwich.

Coroner William Armstrong is now writing to Norfolk County Council to raise his 'deep concern' about why the devastated family were so tragically failed.

Last night Harold Bodmer, director of community services at Norfolk County Council, apologised that their home care was not reinstated. 'In light of this case we have reviewed our processes and have made changes to the way we work to try to prevent this happening again.'

My comment: The usual apology and 'it won't happen again' mantra from social service.

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

10 Stoke-on-Trent City Council Councillors Referred to Standards

Democracy4Stoke can exclusively reveal that more than 10 councillors, most of them very experienced and holding senior positions, have now been referred to Standards for failing in their legal duty to declare their interests.

This is particularly important in Stoke-on-Trent with the recent history of procurement problems and whilst a police investigation still goes on in which a number of staff were arrested and suspended from their duties within the council.

My comment: Well done Democracy 4 Stoke for highlighting the issue.

Read the full story from the source Democracy4Stoke

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

Kent County Council Chief Executive broke law

Mark Pack: "The then Chief Executive of Kent County Council, Peter Gilory, authorised payments to himself “not permitted in law” of £18,350 for running the 2009 county council elections.

At the 21st June meeting, Liberal Democrat Tim Prater proposed an investigation into the options for any recovery of the illegal payment. However, the other members of the committee (all Conservative) refused to even debate the proposal let alone authorise such an investigation."

My comment:  Potential fraud/illegal activity should be investigated by the Police and councillors should try and pervert the course of justice by trying to bury the problem.

Read the full story from the source Mark Pack

Read all articles about Kent County Council on this blog

Gwynedd councillor Dyfrig Jones' Facebook image charge

A Gwynedd Plaid Cymru councillor has been charged over pictures published on his Facebook page.

Dyfrig Jones, from Bethesda, will appear at Caernarfon Magistrates' Court on 12 July.

North Wales Police said a 34-year-old man had been charged under the Children and Young Persons Act.

My comment: Another dodgy councillor? UPDATE 12th July 2011 below: obviously not!

Read the full story from the source BBC News North West Wales. More information available from Wales on Line

UPDATE 12th July 2011: Gwynedd councillor Dyfrig Jones' images charge dropped.

The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed it has dropped a charge against a Gwynedd councillor over pictures published on his Facebook page.

In a statement the CPS said: "Since the date of charge, the evidence has been clarified and a further review by a CPS lawyer has concluded there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.

Read the full story from the source BBC News

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Plans to strip tenants of complaint right

Shelter, TPAS and 24housing magazine are the latest names to throw their weight behind a National Housing Federation (NHF) campaign to remove a clause in the Localism Bill that will see tenants having to go through councillors, MPs or tenant panels to make a complaint to the housing ombudsman.

The move - which would strip tenants of their right to complain directly to the ombudsman - forms part of the Government's wider housing reform that will see the regulator placed inside the Homes and Communities Agency from April 2012.

The Government believes the move represents the best way to ensure disputes are resolved locally and that the ombudsman focuses on cases where effective local resolution is not possible.

My comment: What a load of rubbish. They removed the filter from the Local Government Ombudsman long ago and even the Parliamentary Ombudsman lobbies for the filter to be removed. Whilst I am no fan of Ombudsmen there should be NO barrier to complaints and no barrier to people elevating their complaint to an Ombudsman. I for one would like to know who came up with such an idiotic idea.

Read the full story from the source 24 Dash 

'Bullying' police get 13-year-old boy out of bed at 11pm for throwing an apple

When schoolboy Charlie Lindoe hurled an apple at a classmate, probably the worst he expected was a stern telling off.

But instead 'bullying' police sent two constables round to the 13-year-old's house after 11pm and hauled him out of bed to grill him about the 'assault'.

The officers made the boy sign a good behaviour agreement promising not to throw apples again, his father said.

The victim's parents complained to police - and five days later they went round late at night to grill the boy.

Charlie's father Clive, 50, said his son was left 'traumatised' after officers arrived at their house in Great Horkesley, Essex, so late at night.

My comment: My God, why is our Police force so stupid? Bullying people into signing agreements appears to be a Police favourite. Probably because they would be laughed out of court if they attempted to take it any further.

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

Read all articles about the Police on this blog

Investigation into Reading Borough Council's section 106 cash

Conservative councillors have welcomed the external investigation into Reading Borough Council’s management of cash contributions by developers.

The report is to be discussed at the new audit and governance committee tomorrow.

When the Tories and Liberal Democrats ran the council in coalition until the election in May, they called for an independent investigation by Wokingham Borough Council into the management of Section 106 contributions.

Section 106 contributions are given to the council by developers to deal with the impact on the local community surrounding each development. Under last year’s Conservative-led administration a new single system of properly recording and tracking the contributions was introduced.

Section 106 agreements are nothing more than legalised bungs to councils so the developer gets the planning permission they want. In addition they are too easily diverted into councillor preferred pet projects rather than their original purpose. 

Read he full story from the source Get Reading

Care Quality Commission: A petition of no confidence

Workers in the residential care home sector have signed a petition of no confidence in the industry regulator - the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Delegates at the National Care Homes Congress said they had no confidence the CQC could effectively "regulate" health and social care.

My comment: Yet another failing watchdog who blames everyone but themselves. However, the government have a track record of refusing to listen to complaints and petitions against watchdogs and ombudsmen because it's not in their interest to highlight the problems.

Read the full story from the source BBC News

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

Councillor Robert Payne says he needs allowance to repay ill gotten gains

A Bradford councillor sentenced to a suspended prison term for business fraud says he will not step down from the Council.

A judge told former Conservative Robert Payne, who now sits as an Independent, he was “clearly not fit” to run his accountancy firm and had breached the trust of a client.

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.

After the case, Payne initially told the Telegraph & Argus he was stepping down from the Council, but it later emerged that he needed the £13,000-a-year allowance in order to pay back Mr Gill, and he therefore would not be resigning.

My comment: I hope the electorate vote this idiot out at the next election. Why an earth should taxpayer's fund re-payment of his ill gotten gains. 

Read the full story from the source Telegraph & Argus 

Anglesey council 'sorry' for 'serious' housing errors

Anglesey council has apologised after the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales found "serious shortcomings" in the way it dealt with a woman's homelessness and housing applications. The council will also offer £1,500 to the resident, who is known as Mrs A.

It said the maladministration occurred between 2004 and 2010 and was a result of factors including human error and "weak procedure notes".

The ombudsman concluded that "systematic maladministration" had occurred.

In a statement, the council said factors including "human error, lack of recording, high staff turnover, weak procedure notes and absence of a suitable IT system" were to blame.

My comment: Council speak meaning - the person in charge was not fit for purpose but we don't want to admit that. Someone suffered injustice through council maladministration for 7 years and all the Ombudsman expects the council to do is say sorry and offer a paltry £1500 compensation. No wonder people have no faith in Ombudsmen ot council managers!

Read the ful story from the source BBC News

Read all articles about Anglesey Council on this blog

Conduct review for Stoke on Trent City councillor

A CITY councillor is to have his conduct reviewed by a standards committee over claims he tried to use his position as an elected member to get a friend's child into an over-subscribed school.

Labour's Hanley Park and Shelton councillor Amjid Wazir must appear before Stoke-on-Trent City Council's standards committee tomorrow afternoon.

A report due to be considered tomorrow states that Mr Wazir left the head teacher feeling "bullied and uncomfortable".

My comment: I would imagine that many people become councillors and/or MPs in the first place just to further their (or their friends and families) own ends. 

Read the full story from the source This is Staffordshire

Read all articles about Stoke-on-Trent City Council on this blog or, if you prefer, read one of my many posts about potentially dodgy elected representatives.

UPDATE 30th June 2011: Amjid Wazir admits breaching council's code of conduct.

A CITY councillor has been suspended from his duties without pay for a month after attempting to use his position to get a friend's daughter into an over-subscribed school.

Labour councillor Amjid Wazir, member for Hanley Park and Shelton, yesterday admitted breaching the council's code of conduct after an unannounced visit to Etruscan Primary School, in Etruria.

Read the full story from the source This is Staffordshire

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

Police finance manager stole £3,500 from own station

A FINANCE officer at Derby's main police station stole £3,500 by writing cheques to himself.

Troy Martin took the money over a six-month period while working as resources manager at St Mary's Wharf police station in Derby.

Martin was arrested for the theft in January last year and was suspended from his job shortly afterwards. He resigned from Derbyshire police at the end of last year before misconduct proceedings had begun against him.

In March, he denied nine counts of theft, amounting to £5,375, but yesterday at Derby Crown Court, he finally admitted three of these charges, which were accepted by the prosecution.

My comment: Able to write cheques to himself...excellent financial control.  

Read the full story from the source This is Derbyshire

Read all articles about the Police on this blog

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Inverness councillor "failed to declare his earnings"

LAST UPDATE 15th February 2012

A DEPARTMENT of Work and Pensions fraud investigator has told a court a city councillor failed to declare his earnings from Highland Council and also received advice from a building society how best to invest £25,000 when he was in receipt of income support and council tax benefit.

Anne Davidson (55) was giving evidence on the 5th day of the trial of John Holden who is facing charges of fraudulently claiming £43,000 in income support and council tax relief.

Mrs Davidson said it’s the responsibility of anyone in receipt of benefits to inform the authorities of a change in their circumstances.

Mrs Davidson revealed that from May 3, 2007 Holden was earning upwards of £1,100 a month as a Highland councillor and none of that was declared between then and August 2008.

A letter from Alliance and Leicester dated April 12, 2007 also revealed Holden had been given a financial review on that date and he had agreed to put £25,000 into medium to long term investments. The letter acknowledged that £25,000 was affordable because Holden had capital of £38,000 at that time.

The trial continues.

My comment: Talk about milking the system.

Read the full story from the source Highland News

UPDATE 15th July 2011: John Holden, 63, was found guilty after a 13-day trial at Inverness Sheriff Court. He now faces losing his job on Highland Council, who he defrauded, if he is jailed.

Sheriff Abercrombie told Holden: "My overall assessment is that the Crown has established the case against you beyond reasonable doubt."

He deferred sentence until August 11 for background reports and placed Holden on bail.

My comment: "He now faces losing his job on Highland Council, who he defrauded, if he is jailed." WTF? So he can keep his job on the Highland Council, even though he defrauded them, as long as he isn't jailed.

Read the full story from the source STV

UPDATED 12th August 2011: A Highland councillor has been jailed for 12 months after a £43,000 benefits fraud.

He will now lose his job on Highland Council, who he was convicted of embezzling the money from. He has also been suspended from the Labour party following the conviction.

My comment: Don't you just love "he will now lose his job".

Read the full story from the source STV

Sheriff Abercrombie told him: "You are not an honest man. You have deliberately and repeatedly lied over a number of years.

My comment: A typical councillor then! 

Read the full story from the source Scotsman

UPDATE 16th August 2011:  Jailed councillor makes new bid for freedom.

Disgraced councillor John Holden will make a fresh bid for freedom when he appears at the High Court in Edinburgh tomorrow.

Holden (62), of Teal Avenue, was jailed last week for 12 months after being convicted of a £43,000 benefits fraud.

Following the sentencing, he made a last-minute request for bail pending an appeal but it was rejected.

At tomorrow’s hearing, Holden will make another request to be released on bail. He has stated he intends to appeal both his sentence and conviction.

My comment: He's certainly got the money to try every legal trick in the book.

Read the full story from the source The Inverness Courier

UPDATE 5th September 2011: Council in court bid to get Holden fraud cash back.

A FORMER Inverness councillor is now facing a civil action to repay money he obtained by fraud from Highland Council and the Department of Work and Pensions.

Holden is currently serving a jail term of one year having been found guilty of obtaining council tax benefits, single person occupancy allowance and income support totalling over £43,000 to which he wasn’t entitled.

My comment: Failing to declare earnings of £1,200 per month when he was elected as a councillor in 2007 means he has never been fit to be a councillor.  

Read the full story from the source Highland News

UPDATE 8th September 2011:  Disgraced Highland councillor John Holden sent to Barlinnie.

He was locked up in Inverness's Porterfield Prison. But it is understood that because of overcrowding issues there, he has now been transferred to the notorious Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow.

And, in a bad week for Holden, he has also officially been booted off the council and is also now being pursued through the courts for the benefits cash he illegally obtained.

My comment: At last he gets what he deserves. 

Read the full story from the source Highland News

UPDATE 15th February 2012:  Judges throw out disgraced ex-councillor John Holden's appeal bid.

DISGRACED former Inverness councillor John Holden has had his bid for an appeal against his conviction and sentence for fraud thrown out by three High Court judges.

It is a ruling which appears to slam the door shut on any further legal moves through the Scottish courts to have his guilty verdict and jail term overturned.

But this week the ex-member member of Highland Council for Inverness South declared he now plans to take his fight to the Criminal Case Review Commission in an effort to have the case re-opened.

My comment: I just hope it's costing him more than he fiddled.

Read the full story from the source Highland News

Ex chair of Eden District Council admits sexual offences

A former councillor from Cumbria has been warned to expect a jail term after pleading guilty to a series of sexual offences involving young people.

Tony Brunskill admitted nine offences of indecent assault on a boy aged from 13 upwards, dating back to the 1970s.

Speaking after the case, Det Ch Insp Paul Duhig, from Cumbria Police, said: "Child sex offenders often use a position of power or authority to intimidate their victims not to report the abuse and try to convince them they would not be believed." 

My comment: So that's why so many want to become councillors and MPs . 

Read my earlier post on the subject.

Read the full story from the source BBC News

Read all articles about Eden District Council on this blog

UPDATE  29th July 2011: Former councillor Tony Brunskill jailed for a string of sexual offences against young people. The judge at Carlisle Crown Court sentenced the 66-year-old to a 10-year jail term.

Read the full story from the source BBC News

Blundering Gloucestershire county council pays 140 ex-staff AFTER they quit

A blundering county council kept on paying about 140 ex-staff for up to nine months after they quit their jobs, it was revealed today.

The former employees of Gloucestershire county council received nearly £85,000 between them during the past financial year.

The revelation has been condemned today by campaigners, business leaders and even some councillors.

My comment: I wonder if they run the rest of the council in the same blundering way? I bet nobody gets the sack.....and even if they did they would probably continue to pay them :)

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

Read all articles about Gloucester Council on this blog

Over 100,000 complaints about NHS - only 300 investigated by health ombudsman

More than 100,000 people complained about the NHS last year – but only 300 were investigated by the health service’s watchdog, a report has found.

Thousands of complaints were not taken up because the ombudsman has to believe there is a prospect of “a worthwhile outcome”, that a person had suffered injustice or hardship as a result of poor service or maladministration.

Stephen Dorrell, the committee’s chairman, said the MPs were “not convinced that all complaints were properly reviewed".

He added: "It is primarily about the culture. The system is too defensive and is not sufficiently open. There should be a duty of candour.”

My comment: This applies to all Public Service Ombudsmen not just the Health Ombudsman. Even more people complain about councils but the Local Government Ombudsmen end up only fully investigating about 70 a year. As the saying goes a complainant is exhausted by the complaints system long before they exhaust the complaints system. Which is surely what the government wanted otherwise why introduce such a tortuous system of administrative justice in the first place and then staff it with ex council staff? 

Read the full story from the source The Telegraph

Monday, 27 June 2011

Manchester City councillor 'threatened wife'

A Conservative councillor threatened to kill his new wife and her family during a "sustained" period of abuse, a court has heard.

Faraz Bhatti, who sits on Manchester City Council, is accused of repeatedly attacking Mazamil Bashir, between February and August last year.

He would "push, shove, shake and choke" his wife, prosecutor Michael Murray told Liverpool Crown Court. The trial continues.

My comment: I will comment on conclusion of the trial when I update this post.

Read the full story from the Source BBC News

UPDATE 4th July 2011: Former Tory councillor considers legal action after being cleared of assaulting wife.

Faraz Bhatti was found not guilty of two charges by a jury after less than three hours deliberation.

My comment: This illustrates why it's best to reserve judgement until the case is concluded. 

Read the full story from the source Manchester Evening News

Sunday, 26 June 2011

£400K payout to former West Sussex County Council chief

A council boss was handed almost £400,000 of taxpayers’ money to walk away from his job, new figures have revealed.

West Sussex County Council has finally revealed how much was paid to former chief executive Mark Hammond, who left his role in September amid claims of a row with the council leader.

Opposition councillors have condemned the Tory administration’s reluctance to reveal the figures earlier and claimed the level of compensation was “ridiculous” given how quickly Mr Hammond took up a new £130,000 post at a quango.

Lib Dem councillor James Walsh described Mr Hammond’s pay-off as “a disgraceful waste of money”.

Mr Hammond, who was one of the country’s highest paid council bosses, was appointed chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission earlier this month.

My comment: The gravy train goes round and round for public authorities/quangos senior officers.

Read the full story from the source The Argus

UPDATE 27th June 2011: Councillors in West Sussex have condemned £1.5m paid in redundancy and compensation to five senior officers.

Read the full story from the source BBC News

Whistleblower exposes a quango's cynical lie

‘Our operations are media-driven. It is not what you achieve, it is what headlines you achieve.’ Almut Gadow.

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

However, what readers of this story may not realise is this statement is true of all quangos, watchdogs and ombudsmen (or any public authority if it comes to that) not just the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).

Here are a couple of examples which prove this is not a new phenomena.
  • The Honourable Mr Justice Lightman even coined the phrase 'evangelical agenda' when delivering a lecture in March 2001, in which he stated "the Ombudsman clearly has his own evangelical agenda...."
  • The Local Government Ombudsman corporate plan 2006 to 2009 also includes further evidence by stating: Maximise positive publicity............prompt response to negative publicity. 
Whilst we have Quangos, Watchdogs and Ombudsmen (and other public authorities) manipulating the work they do in an attempt to maximise positive publicity and minimise negative publicity, how can we be sure they are using taxpayer's money to do what is right rather than what just makes them look effective?

Government has tried to put a stop to propaganda (spin) on the rates, albeit Tower Hamlets is ignoring them, however, what have they done to ensure that other public bodies and quangos don't channel taxpayer's money into their own personal evangelical agendas? 

Senior Council officer register of interests: The true story

The ICO has ruled that councils can partially disclose their register of officers' interests as part of a Freedom of Information appeal involving Bolton Council.

The decision notice, which the ICO has recently issued, relates to information request received by Bolton Council for a copy of the declarations of interests made by senior council officers. The council's register of interests records the name of the officer and any personal interests they have, such as ownership of property, family associations and membership of organisations that may conflict with their decision-making role in the authority.

The information is personal data and some entries may contain information about private lives. The council needed to consider whether disclosing it would be unfair to the officers and so exempt under section 40(2) of the Act.

The Commissioner acknowledged that releasing some of this information would intrude into their private lives and may cause them distress. However, he also found that - as the officers are responsible for decisions that affect the local community and involve spending public money - there was a case for disclosing it in the public interest. The Commissioner has therefore ruled that some of the information relating largely to officers' business interests and shareholdings should be released.

This decision shows that a blanket approach to such cases is not sufficient. Public authorities should consider the information in detail and adopt a proportionate approach to disclosure.

His decision is that the Council was correct to redact declarations provided under the following headings
  •  Address or description of land or property in which you have an interest, the nature of the interest and the use to which the land is put.
  • List any organisation with which you have Membership/association, including clubs and societies.
  • List any voluntary bodies of which you have Membership or association.
  • Please give any further information you may wish to record about your business or financial interests.
Following on from the above the Commissioner considers that disclosure of the declarations falling within the following sections would not be unfair and should be disclosed, other than for a few individual redactions which he has highlighted above:
  • Names
  • Department 
  • Section
  • Name and address and nature of additional business, or other employment.
  • Name and address of Company, firm or other body or individual of whom consultancy is undertaken and nature of the consultancy with an indication of frequency or volume of such work.
  • Name and address and nature of business of each company or other body of which you are a Director, with an indication of whether it is in a paid or unpaid capacity.
  • Name and address and nature of business of each firm with which you are a partner. 
  • Name and address and nature of business of each company in which you hold shares.
  • Name and address of the organisation to whom you are engaged on a retainer basis and nature of the retainer.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Barnet audit reveals serious failings at billion pound council

Despite a budget larger than the GDP of the Maldives, Barnet Council has less than five full time auditors – and they spend most of their time highlighting serious concerns about the way council contracts are handled.

Barnet’s billion pound budget is larger than 23 of the world’s national economies and 220,000 [1 below] residents rely on its services, but a report revealed this week that it was commonplace across departments that long, expensive arrangements with companies are being entered into without formal contracts. Monitoring is often ineffective, or non-existent.

Despite the council spending £248million last year on goods and services from outside suppliers, the annual audit report revealed that 72 per cent of audits relating to this expenditure gave rise to concerns about how the contracts were secured and managed.

My comment: How have the members (councillors) and officers got away with it for so long? Why no government intervention?

[1] Taxpayer's Alliance quote  a population of 343,088.

Read the full story from the source London24

Read all articles about Barnet Council (London Borough) on this blog

Tower Hamlets East End Life costs a cool £1.5 million a year.

Tower Hamlets’ ‘East End Life’ is a taxpayer-funded propaganda ‘pravda’ newspaper which will now become weekly, be redesigned, and have a website, despite the ‘Code of Conduct’ calling for such newspapers to be scrapped.

Takki Sulaiman, the Director of Communications at Tower Hamlets who receives a hefty salary of £100,000 per year, conducted the review of the newspaper’s future, which makes up the bulk of his portfolio, and decided against abolition.

The consultation process involved a grand total of 624 people – out of the 87,000 households which receive the newspaper – who decided to respond.

With this 0.7% self-selected response rate Takki Sulaiman announced he had 51% of local people’s support.

My comment: Turkeys don't vote for Christmas and neither would they organise a consultation/survey that disagreed with them. In addition, I am sure quite a few people would like a council propaganda newspaper to line their cat litter tray.

I smell a manipulated consultation/survey and was was considering a freedom of information request but someone has beaten me to it.

Read the full story from the source Taxpayer's Alliance

Download a copy of the latest government code of practice regarding council news propaganda on the rates.

Read all articles about Tower Hamlets (LB) Council on this blog

MP slams public sector senior officer 'jackpot' payments

Redcar MP Ian Swales was speaking after it was revealed the former chief executive of Cleveland Police Authority received £361,950 after leaving the job a year ago. It has also emerged that Caroline Llewellyn, Cleveland Chief Constable’s solicitor, received £213,379 redundancy after spending 36 years with the force.

Liberal Democrat Mr Swales said: “While workers in the public sector deserve a fair deal, taxpayers will be rightly horrified by the size of these jackpot payments.”

Steve Matthews, Cleveland Police Federation chairman, said the size of such payments would shock the public. “When police officers are being forced out of the door these sort of payments are appalling,” he said. He pointed out that the total of £575,329 for the two payoffs was equivalent to the annual pay for 19 experienced police officers earning £30,000 a year.

“I am gobsmacked at these figures and the people of Cleveland will be as well. It is like winning the Lottery.”

My comment: Why spend a few pounds a week buying lottery tickets when you can get a job as a senior officer in the public sector and guarantee a lottery type payout when you leave. I wonder what front line staff think when they see their bosses walking away with a lottery win payout that they can only dream of.

Read the full story from the source The Northern Echo

More recent news about Cleveland Police 

CLEVELAND Police chief Sean Price is under investigation – accused of using his influence to help get someone a job. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has launched an inquiry focusing on the chief constable.

IPCC investigators say the matter came to light during a review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HPIC) “into the manner in which some individuals within the CPA may have conducted some of its business”.

The chairman of the CPA, Councillor Dave McLuckie, stood down from the position earlier this month after he revealed that he had received a letter saying he was part of the criminal investigation that is being led by Warwickshire Police Chief Constable Keith Bristow.

A statement by the IPCC said: “The independent investigation will focus on the allegation that Mr Price used undue influence to have an individual appointed to a position within the police force.”

Read the full story from the source Hartlepool Mail 

Read all articles about the Police on this blog

HELP! The Police have broken in

POLICE have sparked outrage after it emerged that they have been breaking into homes and businesses in a bid to highlight the dangers of burglary.

One lone woman was shocked when a uniformed officer walked into her front room while she was watching TV. Civil liberties campaigners last night demanded an end to the scheme, calling it an invasion of privacy.

My comment: I wonder what the officer concerned would do if attacked by a home owner or their dog, or God forbid a home owner dropped dead with shock? Another badly thought out and idiotic idea by the Police. 

Read the full story from the source Express

Read all articles about the Police on this blog

Welsh men questioned under anti-terror laws for taking a photo of a Wetherspoon pub

Neil Kitchen said officers ruined his family day out in Gloucester by banning them from taking pictures of city buildings. They were stopped by police and questioned for taking pictures of the old Regal Cinema building, now Wetherspoons, in Kings Square.

The  Wetherspoons in question (An old Art Deco building, previously the Regal Cinema)
A spokesman for Gloucestershire police confirmed the men were stopped after police noticed them taking photos. "Because this seemed slightly unusual he politely asked the men what they were doing and if he could see the photos to verify what they were saying, which they agreed to."

My comment: Anti terror laws invoked for taking a photograph of a Wetherspoons! I would like to know why are the Police so determined to make themselves look like idiots who don't even know the law. Will someone please tell the Police that it is not illegal or even suspicious to take photographs in a public place and that it's not illegal to take a video of a council meeting.

Read the full story from the source This is Gloucestershire

Read all articles about the Police on this blog

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Another Baby P?

Fourteen agencies missed opportunities to save a three-year-old boy who was killed by a couple who were meant to be caring for him, a report has found.

Ryan Lovell-Hancox died on 24 December 2008 from a brain injury he received at Christopher Taylor and Kayley Boleyn's home in Bilston, near Wolverhampton.

Wolverhampton's Safeguarding Children Board has released the findings of a serious case review into Ryan's death.

The review found that several agencies failed to intervene in the child's care and there was "no evidence of effective communication or liaison" between them.

About 60 recommendations were made in the report.

My comment: What is the point of having a body such as the Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children Board when they can't even safeguard children? We need proactive watchdogs (not those that just produce a report after the event) together with effective agencies on the front line! Surely after Baby P they checked for  communications between different agencies.

Read the full story from the source BBC News

Read all articles about Watchdogs on this blog

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Public inquiry called for over Warrington Council planning row

AN independently chaired public inquiry should be held over the ongoing row about the destruction of planning records at Warrington Borough Council.

That is the view of Warrington’s Liberal Democrats who will make the demand at Monday’s full council meeting.

 Clr Bob Barr, (LD Lymm) said: “Faith in Warrington’s planning service has been seriously shaken by the recent Local Government Ombudsman’s report that highlights serious maladministration.

My comment: Whilst the Local Government Ombudsman may have reported maladministration and recommended compensation to the individuals who complained they are clearly a waste of time as far as ensuring the the underlying problem within Warrington Council are resolved. Why an earth did the Local Government Ombudsman not call the Police in when they discovered the council had acted illegally and destroyed documents they were legally obliged to keep? 

Read the full story from the source Warrington Guardian

Read all articles about Warrington Borough Council on this blog

UPDATE 29th June 2011: AN independent inquiry into the binning of planning documents and the handling of planning complaints from Culcheth residents will now go ahead.

Council leader Clr Terry O’Neill announced the move after a crescendo of calls for concerns raised in the Local Government Ombudsman to be examined externally.

My comment: Warrington Council allow a developer to do something that they shouldn't have, they ignore all complaints about the problem for as long as they can. Then all planning records are destroyed. Yet no one up to now appears to have considered the obvious possibility that a corrupt planning officers took a bung and then destroyed the evidence to cover it up. Why no Police investigation?

Read the full story from the source This is Cheshire

Welsh local government boundary commissioners sacked

Three commissioners responsible for re-examining local council boundaries have been sacked after a report found their organisation was not "fit for purpose".

It follows concern about a series of reviews to make councillors represent similar numbers of electors.

Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant said it was necessary to restore the commision's reputation.

The three members of the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales - chairman Paul Wood, deputy chair the Reverend Hywel Meredydd Davies and member John Bader - were relieved of their posts with immediate effect by Mr Sargeant on Wednesday.

Mr Sargeant said: "The most concerning finding... is the conclusion reached that the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales has lost the confidence of its stakeholders and because of this is 'not fit for purpose'.

My comment: Mr Sargeant  is being rather selective because many other watchdogs and commissioners have also lost the confidence of their stakeholders but he isn't doing anything about those.

Read the full story from the source BBC News

Equality and Human Rights Commission criticised by National Audit Office

The troubled Equality and Human Rights Commission has been criticised for overpaying staff.

The National Audit Office found the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had breached Government pay guidelines by £570,000.

The disclosures came as auditors refused to sign off the EHRC’s accounts for for the third year in succession.

They criticised the quango for ‘irregular expenditure’ – and found it had spent more than £1.5 million of taxpayers’ money without authorisation.

My comment: Yet another watchdog not fit for purpose.  If the government are as short of money as they assert why are they wasting so much of it on all these useless quangos?

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

Tory MP slammed as council smooths private driveway for free

Tory MP Graham Stuart has been criticised after contractors working for his local council tarmacked the private road to his luxury home for free. 

Workers employed by East Riding Council resurfaced 164 feet of a lane not run by the council in Beverley, East Yorkshire, at his wife Anne's request, despite nearby public roads and potholes in need of repair.

Residents in Beverley said they would have liked to have seen the surfacing used on potholes and pavements.

An East Riding Council spokeswoman said: 'This is a private matter between a contractor and a resident and does not concern East Riding Council.'

My comment: It is clearly not a private matter when a contractor working for the council repairing public highways diverts material from that job in order  to resurface a private road. If they had all that material to waste after fulfilling their council contract then clearly the council are paying them too much.

I would also argue that legally the contractors were trespassing because the road was private and the road owners had not given them permission to resurface it. Whilst the MP had a right of way he had no right to allow work to be done on a road which he didn't own.  

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

UPDATE 30th JUne 2011: Council contractors to rip up tarmac laid at request of MP's wife.

WORKMEN are to rip up the tarmac they laid on the private road leading to MP Graham Stuart's home.

Families sharing the lane to Mr Stuart's luxury home in one of Beverley's most exclusive addresses say his wife Anne had "no right" to have the new surface put down.

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

Bristol City Councillor under fire over contracts farce

BRISTOL City Council's unsuccessful plan to save money on transport services has been branded "damaging, costly, unrealistic and naive".

The authority was warned by transport campaigners last year that a plan to put all of the bus, ferry and rail services that it helps fund out to tender at the same time would not work.

And it didn't – leaving the council with a £2.2 million budget hole that will lead to cuts to a range of services and increased charges for passengers.

Instead of forcing costs down by attracting real competition for First, it emerged last month it would cost the council £1.2 million extra to continue running the existing level of service.

Ultra Light Rail campaigner Keith Hallett agreed, calling for a proper public debate on whether trams should be supported over the bendy bus before funding bids are submitted to the government in September.

He said: "I came to Bristol ten years ago and the bus service was a joke. Now it's an expensive joke.

My comment: Another example of a council failing to listen. 

Read the full story from the source This is Bristol 

York City Council score an own goal.

Council bosses have admitted scoring an "own goal" after a fence was built through the middle of football goalposts in a park in York.

The new fencing was installed at a cost of £6,000 on playing fields in Heworth.

Dave Meigh, City of York Council's head of parks and open spaces, said: "We recognise that the failure to relocate the goalposts is a real own goal."

My comment: Council planning and organisational skills :) 

Read the full story from the source BBC News

Read all articles about York City Council on this blog

Quango chiefs who earn more than the Prime Minister to be named

CIVIL servants and quango chiefs who earn more than the Prime Minister have no right to keep their salaries secret, the Information Commissioner ruled today.

Christopher Graham's ruling came as he ordered the publication of the identities of 24 high-earning public sector workers who tried to avoid being named, under a new transparency drive.

The Cabinet Office last year published lists showing that 332 civil servants and quango chiefs have salaries of more than £150,000. Of these, 49 were paid over £200,000, with the largest package of £390,000 going to David Higgins, the chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority.

My comment: The next step is forcing them and the person/body who hired them to justify their pay.

Read the full story from the source Daily Record

Public sector can't be trusted with our money

Pasta at £47 a bag, £42,000 on biscuits and a public sector that can't be trusted with our money.

Eastern and Coastal Kent NHS Trust has been sourcing the food from a supplier which charges £5 a pack, plus a £1 dispensary fee, a £1 pharmacy fee and £40 for delivery.

The £47 doesn't even include the sauce. It would almost be funny - if the money wasn't coming straight from our pockets. Sadly, the £47 pack of pasta is all too typical of the waste that is endemic in public sector procurement.

One year into the Government's austerity drive, we are beginning to discover the shocking extent of this profligacy.

One ministry was managing to spend £73 on each box of copier paper — something which can be bought in bulk for just £8. Another office was buying laptops for £2,000 each — six times the going rate. A publicity campaign cost the taxpayer £1.31 in printing costs for each leaflet that should have cost 26p.

The most absurd example of all, however, came from George Osborne’s own office at the Treasury. Last December, the Chancellor was quoted £875 to supply a Christmas tree.

My comment: The private sector will always try and maximise their profits, it is up to the purchaser to get the best deal. Unfortunately, most of the public sector have no idea how to negotiate a good deal, whether that be for a bag of pasta or a PFI contract. 

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

Bonfire of the quangos turns into a damp squib

What became of that bonfire of the quangos?

What concerns the Mail even more is that these figures relate to only 2,522 workers who have been earmarked for redundancy — of whom almost half have yet to be told of their fate.

This leaves the overwhelming majority of the country’s 700,000 quangocrats still holding on to their jobs — or non-jobs, in countless cases — more than a year after the Coalition vowed to consign them to the flames.

If the Government is serious about slashing the deficit, ministers must take another long, hard look at the quangos — and start burning.

My comment: Enough already of these government vanity quangos that were set up to do nothing more than hide the majority of public sector wrongdoing from the public at the taxpayer's expense.

And start with the Local Government Ombudsman. The taxpayer shouldn't have to pay a quango to bury the majority of local authority wrongdoing just so local authorities look better than they actually are. 

Read the full story from the source Mail in Line

Read all articles about our failing Watchdogs on this blog.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Kent County Council: Concerns remain for vulnerable children.

An Ofsted report last November concluded that children in Kent had been left at risk of significant harm by inadequate services in almost every area.

That prompted a public apology from council leader Paul Carter, who said the council had not been rigorous enough and promised it would do better.

But in April several councillors criticised the council's action plan, with one backbench Conservative councillor saying officials had "a cat in hell's chance" of meeting demands to improve services for vulnerable children.

Last month the man brought in to overhaul Kent County Council's failing children's services, Malcolm Newsam, was called before the scrutiny committee.

KCC, which is being forced to axe hundreds of jobs due to cuts in council funding has been paying up to £1,250 a day each for six temporary staff.

Malcolm Newsam, the new Interim Managing Director for Children, Families and Education, is the highest paid at £1,250 a day.

He's followed by Alastair Pettigrew, head of specialist children's services on £825 per day and Andy Roberts in the education and learning department who receives £780 a day.

My comment: Please refer to my previous post. Now we know why Kent County Council is willing to pay well over the odds for agency staff. The Ofsted report put them in the Haringey category just prior to Baby P. This now looks like a case of chaos management so the question that should be asked is why did they let the service deteriorate in the first place? 
 
Read the full story from the source BBC News 

Read all articles about Kent County Council on this blog

Kent County Council wasting taxpayer's money.

A council [Kent County Council] forced to cut services and slash hundreds of jobs has been paying up to £1,250 a day each for six temporary staff.

The temps, who have cost the taxpayer £205,000 in their first three months, were hired by the Tory-run council’s group managing director, Katherine Kerswell, who joined the authority last year on an annual salary of £197,000.

The most highly-paid temp is families and care director Malcolm Newsam, who costs the council £1,250 a day, followed by Alastair Pettigrew, head of specialist children’s services, £825 a day, then Andy Roberts in the education and learning department, £780 a day.

My comment: I think the electorate should remember the rather silly defence to the temp issue by Paul Carter, leader of the council, come election time. He defended the temps’ pay packets, arguing that the council doesn’t have to pay extras such as pension contributions, holiday allowance or sick pay and that a proportion of their fee is paid to the agency that supplied them. I wonder if any Kent councillors have any connection with the temp agency?

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

Read all articles about Kent County Council on this blog

Cardiff Royal Infirmary: Hey! Mr Tambourine Man...do my job for me

A hospital has apologised to elderly patients and their families after giving them a tambourine to call for nurses in an emergency.

One furious relative claimed a pair of maracas had also been placed in the room in case the tambourine broke. He said: 'It is ridiculous. These people are pensioners, not members of the Monkees or Mick Jagger.

And another relative, who took the picture shown of the tambourine, said no staff came after he shook it for 16 minutes.

Steve Allen, chief officer of Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Community Health Council, said: 'This is totally inappropriate. 'Patients shouldn't have to resort to shaking a tambourine to get a nurse's assistance. It is totally unacceptable and the health board must address this as a matter of concern.'

Ruth Walker, executive director of nursing for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, yesterday apologised for the tambourine - and said a new emergency bell will be installed.

My comment: Another 'you couldn't make this up story'.

Read the full story from the source: Mail on Line 

Read all articles about the NHS on this blog

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Register of Interests of public authority senior officers must be released

THE outside business dealings of senior town hall staff could soon be made public after Bolton Council was issued a High Court threat by the country’s information boss. 

The threat comes after transparency campaigner John Greenwood asked for details held on the council’s register of interests in a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

When the council refused, Mr Greenwood, from Breightmet, reported the council to the government’s Information Commissioner.

The commissioner has now ruled that the details of the register of interests should be released. The register records the name of council officers and any personal interests they have, such as ownership of property, family associations, business interests, shareholdings and membership of organisations that may conflict with their decision-making role.

My comment: This doesn't just apply to councils, all public authorities must be included. I can feel a few FOI request coming on :) And the walls came tumbling down!

Warning to all chemists, stock up on Imodium, there's going to be buying frenzy. :)

 Read the full story from the source The Bolton News

Mr Offord MP: Barking mad?

A Tory MP is invoking human rights laws to overturn a ban on taking his dog to work at Westminster.

Matthew Offord is taking the extraordinary action after officials told him he cannot bring his pet Max into his Commons office.

Mr Offord, who has been given a one-week ultimatum to leave the six-month-old Jack Russell at home, said: 'This is a ridiculous rule. Max doesn't do anyone any harm. He doesn't bark, my staff have no complaints and he's great for taking the stress out of the day.

'If they try to push this, I will invoke the Human Rights Act because they're breaching my right to a private, family life.'

My comment: I think Max has an idiot as an owner and his constituents have an idiot as an MP! Only an MP would consider work as part of a private family life? 

Read the ful stroy from the source Mail on Line

UPDATE 20th June 2011: Matthew Offord Tweeted - Grateful for all the messages about Max - and those who think I would invoke the HRA - you need a lie down in a darkened room.

My comment: Note how quickly he switched to damage limitation mode when  caught talking rubbish. Another U turn? :)

Read all articles about MPs on this blog

Test Valley Borough Council ban banners

Promotional banners advertising Armed Forces Day celebrations in Andover, Hants has been banned after concerns they were 'glorifying the war in Afghanistan'.

Test Valley Borough Council have removed five adverts situated by roundabouts after just five people complained.

The £400 banners were erected by the Royal British Legion, but following a branch meeting in the county, they were told to remove them.

Armed Forces day is on 25 June and each year the event pays homage to individuals who have served in the armed forces.

Local communities are encouraged to hold their own party or attend events across the country. 

My comment: Shame on ALL Test Valley Councillors for allowing this to happen. Residents should rise up and put a stop to this madness. My FOI about the decision.

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

UPDATE 19th June 2011: Other newspapers suggest that the leader of the council supported the removal because they could have distracted motorists.

My comment: If that is the case why do most councils allow companies to sponsor roundabouts an place adverts on them? Therefore, the reason is more likely to do with the fact that money didn't change hands, in one way or another.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Taxpayers' £212,000 bill for Ken Clarke's ministerial car

Under-pressure Justice Secretary Ken Clarke faced fresh criticism last night after it was revealed he has spent £212,991 on his ministerial car in the past year.

The 70-year-old's extravagant use of the official perk comes despite orders from David Cameron for Ministers to use public transport if possible. Figures released to Parliament show Mr Clarke did not use public transport for any official duties.

My comment: How an earth can on man spend that much on an official car in one year? 

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

Westminster parking warden parks his CCTV car illegally

This is the moment a London parking warden in a CCTV "spy" car parked on double yellow lines - to go shopping for his dinner.

The warden, working for Westminster council contractor NSL, tried to hide in the queue for the till when he saw Mr Kaba filming him on his mobile phone.

Westminster council today promised to get NSL to investigate. Mr Kaba, 37, a chauffeur from Hampstead, said: "I noticed the car pulling up and saw the warden going inside the store. There's one law for drivers and another for these people who are supposed to uphold the parking rules. "A friend of mine was fined for just stopping for a minute to drop passengers on a single yellow line."

My comment: A clear abuse of his position. Firstly they should be fined as everyone else would have been and then they need to explain themselves at a disciplinary hearing. Some police officers also have a similar attitude when it comes to 'one law for us and one for them'. 

Read the full story from the source London Evening Standard

Friday, 17 June 2011

Conwy Council chief Byron Davies resigns

The suspended chief executive of Conwy council who was found guilty of misconduct is resigning from his post, it has been announced.

Byron Davies, 52, was found guilty of misconduct by the council.

In March it emerged that Mr Davies has been found guilty of misconduct for being overly aggressive towards staff.

Minutes published by the council showed it had passed a resolution which found him guilty of misconduct, including claims he was rude and abrasive.

The council statement on Friday said: "Conwy County Borough Council Chief Executive Byron Davies will by mutual agreement resign from his post with effect from 17 June 2011.

My comment: I wonder how much this will cost the taxpayer and whether Suffolk County Council will take notice?

Read the full story from the source BBC News

Credit to Malice In Blunderland for bringing this to my attention.

Read all articles about Conwy Council on this blog

New scandal at Stafford Hospital

Stafford Hospital ignored expert advice on how to tackle outbreaks of a superbug that later claimed the lives of 10 patients, a public inquiry has heard.

The Health Protection Agency desperately tried to get managers at the hospital to change the way they handled clostridium difficile infections after two outbreaks in 2008.

But managers at the scandal-hit trust refused to follow their advice and a much larger outbreak erupted in 2009. It spread to several wards at both Stafford and Cannock Hospitals, killing 10 and infecting many more.

Yesterday [16th June 2011] the Francis Inquiry heard evidence from Justin McCracken, chief executive of the Health Protection Agency, who revealed the hospital repeatedly refused to act on advice and was reluctant to declare outbreaks – possibly due to a fear of bad publicity.

My comment: Just where were the watchdogs who could have done something? Surely refusing to follow the advice of experts is maladministration which a watchdog should have done something about? Is this not a case of corporate manslaughter?

Read the full story from the source Express & Star

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

Another council trying to gag councillors

Aylesbury Vale District Council has banned its cabinet members and officers from talking to the Bucks Herald amid claims that the title does not print enough positive stories about it.

Instead the authority has told the Johnston Press owned paper and its sister paper the Bucks Advertiser it will only communicate with them through written statements approved by communications staff.

My comment: Bullying a local paper into printing more council propaganda is not the right approach. In addition a council has no right to gag an elected representative and stop them talking to the press. This is an affront to democracy.

When they tried this tactic in Stoke on Trent the members refused, let's hope Aylesbury Vale District Councillors have enough backbone to defend democracy and their right to talk to the press on any issue that concerns their constituents.

Read the full story from the source  Hold the Front Page

More council waste, more LGA spin

EVERY household in the country could get a £450 tax rebate if councils stopped wasting £10billion a year, ministers were told last night. Town halls are failing to shop around to get the best price for basic goods and services, a report revealed.

Experts found potential savings that would allow £450 to be slashed from every council tax bill and could be made easily, simply by following tried-and-tested business practices.

They found shocking needless spending on energy, mobile phones and legal services. Whitehall aides estimated the wasted money was enough to pay the wages of 500,000 refuse collectors – which could alone reduce the need to move to the hated fortnightly or monthly bin collections.

The overall £10billion savings also dwarf the £2.6billion cut in town hall funding from the Government this year.

Baroness Eaton, chairman of the Local Government Association, said:..Savings measures can take time to implement and the cuts were demanded so swiftly that many councils could not avoid an impact on frontline services, she said.

My comment: Baroness of the Local Government spin machine has shot herself in the foot by arguing that local government only need to spend wisely in an economic downturn and when they are told to. Baroness, wake up! Councils shouldn't wait until they are told before spending taxpayer's money wisely!

Read the full story from the source Express

Read all articles on this blog that highlight public authorities wasting money

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Ofsted tell us what we already know

Almost half of schools in England are not giving pupils a good enough education, inspectors said today.

Around 45 per cent of those that have been assessed by Ofsted since the start of the academic year were found to be just satisfactory or inadequate.

My comment: What is the point of a watchdog who just historically reports a problem? That's like the weather forecasters telling us what the weather was like last year. We need proactive watchdogs who stop problems from occurring in the first place, not just reporting it after the event.

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

Read all articles about Watchdogs  or all articles about Ofsted on this blog

Sunderland City Council: Yet another Social Services failure

Social services repeatedly ignored pleas to put a boy of 11 into care before he raped a disabled child.

They had been urged to take immediate action in a second letter from a children’s psychiatrist only 13 days before the sickening attack.

Despite the warnings, social workers chose to do nothing and instead the disturbed youngster, now 13, was free to rape his defenceless nine-year-old male victim.

A damning report published yesterday condemned the horrifying catalogue of failings and concluded that the attack was preventable.

The serious case review found that Sunderland City Council had ‘consistently failed’ in its duties and had paid little, or no attention, to the repeated warnings about so-called Child X. It said: ‘The lessons to be drawn are significant and extensive.

Chairman Jan Van Wagtendonk [Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board] said: ‘We are determined that the lessons from this serious case review are learnt and put into practice to ensure the safeguarding and welfare of children across the city.’ 

My comment: Just what is the point of a Safeguarding Children Board that  doesn't safeguard children? In addition, doesn't it just make you sick when you hear leaders of failing bodies trot out the same old mantra 'lessons will be learnt' when we all know they they never are. Are Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board so insular that they never learnt any lessons from the Haringey, Birmingham, Leicestershire, Salford and other council Social Service failures? Obviously not.

[Ofsted 2008: In her first interview since the verdict on Baby P was returned, Gilbert admits for the first time to failings in Ofsted's oversight of Haringey council, acknowledging that officials in the local authority where Baby P died were able to "hide behind" data last year to earn themselves a good rating from inspectors just weeks after his death. Gilbert offers no guarantee that there won't be another Baby P. But she promises his death will prove a catalyst for change across the system.]  

Read the full sory from the source Mail on Line

Read all articles about Watchdogs  or all articles about Ofsted on this blog

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Abused at two care homes because of Watchdog failures

A suspected victim of the latest care home abuse scandal had previously been mistreated at a disgraced facility for people with learning difficulties in Cornwall, the Western Morning News has learned.

The vulnerable woman, who has not been named, was among the residents at Winterbourne View in Bristol, where secret filming by the BBC's Panorama showed patients being punched, slapped, pinned down and taunted by carers. She had previously been cared for at Budock Hospital in Falmouth, which was at the centre of its own abuse scandal dating back to 2004.

Reg Broad, chairman of East Cornwall Mencap, said the families concerned had been "devastated" by the footage, broadcast on May 28, and now wanted answers.

"The question is how this vulnerable woman, who was abused at Budock, has ended up in a similar institution," Mr Broad said last night. It simply should not have happened, given that we are supposed to have safeguarding procedures that are designed to stop this happening."

My comment: It will continue to happen whilst we have watchdogs and ombudsmen who are clearly not fit for purpose. Year on year the government spend more and more taxpayers money on watchdogs and ombudsmen whilst year on year wrongdoings by the bodies they are supposedly watching get worse and more frequent.  

Wake up government, connect the dots, our current watchdogs and ombudsmen are part of the problem not part of the solution. Probably because you recruit them from the bodies they are supposed to be watching and fail to give them any real teeth. Therefore, the only way a watchdog or ombudsman can appear effective, and keep their funding, is to overlook the majority of wrongdoings by their ex colleagues and pretend everything in the garden is rosy. Until the next scandal comes along of course.

Read the full story from the source This is Cornwall

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

Hertsmere Borough Council: £3,000 on awards nights and conferences

Council officials spent more than £3,000 attending conferences and awards ceremonies during the past three years, it has been revealed.

The spending, by Hertsmere Borough Council, was published on The Daily Telegraph's website last week following a freedom of information request by the national newspaper.

The request, for details of credit card spending of more than £500 during the past three years, revealed that the council's chief executive twice travelled to a national conference at a cost of £665 each, in 2008 and 2009.

The cost was the price of the ticket at the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) conference.

My comment: Why is the taxpayer paying for their Chief Executive to visit a SOLACE conference? Membership is a personal choice and SOLACE is a body which looks after the interests of Chief Executive Officers not the Council. 

Read the full story from the source Watford Observer

Great Ormond St finally says sorry to Baby P whistleblower

Great Ormond Street has apologised to a doctor suspended after raising concerns over the clinic where Baby P was seen days before his death.

This is the first time the world-leading children's hospital has issued a formal apology to whistleblower Kim Holt over her treatment.

Ms Holt warned in 2006 of "serious failings" at the St Ann's clinic which sent Peter Connelly home suffering from a broken back suffered during months of abuse.

She was one of four paediatricians who said doctors at the Haringey clinic, which was run by Great Ormond Street, were seriously overworked and a child would die unless action was taken.

Last week, Ms Featherstone called on Dr Jane Collins, the chief executive of Great Ormond Street, to resign for "covering up" failings in the Baby P case.

My comment: Why are the government not protecting whistleblowers and rooting out these corrupt executives. There is also another recent case in which a whistleblower was eventually vindicated. Note that the wistleblowers suffer the injustice whilst those responsible for the problem in the first place and those attempting to cover things up (usually one and the same person) get away scot free. 

Read the full story from the source This is London 

Read all articles about the NHS or all articles about whistle-blowers on this blog.

Prison staff ran a women’s jail like a Carry On film

Russell Thorne, acting governor of Downview Prison, granted a convict gifts of alcohol, make-up and weekend releases to reward her for repeated sexual encounters, a jury was told.

On one occasion he organised a threesome with two prisoners and also watched lesbian shows between inmates in his office, it is claimed.

His colleague, prison officer Simon Dykes, is accused of having sex with four inmates and allowing another to perform a lewd act on him in a jail lavatory.

The prosecutor told the jury that Thorne, 41, and Dykes, 45, were at the centre of a ‘culture of corruption’ within the prison. He said: ‘They were offering preferential treatment to prisoners for sex.’

Thorne, of Sutton, denies two counts of misconduct in public office, involving having sex with inmates, between 2006 and 2010. Dykes, of Westcott, Surrey, denies six counts of the same offence. The trial continues. Both men have been suspended pending the outcome.

My comment: "Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect all who seek it.."  Frank Herbert

Read the full story from the source Mail on Line

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Suffolk County Council FOI request response.

Request: Freedom of Information request - Scrutiny (1 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.”

 Response: (14 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: Interesting. 

UPDATE 14th June 2011 Request for an internal review

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

UPDATE 30th July 2011: Internal review response

Freedom of Information Act 2000

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: 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 unequivalent 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.

As a result I have submitted a complaint to the Information Commissioner. 

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