The Long Road to Freedom Of Information – A Wirral Leaks Exclusive!


We have previously reported on Wirral Council’s woeful record when it comes to responding to Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests

Indeed we referenced a statement by UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham who said that “Wirral was selected for monitoring as it had failed to respond to 85% of FOI requests within the time limit of 20 working days and had exceeded the limit “by a significant margin on numerous occasions.”
Consequently Wirral Council was subject to 2 monitoring periods by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) who enforced further humiliation by making the Council make a public undertaking to improve their handling of FOI requests .

That’s if you count Super-Duper Director Joe Blott mumbling something under his breath with his fingers crossed behind his back qualifying as a public undertaking anyway.All we can say is that it’s lucky for Wirral Council that the ICO are about as impotent as a eunuch after a six pack of Special Brew

So how is Wirral Council been shaping up? Well according to a self-congratulatory Scrutiny Review Report published last week they think they are doing splendidly.Bless.

Although we think it’s a case of self praise being no praise at all especially when the Council is  congratulating itself on actually complying with the law ( well most of the time anyway!)

Of course a closer examination of the claims made in the report can be found on the ever informative blog written by John Brace which includes details of 39 ICO Decision Notices where disgruntled members of the public have been unhappy with their FOI response from Wirral Counil (39! – count’ em and weep)

However we were particularly drawn to the details in the report which read :

“In terms of the volume of Freedom of Information requests made to Wirral Borough Council, a benchmarking exercise was carried out against a number of similar sized local authorities to see if there were any consistencies. The benchmarked local authorities were derived from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, based on numbers of constituents. The results of the exercise are included below.

From the results of the exercise, The Panel was assured that in terms of volume received, Wirral Borough Council was not receiving significantly more or less requests than the comparable local authorities, with the average number of requests coming in as 1073. Wirral Borough Council received 1082 requests in the 2012/13 financial year which is around the average amount received for all eight local authorities benchmarked.”

This evidentially counters Frankenfield’s paranoid bleatings on Tony Snell’s Radio Merseyside programme that there was a co-ordinated attempt to destabilise the part of the council handling FOI requests.

A further point we’d like to make is what’s the point in an answering an FOI request within the 20 day legal timeframe when the response says you can’t have the information you want anyway  – it would be interesting to have analysis of time spent looking for reasons not to provide information than actually providing it and the number of times the ICO rule in favour of disclosing the information only for Wirral Council to move the goalposts and try another exemption after the first one failed!

Ironically in the week that this report was published Wirral Council received yet another gentle slap on the wrist from the ICOLocal Government Lawyer website reports:“Two local authorities have given undertakings to the Information Commissioner’s Office after breaches of the Data Protection Act in relation to social services records.In the first case Wokingham Borough Council lost records relating to the care of a young child. In the second, Wirral Borough Council twice sent social services records to wrong addresses.”

It was once more up to Super-Duper Director Blott to admit to the breaches of the Data Protection Act telling the Wirral Globe :

“We take these matters very seriously… As soon as we discovered the errors , we self-referred to the ICO and took immediate steps to discover what went wrong, and make sure we do what is necessary to ensure it doesn’t happen again…..”


However it was after reading this particular news report that a dedicated Wirral Leaks follower contacted us to report that they too had received confidential information that was sent to their address but was meant for someone else.

—–Original Message—–
Subject: Correspondence Sent In Error

Dear ,

A letter was delivered to my address on Friday 24th June. My partner
opened it thinking it was for me, only to find it was meant for a Mr A. The letter was addressed to my address……..

Obviously, this letter has been wrongly addressed, and I was not meant
to receive it, I will return it to you in the post.

I am, however, very concerned that such a highly confidential letter
could have been sent to me in error.

Our source received the following response from a senior officer of Wirral Council :

The letter was incorrectly addressed, for which I apologise. It should
not have happened.

Thank you for drawing this to our attention.

Imagine our source’s surprise when they realised the significance of the Data Protection Act breach when the intended recipient’s named turned up in the local press in relation to the notorious 4 week delay scandal.

It is not known whether a) The person for whom the highly confidential letter was intended for was ever informed about this breach and b) Whether the incident was ever reported to the ICO.

Perhaps someone would like to make Freedom of Information Act/Data Subject Access request to find out!

5 thoughts on “The Long Road to Freedom Of Information – A Wirral Leaks Exclusive!

  1. This council its officers & councillors are not fit for purpose. They are blissfully unaware that they are public servants & they empire build at the publics expense & don’t give a monkeys as to what the public think or know. They wont even answer their own councillors questions so what chance do the public have of getting to the truth with exemption this that & the other with Surgit Tour & Graham Burgess vetting everything that is placed in the public domain we stand no chance of getting the truth.
    The sooner they learn that the public are their paymasters & are entitled to know how our council affairs are run the better it will be, but then I woke up & found that I was dreaming again.
    It is people like you your Lordship, John Brace & Paul Cardin who do your very best to expose the shortcomings at the Clown Hall

  2. G’day My Lord

    I am just waiting for The Blott on The Landscape to comment on the Big, ISUS and Working Neighbourhoods robbery 1,024 days later.

    I bet there is some feeble excuse about the DCLG Report that is looking at a minuscule portion of the issue.

    “Lets look at the big picture and let lessons be learnt…..” shit I am starting to sound like the next mayor.



    Ps Careful Blott doesn’t try to run a motorway through your estate My Lord

  3. Yaboo sucks… I was going to ridicule f field’s comments re co-ordinated attempts to break down a department,. You beat me to it.

    It was the one fact that stood out in the report of the Councillors. Do we now get a retraction from Mr Fields, and on radio?

    Elsewise all comments made in public are just so much wastage of words.

    Bring back the 17th century New England where you could be prosecuted for demagoguery.

  4. The ICO advises on how to answer FOIs.They suggest give as much as you can as this avoids follow ups .It also says if you know what the requester wants dont short change them by nit picking the request. I have never had a reply that adheres to this advice. Answers are always incomplete, or they twist your question to avoid giving information. All replies appear condescending and begrudged.I believe they try to figure out why you want it and answer accordingly.And for the life of me I do not understand why it takes so long, I notice a recent request where the Council appear to be arguing with a requester about words he used!!

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