“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”
― Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses
In trying to maintain it’s increasingly ridiculous Most Improved Council in The World Ever! tag Wirral Council is seeking to kick quite a few compromising Freedom of Information requests into the long grass.However there was one request from August 2014 which seemed destined to be resolved today with the release of a damning report relating to a long-running whistleblowing saga.
No – not that whistleblowing saga – this particular ghost story doesn’t have the benefit of either Frankenfield’s patronage or an incriminating taped conversation to help find an amicable – if unethical ,immoral and probably illegal – resolution.
No – this is the long-running BIG etc ; whistleblowing saga and the attempt by the whistleblower Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro to have an internal audit report which he believes holds the key to unravelling a cover up of serious financial mismanagement to finally be disclosed. Unsurprisingly Wirral Council believe the report “should not be in the public domain”.
For those thinking of embarking on the process of trying to get information out of Wirral Council might first be advised to read the tortuous history of this particular Freedom of Information request :
You will see here that Wirral Council – having resisted every attempt to drag them kicking and screaming into the promised land of openness and transparency by yelling
” EXEMPTION !” at every opportunity were forced to bring in the big guns or at least some highly paid barrister writing on behalf of Wirral Council CEO Eric Feeble to try and kick this FOI request into touch (or more accurately out of reach).
The convoluted excuse for refusing disclosure this time was because : “the disclosure would prejudice the public authority’s ability to offer an effective public service or to meet its wider objectives or purposes due to the disruption caused by the disclosure or the diversion of resources in managing the impact of disclosure.”
Huh?.Sounds to us like legalese for “can’t be arsed”
However the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) were having none of it and stepped in and gave Wirral Council 35 days to disclose the report.
The 35 days were up today and needless to say Wirral seem to have ignored the ICO ruling.
We now await to see whether Wirral Council will either belatedly release the report or continue to be secretive and obstructive and spend yet more public money on legal fees challenging the ICO decision notice.
Meanwhile it would seem to us that the the corridors of power at Wallasey Town Hall will continue to be haunted by the ghosts of unfinished business……
Postscript – and what do you know the report suddenly appears on What Do They Know website after office hours on the last day before the ICO could take action to force the Council to release the report !.We await expert analysis of the findings – that’s if there isn’t too many redactions!.