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Decision notice. The Bullying of Disabled Council Staff


WirralPC
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Hello All,

 

I'm Paul Cardin from Wirral.  Here's a decision notice from the ICO referring to bullying of disabled people and pay offs in public money to Herefordshire County Council staff.  I believe a number of senior people have been encouraged to depart the council.

 

The ICO for their part are standing behind the council, and appear to be insisting that the disabled persons affected have been consulted, and don't want their data released or their personal privacy breached.  Is this true?  Some local people out there might know different.

 

This DN can be challenged and I believe the deadline is 10th September, if my maths is correct.

 

If it's going to be challenged, it needs to be QUICK !  My contact details should be relatively easy to track down with a search engine.

 

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Good lord, what a terrible state of affairs - I'm appalled that my council tax is paying the salaries of a bully/bullies, and, as a result, a 5 or even 6 figure sum has been paid as compensation. If 'between 10 and 20' were involved, what on earth is going on in our Council? Once again, where are our Councillors on this? Are the perpetrators still in the Council's employment, and, if so, why? Or were they let go with yet more hush money? No wonder the council has no money for the services it is supposed to provide.

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A very warm welcome to you, Paul. Your reputation goes before you!!

 

Point 19.

 

"settlements contain clauses relating to the need to keep the contents confidential which are binding for all parties."

 

Is this council speak for a gagging clause??

 

Has this been used "between 10 and 20 " times??

 

This absolutely stinks. Why are bullies being protected like this??

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A very warm welcome to you, Paul. Your reputation goes before you!!

 

Point 19.

 

"settlements contain clauses relating to the need to keep the contents confidential which are binding for all parties."

 

Is this council speak for a gagging clause??

 

Has this been used "between 10 and 20 " times??

 

This absolutely stinks. Why are bullies being protected like this??

 

Yes. I'd view these as gagging clauses.

 

My own council have described such clauses as "confidentiality clauses".  They would draw a distinction and claim that "gagging clauses" are falling out of favour (the NHS has banned their use) and were done to prevent whistleblowers from speaking up in public.  Whistleblowing aside, in my mind there is no difference between a gagging clause and a confidentiality clause, because they both have the same chilling effect on the signatory.

 

As the legal head at Herefordshire travelled up a steep learning curve at Wirral Council during its darkest days, I'd imagine this council would adopt a similar position.

 

If a person has agreed to receiving a potentially large sum of public money in settlement of a potential claim against their employer, but feels restrained from speaking about their experiences, and as a result has "a club dangling over their head" should they exercise their right to free speech in the future, then THAT is a gagging clause.

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Thanks for that, Paul.

 

I find it quite despicable that folks in a position of authority, have bullied disabled staff, have kept their job, and had the whole sorry mess conveniently swept under the carpet.

 

For some insane reason, I thought the victims were the ones who were supposed to be protected.......

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But......if the details of WHY they were "let go" isn't public knowledge.....there is nothing to stop them getting another highly paid role, and possibly carrying on as before??? 

 

There are those in authority that know full well what has gone on, yet choose to say nothing, and allow this kind of behaviour to continue.

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When Wirral Council let senior officer abusers go (with Bill Norman as monitoring officer), they paid them off richly.

 

As they bailed out, the figures soon went through the £1 million mark.  You sit there wondering what compels a senior public servant to abuse his power and dip into council tax money again and again to get rid of the people around him.  You wonder why the councillors have gone AWOL.

 

And at the same time...  what prevents those with the power from reaching for the disciplinary policy and procedure?  Junior staff caught bullying or with their hands in the till are quickly disciplined and sacked after all.

 

Through watching the process time and again, and by process of elimination, on Wirral, we've come to the conclusion that there is a very basic and irresistible reason for the shysters and power abusers to get rid of problem people using our money.

 

Senior staff can be privy to very particular and very 'special' information which, if broadcast, would spell the end of the very top movers' and shakers' careers. 

 

This appears to be the only explanation.

 

  • Deals are struck
  • Abusers are not investigated
  • Abusers are not disciplined
  • CEOs and Monitoring Officers (with their own personal history of pecadilloes) pass by on the other side
  • Abusers receive clemencies and clean bills of health
  • Abusers are gagged
  • Abusers are paid public money to keep their mouths shut
  • Abusers walk into another job at another basket case, where the securing of new 'special' knowledge enables them to do it all over again
  • The Information Commissioner, if approached, will stand full square behind the abusers of power

 

 

What's driving it?  Fear and self-preservation.  We've seen it happen in Torquay.  We've seen it happen on Wirral.  We're witnessing everything unravelling now in Herefordshire.

 

There's a very obvious connection between the above three, but as everyone must be aware, it's also happening up and down the country in countless other locations.

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If I was one of the disabled people who'd been bullied at this council, and still working there or not, I'd be checking through my compromise agreement for the presence of a penalty clause.

 

These are phrased to deter the person from talking about the details of their agreement beyond their family, their union, their professional advisers and the tax people.  They may state that in the event of a breach of the terms, any money that's been paid across in settlement of a claim will be recovered through the courts.  The problem with penalty clauses such as this are that case-law has watered down their effectiveness over the years.

 

In the past, abusive employers could get away with recovering the full amount.  But now, they have to prove precisely what detriment has been suffered and claim a portion of the payment, accordingly.

 

In the compromise agreement, if there's no penalty clause there to back up the gagging clause, personally I would feel emboldened to expose the council for the corporate bully and abuser that they are.  If it could be shown that the council have lied (which I believe I've already done, but Gemma Garvey of the ICO stepped in to perversely say there was 'no evidence' of this) then I think there's a good chance of exposing the lies, winning this appeal and defeating them.

 

But I'm not a lawyer !

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Hello Paul, A memorandum produced by a Legal Officer offering up advice to his/her Council Employer. These documents giving advice will of course be attached to most Council case papers, particularly where a Compromise Agreement is being sought, its been agreed upon and a course of action has or is to take place. Are these documents disclosable under the provisions of FOI or do they remain sensitive marked 'do not disclose' because of the nature of the Legal Officers role, namely giving confidential legal advice to a client who happens to be his/her employer? Im sure you get what Im driving at.

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Hello Bobby.  Good to catch up with you.

 

I suspect for this sort of controlling information the exemption used would be that of 'legal privilege' - which has been levelled at a few of my requests.  There are a few different, related legal exemptions that may also cover it.

 

The absurdity is that the data controller can engage any exemption initially.  The months drag on.  The ICO eventually get involved at your request, and may say, "This exemption is not applicable".  The data controller then engages a different, related one.  More months drag on, and if that doesn't work, another, and so on and so on.

 

Have you made a request for this sort of information?  I used to get frustrated when repeatedly hitting a brick wall, and would contemplate giving up.  Have you noticed how some of them move at glacial speed and aim to grind you down, even if it takes them years?

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I know nothing of this case and would be surprised if any other councillor, with perhaps the exception of 'the Leader', would know of the case except by way of whispers! Unfortunately as we all know whispers get exaggerated. Employee matters are the sole responsibility of the CE and Head of Paid Service. The only opportunity for councillor involvement would be to hear employee disciplinary matters or as members of the. Employment Committee. In both cases Councillors are sworn to secrecy, except inthe case of the Employment Panel, there would be a brief report to Council.

 

If the ICO has said he is content there is unlikely to be anything Councillors can do.

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"I know nothing".

 

Councillor, can I suggest you get yourself down to the CEO's office on Monday morning and ask some searching questions about what you've euphemistically described as 'employment issues'?

 

This was a campaign of bullying against a large number of disabled staff by a determined group of senior officer bullies.

 

Are you washing your hands of it?  That's what it sounds like to me.  I shouldn't be surprised I suppose.

 

I did a survey of compromise agreements and gagging clauses a few years ago, which took in 345 English Councils, including Herefordshire.

 

Guess who was one of 53 councils who slammed the shutters down and never provided the information?

 

How's your scrutiny?  Obviously non-existent when it comes to 'employment issues' or to put It in plain language, concerted campaigns of bullying, followed by potentially six-figure golden goodbye pay-offs to the perpetrators, accompanied by gags and clean bills of health.  Did you not notice the sudden, untimely departure of a number of senior staff?

 

But more importantly, how is your scrutiny on abuse, in particular, child abuse?  This particular bombshell remains unexploded in several as yet unknown areas of the country - but one thing's for sure, those members who aren't capable of controlling their senior staff may be sitting on a timebomb.

 

http://www.wirralinittogether.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/rotherham-abuse-which-53-councils-shut-up-shop-when-people-came-knocking/

 

 

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I've read this post and you've repeated the gist of this notion several times - sorry, I just don't see it. Councillors role is not to be so enmeshed with Officers that they are having to take decisions every day - that is an Officers role. Councillors are supposed to deal with over arching policy and sub-divisions of that, not signing off a pavement to be dug up for a gas leak - that's just absurd, and I don't believe it happens. Of course, there will be situations arising when a committee chair or cabinet member will have to be contacted at short notice, but ordinarily, you are paying some well qualified officers some extremely high salaries to do the day to day running and that is what they should do. Your proposal smacks of old school labour control freakery, and look at the mess that's landed us in.

Cllr Powell above is a response to one of your posts on another topic from TWG, as he quite rightly states you are paying some extremely high salaries to people who are responsible for making sure this type of thing can't happen! If this type of thing happens then the whole chain of command should by kicked out the door! Starting with the Cabinet member followed by the Director and finishing off with the Department managers! Your Directors earn 70 -140 thousand a year and if someone under their charge is guilty of any wrong doing then they should all fall on their swords! The top players are paid to ensure this type of abuse can't happen, if it does and continues then they are not doing their jobs and that's when you should be stepping in and calling for their heads!!!

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 Employee matters are the sole responsibility of the CE and Head of Paid Service. 

 

 

And if one or both of these are implicated in the wrongdoing...........?

 

You don't seem to have grasped that bullying, victimising "whistle blowers", covering up wrongdoing etc is part of a culture.  If you allow that culture to take root, as it has in Herefordshire, on the basis that each individual situation is an unconnected "employee matter" then it is impossible for staff to provide a good service.  You may consider that elected members are only responsible for overseeing service delivery, but if you allow an organisational culture of bullying and fear to grow (as you have), then you are failing in your oversight of and responsibility for, service delivery.

 

Perhaps you could clarify, Cllr Chappell,  - what is the council policy regarding whistle blowing.  I don't mean leaking stuff to the press, but raising issues with senior managers or government regulators?  Would a gagging clause be used to keep such a person silent?  Hypothetically speaking, of course.

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Perhaps you could clarify, Cllr Chappell,  - what is the council policy regarding whistle blowing.  I don't mean leaking stuff to the press, but raising issues with senior managers or government regulators?  Would a gagging clause be used to keep such a person silent?  Hypothetically speaking, of course.

 

Had to dig deep to find this:

 

 
5.3.1.3 This policy document makes it clear that staff can do so without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination or advantage. This Confidential Reporting Policy is intended to encourage and enable employees to raise serious concerns within the Council rather than overlooking a problem or ‘blowing the whistle’ outside. 
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GDJ, I can tell you exactly what happens to someone who blows the whistle at Herefordshire Council, regardless of any reporting codes or policy, your identity will not be protected!

 

You are immediately labelled a trouble causer and you are hounded until you either leave or they come up with a legitimate way to get rid of you! Sit back shut up and take whatever they throw at you if you want to keep your job, you certainly won't get a job elsewhere because they will blacken your name! Don't complain about anything you see or hear play dumb! If you want to further your career with Herefordshire Council you have to endear yourself to the likes of Geoff Hughes, Helen Coombes or Alistair (invisible) Neil, if you cock up your head will roll not theirs! If this happened anywhere other than the public sector then the person at the top of the food chain would be the person out of a job, like in the case of the BBC scandal. It won't happen in public sector because these Senior Directors are to expensive to get rid of! So it goes on and breeds like a disease, the Geoff Hughes, Helen Combes and Alistair Neil's are not accountable for the actions of their managers, I'd be surprised if they knew what was going on!

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Ain't it awful! It's truly desperate when good people elected into Office have no way to stop or curtail the activities of those who've joined the gravey train called 'Common Purpose'. I mean, what is it that stops people in authority openly saying, 'Whatever you want to call these payments, Gagging Payments, Compromise Agreements or any other label you choose to pin on these sums taken out of the public purse, they are completely wrong and if they ain't corrupt, the abuse they represent will most certainly lead to corruption?

This whole thing, just like the MP's expenses scandal, is going to blow up in our faces and what in Gods name will our Councillors say then? The stink is so bloody obvious and yet, despite the stench of these payments, they say and do nothing because they say, it's the responsibility of Mr Neill.

Well, I'd like to see our Councillors take a leap of faith, stand up and say it loudly and clearly, that paying someone for their silence is corrupt and it serves no good purpose in pretending that these things are anything other than an instrument to suppress open and honest public service business.

It ain't difficult is it? Why do we go round and round in circles desperately trying to convince ourselves that corrupt practices only ever happen in other places. It's here in Hereford now. It's been going on for such a long time and its really about time that those who represent us should feel comfortable and be able to question these things instead of 'ducking it' and pretending that its 'nowt to do with them'. It's got everything to do with 'them' and its got everything to do with you and I and its tragic that people like 'us' and Mr Paul Cardin should have to keep shoving and pushing this millstone up the hill.

The tragedy is, its entirely about getting people to think. Think for themselves and stop being engineered into accepting whatever they spoon feed you. These people that lead us? They are thick. Some were corrupted many years ago when they first asked for a lump of sugar, a bung/ gagging payment. As for the outcome? Its inevitable. They'll eventually get caught, theyll be prosecuted for using a pecuniary advantage to gain a financial benefit for themselves or another and they'll have to answer for their behaviour. Sadly, and its a fact of life ,these people who dance this jig beneath the banner of public service, proclaiming that they love to serve, well unfortunately, they have a habit of dragging others into their illicit activities until the waters are cloudy, the lines are blurred and the Dock in Court is to small to seat each and every defendant wrapped up in this thing they call 'Compromise Agreements'.

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I am quite shocked at the lack of comments on this thread.

 

Do the majority think that what has occurred is all fine and dandy??

 

This forum is called Hereford Voice - to give us the opportunity to make ourselves heard! Yet the silence from those who really should have an awful lot to say about this, is quite frankly, deafening.

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Ok - ill chime in. 

 

Im guessing that very few, if any on here actually run big business, or teams of people. 

The largest team I have ever run was for just over 100 staff. 

 

From that 100, I had under managers to assist me.

As in all groups/communities from that 100 odd staff, some were great, some were on the fiddle, some were lazy, some had issues, some had potential that was hard to tap, some needed to be moved on. 

 

Thats what happens in business, im pretty sure the council are the same.

 

However - when you work for the council, if you get put on a performance review, or put through a disciplinary procedure, its easy to say - "racism/sexism/bullying" - and you may get a pay out. Hey its worth a shot! 

 

Im not saying this council is great. Its not - far from it - however they do have some very difficult issues to deal with at the top, manly finance which then trickles all the way down the chain. 

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Article on the Hereford Times is the same department were the events described above happened only it's not called bullying in the report it's called 'tension between managers and staff' never heard it described like that before!

 

The report states- Page 28

 

There is also evidence to suggest that the aggressive implementation may have impacted on staff working particularly in the Contact Centre and that this resulted in tension between management and staff. This did not assist the implementation. These issues were eventually resolved.

 

(Staff complained software was crap, so you bullied them!)

 

 

Some staff also expressed concerns about system functionality and effectiveness although views of staff varied on this. Some staff reported the system freezing and other technical problems but this concern was not universally shared by all staff.

 

(Staff were to scared to speak out' they saw what was happening, to those that did!)

 

Officers also stated that they thought the implementation had been achieved in a tight timeline but as a result many of the service departments which needed to be bought into the vision of the project (as they would effectively be ceding budget and staff to a central customer department) did not fully share the vision. This meant that any further development of the project, without corporate pressure being applied, would be unlikely.

 

(Corporate pressure being applied, translates to bullying!) but they bullies had gone by then!

 

You can find the report here

 

http://councillors.herefordshire.gov.uk/documents/g5221/Public%20reports%20pack%20Tuesday%2009-Sep-2014%2014.00%20Audit%20and%20Governance%20Committee.pdf?T=10

 

Hereford Times

 

http://www.herefordtimes.com/news/11445015.Business_case_for___1_million_Herefordshire_Council_IT_system_was_not__fully_realistic_/?ref=var_0

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Dear stupidf,

 

o This isn't the private sector

o This isn't shareholders' or managers' money

o This isn't 'business'

o This is the public sector

o This is public service

o This was bullying

o This was hidden pay offs to out of control thugs

o This is an attempt to gloss over it by a public serving 'regulator'

o This is more of our money being squandered to cover it all up

o It's not private, so..... WE HAVE A STAKE IN IT (as do you...)

 

Love,

 

Paul

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I take all your above points on board, but my limited understanding is the Council is trying to run "as a business" with business type philosophy.

The council is like an oil tanker and all that, it takes time for it to change direction as it is so big.

 

If you take a load of employees, who have worked in an public sector environment where people have not perhaps been challenged by senior team before, then those employees could take that challenge as bullying. 

 

I dont know all the facts of the case or cases in question - so perhaps im talking cr@p, but I am aware of issues in the private sector of challenging under performing staff, or poor performing staff which they may consider to be bullying when it actually is not. 

 

Either way - people within the council are having to work harder than before, show more commitment and probably longer hours whilst taking on more responsibilities with little if any thanks or recognition. That is not a good place to be for anyone. 

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