Wirral Council’s 2015/16 Accounts WON’T Be Signed Off Before 30th September Deadline – Here’s Why

26th September 2016

This evening, Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Committee will meet at 6 pm.

The main thrust of the meeting will be the desire to sign off last year’s accounts.  However, this time around, a couple of flies have landed in the ointment.  One is the recent ‘inadequate’ OFSTED finding against Wirral Children’s Services – which came about despite the fact that the CEO and most council directors had known of this failure for a long time.

The other is in the shape of a qualifying objection lodged with the council and their auditors – Grant Thornton – by an anonymous, meddling Wirral elector on 10th August this year.

Here’s a link to the Grant Thornton report for this meeting which contains reference to this.

The objection is centred around LOBO loans – Lender Option Borrower Option – and the aim of the move is three-fold:

  • the authoring of a Public Interest Report
  • a declaration that these loans are unlawful
  • an auditor-backed referral of those involved to the courts

From the information we’ve been able to gather, Wirral Council entered into 19 of these loans and they were all dated between March 2001 and August 2007.  The largest loan will be paid off happily in 2078, when we reach the grand old age of 119.

26-09-16-wirral-lobo-loans-for-blog-post

The total amount borrowed is £127.5 million, however should the council wish to pay them off, that may prove difficult – by their own estimates on a declared £101 million it would cost £259 million.  Such a figure could be enough to bankrupt this local authority.

LOBO loans

These have been described as ‘exotic’ and very difficult to understand.  Derivatives, linked to gambling on future interest rate movements are involved with some of them.  City banker turned whistleblower, Rob Carver was once involved in arranging them but had an attack of conscience and decided to go public on their dangers.

By their very nature, and regardless of interest rate movements, they are drawn up to favour the lender, but because interest rates have plummeted and stayed extremely low, councils have found themselves locked into enormous, ever-burgeoning debts that span many decades and are practically impossible to escape from.

Should local authorities wish to back out, they would have to pay enormous breakage fees which typically amount to up to 90% of the original sum loaned.  It remains in the gift of the lenders to vary the interest rates to help, but these are city bankers, toiling in the interests of foreign banks, and as such, have no desire whatsoever to ease their clients out of a tight spot – regardless of the fact that it’s the vulnerable users of UK council services who will be impacted the most.

We as council taxpayers should never forget – it’s not the senior officers who originally set these loans up – nor their successors who inherited them – who will be personally impacted and in the firing line.

It’s us.

11.5 % of our council tax on Wirral is used every year to service these debts – which amounts to a huge amount of money – many millions – being simply frittered away. Instead of directing that cash towards easing the pressure on threatened services, we are bailing out Ian Coleman, former Finance Director for his poor decisions, and his successor, Acting Section 151 officer Tom Sault.

These two are either:

a. retired and untouchable, with their pay off and gold-plated pension, or;

b. currently on a stonking salary and unaffected by the social consequences 

What councils were doing investing in these things during a period when there was a relatively rosy economic outlook for both public and private sectors, nobody really knows. Was it recklessness or an attack of over-confidence?  Whatever the answer is, it’s highly unlikely that today’s local authority finance directors would touch them with a bargepole – not in a climate of government-imposed austerity and extremely difficult and straitened economic circumstances.

Becky Hellard – Liverpool

Talking of local authority finance directors, it came to our attention a couple of days ago that Liverpool City Council had held a similar finance meeting to the one held at Wirral Town Hall.  Amongst many others, in attendance were Robin Baker of Grant Thornton auditors and Becky Hellard, Liverpool’s incumbent Section 151 officer – Joe Anderson’s Director of Finance.

The following video is reproduced courtesy of ever-vigilant Wirral blogger and journalist John Brace, who went along to record the proceedings.  A highly unusual statement was made at this meeting in the presence of Grant Thornton’s Robin Baker.  Before this occurred, it’s very interesting to watch the behaviour of chair and former Mayor, Councillor Frank Prendergast – the man with the chunky, glinting golden bracelet on each wrist.  He was quick to interrupt just before Robin Baker speaks to caution him that John Brace was filming.

Here are the time stamps for each event:

  • [02:02] Councillor Prendergast cautions Robin Baker re: filming
  • [12:40] Finance Director Becky Hellard delivers her gaffe

Here’s the rough wording of the Becky Hellard howler:

“And then on the LOBO one, the bit I’d add in is … we remain confident that the agreements that were … in the previous financial years … did represent good value for money.  They were at lower rates than the PWLB loan board offered at that time and we have got the ability to leave them at any stage without any penalties. So whilst this is all going on, I want to reassure members that we are actually not concerned about them as professionals.”

The reason these loans were at ‘lower rates’ than the Public Works Loan Board (i.e. the cheaper State option) were because they opened at a “teaser rate” for the first few years before the true, higher interest rate was applied for the remainder or bulk of the term.

As for this “…we have got the ability to leave them at any stage without any penalties,” it’s absolute rubbish.  Becky Hellard appears to have been caught out misleading members of the committee – for whatever reason privately known to her.  It’s also noticeable that Robin Baker sat mute and did not intervene to put her straight.

A much better analysis of this situation, written by LOBO loans campaigner Joel Benjamin, appears here on the blog of LOBO loans campaign group Debt Resistance UK.

We don’t really hold out much hope that a so-called Public Interest Report will be drafted by Grant Thornton, nor that an official auditor-backed approach will be made to the courts.  Why?  Because given Grant Thornton’s ongoing failure to stand up and be counted and condemn Wirral Council’s long-running failure and cover up over the BIG fund / ISUS / Working Neighbourhood’s issues – where in one instance £2 million was reputedly defrauded by a council partner – such outcomes are not looking promising.

News reaches us also that not long ago, Robin Baker of Grant Thornton was instrumental in planting obstacles aimed at preventing the exposure of Mayor Joe Anderson’s outrageous use of £89,000 of Liverpool council tax payers’ public money on a failed personal and private court case.

So no, we’re not being optimistic at all really.  Not one bit. 

 

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Post Factual Politics – an Update on #Brickgate – Investigation Complete – Nobody Arrested

26th September 2016

Thanks go to @AJobTracker – david morgan on Twitter – for checking the recently released crime stats for Wallasey, Merseyside – in particular the Manor Road / car park area where Angela Eagle’s constituency office is situated.  The police have now completed their investigation and nobody has been arrested in connection with the incident (criminal damage).

angela-eagle-case-complete-with-merseyside-police


 

We won’t be linking to any mainstream media coverage of this incident because 12+ large circulation newspapers became foreseeably and avoidably laced with falsehoods at the time – and we at Wirral In It Together value our reputation.

The inaccurate content was centred around headlines faithfully telling us Angela Eagle’s constituency office – or the window to that office – had been smashed with a brick.

Even today, with our Daily Telegraph-centred complaint to IPSO now failed and forgotten, this post factual climate persists and dominates, with lies being built upon for their own ends by those with an axe to grind.

Ironically, here’s an excerpt from a Daily Telegraph article published yesterday written by prominent Scottish Tory – if that’s not a contradiction in terms – Ruth Davidson.  Upon reading this, we wonder if she has any measure on how damaging it could be to her own reputation to reheat proven falsehoods months later, then serve them up as ‘fact’:

telegraph-reheating-falsehoods

The underlined section above helpfully links readers back to the original inaccurate July 2016 article that we complained about in August – the one that the press regulator (whose editors’ committee is chaired by the Daily Mail’s editor) sees no problems with.

So that’s the background to all this.  Now to the latest potential #Brickgate development.


Merseyside Police were reluctant to answer in full our five question FOI request placed on 2nd August 2016, preferring to keep it brief, stating ‘yes’ they turned up to the scene when somebody rang them.

We’ve since appealed to the Information Commissioner on 16th September but not received any response yet.

Following an initial confused reply, after internal review, Merseyside Police used just one exemption to withhold the information we were seeking – Section 30 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

merseyside-police-foi-response

Given the above, I’d imagine the police are going to hold out at tribunal and will not want to provide a description of the alleged ‘brick’ or projectile. They’re also unlikely to confirm that it existed in the first place.

Guardian journalist Ewen Macaskill raised some very pertinent questions here regarding the existence of the mythical ‘brick’ – which only succeeded in shifting the spotlight onto Angela Eagle’s trusty media assistant Imran Ahmed and his dubious motivations.

Why the public servants at Merseyside Police would want to proceed down a path of denial, obfuscation and non-co-operation really is the classic “mystery wrapped in an enigma“.

…and advising us, presumably with a straight face, to search post factual content on the internet is a rather poor alternative to doing their duty and giving the public the facts.

 

 

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We lodged an FOI request re: Wirral Council visits to CHINA – a few days later the poo hit the fan

lgc-most-improved-council-phil-davies-surjit-tour-joe-blott

With no sense of irony, Phil Davies brandishes the most idiotic, most undeserved, “Most Improved Council” award, watched by grimacing Joe Blott and poker-faced Surjit Tour … an accolade which was awarded around the same time as Wirral Children’s Services Department was secretly going into freefall and many vulnerable children were put at risk – with these three’s full knowledge

23rd September 2016

On 16th September we lodged the following Freedom of Information request with Wirral Council:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/senior_staff_member_visits_to_ch#outgoing-580057

…it’s reproduced below:

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please advise whether plans have been put in place to dispatch staff and / or council members on visits abroad in the near future? i.e. before Christmas.

Please supply the following:

• Number and title of visit(s)
• Names of staff per visit
• Names of members per visit
• Details of destination(s)
• Duration of stay, per visit
• Total cost of flights / accommodation / expenses to the public purse, per visit
• Name, address of hotel(s), standard of accommodation booked, per visit
• Dates of departures / arrivals back in UK

Please endeavour to respond asap in the event that a visit is now imminent but has not been announced to the Wirral public,

Yours faithfully,


They haven’t responded to the FOI request yet, but once they’d realised they’d been rumbled, they fessed up and the story quickly broke in the Wirral Globe today:

Wirral Globe article on CHINA jolly

The timing of this has been awful given that Ofsted have just uncovered massive failings in Wirral Children’s services department which have sent shock waves through the council – failings that senior officers were well aware of but did nothing to address.

The embattled leader, Councillor Phil Davies however, didn’t break stride, ‘moved forward’, and magicked up £2 million, “Oh, I must have been sitting on this, here it is…  we did have some spare cash after all…” despite spending many years telling everybody the council had no money whatsoever and no alternative but to ignore the vulnerable kids, their heartbroken families, the 5,000 name petitions and go ahead and close down and demolish Lyndale School and Girtrell Court respite centre.

This was the deliberate, shameless and OPEN harming of our vulnerable children – as opposed to the hidden, calculated, unheralded stuff that went on behind the scenes in our name – or did until pesky, meddling Ofsted turned up and exposed it.

So we won’t know the details on whether Phil Davies will be enjoying a luxury break, how much spends he’ll be taking, how long for, who’ll be accompanying him, what ceremonial gifts will be exchanged, and who’s footing the bill … until the information people answer our FOI request…

…which could take a very, very, very long time at Wirral – your Most Improved Council.


25th September 2016 – Update

We know who he’s taking with him now – Mayor Joe Anderson – and it looks like the absurdly named “Liverpool Vision” – is footing the bill.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/business/new-liverpool-echo-business-publication-11919744

liverpool-business-post

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Frank Field’s unwanted Labour newspaper, paid for by you. Can the Information Commissioner see sense and block it?

17th August 2016

In the teeth of mounting concern, Wirral Council are ploughing ahead with Frank Field MP’s covert, unheralded pet project, that of venturing into the dying newspaper industry by publishing and delivering a monthly newsletter, Wirral Today, funded by our cash (£270,000 per year).  This started life as a Birkenhead only idea, but grew and grew.

It will be despatched, like it or not, to 145,000 Wirral dwellings … and flies in the face of central government guidelines.

The justification we’re told is that following a detailed consultation, the population feel poorly informed by the local press, have united as one and are banging the door down at the council demanding information, information, information.

If the council are to be believed, every man and his dog has suddenly become politically aware, deeply-engaged, and want the council’s newspaper because – all of a sudden – council senior people are not a gang of corrupt, self-seeking, oppressive bureaucrats and jobsworths and the people of Wirral are suddenly queuing up, gagging for their output.

As good as gone is Wirral Council’s dire history as long as your arm of self-inflicted scandal:


Freedom of Information request

We placed an FOI request for certain curious information regarding this monthly newsletter three months ago on 20th June 2016.  Here is a link to it:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/wirral_council_quarterly_now_mon

The crux of it is a minute taken from a Birkenhead Constituency Meeting held on 24th July 2014 which reads as follows:

“The Constituency Manager updated the Committee on the latest position in relation to the newsletter for Birkenhead and indicated that there may be some legal implications that needed to be further explored prior to publication and circulation.

The Head of Legal and Member Services advised the Committee that there was a need to ensure that the newsletter would not breech [sic] any aspects of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity (the Code) and suggested that the decision on this be deferred and brought back to the next meeting of the Committee.

So, correct us if we’re wrong here, but plain as the nose on your face were the doubts put forward by the Head of Legal and Member Services, Surjit Tour.

Mr Tour clearly expressed caution and stated the reason for this: a need to ensure that publishing the Birkenhead newsletter (back then, four times a year) would not breach the central government guidelines (see the underlined bit above).

Now we’re wondering how the situation has altered so dramatically, and instead of having second thoughts about a four times a year Birkenhead only newsletter, it’s now full steam ahead with a 12 times a year Wirral-wide one !!

Here’s the Wirral Globe article on this

How could Surjit Tour’s publicly stated misgivings have been allayed?  We have a good idea how this place ‘works’ behind the scenes so…..

  • Were any secret meetings held in darkened rooms?
  • What was said?
  • Were any favours called in?
  • Was anybody subjected to towel flicking or Chinese burns?

We just don’t know, and our rather detailed FOI request fired over the battlements at “fortress Wirral” has been met with a raised drawbridge.

So off we go down the road most travelled, and it’s the customary appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office.  We won’t go into too much detail here so as not to ‘aid the enemy’, but despite Wirral solicitor Rosemary Lyon’s detailed references on the WhatDoTheyKnow website to various case law, we believe we have an excellent public interest case ourselves – and are prepared to take this one all the way to Tribunal.

Finally, we don’t believe a Labour-dominated, bullying (proven) council, controlled by a loose cannon, politically-driven MP – and which has enjoyed carte blanche to do what the hell it likes – will be content with stuffing the pages of a hard fought for newsletter – Frank’s pride and joy – with tedious information about dog poo, potholes and how many streetlights are being switched off this month.

They’re crazed propagandists and power abusers and Martin Liptrot will be itching to stuff the thing cover to cover with page upon page of dreary, party-political dogma.

Not straight away of course.  It’ll be a case of – drip – drip – drip … let’s see what we get away with this month … drip – drip – drip … steady as she goes … drip – drip – drip … we did it, no-one noticed, lol … drip – drip – drip … right, let’s turn it up a notch … gush – gush – gush …

…and before we know it, it’ll be too late.

It’s a process known as consolidation of power and yes, it is deeply cynical and yes, they will not be able to help or contain themselves and yes, this was the sole reason for doing it in the first place.


p.s. As the “Vote Labour, you know it makes sense” medicine seeps in via Wirral Today, stand by for eye-watering amounts of your council tax money splurging out – on expensive barristers like Robin Hopkins of 11KBW in an epic, hideously misconceived, long, drawn out legal battle with central government – which will happen if our approach to the Information Tribunal fails.

Toodle Pip !!

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#Brickgate – Angela Eagle – Merseyside Police Change Their Position on Freedom of Information Request

11th September 2016

Background

We lodged the following original Freedom of Information request with Merseyside Police on 2nd August 2016:

 

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/alleged_brick_thrown_through_comhttps://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/alleged_brick_thrown_through_com

brickgate foi request to merseyside police

The police responded by refusing, withholding the information and quoting two exemptions.


Merseyside Police originally said they weren’t obliged to supply most of the information and quoted exemptions under Section 30 (Criminal investigations and proceedings) and Section 21 (Information reasonably accessible to the applicant by other means).

Here’s an explanation of these two exemptions from the regulator, the Information Commissioner:

Section 30

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1205/investigations-and-proceedings-foi-section-30.pdfhttps://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1205/investigations-and-proceedings-foi-section-30.pdf

Section 21

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1203/information-reasonably-accessible-to-the-applicant-by-other-means-sec21.pdfhttps://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1203/information-reasonably-accessible-to-the-applicant-by-other-means-sec21.pdf

And here’s a link to Merseyside Police’s detailed response:

00.Response Table PIT DJ 2016 807 MERPOL

The only point they addressed here was the first one, answering ‘yes’ – they did visit Sherlock House, the site of the criminal damage incident.

We’re left none the wiser on everything else and we asked the police to internally review their response.  At least 12 large circulation newspapers had been laced with foreseeable and avoidable inaccuracies since the original stories were published on 12th July and there seems to be no desire on the part of these newspapers to acknowledge the printing of falsehoods, or to retract or apologise.

The risk is still out there, that this false information – which links Corbyn supporters to the incident – will unfairly influence the minds of members of the public, some of whom will get a chance to cast their vote in the forthcoming Labour Party Leadership Ballot.

It’s possible that this false information – which needs publicly retracting – could swing the minds of enough voters and persuade them to crown Owen Smith – Angela Eagle’s successor in the leadership race – as the new leader, which would serve the 172 dissenting Labour MPs, would be built on lies and would be simply outrageous.

In support of their choice of Section 21 as an exemption, the police pointed us to Viscount Rothermere’s The Daily Mail for the information.  This action is insulting and beyond outrageous.

We still don’t know whether a brick was thrown and whether the police acknowledge that Angela Eagle’s office window was not broken, although they appear to have told Peter Hitchens that it wasn’t broken, according to his recent article in the Mail on Sunday.


 

That’s the background.

Here’s a link to the revised response, which followed an internal review:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/alleged_brick_thrown_through_com#incoming-864532

And here are the details:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/349462/response/864532/attach/html/3/Response%20Table%20PIT%20DJ%202016%20807%20after%20IR.doc.html

This time the Section 30 exemption still stands on points 2 and 3, but the ridiculous Section 21 response (asking us to look for the information in the Daily Mail) has been dropped on points 4 and 5.

Instead Section 30 has been used to sweep up points 2 to 5 and store all the information safely out of sight of the public behind a virtual ‘padlocked door’.

This time Merseyside Police included the following line of advice:

By searching on the internet using the search words Angela Eagle office attack or similar a volume of news items about the incident will be found

So this time, it’s not a particular story in the Daily Mail.  We’re being referred to the very opposite of ‘specific’ i.e. the whole of the internet.

I tried this and found it to be a very good example of how ‘lies become truth’. Reader, follow the police advice and try a Google Images search for “Angela Eagle Office Attack”.  You will NOT be given images of her office window.  In their place will be the following, which are images of a stairwell window on a different side of the building, a direct result of the UK press and media reporting falsehoods as truth:

search-for-angela-eagle-office-attack

We will now appeal to the Information Commissioner as is our right, and since our rights were returned to us in June 2011 following a 20 month, unlawful, extended ban.

What’s troubling us here is that Peter Hitchens of the Mail On Sunday appears to have been given access to information by Merseyside Police which we have been denied – on the specific point about whether Angela Eagle’s office window at the rear of the building had been attacked.

Here’s a tweet to Peter, sent today in the hope that he might let us in on how he came across this information, which appeared in the Mail on Sunday on 24th July 2016:


 

16th September 2016

An appeal was lodged today with the Information Commissioner:

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#Brickgate / Angela Eagle / Broken Stairwell Window – Our Complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation

Eagle telegraph brickgate

Angela Eagle Office Window

The untouched Angela Eagle office window

 

boarded-up-stairwell-widow

The broken and boarded up communal stairwell window

5th September 2016

To set the scene, when it first occurred to us that 12+ large circulation newspapers had become foreseeably and avoidably laced with inaccuracies – falsehoods that seemed to have taken on a life of their own – which were being repeated and enlarged upon across national TV and radio channels, we felt the situation had got out of control.

If left unchallenged, it had the potential to unfairly influence the September Labour Leadership Ballot – particularly because there seemed to be little or no desire to amend, retract or apologise on the part of the newspapers involved.

On 25th July, after having earlier witnessed our MP Angela Eagle directly linking what most people perceived as a random act of criminal damage to Jeremy Corbyn and to a politically-motivated attack

“This isn’t the kind of gentler politics that we were promised. I think Jeremy Corbyn needs to condemn these acts and he also needs to ensure that people who are supporting him don’t continue to behave this way in the future…”

 

 

 

…we sent an email to Angela Eagle expressing our concerns…

From: Paul Cardin

Date: Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 12:36 AM
Subject: Sherlock House. Press articles
To: angelaeagle2015@outlook.com

Dear Angela Eagle,

Please explain what measures you and your team are taking to set the record straight re: numerous false stories relating to ‘Angela Eagle’s Broken Office Window / Attacks On Angela Eagle’s Office’, which have appeared in local and national newspapers and on TV and radio – stories by which your purpose, that of ousting Jeremy Corbyn, may gain traction and may be advanced unfairly through wholesale dishonesty and a persistent failure to retract on the part of numerous news organisations.
 
I am a constituent of yours and have physically visited the site of the above incident.  This email is intended to place you on notice that I will be contacting the press regulator IPSO in order to lodge what I believe is a well-founded complaint.
 
Please follow these links for further details on the nature of my complaint and for further details on how wholesale dishonesty on the part of the news organisations has manifested itself:
 
17th July
 
24th July
 
I would greatly appreciate it if you responded with your intentions as soon as possible in order to allow me to proceed with my complaint and to limit the damage that is accumulating to both your reputation and that of the UK’s media and printed press organisations,
 
best regards,
 
Paul Cardin

There has never been any response to this email

On 26th July 2016 we went ahead and sent the following complaint to IPSO – the Independent Press Standards Organisation:

 

 
Visit website
 
ipso - independent press standards organisation
 
 
Thank you for your complaint
 
Your complaint has been received and will now be assessed by IPSO. Your complaint and personal details are below for your information:
 
Complaint
Material published in print and/or online
 
Complaint details
Name of publication(s)
The Daily Telegraph
Brick thrown through Angela Eagle’s office window after she announces Labour leadership bid,
Date of article
11/07/16
Clauses breached
1 Accuracy
The headline clearly stated, ‘Brick thrown through Angela Eagle’s office window after she announces Labour leadership bid’. The article immediately linked this incident to a separate issue concerning abusive phone calls, as follows: “Angela Eagle has had a brick thrown through the window of her constituency office and been inundated with abusive phone calls after announcing her bid to become Labour leader” A photograph was reproduced to support the subject matter of the article but it was incorrectly captioned as follows: “Angela Eagle MP’s constituency office in Manor Road, Liscard, where a brick was thrown at the windows this morning”. This photograph was a picture of the windows to a communal stairwell and was NOT Angela Eagle’s constituency office as stated. The photograph had been supplied by a Trinity Mirror employee, Lorna Hughes, who works locally for the Liverpool Echo. I am a constituent of Angela Eagle MP and I live in Wallasey, close to the location where the incident occurred. On 16th July 2016, I visited ‘Sherlock House’, Manor Road, the building and street where Angela Eagle’s constituency office is located. The building itself does not belong in its entirety to Angela Eagle or to the Labour Party. The building is a shared building with separate, rented offices and adjoining communal areas. At the time of the incident, the building was occupied by 7 different businesses according to a search carried out on the Companies House website. One of these businesses is dedicated to administration matters concerning Angela Eagle’s ongoing party political function. Physically, Angela Eagle’s office is located in one small room on the ground floor of this building, and at the south eastern elevation of the building, which is to the rear of Sherlock House, the furthest distance from Manor Road. The building entrance is located on the north western elevation on Manor Road. The window which was broken was not Angela Eagle’s office window. This factual information has been provided by Merseyside Police to the journalist Peter Hitchens, who repeated it in his Mail on Sunday Blog both in print and online on Sunday 24th July 2016, advising readers to bear this in mind when watching coverage of the leadership contest. The window pane which was broken was situated on a different elevation of the building to that of Angela Eagle’s office. The window pane itself was the bottom left pane of a series of 12 separate windows positioned at the centre of the north eastern elevation of the building. These windows are positioned to allow light to fall upon Sherlock House’s central communal stairwell linking the ground and first floors. There are only two floors to the building to my knowledge, visible from the outside. After reading several newspaper headlines and reports, it therefore became clear to me upon inspecting the building that the information carried on The Daily Telegraph’s website was inaccurate. The integrity of this story was not helped by the fact that the broken window had been temporarily patched up using a board containing the legend “Remain”. Whether deliberate or not, when reproduced in newspapers, the image of the broken window covered by a “Remain” sign may have attributed a political purpose to the attack on the window.
Your details
Mr Paul Cardin

[Address]

Wallasey
Merseyside
[Phone number]

We will be in touch with you again once we have had a chance to assess the information that you have submitted. If you do need to send us any further information or attachments please do so by replying to this email. If you have not heard from us in three working days, please call us on 0300 123 22 20 or emaiinquiries@ipso.co.uk
The Independent Press Standards Organisation C.I.C is a Community Interest Company
limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales with registered number 02538909.
f t
© Copyright 2016. IPSO. All rights reserved.

Later that evening we also sent some supporting information:

From: Paul Cardin
Date: Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 12:22 AM
Subject: Re: Web Complaint Received
To: IPSO <inquiries@ipso.co.uk>

Dear IPSO,

Further to the complaint I lodged this evening regarding the Daily Telegraph [and Independent] article[s] concerning Angela Eagle’s office window, please find some further information attached below.
 
This is in the form of a link to a blog post that I wrote and published on 16th July 2016.  This gives further context to the story and much of it consists of information which does not appear to have been explored or reported upon by Daily Telegraph [and Independent] journalists or their colleagues who may have visited the site.
 
There is a link to a key YouTube video, followed by details of the nearby street scene, CCTV points, maps, photographs of ‘Sherlock House’, details of local businesses, a link to Merseyside Police crime figures, etc.
 
As you are probably aware, there were many more newspapers who ran with inaccurate stories regarding this incident, however my online complaint seemed to be limited to TWO separate titles.
 
With the leadership bid currently in full flow and coming to a head in September, I feel this issue needs to be addressed properly and urgently.
 
With your agreement, I would like to broaden this complaint to include more newspaper titles in an attempt to reduce the initial impact of the published inaccuracies. These falsehoods are in the hands of professional politicians and are being built upon and magnified and in my opinion used cynically to support / decry the leadership bids on both sides.
The broken window incident has been prominently covered and, if allowed to stand uncorrected, there is a clear and present danger that  the inaccurate information will unfairly influence the minds of voters.   Some titles e.g. the Guardian are correcting their wording after realising that they got it wrong the first time around.  This goes some way towards an admission of culpability, but does not go far enough in my opinion because the initial damage was too great.
 
In my opinion, a clear retraction and full, prominent apology needs to be made in order that Labour leadership voters can make their own decision, and one that has not been swayed by irresponsible, inaccurate reporting.
 
Many thanks and I look forward to hearing from you,
Paul Cardin

After a misunderstanding and some confusion, during which IPSO’s Executive ruled on the wrong story (which turned out to be a refusal anyway) we eventually received a verdict on the correct article which had appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 11th July 2016, as follows:

From: Ciaran Cronin <ciaran.cronin@ipso.co.uk>
Date: Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 11:07 AM
Subject: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #07320-16#]
To: Paul Cardin
Cc: telegraphenquiries@telegraph.co.uk

Dear Mr Cardin,

First may I apologise for our error in relation to our previous assessment of your complaint. We have now received your complaint about an article headlined “Brick thrown through Angela Eagle’s office window after she announces Labour leadership bid”, published by The Daily Telegraph on 12 July 2016.

On receipt of a complaint, IPSO’s Executive staff reviews it to ensure that it falls within our remit, and represents a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Executive has now completed an assessment of your complaint under the terms of the Code. Having considered the points you have raised in full, we have concluded that your complaint does not raise a possible breach of the Code.

You complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) that the article inaccurately conflated the incident of a brick being thrown through Angela Eagle’s office window with the abusive phone calls that Angela Eagle has received following the announcement of her bid to become Labour leader. While the article did link the two incidents in terms of highlighting that they both occurred after she confirmed that she would attempt to become Labour leader, there was no suggestion contained in the article that the abusive phone calls and brick-throwing incident were carried out by the same person, or that anybody worked together to carry out these acts. For these reasons, we did not consider that the article was inaccurate in this way; as such, your complaint did not raise a possible breach of Clause 1.

You also complained under Clause 1 that it was inaccurate for the article to report that a brick was thrown through Angela Eagle’s Liverpool constituency office window as it was thrown through the communal entrance of a shared building. In circumstances where a brick was thrown through the window of her office building, the article was not inaccurate. As such we could not consider this aspect of your complaint as a possible breach of Clause 1.

You are entitled to request that the Executive’s decision to reject your complaint be reviewed by IPSO’s Complaints Committee. To do so you will need to write to us within seven days, setting out the reasons why you believe the decision should be reviewed. Please note that we are unable to accept requests for review made more than seven days following the date of this email.

We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider the points you have raised, and have shared this correspondence with the newspaper to make it aware of your concerns.

Best wishes,

Ciaran Cronin

Cc The Daily Telegraph

Ciaran Cronin
Complaints Officer
IPSO
Gate House
1 Farringdon Street
London
EC4M 7LG
Tel: 0300 123 2220
Website: www.ipso.co.uk

 

The falsehoods were still out there, still needed challenging and we responded, asking IPSO’s Complaints Committee to review the Executive’s decision. Although to us it was an ‘open and shut’ case, we went into as much forensic detail as we could:

From: Paul Cardin 
Date: Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 9:53 PM
Subject: Re: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #07320-16#]
To: Ciaran Cronin <ciaran.cronin@ipso.co.uk>

Dear Mr Cronin,

I am writing to request that the executive reviews my original complaint.  Here are the reasons why I believe this decision should be reviewed.

Citing the IPSO Editors Code of Practice (Section 1 Accuracy):

  1. i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

12th July 2016 Daily Telegraph Headline: 

“Brick thrown through Angela Eagle’s office window after she announces leadership bid” 

I believe it was careless and inaccurate of The Daily Telegraph to misleadingly state that Angela Eagle’s office window was attacked. Angela Eagle’s office window was not attacked.

I believe it was careless and inaccurate for The Daily Telegraph to misleadingly state that Angela Eagle’s Office window was broken – because in fact it was a shared stairwell window on another side of the building that was broken.  The fact that Angela Eagle’s office window was not attacked or broken could have been verified by persons visiting the site to photograph the damage and take interviews.    It could have been easily confirmed and verified on 12th July – by press visitors to Sherlock House – that Angela Eagle’s office window had not been attacked or broken.

Angela Eagle’s office itself is on a different side to the building – the rear – furthest from Manor Road.  It is on a different side to the shared stairwell window.  I believe it is inaccurate to imply that the whole of the building can be regarded as “Angela Eagle’s Office” and to justify the reporting inaccuracies in these terms – because the building is shared by 6 or 7 going concerns and has a shared entrance, reception and stairwell.

I believe it was careless and inflammatory of The Daily Telegraph to compound the inaccuracies by stating more than once that Angela Eagle’s office window had been broken by somebody throwing a brick.

The Daily Telegraph is a large circulation newspaper and to allow an inaccurate headline and the accompanying inaccurate statements within the body of the article to be published was irresponsible and was an unfair misrepresentation of the true situation on the ground at Sherlock House, Manor Road, Wallasey..

I believe it was somewhat irresponsible for The Daily Telegraph to plant falsehoods into the minds of its readers by failing to make adequate surveys when visiting the site and by failing to carry out adequate fact-checking and reasonable investigations upon receiving information from their own reporters, other news sources or social media, and to reproduce photographs with inaccurate captions, thereby failing to ensure that accurate facts and images were conveyed to readers instead of inaccurate, misleading information.

I believe it was deeply irresponsible for The Daily Telegraph to allow easily checkable falsehoods to be published, potentially allowing the outcome of the Labour Leadership ballot in September to be unfairly influenced.  Having read the inaccurate information, readers may unwittingly and unfairly apportion a measure of blame for these events to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign.  Leadership voters who are Daily Telegraph readers may have been influenced and had their minds swayed towards the other side.

I believe this situation was both foreseeable and avoidable on 12th July, the date of the article, and would not have arisen had the staff of The Daily Telegraph paid heed to good journalistic practice and their responsibilities as professional journalists under both the IPSO code and under their own newspaper’s code of conduct.

Had reporters visiting the site made approaches to businesses in the area e.g. The Royal Oak pub in Liscard village (opposite) and Chutneys Indian Restaurant (next door), they would have been informed that the area is a known trouble spot in the evenings.  The Royal Oak has had its licence up for review more than once in the past due to rowdy and violent behaviour by customers.  Chutneys Indian Restaurant have had their shop windows smashed on more than one occasion.  Had The Daily Telegraph’s reporters made full enquiries, doubts may have been placed in their minds with regard to the attack being politically motivated, and readers may have been spared the inaccurate reporting.

The Daily Telegraph does not appear to have reported any wider context in respect of crime figures for the Wallasey area. Here is a link to the Merseyside Police figures for criminal damage and arson: a total of 230 incidents in April, May and June this year:

https://www.police.uk/merseyside/A1/crime/criminal-damage-arson/

Again, if this wider context on locally occurring crime had been followed up and included for balance, readers’ minds may not have been prone to jump to potentially inaccurate conclusions. 

I believe it was careless and irresponsible and a breach of the IPSO code on accuracy to link the breaking of the stairwell window (the Angela Eagle office window according to the article) to the phone calls received by Angela Eagle’s staff for all the reasons described above, but particularly because doing so will have ‘cross-pollinated’ a similar degree of importance from the factually based threatening phone calls issue to the non-factually based ‘broken window’ issue.

I have reproduced The Daily Telegraph code of conduct below and have appended a red asterisk* alongside the standards I believe were breached:

1. Accuracy

1.1  Facts must be reported impartially, accurately and with integrity.*

1.2  Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced.*

1.3  Clear distinction must be made between fact, conjecture, comment and opinion.

1.4  Try always to tell all sides of the story in any kind of dispute. Every effort must be made to contact all relevant parties.*

1.5  Do not knowingly withhold or suppress essential facts.

1.6 Journalists should not rely on only one source. Be careful not to recycle an error from one reference source to another.

1.7  Direct quotations should not be altered except to delete offensive language, protect against defamation, or to make minor changes for clarity.

1.8  Headlines and captions must reflect the tone and content of the article

1.9  Reports of new drugs or medical treatments must be considered with great caution. It is easy to raise false hopes or alarm among readers.

1.10 Information sourced from social media must be verified and checked for accuracy before publication on any platform.*

1.11 Editors must be informed of photographs sourced from social media sites.

1.12 Images prepared for publication must meet the guidelines of the Photographic Enhancement and Manipulation policy, outlined below in Section 18.

Quoting again from the IPSO Code of Conduct:

  1. ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

Due to the potential for the Labour Party Leadership ballot to be unfairly influenced, I believe the inaccuracies are of a significant and misleading nature.

The Guardian newspaper to its credit has recognised previous inaccuracies and changed some of its subsequent reporting to reflect the fact that the broken window was in a shared area of the building and was not ‘Angela Eagle’s constituency office window’ i.e. the inaccurate, untruthful interpretation.

As The Daily Telegraph’s (and others’) significant inaccuracies remain unchanged and unacknowledged, I believe it incumbent upon IPSO as the regulatory body to call for The Daily Telegraph to correct the inaccurate, misleading article of 12th July 2016 and any subsequent articles that carry and convey the same inaccurate information.  This should be done promptly, with due prominence and be accompanied by an apology to ensure that readers are made aware of the facts and to allow the Labour Leadership contest to proceed unaffected and unhindered.

This is an opportunity for IPSO to act.  Failure to do so will potentially result in the ballot being foreseeably, avoidably and unfairly skewed due to all the reasons described in detail above,

yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

 

Today, 5th September 2016, the second response came back from IPSO:

From: Isabel Gillen-Smith <isabel.gillen-smith@ipso.co.uk>
Date: Mon, Sep 5, 2016 at 3:43 PM
Subject: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #07320-16#]
To: Paul Cardin

Dear Mr Cardin,

The Complaints Committee considered your complaint, the email of 15 August from IPSO’s Executive notifying you of its view that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice, and your email of 16 August requesting a review of the Executive’s decision.

The Committee decided that your complaint did not raise a potential breach of the Code, for the reasons already provided by IPSO’s Executive. As such, it declined to re-open your complaint.

The Committee would like to thank you for giving it the opportunity to consider your concerns. 

Best wishes

Isabel Gillen-Smith

Isabel Gillen-Smith
Complaints Officer
IPSO
Gate House
1 Farringdon Street
London
EC4M 7LG
Tel: 0300 123 2220
Website: www.ipso.co.uk

This took nearly 3 weeks to arrive, and was very disappointing in that the IPSO Complaints Committee failed to individually recognise and address the points I’d raised, opting instead to trot out a very short, blunt refusal, one which simply endorsed the previous decision by the IPSO Executive – who also hadn’t bothered to address the complaint comprehensively.

So that was basically that.  There is no further appeal.

The Labour Leadership Ballot will go ahead, as it must, but by the time the last opportunity to vote passes on 21st September 2016, and given that 6.89 million newspaper readers per day, and countless TV viewers and radio listeners will have spent the last 52 days being swamped with inaccurate information, there’s a very good chance the result of the ballot will have been unfairly prejudiced.

647,000 people are eligible to vote and due to the reckless, unprofessional, out of control behaviour of politicians and the press, a large proportion of these voters may have been swayed towards backing the Smith camp.

If Owen Smith triumphs in this leadership election, somebody called Paul Dacre* will be a very happy man.

He is the editor-in-chief of DMG Media, publishers of The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and Metro, all of which have been stuffed with #Brickgate related inaccuracies, amongst several others.

That said, one simply wonderful example of old-style, dogged, thoroughly impartial reporting appeared in the Mail on Sunday on 24th July 2016 in Peter Hitchens’ weekly blog. This has been the only chink of light to glisten through the murk (scroll down to the end).

What have we become?  Will we soon find ourselves hankering after the ‘halcyon days’ of the much-derided Press Complaints Commission?

We also wonder precisely what the Leveson Inquiry – directly costing taxpayers at least £5,442,400 – actually achieved as regards addressing the culture, practices and ethics of the British press.

*Paul Dacre also does a spot of honest toil as the Chairman of the Editors’ Code Committee at IPSO, and for all we know may even have been instrumental in turning down this complaint.

Unaddressed conflict of interest anybody…?

dacre

IPSO Chair, Sir Alan Moses: “We’re much better than nothing”

Previous #Brickgate blogs:

#Brickgate FOI request – A response is in from Merseyside Police

#Brickgate – Reports of ‘attempted break-in’ at Polish off licence, opposite Angela Eagle’s Office

#Brickgate – Angela Eagle MP – Freedom of Information Request to Merseyside Police

#Brickgate – Angela Eagle and The Guardian – a further update, and probably not the last

Writer of gushing Guardian eulogy of Angela Eagle fights facts with innuendo

#Brickgate – A Story That Won’t Go Away

#Brickgate – Angela Eagle’s Office Window was NOT broken…

Posted in Angela Eagle | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Unite Says I Can’t Vote – Labour Says I Can #ChaseItUp

Labour Leadership Election

 

UPDATE

8th September 2016

After only 3 days on Youtube, the Labour Party’s HQ discovered my telephone recordings and sent me the following threatening letter.  This is probably the quickest response I’ve ever had from them even though I wasn’t asking for one:


From: Legal Queries <legal_queries@labour.org.uk>
Date: Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 7:08 PM
Subject: Unlawful telephone recording
To: Paul Cardin

Dear Mr Cardin

I write regarding the content uploaded to a YouTube account in your name at the following hyperlink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUSLkZXNAGs

This video contains an audio recording of a telephone conversation between yourself and an employee of the Labour Party discussing your eligibility to vote in the Labour Party leadership election.

Although it is not illegal to record telephone calls for your own records, it is an offence under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 to make that recording available to a third party without the permission or consent of one of the parties to that telephone call.

At no point during this conversation did you request consent for this call to be recorded, or make any attempt to inform the recipient of your call that you intended to publish a recording. Had such request or notification been provided, consent would not have been provided.

We therefore require that you remove this recording from the public domain as soon as practically possible. We withhold the right to take further action, including but not limited to legal action, should you fail to do so.

Yours sincerely

John Stolliday

Head of Constitutional Unit

The Labour Party

Sent by email from the Labour Party, promoted by Iain McNicol on behalf of The Labour Party, both at Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6QT Website: www.labour.org.uk to join or renew call 0345 092 2299.


My response:

From: Paul Cardin <gorkys611@googlemail.com>
Date: Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 9:50 PM
Subject: Re: Unlawful telephone recording
To: Legal Queries <legal_queries@labour.org.uk>

Dear Mr Stolliday,

The recording you refer to is no longer available to third parties and is no longer in breach of the Act, as suggested.
As you’re aware, the purpose of my phone call was to verify that I am eligible to vote in the forthcoming leadership ballot.
Please make enquiries and confirm that my online ballot paper has been batched and will arrive by Friday 9th September (tomorrow) at the latest, as promised by your employee Peter in the recording,
Yours sincerely,
Paul Cardin

 

5th September 2016

There’s widespread concern that possibly 100,000+ people who are eligible to vote may not have received their ballot papers due to an ‘admin’ error by Labour HQ.

Before I was aware of this ‘admin’ error I’d already made the following phone call to Unite the Union in Liverpool on 31st August 2016.  I did this having realised my online ballot as a union affiliate supporter was unlikely to arrive by the end of August:

So the verdict seemed to be because I had not ‘affiliated’ by the deadline of 8th August 2016, I didn’t qualify to vote.  I found this alarming because I was already an affiliate – in fact I’d affiliated to the Labour Party in plenty of time – 32 years earlier in 1984 – after leaving the Royal Navy, joining the local electricity board – MANWEB – and signing up to the EETPU, the old electricians’ and plumbers’ union.

This was when I began investing and first had a stake in the Labour party, and there’s a good chance it pre-dates the point at which most of the 172 unhappy MPs first contributed.

So that was that.  After being unceremoniously banned by Iain McNicol the first time around in August 2015 because my aims and values allegedly didn’t match the party’s, the axe had fallen again.


 

But I didn’t let this deter me and after applying online last Friday for my ballot to be sent out, I made a follow-up call direct to the Labour party today on 0345-092-2299.  Scroll forward to 15:56:

The verdict this time was I could vote, and that my online ballot was being sent out inside one of a number of batches – which should arrive in the next couple of days, or by the end of the week at the latest.

After the unhappy events of August 2015 and the current, desperate weeding out of potential Corbyn voters this time around I don’t actually believe this second response can be correct, hence my caution with recording the phone calls (which is legal as the recording and the calls were undertaken from my domestic place of residence).

So until I actually receive the promised online ballot…  watch this space !

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UPDATE ~ Former Wirral Councillor Jim Crabtree – up in court today

1st September 2016

Further to our post earlier today, the Liverpool Echo has more on this story:

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/ex-wirral-councillor-accused-making-11830770

It’s now public knowledge that the target of Crabtree’s alleged offensive phone message was Louise Reecejones, a one-time fellow Labour councillor.

Back on July 9th, in advance of the forthcoming leadership race between Angela Eagle and Jeremy Corbyn, I sent an email to all Labour councillors asking who they’d be backing in this contest:

email to all wirral labour councillors - who are you backing

This was responded to, and very quickly, by just one councillor, Louise Reecejones, and we can see from checking on Twitter that she’s a follower of Jeremy Corbyn:

https://twitter.com/lou_reecejones

I’ve no idea who Jim Crabtree will be backing but a quick glance on his Facebook account reveals he’s a fan of something called ‘Britain First’, motto ‘taking our country back’. and likes to help by sharing their posts to his friends.

Here’s an earlier post we did re: who’s supporting whom in Labour’s leadership ballot amongst Wirral Labour councillors.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Former Wirral Councillor Jim Crabtree – up in court today

1st September 2016

STOP PRESS: Important update here identifies the person Crabtree allegedly targeted.

The former chair of Wirral Council’s influential Audit and Risk Management Committee appeared in Wirral Magistrates Court today to answer a charge of…

“sending a grossly offensive or indecent message on a public communications network”.

Wirral Globe article here

Crabtree is no stranger to controversy, having once been in trouble for encouraging special educational needs schoolchildren to deliver his Labour Party leaflets when he was a councillor:

June 2015 article, courtesy Wirral Leaks

When we emailed him and his 65 colleagues for their thoughts on a proposition we’d been formulating, he described the prospect of Wirral councillors notifying with the Information Commissioner (in order to protect the public’s privacy rights) as follows:

crabtree - what a load of tosh

However Council Leader Phil Davies, noticing the potential for heavy fines, was on hand to quickly bail out all 66 councillors, none of whom had bothered to notify as data controllers, including Crabtree.  The leader fired off a cheque for 66 x £35 (£2,310) and has been doing this every year since.

So, perhaps we’re not dealing with the sharpest tool in the box.  But for some reason, he’s been living a very charmed life when you consider he never faced any noticeable action for exploiting the Meadowside children and was later promoted to a high profile post – Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee.

At one point on 8th October 2014, he chaired one of the most important meetings this committee had seen.  Whistleblowers Nigel Hobro and James Griffiths brought before it serious, detailed and well-researched allegations of fraud on the part of council partner organisations, involving sums upwards of £2 million, only for Crabtree in concert with the then CEO Graham Burgess to scandalously fob them off.

Crabtree is no longer a councillor.

From the sketchy detail provided in the Wirral Globe article above, we’ve assumed that the charge Crabtree denied today is likely to be related to the following:

Section 127 Communications Act 2003

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Windows for Dummies – August 2016

13th August 2016

 

WINDOWS FOR DUMMIES

Posted in Angela Eagle | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments