EXCLUSIVE: Highways whistleblowers speak out following departure of council's legal chief (From Wirral Globe)
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EXCLUSIVE: Highways whistleblowers speak out following departure of council's legal chief
A chorus of disapproval is growing against Wirral Council's decision to allow its legal head to leave with a £146,000 payment.
Bill Norman, who left the employment of the authority last week, was one of four chief officers suspended from work in the wake of a critical report by the Audit Commission investigating the way an "outsourced" highways contract had been handled.
The investigation was sparked after a group of highways department whistleblowers raised their concerns with Birkenhead MP Frank Field over aspects of the council's £40m contract with the Colas company.
A spokesman for the five whistleblowers said today: "We are extremely disappointed with Wirral Council's recent course of action.
"This investigation has continued since November, 2008, and has cost the Wirral taxpayer a staggering amount of money.
"The way the council is responding since the publication of the audit commission report is not about due processes.
"Their chosen course of action at almost every step of this inquiry has been totally unjust.
"Having provided the evidence which led to the Audit Commission's report, it is our view that the council is leading Wirral people down the garden path.
"We will not allow the truth to be buried by the bureaucrats and spin doctors at the town hall.
"We will be releasing our full and unredacted story, naming names, over the coming weeks."
A statement released on Wednesday by the council said an independent consultant commissioned to undertake a preliminary review of Mr Norman's actions concluded he had "no case to answer" and should be immediately allowed to return to work.
However, in the light of a recently-announced major restructuring of the council's senior management, his legal representatives approached the authority requesting he be allowed to take redundancy.
On learning of Mr Norman's departure, Frank Field told the Globe: "It is disappointing that a high-ranking officer of the council, against whom no fault was found, prefers to take nearly £150,000 of taxpayers' money and leave rather than go back to his job."
Now his parliamentary Labour colleague Wirral South MP Alison McGovern has joined the row saying: "There is a growing need in Wirral to ensure taxpayers are getting value for their money.
"It also seems to me there is a pressing case for more equality in our council when it comes to pay.
"There is an enormous gap between those at the top of the organisation and others, who in some cases are not even in receipt of a living wage."
She said she is seeking an urgent meeting with the council’s chief executive, Graham Burgess, to raise her concerns with him face-to-face.
Speaking as the annoucement regarding Mr Norman was made, Mr Burgess said: "Mr Norman will leave under a compromise agreement but I wish to stress this does not include a confidentiality clause.
"The planned senior management restructure will enable the council to make an overall saving to contribute to the budget deficit.
“We wish to thank Mr Norman for his service to Wirral and wish him well for the future.
Mr Norman joins finance director Ian Coleman and chief internal auditor David Garry in leaving the council's employment in the last fortnight.
Highways chief David Green is still suspended from work pending the outcome of an internal inquiry.