THE following is a response to the Globe report (see related links below) detailing the comments made by the Leader of the Council Steve Foulkes at Wirral Council’s cabinet meeting on January 14, when cabinet finally agreed that a group of people with learning disabilities had been systematically and unlawfully charged over a prolonged period of time.

Public interest in this case has been significant and I have received overwhelming support since I felt compelled to “blow my cover”.

It was reassuring to discover that a significant number of people on Wirral are not only concerned about standards in public life, but also the rights of disabled people.

I would like to thank all those who have offered their support and assistance during this ordeal, which enabled me to continue challenging the grave injustice perpetrated by the council.

My response is restricted to Wirral Council’s charging and whistleblowing policies, as I have been advised by Bill Norman (Director of Law, HR and Asset Management) that if I do not “observe strict confidentiality” regarding matters which led me to walk out of my job two years ago, he will be minded to advise cabinet to halt the long overdue investigation into my bullying allegations.

The paragraph on the Globe website, which had me heading for the beta-blockers, read: "Cllr Foulkes said the affair had proved that anyone within the council with a complaint - 'or a whistleblower, as the term has been used in this case' - would have their grievances properly investigated and acted upon."

This reinforced the experience repeated over the last few years of living in a parallel universe where wrong is right, bad is good and lies are truth.

Had I not taken my serious concerns to the Audit Commission this matter would have been buried as deep as nuclear waste - proof positive of the catastrophic failure of Wirral Council to address my concerns.

I chose to "go public" only because I witnessed lies, denials, and attempts at a smokescreen at several Audit and Risk Management Committee meetings.

At times the conduct of the most senior officers of Adult Social Services simply took my breath away, so brazen was their contempt for councillors, the public and most importantly those they are employed to serve.

I recall that when the current Director of Adult Social Services was initially in post he set out in a presentation his plan of action on how he intended to take the Department forward.

John Webb reminded us: "We are all public servants and ALL must do a good job."

He said he wanted to work in a place where all staff are: Able to perform well and innovate; Involved and listened to; Clear about what is expected of them; Treated fairly and consistently; Valued and respected; Supported.

Yet this was not my experience of working for DASS, or I would never have become a whistleblower.

And I suspect a large number of Adult Social Services staff who try to do their best for the vulnerable people of Wirral would share my experience.

Mr Webb's presentation reminded us that ACE is essential. ACE was an acronym for "Accountability" and "Expectations" he explained, but teased: "What's missing? Consequences!"

Consequences are still missing, as the reinstatement of two officers implicated in the cover-up proves.

According to an email on their return from a nine-month suspension on full pay, he told DASS staff he was "delighted" to have them back.

Cabinet's decision on January 14 brings Wirral Council into further disrepute.

The sorry saga began with a denial of any financial liability to the council in respect of unlawful charges made upon tenants of Bermuda Rd, Curlew Way and Edgehill Rd between October 1997 and June 2006.

After personally providing irrefutable evidence of a cover-up the council sought to persistently minimise its financial liability.

As the cover-up unravelled, the financial liability grew from Zero (September 2008) to £78,499.62 (November 2008), to £116,300 (September 2009), to £243,700 (November 2009), reducing to £241,000 (January 2010).

However, based on all the evidence and information I have obtained from DASS I believe the true figure for a full reimbursement is nearer £500K - as I have consistently maintained.

The council is now shamelessly minimising the reimbursement by retrospectively applying a different charging policy.

Even the Director of Law has ruled: "Legally the council is precluded from seeking to recover this money retrospectively; the money is lost."

It is simply unlawful to apply a charging policy that should have been in place to only this particular group of people.

Fairness and consistency demands that every person who received a service in a supported living setting should also be retrospectively charged.

Not only are Wirral Council persisting with this unlawful course of action, they are even trying to discourage these vulnerable people from claiming their full entitlement by putting obstacles in their way.

The threat of potential financial disadvantage to tenants making a claim against the council is both misleading and manipulative.

If the council truly supported disability rights it would appeal to the Department of Work and Pensions, as I have done, that vulnerable people should not be penalised for "official error" - the understatement of the year.

It is likely that a responsible decision maker within DWP would "disregard" the reimbursement and it would not adversely affect the tenants' benefit entitlement.

As I stated at an Audit and Risk Management meeting, I regret being a whistleblower, I regret losing my job and - most of all - I regret causing my loyal wife intolerable stress.

But I would do it all again - BECAUSE IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

I implore Wirral Council to do the right thing by these vulnerable people, and pay back everything they owe, to enable me and my family to rebuild a life that was nearly destroyed.

How can we have claims of DASS management's involvement in financial abuse, cover-up, lost revenue of over £1M, bullying, incompetence, gross maladministration and malfeasance, but the only person to suffer any detriment was the one who exposed it?

The dangerous message Wirral Council gives the staff is this: "Play the game and no matter how incompetent you are we will reward you. Whistleblow about abuse - and we will destroy you.”