PRESSURE is being applied to Wirral Council's administration to publish the findings of a £250,000 probe into allegations of malpractice.

The far-reaching review was ordered 18 months ago by then council leader, Cllr Jeff Green.

The inquiry was sparked by claims from former social services employee Martin Morton who "blew the whistle" on systematic over-charging of vulnerable residents in the care of the council.

Councillor Green hired the services of independent consultant Anna Klonowski, who produced a damning preliminary document some ten weeks ago that sent shockwaves through the authority.

Her findings were described by chief executive Jim Wilkie as the "most significant challenge faced by this council".

They revealed the town hall was in the grip of a corrosive and inward-looking culture and was more concerened with its own "bureaucratic machinations" than the needs and rights of the people of Wirral.

But the consultant's main report, which investigated in forensic detail Mr Morton's claims of alleged cover-ups and malpractice, has yet to be published.

Now Cllr Green has tabled a notice of motion demanding the document's release which will be studied by all 66 members of the council when they meet for the final time this year on December 12.

It states it has been seven months since he requested officers to contact Mr Morton to offer him a position back with the authority and that to date, "due to a lack of urgency by the new administration," this matter has still not been resolved.

It continues that more than two months have past since the leader of the council, Cllr Steve Foulkes, received two reports from the independent consultant into the "circumstances surrounding the Martin Morton scandal’"

It says: "Council believes that justice delayed is justice denied and calls for the immediate publication of the additional report into this matter."

The official reason given for the delay is that individuals and organisations coming under fire in the review must be given time for a legal "right of reply."

Councillor Green said: "I have seen this report but have been banned by council legal officers from discussing it in public.

"Yet this report has been paid for by the public of Wirral and its findings should be placed before them.

"It has been over two months now for a right of reply, which is more than enough time.

"A deadline for this must now be set to prevent it dragging on indefinitely."

The "special charging" scandal was first exposed by the Wirral Globe.

In 2008, we exclusively reported Mr Morton's revelations of systematic overcharging of vulnerable and disabled residents living in council care homes.

Mr Morton told us his concerns were ignored by senior managers. He was paid £40,000 to leave his job and was told not to discuss the matter.

The council was eventually forced to admit its error and repaid 16 residents around £250,000.

It was Mr Morton's claims that ultimately led to the Klonowski investigation, which concluded in uncompromising terms the council needs a root and branch change in its culture.

The "Corporate Governance" report said that in Wirral, practices other authorities would consider abnormal were viewed as commonplace.

It says a review revealing similar failures of governance in Surrey led to that council's most senior officers leaving the organisation.

Since the first section of the report was made public in September, Wirral Council has set up a "turnaround team" of councillors and senior officers charged with improving the authority's culture and practice.

Bill Norman, Wirral’s director of law, said: “The draft report contains comments and criticisms of a number of individuals.

"It is only fair that those people are allowed to see what is being said about them and given the opportunity to respond if they so wish.

"This process is referred to as a ‘right to reply’ and is ongoing, but likely to conclude in January, unless further evidence emerges.

“This is a complicated process and is proving lengthier than we had originally envisaged.

"The draft report cannot be finalised until the ‘right to reply’ procedure is concluded and the report’s author has given due consideration to any comments, or further evidence, she may receive and reflected them within the report.”