ANYONE who has taken even the most cursory glance at the 250-page report by independent consultant Anna Klonowski into allegations made by Martin Morton will have been staggered by some of the appalling revelations.

Mr Morton, driven out of his job as a Wirral Council social services manager, endured an 11-year battle to get to the stage where his whistle-blowing claims of scandal and malpractice were not just listened to and taken seriously by the local authority, they shook it to its core.

Here he tells our readers why he did it, and reveals the terrible toll it has taken on him and his family.



WHEN I have been asked for my reaction to the long-awaited publication of the independent review report, I have replied that I do not feel triumphal or vindicated but simply that I am just relieved.

Eleven years is a long time to be in battle mode.

As for the report itself, I maintain that no report - including the bullying/harassment/abuse of power report which is also due to be published - will ever do justice to my experience and furthermore, due to legal reasons and individuals being scared to speak out, we may never know the full story anyway.

However, I do acknowledge that this was always going to be a difficult investigation for independent consultant Anna Klonowski because I knew, just from the information that I had provided, that it would be a massive undertaking and also that “the truth is rarely pure and never simple”.

Furthermore, as Ms Klonowski states in the report: “It is the consultant’s opinion that nothing could or should be concluded by the fact that some people/organisations approached to participate in this review declined.

"There will be many reasons for this, which the consultant suggests will range from a view that this process is a waste of taxpayers’ money to simply having moved on both in terms of work and life generally”.

To which I would add that if the report is considered a waste of taxpayers' money, then it pales into insignificance compared to the millions of pounds this case has cost Wirral Council, including £3.3m lost revenue identified within the report, due to a failure to listen and act appropriately.

Are payments for “loss of office” and the signing of “compromise agreements” and paying millions of pounds for poor quality services which put vulnerable people at risk more worthy as being considered a “waste of taxpayers’ money” than trying to identify and address the problems which have beset the council for many years?

I am also writing as someone who, particularly since I was harassed out of my job in 2008, has never had the luxury or choice of “having moved on in terms of work and life generally" as I have been locked into fighting for justice.

All the while others have moved on to highly-paid, responsible new jobs or prestigious roles on trustee boards or been bestowed Masters degrees and civic honours or - most incredibly to my mind - being involved in reviewing other councils’ safeguarding arrangements!

To those who have had the patience to wade through the report and played whistle-blower's “who’s who”, there are detailed accounts of what the independent consultant has called the “bureaucratic machinations” - or what I have dubbed “Kafka without the laughs”.

It is detailed who is managed by whom; who should write what report and what basket it needs to go into in the hope that someone might read it and respond in a timely and appropriate manner.

At times, such issues seem to overshadow the more serious concerns such as the circumstances leading to the death of a vulnerable adult, which is afforded just two lines within the report.

However, such details tell their own story - where process prevails over people; policy over morality and personal loyalty over legality.

Believe me, after all this time I am not asking for a further examination of findings. But I do maintain that there remain outstanding issues associated with this case.

Primarily, these issues are about scrutiny and accountability.

How was everything that has been detailed in the various reports associated with this case ever allowed to happen?

Different councillors at various times are quoted as saying that “it’s not a big case”.

That I was “good at attacking people and winding them up”.

That there was “no hidden wrongdoing”.

That because aspects of the case were “of potential interest to a close personal friend” they couldn’t get involved.

And that council officers had dealt with the issues I had raised “honestly and competently”.

It would appear that scrutiny for some councillors didn’t extend beyond a senior manager’s ability to dress smartly and speak nicely.

Was this bad judgement?

Or just plain bad?

How can it be right that senior managers can authorise £45,000 of public money from a supplies budget to get rid of a “thorn in our side” - ME - apparently without the need to tell councillors?

At which point I need to clarify that £500 of this total was to unlawfully gag me and was paid after I had already blown the whistle.

I did not merrily pocket £45,000 and then “grass the council up”.

After being hospitalized with stress and under extreme duress, I signed a compromise agreement, which effectively meant the end of my career for what amounted to a few months' wages for a chief officer.

It seems to be a depressing feature of modern life that human beings seem now to be regarded as economic units.

I have described vulnerable people being described as an “exploitable commodity” and the independent consultant agrees with my assessment of people being used as “pawns”.

Similarly, rather than deal with me and my issues, it became a matter of "wear him down and pay him off".

I felt as though by holding a mirror to the council they did not like the reflection - so the response was to smash the glass.

There was a recent case (Michalak v Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust) reported in the media just before Christmas which resonated with me, where a journalist wrote: "It is difficult to comprehend how so many senior people in the supposedly caring professions became involved in such an unpleasant and dubious campaign to oust a colleague".

Ms Michalak commented: "They destroyed my life, my health and my career. The last seven years have been a living hell. Their dishonesty was staggering".

She was awarded £4.5m in compensation.

Despite the seemingly complex issues this case presents, I believe it comes down to deeply unfashionable notions of good and bad, right and wrong and doing the right thing.

Although I have always maintained that I did the right thing, I have recently, for the first time in 11 years, questioned this while my 13-year-old son was in hospital with a life-threatening brain tumour.

I concluded that with the benefit of hindsight I might not have done the right thing if I had known the impact that whistle-blowing has had on my health, my career and my family life.

And that to me is the most damning statement that anyone could possibly make about this case.