Former judge to lead inquiry into Wirral whistleblowers

A retired judge is set to lead an inquiry into the way Wirral council treated a group of whistleblowers.

The former judge Nick Warren was recommended by Birkenhead MP Frank Field and has been accepted by council leader Phil Davies.

The whistleblowers had highlighted concerns about the authority’s former multimillion pound highways contract.

But several have since lost their jobs while in July 2012 the then acting chief executive of the council, David Armstrong, was forced to issue an “unreserved apology” after a blunder allowed one of them to be stripped of his anonymity when his name was published on the authority’s website.

At a meeting with council chiefs last year Mr Field called on the council to act quickly to compensate the whistleblowers who he says have suffered since highlighting their concerns.

The MP said the debt Wirral owes the whistle-blowers “is considerable” and yet they gained no compensation for “the damage, or potential damage” that has occurred to their careers.

The MP contrasted their plight with the case of a senior council officer who it was claimed in a council meeting last year received a £48,000 payout after allegations of bullying.

The group of whistleblowers were told by the council in 2012 to employ lawyers, Mr Field said, to obtain compensation but he said they have have “nearly bankrupted themselves in the process with mounting legal fees and with no compensation package being offered”.

Mr Field said: “I met with the former chief executive Graham Burgess before Christmas with the whistleblowers to seek some way of settling in a fair and equitable manner their grievance. They said I could suggest a chair to review how the authority behaved.

“I suggested Nick Warren, who is just retired and lives in Birkenhead, but has no knowledge of the case.”

Mr Field said the retired judge would have access to the whistleblowers, council and documentation and said: “I’m hoping we might now get justice, a settlement that is fair and just to the whistleblowers.”

Council leader Phil Davies said: “We have agreed that the review will go ahead and we will await his report.

“I know Nick quite well and he is a very distinguished judge and I’m sure he will do a thorough job.”

A council spokesman said: “Terms of reference have yet to be agreed regarding the proposed review so it is not possible to confirm timescales or exactly what form any subsequent report might take.”

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