Saturday, 21 July 2018

Bravehearts vs Wee, Sleekit Cow'rin, Tim'rous Beasties



I shared yesterday's posts (No 'Mean' City and Daylight is the best disinfectant) with all Glasgow councillors, as well as the city's constituency MSPs and MPs - 100 local politicians in total.

Now I haven't exactly been bowled over by the response, so far at least, but once the holiday period is over there will be a concerted effort to engage with key politicians across Glasgow including the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who represents Glasgow Southside.  

Because August/September is going to be a crucial period in the fight for equal pay in Scotland's largest council - and the city's Councillors, MSPs and MPs are going to have to decide which side they are on.

Do they stand alongside senior officials with their 'golden goodbyes' and discriminatory 37-hour 'rules' - or do they stand with the council's low paid workers who have been fighting for their rights to equal pay for the past 12 years.

In other words, are they Bravehearts when it comes to equal pay or wee, sleekit cow'rin, tim'rous beasties?

  

Glasgow - No 'Mean' City (20/07/18)



Here is my letter to Glasgow City Council regarding the chief executive's decision to make a parting gift of £120,079 to the council's outgoing director of finance, so that this fellow senior official could access her pension early.

I have written to Scotland's public spending watchdog, Audit Scotland, asking that the circumstances surrounding this payment be investigated as a matter of urgency, as well as the absence of proper records to explain how the council's chief executive, Annemarie O'Donnell, justified her decision and this extraordinary use of public money.

I suppose you could say that when it comes to looking after the interests of its most senior council officials, Glasgow really is No 'Mean' City. 

  

11 July 2018

Dear Ms Forrest 

Glasgow City Council - Vital Records Policy

I refer to your letter dated 21 June 2018 in which you confirmed that Glasgow's chief executive, Annemarie O'Donnell, made the decision to 'gift' the sum of £120,079 to the City Council's finance director, Lynn Brown, so that Ms Brown could access her local government pension early.

Your response to my FOI request failed to explain the basis on which this decision was made by the chief executive and your letter went on to state that the Council does not hold any information to clarify how the City Council approved the expenditure (e.g. via a council committee) of such a large sum of public money.

In my view, it is inconceivable that Scotland's largest council can have no audit trail to explain the process by which this decision was reached and how the money involved was released to the Strathclyde Pension Fund (SPF).

As a result, I have now raised my concerns with the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) and, in doing so, I have drawn the Commissioner's attention to Glasgow City Council's Vital Records Policy which states, inter alia:

"The Council is committed to ensuring that all Vital Records, regardless of their format, are identified, managed appropriately and that appropriate business continuity and backup measures are put in place in order to protect critical information relating to the Council, its critical functions and its reputation"

"This policy was approved by the Information Advisory Board and  has been issued as a binding Procedural Rule by the Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council, in terms of the Council's scheme of delegated functions"

As a Glasgow citizen and council tax payer, I am minded to raise a formal complaint with the relevant authorities about the probity and governance issues surrounding this payment, as I believe the absence of  proper records may constitute a serious breach of the City Council's Vital Records Policy.

What I don't understand is how this could have happened when the decision involved the council's most senior official (Annemarie O'Donnell), its director of finance and the principal adviser to the Strathclyde Pension Fund (Lynn Brown), as well as a binding Procedural Rule laid down by the Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council (Carole Forrest).

Can I ask, therefore, if you have already taken steps to alert the Council's internal and external auditors to the absence of information which explains how Annemarie O'Donnell arrived at her decision, and how the Council approved significant expenditure which amounted to a 'gift' of £120,079 to one of its most senior officials?

I look forward to your reply which I hope will be speedy, given the circumstances, and would be grateful if you could respond to me by email at:markirvine@compuserve.com

  

Mark Irvine


Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council 
Carole Forrest LLB DipLP
Glasgow City Council
City Chambers George Square Glasgow G2 1DU 

Hand Deliveries to: 40 John Street Glasgow G1 1JL

Our Ref: 6619148 Your Ref:
21.06.18
By email: 

Dear Mr Irvine

REQUEST FOR REVIEW UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (SCOTLAND) ACT 2002

I refer to your email of 22.05.18 which I am treating as a formal request for review of Glasgow City Council’s (“the Council”) failure to respond to your initial request for information dated 20.04.18.

On behalf of the Council, I apologise that you did not receive a response to your initial request for information. You should have received a response within the 20 working day timescales set out in the legislation and I apologise that on this occasion you did not.

YOUR REQUEST

You requested the following information:

“1) Please provide me the name and job title of the Council official who recommended that Glasgow City Council should pay £120,079 to compensate the Local Government Pension Scheme for allowing the Council's former executive Director of Finance, Lynn Brown, to access her pension benefits early?

2) Please provide me with the written explanation for this recommendation and the process by which the expenditure of this large sum of public money approved?

3) Please confirm how long the former Executive Director of Finance would otherwise have had to wait to access her pension benefits, if it were not for this generous use of public funds?”

THE REVIEW DECISION

I can confirm that the Council is treating your request for this information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOI).

The responses to the information requested are as follows:

1) Annemarie O'Donnell, Chief Executive

2) On inspecting our records, it would appear that Glasgow City Council does not holthe information which you have requested. Neither does anyone else hold it on our behalf. Therefore this information would be exempt under Section 17 of the Act. Accordingly we are unable to comply with your request.

3) We are unable to provide you with the details of how long the former ExecutiveDirector of Finance would otherwise have had to wait before being able to access her pension benefits. This information is, in our opinion, exempt from a request under Part 1 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 because of the exemption contained in section 38(1)(b) of the Act. In other words, in our opinion disclosure of the information would contravene any of the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the GDPR. If we provided you with this information, it may be possible to identify Lynn Brown’s age and therefore, we will not disclose this information. By way of assistance, all Council employees can ask to take early retirement from the age of 55.

Please note that the information provided in response to your request is, unless otherwise indicated, copyright © Glasgow City Council 2018. It is supplied to you in terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Any further use by you of this information must comply with the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as amended and/or the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997. In particular, any commercial use or re-use of the information provided requires the prior written consent of the Council.

If you require further clarification please e-mail me at FOIreviews@glasgow.gov.uk and I will ensure that the matter is reviewed.

RIGHT OF APPEAL

I hope you are satisfied with this response. However, if you are not you have the right to make an application within six months of receipt of this letter for a decision by the Scottish Information Commissioner.

The Scottish Information Commissioner can be contacted as follows:
Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, KY16 9DS.
01334 464610
You can also use the Scottish Information Commissioner’s online appeal service to make an
application for a decision: www.itspublicknowledge.info/appealThereafter a decision by Scottish Information Commissioner may be appealed on a point of law to the Court of Session. 

Yours sincerely

CAROLE FORREST
DIRECTOR OF GOVERNANCE AND SOLICITOR TO THE COUNCIL

Glasgow - 'Daylight is the best disinfectant' (20/07/18)



Here's a link to the Evening Times article on the parting 'gift' of £120,079 to a very senior council official so that she could access her pension early.

Now every council employee reaching 55 years of age has the right to request early retirement, but each application has to be considered on its merits and there is certainly no entitlement for a person to have their pension 'topped up' in the way that appears to have happened here.

The fact that this request involved the council's chief executive (Annemarie O'Donnell) and former finance director (Lynn Brown) demands even greater scrutiny than normal if you ask me, yet so far at least the council has been unable or unwilling to explain exactly what happened.

So I hope that the Scottish Information Commissioner and Audit Scotland will help shine a light on things and persuade the council to explain the basis of this extraordinary £120,079 payment.

  

http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/16366922.equal-pay-campaigner-mark-irvine-quizzes-council-over-120000-retiral-payment/

Equal pay campaigner Mark Irvine quizzes council over £120,000 retiral payment

By Catriona Stewart @LadyCatHT - The Evening Times
Glasgow City Chambers

EQUAL pay campaigner Mark Irvine is demanding answers from council bosses over a £120,000 payment made after the early retiral of a senior official.

Glasgow City Council's well respected finance director Lynn Brown was granted early retiral in 2016 after 13 years in post.

In order to allow her to go, the council paid a lump sum of £120,079 to Strathclyde Pension Fund, which would have been approved by chief executive Annmarie O'Donnell.

But, following a request made under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, the council has failed to provide the paper trail for sanctioning the payment.

Mr Irvine is the solicitor behind the Action 4 Equality Scotland campaign to secure equal pay compensation for thousands of low paid female workers.

He said: "Glasgow's chief executive, Annemarie O'Donnell, is the highest paid local government official in Scotland, but this latest debacle makes the city look completely ridiculous - small businesses and local corner shops in Glasgow operate to higher standards.

"The generosity shown towards a senior council colleague is quite extraordinary and impossible to justify.

"Low paid workers in other parts of the council don't enjoy this kind of treatment and it's a terrible insult to those who have been fighting for their rights to equal pay for the past 12 years."


Glasgow - Readers' Comments



Here are some comments from readers of the Evening Times on the latest fiasco at Glasgow City Council - which is either unable or unwilling to explain how one of the council's most senior officials received a parting 'gift' of £120,079 so that she could access her pension early.

If only Scotland's largest council behaved so generously, to the thousands of its low paid employees who have been fighting for their rights to equal pay for the past 12 years. 

Absolutely shocking how they get away with this is beyond me.


F


They are in the same bed as Holyrood, that is how they get away with it, plus our press is very weak, I think they are under the bed waiting on a space to get in.


R


Just remember, all this all took place when Labour were in charge at GCC!


A


Yes but the calamitous Chief Executive Annemarie O'Donnell has reigned through the bin lorry disaster , Rolls Royce donation fiasco accepting no responsibility or accountability - disgraceful


C


Maybe Ms O'Donnell has mislaid the paperwork, she could have left it in the Rolls Royce which incidentally which came with no paperwork.


R


Just read it ,well done for highlighting this

N



There has to be an investigation into GCC, they seem to be a law unto themselves, there will never be any accountability as long as they share the same bed with Holyrood.

R


O'Donnell needs to go. Shady deals and should have been in the dock for the bin lorry disaster. City Council buildings falling to bits, staff morale at all time low and then this type of blatant misappropriation of public funds. Time to go (without any sweetner).


E


Well done Mark no wonder the robbing B .........don't want you and Stefan round the table everyone is finding out just how corrupt this lot are and yet they can't pay carers an other low paid staff their legal back pay money after 12 years disgraceful we definitely need to strike on September. Well done once again x

T


The officials involved in this scandal should be sacked. They have been getting away with this for years.

J


Very strange, when i took early retirement in 2014, after giving 32yrs service , we were sat down with a council employee who went through all the paperwork informing us how much our lump sum was and what we would recieve each month in our pension. I thought this would be the case for all employees taking early retirement.

L

Just read what the Evening Times had to say about the huge early retirement payments being made to council officials and have to sum it up in one word disgusting how these people see fit to help them selves to the public purse. When they refuse to settle up there long standing equal pay claims 12yrs now and counting these officials need to be made accountable for there despicable actions


E


What can you say except get her investigated along with her underlings and rid glasgow off the gravy train mentality . People kick up when it’s private company bosses when it affects there dividends but not councils yet the same people pay taxes to them. But I guess they don’t receive a dividend from the council so it’s ok to mispend public money.


M


These parasites make me sick

A


I want to retire early will they pay my short fall for me eh dont think so

M


Isn't it ironic that we are constantly told to make a note of everything....make a paper trail / email trail to look back on....
yet those at the very top "refrain" from doing this....especially when its about thousands upon thousands of pounds.....


S

  

Glasgow's Double Standards



Senior officials in Glasgow City Council claim to have acted in 'good faith' over the introduction of the WPBR and its blatantly discriminatory 37-hour rule.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary they insist their cockamamy pay scheme was a genuine effort to eliminate gender-based pay discrimination, yet at the same time  they refuse to answer FOI requests which would explain how senior officials conducted themselves, i.e. what they signed up to at the time the WPBR was introduced. 

The reason given for refusing my FOI requests is that this would cost the council more than £600 to provide this information - yet the council's chief executive had no qualms about authorising a £120,079 'gift' to a senior colleague so that she could access her pension early.

What does Stefan Cross QC think of this contemptible behaviour? - read on and find out.

  


ONE RULE FOR THEM, ANOTHER FOR US
Mark Irvine's dogged digging of this dodgy deal has exposed a number of things about GCC OFFICERS 
1. These are exactly the same officers failing to properly negotiate your entitlement 
2. The don’t half love secrecy
3 The dole out taxpayers cash very easily when it’s for one of their own
4 They demand external verification of any money to be paid to you but avoid any external scrutiny of payments to themselves 
Hypocrisy is the word that springs to mind.

STEFAN CROSS

EVENINGTIMES.CO.UK
EQUAL pay campaigner Mark Irvine is demanding answers from council bosses over a £120,000 payment made after the early retiral of a senior official.

From Russia with Love


Donald Trump made a terrible horse's ass of himself at the Helsinki summit, but he's now doubled down on this diplomatic disaster by inviting Vladimir Putin to visit the White House. 

  


Old Foghorn and Putin's Russia (01/02/18)



Donald Trump's favourite world leader must surely be Vladimir Putin because while the American president he has sounded off against democratic allies and friends in the UK, Germany, France, Australia and Mexico - 'Old Foghorn' has nothing much to say about the goings on in Russia.  

Even when President Putin's repressive state tries to silence the opposition leader Alexei Navlany who has been the subject of a vile campaign of harassment and intimidation by Kremlin thugs.

  

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42850198

Russian presidential elections: Navalny freed after day of protests


Media caption - The BBC's Steve Rosenberg: "We were standing right next to Mr Navalny... it was very dramatic"

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been freed after detained by police at a Moscow rally in support of a presidential election boycott.

His lawyer told the press that he had been released without charge but will have to appear in court at a later date and may then face charges.

Earlier, police raided his offices in Moscow, reportedly seizing equipment.

Mr Navalny - President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critic - is barred from standing in the 18 March election.

BBC footage showed him being wrestled to the ground by policemen during the arrest.

Soon afterwards the opposition leader tweeted to urge others to join protests across the country. "The detention of one person is meaningless if there are many of us. Someone, come and replace me," he wrote (in Russian). 

Protest rallies were held in a number of Russian cities. In Moscow and St Petersburg they were not sanctioned by authorities.

More than 180 people were detained across the country, reports say.

Earlier on Sunday, Russian police raided the property of Mr Navalny's anti-corruption organisation in Moscow. A YouTube clip showed a broadcast recording from the office being interrupted.

A spokesman for Mr Navalny said the officers used a power tool to break into the office, adding that they said they were investigating a bomb threat.
Image copyright - GETTY IMAGES Image caption - Alexei Navalny has said that the upcoming Russian presidential election is "dishonest"

The demonstrations come after weeks of pressure on Mr Navalny's supporters across Russia, who have faced detentions and had leaflets in support of the rallies confiscated. 
Image copyright - REUTERS Image caption - Mr Navalny's supporters attend a rally in the city of Vladivostok calling for a boycott of the election

Mr Navalny, who insists he would beat Mr Putin in a fair fight, is barred from running in the ballot over a criminal conviction that he says is politically motivated.

The opposition leader led mass street protests against Mr Putin in the winter of 2011-12 and was arrested three times in 2017 for organising unauthorised anti-Putin protests.

Mr Putin, who refuses to mention Mr Navalny by name, retains a massive approval rating in Russia and is widely expected to win a fourth six-year term in office.

Putin's Russia (30/09/17)



Sky News reports on the latest attempts to silence opposition leader Alexei Nalvany  inside Putin's Russia.

I suspect we shall not hear Donald Trump raising his voice in protest, nor that of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn whose official spokesperson, Seumas Milne, is a long standing admirer of of President Putin.

  

http://news.sky.com/story/russian-opposition-leader-alexei-navalny-detained-on-way-to-rally-11060193?dcmp=snt-sf-twitter

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny detained on way to rally

The longtime critic of Vladimir Putin has tweeted from a police station that he has been detained without charge.

Image:Alexei Navalny is arguably Russia's best-known opposition leader

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been detained by police on his way to a political rally in Moscow.

The activist posted a video to Instagram in the early hours of Friday morning, saying officers were outside his home and summoning him to a police station.

The following afternoon he tweeted from a police station to say he was being held without charge.

Mr Navalny, the head of the politically centrist Progress party, which campaigns against corruption, is one of the country's most prominent critics of President Vladimir Putin.

He had planned to run against the country's longstanding leader in December's presidential elections, but was barred from standing in June after being found guilty of embezzlement earlier in the year.

Image:Mr Navalny has called for nationwide protests

He had planned on Friday to travel to the city of Nizhny Novgorod for the latest in a series of regional demonstrations in support of his opposition bid, against corruption and in protest at United Russia, the ruling party to which Mr Putin belongs.

In his tweet on Friday afternoon Mr Navalny said the Kremlin viewed him as a "huge threat".

"They were saying for so long that opposition has no support in the regions, and it now pains them to even look at our rallies," he said.

Image:The activist has suffered chemical burns after being attacked with a mystery green substance

In recent months the activist has been targeted by authorities on numerous occasions.

He was sentenced to 30 days in jail after being arrested on his way to an anti-Kremlin protest in June, and has had green liquid thrown into his faceby unknown assailants.

The rallies have attracted thousands of people, and have recently focused on broadening support for opposition politics in more remote regions of Russia.

Some 10,0000 people showed up to a recent St Petersburg rally, and at one Moscow demonstration 800 were arrested.

But the Kremlin has dismissed Mr Navalny's political campaign, branding him a cosmopolitan out of touch with the needs and desires of ordinary people.

The Russian interior ministry said in a statement on Friday that it had detained the activist on account of his calls for unsanctioned rallies.

Putin's Russia (02/05/17)



The BBC reports that Alexei Navalny, a vocal Russian opposition leader and an arch-critic of President Putin continues to be intimidated by his political rivals.

While Navalny tries to make light of his situation with his 'Mask-like' Jim Carrey pose there is nothing funny about what's going on here and given the propensity for critics of President Putin to die mysterious and untimely deaths -the warning signs are clear.

How odd it is that Donald Trump should have such warm words for President Putin whose authoritarian, gangster-style version of capitalism Trump seems to admire.    

  


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39735867

Russia opposition leader Alexei Navalny attacked with "brilliant green" dye

BBC Europe


Image copyright - @NAVALNY Image caption - It is the second time Mr Navalany has had dye thrown on him this year

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been taken to hospital after an antiseptic green dye was splashed on his face in Moscow.

It is the second time he has been attacked with zelyonka ("brilliant green" in English) this year.

The dye is a common antiseptic in Russia and has been used in protests there and in Ukraine.

"It looks funny but it hurts like hell," Mr Navalny tweeted.

It is not clear who carried out the attack, which happened near the offices of the Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) that he founded.

According to one report (in Russian) he was diagnosed with a chemical burn to the eye.

Navalny: Russia's vociferous opposition leader

Mr Navalny is one of the foremost Russian critics of President Vladimir Putin and has announced his intention to run for president himself.

But his intentions may be thwarted - he has been convicted of embezzlement, which would bar him from running for office, although he denies it.

A new weapon of choice - Vitaliy Shevchenko, BBC Monitoring

A mild antiseptic known as "brilliant green" has recently become a weapon of choice against government critics in Russia. 


Media caption - Footage from March appears to show Mr Navalny being attacked with a green liquid

Mr Navalny has been doused with it twice this year. One of Russia's most popular bloggers, Ilya Varlamov, had it thrown at him twice on the same day on 26 April. And pro-Western politician Mikhail Kasyanov had it splashed in his face at a rally commemorating murdered opposition activist Boris Nemtsov.

So why brilliant green? It stains the skin and is hard to wash off, which can be a problem if you want to take the media spotlight. Also, it doesn't do any lasting damage, which means attackers will not be facing charges of grave bodily harm.

But the attackers don't always have the last laugh. When Mr Navalny was last doused he turned his green face into an internet meme and was imitated by his supporters.

Mr Navalny was among 500 people arrested after organising an anti-corruption rally last month. Rallies across the country were the biggest opposition demonstrations in Russia in several years.

He has said repeatedly that he wants to challenge Vladimir Putin's control of the Kremlin and expose what he claims is the "myth" that Mr Putin commands more than 80% popular support.

Meanwhile a separate opposition group, Open Russia, says its office has been raided by police, a day after the group was blacklisted by the authorities.

Activists said more than 20 riot police raided the office and removed computer equipment and 100,000 flyers for an unsanctioned rally planned for this weekend.

Open Russia was founded by former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who lives in exile after spending 10 years in a Siberian prison on fraud charges, which he says were politically motivated.



Tycoons and Oligarchs (08/04/17)



The Herald reported a remarkable story the other day claiming that shell companies in Scotland were used to money launder billions of pounds out of Russia and the former Soviet Union by the business figures and 'oligarchs' who have grown rich beyond their dreams under President Putin.

Now Scotland doesn't emerge from this sorry tale very well, but nor does the likes of Donald Trump who clearly admires the way President Putin does business - unencumbered by a free and independent press that is capable of holding the government to account. 

If you ask me, Trump's 'fake news' strategy is an attempt to discredit and neutralise the media so that he can run the White House along the lines of a business empire - which is how the Kremlin operates under Vladimir Putin.

  


http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15183346.Scots_shell_companies_used_to_launder___4_billion_out_of_Russia/

Scots shell companies used to launder £4 billion out of Russia

Scots shell companies used to launder £4 billion out of Russia

By David Leask - The Herald

SCOTTISH shell firms were used to move at least £4 billion out of the former Soviet Union as part of what is thought to be the world’s biggest and most elaborate money-laundering scheme.

In a dramatic blow to the country’s global image, The Herald can reveal Scotland played a key role in the so-called “Laundromat”, a giant criminal conspiracy enabling Russia’s elite to funnel a minimum of $20bn out of their country.

Oligarchs Love-In


Share of wealth held by top 1%
Russia: 74.5%
India: 58.4% 
Indonesia: 49% 
Brazil: 48% 
China: 
43.8% 
US: 42% 
Mexico: 38% 

(Credit Suisse)

Who knows why Donald Trump admires Russia and President Putin so much?

But these figures from Credit Suisse might help provide a clue as to how President Trump aims to Make America Great Again.