Friday, 13 March 2020

Glasgow - A World Leader?

I met with Glasgow's Head of Information and Data Protection, Dr Kenny Meechan, back in November 2018 to discuss what information the Council held and would be prepared to release regarding its 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme.

Unfortunately, the planned discussion turned into a bit of a pantomime and, as a result, I decided to pursue the matter with the Scottish Information Commissioner since it was clear that the Council 'leopard' was never going to change its spots.

The rest is history, as they say, but what a terrible waste of time and energy especially from a public body which boasts of becoming a 'world leader' for its openness and transparency. 


Glasgow's Great Equal Pay Cover Up (12/11/18)

I've had lots of comments on my 'Carry On Doctor' and 'Glasgow's Great Equal Pay Cover Up' posts - on which I will have more to say later today.

In the meantime don't despair, dear readers, because we are nowhere near the end of this particular road, as I intend raising these important issues with the independent Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) and the City Council's political leaders.

I may be proved wrong, but I cannot in all honesty see how the FOI behaviour of senior council officials can be squared with Glasgow's aspiration to become a 'world leader' in terms of openness and transparency.


Glasgow's Great Equal Pay Cover Up (11/11/18)

The first thing I should say about my recent FOI/WPBR meeting with Glasgow's Head of Information and Data Protection is that I agreed to say nothing at all for 48 hours to give Kenny Meechan an opportunity to reflect on our discussion.

I expected to hear something from Dr Meechan long before now, at the very least an email apologising profusely for his crass behaviour on the day.

Instead I've heard nothing, not a 'cheep' as they say, so I don't expect the Council leopard is going to change its spots and come clean over the information it holds on the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR).

The reason this information is important is that it will show whether or not Scotland's largest council really did act in 'good faith' over the WPBR pay scheme in which was introduced back in 2006/07.       

I told Dr Meechan that I found this claim very hard to swallow because, in my view, even a two-year-old (never mind senior council officials) could see that the WPBR's '37 hour rule' was designed to discriminate against the Council's largely female workforce.

As everyone knows by now the vast majority of women workers in Glasgow City Council (98% or so) are not contracted to work 37 hours every week or more - so they lose out big time.

By way of contrast the vast majority of traditional male jobs in the Council (98% or so) are contracted to work 37 hours or more and do qualify for a substantial WPBR payment. 

What a surprise and, for the sake of clarity, this unjustified pay difference constitutes just one single element of Glasgow's equal pay claims.

I went on to ask Dr Meechan what he would think of a scheme that made a significant WBPR payment worth over £1,000 a year - but that only council workers who wear a 'turban' would qualify for such a payment?

Dr Meechan's reaction said it all because it's so obvious that the Council's 'good faith' defence is laughable and that the workforce, Glasgow's council tax payers and the wider public are entitled to know how this scandal was allowed to happen.

The Council's position, by the way, is that its records are in the most appalling mess, that everything has been thrown 'willy nilly' into three filing cabinets - which means that it's a big job to sort things out.

Now that sounds like a completely ridiculous excuse to me and an invitation for public bodies like Glasgow City Council to avoid legitimate FoI enquiries by the simple expedient of keeping vital records in a terrible state.

So let's see what the Council's politicians have to say since this behaviour makes a mockery of Glasgow City Council's aspiration to become a 'world leader' in terms of openness and transparency.


'Carry On Doctor!' (10/11/18)

I've been to countless meetings during my working life, quite possibly more meetings than I've had hot dinners.

Lots of these meetings have been dull and uneventful, others have been more interesting, occasionally productive, but I had the most bizarre encounter earlier this week with Glasgow City Council's Head of Information and Data Protection - a chap by the name of Dr Kenny Meechan.

Now Dr Meechan is not a medical doctor, so he must have acquired a PhD at some point and be considered 'brainy' in some way although, speaking personally, I wouldn't trust him to deliver a pizza.

The reason I'm so unimpressed by Dr Meechan is that he turned up half an hour late for a meeting in the City Chambers which Dr Meechan had requested himself to discuss important issues surrounding my freedom of information (FoI) requests on Glasgow's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme.

I duly arrived at 11.28am for our 11.30am meeting, being the punctual person I am, but by 11.35am there was still no sign of Dr Meechan which struck me as more than a little odd.

Suddenly, a helpful young man named Frank appeared in the reception area to explained that Dr Meechan was not in his office and that the Council's FOI and Data Protection Team were doing their best to locate their 'leader'.

Frank showed me into the building's cafe which required a fob to enter, since this was better than hanging around a cold reception area and I waited patiently reading my emails over a cup of coffee.

Ten minutes came and went, followed by another ten minutes until at 11.58 I finally lost patience and decided to hand my visitor's pass back in at the reception desk.

As I did so a bearded fellow wearing an anorak appeared and asked me rather rudely, 'Who are you?' - without having the manners to introduce himself first of all.

I realised immediately that this must be none other than Dr Meechan because I noticed that the aforementioned Frank was by his side, so I answered:

"I'm Mark Irvine. I'm the person you were supposed to meet here half an hour ago. Who the hell do you think you are turning up so late, like this?"

My mood did not improve when the good doctor went on to explain that he had 'forgotten' to put the date of our meeting in his diary.

Remember said Dr Meechan is Head of Information and Data Protection in a city council with a revenue budget of £2.4 billion and is no doubt paid a handsome salary worthy of such an exalted position.   

In any event, by this time it was after 12 noon, and as I had another appointment at 12.30pm I agreed to make the best of things by having a hurried discussion in an empty committee room nearby.

I will report on the substance of our meeting tomorrow, but isn't it reassuring to know that Scotland's largest council is in such capable, competent, professional hands.