A series of exclusives by weekly newspaper the Wirral Globe has helped prompt a damning report into the culture and ethics of its local council.
An independent review into Wirral Council released yesterday found it was in the grip of a "corrosive'and 'inward-looking culture" where the 'needs and rights of residents have become submerged under its bureaucratic machinations".
The £250,000 probe was in response to a scandal first exposed by the Globe back in 2008 when it reported townhall whistleblower Martin Morton's revelations of systematic overcharging of vulnerable and disabled residents living in council care homes.
The council's chief executive Jim Wilkie said the issues highlighted in the report were now 'the most significant challenge facing the council".
The Globe was the first to report his claims of 'bullying, cover-ups and maladministration'at the – concerns that were allegedly ignored when Morton first tried to raise them with the council.
According to the Newsquest-owned title, Morton was driven out of his job and paid £45,000 to leave the service and keep quiet.
Instead, in November of 2008 he walked into the office of the Globe, who helped him tell his story.
'He literally came into the office and said: 'You won't believe this'", said editor Leigh Marles.
'At first we were suspicious – these were terrible allegations. But then we went and checked the story out, and felt we had enough to go on and defend a legal action."
Days after the Globe first published Morton's allegations two senior officers were suspended, but after disciplinary hearings they were reinstated.
Despite this the Globe continued to pursue the story – and the council was eventually forced to repay 16 care home residents £250,000.
Marles admitted there were some sleepless nights during the Globe's coverage of the story, but felt yesterday's story was a vindication of both Morton's claims and the paper's decision to publish them.
"Mr Morton has suffered an awful lot to get these revelations into the public gaze,'he said. "He lost his job yet continued though our columns to press home his revelations of wrongdoing.
"Today he stands totally vindicated, as we always knew he would, and we are happy to have played a part in this."
Council leader Steve Foulkes has been forced into cancelling a planned visit to China this weekend in order to deal with the crisis.
He said: "This is a highly-critical report, but I welcome it because it is the ultimate wake-up call which gives all of us the chance to change."