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Posted by: John Brace | 4th July 2011

Standards Committee 4th July 2011 – Item 6 – Exempt Information – Exclusion of Members of the Public, Item 7 Review of a Standards Complaint

I will be writing this account of the meeting out of order, starting with item 6/7.

Bill Norman said that item 7 referred to an individual complaint. However the names of the councillors complained about were in the public domain. [He was referring to this Wirral Globe article of 11th May entitled Local government watchdog dismisses complaint against Wirral councillors and this Wirral Globe article of the 13th May entitled Town hall blunder: Wrong paperwork sent to local government watchdog inquiry.]

By information in the public domain he meant the names of the councillors complained about (Cllr Denise Roberts, Cllr Moira McLaughlin, Cllr Pat Williams and Cllr Ann Bridson) and the person complaining about them (Martin Morton) as the subjects of the complaint had been confirmed by the Standards Board for England to the press. The nature of the complaint (about Social Services “special charging policy”) had also been mentioned in the Wirral Globe article. He said that Martin Morton had made the complaint in February 2010 and paragraph 4.2 detailed the chronology. The complaint had first been about Cllr Moira McLaughlin, Cllr Pat Williams and Cllr Denise Roberts. However a second more lengthy complaint had been submitted which covered Cllr Moira McLaughlin, Cllr Pat Williams, Cllr Denise Roberts and Cllr Ann Bridson which had replaced and absorbed the first complaint. This had been referred to the Initial Assessment Panel. The covering report referred to for members had paragraphs summarising the complaint, there were three specific references to Cllr Bridson and what was alleged without explaining what happened.

The wrong (original) complaint had been used as paperwork, but with an accurate summary. Following the decision to refer it to the Standards Board for England due to its complexity and high level, the same wrong paperwork had been ended up being sent. It had been a difficult complaint to look at internal [to Wirral Council].

Since the meeting the agenda on Wirral Council’s website has been reordered to remove item 6. Therefore agenda item 7 has become agenda item 6. The report for this item can be read here with the appendices here.

Please note this blog post uses the original numbering of agenda items, not the changed agenda that Wirral Council changed a day after the meeting on their website to remove item 6.

The original agenda distributed at the meeting had the following added as agenda item 6:

EXEMPT INFORMATION: EXCLUSION OF MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC

The public may be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following item of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information.

The grounds given were paragraph 7c of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, however as you can see here by reading the legislation there isn’t a paragraph 7c.


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