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Posted by: John Brace | 25th May 2012

Following the Court Order of 18th April 2012 and a Lib Dem smear: My response

Following the Birkenhead County Court order of 18th April 2012 naming Cllr Alan Brighouse on behalf of the Birkenhead Liberal Democrats granted by Deputy District Judge Ireland following the court hearing of the 4th April 2012, the Lib Dems have finally coughed up the original complaint (not shared with me until now 12 months later, despite their constitution stating 10 weeks) made about me by Simon Holbrook in May 2011 (after he lost his seat). I’ve sought advice and am making parts of it public (as there’s a public interest to at least parts of it being made public), along with my version of events (which seems far closer to reality than his complaint, my comments are in italics). Here’s section 1:-

“1. Smearing of Sitting Councillors

In an email to Cllr Gilchrist dated 19 May 2011 at 09:59, John Brace did link the Standards investigation into Cllr Williams’ and Cllr Bridson’s part in the “special charging policy” with that of the recent investigation into the way in which Martin Morton was treated, despite the fact these are two separate matters.

Cllr Williams and Cllr Bridson are not and were not under investigation into the alleged bullying of Martin Morton. This investigation, which was instigated by former Cllr Holbrook has now concluded and reported. It never was and never had been a matter for the Standards Board for England.”

As is detailed here it was considered twice by the Standards Board for England, as initially the complaint about Cllr Bridson hadn’t been sent to them. The complaint (or complaints as a second was submitted) were made by Martin Morton and had already been reported in the Wirral Globe under the headline Town hall blunder: Wrong paperwork sent to local government watchdog inquiry prior to Simon’s complaint about me.

One of these two councillors had been on the charging policy working group in 2005 that led to the overcharging policy, the other had been Cabinet Member for Social Care and Inclusion (which covers Social Services) during part of the period that the overcharging occurred.

The report referred to, the Martin Smith report, was reported to Cabinet on 14th April 2011, however it was not made public until the following year due to the Labour administration’s attempts to delay both its publication and the AKA report.

The relevant section of my email of 19th May to Cllr Gilchrist (and Cllrs Williams, Brighouse, Kelly, Bridson, Harney, Gilchrist, Mitchell and two other party members), is quoted below.

“Morale in the party is extremely low, the Chair and the Vice-Chair of the local party are currently (according to the Wirral Globe) under investigation on standards grounds following a decision by Wirral Council’s Independent Assessment Panel to refer the matter to Standards for England regarding their roles in the Social Services “special charging policy” and how Martin Morton was treated. This independent report (by now read by councillors but currently exempt) will be published within 2-5 months and will lead to a public discussion of their roles in this saga. Both are likely to be candidates in 2012 and the full reasons how and why they did things will have to be made clear to the public and party in the spirit of openness and accountability if we are to move on.”

Lastly Simon Holbrook refers to himself in the third person, which generally wouldn’t be the case if as claimed he was the author of the complaint. However it’s clear by the way it was written that somebody wanted me to stop asking questions by the way flat out denials were made regarding the standards complaints.

The decision notice of Standards Board for England with regards to Cllr Williams and Cllr Bridson back me up as to what the complaint was about. As it was re referred back to Standards for England following the paperwork mixup, there are earlier decision notices regarding Cllr Williams, Roberts and McLaughlin too.


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