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Posted by: John Brace | 21st September 2013

Incredible: Cllr Foulkes “we seem to have some whistleblowers who are courted, almost feted”

Incredible: Cllr Foulkes “we seem to have some whistleblowers who are courted, almost feted”

                                                       
The above quote is from Cllr Foulkes at Wednesday’s Audit and Risk Management Committee in a long comment on Wirral Council and whistleblowing which starts here.

His extremely honest comments call for a further report on the BIG & ISUS business grants program, partly because the Council’s auditors won’t sign off on Wirral Council’s accounts until it’s resolved. Surely after spending an estimated £50,000 on reports by Grant Thornton’s forensic department an officer at Wirral Council must have some answers for Cllr Foulkes? He accuses whistleblowers of raising issues that "drag the Council back into the past" and hopes (rather optimistically) that all the outstanding whistleblowing issues will be resolved "simultaneously".

He then went on to say that some whistleblowers were "courted almost feted" whereas others were forgotten, such as the group over the Highways and Engineering Service Procurement Exercise contract. The whistleblowing over the Highways and Engineering Service Procurement Exercise contract hasn’t been forgotten. In that case the name of one of the whistleblowers, who wanted to remain anonymous was published on Wirral Council’s website. The matters raised by that group were written about at length by the independent person, Richard Penn (whose report was published) and although not everyone agrees with Penn’s opinion and interpretation of events, in most people’s minds the matters regarding the senior officer suspensions has been resolved. Colas’s contract ends next year and will be put out to tender with Colas stating that they won’t bid for it.

Cllr Foulkes also believes that "whoever blows the whistle or complains should be taken seriously and dealt with as efficiently and quick but in all senses fairly". He also said he finds the whistleblowing issue "quite worrying". Would whistleblowers be offered and be paid large amounts of money if they had been treated fairly? He also said that they "have to be fair to those in the firing line of a complaint". The whistleblowing concerns of late haven’t been because of one anonymous and unknown Inspector Clouseau type employee that sadly Wirral Council can’t sack, but have been brought about by systemic failings in Wirral Council’s corporate governance systems and its culture. These two areas are the responsibility of many different individuals including its politicians. Cllr Foulkes said that "words I’ve said tonight may be misconstrued".

He said that many councillors found themselves being contacted by people with complaints, complaints that he found the resolution of "almost impossible". He said he "did not believe whistleblowers should ever be used in a political fashion" and that councillors "don’t seem to have an up to date picture" as to how whistleblowers concerns were being resolved.

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Responses

  1. What dross

    • Yes but it does show that politicians seem to be overly concerned about the reputation of senior management at Wirral Council. Surely senior management are paid extra to deal with the political element of their job though and some judging by the quotes in the press whenever something bad happens are more in the public eye than the politicians?

      For instance I’ve heard councillors told they can’t criticise senior managers at Wirral Council during public meetings because “they can’t answer back”! The politicians are there to represent the public interest. Politicians getting overfamiliar with the officers and nearly always taking the officer’s side whenever officers are criticised is surely the root of many of Wirral Council’s woes?

  2. […] as ever go to John Brace for filming the meeting and getting these atrocious comments out there for public […]

  3. Politicians should embrace whistleblowers not treat them as pariahs. Leading councillors get far too cosey with senior officials and find it hard to recognise their shortcomings. I saw this all too often when I covered Sefton Council for the Echo in the 90s. Cllr Foulkes should be standing up and condemning the public servants and the politicians who allowed incompetance to flourish.

    • Cllr Foulkes bears the scars of what happens when whistleblowing is not handled well (he was voted out of office as Leader of Wirral Council).

      I agree with what you write about leading councillors and senior officers (especially the councillors who seem to be career politicians with no outside job to keep them a little more grounded).

      A perfect example of this came at the last Cabinet meeting on Thursday. The care home fees were on the agenda and a representative of the care homes spoke for five minutes and accused officers of all sorts of things ranging from misconduct in public office to misfeasance. The Chair of that meeting Cllr Phil Davies just invited the Director of Adult Social Services to respond, took the Director’s response at face value and then went on to approve the original recommendations without any real forensic questioning of the claims made or a delay of the decision whilst they’re looked into.

  4. As a whistleblower I have never been feted nor courted.

    I am not sure that my claim for £15 expenses rendered some time ago has been paid even.

    As to feted does a cup or two of vending machine coffee count? Also no-one in the Glbe asked for my opinions nor when I gave them to correct inaccuracies did they acknowledge , thank me or change the inaccuracy.

    • No as the vending machine coffee is available to everyone. As to complaints about the press that’s more the remit of the Press Complaints Commission.


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