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Posted by: John Brace | 18th November 2013

Wirral Council tries to rewrite history: Questions to Improvement Board subtly altered

Wirral Council tries to rewrite history: Questions to Improvement Board subtly altered

                        

Although I didn’t notice it at the time, some of my questions to the Improvement Board had been subtly rewritten. Some of the original questions I submitted are subtly different to those printed in the handout given to people at the meeting. Below are the questions that were changed by person/persons unknown. The original question is first, followed by the changed version circulated to people at the meeting. I suppose whoever did it didn’t think I’d spot it, I only did when I compared the handout to the questions I’d submitted. So why was this done, who did it and why? I wonder if any of the question submitted by the five other members of the public were rewritten too? When they publish the questions on Wirral Council’s website which version will be used the original or the altered version?

Original question
Whereas there are strong reasons not to publish appendix L (Medical Information Relating to Martin Morton provided in confidence), if Wirral Council is now “open and transparent” when will the other fourteen appendices be published?

Changed question (as in handout)
If Wirral Council is now “open and transparent” when will the other fourteen appendices be published? (except for appendix L)

Original question
On the 14th April 2011 Cabinet resolved with regards to the Martin Smith report decided that “at the conclusion of all the necessary internal processes Mr Smith’s report be made public”. On the 12th January 2012 Martin Smith’s report was published, however all the names (presumably of Wirral Council officers and councillors) contained within the reported were redacted before publication. Is publishing the redacted (rather than full) report complying with the spirit of the earlier Cabinet decision? Will Wirral Council to publish an unredacted version of the Martin Smith report?

Changed question (as in handout)
On the 14th April 2011 Cabinet resolved that Martin Smith’s report be made public, however all the names (presumably of Wirral Council officers and councillors) contained within the reported were redacted before publication. Is publishing the redacted (rather than full) report complying with the spirit of the earlier Cabinet decision. Will Wirral Council publish an unredacted version of the Martin Smith report?

Original question
Martin Smith’s remit was to “seek to establish whether Martin Morton was subject to any bullying or other inappropriate behaviour by any officer or Elected Member, or by the Council as an organisation, and to present a report on my findings”. Presumably considering his remit some of the blacked out names in his report would be the names of councillors. As councillors are accountable to the people of Wirral, how can the people of Wirral hold their elected representatives to account unless the Martin Smith report is published including the names of councillors in it?

Changed question (as in handout)
Presumably some of the blacked out names in Martin Smith’s report would be the names of councillors. As councillors are accountable to the people of Wirral, how can the people of Wirral hold their elected representatives to account unless the full Martin Smith report is published including the names of councillors in it?

Original question
Bearing in mind questions one to three, does the Improvement Board understand that because of the obfuscation referred to, that the Wirral public will find it hard to believe that Wirral Council has changed when there are so many unanswered questions surrounding these events due to the lack of transparency and accountability?

Changed question (as in handout)
Does the Improvement Board understand the Wirral public will find it hard to believe that Wirral Council has changed when there are so many unanswered questions surrounding these events due to the lack of transparency and accountability?

Original question
The recommendation at the end of the review into the Improvement Board’s work recommends a review by the end of the year, ending the work of the Improvement Board and the Council following the next steps recommendations in the report. Does the Improvement Board think that the Corporate Governance Committee should be reconstituted to ensure sufficient oversight by councillors of the work identified in the “Next Steps” section?

Changed question (as in handout)
If the Improvement Board decides it is safe to withdraw, do they think that the Corporate Governance Committee should be reconstituted to ensure sufficient oversight by councillors of the work identified in the “Next Steps” section?

Original question
Q12. a) Are the LGA members of the Improvement Board financially compensated for their work on the Improvement Board?
b) Is Wirral Council invoiced by the LGA for the Improvement Board’s work?
c) If the answer to (a) or (b) is yes, could amounts be given (whether exact or approximate) of the total cost to Wirral Council over the lifespan of the Improvement Board?

Changed question (as in handout)
Are the LGA members of the Improvement Board financially renumerated for their work on the Improvement Board and if so, could amounts (whether exact or approximate) of the total cost to Wirral Council over the lifespan of the Improvement Board?

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Responses

  1. Pure 1984 ,I suggest a certain Winston smith in the Press office of WBC

    • Well it was done with a lot of skill, as despite reading the handout on Friday I didn’t spot it had happened until I compared what was there with the questions in my original email.

  2. […] Handed out at last Friday’s Improvement Board meeting were the responses to the consultation received so far, motions passed at the Audit and Risk Management Committee and Coordinating Committee and the questions submitted in advance of the meeting by the members of the public as circulated at the meeting (although some of mine were subtly altered). […]

  3. […] to the consultation and questions submitted to the meeting (although it’s best to read this about the questions as some had subtle alterations. The handout also contained the text of motions agreed at meetings of Wirral Council’s […]

  4. This meddling is in keeping with the Improvement Board Draft Report, featured here on the Wirral website.

    http://www.wirral.gov.uk/downloads/6398

    Martin Smith found bullying, investigated mobbing, found abuse of power, yet all mention of these unsavoury, callous acts, which were meted out to Martin Morton until he was eventually forced out…. have been carefully put to the sword. 63 pages of callous manipulation is the result.

    Somebody, somewhere, most probably appointed by the LGA, is toying with the facts, burying bad news, being hyperbolic about the ‘good’ points and rewriting it for their own convenience. NOT OURS. Shame on them.

    • Years ago at the Audit and Risk Management Committee Bill Norman ordered that something that Martin Morton be subject to the black box treatment with regards of the names on the basis that in his view they were just “allegations”, hadn’t been proven yet and if they published them without redactions the people concerned could sue them for libel.

      This approach has been taken with the reports which conclude the allegations were proven and by the Improvement Board/Wirral Council who spurred on by Cllr Steve “let’s move on” Foulkes seem to have taken a stance as an Improvement Board that “we’re not here to deal with individual complaints”, that “we can’t name names” and that no-one’s accountable. The latter point implies to the public that there are still councillors and officers there that should’ve been held to account but weren’t, that naming names would be opening a can of worms and if names got named they’d all start shouting at each other and blaming each other again rather than accepting responsibility doesn’t it?


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