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Posted by: John Brace | December 18, 2013

Response from Cllr Jeff Green on the Anna Klonowski Associates report redactions


Response from Cllr Jeff Green on Improvement Board issues

                        

Following the Improvement Board meeting held in public last month, exactly a month ago I emailed Graham Burgess (Chief Executive), Cllr Phil Davies (Leader of the Labour Group), Cllr Jeff Green (Leader of the Conservative Group) and Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Leader of the Lib Dem Group) about the progress on the commitments made at that meeting.

I indicated in that email that I would publish replies (unless the author stated otherwise) so that the public know what’s happening.

Nearly two weeks ago I received a reply from Cllr Jeff Green (which is below). It made sense to wait a little longer for replies from the others so that they could all be published together. As a month has gone by and I haven’t received a reply from another of the other three, below Cllr Jeff Green’s reply I include my original email. I haven’t changed the colour used for text in Cllr Green’s email, as Leader of the Conservative Group I think it would come as no surprise to people that he writes in blue!

from: Green, Jeff E. (Councillor)
to: john.brace@gmail.com
date: 6 December 2013 14:47
subject: RE: follow up to question and answer session at Friday’s Improvement Board meeting
mailed-by: wirral.gov.uk

Dear John

Thanks for your email. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

I think my record is pretty clear on this matter: I have always pushed for an un-redacted copy of the AKA report to be published and have been obstructed at every turn.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant and the sooner the light is shed on the actions of those responsible, the better.

I trust that sets my position out clearly for you.

Best wishes

Jeff Green signature

Cllr. Jeff Green
Leader of the Conservative Group
Ward Councillor for West Kirby & Thurstaston

Twitter: www.twitter.com/cllrjeffgreen
Phone: 07766725125
You can also find me on Facebook

From: John Brace [mailto:john.brace@gmail.com]
Sent: 18 November 2013 11:15
To: Burgess, Graham
Cc: Davies, Phil L. (Councillor); Green, Jeff E. (Councillor); Gilchrist, Phil N. (Councillor)
Subject: follow up to question and answer session at Friday’s Improvement Board meeting

Dear Graham Burgess, Cllr Phil Davies, Cllr Jeff Green and Cllr Phil Gilchrist,

In order that the public know the progress of the commitments made on Friday’s Improvement Board meeting I am publishing this email and will happily also publish any replies unless you indicate that you do not wish your reply to be put in the public domain.

A brief update on some progress I have made on the appendices to the Anna Klonowski Associates Limited report. Appendix B (the Equality and Human Rights Commission Letter dated 29th December 2010) has been helpfully supplied by Paul Cardin.

Appendices C (the first improvement plan) and D (the Care Quality Commission Inspection Report) I discovered at the weekend had already been published by Wirral Council as part of a Cabinet agenda from over three years ago.

Appendix G (the Standards for England decision notices) have already been published too and I am not asking for appendix L (medical information relating to Martin Morton). This just leaves appendices E, F, H, I, J, K, M, N, O, P and Q.

With regards to my supplementary question about appendix P (minutes of the DASS Monitoring and Development Sub Group Meeting), as this was the only meeting minutes referred to in the appendices list I made an error. My question should’ve referred to notes in a different appendix, which contained the notes of the Charging Policy Working Group held on the 22nd August 2005, my apologies for any confusion caused.

I would be interested in receiving an unredacted copy of the notes and accompanying table (unredacted in respect of the three councillors who were there if deleting the redaction of officer names is an insurmountable problem) of the Charging Policy Working Group. The only councillor I am able to ascertain was there so far was Cllr Pat Williams.

With regards to appendix E (charging policy for supported living services) as this was a policy I presume it was agreed by councillors. It therefore can’t be claimed that a policy falls into one of the reasons you gave on Friday for not publishing the appendices. Publishing it would help the public understand the series of events that happened and whether it was an unlawful policy implemented by officers or whether officers acted outside of an agreed policy.

I am sure you (apart from Cllr Gilchrist who couldn’t be there) remember the mood of the public at Friday’s meeting and how although Wirral Council has changed in some ways that convincing the public of that change will be a difficult challenge.

I asked the questions I did on Friday because if the public were informed fully about what actually happened, then knowing what happened and the chain of events that led to it would allow the public to decide for themselves whether the changes made since then would prevent a reoccurence in the future.

Until there is more disclosure of what went happened, despite Wirral Council’s desire to “move on” some members of the public will still want to know and the details of who, what, why, where and when which at the moment are answers that are only filled with speculation.

I hope this sets out my position and I look forward to a more detailed response about the future publication (or the reasons against publication) of the remaining appendices to the Anna Klonowski Associated Limited report and the question about removing the redactions of councillor and officer names (at Head of Service level and above) in the Martin Smith report.

Yours sincerely,
John Brace

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Responses

  1. So one answer only despite glib assurances in camera “I will get back to you”. Ex camera without a hostile crowd it is a different story- no getting back to you.

    Similarly I asked Mike Thomas . Grant Thornton , whether it was true he had been holding back the whole of governance certificate due to unresolved BIG/ISUS/Workjing Neighbourhoods questions. His answer was that it was on his desk and would be signed. In camera a hesitant response to avoid any backlash. However he had already signed and delivered it on 3rd October over a month beforehand as per the minutes of the audit and risk committee in november!! When he closed the audit I do not know exactly, certainty by the second November Audit and risk Committee that followed the 15th November public meeting. But my question was on the whole of Governance and the response received suggested stage management rather like the responses you received.

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  2. Much as this is a blog read by around a hundred people a day last month, I’m not a councillor or an employee of Wirral Council so I can be ignored in the hope that I’ll won’t persist in the matter and move onto other things.

    There was a Wirral Globe story earlier this year about all sixty-six councillors getting media training.

    Essentially the way it seems to work now, is that Labour Cabinet Members are happy to take credit when there’s something they think will be popular with the public, but they rarely give quotes when there’s something that if they were associated with in the public’s eye would tarnish their reputation.

    This leads to senior officers being wheeled out almost as a human shield to take the flak and give a quote to the press or answer questions from opposition councillors. The senior officers must see being criticised as part of the territory they work in and of course these people don’t have to ask for the public’s support in an election every four years.

    Wirral Council have got a lot better at spin and reputation management and in the art of giving a quote that doesn’t really give away any new information or say anything that isn’t already known.

    I was at the Audit and Risk Management Committee you refer to, you can watch the footage of that meeting if you like.

    I think the correct term is Whole of Government Accounts certificate as Wirral Council spend money given to them by other government departments, Grant Thornton have to certify it’s been done properly (I think it used to also be called the certification of grant claims or is that something else?)

    This would be a different thing to closing Wirral Council’s accounts for 2012/13 (although in the case of BIG/ISUS the two issues are interrelated).

    Certainly if you want the detail as to when, I suggest you either email Mike Thomas or watch the videos again to see what was said. It’s always possible that there is an error in the minutes of the Audit and Risk Management Committee as it would be easy for the person writing the minutes to confuse Mike Thomas’ comments about the Whole of Government Accounts certificate with closing the audit on Wirral Council’s accounts for the 2012/13 financial year.

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    • John your exactitude is commendable. following your examples I did both listen to Mike Thomas at the Committee and also read the Audit Letter presented in minutes of the 25th November 2013 Audit and risk committeee.

      The Whole of Government opinion ( effectively a certificate if positive) is verbally referred to by Mike Thomas as being granted at end of October 2013 but in the Auditt Letter it is dated as being granted on 3rd October 2013.

      The two are related, the opinion and the certificate of closure of audit as both were concurrently held up as Grant Thornton considered whether any ISUS reclaim by erdf would be material to the consolidation of WBC accounts into the whole of the public sectors’ accounts. The refund being a maximum of circa £1 million , and that only possible not certain, rightly they concluded no impediment to the positive opinion on the whole of government accounts. Presumably they considered whether any other parties such as Department of Work and Pensions would attempt to recover lost working Neighbourhoods monies, or whether private aggrieved parties would sue WBC successfully.

      The problem at the PIB public meeting of 15th November is that Mike Thomas mishears? my question and where I refer to “Whole of governance” he seeks not to correct my language and to differentiate clearly between the two, closure of audit and opinion on whole of Government. I was nervous addressing a large gathering and perhaps so too was this professional being MORE USED TO A QUIESCENT AUDIENCE of Councillors. They dont like it up ‘em Captain Mannering!

      Finishing the story at the 25th November Audit and Risk committee Mike Thomas announces that that very day he has signed the certificate to close the audit. He does add that it has been done on the basis that BIG has been addressed, and that ISUS has been resigned to third party hands , the DCLG.

      I believe the revelations recently that WBC officers always had critical data which 10 months ago they told Grant Thornton that they did not have, should have stayed their hand in granting this certificate. I believe that the audit should continue to incorporate a conclusion of how this has happened for after all WBC cannot trumpet far and wide its honesty in apopointing independent investigators , and then proceed to MISLEAD the same investigators.

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      • If I remember correctly, although the matter was referred to as a contingent liability in the accounts the amount couldn’t be determined as it would rely on the parties involved (which you outlined in your comment) asking Wirral Council for specific amounts of the grant awarded back.

        I too asked questions at the Improvement Board meeting, but I have more experience of speaking in public so I don’t tend to get nervous (although the amount of people there was enough to make anyone speaking nervous).

        One of the recommendations that the Improvement Board did make was that the Audit and Risk Management Committee has a majority of independent people on it (which hopefully would help with scrutiny).

        Cllr Phil Davies (in response to one of my questions) is reluctant to go so far as the Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee be an independent member of the committee. I know in other local authorities that the tradition is that the Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee is always an opposition councillor.

        The problem with a Labour Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee and a Labour majority is that there’s always the perception that the Chair can’t be as critical of the Labour administration or its councillors as an opposition councillor would be.

        You may not know this, but the current Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee was subject to disciplinary action by his party for criticising in public the behaviour of one of his fellow councillors during an election and surely the fact that he’s also an Assistant Cabinet Member to Cllr Brian Kenny (Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability) further compromises in the public’s eyes his ability to be critical of the Labour administration.

        Moving back to the BIG/ISUS issues I think Wirral Council’s position won’t budge until outside third parties make progress.

        Changes to the way the Audit and Risk Management Committee operates will occur when the provisions of the Local Audit and Accountability Bill becomes law (expected around February of next year).

        Basically a committee that appoints the Council’s auditor will have to be independently chaired and have a majority of independent members. If Labour insist on keeping the Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee a Labour councillor this will result in a separate committee having to be created.

        The point of the change is to prevent (when Wirral Council can chose their auditor) a past auditor not being chosen for blatantly political reasons (for example for previously issuing a public interest report about the authority). Strangely in those public bodies that can already chose their auditor public interest reports haven’t been issued and there’s the perception that auditors won’t do things to jeopardise their contract being renewed.

        Certainly I’ll be interested to hear how the DCLG investigation goes and whether they face the same kind of deliberate roadblocks that you have.

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        • DCLG has faced roadblocks in that until they visited NWDA former offices in Oct/November they believed what Grant Thornton had been told, that detailed backing lists of start-ups who had been invoiced to the council in summary form were not held by the Council. When at NWDA former headquarters this was contradicted and presently officers are collating these lists for presentation to DCLG.

          That represents more misery of delay which, in the absence of gross ineptitude, and combined with the dilatoriness of Internal audit between August 2011 and September 2012, may point to corruption.

          Betting on the result I exp[ect the contingent liability to be transformed into a payable provision of £250,000.

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          • These matters were all outlined in the contracts that Wirral Council signed when they accepted the money for the BIG/ISUS grant schemes (which were previously published on my blog).

            The twists and turns already in this saga that have rapidly approached the length and complexity of the epic poem Beowulf in its multitude of characters, an alphabet soup of different organisations.

            Yet in this post Improvement Board era of not naming names and turning the running tap of information released under Freedom of Information down to merely a trickle, unless there is a change of administration following the elections next May (or a sudden change of heart in the current one) I doubt the public will ever get to know the identity of the many Grendels in this saga (or indeed who the dragon is).

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            • as epic as the siege of Leningrad as it has lasted 900 days on Friday from the moment Mr James Griffiths walked into Kevin Adderley’s office.

              The dragon is known to me;I prefer it to be a multi-headed Hydra.
              It is now leaving the gift of WBC to reveal or not reveal the monsters. I am perfectly equipped to do so myself but need the crest of the wave so my Argosy can ride it and from it my voice carry over the storm.

              Let us have the Gods condemn ISUS and its works next spring {DCLG} then shall we compel names to be incanted and purge ourselves of this ungodliness and all its works

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  3. from 3:37 to 5 inutes of the record 27:03 minutes, I dont know the number video but it runs to 27:03. Thomas answers that his Whole of Government accounts certificate is awaiting signature on his desk as at 15th November 2013. I will gop now to watch your digital record of A & R cttee to see if the minute-taker has got it wrong or whether my surmnise that again they were steering the bark away from dangerous rocks

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    • I’m not sure why comments aren’t nesting in this thread. However to make it easier for people to understand I’ll include the video referred to in your comment.

      I think this is the one you’re referring to, it’s the last part of the Improvement Board meeting.

      The Audit and Risk Management Committee was ten days later, so it’s entirely possible that if it was on his desk awaiting signature that it would’ve been dealt with by the time of the Audit and Risk Management Commttee meeting.

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