The dark days of Wirral Council and the “bureaucratic machinations” surrounding the Anna Klonowski Associates report
The public question time element of the Council meeting on 12th December 2011
I thought I would write a blog post today on what was probably one of those nearly forgotten times in Wirral Council’s history (which you can watch above recorded by my wife).
I include a transcript below about what was said at that meeting and well worth watching is another video below which is a clip from when a discussion of the same issue was on the North West News in January 2012. It was around the time of the news clip that Leonora and I decided to leave the Liberal Democrats.
It’s also worth pointing out at this stage that in 2011 the Liberal Democrats (proposed by Cllr Pat Williams, seconded by former Councillor Ann Bridson) suspended me with one of the reasons given was that I had criticised Cllr Foulkes (a Labour councillor).
The rest as they say is history, shortly after Cllr Foulkes was removed as Leader of Wirral Council in a vote of no confidence and the Labour administration was replaced by a short-lived Conservative/Lib Dem one.
I will at this point, point out two of the Nolan principles which all councillors had signed up to as part of the Code of Conduct which are accountability “Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.” and openness “Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.”
John Brace: There has been much public interest in the (as yet unpublished) AKA (Anna Klonowksi Associates Ltd) report into issues that need to be remedied at Wirral Council.
My personal view is that Wirral Council needs to publish the report, reassure the public what it’s doing differently now and restore its tarnished reputation as a result of the events that led to the report being commissioned.
Please could you answer:
a) what date the report will be published on and whether changes are to be made between the draft version and final version (if so the reasons why) and
b) an update on changes and decisions made since the report, as a result of the report becoming available in draft form, including progress (which includes consultation) already made and how the changes will benefit Wirral Council, its staff, its councillors and the public?
Cllr Steve Foulkes: [sighs] What a surprise seeing you here John! [laughter]
Well, can I just thank you for your question? And, and this is a genuine, genuine answer, errm which will be backed up by a errm official statement which has been circulated to all elected Members and it is a public document so I’m more than happy for you to have a copy of that.
If you haven’t got it yet you’ll receive it very, very shortly.
As long as I’ve been Leader, I’ve been pressing both Anna Klonowski and the officers to [inaudible] of the long awaited report. It’s not in this Council’s interests for this to drag out any longer.
But it is in the Council’s interests is that procedure is done properly and within err natural justice and err you know protection for the Council’s future err prospects and liabilities. Currently err Miss Klonowski and her independent solicitors are conducting a Right to Reply process.
The purpose of this and its current state of progress is fully explained in the Director of Law’s advice note which has been circulated to all councillors.
Like I just said a copy is on its way to you immediately and I cannot you know give a specific date for publication of the final report but I give you my assurance that I will do all I can to make this soon and as and as reasonably possible.
As I say it’s not in this Council’s best interests to drag on.
We want the department to move forward. We want the Council to move forward.
What we have done though in terms of of what reports are available.
We’ve insisted that the corporate governance issues are up and running and they are believed to be at the stem of some of the issues in the other report.
I can’t say any further than that.
So I can’t you know. It would be wrong to me to tell you lies, or or or to pretend I’m, but at this point of time I cannot given that the Director’s advice note.
I believe we’ll say it’s inappropriate to publish that report.
If we are true to our word that you know whistleblowers should be protected and are important within our Council’s processes, then therefore anyone involved in the whistleblower process should have the same rights as the whistleblower and my view is that individuals have the Right to Reply, have the right for natural justice and I don’t believe that we should hurry justice just for the sake of of of of err public you know public clamour.
If the report is correct, and final replies (inaudible) then we in public cannot in full conscience cannot act upon it.
It’s not at that state yet and that’s not through any fault or mine.
Mayor Moira McLaughlin: OK, Mr. Brace, content with that?
John Brace: I have just one small supplementary.
Mayor Moira McLaughlin: Supplementary [inaudible] understand that.
John Brace: Yes, err can you give an approximate timescale, in the Spring of next year or you know something like that?
Mayor Moira McLaughlin: I think he has answered that Mr. Brace to be fair.
Cllr Steve Foulkes: I would would hope, I would hope it’s as soon as possible.
I’ve not been given an exact date.
But I have been informed, and as we’ve all been informed, that progress has been made on the Right to Reply. Err, there are some late Right to Reply issues come in come into the system as I think are detailed in Bill’s report.
Everything around this issue is within the report of the Director of Law and I think that once you will read that you will understand the difficult position he got in in this type of report.
As I say it’s not in the Council’s interests, or my interests or anybody’s interest for that report to be delayed any longer than it need be.
Because I think quite frankly people need to move on, the Authority needs to move on and rights need to err err wrongs need to be put right, and I’m interested in that happening.
But, I can’t give you an exact date and I’m not going to give you out an answer to this supplementary.
John Brace: Ok, thank you.
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