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Posted by: John Brace | 3rd June 2016

Surjit Tour asks Wirral councillors to agree to changes to how complaints about councillors are dealt with

Surjit Tour asks Wirral councillors to agree to changes to how complaints about councillors are dealt with

                                       

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer, left) speaking at the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee meeting of Wirral Council on the 2nd June 2016 Right Cllr Denise Roberts (Chair)

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer, left) speaking at the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee meeting of Wirral Council on the 2nd June 2016 Right Cllr Denise Roberts (Chair)

As I am referred to at this meeting because of an email I wrote to the Committee and others I will declare an interest at the outset. I will also declare an interest as a paid member of the press who are referred to in a report that was agenda item 4.

The public meeting of Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee was a special meeting held in Committee Room 3 at Wallasey Town Hall without microphones.

The following councillors were present: Cllr Eddie Boult (Conservative) deputy for Cllr Gerry Ellis (Conservative), Cllr David Elderton (Conservative), Cllr Chris Blakeley (Conservative spokesperson), Cllr Denise Roberts (Labour Chair), Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour), Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour), Cllr Jean Stapleton (Labour) deputy for Cllr Brian Kenny (Labour), Cllr Paul Stuart (Labour) and Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson).

There were also two independent people on the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee present who were Brian Cummings and Professor Ronald Jones.

Wirral Council officers present were Surjit Tour and Shirley Hudspeth.

Present from the press & public were myself and Leonora Brace.

The new Chair (Cllr Denise Roberts) welcomed people to the first meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee of the municipal year.

Apologies were given for Cllr Gerry Ellis (Cllr Eddie Boult was deputy for him) and Cllr Brian Kenny (Cllr Jean Stapleton was deputy for him).

No interests were declared. The minutes of the previous meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee held on the 23rd November 2015 were approved and also approved were the minutes of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group held on 24 February 2016.

The Committee then considered its main item (item 4 Appointment of Panels), which had a report of Mr Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer) on establishing the Standards Panel and Standards Appeal Panel, appendix 1 (the Code of Conduct for councillors at Wirral Council), appendix 2 – the protocol for investigating and making decisions on complaints made alleging breach/breaches of the Code of Conduct, appendix 3 – an extract from Wirral Council’s constitution about the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee and appendix 4 – a proposed procedure for meetings of the Standards Panel and Standards Appeal Panel.

Mr Tour started by addressing some of the points raised in my email which you can read in an earlier blog post here.

He said the following, “Yes, I’ll introduce that report for you Chair.

If it helps Chair, shall I address the email from Mr. Brace at the back who has provided an email to us all with regards to a couple of procedural points that he’s raised if you’re content with me to do that before I respond and deal with the report?

Essentially there are three points that Mr. Brace has raised.

One is in relation to the supplementary agenda, the report that you have before you not being circulated with the original initial agenda, but that was the reason for that, we were still in the process of trying to co-ordinate dates for the Standards Panel which we need to establish and there was a slight delay in terms of getting the finalised date.

I can confirm that there is a date that has now been confirmed and I’ll come onto that as part of the substantive item. So that was the reason for why the report was not published because I wanted to actually provide you with a date as part of ??? rather than leave you with a outstanding issue.

Unfortunately that caused a difficulty with regards to the date when I published the supplementary agenda despite our efforts to try and provide the full report to you in terms of the date that a particular Panel would meet.

With regards to concerns around errm the article 6 arguments or the section 6 arguments and Article 10 provisions that have been referred to, errm the Protocol and the paragraph within the Protocol paragraph 12.5, simply requires anyone who’s involved in the investigation is being advised not to share information with the press or media rather than go through our Press Office purely because any investigation it’s important that the integrity of the investigation is maintained and if information appears provided in the public domain, it could have the effect of prejudicing the investigation.

It is only an advisory point, individuals are entitled to ignore that advice if they so wish, but they do so in the knowledge that they could potentially jeopardise an investigation.

So if you’re a complainant you could find that the subject councillor is prejudiced because you could bring about a potential conclusion of the investigation prematurely and clearly if it’s a subject councillor again could find themselves bringing the Council into disrepute by not adhering to appropriate advice and undermining the ethical framework.

So paragraph 12.5 in the first instance specifically makes reference to anyone involved in the investigation, who will be advised, it doesn’t require and doesn’t say that they are prohibited from sharing information in the public domain and clearly they would be advised against that.

So I don’t believe that provision in any shape or form either contravenes either section 6 or indeed article 10.

With regards to the constitutional changes, with regards to paragraph 7 of the Access to Information Rules, we’re aware of that change. It was an oversight and you know in previous reviews the Standards Working Group of this Committee when it meets in July, if you’re minded to re-establish the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group again. One of its tasks will be to again review the full ethical framework and see if there any constitutional changes that are required and so I’m grateful to Mr. Brace to raise that, we’ll be aware that that change needs to take place and the constitutional amendment and that will take place as part of the Standards Working Group Working Program if you’re minded to re-establish it, if not then I’ll bring a separate report requiring that change to be made in relation to Council be made for that amendment to be made to the Constitution accordingly.

Thank you Chair, with regards to the substantive matter before you, the purpose of this meeting is to establish or for the Committee to establish formally the Standards Panel and the Standards Appeal Panel which all form part of the arrangements for dealing with standards complaints under paragraph 9.5 of article 9 of the Council’s constitution.

You’ll find in the report I’ve attached a number of appendices, there is information on article 9 of the constitution, which effectively sets out the constitutional framework for both panels and that’s in the first agenda document that we’ve got. Can I refer you to page 11 of the original agenda and in particular if you turn to page 13 and 14 and ?? onwards you will have the terms of reference of both the Standards Panel and the Standards Appeals Panel setting out not only its composition, but also its scope, remit and indeed its authority in terms of any sanctions that may be imposed.

So the purpose of this Committee is really to establish formally those two panels, not least because there is a particular matter that needs to be considered by the Standards Panel and therefore this Committee by formally establishing those enables the particular Standards Panel to be progressed to the first meeting of the Standards Panel.

With regards to that particular Panel meeting, we have canvassed dates. It has been a matter that has been long-standing in terms of both its progression, but we have now managed to secure a convenient date for a number of parties who need to be attending including at least one of our independent members and the date that is now available for that Standards Panel to meet is Tuesday 28th June at 6.00pm. There is also the possibility of a further date of the following day the 29th of June which I would suggest that we keep that date as a hold over provisional date that if we’re not able to conclude matters on Tuesday evening, we are in a position to adjourn to the following day where all the parties who are required are also available for Wednesday the 29th.

I’m not anticipating the matter having to extend to a second day, but it would be prudent now that we have a date to hold both days indeed if that we need them.

So Chair, the report itself sets out the position, I would like to just remind all people to bring to the attention of everyone the procedure, suggested procedure in appendix 4 of the supplement which sets out the suggested procedure for how matters will be dealt with by either the Standards Panel or indeed the Standards Appeals Panel.

As essentially an indicative process or procedure that would be followed. There is the discretion here for the Chairperson of the Panel to vary the ??? procedure if it’s necessary in the interests of fairness to all parties I understand, but it’s anticipated that following the process there will be making it ??? who needs to have whose views need to be sought, have the opportunity to share those thoughts with the Panel before the Panel considers its position with regards to the standards matter and also goes so far as to deal with if they do uphold and find that there is a breach, also then to address the issue of any sanctions if any that it thinks are appropriate.

So your approval is also sought in respect of that decision.”

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Responses

  1. Denise Roberts doesn’t look too shamefaced, apologetic or burdened by regret.

    Isn’t she the insightful and visionary councillor who stood up in the chamber one day publicly claiming that year upon year upon year of DASS cruelty and abuse and maladministration and theft and lies and conniving and malpractice and evasion and lies and wrongdoing and malfeasance and collusion and denial and lies and minimisation and shredding and general incompetence and lies, later upon investigation shown to be factual, were actually a series of unfortunate and unconnected mistakes?

    Why, I do believe it is.

    • Isn’t there a copy of her speech somewhere online?

      If it’s the speech I’m thinking of it describes what happened as a series of unfortunate but regrettable mistakes with no malice or bad intent behind them by hard working Council employees just trying to do their best for the public they all serve?

      If something like that happened today, in the broadcast TV/Youtube era do you think it would be sorted out quicker because of the public reaction or would it take another North West tonight piece before the wheels of corporate governance started turning?

      Or do you think the chequebook would come out again to make the people involved go away?

  2. Edited (1 word) by JB 4/6/2016 for bad language

    Here we are John, much as I question myself for helping to permit these corrosive rantings to be placed once again before the long suffering public:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HoBHrWY33T-hQQTjCPpuHnTDTr8mvFx4Z_m5FZCRbTw/edit?pli=1

    But we’ll find some solace in knowing that thanks to Martin Morton’s courage the failures were soon investigated and Roberts’ version of events proven to be SO WRONG. And it’s worth revisiting the sheer, naked audacity of it all – in particular, the most offensive line in there:

    “This is not to excuse what happened.”

    Well **** me sideways. The very purpose of this calculated, extensive, carefully trotted out, yet wayward drivel …. IS …. to excuse what happened – and to absolve herself, her fellow members AND minimise the sins of the perpetrators themselves, whose abuses were waved through without question for nine years or longer because members had very little control, due to everybody involved’s undeclared friendships, complicity or woeful collective incompetence.

    SHAME ON THEM ALL (again).

    • I was at that November 2009 meeting of Wirral Council, but it’s so long ago now memory of the meeting is but a distant memory.

      However, the minutes show I was there.

      Seems I was a bit of a rebel then asking a question about the Merseyside Pension Fund that Wirral Council manages, following by Leonora asking a question about road safety.

      However back to the topic of Cllr Roberts’ speech. I’ll just pick out one sentence, "There is absolutely no reason to commission yet another investigation into areas that have already been exhaustively covered by the Council. " and comment on it.

      If the previous reports (of which there are many) had led to things changing for the better then yes there would’ve been absolutely no reason to commission yet another investigation.

      However either:

      a) the reports weren’t read, or
      b) if the reports were read they weren’t properly understood or
      c) the people in charge (whether councillors or senior managers) didn’t know how to respond to the reports

      So under those circumstances, commissioning another report would’ve been frankly useless yes, as it just becomes an excuse for not doing anything.

      What was needed really was a set of recommendations and an action plan to address the matters identified in the report rather than the set of half measures that happened instead.

  3. d) the reports were ignored by crooked councillors / abusive senior managers who feared being found out and their expenses / salaries / careers being adversely affected, hence the flight from justice and marathon shredding sessions at DASS as the heat rose.

    …you’re getting too mellow as the years go by, John.

    • G’day John and Paul

      …you’re getting too mellow as the years go by, John.

      Paul Paul Paul

      I totally agree with your description of the scum bags at wirral with a tiny w but not about “Tarrantino”

      …you’re getting too mellow as the years go by, John.

      “Mellow Braceow”

      I’m just mad about sir git
      An-sir git’s mad about me
      I’m-a just mad about sir git
      She’s just mad about me

      They call me mellow Braceow (Quite rightly)
      They call me mellow Braceow (Quite rightly)
      They call me mellow Braceow

      Not too mellow Paul, he’s a lege

      • Surely you mean liege James?

        There is a grain of truth to what Paul writes about me.

        Full marks for trying to find a word that rhymes with mellow!

    • There are different meanings of the word mellow.

      However, it’s probably because I am replying to your comments on a Saturday rather than during the week. That and the agreeable weather, good company etc.

      • No John

        I mean lege as in ‘LEGEND’.

        What would the scum bags like Jones, Jones, Davies, Foulkes, Davies, Adderley and Garry do and get Basnett to do if you weren’t here?

        Sunny Saturday, no work, no family, no money and my daughter is having a baby in Oz next Friday.

        Things could be worse John I might have to live in wirral with a tiny w and dodgy, dodgy clowncillors for another forty years.

        Ooroo

        James

        May they all at wirral get what they deserve I obviously have.

        Not looking for pity John enjoy the sunshine you lege.

  4. G’day John

    “Phil the Very Very Deluded Dill” and Fartin Lobsterpot must have been to Spain courtesy of The Chamber Pot along with AdderleyDadderleyDoolally and his I won’t say anything if you tell me not to Kev even if it is criminal “Chamber Potty” Basnett.

    The reason is John I think they were left in the sun far too long because todays rubbish local propaganda sheet is full of twaddle about footgolf taking over the wirral and the rubbish paper over Kev and Stella’s Stinking Stagnant Wirral Waters is full of Stella moving down the river.

    There was even a picture of real men in football shirts but couldn’t see the stinking ashtray that is AdderleyDadderleyDooLally, probably behind a cloud of smoke.

    Do they really believe their shit John?

    Ooroo

    James

    No wonder they don’t think it is our money they are wasting.

    • Ahh yes footgolf as opposed to Wirral Council’s speciality game “put your foot in your mouth”?

      What you’ve got to understand is that the EU referendum gives local government a chance to cry "purdah" and essentially get 2 1/2 to 3 months this year when no major decisions are made.

      Once the EU Referendum is over in late June the reason for not making decisions is that people will be going on holiday (or it’s too close to the holidays), so it’ll have to wait till September.

      Everything’s gone quiet over Wirral Waters (or what’s going to happen there now). If you’re referring to Bromborough that’s more Wirral Waters Plan B.

      However wasn’t the point of having an international trade centre at the Birkenhead/Wallasey docks so goods could come from abroad by ship?

      The alternative location just encourages more lorries on the road (if it goes ahead)!

      Peel thought the banks would lend them the money for the Wirral Water project, with the Chinese coming up with 50%?

      However then the Chinese economy got the jitters and well everything went pear shaped for the project pretty quickly (despite at least a six-figure sum of Wirral Council’s money being handed over to Peel around the time of the planning application but possibly more than that by now).

      So Peel got all the free publicity, didn’t have to pay much at all for it themselves (the taxpayer did). Yet when it came to the crunch, didn’t seem to have a plan B!

      So all there is so far is a college to teach people how to build the rest of Wirral Waters (bricklaying skills etc) built with taxpayer’s money and a call centre? The call centre (considering the political connections of Asif Hamad) was possibly financed with taxpayer money in part.

      Talk about a disappointing end to the saga of the game of, let’s do what we like with taxpayers’ money eh?

  5. They’re all out of control. Every single one of them. A law unto themselves without any fear of facing the consequences of their actions.
    T’other night I was laid in bed minding me own bloody business when all of a sudden thirty six WBC Directors and senior Officers came hurtling out of my attic and began emptying my recycled rubbish all over me bed.
    That’s what you call supreme indifference to the statutes and laws of our land. Cognisant that thirty six of them had hidden in my loft space with the single intention of leaving me wondering how did they get in, makes you wonder just how far they’ll go to shut us down.
    Oh I know what some will say. ‘They didn’t beat you up or violate you in some highly charged erotic orgy of an attack, what are you moaning about’. The point is when your laid in bed minding your own bloody business you don’t expect thirty six of them to come tumbling out of the attic and covering you with all manner of rubbish. That’s the point and I’ll be damned if I just sit back and take it.
    Next time, any man, or woman, both sexes are equally capable of secreting themselves in an attic, they’ll witness me going to the Police and this time I won’t be put off when they show me the door saying, ‘we don’t believe you. Now piss off’.
    That’s the trouble nowadays. You can’t even get the Constable to listen to your complaints let alone the Council. If they can do this to me then they’re a short hop away from kidnapping. That’s right kidnap!
    Don’t come moaning to me if over a period of time Hobro, Griffiths and Morton start disappearing because like me they were laid in bed minding their own bloody business and the Council dragged them away to get tied and bound to a Town Hall radiator.
    Course, when I mentioned the possibility or even the extreme likelihood that the Council might kidnap me she said, ‘I won’t negotiate with criminals. They may as well kill you. I’ll never negotiate’. I told her, ‘for fucks sake. At least find out what they want. How much it’ll cost to win my liberty’. The rotten old bag then said something that caused me considerable alarm. She said, ‘well I’ll want proof of life. I’ll tell them to send me a leg’. I told her, if she’s fixed and insistent upon this kind of reckless approach with the Council then at least, at the very least leave me legs and arms till last and ask for me fingers and toes to be hacked off and posted first.
    She’s pretty much right. They may as well kill me there and then because by the time she’s finished negotiating convincing herself that I’m still breathing, they’ll have hacked off most of me bloody limbs in what would be a terrible and dreadful bloodbath and all carried out by the Council who many years ago lost their way and felt threatened by those who asked why.

    • Surely a photo of you reading today’s newspaper would be enough?

      I understand your point.

      However it is possible to have individual accountability and organisational accountability.

      The problem is for that you need evidence and a whistleblower.

      Our courts system only deals with things after the fact. You’ll find most councils and police forces are engaged in so much “partnership working” that the political aim of not upsetting a “partner” compromises the impartiality and independence of both to the partnership.

      There have been cases elsewhere in the country when say a police force has been asked to investigate a council’s Chief Executive. In one of those matters the case got passed to another police force because of the perception of a conflict of interest.

      So yes, everything is supposed to work on paper, but in practice the reality of the situation is far, far different.

  6. Surely a photo of you reading today’s newspaper would be enough?

    I understand your point.

    However it is possible to have individual accountability and organisational accountability.

    The problem is for that you need evidence and a whistleblower.

    Our courts system only deals with things after the fact. You’ll find most councils and police forces are engaged in so much "partnership working" that the political aim of not upsetting a "partner" compromises the impartiality and independence of both to the partnership.

    There have been cases elsewhere in the country when say a police force has been asked to investigate a council’s Chief Executive. In one of those matters the case got passed to another police force because of the perception of a conflict of interest.

    So yes, everything is supposed to work on paper, but in practice the reality of the situation is far, far different.


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