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Posted by: John Brace | 6th February 2017

Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 1)

Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 1)

                                

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016

This is a report of an Employment Tribunal hearing I attended, the matter had already been part heard and this was day 6 of 10. As far as I know there are no reporting restrictions. Brief details are below followed by the first part of a report based on my notes.

Venue: Tribunal Room 2, Third Floor, Liverpool Civil and Family Court Hearing Centre, 35 Vernon Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 2BX

Case reference: 2400718/16

Appellant: Mrs A. Mountney

Respondent: Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Employment Judge: Judge Robinson

Tribunal Members:
Mr AG Barker
Mrs JE Williams

Clerk: Lynne Quilty

Date: 6.2.2017

Time: 10.00 am


The following is a contemporaneous account of day 6.

EJ Robinson told people present in Tribunal Room 2 to sit down and apologised for the wait. He said that they would carry on with Mr. Mountney (the lay representative for Alison Mountney).

The order of witnesses would be Surjit Tour, Kate Robinson, Joe Blott and Mr. Williams.

EJ Robinson said good morning to Mr. Tour and said that he could say the oath on a bible of his choice. He then asked Mr Tour to read from the yellow card.

Mr Tour read the oath which starts, “I swear by Almighty God that the evidence I will give..”.

EJ Robinson asked him to sit down. He said that he intended to break at 10.45 am, but if Mr Tour needed a break he must tell him. Mr Moore (representing Wirral Council) would introduce the cross-examination.

Mr Moore asked Mr Tour to find the witness statement. He asked Mr Tour his name to which he answered, “Surjit Tour”. He then asked if it was his business address in the witness statement. It was.

The representative for Wirral Council Mr Moore asked Mr Tour if he had read Mr Tour’s witness statement. Mr Tour answered yes.

Mr Moore asked if Mr Tour wanted to make any amendments to his witness statement.

Mr Tour wanted to make some clarifications. The first was in paragraph 101 on page 20. Referring to a reference here it would be “rolled out in phases”, Electoral Services had been passed until the elections in May 2015.

In paragraph 17, the references to public interest reports, there was just one which was about the highways procurement exercise, the other reference was a reference to a call-in of a different decision regarding services.

EJ Robinson said OK and asked if there were other amendments?

Mr Tour answered that a handwritten letter had been provided to him in October, he remembered the date in reference to paragraph 55, to avoid confusion he didn’t remember receiving it.

EJ Robinson said (to Mr Mountney) that although the letter was not discussed he could ask Mr Tour about it to which Mr Mountney replied OK.

Mr Mountney thanked EJ Robinson and said good morning. Starting at the beginning of Mr Tour’s witness statement he referred to Mr Tour starting at Wirral Council in 2009. He asked Mr Tour if Wirral Council was in turmoil at that time?

Mr Tour said that the detail [of the turmoil] had not become apparent until later. Continuing, he said that Cllr Green had commissioned Anna Klonowski to look into whistleblowing concerns of Martin Morton and that the issues that arose needed to be reviewed.

Mr Mountney referred to page 227 and a Cabinet report in November 2013 that summarised the issues. There had been a need to established effective governance. Wirral Council had many whistleblowers and it was clear to those present at that time that there were issues in the way Wirral Council treated whistleblowers with disdain.

Mr Tour said that although there were issues, that Wirral Council was addressing them which was made clear arising from the Anna Klonowski Associates Ltd review relating to Mr Morton.

There had been a Cabinet report in September 2011, which was a supplementary report which set out the issues of governance in the organisation. Wirral Council had worked to address the governance issues and the failings.

Mr Mountney referred to page 281 and asked a question to which Mr Tour answered yes.

Mr Mountney referred to 2.8 and 2.9, the Anna Klonowski Associates report and the culture at Wirral Council about whistleblowing. The culture was one were there was fear of reprisals (against whistleblowers). He asked a question about this. Mr Tour replied that he accepted it.

Mr Mountney said that the concerns whistleblowers had that they felt they were not listened to, treated fairly and that whistleblowers were conscious of reprisal.

Mr Tour said that in the context of the whistleblowing raised by Martin Morton it was spread out, in 2009 he was not told the large issues but it was clear in the report that Anna Klonowski prepared.

Mr Mountney said he was correct. Referring to the Public Interest Disclosure Act reports, he referred to the major issues. Mr Tour said that the public interest report into highways was to do with the procurement arrangements.

Mr Mountney asked that if someone was working for Wirral Council at that time might they be fearful of blowing the whistle or raising a grievance?

Mr Tour said that he recognised that improvements needed to be made, there was a revised whistleblowing policy and a follow-up report.

Mr Mountney asked if most employees were fearful of whistleblowing or raising a grievance?

Mr Tour said that they “would or could be concerned” but referred again to the revised whistleblowing policy and the commissioning of the Anna Klonowski Associates report.

Mr Mountney asked how long it took to resolve Martin Morton’s whistleblowing?

Mr Tour answered that it took a few years to resolve.

Mr Mountney referred to paragraph 14 in reference to the major impact on Mr Tour’s time due to day-to-day issues.

Mr Tour replied that much time was spent on the Improvement Plan and sustaining improvement.

Mr Mountney asked if it was really the case that Mr Tour had dropped one?

Mr Tour admitted it was “challenging”, as there was a “lot to address” and then commented on the “level of work”.

Mr Mountney asked a further question if whistleblowers got the time they deserved?

Mr Tour said it was clear there were conversations with Mrs Mountney and that all staff were communicated to about the improvements. There had been work undertaken. Mr Tour felt that Wirral Council dealt with the issues needed to be dealt with effectively, but there had been demands on time.

Mr Mountney referred to Mr. Tour’s witness statement and that for two to three lives it had been a priority to address the issues which were compounded by two public interest reports. One of the issues had been called in and at the time it was described as a “dysfunctional Council” and a damaging place to those who brought grievances over whistleblowing complaints.

Mr Tour said he was aware of the issues of Martin Morton and other whistleblowers. That they were linked was not something he was sure of. However he said, “it was a challenging time”.

Mr Mountney referred to another public interest disclosure and asked if it was resolved to which Mr Tour said it was still ongoing.

Mr Mountney asked when the second note was made? Mr Tour answered that the public interest report by the Audit Commission was in June 2012 and that it had been prior to this.

Mr Mountney asked if that was before it was published in June 2012. Mr Tour answered 5 years but it was not resolved, but that wasn’t through lack of trying.

Mr Mountney asked how many employees Wirral Borough Council had to which Mr Tour responded four thousand.

Mr Mountney asked if the HR department had eighty staff? Referring to paragraph 23, he asked Mr Tour to clear up a date which had been referred to also in Kate Robinson’s witness statement. He asked if it referred not to February 2012, but December 2011?

Mr Tour answered that he didn’t recall. Mr Mountney again referred to that Mr Tour had told Kate Robinson he could not recall, but this didn’t mean he hadn’t been told?

Mr Tour said that he genuinely didn’t recall. Mr Mountney asked another question to which Mr Tour answered that he didn’t recall. Mr Mountney asked if he [Mr Tour] was told or made aware of Alison Mountney’s whistleblowing? Mr Tour said that he didn’t recall, but that if it had been raised with him that he would have been addressing it. Mr Mountney referred to page 28. Someone asked if he meant paragraph 28 to which Mr Mountney replied yes.

Mr Mountney asked a question about Mr Bradfield to which Mr Tour replied with a comment about Mr Bradfield and part responsibility.

Mr Mountney referred to page 10. EJ Robinson said, “What?” to which Mr Mountney replied 6.10. He referred to the bottom appearing above the reference to poll clerk and other posts and asked if it wasn’t up to Alison Mountney, it was up to Kate Robinson?

Mr Tour referred to promotions. He said that Alison Mountney couldn’t remove where an appointment had been made.

Mr Mountney asked another question about staff to which Mr Tour answered no.

Continues at Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 1).

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Responses

  1. A very full report, but from your account of Day 6 and the reports of Days 1 and 2 on “Wirral In It together” I have not got the FOGGIEST idea of what it is all about. You feel sorry for most of those involved – including anyone who is reporting on it 🙂

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment. There are three binders (totalling thousands of pages) and hundreds of pages of witness statements.

      I may be a quick reader, but having the time to read ~3,500 pages somewhat escaped me yesterday!

      I’m bringing Leonora along today to help with that though.

      I did also mean to turn comments off.

      Yesterday, (for the first time in 6 days) probably because of my intervention, the press and public watching had access to the binders and witness statements.

      The gist of the matter is a former employee of Wirral Council (Alison Mountney) married to Simon Mountney (a former councillor) representing her as a lay representative has brought this claim against Wirral Council on a number of grounds.

      One relevant to the cross examination of Surjit Tour above is the claim that she suffered a detriment after she blew the whistle (that is made a public interest disclosure).

      Her role was first as scrutiny support officer to the Conservative councillors, then it seems she moved to Electoral Services where she blew the whistle.

      Part of yesterday’s cross-examination was trying to understand the reasons why Surjit Tour seemingly provisionally regraded her salary from a band H to a band F (which leads to a drop in salary) and why her new post was put down to be deleted (albeit with the offer of a new post at a lower salary).

      There was also discussion that there were two band H posts in Electoral Services, which if one is to go (two to one), usually means there’s a selection process for who keeps their job.

      However the answer given was that as a new band F job was created for her to go to this process wasn’t followed.

      That’s in the bit I haven’t got around to writing up yet.

      To be honest with you the Employment Judge has had to intervene so people know where they are in the case too!

  2. G’day John

    Can you help me.

    I heard so many can’t remembers yesterday I can’t remember where I am going today.

    I always wonder John what happens to people who lie in court cos someone has to be.

    Ooroo

    James

    See ya later alligator

    and as my kids used to say

    Don’t forget your toilet paper.

    • I will help you, but then I’m turning comments off!

      In answer to your point about telling the truth under oath, it’s classed as a serious matter called perjury. If you know someone did this (and can prove it) I would suggest bringing it to the attention of the court staff and or Employment Judge.

      However, as someone who has reported on many court cases and tribunals, if I had a pound for every time someone has either said something factually incorrect or misleading in court I’d be a very rich man!

      That is partly what cross examination is for though.

      My own personal opinion is that there were no outright lies told yesterday, but at times the witness answered a different question to that that was asked.

      Or perhaps I have a different recollection to yesterday’s events!


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