Yesterday I read the thirty-nine page report of Richard Penn about Dave Green and the reasons behind his suspension.
For anyone reading it, it doesn’t make much sense without reading the background documents first, so below is a list of two of the background documents I could find online and a link to the minutes of a meeting from 2010 at which one of the reports was discussed.
Highways and engineering services contract Award and Management (Report in the Public Interest) (Audit Commission) 8/6/12
Procurement follow up of Public Interest Disclosure Act disclosure (Audit Commission) 16/9/2010 and the minutes of the Audit and Risk Management Committee of 28th September 2010 that discussed it
The rest of the documents such as the Council’s Conflict of Interest Policy and Conflict of Interest Policy Procedure don’t seem to be on Wirral Council’s website although I did find the Equality Impact Assessment for the Conflict of Interest Policy which refers to the M15 Conflict of Interest Declaration Form and the annual Key Issues Exchange.
The Equality Impact Assessment from the 8th February 2008 states “following Audit advice employees are continually reminded of their obligations to declare any conflict of interest” which raises the point as to whether this was actually happening in practice.
When Dave Green realised there was a conflict of interest on 20th October 2008 if as an employee he was being “continually reminded of his obligations”, he would have stated this conflict of interest using the M15 form, rather than as stated in the report he “immediately sought advice from Simon Goacher regarding the potential for conflicts of interests” (which delayed the M15 form being submitted for three weeks which meant it was after the whistleblowers made their allegations about him).
Moving to the part of the report that states “Dave Green also commented on what he described as the inaccurate reporting of facts in the local press. The Council has done nothing to correct the incorrect reporting largely generated by the Council publishing and considering the wrong report at the July Council meeting.” and “Dave Green considered that it was absolutely unreasonable for the Council to allow such inaccurate reporting to continue and demonstrated a poor ‘duty of care’ to him as one of its employee.”
Certainly there was something in the Council’s press release in response to the Audit Commission report entitled “Council response to District Auditor’s report” dated 8th June 2012 that someone took exception to it as it’s been removed from Wirral Council’s website and was the press release that this Wirral Globe story was based on.
The part of the Council meeting referring to Dave Green’s suspension was unusually held in private without the press and public present see here, although the public interest report was discussed in public, it seems the Audit Commission report on Wirral Council’s website was replaced with a different version a week after the meeting was held.
Dave Green continued by saying that given the scale the response of council officers was “very good indeed” after the “unfortunate accident”. There would still be a formal debrief and lessons learnt. He was happy to talk to councillors, such as the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee and/or Cabinet. On a nicer note, he said the response of the Emergency Planning Team was excellent and that things went well.
He mentioned a Sue Lang and volunteers who had fed people, they were drafting a letter of thanks to the volunteers. National Grid was paying for the food and costs. He wanted people’s views on the matter to be presented to the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee so it could be done in public in an open and transparent way. The biggest problem had been the problem of getting into people’s houses to turn off the gas as some had been away. Warrants had to be applied for to the courts which had been a “logistical nightmare”, but there were always lessons to be learnt.
Cllr Steve Foulkes asked Cllr Anne McArdle if she had anything to add?
Cllr Anne McArdle said she thanked the Managing Director and staff at the centre as well as the Department for Adult Social Services. She also said the community had rallied round.
Cllr Steve Foulkes said he wanted to endorse a thank you letter to volunteers. He said the debrief could go to Cabinet or the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. If scrutiny met first, that was fine.
Cllr Steve Foulkes said they would move to the letter about the grant. Cllr George Davies said he was very pleased, that their application for transitional funding of £3 million had been accepted. They had brough in the Chief Executive of the Homes and Community Agency, the four Wirral MPs who had sent a cross-party letter to the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP. Cllr George Davies was pleased they had received £2.7 million which would allow them to complete all work and to safely purchase the existing properties. Keepmoat and Lovell were the council’s contractors. He said it was good news and he was delighted.
Cllr Steve Foulkes thanked Cllr Tom Harney and Cllr Jeff Green for signing the letter. He said George had used his influence to get his voice heard.
Cllr Steve Foulkes then asked Dave Green for an update on the situation in Leasowe and Moreton.
Dave Green said there had been disruption to the gas supply of 5,500 properties, due to a burst water main on the 11th November in Danger Road (Ed – surely he meant Danger Lane?), Hoylake (Ed – surely he meant Moreton?). The water had got into the gas supply, causing severe disruption. National Grid had sent out eighty to a hundred gas engineers and a plan had sprung into action. As it was on such a scale a Bronze incident room had been set up as well as a Silver incident room in Manchester. Work had involved Wirral Council and the Primary Care Trust, with councillors receiving regular communication.
Dave Green continued that since 2008 different administrations had agreed to the need for Wirral Council to save money. There were pension costs to do with the contractor joining Merseyside Pension Fund, however there had been briefings and a report on this which detailed the risks and options.
The lack of a bid for in-house provision had been agreed by Bill Norman, Director of Law, Human Resources and Asset Management and Ian Coleman, Director of Finance. The Cabinet resolution called for a report to a further meeting in November detailing a three to five-year business plan. The Cabinet decision had not been executed, although the minutes had been published as the other political parties had called it in. The position was that on the 22nd September a decision had been made, but Cllr Green had submitted a call-in last night (5th October) so it couldn’t be enacted.
Mr. Green said there were time critical issues to do with mobilising the cheapest and best contractor or restructuring the service. However it was “in the hands of the politicians”. He thought it was a good tender at a cheap price. He had sought advice from the District Auditor about the inflation risks. Mr. Green thought it would be November before it was resolved and until then it was in limbo. He said “he never thought politics would impact on grass cutting”.
Cllr Jeff Green said he was interested in people’s questions.
Martin Harrison said he had been on the Parks Steering Group and was the Secretary of the Wirral Parks Forum (which is the forum of the Friends Groups).
Dave Green, Director of Technical Services continued by saying that they had received specialist help in going to tender and there had been a massive consultation with undertakers, bowlers, Friends groups and others. He said the undertakers had been the most fun. They had tried to address things and wanted a three-way partnership between the contractor, the Friends groups/users and Wirral Council (who would provide the cash and infrastructure). There were Key Performance Indicators and partnership targets that the Friends groups and users would develop and the contractor would deliver. There was a £100,000 bonus of the contractor met all the Key Performance Indicators.
Mr. Green said it would introduce imagination and innovation. The Early Voluntary Redundancies had reduced the size of the contract down to £7.4 million. However he said there was flexibility and accountability. Due to the size of the contract, European procurement rules applied. An invitation to tender had gone to seven contractors and was scored on a 70% price & 30% quality basis and it had been agreed how quality would be measured.
Six of the seven contractors had beaten the £7.4 million by a “fair figure”. The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations would affect about a hundred and fifty people working for Wirral Council. Tenders had gone out in mid-July using CHEST (the North West’s Local Authority Procurement Portal), which had led to the report to Cabinet on the 22nd September. The previous [Conservative/Lib Dem] administration had changed in May. The new [Labour] administration wanted to fully evaluate an in-house bid and how it could be delivered in-house.
On the 22nd September the Cabinet took the decision not to award the contract. The main reasons were to do with demonstrating value for money to the District Auditor, the governance report, Wirral Council’s ability to manage and dismiss contractors and concerns about inflation.
A member of the public asked when the road works were starting. Peter Cummings of United Utilities responded by saying on the 17th October.
Deputy Mayor Cllr Gerry Ellis said the United Utilities road works had been delayed due to the disruption to rail services between West Kirby and Birkenhead North this week. He moved on to Dave Green, who he described as a “very busy man”. Deputy Mayor Cllr Ellis said he knew there were some questions [for Dave Green].
David Green said that the [West Wirral] Area Forum was “my favourite Area Forum” as it is the “best attended and lively”. Starting with PACSPE, he said it was long and complicated as politics had been injected into the parks. The important thing which he was happy to talk about at the end, was on the 22nd September a public report had gone to Cabinet. This report was on the council’s website and had started with a 2008 review of the £11 million of services provided in this area. There had been engagement, but [Wirral Council] didn’t know what was being delivered for the money. In 2008 the work for the review covered cemeteries, golf courses, infrastructure and buildings. There had been enthusiasm injected over the past year. In total the £11 million of services had been reduced by £4 million. In July 2010 the contract had been exposed to the markets with no in-house bid. The cost effectiveness had been reviewed and in July 2011 the scope had been agreed which covered £8.1 million out of the original £11 million. The crematorium and golf courses had been excluded.
Dave Green introduced item 11 Street Lighting Central Management System Trial. He said it was the outcome of a small pilot in New Brighton which had been well received and had led to a reduction in energy consumption. He would come back as to whether it was viable to roll it out to the rest of the streetlights under invest to save. There had been no adverse publicity.
Cllr Harry Smith referred to 13.1 of the report and the consideration made for disadvantaged groups on health and safety ground. Cllr Phil Davies said the report was accepted.
Ian Coleman introduced the next report on Outcome Based Commissioning. He said it was an update on progress as requested on the 22nd june. It was under review and there would be a further report. Cllr Adrian Jones said he was “quite happy”. Cllr Anne McArdle said that she welcomed it and asked specifically about discussions with the Department of Adult Social Services. Ian Coleman said that all departments were involved. Cllr Adrian Jones had a small comment about the range of risks identified in item 5. He said it was a “good report” and “nicely presented”. Cllr Phil Davies commented on the similarities between outcome based commissioning and Neighbourhood Plans.
Cllr Davies continued by asking why the PACSPE (project 24) was only realising £200,000/year of savings?
Mr. Green said that was very unfair. Cllr Davies said the EVR had happened with the privatisation. Ian Coleman said there had been a reduction in the saving being of the EVR. Also certain areas had been taken out of the project’s scope reducing the saving.
Cllr Davies asked if the numbers relate to the outsourcing only? Mr. Green said they were making the savings now. Cllr Davies said what about the services not affected by outsourcing?
Cllr Gilchrist said that they welcome the progress report. He said the confidence in the office in delivering the projects is to be noted. He thanked the Cabinet Member for his attendance. Cllr Green said in a humourous way “God bless you, guv’nor” followed by saying he had a choice of attending either this or his daughter’s birthday.
The Council Excellence committee then went on to consider a report on performance management by the Interim Head of Corporate Planning, Engagement and Communications. Cllr Gilchrist said (in reference to Eric Pickles) that he was shocked when the saw the detail of which targets had been removed on the Department for Communities and Local Government website.
Dave Green replied that he did have a list of assets that were subject to Cabinet agreeing on their disposal. He could supply the list. Cllr Gilchrist requested that he email it to all members. Cllr Keeley mentioned the community centres. Cllr Davies mentioned Westminster House and asked about in Appendix B what the difference between projects one and 44 was? Ian Coleman answered that one referred to savings on all contracts whereas the contract review was reviewing the fifty largest contracts.
Cllr Davies asked for the list of 50 largest contracts. Ian Coleman agreed to send it to him.
Cllr Davies said about street lighting (project 25) that he understood about the dimming, but often the request was for lighting in streets to be brighter and that it had community safety implications.
Mr. Green said it was a modest saving with a pilot of 216 lights in New Brighton. The results would be known about March/april and would form part of a report to Cabinet on the pilot. There was the possibility under invest to save to roll it out across the authority. It would depend on the wattage before it was started though. In the pilot areas some had been turned up as well as dimmed. Cllr Davies said they had to balance energy savings with community safety.
Mr. Green continued by saying there was a mechanism for collecting ideas and passing on the information to a Project Manager to expand the program. He said they were happy to “pinch anybody’s ideas”. He said they would also look at what other local authorities were doing.
Cllr Brighouse thanked Mr. Green for his reply and said he felt they didn’t need consultants. With all the innovation and ideas he felt it was pointless to employ consultants.
Cllr Green said this was very true and that he had an anathema to consultants. However, where there isn’t the capacity or the pace he was not completely averse to them. They could deploy skilled people. One area of challenge was the top fifty contracts. He mentioned capacity as being a limiting factor. Mr. Green said that they really have an extra cautious approach. Cllr Green said originally it had just been the top 25 contracts, now since he intervened it was the top fifty. If a saving couldn’t be found here he would find it somewhat strange. He then went on to talk about administration processes, internal communication, petty cash and paper time sheets.
Cllr Davies referred to the appendices, specifically item 19 (Disposal of Assets). He asked what it referred to?