Jim Wilkie, Chief Executive said he would make some very brief comments and did about the Anna Klonowski report and the other summaries attached.
Cllr Steve Foulkes said it was a “damning report”. He hoped the members of the public could understand why there had been an elongation of the Right to Reply to allow the process to take place. He believed the way matters had been dealt with had clearly not been appropriate. He thanked the former Leader, Cllr Jeff Green.
Cllr Foulkes said it was fully costed and they would continue to engage [AKA Ltd] for the foreseeable period. He saw it continuing going forward to the next available Cabinet meeting. He felt it need to be discussed in full and with other whistleblowing issues.
The Highways and Engineering Services Procurement Exercise report was discussed by Cllr Foulkes in detail. He said the main accusations were people being overcharged and compensation as well as other forms of abuse. Cllr Foulkes said they had been investigated and reported to the police.
Cllr Foulkes mentioned detailed work on the Action Plan and how to “move forward”. He said the view to the outside world was one of reputational damage to Wirral Council. They were engaging an external body to help and advise which would hopefully counter the insular culture.
He referred to a Corporate Governance Committee briefing and the “Improvement Board” which would include North West Employers to hold them [Wirral Council] to account. The Chief Executive and Bill Norman would keep an overview on how they dealt with the Action Plan. He mentioned hope and prayer and picking up comments by employees.
There was outrage and outrage by individuals and harm to individuals. He gave a public apology to Martin Morton which was a “genuine case” that Wirral Council had “not dealt with appropriately”. The Audit and Risk Management Committee had had a time of reflection, but should now move forward with a final resolution.
Graham Hodkinson was now Director of Adult Social Services and he welcomed him to his new post. He then read out the following resolution verbatim that was also handed out to those present. He said an apology to Martin Morton had been added. He wanted discussions to continue with Martin Morton to ensure an “amicable outcome” and a job with the authority. However they had to tie the loose ends up and it was not for Cllr Foulkes or the Cabinet to speak on behalf of Martin Morton.
He said it was the final outcome and that it helps the audience. He said it was a “difficult report to read”. He had tried to give encouragement to people working in the Department for Adult Social Services, but that it can’t go without thorough investigation.
Cllr Phil Davies formally seconded the resolution. It was agreed by the Cabinet. The resolution is below.
On a Motion moved by Councillor S Foulkes and seconded by Councillor P Davies it was
RESOLVED (unanimously): That
(1) the Exempt Appendices 2 and 4 be brought into the public domain;
(2) the previous Council Leader, Councillor J Green be thanked for engaging AKA to investigate the claims of Mr Martin Morton (and others);
(3) the Council apologises to Mr Martin Morton and discussions will continue with him in the hope that an amicable outcome is reached; and
(4) this Cabinet recognises the serious failings contained within this report and the harm done to vulnerable adults as a consequence of those failings.
It accepts unreservedly the recommendations made in the report and asks the Chief Executive to draw up an Action Plan demonstrating how those recommendations will be implemented, which should be reported back to the next Cabinet, and referred from there to a Special Council for full debate.
Cabinet welcomes the fact that the Chief Executive has already asked:
§ The Director of Adult Social Services, supported by the Head of Safeguarding, to urgently review the Final report for any further safeguarding issues that need to be addressed
§ The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management, supported by the Head of Human Resources and Organisational Development, to urgently review the Final Report to ensure all appropriate action is taken,
§ The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management, in consultation with the Director of Adult Social Services and the Head of Safeguarding, to urgently review the Final Report to consider whether any historic safeguarding failures should be referred to the Police, (or any relevant regulatory body) for investigation.
It further notes the actions already under way listed in paragraphs 3.8 to 3.10 which include:
§ A series of measures to strengthen the Council’s safeguarding of vulnerable adults
§ An ongoing review into the Council’s whistle blowing and harassment and bullying policies and
§ A wider review of the Council’s Corporate Governance (including a review of all fees and charges)
And notes that these measures are designed to ensure that the situations contained within the report could not be repeated in the Department of Adult Social Services or elsewhere across the Council.
Cabinet is also conscious of the fact that one of the criticisms in the report is that in Wirral Council the “abnormal has become normal”.
Cabinet therefore endorses the decision of the Leader of the Council to set up an Improvement Board, under the umbrella of the LGA, with external representatives from the LGA and elsewhere, including the author of this report, Ms Anna Klonowski, to ensure that any future decisions are taken on the basis of best practice rather than accepted Wirral practice.
Cabinet further endorses the decision to refer the Action Plan to be drawn up by the Chief Executive to this Improvement board for their Scrutiny and comment.
Cabinet also refers the Final Report to the Health and Well Being Overview and Scrutiny Committee for their Scrutiny and Comments.
Cabinet believes that this Final Report should be seen in tandem with the Martin Smith report into allegations of bullying and harassment and therefore believes it would be in the public interest to publish this report, and refer it to the Special Council called to discuss the Final Anna Klonowski’s report, along with a separate report on HESPE which also arose from the actions of Whistleblowers and the Council’s response to those Whistleblowers.
Cabinet thanks Ms Klonowski for the detailed work that has gone into this Final Report and expresses its hope and belief that these findings can be used as a catalyst for major improvement and change.
It further hopes that this will allow the Council to move forward from this point to the provision of radically improved services and a much more open and transparent culture which welcomes and learns from criticism and responds rapidly to complaints or concerns at the earliest possible stage, preventing a situation like this from ever arising again.