12 Questions for the Wirral Council/LGA Improvement Board
The Wirral Council/Local Government Association Improvement Board is asking for questions to its meeting on Friday. Here are a few unanswered questions.
Q1. The final report of Anna Klonowski Associates Limited was published as part of the Cabinet agenda of the 12th January 2012. Wirral Council also received from Anna Klonowski Associates sixteen appendices (listed below), which apart from appendix G (Standards for England Decision notices) have not been published. Whereas there are strong reasons not to publish appendix L (Medical Information Relating to Martin Morton provided in confidence), if Wirral Council is now “open and transparent” when will the other fourteen appendices be published?
A Appendices as Referred to in the Report
B Equality & Human Rights Commission Letter Dated 29 December 2010
C First Improvement Plan
D Care Quality Commission Inspection Report
E Charging Policy for Supported Living Services
F Documents Relating to 27 Balls Road
G Standards for England Decision Notices
H Documents Relating to Reimbursement Claims
I Emails Relating to Supported Living Contracts
J Documents Relating to Service Provider 2
K Documents Relating to Service Provider 3
L Medical Information Relating to Martin Morton (MEDICAL IN CONFIDENCE)
M Documents Relating to Service Provider 4
N Minutes of Adult Protection Strategy Meetings Relating to Service Provider 4
O Documents Relating to the Safeguarding Adults Unit
P Minutes of the DASS Monitoring & Development Sub Group Meeting Held on 11 December 2008
Q Employment Dates for WMBC Employees
Q2. On the 14th April 2011 Cabinet resolved with regards to the Martin Smith report decided that “at the conclusion of all the necessary internal processes Mr Smith’s report be made public”. On the 12th January 2012 Martin Smith’s report was published, however all the names (presumably of Wirral Council officers and councillors) contained within the reported were redacted before publication. Is publishing the redacted (rather than full) report complying with the spirit of the earlier Cabinet decision? Will Wirral Council to publish an unredacted version of the Martin Smith report?
Q3. Martin Smith’s remit was to “seek to establish whether Martin Morton was subject to any bullying or other inappropriate behaviour by any officer or Elected Member, or by the Council as an organisation, and to present a report on my findings”. Presumably considering his remit some of the blacked out names in his report would be the names of councillors. As councillors are accountable to the people of Wirral, how can the people of Wirral hold their elected representatives to account unless the Martin Smith report is published including the names of councillors in it?
Q4. Bearing in mind questions one to three, does the Improvement Board understand that because of the obfuscation referred to, that the Wirral public will find it hard to believe that Wirral Council has changed when there are so many unanswered questions surrounding these events due to the lack of transparency and accountability?
Q5. The Standards Committee of Monday 4th July 2011 discussed an administrative error that had occurred in dealing with the standards complaint made by Martin Morton made regarding Cllrs Roberts, McLaughlin, Pat Williams and Bridson. He had initially made a complaint about Cllrs Roberts, McLaughlin and Pat Williams, but had replaced this with a more detailed complaint involving Cllrs Roberts, McLaughlin, Pat Williams and Bridson. This second complaint mysteriously vanished from Wirral Council’s files. A public apology was made at the time by the Monitoring Officer to Martin Morton and the councillors who were the subject of the complaint. Did any Wirral councillors have access to the revised complaint prior to its disappearance from Wirral Council’s files if so who were they?
Q6. A separate and unrelated complaint about one of the four councillors referred to in question five (ref SfE 2010/02) was decided on the 20th December 2010. However the covering report sent to the panel which decided was incorrectly titled “Report of the Monitoring Officer – Case Reference 2010/03” . This report to the panel also omitted that the original complaint referred to an alleged breach of 6(a) of the Code of Conduct. As an apology was given for an administrative error to the complainant referred to in question 5, will an apology for this administrative error be given to the complainants of complaint reference SfE 2010/02 and the subject of the complaint?
Q7. In the review report it states “it is proposed to strengthen the independent nature of the Audit and Risk Management Committee through the appointment of a majority of external members”. How many independent members of the Audit and Risk Management Committee will be appointed, who will they be appointed by and will the Audit and Risk Management Committee be chaired in future by one of these independent members?
Q8. The Strategic Director for Regeneration and the Environment Kevin Adderley has been mysteriously absent of late from recent public meetings at Wirral Council. Can a reason be given for this to quash (or confirm) the rumours circulating as to the reasons why?
Q9. Although Wirral Council is meeting its target of responding to 85% of Freedom of Information Act requests within twenty days during the Information Commissioner Office’s monitoring period, a greater proportion of Freedom of Information Act requests have been turned down. If memory serves me correctly, this has been achieved by dedicating greater human resources to responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. This raises the questions, are these resources temporary and only for the Information Commissioner Office’s monitoring period (and if so how will the current performance be maintained once these resources are withdrawn) and how does refusing a greater proportion of Freedom of Information Act requests tally with the administration’s stated desire to be more “open and transparent”?
Q10. The reports into whistleblowing allegations raised about Wirral Council’s BIG (business investment grants) and ISUS (Intensive Startup Support) have both not been published in full despite being received by Wirral Council in the Spring of this year. The Executive Summary to the Grant Thornton report into the BIG scheme was published by Wirral Council on the 15th July (the companies referred to in the Executive Summary were anonymised). If the Executive Summary to the ISUS report follows the same format as the BIG report and has also been anonymised, why has this not been published also?
Q11. The recommendation at the end of the review into the Improvement Board’s work recommends a review by the end of the year, ending the work of the Improvement Board and the Council following the next steps recommendations in the report. Does the Improvement Board think that the Corporate Governance Committee should be reconstituted to ensure sufficient oversight by councillors of the work identified in the “Next Steps” section?
Q12. a) Are the LGA members of the Improvement Board financially renumerated for their work on the Improvement Board?
b) Is Wirral Council invoiced by the LGA for the Improvement Board’s work?
c) If the answer to (a) or (b) is yes, could amounts be given (whether exact or approximate) of the total cost to Wirral Council over the lifespan of the Improvement Board?
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