Standards Committee 29/9/2011 Part 8

Cllr Pat Williams said she was interested if Bill Norman had talked to the Chief Executive and that [the staffing issue] was really an Employment and Appointments issue, if there were ongoing pressures they should be made aware.

Cllr Dave Mitchell said there would be a saving to the authority, if the correct legal services were there in the first place.

Cllr Chris Blakeley said he would move 1 to 5 and add A, B and C. He would take out the three bullet points. He wanted to “set on record” that he wanted “radical change”.

Ken Harrison (Vice-Chair) said there were five outstanding complaints, from 2009 and the last from this year to fit in.

Cllr Chris Blakeley said how would they sit in the framework?

Ken Harrison (Vice-Chair) said some were over two years old and in urgent need of attention.

Cllr Bob Wilkins asked if he had deleted things after 5?

Cllr Chris Blakeley said he was adding 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 followed by A, B and C.

The Chair, Brian Cummings mentioned the Head of Law.

Cllr Chris Blakeley referred to A, B and C from the recommendation.

The Chair said this had started as an asset management problem, there had been extenuating circumstances and he had been put in charge which meant that something gives. He though the protocol was fine.

Cllr Chris Blakeley referred to 1 to 5 and the protocol asking about D?

Cllr John Salter mentioned 1 to 5 and A, B and C plus D to monitor over twelve months.

Surjit Tour said there would be an update to future meetings on monitoring progress.

Cllr Chris Blakeley referred to 1 to 5, followed by A, B and C from the original recommendation.

It was agreed.

Standards Committee 29/9/2011 Part 7

Cllr Dave Mitchell said at the original meeting it had been deferred because of the Localism Bill. He accepted the recommendations and would monitor it closely. He could see the reason behind the question about where it would go to if it was out of Bill [Norman]’s hands. He said legal could take 2 1/2 hours to explain why.

Stella Elliott asked about timescales compared to those used by the Local Government Ombudsman report into complaints investigation.

Surjit Tour said they were investigated within 12 weeks. Standards for England investigated within six months. The reasons for slippage were justifiable. There was a clear timetable, however if it was not possible to adhere to they would state why there had been slippage.

Cllr Bob Wilkins said a benchmark and summary would be helpful regarding judgement in the future. However they should adopt the protocol and timescales which would improve the results.

Cllr Chris Blakeley said he accepted the protocol, but how would existing complaints be dealt with? Others had just drifted along.

Surjit Tour said some cases would be assimilated into the framework, the timetable would ensure they were dealt with promptly.

Cllr Les Rowlands said he agreed with the comments and accepted the protocol as a step forward. However he had worries about the excuses of falling behind due to lack of staff. He saw the protocol as the way forward, but how would they step up?

Surjit Tour said they were conducting a review in the Law, Human Resources and Asset Management department. Introduction of the Key Resource Indicators System (KRIS) management system should help. He was confident in the level of resources moving forward. Matters would progress in a timely fashion and the deadlines would be translated into practice.

Standards Committee 29/9/2011 Part 6

Cllr Bill Davies said it was on record the length of time spent on caution.

Cllr Chris Blakeley said the time limit over improvement was not twelve months, but this could be withdrawn if it was the will of committee. He said we want to see in action how it operates over twelve months. He said they’d been promised before, but they accept it’s wrong. He used the word “appalling”. He said if his resolution sends a message then its end is achieved.

Cllr Les Rowlands said he appreciates the comments, but he needed to know the ramifications. He said they need to send a message that it’s no longer acceptable. The legal ramifications could be discussed in Council. He said it was “continuously on the back burner”. He said it will be corrected and was a “broken system”.

Cllr John Salter said he was new on this committee and that he had not been involved in taking somebody to this committee, but will do soon as other councillors had abused the system. He said they should “give Bill a chance”. If it had been adopted in February/March then they would’ve had six months of the new system. He said what’s put before us they should accept.

Cllr Chris Blakeley said there was a reason they had not adopted the timescales.

Cllr Pat Williams said she was happy to support and agree the timescales, excluding the reference to the Chief Executive as she needed to know the legal implications.

Cllr Chris Blakeley said he was happy to consider a friendly amendment, however he wanted to send the message loud and clear that this was “no longer acceptable” and there were “no further excuses”. He was happy to give a trial period.

Standards Committee 29/9/2011 Part 5

The Chair, Brian Cummings asked committee if proper timescales and a monitoring regime would be sufficient or not?

Cllr Chris Blakeley said he didn’t believe it would. He thought Bill Norman had been given enough opportunities and it should be “taken out of his hands”.

He passed a resolution around members of the committee for consideration.

Cllr Chris Blakeley said this resolution would remove Bill Norman from standards complaints and was similar to the resolution passed at the Scrutiny Program Board meeting of the 8th September. He said the role of Monitoring Officer was down to Council to decide. If he was to be removed, it would have to be a recommendation to Council.

Bill Norman said he would leave the meeting whilst they discussed his future so his “brooding presence” didn’t affect them. He said he would be advising the Employment and Appointments Committee and wouldn’t return and hoped that nobody present would see this as a discourtesy.

Bill Norman left.

Cllr Chris Blakeley said that this means the recommendation had to be changed. However there had been three years of going nowhere.

Surjit Tour, Deputy Monitoring Officer said they don’t have all the relevant facts and issues. In his view they had to be personally informed of the legalities and ramifications.

Standards Committee 29/9/2011 Part 4

Cllr Chris Blakeley said that when Bill Norman joined Wirral Council he was aware of the resources, that he uses as an excuse. He said that Bill Norman says we should adopt the protocol, so that they can be held to account. There had been “poor performance” and “no improvement” for years.

Cllr Pat Williams asked Bill Norman if he would like to respond.

Bill Norman said he was aware of the resource deficiencies that he should report, however there was the current financial climate. It was a judgement about prioritisation, this had not received adequate prioritisation and there was no clear performance standard. If there was he would make sure it was adhered to.

Cllr Bob Wilkins asked how the new way was different to the past?

Bill Norman said what he presented in January had not been approved. There were timescales and further paragraphs. All complaints should be dealt with within 6 months, if they weren’t the chair and spokespersons would be informed of likely timescales. Other stuff would have to be dealt with less quickly, if this was prioritised to a greater degree.

Cllr Pat Williams said she shared her colleague’s views that they should’ve been told before and made aware of any problems. She said it was extremely important and serious. She said it was difficult if there was a long period between the complaint being made and being recorded accurately as we’re “not all blessed with wonderful memories”. She said “views can change after the event” and it was “very difficult to prove”. She said it was hard for the person making the allegation who had a vested interest in exaggerating. She said they all know it will improve, but it would be helpful if the spokespersons were kept aware.