Following the Court Order of 18th April 2012 and a Lib Dem smear: My response

Following the Birkenhead County Court order of 18th April 2012 naming Cllr Alan Brighouse on behalf of the Birkenhead Liberal Democrats granted by Deputy District Judge Ireland following the court hearing of the 4th April 2012, the Lib Dems have finally coughed up the original complaint (not shared with me until now 12 months later, despite their constitution stating 10 weeks) made about me by Simon Holbrook in May 2011 (after he lost his seat). I’ve sought advice and am making parts of it public (as there’s a public interest to at least parts of it being made public), along with my version of events (which seems far closer to reality than his complaint, my comments are in italics). Here’s section 1:-

“1. Smearing of Sitting Councillors

In an email to Cllr Gilchrist dated 19 May 2011 at 09:59, John Brace did link the Standards investigation into Cllr Williams’ and Cllr Bridson’s part in the “special charging policy” with that of the recent investigation into the way in which Martin Morton was treated, despite the fact these are two separate matters.

Cllr Williams and Cllr Bridson are not and were not under investigation into the alleged bullying of Martin Morton. This investigation, which was instigated by former Cllr Holbrook has now concluded and reported. It never was and never had been a matter for the Standards Board for England.”

As is detailed here it was considered twice by the Standards Board for England, as initially the complaint about Cllr Bridson hadn’t been sent to them. The complaint (or complaints as a second was submitted) were made by Martin Morton and had already been reported in the Wirral Globe under the headline Town hall blunder: Wrong paperwork sent to local government watchdog inquiry prior to Simon’s complaint about me.

One of these two councillors had been on the charging policy working group in 2005 that led to the overcharging policy, the other had been Cabinet Member for Social Care and Inclusion (which covers Social Services) during part of the period that the overcharging occurred.

The report referred to, the Martin Smith report, was reported to Cabinet on 14th April 2011, however it was not made public until the following year due to the Labour administration’s attempts to delay both its publication and the AKA report.

The relevant section of my email of 19th May to Cllr Gilchrist (and Cllrs Williams, Brighouse, Kelly, Bridson, Harney, Gilchrist, Mitchell and two other party members), is quoted below.

“Morale in the party is extremely low, the Chair and the Vice-Chair of the local party are currently (according to the Wirral Globe) under investigation on standards grounds following a decision by Wirral Council’s Independent Assessment Panel to refer the matter to Standards for England regarding their roles in the Social Services “special charging policy” and how Martin Morton was treated. This independent report (by now read by councillors but currently exempt) will be published within 2-5 months and will lead to a public discussion of their roles in this saga. Both are likely to be candidates in 2012 and the full reasons how and why they did things will have to be made clear to the public and party in the spirit of openness and accountability if we are to move on.”

Lastly Simon Holbrook refers to himself in the third person, which generally wouldn’t be the case if as claimed he was the author of the complaint. However it’s clear by the way it was written that somebody wanted me to stop asking questions by the way flat out denials were made regarding the standards complaints.

The decision notice of Standards Board for England with regards to Cllr Williams and Cllr Bridson back me up as to what the complaint was about. As it was re referred back to Standards for England following the paperwork mixup, there are earlier decision notices regarding Cllr Williams, Roberts and McLaughlin too.

Licensing Act 2003 Committee (Wirral Council) 23/5/2012 Part 1

The agenda and reports for this meeting can be found by following the link.

Cllr Harry Smith
Cllr Don McCubbin
Cllr Denise Roberts
Cllr Bill Davies (Chair)
Cllr Steve Niblock
Cllr Andrew Hodson
Cllr George Davies
Cllr Pat Williams
Other councillors

The Chair, Cllr Bill Davies asked councillors present to introduce themselves. The following councillors did, Cllr Andrew Hodson, Cllr Don McCubbin, Cllr Mike Hornby, Cllr Harry Smith, Cllr Robert Gregson, Cllr ??? (Labour), Cllr Steve Niblock, Cllr Dave Mitchell, Cllr George Davies and Cllr Pat Williams.

The officers introduced themselves as Ken Abraham, Anne Beauchamp and Margaret O’Donnell.

The Chair asked for declarations of interest. No declarations of interest were made.

The minutes of the meeting held on the 25th May 2011 were agreed.

Cllr Denise Roberts proposed, seconded by another Labour councillor that Cllr Steve Niblock be Vice-Chair. There were no other nominations so Cllr Niblock became Vice-Chair.

Apologies were given for Cllr John Salter who couldn’t make it due to a prior engagement.

The Chair asked if a half hour presentation was ok? He thanked people for the hard work at last year’s hearings, some of which had lasted over three hours. He said he was keen that the two new members of the committee take part in training, which he hoped all the committee would take part because of changes to the legislation.

Margaret O’Donnell had a Powerpoint presentation to show the Committee. She didn’t know how to start a slide show in Powerpoint, received some prompting from the Vice-Chair and somebody else assisted her and was then able to progress to the next slide. Cllr Harry Smith said that the Vice-Chair was showing off.

She went into detail about representations, changes happening as a result of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 and how representations by ward councillors had changed. She detailed what the four licensing objectives are and how representations had to be linked to one or more of these. Margaret O’Donnell also referred to the statutory guidance and Wirral Council’s licensing policy.

The Chair asked if they all had a copy? Margaret offered to put one in their pigeon holes. Cllr Williams asked if it had changed. Margaret O’Donnell answered yes. She said previously they had to review the Council’s policy every three years, now it was five, she would review it and bring a draft to the committee for consultation. Once it had been consulted on, it required the approval of the full Council, so she would start reviewing and redrafting it.

A councillor asked when? She said she was not certain as they did not meet until November and there were further legislative changes in October, plus things could change before then.

Council Annual Meeting Part 2 21/5/12 Senior Management Changes

Also agreed on Monday were the following changes because Jim Wilkie (Chief Executive) is still ill and absent from work.

Ian Coleman is Deputy Chief Executive/Acting Chief Executive in Jim’s absence/Director of Finance.
David Taylor-Smith is Acting Chief Finance Officer while Ian Coleman is Acting Chief Executive.
Tom Sault is Acting Deputy Chief Finance Officer while Ian Coleman is Acting Chief Executive.

The committee places and outside body places have been carved up between the three parties in the proportion of seats they hold. The representation on many outside bodies, which mean councillors from Wirral Council receive greater allowances (Merseytravel, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority and Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority) now are just made up of Labour and Conservative councillors.

Council Annual Meeting Part 2 21/5/12

In a meeting lasting just under an hour, Cllr Phil Davies (Labour) was elected as the new Leader of Wirral Council.

He announced the following Cabinet portfolios:

Finance Cllr Phil Davies (Labour)
Improvement and Governance/ Deputy Leader Cllr Ann McLachlan (Labour)
Adult Social Care & Public Health Cllr Anne McArdle (Labour)
Housing and Community Safety Cllr George Davies (Labour)
Children’s Services and Lifelong Learning Cllr Tony Smith (Labour)
Corporate Resources Cllr Adrian Jones (Labour)
Environment Cllr Brian Kenny (Labour)
Culture, Tourism & Leisure Cllr Chris Meaden (Labour)
Regeneration & Planning Strategy Cllr Pat Hackett (Labour)
Streetscene and Transport Services Cllr Harry Smith (Labour)

There won’t be a Community and Customer Engagement Cabinet position.

The committee places and representation on outside bodies was also agreed. I’ll blog about the details day after tomorrow.

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Queen visits Merseyside Maritime Museum 17/5/12

Queen visits Merseyside as part of Diamond Jubilee Tour 17/5/12

Queen and DoE at Merseyside Maritime Museum 17/5/12 Diamond Jubilee Tour

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