Standards Committee agreed to changes to Wirral Council’s constitution in narrow 5:4 vote

Standards Committee agreed to changes to Wirral Council’s constitution in narrow 5:4 vote

Standards Committee agreed to changes to Wirral Council’s constitution in narrow 5:4 vote


The transcript below is from part of Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee which met on Tuesday 26th November (item 4 Revisions to the Council’s Constitution). The vote on this item was five votes (Cllr Bill Davies, Cllr Ron Abbey, Cllr Denise Roberts and Cllr John Salter) in favour of approving the recommendations at 13.1 and 13.2 in the report and there were four votes against (Cllr Chris Blakeley, Cllr Leah Fraser, Cllr Peter Kearney). You can watch the meeting using this playlist (this item starts at 3m 38s into the meeting).

Cllr Leah Fraser said, “Excuse me Chair, before we proceed any further, I actually have spoken to Graham Burgess and apparently if there are any issues that are contentious that we’re not agreeing with to do with the changes to the constitution, then they’ll be referred for consultation. So what I’d like to move is that because there’s so much and the consultation is starting in January, which is only a month away, that we put all this into the consultation.”

Cllr Chris Blakeley replied, “Seconded Chair.”

Cllr Bill Davies (Chair) said, “OK”.

Cllr Ron Abbey said, “Chair, just on that point, as far as I am aware, these refer to arrangements by the Council to carry out its duties between now and January, which is now… you can shake your head Cllr Blakeley, I didn’t shake my head at”

Cllr Bill Davies (Chair) said, “Listen! Listen! I’m going to tell you now, this Standards Committee, I am not, I’m telling you now, right from the start, any cross chitchat out of the way. Continue Cllr Abbey now.”

Cllr Ron Abbey said, “I set out to say what I wanted to say, if it’s right or wrong I’m asking for this particular point to address this.. but I am led to believe whether it’s true or not, I’m not sure whether the Head of Law will be able to advise me whether I’m correct or not. These are interim measures which allow us to operate the Council in its proper format till January when full consultation will be taken on the constitution going forward. If I’m uncorrect then I’ll stand corrected, that’s why …response.. if I’m not then fine I’ll take … my place.”

Cllr Bill Davies (Chair) said, “OK. Surjit, do you want to give some advice for other people?”

Surjit Tour replied, “Chair, if it assist… just to provide that clarity it may help. The report essentially sets out two schedules. Schedule one which refers to amendments that this committee I believe can deal with and indeed it can move as part of its powers delegated to it through the power to make minor amendments to the Council’s constitution. Schedule two however outlines in more detail changes which the report it’s to be recommended that this committee recommends that Council approves because of the nature of those changes.

So in terms of the little point that’s been raised by the councillor. Councillor, the position is that they’re not interim changes that would be made at this committee. If approved the changes in schedule one, they would be changes that would be permanent to the Council’s constitution until changed by Council or this committee in the future whereas schedule two changes as proposed would require Council’s approval before those changes would take effect. Then again, they could be subsequently changed there also if Council so chose to do so.”

Cllr Bill Davies (Chair) said, “OK. Thank you, Councillor Blakeley.”

Cllr Chris Blakeley said, “Thank you Chairman, I had a conversation with the Chief Executive .. this evening and had a conversation with the Head of Law earlier this afternoon. The Chief Executive made it very clear to me that if there were any contentious issues and any disagreement then they should be referred to the full consultation. I suggested last night that the Chief Executive spoke to the Head of Law and remove the items that were contentious and allow the other ones that weren’t in contention to go through. That clearly hasn’t happened and that’s why we are moving the whole report be deferred to consultation. A very strange thing happened last night, the Chief Executive agreed with me. That’s the first time since he’s been in post.”

Cllr Bill Davies (Chair) said, “OK, now I’ve got Cllr McLaughlin, you want to comment briefly, Cllr McLaughlin?”

Cllr Moira McLaughlin said, “Very briefly, it’s just a comment. A significant number of amendments doesn’t actually mean that they are either anything more than minor or that they are contentious and I agree that there are a significant number, but that doesn’t in itself make them contentious. The other thing is that as far as I understood, these have been approved by the party leaders as the well, … that was my understanding that this has been approved by the party leaders and certainly I was only suggesting that we move ahead to facilitate the smooth running of the Council and to continue …..”

Cllr Bill Davies (Chair) said, “OK, …”

Surjit Tour said, “Chair, if I can also clarify, I’ve also spoken to the Chief Executive this afternoon about these matters. The Chief Executive’s view is that if, it’s a matter obviously for this committee, if they are matters which the committee is minded to unanimously agree on these proposals then I think the committee would want to refer those the wider review and have those debated obviously. If Members feel that it is, if whether certainly if Members require further debate or discussion, my view is that there would be no particular issue with regards to that being an appropriate course of action either for this committee. Clearly where there’s unanimous changes or the changes are relatively minor in detail then I almost think that they could be dealt with a recommendation to Council to approval, but where there are matters which require further debate and discussion, then the Chief Executive’s view was that subjecting those particular proposals to the wider review that’s going to be taken in due course.”

Cllr Bill Davies (Chair) said, “Councillor Harney.”

Cllr Tom Harney said, “Right, thank you Chair. I have one or two things to say, first of all I’m declaring my interest, I haven’t spoken to Mr. Burgess today, this week or even this month and I’m sure how he comes into all this. He seems to be able to read minds of Members and what the Members are going to be minded to do, maybe that’s a reflection of the whole of this constitution we have, I don’t know.

I would like to say some papers and some comments and I’m sorry if I offend anybody but there we are. That is life. I’ve got these papers here, I’ve got this paper here which was put on the table today. There is no coherence as far as I can see, I am not happy to be given this. This is a Standards Committee, I’m totally unhappy with it. I can’t even find schedule one, maybe it’s my eyesight, maybe it’s my age, I don’t know but I can’t find it, it must be somewhere and we’re being asked to agree amendments, some of them it seems may be minor and so on but there has been no steer as to what on earth it’s all about, apart from the fact it seems to have been discussed by the party leaders, who presumably have some new role in this Council which is not really defined by the constitution although I think it’s referred to. Well when we’re …. is it of importance? I do think that since this is a Standards Committee, we should have things done meticulously and sensibly.

The reality is and I will accept this having been a councillor for a number of years and that is that our record on adhering to or having a sensible set of standing orders which are actually adhered to is dismal in this Council over many, many years. …. keep on suspending standing orders and I’m afraid that I remember our previous Head of Legal Services who came along trying to get us to change and was shouted down basically almost. He was certainly outvoted.

He said ‘This is all wrong.’ and we said, ‘No, we do it this way, this is Wirral.’ So I do accept and I do think it’s important that we get our constitution right and our standing orders and so on right and we adhere to that, but we can only do that if we as a Council start to put ourselves thoroughly understand what the issues are and I’m not happy that.

I mean I know some things may be urgent and I will accept that and I’d like to be told what and why briefly preferably, I don’t think spending half an hour on it and then I would like the suggestion that we vote and then I suggest we go home and I do not think that from my point of view, and I’m quite willing to accept that everybody else is thoroughly dissatisfied and I’m not and I don’t know how I can vote without any of that and I just root through these and we have a rather what’s the word bad tempered discussion at the end of the day because we lose patience with each other, after all it’s not our job to write paperwork for the committee.”

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Wirral Council say police are “fairly confident arrest will be made fairly shortly” in £45k care home fraud

Wirral Council say police are “fairly confident arrest will be made fairly shortly” in £45k care home fraud

Wirral Council say police are “fairly confident arrest will be made fairly shortly” in £45k care home fraud


This story is an update to an earlier blog post headlined Wirral Council reveals how fraudsters conned them out of £45k. Video of this part of Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee starts at the beginning of agenda item 6 and continues at the next clip for a further fifteen minutes. The report into this item is available to read here.

Mark Niblock (Wirral Council’s Chief Internal Auditor) said to those at the Audit and Risk Management Committee meeting, “Since the report was written we have had further contact and we’ve undertaken further investigations with the banks concerned and their fraud teams and we’ve managed to identify a number of account holders residents in the South of England. Active names and addresses of active accounts that’s been passed on to the Metropolitan Police and they are fairly confident that an arrest will be made fairly shortly. That may or may not lead to some of the monies may … be recovered. They did say progress had been made.”

Joe Blott, Strategic Director of Transformation and Resources in answer to questions from councillors, “it’s important to note that whether it’s error or negligence or anything else, that I have authorised that an appropriate internal disciplinary investigation does take place” and later added, “just to clarify just in terms of that internal disciplinary investigation, it does cover more than one person”.

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Cllr Steve Foulkes “I daren’t pick on the libraries because of my past”

Cllr Steve Foulkes “I daren’t pick on the libraries because of my past”

Cllr Steve Foulkes “I daren’t pick on the libraries because of my past”


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Cllr Steve Foulkes had this to say about the Internal Audit update and its appendix presented to the Audit and Risk Management Committee, which starts at 20:20 in the video above.

He said, “Yeah, well I mean this report is good and it’s followed every month by the updated report on work that’s going on and I’m glad this work’s going on, but I think audit and risk can be a pretty dull committee for its old hands but I think what we should always try to do is put what we’re learning and what we’re investigating back into the real world in many ways.

If you look at the report around the libraries, and I’m not going to go into a debate about that, I’ve got too many scars over that. However, however, I need to be reassured that this isn’t an aspect of the service either because of the changes that have to be made or changes that are coming about or just a general poor management that’s taken place because often things like this are not just a symptom of poor regulatory or financial issues but are lack of morale, lack of motivation, lack of care in the service or a feeling perhaps sometimes of you know well ‘we’re untouchable, nothing else will happen’.

We’ve got twenty-four libraries, I think that the decision has been made that those assets are vital assets and the community have made an opinion about them, but at the same time they have to be run extremely efficiently, like every service that we have to justify what they’re doing and we’re asking them to take on more and more.

There’s no reason why the libraries shouldn’t be part of the front line sort of places where people do business and have trust in. So I’m just sort of saying that this has been investigated. If it’s a general malaise or a general lack of management or misunderstanding then certainly you know we are combining one stop shops with libraries, they are coming more along and if we’ve got twenty-four, there again we’d better make sure we get every single pennies worth of value out of them for the future. So I’m, what I would like to do on this is committee is actually use the audit in a broader way to draw attention to what is happening with the rest of the Council.

Likewise in 2.2, the Invigor8 direct debit, one of the ways the Council needs to become more efficient is encourage more people to do things like that with direct debit, the most you know quickest, cheapest form of transaction. So if 100% of the population did everything by direct debit, there would be considerable savings, so when we have a direct debit system that undermines public confidence in the Council and how it delivers those systems it makes alarms bells ring a little bit more in my head and says, ‘Come on, you know we can’t, we’ve got to be so spot on.’

We are actively, I hope actively tempting people to use and address Council services in the cheapest way for us and therefore protect more services that are not available. So I like to look underneath the headlines of you know, we made a mistake there some people I believe got £400 debit as opposed to a £40 debit. How many people will they have told about that? How many people will they say, ‘Don’t do a direct debit with the Council, they get it wrong!’

So my view is that you know these points can’t just be brushed over and say oh well it’s just you know librarians can’t manage money, well they have to if that want to work for the Council. Anybody has to manage money efficiently and our job of the audit is to see those signals and ask some more searching questions about what’s going on underneath.

You know if I just read that one particular site and I’m not saying this now I’m picking on the libraries, I daren’t pick on the libraries because of my past but as I say we’re asking them to become more front line, more proactive if they need to understand anything else. So I’m asking those questions, maybe Mark on my behalf could ask one of the heads of service who might be able to understand what’s going on on the ground.”

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Improvement Board (15th November 2013) The next five minutes (a transcript)

Improvement Board (15th November 2013) The next five minutes (a transcript)

Improvement Board (15th November 2013) The next five minutes (a transcript)


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A previous post on this blog deals with the first five minutes of the Improvement Board meeting. Since then over roughly a week since the video of the Improvement Board meeting was uploaded to Youtube, the first part of the meeting has been viewed nearly two hundred times at the time of writing! As there was such interest in it, I thought I’d continue with a transcript of the meeting, carrying on where I left off which was five minutes and twenty-four seconds in.

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): We’re going to move on in terms of making sure we get through the questions. John Brace, are you present, yeah?

John Brace: As there are quite a lot of questions and they’re in here already, I’m quite happy with you reading them out if that would be speeding things up a bit.

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): I think that’s really helpful of you and thank you for submitting it in advance, because people have the script in front of them and because it’s long, I won’t actually read it out as we did in one of the other sessions if that’s alright, but we will let you come back when we’ve given the answer, unlike the other sessions, in terms of if there are supplementary questions or points that you feel we didn’t cover from your email, ok? Thank you. Graham do you want to go?

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Just in response to the first question which relates to a whole series of appendices to the AKA report, our view is that err all the appendices actually contain very sensitive personal information and to release those appendices would be in breach of data protection and also the duty we have to individuals who gave us information in confidence, or in relation to their own personal medical or financial circumstances. Therefore it’s our view that it would be inappropriate to release those documents as they contain a whole host of sensitive information. Clearly these matters can be tested, if you wish to test our view, via FOIs and the Information Commissioner, but so far our position has been and has not been challenged in respect of those appendices. It’s our view as you can see from some of them anyway, clearly showing they do contain very sensitive personal information.

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): I think that was recognised within the question, certainly in terms of one of the appendices, thank you.

Cllr Jeff Green (Leader, Conservative Group): Yeah, can I just check when the Chief Executive said ‘we decided’ who the we were?

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Well it’s the Council, I clearly represent the Council.

John Brace: Sorry, as I’m entitled to a supplementary on that. In relation to that list, I know that there were councillors present at that one and that was used as a justification that councillors had signed off on the special charging policy, so if you released it with the other names blacked out, wouldn’t that mean people could have at least a bit of accountability as to who the people were who agreed to that?

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Can I also say Chair that with your agreement it would be the intention of the Council to print all these questions, place all these questions on our website and all the answers to them as well so it can be available for people who couldn’t make it at this meeting so they can see what we’re saying.

In respect of that, obviously this is a question that only came in at five o’clock last night which was reasonable and obviously your supplementary has just been asked now so I’d need to probably go away and take advice on that point and we’ll give you the answer both to you John personally and put the answer on the website for everybody to see and certainly Joyce and the Improvement Board will take that into account when they write the final report.

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): So thank you, for that particular question, it’s really helpful. Do you want to keep on going in terms of the series of questions because we’ve got them in front of us?

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): The next question I think refers to the Martin Smith report and again our position is the Martin Smith report was redacted as it contained personal information and the Council has a legal obligation with regards to public disclosure of that information to the individuals mentioned in that report.

The Council’s responsibility extends not only to the public, but to any person or body to which the information relates, the Council considers every case on its merits and maintains its position that disclosure is not appropriate in these circumstances. Once again there are ways of challenging the Council, via the Information Commissioner another way if you think the Council is being unreasonable and the Council has and will always respond to the Information Commissioner’s ruling.

I would say however that perhaps the most important part of that report particularly is the recommendations around our whistle blowing, grievances and bullying policies, all of which have been progressed in line with that report and all of which is referred in response to critical incidents report that’s also considered by the Audit Committee last night.

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): Thank you, is there anything further as you’re present that you want to ask? Move onto the councillors point which is in the next question.

Graham Burgess: Thank you, I’ll just stay standing up, shall I?

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): Yeah, I think you should, you could keep your jacket off.

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Again it’s a similar point that the Council does have responsibilities to the individuals named in these reports and this must be considered in relation to disclosure and redaction. Full disclosure of the Martin Smith report would in the Council’s opinion contravene its legal obligations under the Data Protection Act, with regards to upper management’s control of information in its possession.

Once again there are ways of challenging the Council independently if people have a different view and I would encourage people if they don’t agree with the Council’s position to challenge us and we will state our case to the Information Commissioner or any other relevant body. We believe as well as obligations to the public as a whole, we have obligations to individual members of staff, public, service users to protect their interests and that’s why we’re acting in this way.

If however, people think we’re wrong, then it’s worth challenging our position and we welcome people challenging our position. Thank you.

Member of public heckling: You’re wrong, you welcome challenges, you’re wrong. You’re far from being open and transparent and that’s ridiculous. I apologise to you all for that.

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Can I just say?

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): That’s your view, so I, what we will do is allow further questions and comments at the end and I understand that was a heartfelt, but we’ll go through the series if that’s ok with you.

Member of public who previously heckled: Apologies about the time you take on this decision.

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Can I just say clearly if people think we are wrong, that’s perfectly right to challenge us and there are ways of processing those and it can be challenged independently and we welcome those challenges and if we are wrong of course we will publish the documents.


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Wirral Council’s Social Services go from case closed to looking into bogus £8 foot massage charges for disabled adults

Wirral Council’s Social Services go from case closed to looking into bogus £8 foot massage charges for disabled adults

Wirral Council’s Social Services go from case closed to looking into bogus £8 foot massage charges for disabled adults


In the previous blog post the “Adult Protection Strategy Meeting” had decided “case closed” and that the money was for “service users to have a nice grave when they pass away“.

However within two months of deciding “case closed” and the police telling Wirral Council that they were “satisfied that this is not criminal” the case was reopened and further details emerge as you can see from the minutes of the Adult Protection Strategy Meeting below which are pages 338-340 of the appendices.

Borough of Wirral

Adult Protection Subsequent Strategy Meeting

Name of victim: Newhaven Care Care Home

Time/date: 14.00pm, 30th September 05

Chair: (name blacked out) Service Manager

Introductions: (name blacked out) FSU, Merseyside Police
(name blacked out) CSCI
(name blacked out) CSCI
(name blacked out) Fraud, Job Centre Plus
(name blacked out) Team Manager, Contracts
(name blacked out) Service Manager
(name blacked out) Adult Protection Co-ordinator
(name blacked out) Minutes, Adult Protection

Apologies: None

Minutes from previous meeting: Agreed.

Actions from previous meeting – progress reports

CSCI to investigate financial affairs. An inspection will occur were and the current set up for managing service users finances will be looked at.

(name blacked out) went out and inspected Newhaven Care Care Home and felt that all seemed well but that (name blacked out) was not happy with the outcome. (name blacked out) later liaised with team manager (name blacked out) and both felt they needed to re-visit Newhaven Care Care Home. (name blacked out)’s finances were looked into further and it was discovered that in the records of the ingoing/outgoing balance was not matching and when asking (name blacked out) to produce the relevant paperwork they were unable too. (name blacked out) stated that they service users money was kept in tins in their rooms. When the tins were checked there was no money. (name blacked out) were both unable to state where the money had gone and both started to contradict themselves. CSCI informed (name blacked out) that they were either keeping the money or it was down to poor accounting. (name blacked out) replied that it was down to poor accounting.

CSCI then requested documents that (name blacked out) would have to produce within a few days after the inspection. These included whom (name blacked out) was a guardianship holder for. When producing these to CSCI it was felt that there documents were false. CSCI also noticed that (name blacked out) were using service users mobility money as a top up fee. (name blacked out) was very reluctant to give any other documents and stated (name blacked out) was unable to get them. CSCI have since not been able to get in contact with (name blacked out).


(name blacked out) pointed out that it stated in (name blacked out)’s new contract that mobility money would not be allowed as a top up fee.

(name blacked out) is unable to explain why there are so many gaps in the accounts. Concerns were raised as to where the money is going and why it is being paid in to (name blacked out)’s account if (name blacked out) is not an appointee. When CSCI asked (name blacked out) what accounts the service users had, (name blacked out) informed that they only had a Post Office account. (name blacked out) did not inform CSCI about the Halifax accounts (name blacked out) recently opened. CSCI are already aware of these accounts but did not let (name blacked out) know this.

When looking over the records (name blacked out) gave CSCI they noticed when service users go for a foot massage at Ashton House they had been paying £8. Ashton House does not charge Service users for this service provided. CSCI will be able to write to (name blacked out) to confirm this.

It was felt that the Council’s Financial Liaison Officer’s Team would have to be spoken to regarding this matter and to see if they are able to assist. It was felt that an Audit was in need regarding the finances of these service users.

Is investigation complete or are further actions required

Further actions will be needed.

Summary of further action plan

1. Audit to be carried out. (name blacked out) to liaise with (name blacked out).

2. (name blacked out) to speak to Welfare Benefits in relation to the ongoing concerns.

3. (name blacked out) to find out how much the fee for Newhaven Care Care Home is. (name blacked out) contacted her team whilst in the meeting – fees are £325.42 .

4. ABE interviews to be set up for all service users.

5. A letter to be sent to (name blacked out) informing that they are in breach of their contract. Contracts section to do this.

6. Learning Disabilities and Contracts Section to have a separate meeting, (name blacked out) to liaise with them.

7. (name blacked out) to liaise with (name blacked out) regarding the new referral.

8. CSCI to write a letter to (name blacked out) confirming whether service users have to pay the £8 for services provided.

9. A list of service users names will be forwarded to the Contracts Section by CSCI. (name blacked out) to then liaise with (name blacked out) and Job Centre Plus.

Date and time of next meeting

4th November 2005, 10.30am. Meeting will be held at Bebington Town Hall Annexe, Civic Way, Bebington

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