Wirral Council recommends councillors agree to advice that those who contact the press about complaints about councillors are “compromising their position”!

Wirral Council recommends councillors agree to advice that those who contact the press about complaints about councillors are “compromising their position”!                                          As some of the below relates to the press in general I am declaring an interest as that’s my paid occupation. On Thursday evening starting at 5.00pm in Committee Room 3 in Wallasey … Continue reading “Wirral Council recommends councillors agree to advice that those who contact the press about complaints about councillors are “compromising their position”!”

Wirral Council recommends councillors agree to advice that those who contact the press about complaints about councillors are “compromising their position”!

                                        

Cllr Denise Roberts (Chair, Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee)  (27th November 2014)
Cllr Denise Roberts (Chair, Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee)

As some of the below relates to the press in general I am declaring an interest as that’s my paid occupation.

On Thursday evening starting at 5.00pm in Committee Room 3 in Wallasey Town Hall Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee meets for a special public meeting.

The papers and agenda for the meeting have been published on Wirral Council’s website, including a 44 page supplementary agenda published late.

Often the motivation at the past at Wirral Council with regards to late papers not sent out with the agenda/reports for the meeting are that it is a way for officers to really make sure something is "rubber-stamped" (and if you really want it rubber-stamped just hand out about two dozen pages of information at the meeting itself on the basis that those on the Committee won’t have time to read it before reaching a decision).

I’ve written an email below which explains my position (in the interests of openness and transparency it is below). I look forward to the meeting itself to see what is decided.


Subject Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (Special Meeting) 2nd June 2016 item 4 (Appointments of Panels)
From John Brace <john [at] johnbrace.com>
To Cllr Denise Roberts (Chair, Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee) deniseroberts@wirral.gov.uk
Copy Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Vice-Chair, Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee) moiramclaughlin@wirral.gov.uk, Cllr Ron Abbey ronabbey@wirral.gov.uk, Cllr Brian Kenny briankenny@wirral.gov.uk, Cllr Chris Blakeley chrisblakeley@wirral.gov.uk, Cllr David Elderton, Cllr David Elderton davidelderton@wirral.gov.uk, Cllr Gerry Ellis gerryellis@wirral.gov.uk, Cllr Phil Gilchrist philgilchrist@wirral.gov.uk, Cllr Jean Stapleton jeanstapleton@wirral.gov.uk, Cllr Eddie Boult eddieboult@wirral.gov.uk, Surjit Tour surjittour@wirral.gov.uk, Shirley Hudspeth shirleyhudspeth@wirral.gov.uk, Press Office (Wirral Council) pressoffice@wirral.gov.uk
Reply-To John Brace <john [at] johnbrace.com>
Date Today (31st May 2016) 8:39 am

To: Cllr Denise Roberts (Chair)
Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Vice-Chair)
Cllr Ron Abbey
Cllr Brian Kenny
Cllr Paul Stuart c/o Shirley Hudspeth
Cllr Chris Blakeley
Cllr David Elderton
Cllr Gerry Ellis
Cllr Phil Gilchrist
Cllr Jean Stapleton
Cllr Eddie Boult
Professor Ronald Samuel Jones c/o Shirley Hudspeth
Brian Cummings c/o Shirley Hudspeth
Chris Jones c/o Shirley Hudspeth
Surjit Tour
Press Office (Wirral Council)

Dear all,

I do not have email contact details for the independent members on the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee and Cllr Paul Stuart and hope that Shirley Hudspeth can give them either a copy of this at the meeting itself, or may know their email addresses to forward them a copy of this email.

I know that two councillors (Cllr Brian Kenny and Cllr Gerry Ellis) are sending deputies and am sending a copy of this both to the councillor deputising and the councillor they are deputising for. If any other councillors are planning to send a deputy to the meeting feel free to forward this to the deputy.

This email is in relation to item 4 (Appointments of Panels) on the agenda of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee meeting to be held on the 2nd June 2016.

The papers for this were published late and can be found in the supplementary agenda. Please note that in order for the committee to consider material published after the 5 clear working days before the meeting, it’s a legal requirement that both the Chair (presumably Cllr Denise Roberts) accepted this item of other business and the reasons for accepting it late are recorded in the minutes. I’m sure Mr. Tour will be familiar with this as it formed the basis last year as to my formal objection to the 2014/15 accounts of the Merseyside Pension Fund (administered by Wirral Council) with the result being that the Pensions Committee had to arrange a further meeting to properly approve the accounts.

However, I have some general questions/queries. In the interests of openness/transparency I’m publishing this email, so it’s not confidential.

1) As the people proposed to be on the Standards Panel & Standards Appeal Panel are also members of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee are both panels being categorised by Wirral Council as a sub-committee, similar to how the Licensing Act Sub-Committee members are also drawn from its parent committee?

2) In the proposed protocol it states,

“12.5 Anyone involved with the investigation will be advised that they may be compromising their position if they communicate with the media on matters relevant to the investigation whilst the investigation is ongoing and that any communication that is made should emanate from the Council’s communication team.”

The legal requirement for secrecy of those involved with the investigation of complaints about councillors was repealed some time ago. Because of s.6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 a public authority (such as Wirral Council) can’t make a decision which causes it to act in a way incompatible with a Convention right. This suggestion in the protocol would seem to conflict with both the Article 10 (freedom of expression) Convention right and the whistleblowing provisions in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. I would therefore either like a detailed explanation as why this is proposed (or why I am wrong) or for it to be removed from the proposed policy before it is agreed.

3) Part 21.1 of the proposed policy refers to “7C of the Council Access to Information Procedure Rules”.

This refers to the following reason for excluding the press/public at a meeting:

“7C. Information presented to a standards committee, or to a sub-committee of a standards committee, set up to consider any matter under regulations 13 or 16 to 20 of the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008, or referred under section 58(1)(c) of the Local Government Act 2000.”

A local council can only use powers it legally has to do something. Standards complaints about councillors are no longer considered under s.58(1)(c) of the Local Government Act 2000 (which was repealed) or the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008.

Therefore the references to a repealed legal power need to be brought up to date to the current position and Wirral Council’s constitution updated to prevent confusion.

I plan to attend the meeting itself and look forward to hearing an answer to this email then.

Yours sincerely,


John Brace
Editor
https://johnbrace.com/
A blog about Wirral Council’s public meetings, Wirral Council’s councillors, Bidston & St. James ward and other public bodies on Merseyside

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Liverpool City Council awards Freedom of the City posthumously to the 96 killed at Hillsborough

Liverpool City Council awards Freedom of the City posthumously to the 96 killed at Hillsborough

                                          

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Cllr Richard Kemp speaking about the subject of Hillsborough at an Extraordinary meeting of Liverpool City Council on the 25th May 2016
Cllr Richard Kemp speaking about the subject of Hillsborough at an Extraordinary meeting of Liverpool City Council on the 25th May 2016

Above is video of the special meeting of Liverpool City Council held on the 25th May 2016 where Freedom of the City was awarded posthumously to the 96 people who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. The reason for awarding them Freedom of the City was described as, “To recognise the place of the 96 Hillsborough victims in the history of the City of Liverpool, who went to a football match, but never returned.”

Liverpool City Council also awarded Freedom of the City to four others involved with the campaigning to see justice and/or support to the families of the 96 unlawfully killed. These people were Kenny Dalglish MBE, Marina Dalglish MBE, The Right Reverend Bishop James Jones and Professor Phil Scraton.

Each of the names of the ninety-six who died were read out individually at the meeting and politicians also gave speeches about the issue of Hillsborough and the reason behind the awards.

The BBC were also present at the meeting and the award of Freedom of the City to these people was mentioned in the evening regional TV news bulletin North West tonight.

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Who asked Surjit Tour to gag a debate on Girtrell Court by councillors?

Who asked Surjit Tour to gag a debate on Girtrell Court by councillors?

                                

Cllr Chris Blakeley explaining his notice of motion on Girtrell Court to Wirral Council councillors at a public meeting 14th March 2016
Cllr Chris Blakeley talking about Girtrell Court at the Council meeting held on the 14th March 2016

This morning I submitted an internal review request to Wirral Council as a Freedom of Information request I’d made over twenty days ago hadn’t yet been responded to.

Remarkably quickly I received an answer both to the internal review request and the original FOI request.

It shows that an unnamed councillor made a query of Surjit Tour before the Council meeting held on the 14th March 2016 as to whether the Girtrell Court motion should be debated at all.

Surjit Tour’s opinion (a copy of which is below) was that Standing Order 17 prevented it, but that councillors could choose to suspend Standing Order 17 and debate it anyway. A copy of his advice to councillors over the attempt at preventing a debate on Girtrell Court is below.


Dear Councillor

A query was received over whether the Notice of Motion (NOM) relating to Girtrell Court submitted by Cllr Blakeley (appearing in the Council Agenda published on 4 March) should be debated by Council at its meeting on Monday, 14 March given that it formed part of the Budget debate and final Council Budget Resolution on 3 March. The proposal/issues relating to Girtrell Court were debated at length by Council at Budget Council. Council has therefore had the opportunity to fully consider this matter. A point of order has been raised as to whether the NOM can therefore be debated within such a short period of time after Council having settled its view on the subject matter. The point of order is a legitimate one.

The relevant Standing Order to consider is:

Council Procedure Rules: Standing Order 17 – Rescission of preceding resolution (page 156 of the Constitution)

(1) No decision of the Council (including a decision taken by a committee or panel under delegated powers) may be reconsidered by the Council on a notice of motion within six months of the date of the earlier decision unless the notice of motion (under Standing Order 7) is signed by 17 members of the Council. If that motion is rejected by the Council neither it nor one to the same effect can be considered by the Council for six months.

(2) No resolution or recommendation (other than a procedural resolution) made by a committee or panel during the course of a meeting shall be rescinded or amended by the committee or panel during the same meeting or any adjournment of it unless there are reasonable grounds for believing that all of the material information was not available at the time that the resolution or recommendation was passed.

Unfortunately given the timetabling of Budget Council and Ordinary Council this month, it has meant that Notices of Motion for the 14 March Council meeting needed to be submitted by 5pm on Monday, 29 February. This was ahead of Budget Council and any final Budget decision being made by Council on Thursday (3 March).

It is important to establish the status of the NOM in this case. I am of the view that NOM received was valid. At the material time, namely the deadline for when NOMs needed to be submitted (Monday, 29 Feb), there was NO decision made by Council in respect of the subject matter detailed within the NOM in question. The outcome of Budget Council meeting could not be assumed – that included any approval of the position as outlined in the Cabinet Budget Proposal in respect of Girtrell Court.

All valid NOMs are considered by the Mayor who determines, with advice from me, which NOM should be debated or referred to Cabinet or a Policy and Performance Committee (or other committee). The Mayor prior to Budget Council agreed for this NOM be debated.

At Budget Council the issues and matters relating to Girtrell Court were debated fully and that included the subject matter appearing in the NOM presented by Cllr Blakeley.

Standing Order 17 seeks to limit Council having to debate(by way of a notice of motion) the same decision within six months of it being made (unless a NOM is signed by 17 members of the Council). Whilst it is accepted that the Notice of Motion in question is not seeking to reopen the entire Budget Resolution approved by Council, it does seek to revisit a key aspect of the Budget Resolution that has been settled within it. The Notice of Motion was correctly submitted and was valid at the time of submission but has in effect been superseded by the Budget Council debate and Budget Resolution that was subsequently passed.

At the time Standing Order 17 was drafted the prevailing circumstances before us were not envisaged; and in fairness would have been extremely difficult (if not impossible) to predict with any degree of reasonable certainty.

Upon considering the application of Standing Order 17 and the NOM proposed by Cllr Blakeley, I am of the opinion that Standing Order 17 in its current form does prevent the NOM being debated at Council on 14 March – despite the Council Summons stating otherwise. However, as the NOM was valid at the time of submission it was also correct for it to have been included in the Council Agenda, published on 4 March. The Agenda should however have stated that the NOM was not to be debated by virtue of Standing Order 17. It is appropriate that this clarification/correction is made at Council on 14 March – and I will duly do so.

It would be remiss of me not to also advise that because the NOM appears correctly on the Council Agenda, any Member can move a motion (properly seconded) and seek the suspension of Standing Order 17 and seek permission from Council for the NOM to be debated. The Council has discretion to overcome the constitutional restriction imposed by Standing Order 17. Council would therefore be the final arbiter of this issue.

I apologise for any confusion caused by the NOM being confirmed as one to be debated on the Council Agenda.

Should you have any queries regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards

Surjit Tour
Head of Legal & Member Services
and Monitoring Officer

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council
Department of Transformation and Resources
Town Hall
Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED

Tel: 0151 691 8569
Fax: 0151 691 8482

Visit our website: www.wirral.gov.uk

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PC David Phillips, killed in the line of duty, awarded Freedom of the Borough by Wirral’s councillors at emotional meeting

PC David Phillips, killed in the line of duty, awarded Freedom of the Borough by Wirral’s councillors at emotional meeting

                                         

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Video above is of the public meeting of Wirral Council held on the 20th May 2016 to award the Freedom of the Borough posthumously to PC David Phillips.

Mayor and Mayoress of Wirral presenting a Freedom of Borough award for PC David Phillips posthumously at the Extraordinary Council meeting of Wirral Council held on the 20th May 2016
Mayor and Mayoress of Wirral presenting a Freedom of Borough award for PC David Phillips posthumously at the Extraordinary Council meeting of Wirral Council held on the 20th May 2016

The highest honour Wirral Council can bestow on a Wirral citizen is called Freedom of the Borough. Wirral Council councillors decided last Friday evening to give this award posthumously to PC David Phillips and make him an Honorary Freeman of the Borough.

Last year PC David Phillips had been trying to stop two burglars who were fleeing the scene of their crimes in a stolen red Mitsubishi pick up truck. The truck was being chased at high-speed through the Wirral streets at night by police cars.

He had put a ‘stop stick’ (used to burst a vehicle’s tyres) across the Wallasey Dock Road in Seacombe and was waiting for the truck to go over the ‘stop stick’ to bring the high-speed chase to an abrupt halt.

The fleeing burglar avoided the ‘stop stick’ across the road by crashing the vehicle into PC David Phillips. PC David Phillips was struck by the front of the Mitsubishi pick up truck and his colleague PC Thomas Birkett jumped out-of-the-way. PC David Phillips then tragically died of his injuries. The driver, who didn’t stop at the scene was later convicted in Manchester Crown Court of manslaughter and sentenced to twenty years. He was also banned from driving for three years.

PC David Phillips left behind a wife and two young daughters.

The Bishop of Birkenhead Rt Reverend Keith Sinclair started the meeting with a prayer.

After apologies were given for councillors who couldn’t make it to the meeting, the Mayor of Wirral asked for a round of applause for the police band, who had been playing before the meeting started in the lobby to Wallasey Town Hall.

The Mayor of Wirral Cllr Pat Hackett explained the background to why the award was being considered. Leader of the Labour Group Cllr Phil Davies nominated the motion to award Freedom of the Borough to PC David Phillips.

Leader of the Conservative Group Cllr Jeff Green and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Cllr Phil Gilchrist jointly seconded the nomination and both spoke in favour of granting the award to PC David Phillips.

PC Phillips’ father Robin Phillips spoke about how honoured and proud the family was that he was nominated for this award and described the goodwill his family had received following PC Dave Phillip’s death.

Sir Jon Murphy QPM (Chief Constable for Merseyside Police) described it as a “wonderful honour”.

Cllr Lesley Rennie (a former police officer) in an emotional speech spoke of the culture in the police force and how he would not be forgotten.

The scroll and mounted award was then presented to PC Phillips’ widow and children by the Mayor & Mayoress. A second duplicate mounted award was then presented by the Mayor and Mayoress to PC Phillip’s father Robin.

The Mayor of Wirral Cllr Pat Hackett and before ending the meeting thanked all those who had attended.

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Cllr Pat Hackett elected as Wirral’s new Mayor for 2016/17

Cllr Pat Hackett elected as Wirral’s new Mayor for 2016/17

                          

Mayor Cllr Pat Hackett at the Annual Council meeting of Wirral Council 16th May 2016
Mayor Cllr Pat Hackett at the Annual Council meeting of Wirral Council 16th May 2016

After the recent elections, the new year at Wirral Council began with the election of Cllr Pat Hackett as Mayor in front of hundreds of invited guests in the Civic Hall.

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Annual Council (Part 1) 16th May 2016 Part 1 of 2

Outgoing Mayor of Wirral Cllr Les Rowlands giving a speech about his Mayoral year at the Annual meeting of Wirral Council 16th May 2016
Outgoing Mayor of Wirral Cllr Les Rowlands giving a speech about his Mayoral year at the Annual meeting of Wirral Council 16th May 2016

Outgoing Mayor Cllr Les Rowlands gave a brief summary of his Mayoral year. During the year he had raised money for his three charities which were the North West Air Ambulance, Friends of Clatterbridge and the Alzheimer’s Society. His scariest moment during his year was scaling the 170 foot spire of St James Church in New Brighton to affix a new cross.

Cllr Phil Davies nominated fellow Labour councillor Cllr Pat Hackett to be Mayor and gave a brief speech about Cllr Pat Hackett’s life before he became a councillor for New Brighton in 1994. There were no other nominations so Cllr Pat Hackett was elected Mayor.

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Annual Council (Part 1) 16th May 2016 Part 2 of 2

Mayor Cllr Pat Hackett (perhaps not unsurprisingly) managed to talk at length about New Brighton and his life including a time he spent managing football teams. He talked enthusiastically about the regeneration of New Brighton and his time as Cabinet Member. His charities this year would be Wallasey Sea Cadets and the Wirral Narrowboat Trust. There would also be a general fund to make small donations to local charities that weren’t as well-known. Mayor Cllr Pat Hackett hoped everyone would enjoy the entertainment and told everyone that the food would be coming soon.

Cllr Ann McLachlan was elected unopposed as Deputy Mayor. The meeting was then adjourned to Tuesday evening when the rest of the business will be dealt with in the more usual venue of the Council Chamber. Following refurbishment, the Civic Hall at Wallasey Town Hall is available for hire.

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