Posted by: John Brace | 12th October 2018

Wirral Council’s Standards Panel met to consider complaint made about Cllr Paul Hayes’ quote in a press release

Wirral Council’s Standards Panel met to consider complaint made about Cllr Paul Hayes’ quote in a press release

                                           

Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 9th October 2018 Cllr Paul Hayes (foreground)

Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 9th October 2018 Cllr Paul Hayes (foreground)


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Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 9th October 2018 Part 1 of 5

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Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 9th October 2018 Part 2 of 5

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Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 9th October 2018 Part 3 of 5

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Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 9th October 2018 Part 4 of 5

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Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 9th October 2018 Part 5 of 5

Updated 7.11.2018 Wirral Council have since this meeting published the decision notice which can be read here. The full unredacted papers for this public meeting have since been published on Wirral Council’s website.

I will declare multiple interests in this piece at the outset as the papers below (pages 67, 72, 80, 98, 123 and 138) for the complaint mention me by name or refer to me. My attendance at a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Childrens and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on the 14th November 2017 is referred to. So is my attendance at a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board held on the 14th March 2018. The papers also refer to videos I took of two different public meetings. Links to the three video clips of relevance to this complaint are:-

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 14th November 2017 Pt 2 of 4 (from the 3:14 point to the 44:05)

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 14th November 2017 Pt 3 of 4 (from the start to the 2:13 point).

Health and Wellbeing Board (Wirral Council) 14th March 2018 (from the 0:48 point to the 0:58 point)


On Tuesday evening Wirral Council’s Standards Panel (Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat), Cllr Chris Blakeley (Conservative), Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) and Professor Jones (Independent) met at Wallasey Town Hall to consider a complaint about Cllr Paul Hayes.

Cllr Moira McLaughlin nominated Cllr Phil Gilchrist as Chair. Cllr Chris Blakeley seconded this nomination. There were no other nominations for Chair, so Cllr Phil Gilchrist was appointed Chair for the meeting.

The Chair asked for declarations of interest. Cllr Moira McLaughlin declared that she had been present at the [Children and Families Overview and] Scrutiny Committee meeting. The Chair (Cllr Phil Gilchrist) declared that he had been present at the [Children’s Services] Taskforce meeting but that he had no recollection of it.

Cllr Chris Blakeley raised a number of procedural points about compliance with the timescales in the protocol and the fact he felt that the Council had breached confidentiality about the councillor the complaint was about.

Myself, Leonora and Simon Goacher were excluded for this part of the meeting, which was held in private session for around 16 minutes while the Panel heard legal advice on the points raised by Cllr Chris Blakeley.

When we returned Cllr Chris Blakeley asked for the complaint to be dismissed with no further action taken, due to the perceived unfairness caused to the councillor complained about. However he did not have support for this from either Cllr Phil Gilchrist or Cllr Moira McLaughlin.

There was then a discussion as to whether to hold the rest of the meeting in public or not. Cllr Moira McLaughlin wanted it held in private. Cllrs Blakeley and Gilchrist wanted it in public. The decision was to hold it in public.

The Deputy Monitoring Officer left the room to find the councillor complained about (Cllr Paul Hayes) and invite him to attend the rest of the meeting.

At this point I asked for and received a copy of the reports for item 5 (Consideration of a Standards Complaint) which contained 17 documents (SG1 to SG17) and were 134 A4 pages long.

Cllr Paul Hayes entered the room and after asking the Chair where he should sit sat in front of me with his back to me.

The Deputy Monitoring Officer informed those present that the Complainant Dr Maggie Atkinson would not be attending the Standards Panel meeting and she (referring to Dr Atkinson) viewed it as an “internal matter”.

A number of councillors expressed their disappointment at the absence of the Complainant as this would mean questions could not be asked of the Complainant. Cllr Chris Blakeley asked for the meeting to be deferred for this reason (the other councillors didn’t agree with him).

Cllr Paul Hayes also commented on the absence of the Complainant and pointed out that this put him at a disadvantage.

The Independent Member of the Panel Professor Jones pointed out that they had no powers to compel the attendance of the Complainant.

After discussion of more procedural matters, the Investigating Officer was asked to present his report. The Investigating Officer was Simon Goacher, who is a solicitor working for Weightmans.

Simon Goacher referred to the various elements of Dr Atkinsons’ complaint about Cllr Paul Hayes and referred to his summary of her allegations in her complaint on page 133.

The complaint had been about three councillors (Cllrs Ian Lewis, Tom Anderson and Paul Hayes). He had not found that Cllrs Lewis and Anderson had failed to comply with the Code of Conduct.

In relation to element iii of the complaint, he had not found that Cllr Hayes’ behaviour at the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on the 14th November 2017 amounted in his opinion to a breach of the Code of Conduct.

The only element of Dr Atkinson’s complaint that in Simon Goacher’s opinion was a breach of the Code of Conduct (in relation to Cllr Paul Hayes only) was in Cllr Hayes’ approach to the media about the Serious Case Review.

He then went into detail as to the background of the complaint, who he had interviewed, the documents and other evidence he had looked at as well as interviews with various councillors and contact with Wirral Council employees.

Mr Goacher made it clear that the expression of Cllr Hayes’ views at the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting and the earlier Taskforce meeting did not in his opinion amount to a breach of the Code of Conduct.

The only element that in Mr Goacher’s opinion was a breach of the Code of Conduct by Cllr Paul Hayes was in issuing a press release and he referred to the press coverage that resulted from this in the Wirral Globe and Liverpool Echo.

The specific wording in the press release that in Mr Goacher’s opinion amounted to a breach of the Code of Conduct was, “The decision to keep this report under lock and key will undoubtedly lead to accusations of a cover up.”

Mr Goacher went into the reasons why the Serious Case Review report hadn’t been published and referred to the letter from Dr Atkinson to Cllr Paul Hayes at pages 92-95.

Unfortunately a copy of the press release wasn’t included in the papers for the meeting. However Mr Goacher had asked Cllr Hayes in an interview (paragraph 16 on page 79 refers to this) if he’d issued the press release. Cllr Hayes had confirmed that he had.

……

Simon Goacher explained that article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 was engaged, but that this was qualified and that he felt that the phrase “cover up” without any supporting evidence went beyond in his view what was reasonable.

The Standards Panel and Cllr Paul Hayes then had an opportunity to question Mr Goacher on his comments on his report (outlined at pages 131-159 below). Various questions were raised and responses given.

Cllr Hayes in relation to the interview, pointed out verbal comments (unrecorded in the record of the interview in the papers for the Standards Panel) by a person on work experience at Weightmans. In relation to this part of the complaint Mr Goacher pointed out that having viewed the recording of the meeting he found that in his opinion no breach of the Code had occurred (relating to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting).

Cllr Paul Hayes read out a long statement setting out his justification for what he had done and why. It was his firmly and honestly held belief that not publishing an anonymised Serious Case Review report was wrong. He pointed out that in the record of Dr Atkinson’s interview only four of the forty paragraphs related to the press coverage. He referred to his colleague Cllr Ian Lewis being treated with what he perceived to be a lack of respect by another councillor. Cllr Hayes felt that not publishing the Serious Case Review damaged the confidence of the people of Wirral in child protection.

There was more discussion by the Panel and Cllr Hayes about these issues.

At the end, the Chair asked the Independent Person Professor Jones for his views. Professor Jones said that the nub of the issue was at paragraph 2(v) of Mr Goachers’ report.

The public were then excluded from the rest of the meeting while the Standards Panel considered their decision, however the Chair said that once a decision had been reached that Cllr Paul Hayes would be invited back in to hear what it was.


Zipped file of all the below pages (some of the pages have been redacted) for the Standards Panel (Wirral Council) meeting held on the 9th October 2018 below (except for duplicates of pages that can be found elsewhere at agenda item 3 (constitution, Wirral Borough Council Code of Conduct (SG1) (pages 38-48) and Wirral Borough Council arrangements for dealing with complaints about Members (SG2) (pages 50-64)).

The articles in the Wirral Globe (written by Leigh Marles) and Liverpool Echo (written by Liam Thorp) can be found online so are not included below.

Note some parts of the pages below have been redacted for legal reasons before publication.

Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 9th October 2018 Page 37

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Responses

  1. I salute you John. Both you and Lenorra fully deserve the admiration and respect of all of us who diligently ‘tap’ upon our keyboards moaning and groaning about the latest bucket of sludge these Councils shovel out for the publics consumption.
    How in Gods name you can do your job without resorting to violence and attacking these sharks and narcissistic chancers of public service is a question I often ask myself.
    If our roles in life were reversed John and you and I took upon ourselves our given roles in life, you supping ale and gibbering on endlessly talking rubbish and I filming the unholy goings on upon the Wirral, it wouldn’t any longer be possible for the public to enter their meetings and witness how our much cherished democratic services are carried out.
    For I would have cracked, lost my mind and all my levers of self control, I’d have openly visited a Gunsmith, purchased a small pocket Derringer pistol, secreted it within my red satin bestest smoking jacket, leapt out from behind the lens and shot whoever it was filling my ears, that God equipped me with to hear, with their spoken rubbish, and quickly dispatched them upwards or downwards to meet their godly maker.
    Yes, I salute you dear John. Had I been you and you me, I’d have been three years into a full life sentence at HMP Hellhouse hung upside down from my Cell wall screaming, ‘despite the pain of being shackled upside down I’d do it all again’.

    • Hi Bobby,

      Thanks for your comment.

      In answer to your point, I just have a lot of patience (usually).

      I’m still curious as to what the decision was at the end of this meeting, but a fortnight later none the wiser!

      Some public meetings of local government the powers that be have required people attending some meetings to be searched (to prevent them bringing in such subversive items such as whistles, flags, banners etc).

      In all my years of reporting actual violence has never taken place to my knowledge during a public meeting.

      I was at a count years ago on the Wirral for an election of a councillor. After the result was declared two of the candidates started physically fighting each other (but that’s partly why the police are present).


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