Why am I angry at Wirral Council for allegedly breaking more laws to cover up a 3 year investigation and subsequent decision by three councillors as to why Councillor Steve Foulkes broke the Code of Conduct and should apologise for leaking information about Councillor Jeff Green to the press?

Why am I angry at Wirral Council for allegedly breaking more laws to cover up a 3 year investigation and subsequent decision by three councillors as to why Councillor Steve Foulkes broke the Code of Conduct and should apologise for leaking information about Councillor Jeff Green to the press?

Why am I angry at Wirral Council for allegedly breaking more laws to cover up a 3 year investigation and subsequent decision by three councillors as to why Councillor Steve Foulkes broke the Code of Conduct and should apologise for leaking information about Councillor Jeff Green to the press?

                                        

Councillor Steve Foulkes (Labour) (right) speaking at a recent meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee (28th July 2016) while Councillor Pat Cleary (Green) (left) listens
Councillor Steve Foulkes (Labour) (right) speaking at a recent meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee (28th July 2016) while Councillor Pat Cleary (Green) (left) listens

17/8/16 Amended to correct name of Phil Goodman to Peter Goodman.

Firstly, I’m cross with Wirral Council.

What is it this time you may wonder?

Well I have a long list of grievances, but not being a Wirral Council employee no formal route (ok I could bring some of these up with my trade union) to take these to a grievance hearing, nor the time or inclination at this stage to get the judiciary involved.

I’m cross at being denied (along with my wife) to be present at what I perceive to be (in part) to be a public meeting of the Standards Panel on the 28th June 2016 in Committee Room 2 at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED starting at 6.00pm.

I’m cross at being shouted at by junior public facing employees of Wirral Council who I will gladly name here from what I remember as Shirley Hudspeth (Legal and Member Services) and Peter Goodman (whatever the facilities management side of Wirral Council is called as frankly I’ve lost track of restructures? Is it infrastructure, asset management something like that?) with their view that it was a private meeting, but I’m not cross at them in a major way because I’m more cross at what I presume are their senior manager/s or senior manager/s from another department at Wirral Council who told both of them to say this to me (even though it isn’t true) as it seems a senior manager/s at Wirral Council would stoop that low as to instruct junior employees to do what they (senior manager/s) should have the guts to do face to face themselves.

I’m cross at Wirral Council for its website not working as I write this at democracy.wirral.gov.uk so I can’t include links or refer to the details. But yeah, whoever’s job it is to fix it may be on holiday.

I’m cross at a senior manager (Joe Blott) and his external legal adviser (whose name I can’t recall without checking Wirral Council’s website that isn’t working). Yes the external legal advisor is the guy in this photo as I wasn’t allowed to be at or film him at the public bit of the Standards Panel meeting (and just as an aside this law allows me to film such public meetings even if I’m not physically in the room, which I suppose next time if I’m not allowed actually in the room for a public meeting I’ll have to do the filming either through the meeting room door or from the car park outside!)

However in Joe Blott’s defence I don’t think he understood why the legal advice he got was flawed and had the external legal advisor pointed out why it was flawed he’d have had to have criticised his client (Wirral Council) which is a big no-no if he ever wants further work from Wirral Council in the future.

I’m not cross with Surjit Tour who seems to have a conflict of interest. But if he does have one, Joe Blott is supposed to deal with it!!!

I am cross with the fact that 5 clear working days notice of the date, time, agenda and reports (if not recommended to be heard in closed session) for the Standards Panel meeting on the 28th June 2016 was not given by the 20th June 2016, but instead yesterday the 3rd of August 2016.

I’m cross that a complaint about a councillor (Cllr Steve Foulkes) as to what happened in July 2013 has taken Wirral Council around three years to resolve.

I’m cross that Patricia Thynne in her report refers to myself as having filmed a Youtube video referred to when I didn’t film it and it was indeed someone else! I’m also cross with myself that relying on Patricia Thynne’s report I then left a comment on the Wirral Leaks blog only to be embarrassed into being told it is a mistake in her report.

I’ve recently learned that Cllr Gilchrist was the Chair of the Standards Panel, I’m cross that I wasn’t allowed to go to the public bit of the Standards Panel meeting where this was decided on the 28th June 2016 to find this out and had to wait around a month to know whether it was Cllr Chris Blakeley or Cllr Phil Gilchrist.

I’m cross that in messing up what’s detailed above Wirral Council is relying on a legal power that was repealed years ago.

I’m cross that for reasons of internal capacity here I didn’t take things further over what happened to us at the meeting on the 28th June 2016 whether by letter or subsequent legal action against Wirral Council.

However, moving to the complaint itself, yes I was there in the public gallery in July 2013 in the adjournment while it happened. Yes Cllr Steve Foulkes came in and spoke with Liam Murphy (referred to as Person C). Yes, I was too far away (at the other end of the public gallery to hear what they were saying). Yes I remember Mr Nigel Hobro coming in to the public gallery at this point and wanting to speak with Liam Murphy but getting the brush off.

Yes, my opinion (not that it matters really) is that I think it is fair that Cllr Foulkes should apologise.

However, isn’t it ironic that as Cllr Foulkes previously made a complaint about Cllr Chris Blakeley talking to the Liverpool Echo about whether Cllr Foulkes should be made Mayor (a complaint that Cllr Chris Blakeley was cleared of as you can read about here) that Cllr Chris Blakeley should then be on the Standards Panel to decide about a complaint about Cllr Foulkes leaking information to a Liverpool Echo journalist? Or is that just karma?

Yes Person C in the report is Liam Murphy. Yes I feel sorry for him, yes it is a breach of journalistic ethics to reveal the source of information, but by the sounds of it he (Liam Murphy) was being used by Cllr Foulkes anyway for political gain.

As to the payoff to Emma Degg, her initial silence (prompted in part it seems by the payment of public money), followed by what I presume was a guilty conscience, well at least she finally did the right thing!

As to the allegation that witnesses “colluded” to bring down Cllr Foulkes, well Patricia Thynne feels this is not credible. I will comment however that unless you are in disguise, nobody knows what you look like or in an echo chamber, it’s frankly foolish in the extreme to bring up anything confidential (whether in conversation or by passing it to them) with a journalist when you have people watching you do it, in a public place, in a public building, in the adjournment to a high-profile public meeting.

However Cllr Foulkes’ explanation is he was under a lot of pressure.

Tip for people reading this, if you want in the future to leak something to me, there’s the post (probably the most secure method), email or telephone (if you want the intelligence agencies to read/listen to it in transit) or other ways of sending it to me online.

Yes you can talk to me or hand me things in person, but there are always people watching!

I did ask Cllr Steve Foulkes in person at the end of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee meeting on the evening of Thursday 28th July 2016 to comment on the complaint. He refused to comment directly on the matter (I presume following Mr. Tour’s advice to councillors to keep their mouth shut) and referred me to Wirral Council instead.

So yes, I’m still cross and Wirral Council is finally well dealing with what should’ve been done properly the first time!!!

By first time, I don’t just mean the original complaint (that this morphed into), but what happened at the Standards Panel meeting too.

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Incredible first 5 minutes of Wirral Council councillors’ public meeting to discuss BIG & ISUS investigations

Incredible first 5 minutes of Wirral Council councillors’ public meeting to discuss BIG & ISUS investigations

Incredible first 5 minutes of Wirral Council councillors’ public meeting to discuss BIG & ISUS investigations

                                

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Above is video of the entire special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee (Wirral Council) on the 22nd July 2014

Below is a partial transcript of the first five minutes of a special meeting of Audit and Risk Management Committee on 22nd July 2014 to discuss the investigations into the BIG and ISUS programs.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Good evening everyone, welcome to the Audit and Risk Management Committee. Errm

[Agenda item 1]Members’ Code of Conduct – Declarations of Interest.

Have we got any? No.

[Agenda] Item 2, minutes of the last meeting, are they agreed?

COUNCILLORS
Agreed.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Thank you.

[Agenda] Item 3, Business Investment Grant (BIG) and the Intensive Startup Scheme (ISUS) Investigation.

There’s been concerns from Members about the lateness and thickness of this item and, if I can given the size of the document and the concern that Members have about the lateness of receiving this, and that along with the written address from Mr Hobro, I’d like to recommend an adjournment of a week and we convene back here next Tuesday. Problem?

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
I’ve got a problem with that Chair.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
You’re on holiday?

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
I won’t be back …..

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
….?

UNKNOWN COUNCILLOR
I’m on holiday as well Chair.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Sweet, (can’t be heard). Pardon?

GRAHAM BURGESS (CHIEF EXECUTIVE)
Chair is it alright if I cut in? Chair I was just saying that obviously, we’re entering the holiday season. It’s inevitable that there will be people on holiday throughout the holiday season so obviously I’m concerned both for the Members and Council to get this matter resolved as speedily but as comprehensively as possible.

So clearly, we’d urge you to consider the meeting adjournment, because clearly we feel that this matter for everybody’s interest needs to be considered as quickly as possible to the satisfaction of all the Members though.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Thanks for that, so I’m going to move that as a recommendation and…

(murmuring by councillors)

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
… point of order, … should … we’re doing…before we do… (turns on microphone) sorry Chair, could I suggest we make it in a fortnight? Normally you would liaise with the spokes of each party and obviously you haven’t spoken to Councillor Hale and it would help. I think he should be here at the next meeting. Thank you.

COUNCILLOR RON ABBEY (VICE-CHAIR)
Fifth of August then Chair.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Fifth of August.

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
No, I won’t be back.

COUNCILLOR RON ABBEY (VICE-CHAIR)
Well the problem is you’re going to need to prolong it then and,

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Yeah and there’s certain of the officers that won’t be here on the 5th,

COUNCILLOR RON ABBEY (VICE-CHAIR)
people will not be their deputies?

(multiple councillors talking at once)

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
….. Council.. stepped on…

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
I’ll be back around the 7th.

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
….

COUNCILLOR PHILLIP BRIGHTMORE
Chair, am I correct in thinking that err if any party has one of their members away so then they can be substituted by a deputy and if indeed if one of those deputies then can’t make it then they can’t be substituted?

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
We do have deputies, even though we’re charged with finding a substitute spokesperson.

COUNCILLOR PHILLIP BRIGHTMORE
It remains the case you’ve got deputies you can call on.

COUNCILLOR STUART KELLY (LIBERAL DEMOCRAT SPOKESPERSON)
I think the reality is, I think that that would normally be the case but the reality is that from the time that we’ve had it, I dare say amongst the lead Members, the spokespeople, would have made an ??? effort to digest as much of it as we possibly can without any slight meant to any other Members who clearly they will have done that, but certainly the spokespeople would have attempted that.

I mean I think what we probably do need to settle on a date, at which I, John and yourself could be there. Certainly if we push it to the 12th of August then I’m in Butlins (laughing)..err..

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
Who’s the Chair?

COUNCILLOR STUART KELLY (LIBERAL DEMOCRAT SPOKESPERSON)
I mean I’m available up to that date. In moving your recommendation Chair is it your intention that we have a real discussion on what we have in front of us so far?

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
No, it’s not really worth breaking up the meeting when we’re halfway through, so it’s not worth having a new discussion tonight. Errm and we could go round all night and come to different dates couldn’t we? Just her and me and then the Monitoring Officer would be away.

COUNCILLOR DAVID ELDERTON
We’re relying on deputies. We’re relying on deputies because for all Members …all Members have problems if they’re not involved at all … basis that… would first, it’s the first time .. Chair… I’m looking for a way forward.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
What time do you leave next Monday John?

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
Early.

COUNCILLOR DAVID ELDERTON
We can’t be arranging times just to suit John Hale.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
No, no we can’t.

COUNCILLOR DAVID ELDERTON
It’s a service, I can easily update John Hale he comes back.

COUNCILLOR RON ABBEY (VICE-CHAIR)
Now we’re moving into the peak holiday period errm middle of August.

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Councillors agree to adjourn Lyndale School call in meeting

Councillors agree to adjourn Lyndale School call in meeting

Councillors agree to adjourn Lyndale School call in meeting

  

The following recommendation proposed by Cllr Steve Foulkes and seconded by Cllr Patricia Glasman was agreed unanimously by those on Wirral Council’s Coordinating Committee who were Cllr Steve Foulkes (Vice-Chair, Labour), Cllr John Salter (Labour), Cllr Jean Stapleton (Labour), Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour), Cllr Denise Realey (Labour), Cllr Patricia Glasman (Labour), Cllr Paul Doughty (Labour), Cllr Bernie Mooney (Labour), Cllr Denise Roberts (Labour), Cllr Leah Fraser (Conservative), Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative), Cllr David Elderton (Conservative), Cllr Wendy Clements (Conservative), Cllr Andrew Hodson (Conservative) and Cllr Alan Brighouse (Liberal Democrats).

The same councillors will make up the Coordinating Committee meeting to consider the Lyndale School call in on the 27th February (plus the co-optees with voting rights referred to in the recommendation below).

RECOMMENDATION

Council at its Annual Meeting on 20 May 2013, appointed two Parent Governor Representatives and Diocesan Representatives (as statutory co-optees) to Families and Wellbeing Policy and Performance Committee. The Committee is responsible for the scrutiny of education matters and the statutory co-optees are entitled to participate and vote pn such matters.

However, the Council’s Constitution provides that the Policy and Performance Co-ordinating Committee be responsible for dealing with all call-ins. As both call-ins in question relate to education matters, it is appropriate that the statutory co-optees referred to above are afforded the opportunity to participate and vote in respect of both call-ins.

Following the Cabinet meeting on 16 January 2014, the following two decisions have been called in and must be considered by the Policy and Performance Co-ordinating Committee.

  • Cabinet Minute No. 129 – Report Seeking Approval to consult on the Closure of the Lyndale School; and
  • Cabinet Minute No. 140 – Proposals for Changes to School Top Up Payments for Students with High Needs

Given that both call-ins relate to educational matters, it is not possible to consider either call-in until the Parent Governor and Diocesan Representatives have been co-opted onto this Committee

It is therefore recommended that:
(1) the Committee notes the two call in notices received;

(2) the meeting be adjourned until 6pm on Thursday, 27 February 2014;

(3) it is recommended that the Council extends the Membership of the Policy and Performance Co-ordinating Committee to include:
(a) Two Parent Governor Representatives; and
(b) A representative of each of the appropriate Diocesan Authorities;
With voting rights, for the purpose of dealing with educational matters

(4) in order to meet legal requirements when considering educational matters the Council be recommended to co-opt onto the Policy and Performance Committee:
(a) the following two Parent Governor Representatives, elected to sit on the Council’s scrutiny committees that deal with education (with voting rights, in respect of educational matters only)

  • Mrs H Shoebridge (until 28 October 2015); and
  • Mrs Nicola Smith (until 8 February 2017)

and

(b) the following two Diocesan Authority representatives (with voting right in respect of educational matters only)

  • Damien Cunningham (representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury); and
  • A representative of the Church of England Diocese of Chester (currently a nomination has not yet been made).

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