Wirral Council meeting (13th February 2012) Leader Cllr Foulkes loses second no confidence vote

There was drama and excitement last night as Cllr Foulkes tried to persuade the Tory and Lib Dem councillors to let him stay on as Leader of Wirral Council. A debate on the HESPE report and AKA report was adjourned partly due to the HESPE report not being ready (despite an earlier assurance it would … Continue reading “Wirral Council meeting (13th February 2012) Leader Cllr Foulkes loses second no confidence vote”

There was drama and excitement last night as Cllr Foulkes tried to persuade the Tory and Lib Dem councillors to let him stay on as Leader of Wirral Council.

A debate on the HESPE report and AKA report was adjourned partly due to the HESPE report not being ready (despite an earlier assurance it would be) and councillors grumbling over all the blacked out sections of the AKA report that they hadn’t been allowed to see.

Cllr Foulkes felt this wasn’t fair. He said he was worried about justice and claimed he would be sacked before getting a chance to debate the report [Ed – it’s an office he held, not employment so he can’t be “sacked” just voted out].

He wanted the whole thing adjourned to the 20th February and that he would be “seeking independent legal advice”. The Mayor decided to hear the no confidence motions in him anyway. Cllr Harney and Cllr Green both outlined why they wanted Cllr Foulkes to go.

Cllr Phil Davies gave an impassioned defence of Cllr Foulkes, stating that he “doesn’t believe it’s right or just to place the entire blame on Steve Foulkes”. He pointed out how the issues dated back to 1997, through three different leaders, two chief executives and various Directors of Adult Social Services. He said there was a strong argument that all political parties on the Council should take the blame as to why they didn’t take action or ask questions.

He said the “nasty, personal attacks on Steve” were “bang out of order” and that Labour would not take part in a three party Cabinet leaving the Tories and Lib Dems to run it as a Coalition or collaboration.

Cllr John Hale finished his speech by saying, “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” which sums up a lot of what the Conservative councillors had to say.

Impassioned speeches were made in defence of Cllr Foulkes, Cllr Kenny pleaded with them to wait until the May elections. Cllr Steve Williams compared Cllr Foulkes to an incompetent surgeon who needed to be removed before he does any more harm. Cllr Adam Sykes’ speech was interrupted by the Mayor, keen that he used the word alleged in respect of things alleged in the AKA report.

Cllr Foulkes said he was not in it to seek personal gain but wanted to point out what had been done. He apologised again to Martin Morton and anybody who had suffered a detriment in the past. He said they had got it “horribly wrong on Fairer Charging” and got heckled by someone from the public gallery shouting “he hasn’t got his job back”.

The Mayor gave a stern warning to the public gallery and said it was the last warning that if there was any further disruption she would order it cleared.

Cllr Foulkes referred to an unspecified “disgraceful blog” and said he was sorry if sticking ruthlessly to Anna’s recommendations had been misinterpreted by Cllr Tom Harney as lack of involvement. He wanted to make it clear to people in the public gallery that he had apologised and pointed out he had disbanded the Corporate Governance Committee and set up an Improvement Board. Cllr Foulkes said he tried to do things in an open and honest fashion, but that he couldn’t trust Cllr Green [Leader of the Tories] as far as he could throw him.

There were harsh words between the Mayor and Cllr Foulkes who finished by saying he was “not begging for my job”.

Cllr Green said he was not one for Standards Board complaints, but that Cllr Foulkes had called his trustworthiness into question. Cllr Foulkes was forced to apologise.

Cllr Stuart Kelly mentioned the senior officers who had been implicated had left under the cover of a compromise agreement, did this contain a gagging clause? He said “the cover up continues” and compared it to Watergate. He did acknowledge that Cllr Foulkes had “been badly advised” but that not to pay a price and resign diminished him.

Various other councillors spoke either for or against Cllr Foulkes’ removal as Leader. After all the speeches the meeting was adjourned. The Lib Dem motion of no confidence was combined with the Tory motion and went to the vote.

In favour to remove Cllr Foulkes were 36 councillors, against were 30, so he was removed as Leader of Wirral Council. After another adjournment there was a vote as to whether Cllr Phil Davies should be Leader. Thirty voted for and 36 voted against.

There was then a vote on Cllr Jeff Green as Leader, and he was elected Leader by 36 votes to 30. The Mayor asked Cllr Green to make an acceptance speech.

Cllr Green thanked Council for the confidence placed in him and that he wouldn’t name his Cabinet now. He hoped for an all party Cabinet and thought it was “genuinely important to find ways of working together”. He wanted the trust to be regained in Wirral Council and was going to defer Budget Cabinet from the 20th February to the 21st February. He would also send the Budget to the Council Excellence Overview and Scrutiny Committee to allow it to be scrutinised. Cllr Green wanted to accelerate the work of the Local Democracy Working Party.

He wanted a pause to reflect if the new management model for the Department of Adult Social Services was the best model. Cllr Green also wanted the Audit and Risk Management Committee to “be more activist”.

Cllr Green then answered a question from myself on the redacted parts of the AKA report. He said he wanted the maximum amount of information shown in public, but that he had to be responsible and speak to Bill Norman.

There were then a series of votes on the motions and the meeting finished soon after.

Cabinet (Wirral Council) 12th January 2012 Any Other Business – Urgent Business Approved by the Chair (Part 1) – Independent Review of Claims Made by Martin Morton (and others) Part 4

Jim Wilkie, Chief Executive said he would make some very brief comments and did about the Anna Klonowski report and the other summaries attached.

Cllr Steve Foulkes said it was a “damning report”. He hoped the members of the public could understand why there had been an elongation of the Right to Reply to allow the process to take place. He believed the way matters had been dealt with had clearly not been appropriate. He thanked the former Leader, Cllr Jeff Green.

Cllr Foulkes said it was fully costed and they would continue to engage [AKA Ltd] for the foreseeable period. He saw it continuing going forward to the next available Cabinet meeting. He felt it need to be discussed in full and with other whistleblowing issues.

The Highways and Engineering Services Procurement Exercise report was discussed by Cllr Foulkes in detail. He said the main accusations were people being overcharged and compensation as well as other forms of abuse. Cllr Foulkes said they had been investigated and reported to the police.

Cllr Foulkes mentioned detailed work on the Action Plan and how to “move forward”. He said the view to the outside world was one of reputational damage to Wirral Council. They were engaging an external body to help and advise which would hopefully counter the insular culture.

He referred to a Corporate Governance Committee briefing and the “Improvement Board” which would include North West Employers to hold them [Wirral Council] to account. The Chief Executive and Bill Norman would keep an overview on how they dealt with the Action Plan. He mentioned hope and prayer and picking up comments by employees.

There was outrage and outrage by individuals and harm to individuals. He gave a public apology to Martin Morton which was a “genuine case” that Wirral Council had “not dealt with appropriately”. The Audit and Risk Management Committee had had a time of reflection, but should now move forward with a final resolution.

Graham Hodkinson was now Director of Adult Social Services and he welcomed him to his new post. He then read out the following resolution verbatim that was also handed out to those present. He said an apology to Martin Morton had been added. He wanted discussions to continue with Martin Morton to ensure an “amicable outcome” and a job with the authority. However they had to tie the loose ends up and it was not for Cllr Foulkes or the Cabinet to speak on behalf of Martin Morton.

He said it was the final outcome and that it helps the audience. He said it was a “difficult report to read”. He had tried to give encouragement to people working in the Department for Adult Social Services, but that it can’t go without thorough investigation.

Cllr Phil Davies formally seconded the resolution. It was agreed by the Cabinet. The resolution is below.

On a Motion moved by Councillor S Foulkes and seconded by Councillor P Davies it was

RESOLVED (unanimously): That

(1)       the Exempt Appendices 2 and 4 be brought into the public domain;

(2)       the previous Council Leader, Councillor J Green be thanked for engaging AKA to investigate the claims of Mr Martin Morton (and others);

(3)       the Council apologises to Mr Martin Morton and discussions will continue with him in the hope that an amicable outcome is reached; and

(4)       this Cabinet recognises the serious failings contained within this report and the harm done to vulnerable adults as a consequence of those failings.

It accepts unreservedly the recommendations made in the report and asks the Chief Executive to draw up an Action Plan demonstrating how those recommendations will be implemented, which should be reported back to the next Cabinet, and referred from there to a Special Council for full debate.

Cabinet welcomes the fact that the Chief Executive has already asked:

§ The Director of Adult Social Services, supported by the Head of Safeguarding, to urgently review the Final report for any further safeguarding issues that need to be addressed

§ The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management, supported by the Head of Human Resources and Organisational Development, to urgently review the Final Report to ensure all appropriate action is taken,

§ The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management, in consultation with the Director of Adult Social Services and the Head of Safeguarding, to urgently review the Final Report to consider whether any historic safeguarding failures should be referred to the Police, (or any relevant regulatory body) for investigation.

It further notes the actions already under way listed in paragraphs 3.8 to 3.10 which include:

§ A series of measures to strengthen the Council’s  safeguarding of vulnerable adults

§ An ongoing review into the Council’s whistle blowing and harassment and bullying policies and

§ A wider review of the Council’s Corporate Governance (including a review of all fees and charges)

And notes that these measures are designed to ensure that the situations contained within the report could not be repeated in the Department of Adult Social Services or elsewhere across the Council.

Cabinet is also conscious of the fact that one of the criticisms in the report is that in Wirral Council the “abnormal has become normal”.

Cabinet therefore endorses the decision of the Leader of the Council to set up an Improvement Board, under the umbrella of the LGA, with external representatives from the LGA and elsewhere, including the author of this report, Ms Anna Klonowski, to ensure that any future decisions are taken on the basis of best practice rather than accepted Wirral practice.

Cabinet further endorses the decision to refer the Action Plan to be drawn up by the Chief Executive to this Improvement board for their Scrutiny and comment.

Cabinet also refers the Final Report to the Health and Well Being Overview and Scrutiny Committee for their Scrutiny and Comments.

Cabinet believes that this Final Report should be seen in tandem with the Martin Smith report into allegations of bullying and harassment and therefore believes it would be in the public interest to publish this report,  and refer it to the Special Council called to discuss the Final Anna Klonowski’s report, along with a separate report on HESPE which also arose from the actions of Whistleblowers and the Council’s response to those Whistleblowers.

Cabinet thanks Ms Klonowski for the detailed work that has gone into this Final Report and expresses its hope and belief that these findings can be used as a catalyst for major improvement and change.

It further hopes that this will allow the Council to move forward from this point to the provision of radically improved services and a much more open and transparent culture which welcomes and learns from criticism and responds rapidly to complaints or concerns at the earliest possible stage, preventing a situation like this from ever arising again.

Corporate Governance Committee (Wirral Council) 26th October 2011 5.00pm (Committee Room 1) Part 9

Cllr Foulkes moved the meeting on to the Policy Unit report. Jim Wilkie said he had been critical of the formation of a policy unit, but it would have to be at the heart of the decision making process. It would initially agree policies to be implemented. He was aware of the changes in circumstances, the corporate pan, the work on child poverty and the discussion at the Employment and Appointments Committee which had referred it back to this committee. It would be established by seconding existing staff and somebody would be needed to head it up. He wanted feedback of views on its precise role which he would take into account. If people were seconded it would have an impact on the departments they were seconded from.

Cllr Green said he was not altogether clear on the policy unit as theoretically councillors should decide policy. He said there used to be a policy unit. He said people develop policy all over the place and if there was a central unit which everything went to it would just get bigger and bigger. This would then only look at what everybody ese was doing. He said was not clear and wanted to see how it would fit into overall governance. He asked “Why invent the wheel without clarity?” and how they had “let Carolyn go”.

Cllr Phil Davies said the benefit of a unit would be horizon scanning, which would give them the ability and capability to see what was coming down the track whether this be legislation or key issues. He said at the moment this was a struggle as people were busy operating services, but there were “big challenges on the way”.

Corporate Governance Committee (Wirral Council) 26th October 2011 5.00pm (Committee Room 1) Part 8

Cllr Foulkes said the report raised two issues. The first would help feed into the corporate governance work program, the other issue was to do with the work stream which would have to bid into the Budget.

Cllr Anne McArdle raised the issue of external customers, schools, what schools needs and school employment.

Bill Norman said his department provides human resources and a significant level of employment related advice to schools as well as legal and committee services. More work on the latter would limit their capacity to give advice to schools and deal with admission appeals.

Cllr Ann McLachlan said that 4.9 was a useful starting point. Bill Norman replied that David Smith had made a helpful point, Cabinet has bulky three-week agendas and it was a matter of deciding the best way of using time.

Cllr Foulkes raised the issue of Anna’s seminar to all councillors. He asked that they do their level best. Cllr Phil Davies said Bill had made a good start on the challenges, but asked what the options were of addressing the challenges? He asked if other councils had looked at the same challenges and how Wirral Council would go about addressing them?

Cllr Green said the wanted to highlight the requirement of making it clear how the review of services would be laid out and answering the question “What sort of Council do we want?”. He had a strong opinion but he wanted to avoid producing unnecessary reports which would be avoided by a clear and agreed set of requirements.

Corporate Governance Committee (Wirral Council) 26th October 2011 5.00pm (Committee Room 1) Part 7

Cllr Ann McLachlan said they should not be diverted from their primary purpose or stretching too thin. She said they needed focus. Cllr Foulkes said to tell him what they wanted but it would have a direct effect on resource implications (which he said was not unique to Wirral Counci). Cllr Phil Davies said Jim Wilkie would bring a report back to the next meeting about the turnaround team. Cllr Foulkes said there was an issue of resources and backfilling people if they were diverted from their job. Jim Wilkie said they would use whatever resources were necessary.

Anna Klonowski said they had to make sure they had the right people with the right experience. Cllr McArdle said [to Anna] that she “may be surprised at the talent”.

David Smith introduced the Internal Audit report and said it was important to mention Internal Audit and there were a couple of things in paragraph 4.2 that might justify diverting attention and it would be worthwhile to seek external views. Ian Coleman would be reporting back at the beginning of December which was a challenging timescale. Cllr Foulkes asked if people were happy, so the report was agreed.

Bill Norman talked about the review of Legal and Committee services. He said they had started the process of reviewing one of the key support areas and that Anna’s corporate governance report was a spear in terms of going forward. It did create additional areas of pressure, but the approach in 4.14 should help councillors take decisions and for them to be implemented.