Wirral Council’s Standards Panel will meet on the 15th June to decide on a complaint about a councillor

Wirral Council’s Standards Panel will meet on the 15th June to decide on a complaint about a councillor

Wirral Council’s Standards Panel will meet on the 15th June to decide on a complaint about a councillor

Council Chamber (Wallasey Town Hall) 1st June 2017 - Does the councillor complained about sit on one of these seats?
Council Chamber (Wallasey Town Hall) 1st June 2017 – Does the councillor complained about sit on one of these seats?

I noticed looking through the calendar of public meetings at Wirral Council this month that a Standards Panel meeting is scheduled for Thursday 15th June starting at 5.00 pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall.

However two days before it meets Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (its parent Committee) meets to decide which councillors sit on the Standards Panel.

Publishing the date, time and place of the meeting is of course is an improvement on the last Standards Panel involving a complaint about Cllr Steve Foulkes last year which wasn’t added to the calendar until after the meeting had taken place.

So who is the complaint about? Short answer is I don’t know as I didn’t make it! Here however are the papers from a previous Standards Panel meeting I was present at involving Cllr Denis Knowles in 2012. The complainant was also then Denis Knowles too!

However, presumably it won’t be about any of the three councillors that may be on the Standards Panel deciding it (Cllr Chris Blakeley (Conservative), Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat) or Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour)).

It looks possible that Cllr Paul Hayes could be an Alternate Member at the Standards Panel meeting for the Conservative Group in place of Cllr Chris Blakeley though.

It also won’t be about about Cllr Gillian Wood as she was only elected earlier last month. Therefore there has been insufficient time for any complaint about her to reach this stage.

That leaves a large number of other councillors (sixty or so) it could be about! As the agenda is set to be published by the 7th June 2017 it’s possible I might find out then.

The good thing about it meeting in Committee Room 1 is that it’s possible microphones can be used there. Other people down on Wirral Council’s website as attending the meeting are Shirley Hudspeth (presumably to take the minutes), Surjit Tour (in his capacity as Monitoring Officer) and Professor Ronald Jones (in his capacity as Independent Person).

The agenda to be agreed for Standards Panel meetings is as follows:


1. Appointment of Chairperson of the Panel

2. Declarations of Interest

3. Opening remarks of the Chairperson

4. Panel to determine whether the exemption to exclude the press and public is to be maintained. (Parties invited to make representations)

5. Complainant (or representative) invited to make opening remarks

6. Subject Councillor (or representative) invited to make opening remarks

7. Investigator to present his/her report

8. Parties invited to question the investigator and/or seek points of clarification on the report

9. Panel to question the investigator on her report

10. Complainant (or representative) invited to make final submissions

11. Panel to seek clarification on any points relevant to the Complainant

12. Subject Councillor (or representative) invited to make final submissions

13. Panel to seek clarification on any points relevant to the Subject Councillor

14. Panel to invite the views of the Independent Person for consideration

15. Panel hearing adjourned to allow for deliberation (as deemed appropriate the Panel)

16. Panel hearing resumed for decision

17. If the Panel decision upholds/finds a breach of the Code, the Subject Councillor (or representative) shall be invited to make submissions in respect of any mitigation (including in respect of sanctions) for consideration by the Panel

18. Panel hearing adjourned to allow for deliberation (if deemed necessary by the Panel)

19. Panel hearing resumed for decision on sanctions (if any)

The Chairperson and Panel shall have discretion to vary the above procedure if it is considered appropriate and necessary to ensure fairness to all parties.


The Standards Panel can decide either to determine that no action should be taken in respect of the allegation(s) made (if so and the councillor complained about agrees a media statement is issued about it and if the councillor complained about agrees it is reported to the next meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee) or the Standards Panel can determine that the Members’ Code of Conduct is proven to be breached.

If their decision is the latter, then the Standards Panel can request:

(a) that Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer) write to the councillor concerned,

(b) that the councillor has to apologise tot the Complainant (whether verbally or in writing),

(c) recommend to the Leader of that Political Group that disciplinary action be taken against the councillor,

(d) ask Surjit Tour to arrange training for the councillor concerned, if the councillor fails to turn up to the training then this is reported to the Leader of that Political Group.

If the Standards Panel upholds the complaint, the councillor complained about can choose within 21 days to appeal the decision to the Standards Appeal Panel.


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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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