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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Councillor Phil Davies "the closure of the [Lyndale] School is the most viable option"

Councillor Phil Davies “the closure of the [Lyndale] School is the most viable option”

Councillor Phil Davies “the closure of the [Lyndale] School is the most viable option”

                                                            

On Friday I published Councillor Paul Hayes “The aspiration should not be for imitation for the Lyndale School, we have the real thing”.

There was a quote by the late Terry Pratchett who put it thus “Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote.”

In Wirral Council the man with the vote is the Leader of the Council Councillor Phil Davies. Here’s what he had to say about Lyndale School.

Councillor Phil Davies talks about Lyndale School 24th February 2015
Councillor Phil Davies talks about Lyndale School 24th February 2015

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Thank you Mr Mayor.

I’d like to provide my comments into a response now on Lyndale School and then the Jeff Green budget.

First of all on Lyndale School Mr Mayor, last year we had a thorough consultation about the future of Lyndale School. This consultation was supported by many discussions with parents, indeed I myself and the Cabinet Member met with parents, discussions with Members and others with an interest in the future of the School and the children.

Cabinet received reports on the 4th September and the 17th December last year which gave the outcome of the consultation and the representation period regarding the proposed closure of the Lyndale School.

Cabinet on the 17th December took the difficult decision to close the School with the agreed closure date of the 31st August 2016. At this meeting of Cabinet on the 17th December Members took into account the full range of issues and themes which emerged during the representation period.

Can I remind Members that the report to Cabinet on the 4th of September contained a detailed account of the outcome of the consultation held on the Wirral and the SEN Improvement Test?

Cabinet decided the closure because the viability of the School was compromised by its small size and falling roll. There are currently twenty-one children on the roll of the School. Members will be aware that there has been uncertainty about the future of the School for a number of years now and that uncertainty has been resolved by the Cabinet decision to close the School. Following the Schools Forum on the 14th January 2015, the schools have already been consulted on the schools budget for 15/16, this was agreed by Cabinet on the 10th February.

Taking all these factors into account, I do not believe that it is a viable option to anticipate that the Schools Forum will vote in favour of funding or retaining the Lyndale School. This is chaos. There are currently twenty-one pupils as I said before and this has been reducing in recent years.

There are two other primary schools for children with complex learning difficulties including children with profound and multiple learning difficulties which can provide good enough or better opportunities for current pupils at Lyndale School or future primary aged children with PMLD. The suitability of both these schools has been extensively considered and reported previously.

The Council has given careful consideration to its statutory duty to ensure that there is sufficient school places with further access to educational opportunities. It’s carefully considered the correct statutory process and guidance has been followed which includes careful consideration of the Special Educational Needs Improvement Test and equality impact assessment.

The size of the school and its falling roll and the availability of other suitable primary schools on the Wirral, it has taken account of all the views, representations and has considered details and implications including financial issues and concluded that the closure of the School is the most viable option.

Mr Mayor taking all these factors into account I cannot see that there is any basis for seeking a revocation notice to consult on those proposals to stop all current planned action being taken to close the Lyndale School. Similarly there is no basis I believe, obviously we’d negotiate with the Schools Forum to consider allocating money at the detriment of other schools who are already experiencing enormous financial pressures due to the allocation of a flat cash budget and increasing pressures on all schools to deliver a balanced budget.

Mr Mayor I do want to acknowledge that this has been a difficult and uncertain time for families with children at Lyndale School and their staff but every effort will be made to ensure that there are good plans for each and every child to secure alternative school provision with strong plans for transition in place well before the School closes in July 2016.

So Mr Mayor that’s my response to the Lyndale School.

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How did 62 Wirral Council councillors vote on Lyndale School?

How did 62 Wirral Council councillors vote on Lyndale School?

How did 62 Wirral Council councillors vote on Lyndale School?

                                      

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This continues from yesterday’s Councillors ask Labour to keep Lyndale School open; Labour defers decision on Lyndale to September Cabinet meeting.

Councillor Jeff Green said that the children attending Lyndale School had complex and profound medical conditions with a significant number being life limiting. In his opinion they had a moral obligation to meet the wishes of the parents to continue their child’s education at Lyndale. He said that the direct schools grant was ring-fenced for education so no savings would be made by closing Lyndale.

He continued by referring to the over ten thousand people that had signed a petition against closure. If Lyndale closed, the children would transfer to other schools which catered for children with very different needs. Cllr Green referred to the review of primary places and the reasons given by officers for closing Kingsway Primary School in Seacombe. The Conservative councillors had voted to keep it open and it had thrived since receiving an outstanding OFSTED inspection. He asked the [Labour] administration to have a change of heart and keep the school open as it was a facility doing an “outstanding job”.

The Mayor (Cllr Steve Foulkes) said it had been remiss of his not to congratulate Cllr Pat Cleary on his maiden speech. He asked Cllr Hayes to give his right to reply.

Cllr Hayes also took the opportunity to congratulate Cllr Cleary on his maiden speech and referred to what Cllr Cleary had said earlier about a previous consultation where the Leader of the Council had expedited a proposal based on an early evaluation of consultation responses. He asked why is it they have to wait till 4th September when the consultation ended on the 25th June? In debating the notice of motion Council was taking a view and making a recommendation which it had done many times on different issues.

He referred to the consultation process and the glowing terms and how it was held out as an example of good practice by both Cllr Phil Davies and Cllr Tony Smith. However questions put by parents to Wirral Council had been answered on the final day of the consultation, so where was the “equality of arms”. He said it was time to end the “misery and pain” and time that the Cabinet made a resolution that Lyndale was to remain open.

A card vote was called for. The first vote was on Labour’s amendment (to defer any decision on the future of Lyndale School to a special meeting of Cabinet in September).

Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour) FOR
Cllr Tom Anderson (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Bruce Berry (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Chris Blakeley (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Eddie Boult (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Alan Brighouse (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Philip Brightmore (Labour) FOR
Cllr Chris Carubia (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Pat Cleary (Green) AGAINST
Cllr Jim Crabtree (Labour) FOR
Cllr Matt Daniel (Labour) FOR
Cllr George Davies (Labour) FOR
Cllr Phil Davies (Labour) FOR
Cllr Bill Davies (Labour) FOR
Cllr Paul Doughty (Labour) FOR
Cllr David Elderton (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Gerry Ellis (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Steve Foulkes (Labour) ABSTAIN
Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Jeff Green (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Robert Gregson (Labour) FOR
Cllr Pat Hackett (Labour) FOR
Cllr Paul Hayes (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Andrew Hodson (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Kathy Hodson (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Mike Hornby (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Treena Johnson (Labour) FOR
Cllr Adrian Jones (Labour) FOR
Cllr Chris Jones (Labour) FOR
Cllr Stuart Kelly (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Anita Leech (Labour) FOR
Cllr Ann McLachlan (Labour) FOR
Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour) FOR
Cllr Dave Mitchell (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Bernie Mooney (Labour) FOR
Cllr Christina Muspratt (Labour) FOR
Cllr Steve Niblock (Labour) FOR
Cllr Tony Norbury (Labour) FOR
Cllr Matthew Patrick (Labour) FOR
Cllr Denise Realey (Labour) FOR
Cllr Louise Reecejones (Labour) FOR
Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Les Rowlands (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr John Salter (Labour) FOR
Cllr Harry Smith (Labour) FOR
Cllr Tony Smith (Labour) FOR
Cllr Tracey Smith (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Walter Smith (Labour) FOR
Cllr Chris Spriggs (Labour) FOR
Cllr Jean Stapleton (Labour) FOR
Cllr Mike Sullivan (Labour) FOR
Cllr Adam Sykes (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Joe Walsh (Labour) FOR
Cllr Geoffrey Watt (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Stuart Whittingham (Labour) FOR
Cllr Irene Williams (Labour) FOR
Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour) FOR
Cllr Pat Williams (Liberal Democrat) AGAINST
Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative) AGAINST
Cllr Janette Williamson (Labour) FOR

The vote was announced as 35 in favour, 26 against with one abstention. There was then a card vote on the motion (as amended by Labour’s amendment).

So the decision made was to defer a decision on Lyndale School to a special meeting of the Cabinet on September 4th.

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