EXCLUSIVE: Letter from Cllr Phil Davies to Cllr Jeff Green about “Wirralgate”

EXCLUSIVE: Letter from Cllr Phil Davies to Cllr Jeff Green about “Wirralgate”

EXCLUSIVE: Letter from Cllr Phil Davies to Cllr Jeff Green about “Wirralgate”


Wirral Council logo

Please reply to:

Councillor Philip L Davies
Leader of Wirral Council

Town Hall, Brighton Street
Wallasey, Wirral
Merseyside, CH44 8ED
Telephone: 0151-691 8539
Fax: 0151-691-2887
Email: phildavies@wirral.gov.uk
Date: 17 December 2013

Councillor J Green
Leader of the Conservative Group
Wallasey Town Hall
Brighton Street
WIRRAL       CH44 8ED

my ref PD0012/DLK

Dear Jeff,

I write in response to your question at Council. I will also copy this response to all Members and ask for it to be published as an appendix to the Council minutes.

A group of individuals approached me about this matter. The individuals did not wish to make a formal complaint regarding the comments allegedly made by one of my Senior Members regarding a Senior Council Officer. However I am absolutely committed to ensuring that all matters of concern are properly investigated and so chose to immediately refer the matter to the Chief Executive.

The Chief Executive instructed the Strategic Director for Transformation and Resources, in his position as Deputy Monitoring Officer, to conduct an investigation and an Independent Investigator was appointed.

The Senior Officer concerned does not wish the investigation report to be made public, and I intend to respect their wishes. However if you would like to see a copy I will ask the Chief Executive to make it available to you. I intend to make the same offer to the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. I have been informed that you have been briefed previously regarding the outcome of that investigation however for clarity I will outline the conclusions.

The Independent Investigator wrote on two occasions to the individuals who had brought this matter to my attention, however they refused to cooperate. All other concerned parties were interviewed, with external legal advisors present. No evidence was made available to the investigation to substantiate a serious allegation regarding inappropriate language.

The Senior Member concerned did make clear that he had made adverse comment regarding a Senior Officer, comments he regrets. The Investigation therefore found there had been a breach of the Council’s Code of Conduct. It concluded that an apology to the Officer concerned and a conciliation process was appropriate. At the request of the Senior Officer the matter has been dealt with in a confidential manner.

We have discussed the issue of improving the culture of this Council and I believe that both myself as Leader, and you as Leader of the Opposition have a crucial role to play in this. I have stated publicly, at Improvement Board and elsewhere, that the number one priority for this Council over the coming months must be to address this once and for all. I do not believe this is a matter for party politics, our staff and the residents of Wirral deserve and expect us to take a lead.

I would therefore again urge you that if you have any evidence of wrong doing, or can encourage others to supply any evidence that exists of wrongdoing, that you work with me to bring this to light. I promise that if this happens a further robust investigation will take place.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Phil Davies signature

Councillor Phil Davies

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Response from Cllr Jeff Green on the Anna Klonowski Associates report redactions

Response from Cllr Jeff Green on the Anna Klonowski Associates report redactions

Response from Cllr Jeff Green on Improvement Board issues


Following the Improvement Board meeting held in public last month, exactly a month ago I emailed Graham Burgess (Chief Executive), Cllr Phil Davies (Leader of the Labour Group), Cllr Jeff Green (Leader of the Conservative Group) and Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Leader of the Lib Dem Group) about the progress on the commitments made at that meeting.

I indicated in that email that I would publish replies (unless the author stated otherwise) so that the public know what’s happening.

Nearly two weeks ago I received a reply from Cllr Jeff Green (which is below). It made sense to wait a little longer for replies from the others so that they could all be published together. As a month has gone by and I haven’t received a reply from another of the other three, below Cllr Jeff Green’s reply I include my original email. I haven’t changed the colour used for text in Cllr Green’s email, as Leader of the Conservative Group I think it would come as no surprise to people that he writes in blue!

from: Green, Jeff E. (Councillor)
to: john.brace@gmail.com
date: 6 December 2013 14:47
subject: RE: follow up to question and answer session at Friday’s Improvement Board meeting
mailed-by: wirral.gov.uk

Dear John

Thanks for your email. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

I think my record is pretty clear on this matter: I have always pushed for an un-redacted copy of the AKA report to be published and have been obstructed at every turn.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant and the sooner the light is shed on the actions of those responsible, the better.

I trust that sets my position out clearly for you.

Best wishes

Jeff Green signature

Cllr. Jeff Green
Leader of the Conservative Group
Ward Councillor for West Kirby & Thurstaston

Twitter: www.twitter.com/cllrjeffgreen
Phone: 07766725125
You can also find me on Facebook

From: John Brace [mailto:john.brace@gmail.com]
Sent: 18 November 2013 11:15
To: Burgess, Graham
Cc: Davies, Phil L. (Councillor); Green, Jeff E. (Councillor); Gilchrist, Phil N. (Councillor)
Subject: follow up to question and answer session at Friday’s Improvement Board meeting

Dear Graham Burgess, Cllr Phil Davies, Cllr Jeff Green and Cllr Phil Gilchrist,

In order that the public know the progress of the commitments made on Friday’s Improvement Board meeting I am publishing this email and will happily also publish any replies unless you indicate that you do not wish your reply to be put in the public domain.

A brief update on some progress I have made on the appendices to the Anna Klonowski Associates Limited report. Appendix B (the Equality and Human Rights Commission Letter dated 29th December 2010) has been helpfully supplied by Paul Cardin.

Appendices C (the first improvement plan) and D (the Care Quality Commission Inspection Report) I discovered at the weekend had already been published by Wirral Council as part of a Cabinet agenda from over three years ago.

Appendix G (the Standards for England decision notices) have already been published too and I am not asking for appendix L (medical information relating to Martin Morton). This just leaves appendices E, F, H, I, J, K, M, N, O, P and Q.

With regards to my supplementary question about appendix P (minutes of the DASS Monitoring and Development Sub Group Meeting), as this was the only meeting minutes referred to in the appendices list I made an error. My question should’ve referred to notes in a different appendix, which contained the notes of the Charging Policy Working Group held on the 22nd August 2005, my apologies for any confusion caused.

I would be interested in receiving an unredacted copy of the notes and accompanying table (unredacted in respect of the three councillors who were there if deleting the redaction of officer names is an insurmountable problem) of the Charging Policy Working Group. The only councillor I am able to ascertain was there so far was Cllr Pat Williams.

With regards to appendix E (charging policy for supported living services) as this was a policy I presume it was agreed by councillors. It therefore can’t be claimed that a policy falls into one of the reasons you gave on Friday for not publishing the appendices. Publishing it would help the public understand the series of events that happened and whether it was an unlawful policy implemented by officers or whether officers acted outside of an agreed policy.

I am sure you (apart from Cllr Gilchrist who couldn’t be there) remember the mood of the public at Friday’s meeting and how although Wirral Council has changed in some ways that convincing the public of that change will be a difficult challenge.

I asked the questions I did on Friday because if the public were informed fully about what actually happened, then knowing what happened and the chain of events that led to it would allow the public to decide for themselves whether the changes made since then would prevent a reoccurence in the future.

Until there is more disclosure of what went happened, despite Wirral Council’s desire to “move on” some members of the public will still want to know and the details of who, what, why, where and when which at the moment are answers that are only filled with speculation.

I hope this sets out my position and I look forward to a more detailed response about the future publication (or the reasons against publication) of the remaining appendices to the Anna Klonowski Associated Limited report and the question about removing the redactions of councillor and officer names (at Head of Service level and above) in the Martin Smith report.

Yours sincerely,
John Brace

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Improvement Board (15th November 2013) The next five minutes (a transcript)

Improvement Board (15th November 2013) The next five minutes (a transcript)

Improvement Board (15th November 2013) The next five minutes (a transcript)


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A previous post on this blog deals with the first five minutes of the Improvement Board meeting. Since then over roughly a week since the video of the Improvement Board meeting was uploaded to Youtube, the first part of the meeting has been viewed nearly two hundred times at the time of writing! As there was such interest in it, I thought I’d continue with a transcript of the meeting, carrying on where I left off which was five minutes and twenty-four seconds in.

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): We’re going to move on in terms of making sure we get through the questions. John Brace, are you present, yeah?

John Brace: As there are quite a lot of questions and they’re in here already, I’m quite happy with you reading them out if that would be speeding things up a bit.

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): I think that’s really helpful of you and thank you for submitting it in advance, because people have the script in front of them and because it’s long, I won’t actually read it out as we did in one of the other sessions if that’s alright, but we will let you come back when we’ve given the answer, unlike the other sessions, in terms of if there are supplementary questions or points that you feel we didn’t cover from your email, ok? Thank you. Graham do you want to go?

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Just in response to the first question which relates to a whole series of appendices to the AKA report, our view is that err all the appendices actually contain very sensitive personal information and to release those appendices would be in breach of data protection and also the duty we have to individuals who gave us information in confidence, or in relation to their own personal medical or financial circumstances. Therefore it’s our view that it would be inappropriate to release those documents as they contain a whole host of sensitive information. Clearly these matters can be tested, if you wish to test our view, via FOIs and the Information Commissioner, but so far our position has been and has not been challenged in respect of those appendices. It’s our view as you can see from some of them anyway, clearly showing they do contain very sensitive personal information.

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): I think that was recognised within the question, certainly in terms of one of the appendices, thank you.

Cllr Jeff Green (Leader, Conservative Group): Yeah, can I just check when the Chief Executive said ‘we decided’ who the we were?

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Well it’s the Council, I clearly represent the Council.

John Brace: Sorry, as I’m entitled to a supplementary on that. In relation to that list, I know that there were councillors present at that one and that was used as a justification that councillors had signed off on the special charging policy, so if you released it with the other names blacked out, wouldn’t that mean people could have at least a bit of accountability as to who the people were who agreed to that?

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Can I also say Chair that with your agreement it would be the intention of the Council to print all these questions, place all these questions on our website and all the answers to them as well so it can be available for people who couldn’t make it at this meeting so they can see what we’re saying.

In respect of that, obviously this is a question that only came in at five o’clock last night which was reasonable and obviously your supplementary has just been asked now so I’d need to probably go away and take advice on that point and we’ll give you the answer both to you John personally and put the answer on the website for everybody to see and certainly Joyce and the Improvement Board will take that into account when they write the final report.

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): So thank you, for that particular question, it’s really helpful. Do you want to keep on going in terms of the series of questions because we’ve got them in front of us?

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): The next question I think refers to the Martin Smith report and again our position is the Martin Smith report was redacted as it contained personal information and the Council has a legal obligation with regards to public disclosure of that information to the individuals mentioned in that report.

The Council’s responsibility extends not only to the public, but to any person or body to which the information relates, the Council considers every case on its merits and maintains its position that disclosure is not appropriate in these circumstances. Once again there are ways of challenging the Council, via the Information Commissioner another way if you think the Council is being unreasonable and the Council has and will always respond to the Information Commissioner’s ruling.

I would say however that perhaps the most important part of that report particularly is the recommendations around our whistle blowing, grievances and bullying policies, all of which have been progressed in line with that report and all of which is referred in response to critical incidents report that’s also considered by the Audit Committee last night.

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): Thank you, is there anything further as you’re present that you want to ask? Move onto the councillors point which is in the next question.

Graham Burgess: Thank you, I’ll just stay standing up, shall I?

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): Yeah, I think you should, you could keep your jacket off.

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Again it’s a similar point that the Council does have responsibilities to the individuals named in these reports and this must be considered in relation to disclosure and redaction. Full disclosure of the Martin Smith report would in the Council’s opinion contravene its legal obligations under the Data Protection Act, with regards to upper management’s control of information in its possession.

Once again there are ways of challenging the Council independently if people have a different view and I would encourage people if they don’t agree with the Council’s position to challenge us and we will state our case to the Information Commissioner or any other relevant body. We believe as well as obligations to the public as a whole, we have obligations to individual members of staff, public, service users to protect their interests and that’s why we’re acting in this way.

If however, people think we’re wrong, then it’s worth challenging our position and we welcome people challenging our position. Thank you.

Member of public heckling: You’re wrong, you welcome challenges, you’re wrong. You’re far from being open and transparent and that’s ridiculous. I apologise to you all for that.

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Can I just say?

Joyce Redfearn (Chair, Improvement Board): That’s your view, so I, what we will do is allow further questions and comments at the end and I understand that was a heartfelt, but we’ll go through the series if that’s ok with you.

Member of public who previously heckled: Apologies about the time you take on this decision.

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive, Wirral Council): Can I just say clearly if people think we are wrong, that’s perfectly right to challenge us and there are ways of processing those and it can be challenged independently and we welcome those challenges and if we are wrong of course we will publish the documents.


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Cllr Simon Mountney “There are major issues happening in this Council that are still being covered up”

Cllr Simon Mountney “There are major issues happening in this Council that are still being covered up”

Cllr Simon Mountney “There are major issues happening in this Council that are still being covered up”


Last Thursday as part of the consultation into the future of the Improvement Board, Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee met. Whereas all councillors voted in favour of the motion on the report on Wirral Council’s response to critical reports 2010/2013, Cllr Simon Mountney voted against the earlier motion about the Improvement Board Review, this motion contained the phrase “it is clear that Wirral is now an outward looking Authority – open to constructive criticism and willing to address problems when they occur”.

I thought (for those who weren’t at the meeting) it would be interesting to report Cllr Simon Mountney’s comments here as from his comments it’s clear that not all Wirral councillors agree on the way forward. His comments start at 8:56 in the video below.

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Cllr Simon Mountney said, “OK, politically are we ready, perhaps we are today Chair, are we ready post the elections should things change this year or the year after, I’m not sure and I don’t think we’re politically savvy or grown up enough yet to ensure that if that and when that change comes that we are politically grown up enough to make sure that that is the case.

I think there are elements of the Council that perhaps don’t want that to change and whether we are politically grown up enough or savvy enough to make sure that that happens, I’ll reflect on the answer to that.

Strategically are we grown up enough? No, I don’t think we are. This report is historic but clearly it’s about things that have happened, all true. The first point here that says it was the Council that was perceived as having a silo culture and a lack of corporate and strategic thinking.

You know when the Chief Exec sits in front of us and says the last two budgets have been fire fighting budgets because we’ve got other things to think about that demonstrates to me that we haven’t been planning operations strategically, we’ve had too many other things to think about and all we’ve been doing is fire fighting.

So, yes moving forward, we might develop and grow, but historically this document doesn’t reflect what’s happened and I’ll pick one area, FOI requests.

The number of FOI requests that this Council receive, I believe gives a really good indication of how open and transparent and therefore you could use the argument, I would, as to whether good means a Council we are.

There are still major issues that I know of and I’m working very hard to get the evidence and as soon as I do I’ll bring it to you. There are major issues happening in this Council that are still being covered up and you know it’s wrong and I don’t understand why as a Council we persist with that type of attitude and ethos.

This Council is only ashamed of the ethos changes and the culture changes that as yet I see no evidence that that has changed. I’m aware of three or four incidents that should appear in this final second report but don’t and they don’t as yet, because they will, they don’t as yet because they’ve been covered up, they’ve been kept from me!

Now why that is I don’t know, but I will find out and I’ll let people know but based on that alone, this report doesn’t reflect the Council that I currently see.

Yes we are some way down the road, yes we are improving, yes there is improvement and yes there are policies in place and politicians in place that are making a difference but there is some and there is the ethos and culture that persists from where we came from and until that changes I’m afraid this report doesn’t quite reflect the Council that I see.”

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Improvement Board (15th November 2013) The first five minutes (a transcript)

Improvement Board (15th November 2013) The first five minutes (a transcript)

Improvement Board (15th November 2013) The first five minutes (a transcript)


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Above is video from the first twenty-six minutes of the Improvement Board. If you want to watch the whole meeting from start to finish you can watch using the playlist. If I was to write a report on the meeting, I don’t think it would really do it justice. Therefore it would be better instead to have a verbatim account of what was said (which I’ll be adding to the video as subtitles).

Those at the meeting got this handout which had the responses to the consultation and questions submitted to the meeting (although it’s best to read this about the questions as some had subtle alterations). The handout also contained the text of motions agreed at meetings of Wirral Council’s Coordinating Committee and at Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee about the review. At the later meeting Cllr Simon Mountney voted against the resolution. So here’s the transcript of the first five minutes.

Joyce Redfearn, Chair of the Improvement Board: A very, very warm welcome. It is most encouraging to see so many people here.

If you can’t hear, can you please wave hands and indicate to us and we’ll try and project better. If you do want to move forward there are more seats at the front if that helps people but you know wherever you’re comfortable you are very welcome to stay in terms of the proceedings.

I probably should begin with introductions of the people sitting at the top table just so that you know who we are but we have deliberately taken away the tables and tried to make it a more relaxed and more informal situation. So we hope that that will create the right atmosphere this afternoon for you to be able to ask the questions and make your comments that you wish to make in terms of the review.

I’m Joyce Redfearn, I’m the Chair of the Improvement Board.

Graham Burgess: I’m Graham Burgess, Wirral Council Chief Executive

Cllr Phil Davies: I’m Phil Davies, Leader of the Council.

Dr Gill Taylor: I’m Gill Taylor from the Local Government Association and member of the Improvement Board.

Mike Thomas: I’m Mike Thomas, I’m the Council’s external auditor.

Joyce Redfearn: And we have other members of the Improvement Board in the audience, both past and present members of the Board so no doubt at times they may want to also join in as Board members in terms of the comments and queries that we’ve received.

To try to help things because we have had rather I’m pleased we’ve had a very strong response to the consultation and to the opportunity to ask questions. We have put out I hope everybody can see a piece of paper that says Feedback from partners but then it goes onto the questions which will be the main focus of today’s session and I have also as Chair agreed that Martin Morton with whom much of this began should have the opportunity to also make a statement at the end of the meeting at the end of the questions, so I hope people are comfortable with that, ok.

I’m not going to dwell on the initial feedback. We wanted you to be aware that there have been responses and this was actually yesterday evening when we’d just received these and we are expecting more potentially through the course of the day up to five o’clock this evening. They do give a flavour of some of the responses that are coming back and I hope this is helpful in terms of seeing what others are saying as well as as hearing today what the people in this audience actually feel and think about the review report, the work that’s been done by the Improvement Board and I suppose fundamentally the issue is where and how well prepared Wirral Council now is for the next stage which it still knows is an improvement journey.

Nobody is saying today this is the end of the story. This is part of where we will be continuing, but in a different form to see further improvements in Wirral Council.

So if we’re all happy to do so, I’d like to turn to the first question, so the heading, it’s on page one, two, three, four, five if you’re with me, questions or feedback submitted by the public and the first one is from J Yates.

I don’t know if J Yates is in the room and wants to identify themselves. It’s not necessary, we will actually take the question whether people want to idetify or not and themselves associated with that. OK, the first question there is about the timing and not having given at least five working days notice, I’ll ask Graham to respond to the question please.

Graham Burgess: I think I’ll stand up if that’s ok. First of all the requirement for public notice of meetings applies to statutory meetings of the Council, this isn’t a statutory meeting of the Council, this is a meeting of the Improvement Board and therefore the regulations in that respect don’t apply, but clearly we like to follow good practice where we can, so immediately following the last Improvement Board meeting because we knew there was a really tight timescale, we met with representatives of the media and made sure there was extensive coverage of the decision of the Improvement Board to hold this meeting and indeed I think in the Echo and in the Globe and on Radio Merseyside there was specific coverage of the intention to hold this meeting at this time on this day and that was almost two weeks I think before this meeting had been held.

So we did make sure there was coverage in those newspapers and also we updated with both the Globe and the Echo to ensure there’s some coverage even in the last day or two of this meeting taking place. So on that basis we think that we have advertised, in fact we’ve advertised this meeting, via our partners in the press, far more vigorously and intensively than we would a normal Council meeting.

Joyce Redfearn: Thanks very much.

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