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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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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Local Government Association/ Wirral Council Improvement Board 19th October 2012

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LGA (Local Government Association)

Joyce Redfearn (Chair of Improvement Board, LGA)
Cllr Stephen Houghton CBE (Labour Peer, Barnsley Council, LGA)
Paul Rowen (Liberal Democrat Peer, LGA)
Gillian Connolly, LGA Team
Pat (Commissioning)
Dr. Gill Taylor, Principal Adviser, North West (LGA)

Wirral Council

Cllr Ann McLachlan (Labour, Wirral Council),
Cllr Phil Davies (Labour, Wirral Council),
Cllr Tom Harney (Liberal Democrat, Wirral Council)
Cllr Jeff Green (Conservative, Wirral Council)
Graham Burgess, Interim Chief Executive (Wirral Council)
Fiona Johnstone, Joint Director of Public Health (Wirral Council/NHS)
Steve Rowley, Adult Social Services (Wirral Council)
Chris Hyams, Human Resources and Organisational Development (Wirral Council)
Kevin Adderley, Regeneration, Housing & Planning (Wirral Council)
Emma Degg, Communications and Engagement (Wirral Council)
Christopher Dowly? Unknown (Technical Services) (Wirral Council)
Surjit Tour, Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset Management (Wirral Council)
Julia Hassall, Acting Director of Children’s Services (Wirral Council)
Mike Thomas (District Auditor, auditor for Wirral Council appointed by Audit Commission)
Three other unknown Wirral Council officers

Various members of the press and public

Agenda Item 1 Welcome and Introductions to the Improvement Board 00:01 to 02:18

Joyce Redfearn: We’ve got absolutely everybody in the room. Really delighted to see you here, but particularly to members of the public who take the time and effort to come and join us, and I think who are recording the proceedings as we are speaking as well. A warm welcome to you to the public part of the meeting, would it help if members of the Board and the Management Team just introduced themselves, so you know who’s present in the room?
John Brace: Sorry, could you use the microphone please so we can hear you at the back?
Joyce Redfearn: That’s working well, I’m requested to use the microphone so people can hear. Is that better for you?
John Brace: Yes.
Joyce Redfearn: Good. OK, introductions. I’m Joyce Redfearn and I’m the Independent Chair of the Improvement Board.
Graham Burgess: I’m Graham Burgess and I’m the Chief the Executive of Wirral Borough Council.
Gillian Connolly: I’m Gill Connolly and I’m a part of the LGA Team.
Pat: I’m Pat Ho???, Commissioning.
Stephen Houghton: I’m Stephen and I’m an LGA Peer.
*door squeaks as Julia Hassall arrives late*
Gill Taylor: Gill Taylor, I’m the Principal Adviser for the North West for the LGA.
*Julia Hassall arrives and walks in front of camera*
Fiona Johnstone: I’m Fiona Johnstone, Director of Public Health and the *indecipherable*.
Steve Rowley: I’m Steve Rowley, I’m here for the Director of Adult Social Services, Graham Hodkinson.
Chris Hyams: Errm, I’m Chris Hyams, Head of HR and OD.
Kevin Adderley: I’m Kevin Adderley, Director of Regeneration, Housing and Planning.
Emma Degg: I’m Emma Degg, *microphone feedback* Head of Communications and Engagement.
Christopher Dowly?: Interim Executive Director of Law.
??? ???: Technical Services
Surjit Tour: Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset Management.
Julia Hassall: I’m Julia Hassall, I’m Acting, sorry, Director of Children’s Services.
Cllr Ann McLachlan: I’m Cllr Ann McLachlan, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Improvement and Governance.
Cllr Phil Davies: Errm, hi, I’m Phil Davies, Leader of the Council.
Paul Rowen: Err Paul Rowen, I’m Chair of the *indecipherable*.
Cllr Tom Harney: Tom Harney, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group. ???? ???: I’m Dennis ????, LGA Peer.
Cllr Jeff Green: Jeff Green, Leader of the Conservative Group.
Joyce Redfearn: OK, thank you very much everybody for introducing and even bringing in a piece of teamwork, as we worked out how to share mikes. *indecipherable* I’m very glad. Errm, the format has changed,

Agenda Item 2 Improvement Board Progress to Date 02:18 to 14:10

Improvement Board Progress to Date Report

The Chair, Joyce Redfearn spoke about the report.

Agenda Item 3 Questions from the Public 14:10 to 15:12

There were a number of questions from myself, John Brace which were answered by the Chair, Joyce Redfearn.

Agenda Item 4 Unknown

Agenda Item 5 Unknown

Agenda Item 6 Unknown

Agenda Item 7 Unknown

Agenda Item 8 Unknown

Agenda Item 9 Unknown

Agenda Item 10 Unknown

Agenda Item 11 Unknown

Agenda Item 12 Unknown

Agenda Item 13 Unknown

Agenda Item 14 Unknown

Other agenda items unknown

Letter Before Claim to Wirral Council.

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