Graham Burgess (Chief Executive) announces he will retire from Wirral Council on 31st December 2014

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive) announces he will retire from Wirral Council on 31st December 2014

Graham Burgess (Chief Executive) announces he will retire from Wirral Council on 31st December 2014



Above is Graham Burgess in July 2012 at the Council meeting that chose him as Chief Executive

Below is the text of a media release issued by Wirral Council and distributed by David Armstrong, Assistant Chief Executive to those at the Cabinet meeting this evening. Usually I don’t just reprint press releases, but as it’s late and it’s newsworthy I think people had better know.


(Wirral Council logo)


October 9, 2014

Wirral Council Chief Executive, Graham Burgess announces his retirement

Wirral Council Chief Executive Graham Burgess informed tonight’s meeting of Wirral’s Cabinet that he is to retire on December 31, 2014.

Graham officially joined Wirral Council in September 2012. Previous to that, he had been Chief Executive of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, and remains a leading figure in the Local Government Association (LGA).

He said: ‘When I took up post, I said that first and foremost, my role was to help shape the transformation of Wirral. Wirral is now a very different place to when I arrived, and I feel now is the right time to hand over to let the next phase of this work begin.

‘I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with the organisations and communities that make Wirral a special place, and I will continue to take a strong interest in the borough’s future. I would like to thank the people I have worked with, including residents, Councillors, and staff for their hard work. There are many excellent people working for Wirral and I wish them every success as they take the authority forward.’

Councillor Phil Davies, Leader of Wirral Council today paid tribute: ‘Graham joined us at a very difficult time and has been a positive and transformational catalyst for change. I would like to thank him for galvanising a collective will to move forward positively and constructively.

‘I am sad to see him go. We have been a good partnership forged by a shared appetite for change and innovation. However. we will continue the positive progress already made, and look forward to choosing a new Chief Executive to continue to take us forward into the next phase.’

Before joining Wirral Council on a full-time basis, Graham had spent a considerable amount of time in Wirral, including as a member of the Council’s LGA-led Improvement Board.

Graham, who was born in and lives in Liverpool, was previously Chief Executive of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. He began working for Wirral Council as part of the LGA Improvement Board, after series of external reports highlighted major weaknesses in the authority.

Since taking up the post of Chief Executive on an interim basis, then later being permanently appointed to the role, Wirral has been selected as one of nine authorities to participate in the Public Services Transformation Network.

The Council’s improvement has also been named by the LGA as being the fastest turnaround of any Council in the country, and is held up by the LGA as an example of best practice.

Since Graham joined the authority, Wirral has made significant progress in managing the financial risks and challenges it faces. An independent ‘Value for Money,’ report, compiled by auditors Grant Thornton, and published in September, also found that Wirral had made significant progress in managing the financial risks and challenges it faces.


Follow Wirral Council on Twitter:

For further information contact Gill Gwatkin, Press and PR Officer, Wirral Council, 0151 691 8360.


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Never believe anything until it’s officially denied

Never believe anything until it’s officially denied

Never believe anything until it’s officially denied


There is a phrase “Never believe anything until it’s officially denied” which seems to apply to the Wirral Council/LGA Improvement Board too although they seem to have rewritten it to “Never believe anything until you’re told you can’t even speak about it”.

I’m a member of the NUJ and subject to a Code of Conduct which includes in rule one an obligation on me (rule 1) that “At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed.”

So when I got a response like this (the email is copied below) in response to a question I submitted to the Improvement Board’s public question and answer session I wonder why someone doesn’t want the public to be informed on this matter and why? If there was nothing going on, surely the Wirral Council/LGA Improvement Board would welcome an opportunity to set the record straight? Have Wirral Council not heard of the Streisand effect?

An opposition councillor at last night’s Audit and Risk Management Committee was complaining that officers won’t answer his questions. If councillors can’t get answers and a question from the public is effectively censored from even being asked is it any wonder that some of the public don’t think things at Wirral Council have changed much along their much trumpeted journey to openness and transparency (accompanied by the phrase “move on” as “sweep it under the carpet” seems to have gone out of fashion)?

Below is the email and below that the question. It feels pointless to ask it at the meeting as I doubt I’ll get an answer, but it shows that the “bureaucratic machinations” referred to by Klonowski seem to still be alive and kicking.

from: CorpServ-Improvement
date: 14 November 2013 17:16
subject: RE: questions for Wirral/LGA Improvement Board question and answer session on the 15th November 2013

Dear Mr. Brace

Thank you for your questions which I have shared with the Chair of the Improvement Board. I have been asked to advise you that Q8 refers to a member of staff and it would therefore be inappropriate for this to be discussed in a public forum.

The Chair kindly requests you do not refer to this question at the meeting.

Best Regards
Improvement Team

Q8 is The Strategic Director for Regeneration and the Environment Kevin Adderley has been mysteriously absent of late from recent public meetings at Wirral Council. Can a reason be given for this to quash (or confirm) the rumours circulating as to the reasons why?

P.S. I am reminded of an answer given by the Improvement Board to a question in July “The LGA Wirral Improvement Board meetings are not meetings of the Council at which public functions are being exercised.” Quite how you manage to have a public forum and a public meeting (or is to use a phrase trotted out by Wirral councillors when they are heckled not a public meeting but a meeting held in public?) without exercising a public function is probably one of those difficult questions there isn’t a good answer to.

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12 Questions for the Wirral Council/LGA Improvement Board

12 Questions for the Wirral Council/LGA Improvement Board

12 Questions for the Wirral Council/LGA Improvement Board


The Wirral Council/Local Government Association Improvement Board is asking for questions to its meeting on Friday. Here are a few unanswered questions.

Q1. The final report of Anna Klonowski Associates Limited was published as part of the Cabinet agenda of the 12th January 2012. Wirral Council also received from Anna Klonowski Associates sixteen appendices (listed below), which apart from appendix G (Standards for England Decision notices) have not been published. Whereas there are strong reasons not to publish appendix L (Medical Information Relating to Martin Morton provided in confidence), if Wirral Council is now “open and transparent” when will the other fourteen appendices be published?

A Appendices as Referred to in the Report
B Equality & Human Rights Commission Letter Dated 29 December 2010
C First Improvement Plan
D Care Quality Commission Inspection Report
E Charging Policy for Supported Living Services
F Documents Relating to 27 Balls Road
G Standards for England Decision Notices
H Documents Relating to Reimbursement Claims
I Emails Relating to Supported Living Contracts
J Documents Relating to Service Provider 2
K Documents Relating to Service Provider 3
L Medical Information Relating to Martin Morton (MEDICAL IN CONFIDENCE)
M Documents Relating to Service Provider 4
N Minutes of Adult Protection Strategy Meetings Relating to Service Provider 4
O Documents Relating to the Safeguarding Adults Unit
P Minutes of the DASS Monitoring & Development Sub Group Meeting Held on 11 December 2008
Q Employment Dates for WMBC Employees

Q2. On the 14th April 2011 Cabinet resolved with regards to the Martin Smith report decided that “at the conclusion of all the necessary internal processes Mr Smith’s report be made public”. On the 12th January 2012 Martin Smith’s report was published, however all the names (presumably of Wirral Council officers and councillors) contained within the reported were redacted before publication. Is publishing the redacted (rather than full) report complying with the spirit of the earlier Cabinet decision? Will Wirral Council to publish an unredacted version of the Martin Smith report?

Q3. Martin Smith’s remit was to “seek to establish whether Martin Morton was subject to any bullying or other inappropriate behaviour by any officer or Elected Member, or by the Council as an organisation, and to present a report on my findings”. Presumably considering his remit some of the blacked out names in his report would be the names of councillors. As councillors are accountable to the people of Wirral, how can the people of Wirral hold their elected representatives to account unless the Martin Smith report is published including the names of councillors in it?

Q4. Bearing in mind questions one to three, does the Improvement Board understand that because of the obfuscation referred to, that the Wirral public will find it hard to believe that Wirral Council has changed when there are so many unanswered questions surrounding these events due to the lack of transparency and accountability?

Q5. The Standards Committee of Monday 4th July 2011 discussed an administrative error that had occurred in dealing with the standards complaint made by Martin Morton made regarding Cllrs Roberts, McLaughlin, Pat Williams and Bridson. He had initially made a complaint about Cllrs Roberts, McLaughlin and Pat Williams, but had replaced this with a more detailed complaint involving Cllrs Roberts, McLaughlin, Pat Williams and Bridson. This second complaint mysteriously vanished from Wirral Council’s files. A public apology was made at the time by the Monitoring Officer to Martin Morton and the councillors who were the subject of the complaint. Did any Wirral councillors have access to the revised complaint prior to its disappearance from Wirral Council’s files if so who were they?

Q6. A separate and unrelated complaint about one of the four councillors referred to in question five (ref SfE 2010/02) was decided on the 20th December 2010. However the covering report sent to the panel which decided was incorrectly titled “Report of the Monitoring Officer – Case Reference 2010/03” . This report to the panel also omitted that the original complaint referred to an alleged breach of 6(a) of the Code of Conduct. As an apology was given for an administrative error to the complainant referred to in question 5, will an apology for this administrative error be given to the complainants of complaint reference SfE 2010/02 and the subject of the complaint?

Q7. In the review report it states “it is proposed to strengthen the independent nature of the Audit and Risk Management Committee through the appointment of a majority of external members”. How many independent members of the Audit and Risk Management Committee will be appointed, who will they be appointed by and will the Audit and Risk Management Committee be chaired in future by one of these independent members?

Q8. The Strategic Director for Regeneration and the Environment Kevin Adderley has been mysteriously absent of late from recent public meetings at Wirral Council. Can a reason be given for this to quash (or confirm) the rumours circulating as to the reasons why?

Q9. Although Wirral Council is meeting its target of responding to 85% of Freedom of Information Act requests within twenty days during the Information Commissioner Office’s monitoring period, a greater proportion of Freedom of Information Act requests have been turned down. If memory serves me correctly, this has been achieved by dedicating greater human resources to responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. This raises the questions, are these resources temporary and only for the Information Commissioner Office’s monitoring period (and if so how will the current performance be maintained once these resources are withdrawn) and how does refusing a greater proportion of Freedom of Information Act requests tally with the administration’s stated desire to be more “open and transparent”?

Q10. The reports into whistleblowing allegations raised about Wirral Council’s BIG (business investment grants) and ISUS (Intensive Startup Support) have both not been published in full despite being received by Wirral Council in the Spring of this year. The Executive Summary to the Grant Thornton report into the BIG scheme was published by Wirral Council on the 15th July (the companies referred to in the Executive Summary were anonymised). If the Executive Summary to the ISUS report follows the same format as the BIG report and has also been anonymised, why has this not been published also?

Q11. The recommendation at the end of the review into the Improvement Board’s work recommends a review by the end of the year, ending the work of the Improvement Board and the Council following the next steps recommendations in the report. Does the Improvement Board think that the Corporate Governance Committee should be reconstituted to ensure sufficient oversight by councillors of the work identified in the “Next Steps” section?

Q12. a) Are the LGA members of the Improvement Board financially renumerated for their work on the Improvement Board?
b) Is Wirral Council invoiced by the LGA for the Improvement Board’s work?
c) If the answer to (a) or (b) is yes, could amounts be given (whether exact or approximate) of the total cost to Wirral Council over the lifespan of the Improvement Board?

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Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Answers to Questions to the Leader (Cllr Phil Davies)

Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Answers to Questions to the Leader (Cllr Phil Davies)

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Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Answers to Questions to the Leader (Cllr Phil Davies)


Continues from Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Questions to the Leader (Cllr Phil Davies).

6. Leader’s, Executive Members’ and Policy and Performance Committee Chairs Reports 15:13

Cllr Phil Davies answered the seven questions as follows, “Thank you Mr Mayor. Cllr Green has asked me about rumours circulating et cetera, I’ve got nothing to add to the email from the Chief Executive issued to all Members of the Council on the 7th October.

To Cllr Denise Roberts, the visit to China, yes I was actually delighted that our Government sent out a high powered delegation of actually six politicians, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, four Government Ministers (I’m not sure who the Government Ministers are) and the Mayor of London together with civil servants and business people. And you know the serious point about this is that, and I again I applaud George Osborne, because he I think quite rightly in a speech he made this morning, did comment on the importance of increasing the links with China as a global market which is growing aggressively and we need to in Britain I think we need to be very mindful of that and try and use every opportunity we can to ensure that our residents benefit from investment, jobs which can be secured from that growing economy and I was delighted to be part of the delegation which visited China recently.

I know the Leader of the Opposition Cllr Green and the former Leader of the Liberal Democrats Cllr Harney have also been out to that country and the scale of progress is absolutely staggering. It really is the pace of the recruitment and the government there have a policy now of encouraging their companies to look at Western countries to invest in and therefore I think it’s essential actually for the local authorities to take advantage of these opportunities to secure jobs and investment. The International Trade Centre, Wirral Waters and the opportunities that exist within our offshore wind sector were two of the areas that we, I certainly focused on while I was over in China.

In terms of just while I’m on my feet, Cllr Blakeley, the reason why I didn’t mention the school links, it was literally a proposal that we handed to the Mayor of Taicang for a school teacher exchange program which they’d expressed an interest in. So it was an element of the visit but the two main reasons to go out there was one to support Peel on getting jobs and investment in the ITC and secondly to get wind power companies to look at doing a partnership with Cammell Lairds. So it wasn’t the main element but it was an element.

And the issue about gifts, again as the other leaders who’ve been out to China will testify, it is protocol that when you visit China you exchange gifts, we’ve done that on previous visits and when delegations come over here they’ve done that. We took over some gifts which unfortunately got stuck in Chinese customs, they’ve come back at no extra cost to the Council and indeed we will use them because we’re expecting a delegation from China to visit us in the next couple of months so they will be used.

Stuart Kelly asked about the the SME contractors that we use and making sure that we report back on the ten day target. Stuart I’ve not forgotten that, the report’s not been completed yet for Cabinet. It’s my intention that that will still be tabled, I’m not exactly sure when but I give you my assurance that I will check with the relevant officer and drop you a note exactly when that is expected to come to Cabinet.

OK, Stuart Wittingham, I’ve dealt with Chris Blakeley’s questions, Stuart Wittingham, yeah Stuart I think all those I’m delighted to thank all the elected Members who attended the second annual conference at the Floral Pavilion on Saturday. Obviously some groups were, some Members were unable to attend and you know I understand that there were other commitments. However, I think those people who were there, I certainly got very good feedback about the event.

We had two very good speakers, one the Chief Exec of the LGA and one the Chair of Local Government Association Improvement Board and I think we had a good debate about the future model for the full Council in the next few years. I wanted to stress that this is the start of a debate and there’ll be other opportunities, Scrutiny Committees, in individual groups before we have our policy Council at the start of December where we will revisit our Corporate Plan, so I think that was a very … day and again I’m very grateful to officers and Members and our partners in that.

Right onto Cllr Hodson, again Wirral Waters and the ITC I think I’ve emphasised how important that is for the future economic prosperity of Wirral. On his invitation to congratulate Esther McVey on her promotion … I mean clearly on a personal level I will say congratulations, however I sincerely hope her record on employment is much more successful than the horrendous cuts that’s she’s presided over.

Disabled people in this country are some of the poorest groups in this country. I hope, I sincerely hope that she uses that position to persuade George Osborne that he’s got the policy direction in terms of the economy completely and utterly wrong and he needs to rethink now. And then finally Mr Mayor, Mark Johnston asked me about the progress on the International Trade Centre scrutiny report which he was involved in when he was Chair of that particular scrutiny committee.

I can tell Mark that clearly as I’ve mentioned the ITC does remain a key priority for the Council working with our colleagues in Peel. I think we’ve offered significant support to and that continues to Peel including the use of Birkenhead Town Hall as a key visitor’s centre for overseas visitors. An internal working group of officers has been set up Mark to take forward the recommendations from the scrutiny committee’s report and various actions have been allocated across Council departments depending what each recommendations are to ensure that a rapid start can be made once the actual development has, we’re expecting construction to start in the early part of 2014.

At the moment businesses are being signed up over in China, some of the actions do have resource requirements and you know we need to look at that in the context of the Budget and I think it is more appropriate to undertake that at a point just before development starts. The trigger point for implementing the actions from the scrutiny report will be receipt of the reserved matters application, phase 1 of the ITC, but I’ve been assured, because I’ve asked a question and you’re kind enough to give me notice that you’re bringing this up tonight so thank you for that Mark.

Officers have assured me that they will pull together the cross party working group very soon indeed, in the next couple of months, so Members that were involved in that piece of work can ensure themselves that you know progress is being made against each of the recommendations in the report, that answers the question.”

Continues at Council (Wirral Council) 14th October 2013 Questions to the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care (Cllr Chris Jones).

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Wirral/LGA Improvement Board 22nd July 2013 Questions and Answers

A report on the Wirral Council/LGA Improvement Board meeting of the 22nd July 2013

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The meeting started with an apology for the cancelled meeting of the 22nd March (due to snow). The questions and answers that were sent in for the March meeting had been published on Wirral Council’s website so the Chair said she wasn’t going to cover them.

The Chair moved the meeting to the key messages from the Improvement Board’s meeting of the 17th May. Unfortunately there weren’t enough copies for the public, so the Chair instructed a Council officer to make copies and skipped forward to the next item on the agenda, questions. Nobody else had submitted any questions so all eight questions were those sent in by the author of this blog.

1. The LGA Wirral Improvement Board terms of reference state “Every third meeting of the Board will be held in public to report on progress and take questions”, however the public are only allowed to stay for the first half hour of the third meetings of the Board. Can you explain why seemingly in contradiction to its own terms of reference that the Board does not hold all of its third meeting in public and only the first three agenda items?


The LGA Wirral Improvement Board has a public session every third meeting in order to update members of the public on progress and respond to questions. These functions take only thirty minutes, depending on the number of questions, and allow the Board to consider other items in the later part of the meeting.

2. Considering that part of its terms of reference the Improvement Board is to “endorse decisions which impact on political and managerial leadership arrangements, corporate governance and improvement in advance of them going through Wirral’s own decision-making structures, e.g. Cabinet or Council” and that it is a joint committee of Wirral Council and the LGA, can you explain why the Wirral/LGA Improvement Board is not seen as a body covered by the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 c. 67, specifically referring to the reference in it that Act to joint committees of a principal council?


The LGA Wirral Improvement Board meetings are not meetings of the Council at which public functions are being exercised. Accordingly, the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 does not apply.

3. It’s previously been stated that the Wirral/LGA Improvement Board is time limited. When it ceases to be at some point in the future, what will there be in place at Wirral Council to prevent a repeat of the circumstances that led to it being needed in the first place?


The objective of the LGA Wirral Improvement Board is to monitor progress towards improvement, provide challenge and offer impartial advice. When the Improvement Board ceases it will be because the Board is assured that the issues around Corporate Governance and effective oversight provided by scrutiny have been resolved.

4. Due to the scale and nature of the problems at Wirral Council that led to the creation of the Improvement Board, some did call (and still do) for a public inquiry. Can you explain the advantages and disadvantages of an Improvement Board compared to a public inquiry?


The LGA Wirral Improvement Board provides challenge and advice to Wirral Council on its improvement plan. The Council’s Improvement plan is derived from a number of critical reports that Wirral Council received in the past. A public inquiry would not resolve the issues identified and would be likely to only restate information from these reports.

5. One of the problems previously identified by councillors on the Corporate Governance Committee was a lack of “Member capacity” to address the widespread corporate governance failings. Has Wirral Council ever thought of (or the Improvement Board ever suggested) of carrying out a community governance review and creating parish/community councils in the Wirral area?


One of the developments from the review of Corporate Governance, has been the creation of Constituency Committees. These committees, based upon the four constituencies of Wirral provide Councillors with the opportunity to make a real difference at the local level, in the wards they represent. The first meetings of these committees are scheduled for September 2013.

6. The recent Wirral Council constitutional changes included a presumption towards openness and a consideration of human rights when reaching decisions. When other Council’s such as adjoining Chester West and Chester webcast their public meetings, what are the Improvement Board’s views on Wirral Council’s recent bans on filming of their public meetings, which led to negative press coverage and guidance (seemingly ignored) being issued by DCLG?


The Council’s position on filming is set out in the Council resolutions of 12 December 2011 and 17 December 2012 in which the Council confirms its general consent to the filming of Council committee meetings. The Council’s position is consistent with guidance issued by the Secretary of State. However, it is a matter for the Council and each Chairperson of each Committee to determine what safeguards and other considerations are relevant and needed to ensure all rights considered and balanced.

7. As the Improvement Board meetings’ agendas are not published, its meetings are not held in public (apart from three agenda items of the third meeting) and few councillors attend the Cabinet meeting at which its key messages are reported to, how do the vast majority of Wirral councillors know what its doing or have an input into its deliberations?


The Leaders of the three political groups attend each Improvement Board meeting and are provided with the opportunity to represent the views of their Councillors. The outcome of the meetings are reported via the ‘Key Messages’ published after every Board meeting and group leaders are in a position to provide further details to their groups should the need arise.

8. Apart from a notice on an obscure page on its website, what publicity has Wirral Council undertaken to advise the Wirral public that they can inspect Wirral Council’s accounts between the 15th July and the 9th August and the arrangements for doing so?


Under the Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011 the accounts and other documents have to be made available for public inspection. The Council has to give notice by advertisement, which appeared in the Wirral Globe 26 June 2013, and on its website, in this instance they may be found under the ‘Annual Accounts’ section of the Council’s website. The contents of the advert are specified in the Regulations.