EXCLUSIVE: £1,800 “confidential” report clears Councillor Chris Blakeley after allegation of Cllr Foulkes that comments in Liverpool Echo were disrespectful

EXCLUSIVE: £1,800 “confidential” report clears Councillor Chris Blakeley after allegation of Cllr Foulkes that comments in Liverpool Echo were disrespectful

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Aretha Franklin – Respect [1967]

Cheshire West and Chester invoice for £1800 for investigating a standards complaint
Cheshire West and Chester invoice for £1800 for investigating a standards complaint (you can click on the thumbnail for a more high resolution version)

EXCLUSIVE: £1,800 "confidential" report clears Councillor Chris Blakeley after allegation of Cllr Foulkes that comments in Liverpool Echo were disrespectful

                         

It was a long time ago (19th March) when I first made a Freedom of Information Act request for the external investigation report (and the invoice) for the standards complaint that Councillor Steve Foulkes had made about Councillor Chris Blakeley. Not surprisingly with such a politically sensitive request, my Freedom of Information request was ignored, so on the 17th April I requested an internal review.

On the 24th April Wirral Council supplied the report itself, an appendix and the invoice from Chester West and Chester Council (for £1,800) for the investigation. On the same day this was released, solicitors that work in Wirral Council’s legal department and the officers that take the minutes at public meetings had a meeting in Committee Room 1, the subject of which was “values and culture change”. The fact that only two lines are redacted in the investigation report and Wirral Council hasn’t claimed an Freedom of Information Act exemption applies to the report and appendix A is one example of how the culture has changed at Wirral Council.

Due to the redaction of two lines on page nine, the seventeen page report is an image, therefore it can’t be spidered properly by search engines. Therefore I’ll be including the seventeen page report below this so it can be properly spidered. The report itself explains who Councillor Blakeley and Councillor Foulkes are so I won’t repeat what is in the report itself. It does however give an interesting insight into Wirral’s politics. Appendix A to the report can be downloaded from this blog. I’ve used a series of equals signs to show where individual pages start and end in the report.

Where legislation or individual cases are referred to I have tried to provide a link where possible in case you want to find out more about the legislation or judgements referred to. If you wish to read the original report as a pdf file you can. The two witness statements referred to in the report as Appendix B (the witness statement of Councillor Foulkes) and Appendix C (the witness statement of Councillor Blakeley) haven’t been supplied in response to the Freedom of Information Act request, but I’ve requested an internal review regarding these. In the report below I have not corrected any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors but left these as they appear in the report.

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CONFIDENTIAL


Report of an investigation by Trudie Odaka acting as investigating officer, appointed by Surjit Tour Monitoring Officer for Wirral Borough Council into allegations concerning Councillor Chris Blakeley.

This report is submitted to the Monitoring Officer for Wirral Borough Council, Surjit Tour.

FINAL REPORT

10th March 2014


1 | Not for distribution. This report is confidential and must not be disclosed
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CONTENTS




1. Executive Summary
2. The relevant legislation and protocols
3. The Evidence Gathered
4. Nomination for the Office of Mayor
5. The Allegations by the Complainant
6. Account by Councillor Foulkes
7. The Liverpool Echo article dated 13th May 2013
8. Response from Councillor Blakeley
9. Summary of the material facts
10.Case Law
11.Reasoning as to whether there has been a failure to comply with the Wirral Borough Council Code of Conduct
12.Finding

Appendix A – Schedule of Documents
Appendix B – Statement of Councillor Foulkes
Appendix C – Statement of Councillor Blakeley
 


2 | Not for distribution. This report is confidential and must not be disclosed
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Executive Summary

1.1 I have been asked to conduct an investigation in respect of a complaint made by Councillor Steve Foulkes regarding the conduct of Councillor Chris Blakeley.

1.2 The Allegation

An allegation has been made by Councillor Steve Foulkes that Councillor Chris Blakeley failed to comply with the Members’ Code of Conduct for Wirral Borough Council by failing to treat him with respect. The allegation made by Councillor Foulkes is that in an article that appeared in the Liverpool Echo on Monday 13th May 2013, when referring to Councillor Foulkes’ nomination as for Deputy Mayor, Councillor Blakeley indicated that he would be voting against the nomination. The complaint contains the quote "I truly believe that for labour to nominate such a controversial character as Steve Foulkes threatens the position of mayor and the need for impartiality. Having sat on the benches opposite calling for his resignation because he was not fit to lead the council, how can I now say that he is fit to be the deputy mayor this year and the mayor next year? I would be a total hypocrite. I fully respect the mayoralty; however I have no respect for Cllr Foulkes and that is why I will be voting against him".

1.3 I have investigated whether Councillor Chris Blakeley failed to comply with paragraphs 1.1of the Members’ Code of Conduct for Wirral Borough Council.

Investigation Outcome

1.4 I have investigated Councillor Blakeley’s conduct and in so doing I have considered the article published in the Liverpool Echo on 13th May 2013 which was appended to the complaint. I have taken into account the article as a whole, in order to set the context of any quotes or information contained within it. Whilst concentrating principally on this Liverpool Echo article; I have also considered other articles relating to Councillor Foulkes’ nomination for deputy mayor, articles that appeared in the local press and on the internet. This has enabled me to better understand the background to the complaint, the context of the statement made by Councillor Blakeley and this has allowed me to review the comments made by other members of Wirral Borough Council; members that are not the subject of this complaint but who nonetheless commented publically about the nomination of Councillor Foulkes for the position of Deputy Mayor.


3 | Not for distribution. This report is confidential and must not be disclosed
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1.5 I have considered the quotes attributed to the subject member Councillor Blakeley and I have investigated – whether the quotes were made by him and if made; the context.

1.6 I have considered the comments contained within the complaint and I have interviewed both Councillor Foulkes and Councillor Blakeley to listen to their account of events. Through interviewing each member separately; I have paid particular attention to what each of them has said and taken into account how the comments were perceived by them including the intention of the subject member Councillor Blakeley. I have also taken into account the public forum in which the comments were made; being publication of the comments within a newspaper.

1.7 Whilst concentrating the investigation upon the Liverpool Echo article and the conduct of Councillor Blakeley; in reaching a conclusion, I have taken into account the political context at the time by reviewing the press and other public forums where the nomination was mentioned, although the information found is relevant for setting context (as it revealed that others made comments about the nomination) I have not repeated what I have found within this report as it does not relate to the exact detail of this complaint. Copies are contained in the list of documents at appendix A.

1.8 I have investigated whether or not the conduct complained of was directed at Councillor Foulkes as an individual or his personal characteristics.

1.9 I conclude that when quoted in the Liverpool Echo article on 13th May 2013, Councillor Blakeley was acting in his official capacity as a councillor of Wirral Borough Council.

1.10 I conclude that there has been no failure by Councillor Blakeley to comply with paragraph 1.1 of the