A letter to all 66 councillors at Wirral Council on press freedom and censorship

A letter to all 66 councillors at Wirral Council on press freedom and censorship

A letter to all 66 councillors at Wirral Council on press freedom and censorship

                                                      

Wirral Council bans filming and public from public meeting

A picture reminder above of times gone by at Wirral Council

Below is a communication I will be emailing to those listed below later.

Dear Surjit Tour,
councillors
senior management team (Wirral Council)
Rt Hon Frank Field MP

I am publishing this response which relates to a dispute between myself and Wirral Council.

I believe there should be openness and transparency when it comes to public bodies and the press.

I will firstly deal with the recent Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee meeting. Prior to the meeting, as some councillors and officers will already be aware the meeting was delayed starting because of the filming issue. As it was the first public meeting of the Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee since August 6th (which officially consists just of councillors) I was willing to accede to a request on this occasion and pointed out I was not setting a precedent.

Since that I have also filmed (last week) a public meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee at which four young people spoke, along with a youth worker during that public meeting. There were no objections, before, during or after this meeting about me filming it. Nothing has been brought to my attention about this.

Earlier this year (on August 6th) the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, which can be read at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/2095/contents/made came into effect.

The effect of regulations 3-5 were to amend (and in some cases repeal) legislation about public meetings of bodies in England such as Wirral Council, but also public meetings of other public bodies such as the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (amongst others).

Regulation 5 only at Wirral Council applies to Cabinet meetings, so I will be referring to regulations 3 and 4.

Regulation 3 alters the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 and puts this legal duty on Wirral Council:

“in the case of a meeting of a relevant local government body, while the meeting is open to the public any person attending is to be permitted to report on the meeting.”

For the purposes of clarity Wirral Council is a “relevant local government body”. The definition of newspaper in that legislation is changed to include “in the case of a relevant local government body, for use in electronic or any other format to provide news to the public by means of the internet”.

There is a part added to state (which applies not just to meetings of Council, but also committees and subcommittees):

“(7E) Any person who attends a meeting of a principal council in England for the purpose of reporting on the meeting may use any communication method, including the internet, to publish, post or otherwise share the results of the person’s reporting activities.”

Therefore the law is quite clear on this matter.

On the 2nd December 2013 Council agreed the committee calendar for the 2014/15 Municipal Year. This includes the following entry for November 11th 2014: “COUNCIL (Youth Parliament)”.

The list of attendees is the list of 66 Wirral Council councillors and this meeting has in previous years been chaired by the Mayor. In fact the first item on the agenda is “Mayor’s Announcements”. The agenda frontsheet, which can be read on your website in fact states “Dear councillor
You are hereby summoned to attend a meeting of the Council to be held at 6.15 pm on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 in the Council Chamber, within the Town Hall, Wallasey”.

Therefore by your own words, by your own calendar and own agenda it is a meeting of all 66 councillors, chaired by the Mayor. It is therefore a meeting of a local government body and your arguments about the presence of young people (who like the councillors have been elected by their peers) somehow meaning that it should not be filmed are incorrect and frankly hard to comprehend. How can there be an expectation of privacy at a public meeting?

Wirral Council have no legal power any more to prevent filming at public meetings because the power you had in the past (but have no more) was as has been well documented abused numerous times and that is what led (in part) to the legislation change and repeals of earlier legislation that you relied upon previously. This change came into effect on 6th August 2014.

If Wirral Council carries on like this Wirral Council opens itself up to a legal challenge on ground of illegality, irrationality, proportionality, fairness and because of what happened at the Birkenhead Constituency Committee meeting legitimate expectation. These are also grounds in Wirral Council’s constitution for not engaging in what I perceive as misguided attempts to censor the media.

Wirral Council could also face a claim for human rights damages as the legal argument would be made that as a public body it was breaching s.6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998, more specifically Article 10 (freedom of expression). As I’m sure you will be aware there is plenty of existing case law upholding the rights of individuals to political speech and against the strong desire of public bodies to suppress views they don’t want the public to hear.

As management, the trade union representative has discussed the matter with me and union rule 1 has been discussed which states “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.”

Therefore that trade union member would be quite within their rights to refuse to work on 11th November and Wirral Council carries on taking such an intransigent attitude, I would be forced to implement industrial relations contingency arrangements. This is therefore becoming an industrial relations matter both internally within this organisation and externally with yours.

I fully expect however based on recent past experience and a conversation I had on November 5th that Labour councillors will neither side with the trade unions or the press on this matter. I fully expect from past experience that it is always awkward particularly for some councillors to be seen to be either promoting trade union interests, good industrial relations, people’s human rights, constitutional decision-making or in fact the public interest.

It is perfectly clear (at least to me) from past decisions made at the political level exactly what Wirral Council’s current policy is on this. These past policy decisions made on this are quite clear that any filming, photography, audio recording or other types of recording (whether during public meetings or not) is unrestricted in Wirral Council buildings. That policy came about because one councillor took a photograph of another councillor eating if I remember correctly a sandwich.

The recent legal change just implements Wirral Council’s existing policy and puts it on a statutory basis with regards to public meetings.

I have had these arguments with Wirral Council over filming for a very, very long time. Wirral Council’s position and the position of various individuals has been made abundantly clear to me over the years. I have been shouted at during public meetings, bullied and treated badly which considering Wallasey Town Hall is also my workplace is not the way for anyone to be treated. I have also seen another member of the press working for a local newspaper mistreated in the same way by a senior politician.

There are many other important matters that we should all be concentrating our collective minds on rather than Wirral Council deliberately picking battles with the press, which do nothing to improve Wirral Council’s tarnished reputation or that of senior officers and councillors.

I am making my position as clear here as I can make it. The only advice I can give you at this stage is to seek external independent legal advice on your position before this matter ends up being independently adjudicated by a court and I suggest you circulate a report on this to all councillors and myself ahead of the 11th November meeting (if it takes place).

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

P.S. The Monitoring Officer comments verbally on November 5th 2014 on my report (without having read it himself) of the YPSAC public meeting and my description of the young person at that meeting. I deplore censorship of any kind and when it relates solely to the political views of an individual in a protected minority with disabilities even more so. Before the meeting was held I advised the Monitoring Officer that he could have advised councillors to exclude the press and public. The Monitoring Officer chose not to advise politicians to do so but instead to advise to adjourn the meeting if I attempted to film, audio record or photograph it.

There was also attempted censorship in February 2014 of the Coordinating Committee meeting to decide the call in to consult on the closure of Lyndale School. Again this was meeting involved the political views of parents of children with disabilities. The parents expressed the view to the Vice-Chair (chairing the meeting) at the time Cllr Steve Foulkes (who will also be chairing the meeting on 11th November) that they wanted it done in an open and transparent manner. So there seems to be a running theme here at Wirral Council of gagging the press trying to report on matters involving the disabled, which even hark back to the days of gagging one of your own former employees who used to work in your Adult Social Services department from raising with the press serious allegations of wrongdoing.

I find this all deeply worrying and possibly arguably allegedly breaches of other legal responsibilities you have which have been already repeatedly brought up in letters before with you which are already in the public domain.

I repeat here what your legal duty is as Monitoring Officer under s.5(2) of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 c.42:

“it shall be the duty of a relevant authority’s monitoring officer, if it at any time appears to him that any proposal, decision or omission by the authority, by any committee, [or sub-committee of the authority, by any person holding any office or employment under the authority] or by any joint committee on which the authority are represented constitutes, has given rise to or is likely to or would give rise to—

(a) a contravention by the authority, by any committee, [or sub-committee of the authority, by any person holding any office or employment under the authority] or by any such joint committee of any enactment or rule of law [or of any code of practice made or approved by or under any enactment]; or

(b) any such maladministration or injustice as is mentioned in Part II of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1975 (which makes corresponding provision for Scotland), to prepare a report to the authority with respect to that proposal, decision or omission.

Section 5 then states:

(5) It shall be the duty of a relevant authority and of any such committee as is mentioned in subsection (4) above—
(a) to consider any report under this section by a monitoring officer or his deputy at a meeting held not more than twenty-one days after copies of the report are first sent to members of the authority or committee; and
(b) without prejudice to any duty imposed by virtue of section 115 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (duties in respect of conduct involving contraventions of financial obligations) or otherwise, to ensure that no step is taken for giving effect to any proposal or decision to which such a report relates at any time while the implementation of the proposal or decision is suspended in consequence of the report;

You as Monitoring Officer have statutory duties and there is a legal framework to follow when such matters involving Wirral Council’s decision making are raised with yourself and the Deputy Monitoring Officer.

It is of course up to yourselves what action you take (if any).

Wirral Council is not in the position where it can or it is advisable to censor the political views of the protected minorities of the Wirral population in an attempt to alter media reporting of Wirral Council activities or gag the press. These repeated attempts at censorship give me the personal impression that Wirral Council is not as open and transparent as Wirral’s politicians would claim it is. I am neither in a politically restricted post, nor am I a councillor or officer at Wirral Council.

There is therefore unless you propose either adjourning the Youth Parliament meeting (as you did with the YPSAC meeting) in response to the views in this letter or alternatively bringing a late report to the meeting of 11th November 2014 on this matter, I do not see that there is anything that can be done at this stage to resolve this current impasse.

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks:

9 councillors vote to make Wirral Council leisure centre concession scheme for Armed Forces less generous despite objections

9 councillors vote to make Wirral Council leisure centre concession scheme for Armed Forces less generous despite objections

9 councillors vote to make Wirral Council leisure centre concession scheme for Armed Forces less generous despite objections

                                                                                                                           

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

I will start by declaring an interest in this story as I have a friend who is now a Lance Corporal in the Armed Forces and was recently mentioned in this Telegraph article.

Last month (23rd September) there was a review (by the Coordinating Committee) of a Wirral Council Cabinet decision made on the 7th July 2014 to change the concessions provided at Wirral’s leisure centres to former Armed Forces personnel.

The decision had originally been scheduled to be decided by the Coordinating Committee on 7th August 2014, however the meeting on the 7th August 2014 was adjourned because on 7th August 2014 key Wirral Council officers involved in the decision were on holiday and couldn’t be present to answer questions. So the meeting of the 7th August 2014 was adjourned to the 23rd September 2014.

There was then an interesting meeting on the 23rd September 2014 (which was in part a repeat of the adjourned meeting on the 7th August 2014). Councillors discussed the impact of the proposed changes to the policy and witnesses were heard from and questioned.

The motions at the end of that meeting were:

1) “That Cabinet minute 37 – 7 July 2014 (Transformation of Leisure Services Sports and Leisure Facilities Pricing Structure) be upheld” (proposed by Cllr Moira McLaughlin and seconded by Cllr Paul Doughty)

and the proposed amendment (proposed by Cllr Chris Blakeley and seconded by Cllr Mike Hornby) was

2) “That this Committee, having heard evidence this evening, stands unconvinced that any potential saving (the achievement of which remains dubious) made by implementing the decision at paragraph 3 of the Cabinet report, outweighs the harm this decision will do to Wirral’s reputation as an Authority which takes seriously its duties under the Military Covenant and as an Authority that does all it can to actively uphold and advance the Covenant.

Therefore, this Committee urges the Cabinet to reconsider its decision and restore the free Leisure Passes to all the veterans of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.”

The vote on the amendment was 6 votes for (5 Conservative, 1 Lib Dem) and 9 votes against (9 Labour councillors).

The amendment was therefore lost.

The vote on the original motion was 9 votes for (9 Labour) and 6 votes against (5 Conservative, 1 Lib Dem).

The original motion/recommendation was therefore carried.

At the start of the meeting both Cllr Mike Hornby and Cllr Walter Smith declared interests as former members of the Armed Forces.

The Cabinet Member (not part of the committee but a witness) Cllr Chris Meaden declared an interest as her daughter is a former member of the Armed Forces.

Cllr Paul Doughty (the Vice-Chair) declared an interest as his late father had been in the Armed Forces.

There is then an “anomaly” (as Surjit Tour would put it) identified at this point.

Cllr Chris Meaden (the Cabinet Member) declared an interest as her daughter is a former member of the Armed Forces at the Coordinating Committee on the 23rd September 2014 which reviewed the earlier decision of Cabinet (of which she was one of the Cabinet Members present) on the 7th July 2014.

However the agreed minutes of that Cabinet meeting show that she was present and spoke on this agenda item and contain no record of her declaring an interest at that meeting either during the agenda item itself or earlier.

Certainly the video (below) of that Cabinet meeting in July shows Cllr Chris Meaden both present and speaking on that item which fell under her portfolio.

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

The video footage of declarations of interest was earlier in that meeting (see below)

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

However in Cllr Chris Meaden’s defence, this item did come near the end of a long Cabinet meeting held in the evening. Politicians do get tired and overlook things. She [Cllr Chris Meaden] referred to a conversation with Surjit Tour (who is Monitoring Officer) at the Coordinating Committee meeting in September. By the way she was talking then she seems to realise it was an oversight on her part and was trying to make amends by declaring the interest instead at the Coordinating Committee meeting in September, when it should have happened at the Cabinet meeting on the 7th July.

Declaring interests is one of the few bits left of the Councillor’s Code of Conduct on which separate legal provisions apply. It’s also a personal legal responsibility of politicians, so they can’t pass the buck to someone else or blame them. The guidance from the DCLG titled Openness and transparency on personal interests A guide for councillors issued in September 2013 states in reference to councillors starting at the bottom of page 4:

“One of these is the principle of integrity – that ‘Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.’”

By my reading of the rules, this interest would be classed as a “personal interest” not a “prejudicial interest”. Therefore even had she declared this on the 7th July 2014, she would still have been able to take part and vote in that agenda item. Had it been an undeclared pecuniary/prejudicial interest it would be a much more serious matter.

This is what the existing Code of Conduct states on such matters.

Personal Interests

4.2 You have a personal interest in any business of the Council where it relates to or is likely to affect:-
(i) any body of which you are a Member or in a position of general control or management and to which you are appointed or nominated by the Council;
(ii) any body:-
(a) exercising functions of a public nature;
(b) directed to charitable purposes; or
(c) one of whose principal purposes includes the influence of public opinion or policy (including any political party), of which you are a member or in a position of general control or management.

4.3 You also have a personal interest in any business of the Council:-
(i) where a decision in relation to that business might reasonably be regarded as affecting your well-being or financial position or the well-being or financial position of a relevant person to a greater extent than the
majority of other council taxpayers, ratepayers or inhabitants of the electoral division or ward, as the case may be, affected by the decision, or,
(ii) it relates to or is likely to affect any of the interests you have registered as a disclosable pecuniary interest.

Sensitive Interests
4.4 Where you consider that disclosure of the details of an interest could lead to you, or a person connected with you, being subject to violence or intimidation, and the Monitoring Officer agrees, if the interest is entered on the Register, copies of the Register which are made available for inspection and any published version of the
Register will exclude details of the interest, but may state that you have an interest, the details of which are withheld.

Disclosure and participation
4. At a meeting where such issues arise, DO declare any personal and/or professional interests relating to your public duties and DO take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

5. Certain types of decisions, including those relating to a permission, licence, consent or registration for yourself, your friends, your family members, your employer or your business interests, are so closely tied to your personal and/or professional life that your ability to make a decision in an impartial manner in your role as a member may be called into question and in turn raise issues about the validity of the decision of the authority. DO NOT become involved in these decisions any more than a member of the public in the same personal and/or professional position as yourself is able to be and DO NOT vote in relation to such matters.

Just in case someone thinks I’m singling Cllr Chris Meaden out for criticism. At a recent meeting last week Cllr Leah Fraser was present at a meeting of the Wallasey Constituency Committee Working Group when a decision (following a recommendation from the Merseyside Police) over whether to spend money on Ian Fraser Walk in New Brighton was made. As far as I can as I was present throughout the whole of the meeting, I don’t remember her declaring an interest in that agenda item (although I may not have heard her if she did).

Ian Fraser Walk is in fact named after her late father-in-law but she didn’t declare an interest. However whether Cllr Leah Fraser should have to declare a personal interest in whether money is spent on a stretch of promenade named after her late father in law is another matter.

If I wend through all the times councillors had failed to declare personal interests, it would be a very long list! Some are like the last example somewhat subjective. It’s more when councillors actually fail to declare prejudicial interests and then speak and vote on agenda items, which are the kind of major abuses that should be tackled and not happen in the first place.

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks:

Wirral Council: It’s time for some answers over Fernbank Farm and filming!

Wirral Council: It’s time for some answers over Fernbank Farm and filming!

Wirral Council: It’s time for some answers over Fernbank Farm and filming!

                                 

Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Particulars of Claim page 1 of 3 thumbnail

Particulars of Claim Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Page 1 of 3

Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Particulars of Claim page 2 of 3 thumbnail

Particulars of Claim Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Page 2 of 3

Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Particulars of Claim page 3 of 3 thumbnail

Particulars of Claim Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Page 3 of 3

Jenmaleo
134 Boundary Road
Bidston
Wirral
CH43 7PH
9th June 2014

Surjit Tour
Monitoring Officer
Wallasey Town Hall
Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED

Dear Mr. Surjit Tour,

You are designated as the Monitoring Officer for Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council. Section 5(2)(a) and 5(2B) of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 state the following about a legal duty of the Monitoring Officer:

Subject to subsection (2B), it shall be the duty of a relevant authority’s monitoring officer, if it at any time appears to him that any proposal, decision or omission by the authority, by any committee, or sub-committee of the authority, by any person holding any office or employment under the authority or by any joint committee on which the authority are represented constitutes, has given rise to or is likely to or would give rise to—

(a) a contravention by the authority, by any committee, or sub-committee of the authority, by any person holding any office or employment under the authority or by any such joint committee of any enactment or rule of law or of any code of practice made or approved by or under any enactment; or

(b) any such maladministration or injustice as is mentioned in Part III of the Local Government Act 1974 (Local Commissioners) or Part II of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1975 (which makes corresponding provision for Scotland),to prepare a report to the authority with respect to that proposal, decision or omission.

to prepare a report to the authority with respect to that proposal, decision or omission.

(2B) Where a relevant authority are operating executive arrangements, the monitoring officer of the relevant authority shall not make a report under subsection (2) in respect of any proposal, decision or omission unless it is a proposal, decision or omission made otherwise than by or on behalf of the relevant authority’s executive.

On Friday 6th June the Chair of the Licensing Act 2003 subcommitee Councillor Steve Niblock insisted that I stop filming a public meeting of the Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee. The legal adviser to that committee insisted that he was entitled to take this action because of Regulation 25 of the Licensing Act 2003 (Hearings) Regulations 2005. This regulation is below:

Procedure at hearing

25. The authority may require any person attending the hearing who in their opinion is behaving in a disruptive manner to leave the hearing and may—

(a) refuse to permit that person to return, or

(b) permit him to return only on such conditions as the authority may specify,

but such a person may, before the end of the hearing, submit to the authority in writing any information which they would have been entitled to give orally had they not been required to leave.”

“authority” in this context is defined in Regulation 2 as “in relation to a hearing, the relevant licensing authority which has the duty under the Act to hold the hearing which expression includes the licensing committee or licensing sub-committee discharging the function of holding the hearing;”

At no point during the meeting was I asked to leave the room by the Chair or the subcommittee as a whole. Regulation 2 which defines authority makes is clear that persons can only be required to leave if it is the opinion of the whole subcommittee that the person/s are behaving in a disruptive manner. There were two members of the subcommittee Councillor Harry Smith and Councillor John Salter who did not express a view, therefore Regulation 25 was not engaged.

The legal adviser to that committee, Ken Abraham said, “We have rights under the regulations too, which empower them to stop a hearing proceeding if there is an issue about disrupting the meeting and the Chair took the view at that time that because it was clearly indicated that he didn’t want filming that he could have asked you to leave the room but he didn’t.” As you can see from this quote, he refers to the Chair (Councillor Steve Niblock)’s view, not the view of the whole subcommittee. It is unknown whether the other two members of the subcommittee agreed with this view or held a contrary view as they did not state their view during the meeting on this matter.

S. 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 states “It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.” and s.3(1) states “So far as it is possible to do so, primary legislation and subordinate legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights.”

The Convention Right in question is article 10 which is below:

ARTICLE 10

Freedom of expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority
and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and
are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for
the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Bearing the above in mind and your previous email of the 2nd April 2013 in which you stated “Furthermore, there no ban on filming” I would ask you to exercise your duty as Monitoring Officer to prepare a report about the above matter.

There is also another matter which I wish to draw to your attention, which may place a duty on you to write a further report about a different matter. I am sure you are aware of Wirral Council’s successful attempt to gain a possession order for the land known as Fernbank Farm in Moreton.

Section 3 of Wirral Council’s Particulars of Claim stated “On 13th July 2012 the First and Second Defendants were served with a notice in the prescribed form persuant to section 25 of the Landlord and Tenant Act the effect of which notifies them as Tenants of the intention to bring the tenancy to an end on 31st May 2013 but that the Council had no objection in the meantime to creating a new lease on certain terms.” and Section 8 of the Particulars of Claim stated “As a result the tenancy has been terminated in accordance with the law and the Claimant is therefore entitled to possession.”

At the fast track trial on 13th February 2014, Wirral Council’s expert witness David Dickinson stated (under oath) that he had been instructed by a manager not to renew the lease. In answer to District Judge Woodburn’s question to David Dickinson that his instructions were contrary to the terms of the notice, Mr Dickinson answered that his instructions were contrary to the notice. In answer to another question Mr Dickinson answered that he had been told not to engage in discussions with the tenants between November 2012 and May 2013.

Regulation 3 of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, Part 2 (Notices) Regulations 2004 prescribe which type of form should be used. Wirral Council used form 1 and the prescribed purpose for form 1 is defined in Schedule 1 as “Ending a tenancy to which Part 2 of the Act applies, where the landlord is not opposed to the grant of a new tenancy (notice under section 25 of the Act).”

Based on David Dickinson’s testimony under oath, Wirral Council had decided not to renew the tenancy therefore form 2 should have been used, the prescribed purpose for form 2 is defined in Schedule 1 as “Ending a tenancy to which Part 2 of the Act applies, where—

(a)the landlord is opposed to the grant of a new tenancy (notice under section 25 of the Act); and
(b)the tenant is not entitled under the 1967 Act to buy the freehold or an extended lease..”

Clearly either a number of assertions (as outlined above) made in the particulars of claim are incorrect and Mr. Dickinson was telling the truth about Wirral Council’s decision not to renew the lease or alternatively what was outlined in the particulars of claim was correct and Mr. Dickinson was not telling the truth under oath. I am sure you will understand that the possibility of either scenario is concerning.

Therefore bearing in mind the above I would request that you write a further report on this matter which is your legal duty as Monitoring Officer. In order to aid you in this, I do know that following a complaint made by one of the tenant’s spouses that a long multi-page letter was sent to him about this and other related matters.

If a report (or reports) have already been written by yourself (or others on your behalf) I would appreciate being sent a copy. If a report (or reports) on these matters are in the process of being written by someone either at Wirral Council or an external third party I would appreciate being told who they are and by what date their report is expected to be completed.

If you feel a report (or reports) on the above matters are not necessary, I would appreciate hearing from you your reasons as to why. I intend to publish any such reply I receive either from yourself (or others on your behalf) as I feel that both these matters are of concern to large numbers of citizens on the Wirral and need to be resolved.

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this with other people.

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?

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks:

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Advertising

Analytics

Other