The letter Wirral Council wrote gagging Councillor Gilchrist

The letter Wirral Council wrote gagging Councillor Gilchrist

The letter Wirral Council wrote gagging Councillor Gilchrist

                         

Just before Christmas started I published a letter from Cllr Phil Davies to Cllr Jeff Green that was also published on Wirral Council’s website.

To recap it involves a male senior councillor in the Labour Group who made an “adverse comment” about an unnamed senior employee at Wirral Council. The councillor admitted he did make the comment and a report was written detailing that this Labour councillor had breached the Code of Conduct.

Previously if there’s been a report detailing a councillor has breached the Code of Conduct, even if officers recommended the report be exempt, the Standards Panel have decided to make the report public as you can see from that previous blog post detailing a seven page report and two page appendix into an allegation that former Councillor Denis Knowles breached the Councillor’s Code of Conduct in relation to a comment he made online.

Since then, in the Summer of 2012 the legislation regarding complaints made about councillors breaching the Code of Conduct has changed. This explanatory note on Wirral Council’s website explains some of the changes, but basically there are now two legal requirements on Wirral Council. The first on Wirral Council is that it “must promote and maintain high standards of conduct by Member and Co-opted Members” (Members in this context means councillors and Co-opted Members means people co-opted to Council committees). The second legal requirement is that they must have arrangements in place for investigating allegations and making decisions on allegations. The policy on this is here, the new Code of Conduct here and a an online form for people to use is here. Wirral Council has also appointed four independent persons that have a role in determining whether complaints made are worthy of investigation.

The letter to Cllr Phil Gilchirst basically asking him to sign a commitment gagging him from talking to anyone about what was in the investigator’s report can be read by following that link and to my knowledge is published for the first time in full on this blog (although there is a Wirral Globe story headlined “Wirral Council accused of ‘over the top’ secrecy” that quotes from it).

So do you think we should return to making investigator’s reports public if they have a finding that a councillor (and he acknowledges that he did in this case) breached the Code of Conduct? Surely if the “senior officer” wants their name kept out of it, the report could be released with their name redacted and does not naming the councillor involved make people think that Wirral Council takes its legal obligation that it “must promote and maintain high standards conduct by Member and Co-opted Members” seriously? Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts on these questions.

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Author: John Brace

New media journalist from Birkenhead, England who writes about Wirral Council. Published and promoted by John Brace, 134 Boundary Road, Bidston, CH43 7PH. Printed by UK Webhosting Ltd t/a Tsohost, 113-114 Buckingham Avenue, Slough, Berkshire, England, SL1 4PF.