What did a 3 year FOI battle with Wirral Council reveal about councillors’ equipment and training?
A fortnight ago, required to do so by ICO decision notice FS50596346 Wirral Council finally provided some more information in response to my FOI request first made on the 29th March 2013.
I will point out (in case you’re wondering why it has taken nearly three years to get to that point) that this request has also been the subject of two other ICO decision notices FS50509081 and FS50569254.
So far Wirral Council has stated that the information requested would cost too much (section 12), that to give me the information would be prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs (section 36), that they class that doing an internal review of that decision as vexatious (section 14) and now finally when all of those prior decisions have been proven to be flawed, they withheld some of the information requested claiming it’s personal information (section 40).
My feeling about this is that Wirral Council, who refer to their approach in public as “open and transparent” have tried to engage in attrition warfare with myself and the regulator ICO over this request.
Mind you this is Wirral Council. Wirral Council is where responses to FOI requests from the press get delayed because they have to be "signed off" by the former head of their press office Emma Degg and their Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour?
So what did I request that was released a fortnight ago? One document was minutes of the Members’ (Members’ means Councillors’) Equipment Steering Group meeting held on the 7th February 2013. The other document was minutes of the Members’ Training Steering Group held on the 19th March 2013.
Quite what is in these two documents that requires a nearly three year cover up about their contents, I’m not sure. The scanned pages Wirral Council have supplied for the meeting of the Members’ Equipment Steering Group and the Members’ Training Steering Group are unfortunately scanned at a low resolution which can make them hard to read. So I will reproduce them both below starting with the Members’ Equipment Steering Group. As that mentions audio recording and webcasting of committee meetings I will declare an interest.
The part of this request that relates to the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers and Teachers Joint Consultative Committee I have appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) and am at the stage of awaiting ICO’s response to my appeal.
Actions from Members’ Equipment Steering Group Meeting held on 7 February 2013
- Actions from the last Meeting
I Pads had been discounted at the last meeting.
- Members’ Homepage and Toolkit
Members would consider the proposed content and come back to XXXXXXXXXXXX with any suggestions for inclusion.
The proposed detail of the Members’ Toolkit was endorsed and XXXXXXXXXXXX would progress it.
- Councillor Equipment Device Options
XXXXXXXXXXXX would obtain a price for the following devices:
430 i 5
430 i 3
A recommendation will be made to the Cabinet subject to price and specification
- Councillor Equipment Printer Options
The preferred printer was HP Office Jet 8000. In exceptional circumstances only would a Member’s own printer be connected to the network.
- Wireless in Wallasey Town Hall
All Committee Rooms in the Town Hall would have wifi facilities by the time Members were in possession of their new IT kit.
Officers will look at the possibility of Members being able to receive emails on smart phones via wifi.
- Councillor Equipment Rollout Timetable
– Personally owned Ipad
A system would be purchased, configured and installed by IT Services to allow Members to use their own Ipads.
This was an option. Members will keep their existing bag.
This was an option.
– Telephone Handsets
Members would keep their existing handsets.
New furniture would not be purchased
– Modern.gov Application
Modern.gov could provide an Application so that Personal Devices could access "Exempt Items" at a cost of £3000. This would not be taken up
– Political Offices
Office staff would not be included in the new equipment roll out.
– Windows XP and Office 2010
– Broadband Choices
– Further Members’ Survey
- Councillor Case Management Systems
- Use of Personal Electronic Devices
- Use of Councillors own equipment
- iPad and HP Slate Autumn Trial
- Audio Recording and Webcasting of Committee Meetings
- Date and Time of Next Meeting
XXXXXXXXXXXX to canvass Members and arrange the next meeting.
- Any Other Business
Below should be the Action Minutes of the Member Training Steering Group held on the 19th March 2013. On the original there is a third column with OD (Organisational Development) Team written next to points two to nine. It’s easier to write this in HTML without creating the way it is laid out as a table so I have left this out. I’ve also left out the page numbers and the filename/path on Wirral Council’s computer that it’s stored. However these can be viewed on the original.
Member Training Steering Group
19 March 2013
Apologies -: Surjit Tour, XXXXXXXXXXXX
Attending -: Cllr McLachlan (Chair), Cllr Clements, Cllr Glasman, Cllr Gilchrist, Cllr Harney, Cllr Hornby, Chris Hyams, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
- Welcome and introductions
The group welcomed XXXXXXXXXXX who is an associate tutor with the LGA and will be providing an overview of the Leadership Programme for Members
Noted that Cllr Clements did not attend the last meeting and apologies had been received.
- Minutes and Matter Arising
a) Terms of Reference
Agreed that the Chief Executive would be included as support for the group.
The group would continue to sign off requests for training and will continue to be mindful of the travel and accommodation costs.
Agreed that OD would report back on a quarterly basis training approval decisions.
Agreed to put the terms of reference into themes and circulate.
b) Recruitment to Leadership Modules
Agreed that Members should forward names to XXXXXX to reserve a place on the course and to contact XXX should they have any queries.
An introduction session will run on the 10th April a Flyer will be sent out providing the details of the session. XXXXX explained that the Pre course briefing would cover an introduction to the programme followed by the completion of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire as this would form the basis for the content on Module one, feedback would then be provided either face to face, which preferable or over the phone, prior to the programme commencing on the 8th May.
It was noted that participants are required to attend both modules to benefit from the programme.
c) Elected Member training onto the committee calendar
Agreed to escalate the request to include members training from the skills for Wirral programme into the committee calendar.
- Standing Item – Training Update (since last meetings)
a) 13th February – Developing the Council of the Future
Noted that 30 attended the event with a mixture of feedback
Agreed to chase up the feedback from this event and share with Members.
Agreed to look at how Member’s could be provided with more opportunities to feedback and participate in these events.
b) Public Health and Wellbeing: 20 February 2013
Noted that 9 attended with very good feedback
c) Understanding Local Government Finance: 27 February 2013
Noted that 8 attended with very good feedback
d) Media Skills
Noted that 2 attended with very good feedback
e) High Level Communications Skills
Noted that 5 attended with very good feedback
f) Attendance on training
Agreed to continue to send reminders for training but as a rolling programme of events that month and to include flash reminder the day of the training that spaces are available.
Standing Item – Upcoming training ( Members Development Programme)
a) Effective Surgeries and Caseload Management Training
Agreed to look at were we are up to with an Electronic System for case load Management. Meeting already arranged with IT to discuss this and Members IT training, feedback would be provided at the next meeting.
b) Training Venues
Agreed to look at other venues rather than The Laurie’s Centre for Elected Member training sessions and move the training already book to other venues, to minimise costs.
- Standing Item – Approved Duty Requests
No outstanding approved duties
a) Spending for Approved duties
Members to discuss and feedback as to how they would like to spend monies for approved duties, agreed to monitor on a case by case basis.
b) Feedback from Events Attended
Agreed to look at feedback from events and if particularly effective consider developing a Wirral version of the event.
- Standing Item – Budget
a) Profile 2012-2013
Budget profile discussed and noted that there would be an under spend this year. Details shared with the group.
b) Profile 2013-2014
Approximately £13,000 has been committed to date. Budget to be monitored at each meeting.
c) Spending for Approved Duties
Agreed to explore options around external funding available.
- Members Development Charter.
a) PDP Returns
46 PDP have been completed with 6 scheduled for April. This would bring the total to 52 PDP completed, which takes us over the 75% requirement for completion of the Members Charter. Agreed to continue to encourage the completion of all outstanding PDPs.
- Members Development Programme Accreditation
a) Agreed for flyer to be sent to all Elected Members to promote the programme
b) Additional information from ilm to be sent to Cllr Harney
a) 4th April New Constitutional Event 6pm – 8pm Floral
b) 16 May Key Transformation and Improvement Agenda Session
Suggestion from Cllr Glasman Ethics and Conduct.
c) Training for Members – Directorships and Trusts
Advert to be sent to Elected Members when programme agreed
- Date and Time of next meeting
30 April 2013 4 – 5.15pm
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