What did Andrew Roberts answer to questions about the Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee at the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) hearing (EA/2016/0033) (continued)?
At the outset I will make four declarations of interests.
1) I am the Appellant in this case (EA/2016/0033).
2) My wife was my McKenzie Friend in case EA/2016/0033.
3) I made the original Freedom of Information request on the 29th March 2013.
4) I am referred to by name (Mr. Brace) in paragraphs 1, 4 and 5 of the witness statement of Andrew Roberts.
Court/Room: Tribunal Room 5, 3rd Floor
Address: 35 Vernon St, Liverpool, Merseyside L2 2BX
Date/time: 16th June 2016 10:15 am
First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) (General Regulatory Chamber)
First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC
First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake
First-tier Tribunal Member Dr. Malcolm Clarke
Appellant: Mr John Brace
First Respondent: ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office)
Second Respondent: Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council
The below is an incomplete record written up from my handwritten notes made at the hearing. The below does not cover some of the sections when I am speaking due to the difficulties in taking notes as doing that you end up facing the paper you’re writing on.
First-Tier Tribunal Judge Mr David Farrer QC asked the witness Andrew Roberts how long ago the Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee had been set up?
Andrew Roberts answered that he didn’t know, but that he’d been attending meetings of it for five years. However in his opinion, it had likely been seen up by the council in response to a request by the trade unions and representatives of the schools.
First-Tier Tribunal Judge Mr David Farrer QC asked what the purpose of the Joint Consultative Committee was?
Andrew Roberts answered that its main purpose was for the schools to have access to, talk to and lobby elected Members [councillors].
First-Tier Tribunal Judge Mr David Farrer QC said as an outsider, were the trade unions anxious to make their views know to Members and officers, was that its main impetus?
Andrew Roberts answered that that was his thinking, yes.
First-Tier Tribunal Judge Mr David Farrer QC referred to its controversial role in relation to academies, but did it also cover financial issues such as pay?
Andrew Roberts answered that taking the academies issue, it was an opportunity for the representatives of schools and an opportunity for Members [councillors] to consider their views on the position of the academy agenda. He stated that Wirral Council had taken a neutral view and had not encouraged or discouraged academies, but he would need to test that.
First-Tier Tribunal Judge commented that it was two-way traffic and indicated to First-tier Tribunal Member Dr. Malcolm Clarke that he could ask questions.
First-tier Tribunal Member Dr. Malcolm Clarke said he wanted to take it in a slightly different way. He was not aware that confidentiality was agreed. He referred to the earlier question about its Terms of Reference.
He asked if it was true to say that there was nothing to stop the trade unions or headteachers communicating what happened at the meeting to their [trade union] members or school?
Andrew Roberts answered his question by stating that he didn’t know whether that was the case or not?
First-tier Tribunal Member Dr. Malcolm Clarke referred to the huge quantity of paper in evidence. He asked why it hasn’t been reviewed? He asked why hadn’t in the last 3 years the [Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative] Committee been asked its view on maintaining a &lrdquo;safe space”? He referred to this as a “glaring ommission”!
Andrew Roberts said that it was a good question, but that he didn’t know the answer.
Robin Hopkins (barrister for Wirral Council (2nd Respondent)) asked if the Joint Consultative Committee was open to the public?
Andrew Roberts answered no.
Robin Hopkins asked a further question of Andrew Roberts to which he answered it was not open.
Robin Hopkins asked him if the minutes had ever been disclosed?
Andrew Roberts said he was not aware that they had been.
Robin Hopkins asked if his expectation was that he [Andrew Roberts] had said they were confidential?
Andrew Roberts answered yes.
Robin Hopkins asked if what was said in the meeting they would say publicly?
Andrew Roberts said it was true of the teaching representatives.
Robin Hopkins referred to the blacked out text, asked if they would convey their points with the same information as recorded if they were made public?
Andrew Roberts stated that it was unlikely. His view was that it was not in public. If the teaching and non teaching representatives thought their views would be made public they might convey them differently.
I (the Appellant John Brace) then had the opportunity to ask questions of Andrew Roberts (which I used) that are not recorded here in detail.
However below are two of the questions I asked and their answers.
One of the questions I did ask of Andrew Roberts was had the minutes of the Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee been approved at the next meeting [on the 6th June 2013]? Andrew Roberts confirmed that they had.
Another question I asked was in relation to "qualified accountant" in his witness statement and whether this meant he was registered with an accountancy body? He confirmed that he was.
First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked a further question about approval of the minutes.
Andrew Roberts answered that they had been finalised after they had been to the next meeting which had resolved to approve them.
First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake said that at the meeting after, was this the same meeting at the time of the request or were they in draft form?
Robin Hopkins stated that the draft minutes were circulated in the days after the meeting and that they were rubber stamped at the next meeting but the information was the same between the draft and approved version.
First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake made a further comment about the draft minutes.
Robin Hopkins explained that they were circulated and read by email with the intention that any amendments would be emailed back ahead of its meeting the next term.
First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake asked if the draft minutes were produced?
Robin Hopkins answered yes.
First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC pointed out that it was a bit late now.
First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake said he was being assiduous.
First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC pointed out that if it was not in existence at the time of the [FOI] request then they [Wirral Council] don’t have to disclose it.
First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC checked if there were any further points and then called the next witness [Surjit Tour] who he referred to as the Chief Executive.
Robin Hopkins pointed out that Surjit Tour was not the Chief Executive [of Wirral Council].
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