UPDATE 12th February 2013
Freedom of Information request discovers that the meeting of the shadowy Standards Working Group has been postponed. Until when? Who knows??
Definitely one to keep an eye on…..
UPDATE 3rd January 2013
The minutes are there. They were there before Christmas, but I never had the chance to update.
I’ve been right through them and there is one mention of the mysterious ‘Standards Working Group’ meeting ~ the body that the officers I’d spoken to had never heard of. Here’s the excerpt – all very vague – nothing specific at all. Why is the meeting being called? It doesn’t say. [My emphasis]:
“Members gave consideration to a proposal that one of the Independent Persons be
invited to attend each meeting of the Standards Working Group. It was noted that
the next meeting of the Working Group was scheduled for 4pm on Monday, 10
December 2012 in Committee Room 2 of the Town Hall, Wallasey. The Committee
agreed that it wished to be as transparent as possible and that the proposal was an
appropriate way forward.”
There is no mention whatsoever on the Wirral.gov.uk website of a ‘Standards Working Group’ . At least not in the places where you’d expect them to be, despite them wishing to be as ‘transparent as possible’. A good start would be to tell us the public that you actually EXIST….
So it seems the public are once again plunged into the dark about what may be happening with the redacted Klonowski report – the one that has quite deliberately failed to reveal the names of abusers at Wirral Council, but has succeeded in blocking the legitimate and compelling public interest for almost a whole year.
This failure has been the shifting sands upon which have been built some pretty disgraceful, dangerous, self-serving, unwritten policies:
- The issuing of a stack of compromise agreements (full and final settlements) which were never counted, recorded or properly scrutinised by any internal democratic processes
- The gagging and paying off of senior officers widely regarded to have been involved in the protracted high level abuse of learning disabled people and the bullying and targeting of at least one whistleblower
- The enabling of future abuse by top level managers, protecting senior officers widely regarded to have been involved in the protracted high level abuse of learning disabled people and the bullying and targetting of at least one whistleblower
- The payment of a ‘reward’ to failed public servants. A running total estimated to be between £810,000 and £1 million in public money. (See this story which perversely overlooked Wirral Council. Even the Daily Mail is right sometimes)
Will this report finally have the names revealed, in order to satisfy the growing public interest?
Or will it be buried as deep as nuclear waste? Has it been buried as deep as nuclear waste… over Christmas? While we were all looking the other way?
Wirral Council are now gaining a deservedly black as soot reputation for serial and deliberate manipulation of the public record, and given the failure to record in these minutes the date and purpose of the ‘standards working group’ which was to deal with this issue, I now fear the worst…
Is there a councillor reading this who can enlighten us, the people who voted him/her into office as a public servant?
FURTHER UPDATE 3rd January 2013
I’ve found something at last….
…..entitled Standards Working Group – Terms of Reference. It all looks rather self-serving, and a practised and cynical exercise in deceitful doublespeak. Machiavelli would be fiercely proud of it. But what would you expect with abusive Wirral Council – the only council in the land to be monitored by the Information Commissioner for poor timeliness? Honesty? Openness? Transparency? You’re having a laugh….
Telling excerpt from the document:
Meetings of the Working Group shall be held in private and the provisions relating to
Access to Information shall not apply.
So… a committee which apparently agreed it wished to be as transparent as possible, by inviting a so-called ‘independent’ member, is to convene in secret.
The Klonowski report, costing the local public £250,000 and now possibly kicked into the long grass, has had many of its recommendations ignored.
AKA Services are free to re-board the gravy train, and full steam ahead to the next basket case council, conduct the next unrecorded, unminuted investigation, potentially have it all ignored and collect a bloated cheque for services rendered.
Here on Wirral, in the wake of this ‘damning’ report, an admission to the long term abuse of learning disabled people, no disciplinary charges for anybody and 66 councillors passed over for investigation courtesy of the now departed Director of Law, granted a clean bill of health, the only areas refreshed and renewed appear to be the lies, the delays, the cover ups, the blaming of the public, the naming of a whistleblower, and the infamous, self-serving machinations…
UPDATE 16th January 2013
On 14th January, the public were illegally ushered out of a public Pensions Meeting, breaching the 1960 Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960, Section 1 (4) (c):
“while the meeting is open to the public, the body shall not have power to exclude members of the public from the meeting and duly accredited representatives of newspapers attending for the purpose of reporting the proceedings for those newspapers shall, so far as practicable, be afforded reasonable facilities for taking their report and, unless the meeting is held in premises not belonging to the body or not on the telephone, for telephoning the report at their own expense.”
So, they’re still flexing their muscles and making up their own rules as they go along. As the anniversary of the publication of the ‘damning’ (which cost us £250,000 but never actually damned anybody) Klonowski Report passes, the bullies seem to be regaining the upper hand.
Wirral Standards Committee Meeting held on 19th November 2012
Despite clear internal guidance…… Wirral Council wrongly attempted to use an “Equality Impact Assessment” to help councillors…
The following is the internal document in question, dated 9th November 2012. The document is headed “Proposal for Officer Options for Savings” – very vague – looks like a deliberate misrepresentation and a world away from the actual contents, which are deeply unsettling. This was first looked at at a Standards Committee Meeting on 19th November 2012:
Proposal for Officer Options for Savings –
Equality Impact Assessment Template
EIA lead Officer: Shirley Hudspeth
Head of Section: Stephen Gerrard
Chief Officer: Surjit Tour
Department: Law, HR and Asset Management
Date: 9 November 2012
What Council proposal is being assessed?
DISCLOSURE OF INVESTIGATION REPORTS UNDER THE ETHICAL FRAMEWORK
(PRIOR TO 1 JULY 2012)
Will this EIA be submitted to a Cabinet or Overview & Scrutiny Committee?
Standards Committee on 19 November 2012
If ‘yes’ please state which meeting and what date
Please add hyperlink to where your EIA is/will be published on the Council’s
website Law, HR & Asset Management
Does the proposal have the potential to affect…… (please tick relevant boxes)
Other (please state eg: Partners, Private Sector, Voluntary & Community Sector)
If you have ticked one or more of above, please go to section 4.
None (please stop here and email this form to your Chief Officer who needs to
email it to firstname.lastname@example.org for publishing)
Could the proposal have a positive or negative impact on any of the protected groups (race, gender, disability, gender reassignment, age, pregnancy and maternity, religion and belief, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership)? (Note from Ed: ‘Does anybody see ‘Wirral Councillors’ mentioned in these protected groups?)
You may also want to consider socio-economic status of individuals.
Please list in the table below and include actions required to mitigate any potential negative impact.
Which group(s) of people could be affected
Potential positive or negative impact
Action required to mitigate any potential negative impact
Negative Impact – Details could be disclosed that relate to complainants and Councillors.
The investigation reports relate to historical issues and matters that could give rise to
adverse affects upon the individuals referred to in the reports
Standards Committee can decide not to disclose the reports thereby ensuring no
information is provided in the public domain. The status quo would continue.
Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset
To be determined
Where and how will the above actions be monitored?
Through the committee arrangements of the Council.
If you think there is no negative impact, what is your reasoning behind this? N/A
What research / data / information have you used in support of this process?
The report was requested at the last meeting of the Standards Committee.
Relevant legislation and legal duties upon the Council have been considered.
Are you intending to carry out any consultation with regard to this Council proposal?
No – not at this time however if a final decision is to be taken, consultation with
Members and those potential affected would be undertaken.
If ‘yes’ please continue to section 8.
If ‘no’ please state your reason(s) why:
(please stop here and email this form to your Chief Officer who needs to email it to
email@example.com for publishing)
How will consultation take place and by when?
Before you complete your consultation, please email your preliminary EIA to
firstname.lastname@example.org via your Chief Officer in order for the Council to ensure it is
meeting it’s legal requirements. The EIA will be published with a note saying we are awaiting outcomes from a consultation exercise.
Once you have completed your consultation, please review your actions in section 5. Then email this form to your Chief Officer who needs to email it to email@example.com for re-publishing.
Have you remembered to:
Add appropriate departmental hyperlink to where your EIA is/will be
published (section 2b)
b) Include any potential positive impacts as well as negative impacts? (section 5)
c) Send this EIA to firstname.lastname@example.org via your Chief Officer?
d) Review section 6 once consultation has taken place and sent your completed
EIA to email@example.com via your Chief Officer for re-publishing?
So, the clear aim of this, coupled with this, seems to be to conceal and protect the identities of individuals (e.g. officers, councillors, service providers) – known but withheld for a long time by Bill Norman, his successor Surjit Tour and others in the loop, but still concealed from public view in the published versions of both the Klonowski (failure of governance) and Smith (Bullying and abuse of power) reports…. and others.
It’s also deeply disturbing how ‘Wirral Councillors’ have somehow been crowbarred in as a ‘protected group’, alongside race, gender, disability, maternity, religious groupings. How dare they?
It’s stated in a quite brazen way that there will be no consultation, and that a committee (populated by councillors and / or colleagues who stand threatened by having their names revealed) will have the final say after (maybe) consulting ‘members’ and ‘those affected’. And we all know what decision will be reached by this committee, don’t we, even without waiting for the council committee system to go through the motions.
I tried to ring Shirley Hudspeth, this document’s author, in an attempt to find out. She wasn’t available, neither was Surjit Tour, but the person taking the call said she’d call me back as soon as she knew what decision had been made by the Standards Committee. She did come back, telling me that the matter has been referred to the ‘Standards Working Group‘. I can find no reference to such a group in the council’s list of committees, so the water is muddied still further.
I spoke to Shirley Hudspeth today, who confirmed that the list of protected groups mentioned above was exhaustive. I asked why then had councillors been included in it. She couldn’t answer this, advising me that once the minutes for the Standards Committee of 19th November had been issued, the public could discover which ‘Standards Working Group’ (comprising 1:1:1 across the parties) will be sitting and on what date. With regard to EIAs (Equality Impact Assessments), she asked me to ring Jacqui Cross who is the Council’s Equalities Officer.
Jacqui Cross confirmed to me that the primary purpose of EIAs was to aim to cater for the impact that savings decisions would make on the protected groups. She agreed with me that councillors may individually be included, but ‘councillors’ per se, grouped together within independent reports, should not have been included in this way and that any statement relating to investigations and the suppression of existing information had no place in an Equality Impact Assessment. She is going to look at this and I will hopefully be able to set up a useful dialogue here, with the intention of putting some serious questions to the Council’s senior law officer – who is the driving force behind this accompanying document.
As the public are aware, there has been absolutely no accountability or reckoning for the long term abusers of disabled people or the people who bullied whistleblowers at Wirral Council, whether they be councillors, senior officers or service providers. This could be why councillors and senior officers feel able to flex their muscles again. Thinking they’ve got away with it, it’s quite possible they’re once again infused by arrogance, feeling impregnable in their positions and wanting to make sure by burying this one as deep as nuclear waste.
There’s an opportunity here for the council to finally, at long last, act in the public good and make widely available these names in the interests of openness and accountability. Let’s face it, the public interest in revealing the names of the protected parties outweighs the public interest in continuing to conceal them. Angela Eagle wrote an urgent letter to the Interim Head of the Council David Armstrong in August of this year. This specifically asks whether the council is going to continue to protect the identities of people found to have been involved with abuse towards learning disabled people. The letter was eventually answered, but the reply shone little further light.
But under a non-specific guise of protecting complainants’ and councillors’ wellbeing (?) ….
“…matters that could give rise to adverse affects (sic) upon the individuals referred to in the reports…”
…. we may be prevented from seeing a final reckoning for those involved in abuse. Exactly what are these ‘adverse affects’ (sic)?
Nothing seems to have changed. It still seems to be the abusers and their protectors who are calling the shots.
Anna Klonowski’s machinations are still in full flow, churning away, and being replenished and nourished anew.
Could the need to conceal public servants up to their necks in abuse and other hidden agendas be why they are currently seeking to ban filming?
UPDATE 27th November 2012
It was a good job I rang the council last week, because it seems it was all a mistake. They should never have used the Equality Impact Assessment form for an issue that involved Wirral Councillors. I got the impression it would have been highly embarrassing for them if councillors had benefitted from this error.
Jacqui Cross has reassured me that Shirley Hudspeth will be putting the situation right and removing the offending document from the council website.
However, given the historical tendency at Wirral for abuse, malpractice and cover up, people might say this was deliberately done – the use of equality legislation as a kind of trojan horse, deployed to usher in more secrecy AND protection….. for councillors.
UPDATE 30th November 2012
Shirley Hudspeth has now had the embarrassing item removed from the council’s website.
Screen shot here:
UPDATE 14th December 2012
The public are still waiting for the minutes for the 19th November Standards Committee Meeting to arrive.
Until they do arrive, we won’t know where or when the correct ‘standards working group’ meeting will be held that will aim to finally do away with any chance of accountability resulting from the £250,000 Anna Klonowski full report.
It’s been a long time now, but will it happen this side of Christmas?
Has the meeting already happened? With Wirral Council, we just don’t know, because it really is all up in the air….
UPDATE 31st March 2013
The minutes of the Standards Working Group have at last been provided, but the issue of suppressing and burying any chance of accountability (as discussed above) resulting from the Anna Klonowski report appears to have disappeared from the agenda: