How much of the £1 million plus pay-off money did Wirral’s Council leader sanction?

4th August 2013

On 21st June 2013, I noticed that Wirral’s Council leader Phil Davies had started his own blog.

The title of his very first post seemed quite promising: “Bringing Council Services Closer to You”.  I noticed that despite the public comments facility being deliberately switched off, he was inviting contact in a more conventional way, as follows:

04 07 13 - councillor phil davies inviting contact

The post itself ended with:

“Finally, I would welcome any comments or suggestions about how Wirral Council can improve its performance. Please send an e-mail or write to the address in the contact panel on the right.”

…so I took him up on his offer:

From: Paul C
Sent: 21 June 2013 12:08
To: ‘leader@wirral.gov.uk’
Subject: What you do / departures / gags / compromise agreements

Dear Councillor Davies,

Your first blog post promises to offer an insight into what you do.  I have a question about what you do, as it isn’t covered in your first blog post:

Please tell me how you or your stand-in voted when the following proposed departure packages came up before a panel of councillors, and you or your stand-in were present on the panel:

Former CEO Steve Maddocks – paid £157,000
Former Director of Social Services John Webb – paid £152,000
Former Deputy CEO Ian Coleman – paid £86,000
Former Director of Law Bill Norman – paid £146,000
Former Interim Director of Social Services Howard Cooper CBE – retired with pension
Former Social Services senior officer Maura Noone – paid £110,000
Former Social Services senior officer Mike Fowler – paid £110,000
Former Director of Technical Services David Green – paid £103,000
Former Deputy Director of Finance David Taylor Smith – paid £68,000
Former Chief of Internal Audit David Garry – paid £46,000
Former Head of Asset Management Ian Brand
Former Head of IT Services Geoff Paterson
Former Head of Cultural Services Jim Lester
Former Head of Regulation Rob Beresford

Please list clearly against each person whether you voted FOR / AGAINST the relevant package.

Best regards and welcome to the world of openness and transparency.  Happy blogging!

Paul Cardin

(note: I’d missed former Chief Executive Jim Wilkie (£111,054.50) from this list, but added him later to the FoI request on WhatDoTheyKnow)

I then sat back and waited…  and waited…  and waited…

By 24th July, five weeks later, despite him apparently “wanting to hear from us” I’d heard nothing – so I placed the following FoI request via www.whatdotheyknow.com

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/councillor_phil_davies_involveme#incoming-414536

This email arrived in response on 31st July 2013…

From: Corrin, Jane [mailto:janecorrin@wirral.gov.uk]
Sent: 31 July 2013 14:30
To: Paul C
Cc: InfoMgr, FinDMT; request-170105-23ab65b8@whatdotheyknow.com
Subject: Paul Cardin Enquiry crm 703275

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for your enquiry below.  Councillor Phil Davies apologies for the delay in responding to you.  Please see the text below which I believe answers the points you have raised.

Taken from the Council Constitution

18. Voting

(1) The normal method of voting at meetings of the Council shall be by show of hands unless the Council determines otherwise.

(2) The Mayor may decide at any time to discontinue use of the electronic voting system if satisfied that it is not working correctly.

(3) When the electronic voting system is being used, the Mayor may require or allow the vote to be retaken either electronically or by show of hands if he/she considers that there has been any malfunction of the equipment or any incorrect use of it.

(4) No individual votes will be recorded in the minutes of Council unless either a “card vote” is requested pursuant to paragraph (5) hereof or a “recorded vote” is requested pursuant to paragraph (6).

(5) If a member of the Council makes a request before a vote is taken for a “card vote” and is supported by five other members rising in their places, voting shall be by that method so as to show how all members present and voting gave their votes provided that when the electronic voting system is to be used a “card vote” shall mean only the electronic recording of such votes.

(6) Where immediately after a vote is taken at a meeting of the Council, any member of that body so requires, there shall be recorded in the minutes of the proceedings of that meeting whether that person cast his/her vote for the question or against the question (a dissent) or whether he/she abstained from voting. 132

(7) When the electronic voting system is not being used, no request for a card vote may be made during the procedure referred to in Standing

Order 7(8).

(8) In taking a vote upon any question, only those members of the Council who are present in the Council Chamber and seated in their places when the question is put from the Chair shall be entitled to vote.

Click on links below to see which elected members attended the meetings and also details regarding the senior officer/s mentioned alongside the link.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=3209

Steve Maddox

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=3920

Jim Wilkie

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=3259

John Webb

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=3520

Mike Fowler and Maura Noone

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=656&MId=4224

Dave Garry

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=4259

Ian Coleman, David Taylor Smith, David Green, Ian Brand, Geoff Paterson, Jim Lester and Bob Beresford, all posts agreed as deleted.

Please note Howard Cooper was a retirement.

Jane Corrin

Information and Central Services Manager
Transformation and Resources
Information and Central Services
WallaseyTown Hall
Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
Merseyside
CH44 8ED
Janecorrin@wirral.gov.uk

There’s a lot of unpicking to do here.  The most important paragraph above is (4) – which, more obviously than the rest of the information, appears to work directly against openness and transparency for the public – and in favour of secrecy for councillors.  It seems we have to rely on (6) (an individual wanting his voting record to be viewed in the minutes – or someone on the inside requesting a “card vote” – which has to be endorsed by five further insiders taking the trouble to shift and rise from their seats.

It appears a member of the public is not permitted to request a “card vote”.  In fact, it appears members of the public are being shunned / crowded out by officious meddlers, desperate to escape public attention.

It appears if a “card vote” is not taken, (6) isn’t enforced by one councillor, and unless we’re at the meeting watching the proceedings, and the public haven’t been ushered out, we will never get to see who voted for what.

Now I’m left wondering if this behaviour is widespread practice within local authorities, or is it something that’s been cobbled together by Wirral Council, a council that prefers to shun the limelight, has been exposed as abusive towards learning disabled people and involved in years of corporate bullying towards staff in the recent past.

My opinion currently is that this bonkers arrangement serves the selfish requirements of members – and once again clobbers us the public, sidelining the legitimate and compelling public interest.

And to think I never even received a response from the Council leader (who’d blocked comments to his blog and asked for email contact to see how the council’s performance could be improved !).  Instead, I had to make do with an ‘apology’ for the delay on Councillor Davies’ behalf from FoI officer Jane Corrin.

It appears the lofty idea of “Bringing Council Services Closer to You” remains very much out of reach – a smokescreen – a distant pipedream.

Analysis of the information

Link One: http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=3209

This link took me to the Agenda & Minutes of a Special Meeting, Employment and Appointments Committee on Tuesday, 17th August 2010 5.30 pm.

MINUTES

Early voluntary retirement request by Chief Executive Steve Maddox

Q. Was current council leader Phil Davies in attendance as a councillor?

A. Yes

Q. Did Council Leader Phil Davies endorse, move or vote to approve the request?

A. Information not stated

Q. How much pay off money has current council leader Phil Davies been seen to endorse?

A. £0.00

————————————————————————————————————–

Link Two: http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=3920

This link took me to the Agenda & Minutes of a Employment and Appointments Committee Thursday, 7th June 2012 6.15 pm

MINUTES

Early voluntary retirement request by Chief Executive Jim Wilkie

Q. Was current council leader Phil Davies in attendance (not as leader)?

A. Yes

Q. Did Council Leader Phil Davies endorse, move or vote to approve the request?

A. Yes

Q. How much pay off money has current council leader Phil Davies been seen to endorse?

A.  £111,054.50

Running total = £111,054.50 (Jim Wilkie payment)

————————————————————————————————————–

Link Three: http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=3259

This link took me to the Agenda & Minutes of a Special Meeting, Employment and Appointments Committee Tuesday, 26th October 2010 5.30 pm

MINUTES

Early voluntary retirement request by Director of Social Services John Webb

Q. Was current council leader Phil Davies in attendance (not as leader)?

A. Yes

Q. Did Council Leader Phil Davies endorse, move or vote to approve the request?

A. Information not stated

Q. How much pay off money has current council leader Phil Davies been seen to endorse?

A.  £information not stated

Running total = £111,054.50 (Jim Wilkie payment)

————————————————————————————————————–

Link Four: http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=3520

This link took me to the Agenda & Minutes of an Employment and Appointments Committee on 20th January 2012 (some weeks after Maura Noone and Mike Fowler had left).  So, the meeting here appeared to be called well after the event.

MINUTES

The following vague statement appeared within the minutes:

59 SENIOR MANAGEMENT CHANGES
The Chief Executive reported upon senior manager changes within the Council. The post holder of the Head of Support Services, Finance Department [Fowler] had left the Council on 6 January 2012 by mutual agreement. The post holder of the Head of Community Services, Department of Adult Social Services [Noone] had left the Council on 9 January 2012 by mutual agreement.
(My emphasis: presumably this was mutual agreement between Jim Wilkie and the two senior Social Services officers, Mike Fowler and Maura Noone – not named in the minutes).  The release of the full version of Anna Klonowski’s 250 page report came the day after Maura Noone left on 10th January 2012.
Q. Was current council leader Phil Davies in attendance (not as leader)?

A. Yes

Q. Did Council Leader Phil Davies endorse, move or vote to approve the request?

A. There was nothing to endorse or move.  A vote was never taken because the officers had already departed by mutual consent, seemingly without scrutinising the hand over of a combined total of £220,000 in public money, and two compromise agreements with gagging clauses.  This matter was never looked at OR voted upon – which is frankly scandalous.

Q. How much pay off money has current council leader Phil Davies been seen to endorse?

A.  £Information hidden

Running total = £111,054.50 (Jim Wilkie payment)

————————————————————————————————————–

Link Five: http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=656&MId=4224

This link took me to the Agenda & Minutes of an Employment and Appointments Sub-Committee (Compromise Contracts) Thursday, 20th September 2012 5.15 pm

MINUTES

Release of Chief Internal Auditor David Garry

Release of Director of Law, HR and Asset Management Bill Norman – via redundancy

Q. Was current council leader Phil Davies in attendance?

A. No

Q. How much pay off money has current council leader Phil Davies been seen to endorse?

A. See below…

Running total = £111,054.50 (Jim Wilkie payment)

————————————————————————————————————–

Link Six: http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=197&MId=4259

MINUTES

Restructure of senior management posts from 30 to 19 posts

Q. Was current council leader Phil Davies in attendance?

A. Yes

Q. Did Council Leader Phil Davies endorse, move or vote to approve the request?

A. Yes

Q. How much pay off money did current council leader Phil Davies endorse?

A.  Ian Coleman – £86,000

David Taylor Smith – £68,660

David Green – £103,234

Ian Brand – £68,368

Geoff Paterson – £72,166

Jim Lester – £72,166

Bob Beresford – £70,900

Running total = £580,382.50

————————————————————————————————————–

Summary

Jane Corrin, or was it Councillor Phil Davies (who apologised for it being late)? …didn’t actually send me the information I’d requested.

I asked to be told how Councillor Phil Davies voted in each meeting he attended.  I’ve only been able to draw up a partial total – due to their failure to comply.  They haven’t come up with any exemption within the Act, so I need to press them and get some more clarity on why they haven’t provided the information.

So…  it’s yet another request for an internal review.

Most disturbingly, it appears there wasn’t a meeting called to scrutinise the two abusive senior officers who left on 6th and 9th January 2012 – days before the release of the Anna Klonowski report.  It appears:

  • No elected members scrutinised the handing over of £220,000 in public money, split between the two officers
  • No elected members scrutinised the gagging of the two officers within a compromise agreement
  • Nobody could prevent former CEO Jim Wilkie from seemingly abusing his own power (circumventing elected member scrutiny of a huge pay off), which may even have been done in order to save his own skin
  • Current Chief Executive Graham Burgess was there to witness a motion by leader of the opposition Councillor Jeff Green, aimed at investigating Fowler and Noone’s departure in closer detail, being defeated at full council
  • Current Chief Executive Graham Burgess said that any further investigation would be extremely thin on content because there is “nothing to investigate”, because “contract law prevents this being done effectively” or words to that effect
  • Current Chief Executive Graham Burgess seems to be implying that a recent First Tier Information Tribunal decision has somehow endorsed the council’s behaviour and even that it would ‘not be lawful’ to attempt to investigate what went on

16 07 2013 - Burgess statement

About Wirral In It Together

Campaigner for open government. Wants senior public servants to be honest and courageous. It IS possible!
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4 Responses to How much of the £1 million plus pay-off money did Wirral’s Council leader sanction?

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