Agenda and minutes
Venue: Committee Room 1 - Wallasey Town Hall. View directions
Councillor S Foulkes informed that the Cabinet would be considering an item of urgent business. This was the Council Budget 2012/13 and was being considered in order that the Cabinet’s recommendations could be presented for consideration to the Budget Council which was scheduled for 1 March 2012.
Members' Code of Conduct - Declarations of Interest
The members of the Cabinet are invited to consider whether they have a personal or prejudicial interest in connection with any of the items on this agenda and, if so, to declare it and state the nature of such interest.
No declarations of interest were received.
Highway and Engineering Services Procurement Exercise (HESPE) Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) Audit Commission Follow Up Report
Councillor S Foulkes informed that a special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee scheduled for earlier in the day had been cancelled because the District Auditor, Michael Thomas, had not been in a position to present the Highway and Engineering Services Procurement Exercise (HESPE) Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) Audit Commission follow-up Report. This had been disappointing.
The District Auditor had written to Councillor S Foulkes and his letter dated 13 February 2012 was circulated and Councillor Foulkes read it out. In his letter Mr Thomas had stated that he had undertaken to provide an update on the HESPE PIDA follow-up report. He set out the main reporting timeline associated with his follow-up report. Mr Thomas had issued a draft report for comment on 21 December 2011 to a small group of officers, with a deadline of 13 January 2012 for receipt of responses. This deadline had then been extended to 31 January 2012, and he had circulated extracts from the report more widely on 10 January 2012.
Detailed responses had been received by the 31 January 2012 deadline. Mr Thomas, in his letter, informed that he was currently considering the response, having regard to legal advice available to him. An updated draft report would then need to be circulated to affected parties and their subsequent responses considered.
Mr Thomas informed that discussions with the Deputy Leader and the Chief Executive over the last week or so had centred on a desire to have the report discussed in the presence of the press and public. However, proper processes must be followed, including adequate consultation before the report could be finalised.
Consequently, Mr Thomas had told the Chief Executive on 9 February 2012 that the current timetable was too tight to allow for a revised version of the report to be available for consideration in public at this time. He did envisage that the final report would be available in March 2012.
(1) The Cabinet is disappointed with the delay in Council officers responding to the District Auditor’s draft report on the HESPE contract, especially since this was flagged up in the District Auditor’s Management Letter of October 2011;
(2) this has prevented the HESPE report being considered alongside the AKA Report, both of which originated from complaints by whistle-blowers;
(3) the Chief Executive be asked to write to the District Auditor requesting that he releases a copy of his draft report together with the Council’s response to Party Leaders and Deputies; and
(4) an Action Plan to be produced to address all of the District Auditor’s recommendations as soon as the HESPE report is published. That, if any officer is seriously implicated in behaviour likely to warrant disciplinary action, all appropriate action is taken, without delay.
AKA Final Report - Independent Review of Wirral Council's Response to Claims Made by Martin Morton (and Others)
To consider whether there are any common issues arising from the AKA Final Report (attached to the Cabinet Agenda for 12 January 2012 – minute 240 refers) and agenda item 2 above.
This Special Council meeting had been convened to consider whether there were any common issues arising from the Anna Klonowski Associates (AKA) Final Report and Agenda Item No. 2, Highway and Engineering Services Procurement Exercise (HESPE) Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) Audit Commission follow-up Report Minute No. 308 refers).
The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management provided the Cabinet with an update of the most recent advice he had received from DLA Piper Ltd. AKA had given confidentiality assurances to those who had voluntarily participated in her enquiry. Whilst carrying out the enquiry AKA had effectively been acting as the Council’s agent. It was possible to share non-anonymised version of AKA’s report with all Members of the Council. However, if the detail of the report did not remain confidential to the Members and became public, if it and contained the names of junior officers, potentially it would be a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. A more appropriate approach would be to disclose officers’ names (past and present) down to Heads of Service level only.
The Chief Executive reported that a Police investigation was underway and it was anticipated that it would be completed within a relatively short period of time. The Director of Adult Social Services informed that he had little to add, in terms of the Police investigation, to that of the Chief Executive other than he was unable to provide any detail until he was in receipt of the findings.
(1) the reports be received; and
(2) the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management be asked to circulate the advice he has obtained from DLA Piper Ltd in relation to providing non-anonymised copies of the AKA Final Report in written form to all Elected Members so that they can take on board the full implications of the choices available to the Council.
The Cabinet is requested to give consideration to the report of the Director of Adult Social Services, which sets out a revised senior management structure for the Department of Adult Social Services.
The Cabinet at its meeting on 22 September 2011 had agreed a restructure of the Department of Adult Social Services based on the recommendations of the Interim Director at that time (Minute No. 116 refers). Since September the process of Self Evaluation and Peer Challenge had been undertaken and a new permanent Director of Adult Social Services had taken up his post following a recruitment exercise.
In January 2012 the Council received the Independent Review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s Response to Claims Made by Mr Martin Morton (and others) [Final Report] prepared by AKA Ltd. It is, therefore, apposite that further consideration of the management structure of the Department should be undertaken.
A report by the Director of Adult Social Services set out a revised senior management structure for his Department that addressed a number of issues that had been highlighted in the recent Self Evaluation and Peer Challenge of the Department. In addition the report responded to weaknesses highlighted recently in The Independent Review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s Response to Claims Made by Mr Martin Morton (and Others) [Final Report] prepared by Anna Klonowski on 9 January 2012.
The Director reported that the new structure embedded safeguarding and Care Governance as critical elements of a modern social care directorate. In addition, the Deputy Director Post and business improvement focus would enable improved working methods as well as building capacity in the business and performance section. Accountancy would be managed directly by the Deputy Chief Executive/Director of Finance in order to ensure full compliance with corporate financial guidelines. The aim was to build on the previous structure and the report recommended changes to senior management posts in the Department of Adult Social Services in the light of recent developments.
The staffing implications were set out in detail in the report. The Cabinet was requested to recommend for approval the following four posts above spinal column point 49 at a cost of £348,200 to Employment and Appointments Committee:
(1) the revised senior management structure for the Department of Adult Social Services be approved;
(2) the net resource requirement of £107,300 for the additional posts identified in the revised structure be funded from the efficiency investment budget as the new structure will improve both quality in the short term and deliver more efficient working methods in the medium term; and
(3) the detail of the structure and establishment of the posts above spinal column point 49, as detailed above, be recommended for approval by the Employment and Appointments Committee.
Urgent Business - Council Budget 2012/13
A Cabinet decision was required to enable recommendations to be made to the Council at its Budget meeting on 1 March 2012 concerning the budget and Council Tax for 2012/13.
Councillor S Foulkes moved and Councillor P Davies seconded the 2012/13 Budget proposal as follows:
1. Building hope for the future
A budget to tackle poverty and improve the life chances of Wirral residents.
This has been a turbulent year for Wirral. We started with unprecedented financial cuts, announced by government very late in the day, and the loss of 1200 staff, a fifth of the Council’s workforce. We have had to spend time stabilising and restructuring services to make sure they continue to be delivered with far fewer people available to do so. We have had to make up shortfalls in the 2011/12 budget as the consequences of some decisions became more apparent and we have had to work hard to contain potential overspends as Departments struggled to manage on the more limited resources available.
We have also had to face some unpalatable home truths about the culture of the Council and serious failings both in Corporate Governance and in the protection of vulnerable adults, for which there is no acceptable excuse. A further critical report from the District Auditor on the handling of a Highways contract is expected very shortly and, again, there will be serious lessons to be learnt.
In 2012 we face a review of Local Government Finance which may radically affect the resources available to Wirral in 2013, and this review will be taking place in the context that we are already projecting a £78m shortfall in resources for 2013-2015. In these circumstances it is vitally important that we do nothing that could damage the Council in the future and that the budget we set is a sustainable one with a sensible base expenditure that is adequate to provide good future services for the people of Wirral in the years ahead, so we do not add to the very difficult times ahead.
It is also important that we manage scarce resources wisely and to that end we are focussing on providing an evidence base for decisions we take and, where that does not exist, to ensuring that action is taken to collect the necessary evidence through pilot schemes or other methods.
We are looking to move towards the prevention of problems, rather than simply reacting to them at a later date when they are fully developed and we are investing in research which will help identify the best way of doing this in a number of areas. It is also important that we take on board any criticisms that have been made, and take the opportunity of this budget to direct additional resources into areas that need them and which will strengthen the position of the Council in the future so past mistakes are not repeated.
At the heart of this budget is the need to tackle poverty and deprivation on Wirral. The Vision for ... view the full minutes text for item 310.