Agenda item

Urgent Business Approved by the Chair (Part 1) - Independent Review of Claims Made by Martin Morton (and others)

To consider any other business that the Chair accepts as being urgent.


The Cabinet was requested and agreed to accept this report as an item of urgent business in view of the seriousness of the issues addressed in the Final Report.  The report had been prepared after the publication of the Cabinet Agenda because the Final Report was not delivered to the Council until the afternoon of Monday 9 January 2012.


The Cabinet considered a report by the Chief Executive which advised it of the receipt of the Final Report following an Independent Review of the Council’s Response to Claims Made by Mr Martin Morton (and others) (“the Final Report”).


A copy of the Final Report was appended to the Chief Executive’s report as Appendix 1.  The Cabinet noted that whilst, at the request of the Council, the names of individuals and companies had been anonymised, the name of the whistle-blower in this matter, Mr Martin Morton, was already in the public domain. For that reason, Mr Morton’s name had not been anonymised.


The Independent Review had been commissioned by the former Leader of the Council, Councillor J Green from AKA (the trading name of Anna Klonowski Associates Ltd.).  AKA had prepared a comprehensive Final Report and extensive supporting Appendices.  The Final Report had been concluded following completion of a thorough ‘right to reply’ process whereby those persons and organisations that were the subject of potentially adverse comment were given the opportunity to consider the relevant sections of a draft of the Report and to respond to AKA.


Appendix 2 to the Final Report (Report by Mr Martin Smith of the North West Employers’ Organisation (NWEO), into Mr Morton’s allegations of bullying, harassment and abuse of power by Council Officers) had also been made available to Cabinet Members with Supplementary Agenda 1 but had been classed as exempt information by virtue of paragraphs 1 and 7A of Part 1 of Schedule 12A (as amended) to the Local Government Act 1972.


Appendix 3 to the Final Report (a letter to the Chief Executive from the Chief Executive of the NWEO requesting that the confidential report at Appendix 2 remain so) had been provided for Cabinet Members as exempt and included with Supplementary Agenda 2 as had Appendix 4 (Standards for England decision letters to four Council Members complained against by Mr Morton).


Advice on this exempt information which had been supplied for Cabinet Members was sought from the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management.  He confirmed that the Cabinet had considered Martin Smith’s confidential report at its meeting on 14 April 2011 (Minute No. 377 refers) and had resolved (pending any disciplinary procedures) that it remain confidential and be considered in the absence of the press and public; and at the conclusion of all the necessary internal processes the report would be made public.  The Director advised that the internal processes had now been concluded so it was up to the Cabinet to decide if it wanted to bring the report at Appendix 2 into the public domain.  As all names set out in Appendix 2 had been redacted, the Director informed that it could be put into the public domain if the Cabinet was of the view, having had regard to the matters contained in Exempt Appendix 3, that it was in the public interest to do so. The Director advised that Exempt Appendix 3 should not be made public as it was a confidential letter and contained legal advice. The Director also informed that, although Appendix 4 was exempt, the four Members, who had been complained about by Mr Morton, and who the letters were about, had been consulted and had told him that they would prefer Appendix 4 to be put in the public domain as well.


Councillor S Foulkes told the Cabinet that what had gone on had been outrageous.  Consequently, he went on to make a full public apology to Mr Martin Morton.


On a Motion moved by Councillor S Foulkes and seconded by Councillor P Davies it was


RESOLVED (unanimously): That


(1)  the Exempt Appendices 2 and 4 be brought into the public domain;


(2)  the previous Council Leader, Councillor J Green be thanked for engaging AKA to investigate the claims of Mr Martin Morton (and others);


(3)  the Council apologises to Mr Martin Morton and discussions will continue with him in the hope that an amicable outcome is reached; and

(4)  this Cabinet recognises the serious failings contained within this report and the harm done to vulnerable adults as a consequence of those failings.

  It accepts unreservedly the recommendations made in the report and asks the Chief Executive to draw up an Action Plan demonstrating how those recommendations will be implemented, which should be reported back to the next Cabinet, and referred from there to a Special Council for full debate.

Cabinet welcomes the fact that the Chief Executive has already asked:

§The Director of Adult Social Services, supported by the Head of Safeguarding, to urgently review the Final report for any further safeguarding issues that need to be addressed

§The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management, supported by the Head of Human Resources and Organisational Development, to urgently review the Final Report to ensure all appropriate action is taken,

§The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management, in consultation with the Director of Adult Social Services and the Head of Safeguarding, to urgently review the Final Report to consider whether any historic safeguarding failures should be referred to the Police, (or any relevant regulatory body) for investigation.

It further notes the actions already under way listed in paragraphs 3.8 to 3.10 which include:

§A series of measures to strengthen the Council’s  safeguarding of vulnerable adults

§An ongoing review into the Council’s whistle blowing and harassment and bullying policies and

§A wider review of the Council’s Corporate Governance (including a review of all fees and charges)

And notes that these measures are designed to ensure that the situations contained within the report could not be repeated in the Department of Adult Social Services or elsewhere across the Council.

Cabinet is also conscious of the fact that one of the criticisms in the report is that in Wirral Council the “abnormal has become normal”.

Cabinet therefore endorses the decision of the Leader of the Council to set up an Improvement Board, under the umbrella of the LGA, with external representatives from the LGA and elsewhere, including the author of this report, Ms Anna Klonowski, to ensure that any future decisions are taken on the basis of best practice rather than accepted Wirral practice.

Cabinet further endorses the decision to refer the Action Plan to be drawn up by the Chief Executive to this Improvement board for their Scrutiny and comment.

Cabinet also refers the Final Report to the Health and Well Being Overview and Scrutiny Committee for their Scrutiny and Comments.

Cabinet believes that this Final Report should be seen in tandem with the Martin Smith report into allegations of bullying and harassment and therefore believes it would be in the public interest to publish this report,  and refer it to the Special Council called to discuss the Final Anna Klonowski’s report, along with a separate report on HESPE which also arose from the actions of Whistleblowers and the Council’s response to those Whistleblowers.

Cabinet thanks Ms Klonowski for the detailed work that has gone into this Final Report and expresses its hope and belief that these findings can be used as a catalyst for major improvement and change.

It further hopes that this will allow the Council to move forward from this point to the provision of radically improved services and a much more open and transparent culture which welcomes and learns from criticism and responds rapidly to complaints or concerns at the earliest possible stage, preventing a situation like this from ever arising again.

Supporting documents: