Addressing Employee Concerns
- Meeting of Additional Meeting, Cabinet, Thursday, 29th March 2012 5.30 p.m. (Item 367.)
- View the background to item 367.
On 14 April 2011 the Cabinet accepted a report from an independent investigation undertaken by Martin Smith into allegations of bullying and abuse, raised by Martin Morton, a former employee in Adults Social Services. (Minute No. 378 refers.)
One of the recommendations in the report was that the Council needed to strengthen its processes and procedures in relation to Whistleblowing and grievance issues to provide a more robust framework for ensuring such issues are dealt with effectively and to improve employees’ confidence to raise such matters.
On the 19 September 2011, Anna Klonowski Associates Ltd (AKA) delivered an initial report: ‘Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s Corporate Governance Arrangements: Refresh and Renew’ A Supplementary Report to the Independent Review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s Response to Claims Made by Mr Martin Morton (and others)’. This report identified a series of weaknesses and areas for concern relating to the Council including:
· ‘Profound’ cultural issues
· A reluctance to listen to and support Wirral MBC staff when they have tried to raise and resolve issues on the Council’s behalf.
· Confidential comments made during the DASS review that some staff were at the time of interview reluctant to speak out because of the perceived impact this might have on them and/or their career at Wirral MBC.
A report by the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management set out how the Council was addressing employee concerns. The report outlined a range of actions and proposals including:
· The appointment of an independent external ombudsman.
· Implementation of a revised Whistleblowing Policy.
· Subscription to Public Concern at Work
· Revised Grievance and Dignity at Work policies and further work on HR policies.
· The development of a corporate HR casework system to improve performance.
· Work on changing organisational culture and proposals for training and communication in these areas.
The Council was currently working with The Local Government Association to address key issues and to deliver the Improvement Plan. The actions detailed in the report would contribute to the Improvement Plan
Councillor J Green told the Cabinet that employees should be able to express their worries about the workplace “without fear of reprisals but the evidence from the Martin Smith and AKA reports suggested a totally inappropriate culture within the Council. People who had worked in the Department of Adult Social Services had felt unable to come forward whilst those that did had suffered a negative impact on their career. An Ombudsman was required to sift and investigate. He or she would have the right and power to go to the Employment and Appointments Committee and demand to be heard about matters of major concern (in the same way as the Chief Internal Auditor had the right and power go to the Audit and Risk Management Committee and demand to be heard).
Councillor D Mitchell enquired whether any members of staff had come forward under the corporate amnesty. The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management reported that as a result of that exercise a number of matters were under investigation. He would come back to Councillor D Mitchell with the number as soon as possible.
Councillor J Green informed that he had not received the report on the Whistleblowers and a mechanism must be found to make information available to senior Members.
Councillor I Lewis enquired if Martin Morton (the Whistleblower) had been consulted on the Whistleblowing Policy. The Head of HR and Organisational Development was unable to confirm this but informed that she had spoken to Martin Smith about it.
Councillor J Green considered that the revised Whistleblowing policy was a move in the right direction. He asked the Head of HR and Organisational Development to ensure that staff that had been through the process would be consulted on it. He also emphasised that the Policy must be fair for all, investigations conducted speedily and appropriate staff training be provided.
That subject to endorsement by the Improvement Board:
a report be presented to the Employment and Appointments Committee outlining the proposals for an Independent External Ombudsman within the remit set out in the report.