This is the last instalment of our deconstruction of Patricia Thynne’s Code of Conduct investigations.That is not to say that this will be the last you will hear about the Wirralgate scandal as our sources promise to keep spouting leaks.
This particular post concerns itself with the role of councillors. Not the specific councillors implicated in Wirralgate but the role of all councillors in protecting their own regardless of political affiliation.
It is infuriating to recount that in the light of the Independent Review published in 2012 that investigator Anna “BIG WEDGE” * Klonowski was instructed to keep any criticism of councillors out of her investigation and tried to get around this by publishing the cheerily titled ‘Refresh and Renew’ report prior to the publication of the Independent Review . This report told Wirral’s councillors , amongst other tedious procedural matters , that they’d created a ‘corrosive culture’ where the ‘abnormal was normal’.
However as a result Klonowski took her eye of her original brief which was to investigate the whistleblowing allegations of Martin Morton (and various unnamed others) . This meant that many of the issues brought to her attention have up until today neither been reported nor resolved. Consequently Wirral ‘s councillors received a metaphorical gentle slap on the wrist when what they required was a punch in the face.
And so with the abolition of Standards for England and the introduction of the Localism Act 2011 councils were allowed to police themselves when it came to conduct issues involving elected members.
Wirral Council took full advantage of this void in accountability and almost the first thing they did after the publication of the Independent Review was to ensure that councillors were protected no matter how many of The Seven Principles of Public Life they violated.
We think it is instructive to examine how Wirral Council’s Code of Conduct complaints procedure works in practice. Cllr Steve Foulkes and Cllr George Davies were originally subject to an investigation following concerns raised as a result of rumours swirling around Wallasey Town Hall and which were ignited by Wirral Leaks . It is significant to recall Cllr Jeff Green , the so-called complainant , chose specifically not to pursue a Code of Conduct complaint. Which surely begs the question as to why not?.
However as we know Thynne’s first deeply flawed investigative report was completed on 20th June 2014 and published the following month by Wirral Council , as it was seemingly a classic case “no case to answer” . And that would have been that if it wasn’t for the fact that Foulkesy and Georgie Boy had lied and lied and lied to Thynne. It took an email sent to all 66 councillors in December 2104 from key witness Martin Morton – the man who had initiated the Independent Review – to bring the dishonesty and deceit to their attention.
However councillors just chose to simply ignore him and seemingly their own Code of Conduct too and no further investigation took place.
It wasn’t until May 2015 when former council communications czarina Emma Degg , having heard the Wirralgate tape , belatedly came forward for reasons known only to herself and confirmed Morton’s allegations.
Subsequently Thynne was appointed to revisit her original report soon thereafter . Significantly this was at the behest of council officers and NOT councillors and as we can see Thynne handed in her second report on 6th December 2015.
Readers may want to ask themselves why it took until 28th June 2015 before a Standards Panel considered Thynne’s findings. The answer is that councillors can delay with impunity. In Foulkesy’s case this included a right of reply (because his rights are so much more important than us mere mortals) and of course having additional time to brief his free legal representation about his misdemeanours (courtesy of the Association of Labour Councillors ).
And after all this flagrant misconduct , what happens?. Nothing much!. An undeserved apology to an opportunistic councillor who hadn’t pursued a Code of Conduct complaint in the first place!. We note ruefully that Cllr Jeff “Kindred” Green has failed to make that apology public.
We have to ask whether it can be right that a public servant in the course of public duties publicly violates the principles of public life and yet is allowed to make a PRIVATE apology.
We did manage to squeeze a comment from a local councillor about this abuse of power and they replied :
“The ‘sanctions’ able to be applied are limited to just a few courses of action.”
To which we replied :
“Yes and who decided that? You guys did!. Utterly feeble. Should be with police and you know it. Thankfully we know people much braver and committed to public accountability than you guys and we’ll be supporting them 100%…………”
And that is the most damning indictment of Wirral Council’s elected members that we could ever make.