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Friday, 7 November 2014

Liverpool CEX and Rotherham

Up to now I have avoided any public comment on the controversy around Liverpool's Chief Executive (CEX) and his time at Rotherham.

I am going to restrict my comment to my participation in a meeting with him and the Mayor on 5th November.  A press report on that meeting is here.  Not entirely accurate, in my opinion, but more or less correct.

Yesterday the Mayor in a live BBC interview said this
...It was good enough for (Cllr Coyne) it was good enough for me. Howard Newby chaired it, the city solicitor was there and we didn’t take part in a charade. We took part in an investigation, if you like, a conversation with the chief executive, talking to him about his role in Rotherham and he explained that in a fair and open and transparent way and I think that satisfied everybody there.”

Again, more or less correct, but I need to clarify. I didn't see it as an investigation.  It was a briefing and a conversation.  An implication that we "investigated" and were "satisfied" could be misleading.  I was satisfied about the CEX's openness to us in responding to questions and explaining.  But we were not, and never could be, in a position to reach any conclusion about his time at Rotherham.  That would require a full knowledge of all the facts and the resources to mount a proper investigation.

The City Council's role in this is as the employer of a CEX and it has a duty of care to all employees.  It doesn't have the responsibility to take any action about the conduct of that employee in a previous job.

If the Council did start to open any kind of conduct inquiry it would have had to be held in private anyway - just like any disciplinary hearing of any employee at whatever level.  But my understanding of the advice is that Council has no locus to open any kind of formal process and if it did so and if subsequently the CEX felt he had to resign over Rotherham, then he could seek to sue the Council for having made his position impossible.

So I took part in a confidential briefing which was not an investigation and could not reach any conclusion.   Why should I do that?

There are two reasons.  In May this year the Green Party became the main opposition and I became Leader of the Opposition on the City Council.  The new role involves more contact with the Chief Executive.  This is not a close relationship - we don't meet socially - but it is a working relationship.  Given that he was willing to speak to political leaders to explain his account of his time at Rotherham and deal with media speculation, I believed it would help me to know more about his version of the facts.

The second reason is that, as opposition leader, I have a responsibility to scrutinise what the Mayor does.   Being at the meeting allowed me to do that.  If I thought there was any wrongdoing by the Mayor then I would not hesitate to say so.  As it happens, I think the constraints on him and the Council as the employer do not allow any other course of action.

Having agreed to attend a confidential meeting, I will continue to respect that confidentiality.  There was no record taken and I will not disclose any recollections of what was asked or answered.

That may disappoint some people, but it should be recognised that the meeting of 5th November has not changed anything.  If there is a reputable employment lawyer willing to offer contrary advice and say that the Council indeed does have a duty to investigate an employee's conduct in another job ten years ago and can do that fairly, then the Council could look at that advice.



  1. It's wrong to claim that this kind of meeting should attract the same kind of confidentiality as a disciplinary hearing. It's a fact-finding meeting. As such it should be minuted to allow public oversight. A fair question now would be "Are you part of a cover up?"

    I believe you've been politically naive to get involved and it will come back to bite you. You don't know what else these power abusers are hiding from you and you've left a very obvious hostage to fortune.

    Finally, people at Mayor and CEO level are trashing their so-called "duty of care" to employees on a regular basis and then covering it all up with gagging clauses in compromise agreements or through subtle coercion and power abuse.

    It would be naive of you again to assume that "duty of care" extends beyond the CEO and senior management to others further down the food chain.

    1. We'll have to disagree about the meeting. As I say, if there ever is a possibility of a formal process involving the CEX, then this meeting would not have affected such a possibility.

      More importantly, I would like to hear about the trashing of Liverpool's duty of care to employees and the coercion and the power abuse.

    2. Well, I'll certainly pass the news on as and when I'm told about it. BUT don't rely upon internal systems to feed you anything. Employees cannot contact councillors, full stop. The lines of accountability for senior officers are very much controlled and closed off in this respect. Disputing employees will be stealthily isolated and railroaded OUT whilst councillors like yourself continue to attend photo opportunities and smile broadly as though "ALL IS WELL".

      It's just occurred to me, now that you've been welcomed into Mayor Joe's boudoir and come out with a hearty endorsement of the secretive processes that go on within......................

      .................How ever can I trust you to be wary, keep shtum and drop people in it by tipping off the abusing power brokers at the top table?

    3. I guess you have to make up your own mind about whom you can trust.
      There's lots of things the Mayor gets wrong and I say so. Occasionally he'll get something right and I might say so too. For his part, the Mayor continues to defame me and other Green councillors as a matter of course. Cosy it is not.

      You have a point about employee channels. Again, though, employees have approached us in confidence from time to time and trade union officers can always talk to us directly.

    4. What an atrocious state of affairs...that whistleblowing public servants or those with a grievance can't openly contact democratically elected members after senior officers have abused the powers vested in them...and will almost invariably find themselves lumbered with bogus "gross misconduct" charges, courtesy of process-abusers colluding / ganging up on them.

      Is any councillor with courage and insight doing something to inject a healthy dose of democracy and openness? Or are we settling in Liverpool for a variant of 21st Century North Korea?

      btw, I can't include unions such as UNISON in any process of betterment as they have their own traditional, mutually beneficial management 'channels of negotiation', where naively deluded subscription paying members expecting 'solidarity and support' are placed on the altar and sacrificed in cosy, secretive, mutually advantageous, back-scratching trysts.


    5. Have I been unclear: any council employee can talk to me directly in confidence if they want to do that. Some have done so in the past.

      And if the formal whistleblowing procedure is flawed, it can be amended.

  2. I agree with the above comments - Cllr Coyne's blog is spineless - why did he bother?