to return to
Blowing the whistle
on A Really Rotten Borough
latest update 12 March 2010

Monday, 30 March 2009

Wirral Council Audit 2008/9

Wirral Metropolitan Council

64 The Council's complaints system is accessible via the website and through One Stop Shops and Information Points. The website details the procedure for dealing with complaints about schools, social services, other council services and councillors. Users can download and complete a form to complain about an slleged breach of the Members' Code of Conduct. Members and officers both say that they treat complaints from the public seriously but their perceptions are different:

Detailed report

97 per cent of members and 85 per cent of officers say that members take complaints from the public seriously;
87 per cent of members and 99 per cent of officers say that officers take complaints from the public seriously.

65 The Council's Whistleblowing Policy is accessible to members and officers but it is not widely publicised to users. It cannot be easily accessed via the website - it is in fact included in a report to the Cabinet meeting of 3 April 2008. Following an internal governance review and subsequent comments by the Audit Commission a revised policy was introduced in 2008. The policy gives employees clear guidance on how to proceed if they have a concern and provides for more named officers within the Council that they will be able to approach in order to discuss their concerns.

66 During the last year the Audit Commission received details of an individual's concerns about contracts and charging in adult social services. Our review under the Public Interest Disclosure Act found the individual's concerns to be largely justified and we highlighted the failure of the Council's own systems for dealing with complaints and such concerns, including the whistleblowing procedure. A culture where employees can disclose allegations of malpractice internally is more likely to uphold the reputation of the Council, maintain public confidence and result in better outcomes for local people, than either such malpractice being disclosed to the public or it otherwise continuing to fester and harm the organisation.

67 But our survey did highlight some concerns about confidence in the whistleblowing arrangements. A third of members and officers don't know if the policy is being used appropriately or without fear of reprisal. This is a major gap in knowledge and weakens the ethical framework and the Council's approach to ensuring high standards of ethical governance.

R7 Increase awareness of the Whistleblowing Policy and re-enforce assurances that reporting through this mechanism can be done without fear of reprisal.

© copyright Wirral Metropolita Borough Council. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting