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'Radical' council shake-up urged in wake of damning report.

Byline: LiamMurphy

WIRRAL Council was last night facing calls for a "radical shake-up" and a new system of gover nance, after a damning report into how it is run.

Former Liberal Democrat group leader Stuart Kelly said the current cabinet system - based on national Gover nment - should be abandoned and replaced with a return to committees involving all councillors. The Lib-Dems hold the balance of power on the authority and allowed the Labour group to take back control from the Conservatives in May.

But Cllr Kelly last night claimed the "Labour leadership is implicated up to its neck" in a report by consultant Anna Klonowski, which attacked how the council is managed.

Council leader Steve Foulkes last night accused Cllr Kelly of trying to "muddy the waters" and insisted his efforts to repair problems outlined in the Klonowski report stemmed from her recommendations.

The criticism in that report was accepted by council chief executive Jim Wilkie and Cllr Foulkes, but Cllr Kelly said their response was "inadequate".

He said: "The decision to establish a cabinet made up solely of Labour members is wholly inadequate, and an insult to the council as a whole.

"The Labour leadership is implicated up to its neck. Establishing a committee which excludes 61 elected members of the rest of the council can only add to the poor gover nance culture which was the subject of such serious independent criticism.

"It was encouraging to hear public acknowledgement from Cllr Foulkes that he has made mistakes and has personal responsibility in creating a damaging culture within the council."

Ms Klonowski's inquiry was originally set up to investigate how for mer social services whistleblower Martin Morton was treated by the council.

It was later widened to examine the council's "corporate gover nance". Cllr Stuart Cllr Kelly said: "I believe the cabinet system of governance has failed.

"It needs to be abolished and replaced with a more inclusive system with proper checks and balances against the abuse of centralised power inherent in the current 'strong leader' and cabinet structure." He said a shadow committee structure could be up and running before Christmas.

But Cllr Foulkes last night said the responsibility for driving forward the required changes was "clearly the responsibility of the executive".

He said: "The responsibility for changing the culture within the organisation lies with all of us, every councillor, every officer and each member of staff.

"I am meeting shortly with the leader of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups to see how we can best work together on this.

"At the moment, the powers of the executive lie with the cabinet and the leader. That is the system all councils work to.

Kelly "There is no evidence the problems we are facing spring out of a cabinet system or are replicated in other councils, all of whom use the cabinet system.

"I do not believe it is helpful at a time when the council is facing such a serious challenge to attempt to muddy the waters by confusing two entirely separate issues."

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 28, 2011
Words:511
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