AN ORMSKIRK Councillor has claimed that the borough council’s rejected annual report ‘didn’t reflect reality’ – but the authority refute the claims and say there have been ‘no whistleblowing reports.’
West Lancashire Borough Councillors rejected the Council Plan Annual Report at the July council meeting last week by 26 votes to 24. This is the first time the Annual Plan Report has been rejected.
OWL Councillor Adrian Owens said: “There was criticism by councillors of key omissions from the report. I highlighted a catalogue of concerns ranging from poor staff morale; high staff turnover; auditor concerns over financial controls on projects; and delayed approval of the annual accounts.
“I also highlighted the further delays to the Local Plan Process caused by almost all staff in the Planning Policy section leaving the council.
“I’ve been a councillor for 23 years. Never in that time have I had council staff approach me on a confidential basis – whistleblowers if you will, until this year. This year it happened twice. I advised use of the formal whistleblowing policy in both instances. I don’t minimise the enormous step it is for a council employee to contact a councillor about internal matters and so to say I was taken aback by this course of events is a large understatement.
“It’s clear to me that staff morale is not what it should be and we all need to work to address that. Indeed, staff turnover was very high last year and I know of more than one staff member who didn’t leave for better terms and conditions.
“An Annual Council Plan Report needs to be more than a PR document. It needs to honestly reflect the challenges the council has and the corrective steps to be taken. I am afraid this report does not do that.”
A spokesperson from West Lancashire Borough Council replied: “In October 2020, the Council adopted a Council Plan 2020-23 with a vision and priorities. The Council Plan Annual Report referred to is principally an annual review, in a reader-friendly format, of the achievements and progress against the priority areas of the Council Plan delivered for the benefit of residents and the Borough, rather than a detailed report of all issues affecting the Authority.
“The Annual Report was noted at full Council and feedback also noted for future consideration. We can confirm there have been no whistleblowing reports.”