Wrexham Council’s Equality Department and ‘One Wrexham’

If you came to this post from the ‘One Wrexham’ page, here’s a link to return: Click here

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Today I attended an event promoted by AVOW and run by Wrexham County Borough Council Equality Officer Celia Hart about Fairness in Wrexham, as WCBC looks to produce a Strategic Equality Plan to meet the requirements of the new Equality Act and consult a few people with ‘protected characteristics’ in the process. As is usual at such events, most of the attendees appeared to be paid workers from the council and various NGOs.

I’ve been having a lot of problems in the past few months over a complaint I attempted to raise with the Equality Officer about AVOW’s status as signatory to and recruiter for the One Wrexham Charter of Belonging. I’ve been ignored, fobbed off, passed from pillar to post and back and I’m not very happy about it. As we will see, there has been the usual lack of transparency from the authorities about what steps they are taking to deal with matters as AVOW continues its ‘business as usual’ front.

Knowledge is power and the mainstream media can’t be relied on, so I prepared a document to share with participants at today’s event outlining the situation and my experiences. I had no intention of disrupting whatever had been planned for today, but I did intend to make sure people knew about at least one punter’s issues both with AVOW and with the way the council deals with complaints on equality matters.

During the lunch hour, I started to pass round the flyers. Celia Hart quickly took exception to this, even though many groups were handing round their own literature at the same time. At this point, she had not read the flyer but immediately objected to my use of the phrase ‘Fairness in Wrexham?’ for the heading as this was the name of HER event, and claimed that people would think I was handing out official flyers, even though it would have been blindingly obvious to anyone reading them that they weren’t. She threatened to throw me out if I didn’t stop, but I’d printed 50 of the things and was intent on distributing them, so I carried on.

Back in the main hall, I got in conversation with some Deaf friends who were also attending the event, only to be hauled away (not quite literally) by Celia who rudely interrupted with ‘Genny. I want to talk to you now, over here’ delivered headmistress-style. In the middle of the main hall, in front of dozens of people, she proceeded to deliver an extremely angry rant while standing inches away from me and prodding her finger at my face. I asked her to move back and told her not to prod at me but she just became more irate. When she dismissed my suggestion that we find one of the facilitators for the day to be present while we discussed the matter more calmly, and continued to berate me, I raised my voice in response.

During her rant, Celia said both that she hadn’t responded to my emails because someone else in the council was dealing with my complaint – it wasn’t her job – and, in the next breath, that I had no idea how much she was doing to try to help me and how much everyone was doing to try to help me ‘behind the scenes’ (if I’d just let them help me) and how she would still try to help me ‘even after this’. Notwithstanding the contradiction implicit in these statements, it was actually the phrase ‘behind the scenes’ that interested me most. The council might appear to be ignoring me and doing nothing, but they are in fact secretly doing stuff on my behalf without my knowledge. Am I supposed to be grateful? Not even a pretence at transparency. How does Celia think she is helping me? I haven’t asked for any help for myself and this isn’t about me.

What I’m interested in is accountability and some semblance of justice. If the Council’s One Wrexham Charter is to have any credibility, it needs to be able to deal with complaints effectively. Given the findings of the tribunal against AVOW and the fact that John Gallanders is still in post and at work and the same Trustees are still running the show, AVOW’s name on the charter and its continued promotion of the charter on its website are a scandal, as is AVOW’s involvement in this ‘Fairness’ event.

Extracts from my press release about this event:

Genny Bove will be attending an event in Wrexham today called ‘Fairness in Wrexham’, promoted by AVOW, the employer found by a tribunal to have discriminated against her and victimised her during her employment there in 2008-9. AVOW took over the running of troubled Plas Madoc Communities First AFTER its own governance had been found seriously lacking at the tribunal in March 2011. Neither the Welsh Government nor AVOW has yet answered the question of when the WG was informed of the tribunal or its outcome. The damning tribunal judgment was delivered verbally in March and followed up with written reasons in August.

The event is being organised by Wrexham County Borough Council equalities department. Genny has been asking for months for this department to investigate AVOW as a signatory and recruiter to the ‘One Wrexham Charter of Belonging’, many of the conditions for which AVOW does not meet or has broken. The replies Genny has (and has not!) received have been very unsatisfactory.

[Genny] has said:

“There is little point the council talking about ‘fairness’ and ‘equality’ when it cannot even deal with correspondence and complaints fairly. The evidence speaks for itself and I will be publishing the whole correspondence shortly on [this] website [Now available to read here].

“The tribunal findings now stand as fact, since AVOW did not attempt to appeal them. Yet the regulatory bodies appear perfectly happy to wait pending the outcome of an internal investigation by two trustees with an independent chair, even though we have no idea when this will report, the terms of reference of the investigation have been withheld and the investigating panel has to date failed to respond to AM Mark Isherwood’s questions about whether I will be interviewed as part of the inquiry and whether the panel will look at ALL the evidence presented to the tribunal including witness statements and at the documents which AVOW tried and failed to suppress which reveal John Gallanders’ misconduct and show that he was acting in bad faith towards me all along.

“That AVOW is promoting an event on ‘Fairness’ in conjunction with WCBC when its Trustees and Chief Officer have such a damning cloud of condemnation from the Tribunal hanging over their heads is a travesty.”

If you came to this post from the ‘One Wrexham’ page, here’s a link to return: Click here

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One Response to Wrexham Council’s Equality Department and ‘One Wrexham’

  1. susan says:

    its a sham and a disgrace, who do these people think they are to act like this?

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