AVOW and the One Wrexham Charter of Belonging
This is the record of my correspondence with Wrexham County Borough Council over the One Wrexham Charter of Belonging and whether it is appropriate for AVOW to continue to be a signatory to the Charter and a body which actively promotes the Charter.
I wrote to all members of the WCBC Executive Board (councillors) on 26 August 2011.
about the outcome of the tribunal and attaching copies of the written reasons for the judgment. At the end of this email, I suggested that AVOW’s status as signatory to the Charter should be urgently reviewed:
Email to WCBC Executive Board: Ron Davies, Alun Jenkins, Joan Lowe (who is also the WCBC observer on AVOW’s Trustee Board), Neil Rogers, Michael Williams, Dave Bithell, Mark Pritchard, Rodney Skelland, Bob Dutton, Arfon Jones.
I forwarded the same email the next day to Councillors Marc Jones and Mark Davies, to make sure that all the leaders of the various political groupings in the council had received it.
I received a reply from Marc Jones, who expressed concern but didn’t mention the particular point about the One Wrexham charter. No other councillor acknowledged my email or responded to me. I did send a separate email to Joan Lowe to ask if she was planning to attend an AVOW Trustee meeting and she did reply to this (to say she had no knowledge of the meeting) but not to my original communication. I also sent a separate email to Aled Roberts in his capacity as Assembly Member, not realising at that time that he was still a WCBC councillor. As the One Wrexham Charter is not an Assembly matter, I did not raise this with him.
After a month during which nothing happened and no one from the Council communicated with me over my concerns in relation to AVOW and the One Wrexham Charter, I sent an email on 29 September to the person identified in the Charter as the contact point for any complaints, Celia Gibson, along with copies of my emails to councillors and all the tribunal documentation.
When my emails were returned undeliverable, I re-sent them to the One Wrexham email address: email@example.com the same day, 29 September.
I received no acknowledgement or response. I attempted to phone the One Wrexham office phone number, was told that the person responsible was not available, left my name and phone number but my call was not returned.
On 3 October, I wrote to my local councillor Simon Meyers, forwarding all the information sent to other councillors in August and including the query about the One Wrexham Charter. He has never acknowledged or responded to this or my subsequent email of 18 October, which was copied to him.
On 10 October, nearly two weeks after sending the first email to One Wrexham and over six weeks since I’d first written to councillors about the Charter, I wrote again to the One Wrexham email address:
I sent the complaint below to your office well over a week ago and have yet to receive acknowledgement, which I believe should ordinarily be received within 7 days.
I would be grateful if you could give this matter your urgent attention and let me know what steps you are taking to investigate.
I received a ‘read receipt’ for this message, followed by a reply from Lee Robinson.
I replied the same day with a long email explaining why I was not happy with Lee Robinson’s suggestion that I should take my complaint up directly with AVOW. I copied the message to Sue Bywater, who Lee had suggested was the person to contact if I had any queries.
On 12 October, Sue Bywater sent a response as follows:
I acknowledge receipt of your email and will consider your request and come back to you with a more formal response.
On 13 October, Mark Isherwood wrote to Lee Robinson in respect of my email of 10 October:
I have been copied on the e-mail below from my constituent, Genny Bove.
I would therefore be grateful if you could give this your attention and confirm your intended course of action.
On 14 October, Sue Bywater sent a further response:
Thank you for your recent correspondence.
The Charter requires us to liaise with the organisation against which the complaint is made. We continue to do so and are aware that an independent investigation has been commissioned.
The feedback from this will be used to assess any next steps deemed appropriate in relation to the One Wrexham Charter.
I replied to Sue Bywater the same day, explaining that the investigation was internal, not independent.
On 18 October, Sue Bywater wrote again, with her email copied both to Lee Robinson and Celia Hart, Equality Manager. The important part of this email was the final paragraph:
This matter is outside the remit of the Corporate Complaints process and therefore as such cannot be investigated by the council. In accordance with, and in the spirit of the One Wrexham Charter I have therefore passed your issue to our Equality Manager, Celia Hart, so that she can liaise with the relevant organisation.
On 18 October, I replied to Sue Bywater, copying my response to Celia Hart and my local councillor Simon Meyers amongst others. I also forwarded previous correspondence to Celia Hart.
I fully expected Celia Hart to get in touch with me, but heard absolutely nothing.
On 16 November, four weeks later, I wrote again to Celia Hart:
I do not seem to have received a reply from anyone in WCBC to my communication regarding a matter which relates to fairness in wrexham, namely the One Wrexham Charter of Belonging, sent nearly one month ago on 18 October 2011 and copied to you.
In any event, I would like to attend your fairness in wrexham day and attach a completed form.
On 17 November, Celia Hart replied:
This issue is being dealt with by the Council’s complaints officer in accordance with our policy. It was my understanding that she has responded to your letter.
I have forwarded on your email to her and asked her to contact you.
This email was copied to Lawrence Isted and Sue Bywater. It was Sue Bywater who had told me she was passing my complaint on to Celia Hart.
I replied to Celia Hart the same day.
Celia Hart responded with the following message:
I am forwarding this message on behalf of Lawrence Isted. He has tried to email you direct but his emails are being returned.
Email from Lawrence Isted, head of ‘Community Wellbeing and Development’, the Department responsible for equality in WCBC.
Lawrence Isted‘s message neither explained nor apologised for the confusion over who was dealing with my complaint. It did not explain what action had been taken to date and what the result of that action had been. I saw it as another attempt to fob me off and shut me up.
This led to me taking the actions described in this post at the ‘Fairness in Wrexham’ event organised by Equality Manager Celia Hart.
The day after the event, 23 November, I wrote to Celia Hart about the events of the previous day and the One Wrexham Charter, how I found her behaviour towards me unacceptable and my ongoing concerns over this matter.
I have yet to receive acknowledgement or response.
Watch this space…