Alex Folkes is formally censured for his conduct

An investigation into the conduct of the former Cornwall Councillor, Alex Folkes has now been completed, with the results of that investigation being publicilly released.

For Mr Folkes, it is damning, as the censure statement shows:

The subject member is hereby formally censured for his entirely inappropriate conduct that resulted in the serious and significant breaches found.  In particular, the misleading statements the subject member made, including deliberate attempts to undermine the credibility of the Council and the LADO process, fell far short of the conduct that can reasonably be expected of an elected member.  If it were not for the robust and entirely appropriate actions taken by the Council, including through the complainant and other senior officers, there was a risk of the Council being brought into disrepute. 

 

That the subject member sought to discredit the LADO process and those involved in that process was inexcusable given that the process has at its very core the protection of children.  The credibility of the LADO process is fundamental to the safeguarding of children who may have been subjected to or are at risk of abuse. 

 

The subject member’s malicious attempt to undermine the LADO process and those involved in it demonstrated that he was prepared to put his own credibility and reputation above his responsibilities as both an elected member and a Cabinet member to safeguard the interests of children in Cornwall.  That is an inexcusable act and falls far below standards of behaviour that can reasonably be expected, whether by a councillor or otherwise.”

The actual decision notice is available on the relevant Standards Committee web page at the link below:http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors-and-democracy/standards-committee-information/decision-notices-april-2015-to-march-2016/

I am sure you will read the full findings, however, a further point I would like to highlight is:

I am aware of the subject member’s blog and the statement made on it by him on 20 November 2014 that

“I cannot blame the police for investigating based on the information they received. The whole episode put me through a huge trauma but I am reassured that they took such matters very seriously and I am glad that they were able to establish my innocence as they did”. The police did not proceed to prosecution. That is not the same as the police being able to establish the subject member’s innocence. Had the police been satisfied that they had established the subject member’s innocence there would have been no cause for the information relating to the incident in 2006 to have been recorded such that it was disclosed in the 2009 criminal records check.

The Standards Committee determined that the actions appropriate to address breaches I had found are that:

  • The subject member should be censured (see above);
  • A public statement/press release be issued by the Council to coincide with publication of this decision notice; and
  • The subject member be asked to offer an apology to Councillor Rowe for failing to disclose the 2006 arrest and related circumstances to him. By the provision of this decision notice that request is now made to him.

The public statement/press release has been settled with the Chairman of the Standards Committee in accordance with the decision of the Committee.

The censure has been determined by the Chairman of the Standards Committee in conjunction with myself, again in accordance with the decision of the Standards Committee.

“The subject member is hereby formally censured for his entirely inappropriate conduct that resulted in the serious and significant breaches found. In particular, the misleading statements the subject member made, including deliberate attempts to undermine the credibility of the Council and the LADO process, fell far short of the conduct that can reasonably be expected of an elected member. If it were not for the robust and entirely appropriate actions taken by the Council, including through the complainant and other senior officers, there was a risk of the Council being brought into disrepute.

That the subject member sought to discredit the LADO process and those involved in that process was inexcusable given that the process has at its very core the protection of children. The credibility of the LADO process is fundamental to the safeguarding of  children who may have been subjected to or are at risk of abuse. The subject member’s malicious attempt to undermine the LADO process and those involved in it demonstrated that he was prepared to put his own credibility and reputation above his responsibilities as both an elected member and a Cabinet member to safeguard the interests of children in Cornwall. That is an inexcusable act and falls far below standards of behaviour that can reasonably be expected, whether by a councillor or otherwise.”

In my role as Lead Member for Children’s Services, I have to a point remained publically quiet on this matter due to the ongoing investigations.

However, now I have the opportunity to publicilly praise child protection officers, the LADO process and all those associated with it for their work in protecting children from harm.

The fact is the LADO process is robust, and its decision that – the former Councillor – Alex Folkes, is a ‘serious and enduring risk to children’ still stands.

I will at this point say that I was disgusted that someone who is a serious and enduring risk to children was able to remain in office. He was welcomed by people even though the experts in child protection – via the LADO process – had reached the decision Alex Folkes is a ‘serious and enduring risk’ to children. Yet from my point of view, some people did not take this seriously.

It is important to highlight, the Council did not have the legal power to remove Alex Folkes from his position as a Councillor. The Council has never had the power to sack a councillor, although it could previously suspend councillors following the investigation and determination of Code of Conduct complaints. However, following the Government’s changes to the Code of Conduct complaints process, this sanction is no longer available.

The standards board decision, and the censure notice vindicates those officers who did their duty to protect children from harm. I hope those who dismissed the LADO decision will now think again on the seriousness of child protection and how there are processes in place to protect children.

Details of the Code of Conduct complaints process are available at this page:

http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors-and-democracy/standards-committee-information/code-of-conduct-complaints/

(I have taken the decision that on this blog, there will be no comments)