A report of the
Director of Legal and Governance Services/Monitoring Officer was presented to provide an
overview of the current, and recent position, in respect of Code of Conduct
It was noted that the report stated that it was a Joint Report with the Executive Member for Legal and Governance
Services but this was incorrect.
Currently, there was 1 complaint from 2020, and 11 complaints from 2021
that were at various stages of the process, and had not yet been
concluded. Details of those complaints
could not be provided at this time, so as not to prejudice any outcomes, and/or
create a conflict should any of those complaints need to be considered by the
Standards Committee at a future date.
An ongoing theme around the complaints was in respect of comments made
on social media by Members. This
accounted for 12 complaints in 2019, 14 complaints in 2020, and 14 in 2021, to
date. It was highlighted that there was
an impact on resources when processing complaints, some of which could take up
a significant amount of time. In order
to improve response times in this area, the Member’s Code of Conduct had been
updated to incorporate a greater focus on appropriate social media activity.
Training by an
external provider had recently been provided and included information about
social media activity and examples of when a Member might be considered to be
acting in an official capacity rather than in a private capacity. The training was
well attended, with 25 members in attendance.
A suggestion at
the training had been that Councillors should consider how their behaviour and
service to the people of the town should be in line with the Corporate
Values. The Council’s Five Values had
recently been refreshed and mirrored Nolan Principles.
There had also
been an increase in Member on Member complaints, with the number of complaints
in the current year to date, being almost as high as the last two years’
It was suggested that it may be timely to consider whether a culture had
developed where there was low tolerance to the usual cut and thrust of
political debate, and whether some of the complaints have been of a retaliatory
nature, since some
complaints were from and against the same Members in relation to
the same issue.
When a Member complained about the conduct of another Member, in most
circumstances, every effort would be made to resolve the matter informally, by
liaising with the individuals concerned or the Group Leader, if
A Member raised the issue of those independent members who did not
belong to a national political group, or any group, and it was therefore
unclear what principles or standards they signed up to. The
Monitoring Officer stated that in her experience, Group Leaders of all
political groupings were generally very helpful in terms of trying to resolve
For future reports the Monitoring Officer indicated that she would
include some information in relation to the costs for complaint
some complaints were investigated in-house, others were conduct by external, independent,
investigators. It was confirmed that there
were currently two independent persons who were consulted on cases as part of
the complaints process.
Members suggested that further details on the reasons why some
complaints were not progressed to investigation would be
helpful, as well as the timescales for the complaints procedure. It was confirmed that a detailed procedure
was in place that was used to assess any complaints or allegations and this
included timescales. The Head of
Democratic Services confirmed that this document was not currently available on
the Council’s website as it was being reviewed.
AGREED as follows that:
the report was received and noted.
costs, complaints that were not progressed to investigation stage, and timescales for progressing complaints, would
be provided at the next meeting.