Agenda item

Quarterly Update Report to Standards Committee


A report of the Director of Legal and Governance Services was presented to provide a quarterly update to the Standards Committee regarding the recent and current position concerning Code of Conduct Complaints and to give the Committee assurance about the practice and process.


The last update incorrectly showed the total complaints for 2021 as 35.  This had been updated to reflect the true figure of 33.  By way of explanation, one matter had been closed and then reopened as there was an ongoing issue, which had then been counted twice in error.  The other entry was a table header row which should not have been included in the initial count. The rest of the figures had been adjusted accordingly.  The introduction of the dashboard would reduce the risk of this human error occurring in the future.


There was 1 complaint from 2020, and 8 complaints from 2021 at various stages of the process which had not yet concluded.   Further details of those complaints could not yet be provided, so as not to prejudice any outcomes, and/or create a conflict should any of those complaints need to come to Standards Committee at a future date.


Concern was expressed regarding the length of time taken for some of the complaints and how much longer it might take for them to be resolved.  It was explained that some complaints could have been complex or include matters that were not in the Council’s control.  Further details would be made available to the Standards Committee along with costings for complaints that had been processed.


Since the last quarterly update, 1 complaint from 2021 had been resolved, the details of which were included in the submitted report.  The motion to censure would take place at the Council meeting scheduled for 7 September 2022.


There had been 6 complaints submitted to date in 2022, one of which was subsequently withdrawn by the complainant, leaving 5 complaints, 4 of which were ongoing, and 1 resolved by way of informal resolution, namely advice and guidance, as set out in the previous update.


As mentioned in the previous report to the Committee, there was a code of conduct complaints dashboard in place in order to be able to improve the monitoring of the performance in regards to the complaints, and better analyse outcomes.  The performance dashboard would enable analysis of patterns and outcomes concerning complaints.  A demonstration of the dashboard was provided to the Standards Committee, albeit anonymised due to confidentiality, to demonstrate the analysis and data it held.


It was suggested that if possible, an alert system should be set up on the Dashboard to notify Officers of progress on each complaint on a regular basis and provide prompts when deadlines for action were approaching.


Regarding the use of outside agencies to conduct complaints, it was the Monitoring Officer who made the decision to have a complaint investigated externally based on a number of factors, including complexity, capacity and time consumption.  Generally the NEPO procurement framework was used to procure legal firms and their costs were fixed, however in certain circumstances some cases require a departure from the framework.   All investigation reports provided by external agencies were carefully checked and queries could be raised by Middlesbrough Council Members or Officers.


Further documentation had been produced to assist members of the public with making a complaint and to understand the process.  This documentation was attached to the submitted report at Appendix 1.  Since the Committee papers were issued a minor amendment had been made to the document at paragraph 8.2, first sentence to read: “the following non-exclusive factors will be taken into consideration by the Local Authority.” 


For information, a copy of the template document for the Independent Person (IP) to follow when making a determination of whether to accept or reject a complaint was attached at Appendix 2 to the submitted report. In essence this was to provide a level of consistency and record management to easily follow the rationale of decision making by the IP.


AGREED as follows that:

1.   The information provided was received and noted.

2.   Standards Committee would be provided with information in relation to the length of time taken for some of the complaints and how much longer it might take for them to be resolved as well as the costs.

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