Concern Over Remit For New Council Complaints Body

Council Chamber at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

The Government is abolishing the national body that regulates complaints over councillors’ behaviour.

The Government view is that criminal matters, like fraud or failing to declare an interest in a vote, which would bring a Councillor financial gain, should be dealt with by a law court.

But although we no longer have to have a Standards Board, our Council is keeping one and there’s a proposal to increase its workload.

The majority of Councillors feel that the behaviour watchdog should continue to operate locally, in an ethical governance role, and Brian Lowen said it had worked very well in the past.

But Councillors Christine Savill and Dudly Mumford were concerned that proposals for the committee to check whether the Council was following all the policies set out in various committees could be creating more red tape.

They’ll discuss that point again in December.

In future the board will channel all complaints into the Town Hall for discussion by the board, but Councillor Savill was unclear if it would be all complaints from the public, such as about tourist facilities or public toilets, or just complaints against members and officers.

Sue Pritchard said it could just mean a flavour of each one was shared.

The Chief Executive will filter all complaints and pass these on for the committee to view.

Critics of our Council’s standards committee claim the Town Hall has spent thousands of pounds in secret session by bringing in mainland experts to advise on trivial, non-legal matters.

The committee has investigated a Councillor who recorded a parody song on YouTube and recently there was an investigation after a Councillor held up a piece of paper in a meeting claiming that what was being said was ‘a pack of lies’.

Councillor Richard McCarthy thinks there should be some kind of behaviour checks but in the end, the law is the highest authority for serious transgressions. He added that, when tempers rise in the Council chamber, he doesn’t want to see people running for the rule book and the Council should ‘use it’s brain’ rather than spending large sums of money on pursuing trivial complaints. He said the Council should be ‘more grown up’ and sort out problems informally and make actions proportionate to the perceived misdeed.