Councillor Unhappy With ‘Kangaroo Court’ Complaints Process

wesleyan chapel 2The Council’s Standards Committee is to review its procedures for investigating complaints against councillors after its Chairman, Cllr Gordon Bilsborough, claimed it can be like a ‘kangaroo court.’

And in an unusual move, Gordon presented his own report at their meeting last week, outlining his thoughts on what needs to change.

He’d originally wanted to submit his report in May and says he was “disquieted” to be told that might not be legal.

Senior Manager for Democratic and Corporate Services, Richard Burraston, says he subsequently checked with other councils and found that it was alright to include it, as long as it was made clear that these were Gordon’s personal thoughts on the issue.

Gordon says he’s concerned that under the current system, the Monitoring Officer and the Independent Person, a member of the public who sits on the committee, can decide between themselves whether a complaint against a councillor is justified and needs investigating.

And following a decision, the Monitoring Officer is also free to grant a review and councillors have no power to intervene. The Council usually pays Cornwall Council to carry out that review.

Gordon says this means the Standards Committee has no powers other than to note the outcome of any complaints.

And he says the procedures are like a kangaroo court, because any councillor being charged doesn’t have a right to challenge a decision or to get input from elected members.

He’s checked what happens in other councils and says there’s no legal reason why the whole Committee shouldn’t decide whether a complaint is reviewed.

Gordon feels this would be a useful safeguard against vexatious and vindictive complaints.

Mr Burraston recommended setting up a working party of three councillors plus himself and the Administration Officer but that was rejected.

Instead, councillors decided all members of the committee should review the procedures. They’ll bring a report back to their next meeting.

There have been three complaints against four councillors since April last year. All went to a review and one went to a second review.