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Complaints about Members alleged 'bias', 'bullying'

Two complaints about the conduct of Councillors were made during the last year.

In his Annual report of the ethical standards regime for the Scrutiny Committee, Monitoring officer Matt Stokes revealed that complaints had accused some Members of being "biased" over a planning application and one Councillor of "bullying". Neither complaint was upheld.

He wrote: "The first complaint related to the conduct of some Members in the determination of an application for planning permission. It alleged, amongst other things, the advocating of considerations that were not relevant to the determination of the application, bias and irrationality. The complaint was rejected because it did not disclose any breaches of the Code of Conduct but appropriate advice was provided to the subject Members.

"The second complaint related to the conduct of a single Member and alleged, amongst other things, failure to treat others with respect, bullying and failure to declare interests. The complaint was rejected as a breach of the Code of Conduct had not been made out and your Monitoring Officer did not believe it was in the public interest to pursue the complaint further."

Matt went on to say that although there is generally a good understanding among Members of their Code of Conduct obligations, he suggested that a refresher course should be considered.

He praised Members for seeking advice about ethical issues, saying that both he and and the Deputy Monitoring Officer, as well as officers in the democratic team, have provided ad hoc guidance when requested, mainly around the declaration and registration of interests.

However, he added: "There have been a couple of incidents when it has been more difficult than might be desirable to get Members to appreciate why they were being provided with particular advice. On those occasions the advice was ultimately accepted and no breaches of the Code occurred. This alone suggests that further training should be considered."


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