Council officers ‘making rules up’
Dear Sir, — There was an interesting article on page three in last week’s Chronicle entitled “Council complaints must be confidential”, reporting how a complaint by a resident of Congleton was made confidential by an officer of Cheshire East council, without the request of confidentiality being made by the person who made the original complainant.
Under the circumstances it therefore must be expected that the officer who made the statement to the Press remains nameless; this is because he/she knows they are totally incorrect.
The only person that can officially request the complaint against the councillor being made confidential is the person who makes the complaint.
I very rarely have contact with Graham Goodwin these days so have no idea whom he made the complaint against, so obviously it could be against any one of the 82 councillors who were elected to Cheshire East Council when the complaint was made.
I only mention this because the Cheshire East officer said Cheshire East Council had a procedure that had to comply with the Localism Act 2011 that covers confidentiality. It must be the only council in the country this applies too, because looking a few other councils up on their websites, none of them have this in their constitution.
It does appear that this is another case where council officers are making their own rules up to save the council publishing the result of a complaint made against councillors, which might be embarrassing if made public. Although it saves taking the complaint to the police, which has been the usual way in the past.
Perhaps the editor will do a factcheck on a few councils to see how many have the same confidential clause in their constitution. — Yours faithfully,
The above request is perhaps a little too time-consuming; perhaps a task for a retired politician with time on his hands? I did download a few complaint forms: Oxford, Wigan, and Barking and Dagenham only said it was “unlikely” to withhold the complainant’s identity, as it should be transparent process. Oxford’s lengthy explanation comments: “The decision notice will be published as part of the minutes of the Standards Committee Local Hearing Panel meeting and will be placed on the council’s website unless the monitoring officer determines that it should remain confidential or it contains exempt information,” which suggest the details will be made public.
The Localism Act 2011 included the introduction of local codes of conduct to be based on the seven “Nolan principles” of public life, which include accountability and openness.
The Act requires local authorities to have mechanisms in place to investigate allegations that a member has not complied with the code of conduct, and arrangements under which decisions on allegation may be made. It does mention confidentiality.