Complaints about councillors ‘treble’ in 12 months
Jun 4 2009 Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Allegations include planning ‘sabotage’ and ‘gossip’
COMPLAINTS against councillors in Kirklees have trebled in the past 12 months.
Kirklees Council recorded 20 complaints against Kirklees and parish councillors between May 2008 and May 2009 – compared to an average of between six and eight per year in the last 10 years.
But the council says the sudden increase is due to a change in the way complaints against councillors are handled.
Until May 2008 the national Standards Board for England dealt with such complaints.
But the responsibility, in all but the most serious allegations, is now dealt with by local authorities.
Paul Blythe, external chairman of Kirklees Council Standards Committee, added he believed there was a ‘high standard of ethical behaviour’ among councillors and many complaints would be ‘unproven’.
In the last 12 months, one councillor has been accused of attempting to block a planning application on a business to help a friend who owns a similar business in the area.
Another councillor is alleged to have spread false information about the heads of three local schools. The councillor said the heads had attempted to sabotage plans for the schools.
And a third councillor has been accused of cancelling a charitable event because the councillor allegedly believed one of the acts had links to the BNP.
Reports of five complaints have been prepared by Kirklees Council’s monitoring officer, who is in charge of managing the complaints procedure.
They will go before an independent ‘consideration panel’ in the next couple of weeks.
The panel will, if appropriate, arrange a hearing where action may be taken against the councillor.
Mr Blythe said: “The fact that a complaint is referred for investigation does not necessarily mean that the complaint will be proved.
“At the assessment stage, the sub-committee considering a complaint is only allowed to hear one side of the story which makes it inevitable on occasions that a complaint will be referred for investigation.
“This is a fundamental flaw in the system set up by statute which we, as a committee, are actively seeking to change. There are no trends in the type of complaint we receive.
“As the independent chair of Kirklees Council Standards Committee, I am satisfied that there is a high standard of ethical behaviour amongst members of Kirklees Council and the five local parishes.
“While not wishing to pre-empt the outcomes of current investigations, I am confident that many of the complaints may well be found to be unproven.
“I would ask that judgements are not made about those members who are the subject of complaints until proper process has been followed.”