Shropshire Star

More complaints about Shropshire councillors 'should be dealt with by standards committee'

Of 27 complaints about councillors' conduct only one was referred for investigation by Shropshire Council last year.

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Shropshire councillors said more complaints should be dealt with by the authority’s standards committee rather than being decided by the monitoring officer.

The comments were made following the presentation of the authority’s annual standards report at a full council meeting on Thursday.

The report revealed that the complaints included allegations of blackmail, bullying, and abusive behaviour – but many were deemed “not relevant” as the councillor involved was not acting in an official capacity at the time.

Four cases were referred to the standards committee due to the seniority of the councillor involved or the seriousness of the allegation, but the remainder were dealt with by monitoring officer Tim Collard.

The report said 12 of the allegations involved members of Shropshire Council, while 15 concerned town and parish councillors.

It also explained that in the event that an investigation finds a failure to comply with the code, any sanction cannot prevent the councillor involved from representing their electors – meaning suspension or removal from office is not an option.

Standards committee chairman Councillor David Evans said: “It is acknowledged that out of 27 complaints in 2022, only one was referred for investigation.

“A significant number of complaints elicited apologies at their initial stage, which was judged to be all that would be achieved following an investigation.

“As a result, only in the most serious cases was it considered proportionate to instigate an investigation.”

Councillor Roger Evans, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, said: “It would be good if there were stronger sanctions that could be implemented against councillors who do transgress, including parish councillors.

“I think it’s a little bit muted, what the standards committee can actually implement. I think we all would want it a bit stronger.”

Labour group leader Councillor Julia Buckley said: “Out of 27 complaints about the behaviour and conduct of elected members, only one was investigated. That’s 3.7 per cent of the complaints in a 12-month period.

“Only four were even considered by elected members on the panel.

“I would like to understand how that compares to other authorities, because that is putting a lot of pressure on one officer, the monitoring officer, to make lots of decisions.

“I feel the panel of elected councillors is there to do a job, which is to share the burden of ensuring that these complaints are investigated thoroughly.

“I hope that when we hear next year’s report I hope we hear some different statistics.”

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