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From theft to data breaches: Whistleblowing up by 50 per cent at Shropshire Council

By Dominic Robertson | South Shropshire | Politics | Published:

Staff doing DIY in work time, drinking while on call, making a hoax call and colluding with a planning officer were all the subject of complaints made by whistleblowers at Shropshire Council.

Shropshire Council's Shirehall headquarters

One worker was sacked for "time abuse"; while an allegation of benefit fraud was referred to the Department for Work and Pensions during 2018/19.

A worker resigned when accused of theft, another was sacked over a data breach, and the police were called over the fraudulent use of a home address.

There was a 51 per cent increase in whistleblowing incidents last year, with 33 official complaints made.

Of those, 18 resulted in "no case to answer" rulings, while 10 did not proceed due to a lack of evidence.

A verbal complaint was made that a member of staff was running a business and carrying out DIY work in work time.

No investigation was carried out as there was not enough evidence to proceed.

A written complaint claimed a member of staff was seen drinking while on call, but a management investigation found there was no case to answer.

The same outcome came over a complaint over a member of staff colluding with a planning officer.

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The incidents will be discussed by Shropshire Council’s audit committee when it meets on June 27.

Michele Leith, director of Workforce & Transformation, said it was important to have a robust and trustworthy system in place to allow staff to raise issues.

She said: “The whistleblowing policy is available to all staff via the intranet pages and is also available to them, along with members, contractors, partners and the public, via the website, allowing it to be accessed from any computer.

“This is particularly important as it allows staff to access the policy outside of a work environment, where they may be reluctant to be seen accessing the whistleblowing policy.

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“We have seen a 51 per cent increase in number of incidents reported than in the preceding years.

“In 2017/18 the majority of those allegations were relating to finance abuse and fraud.

“This year we have seen a variety of different type of concerns from fraud, potholes to housing allocations.

“The ‘speaking up about wrongdoing’ process forms a key element of the council’s corporate governance arrangements and is continuing to be a route employees use to raise concerns, as well as a route which is also open to elected members, contractors, partners and others.”

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