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Alleged misbehaviour should be dealt with in pubic, councillors told

Monmouthshire County Council

ALLEGED misbehaviour by councillors should be dealt with in public a committee which will consider such complaints has been told. 

Monmouthshire County Council’s standards committee has had to agree a procedure for dealing with complaints against councillors, including town and community councillors, when instructed by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. 

It considers complaints against councillors, and those co-opted on to councils such as independent members who can sit on committees such as the audit committee, and can either investigate complaints itself, and refer them to the standards committee, or require a council’s monitoring officer to investigate and report to the standards committee. 

Standards committees have the power to sanction councillors including suspending them from office for a period. 

The standards committee agreed at its June meeting to adopt the procedure it will follow which includes setting up a sub-committee to consider the outcome of complaints, half of which should be independent members, and if considering a complaint against a town or community councillor the committee member representing local councils should be included. 

Independent member Rhian Williams-Flew said it should be clear that a council legal officer will assist the committee chair in writing a report of its decision. 

That prompted newly appointed independent member, Ruth Price, to ask if it was being proposed to have “two versions of a report, one that is produced and another report that has been scrutinised for press release?” 

Ms Williams-Flew said that wasn’t what she was suggesting and believed that would lead to “a lot of confusion”. 

She said: “I believe these would be open meetings, the public could be there and watching it. It’s open justice really.” 

The committee was also told by monitoring officer James Williams the procedure is the same as he devised while working for Cardiff council and similar to that operated by Caerphilly council. 

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Members were also updated on an independent review of the Public Services Ombudsman following the suspension and resignation of a senior member of staff after, what Mr Williams called, “anti-Conservative” social media posts had come to light. 

The review will be lead by Dr Melissa McCulloug, commissioner for standards for the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Jersey and Guernsey states assemblies. 

It will consider 673 cases, from April 1, 2021 to October 22, 2023 where a decision not to consider code of conduct complaints was made and 11 cases, from April 1, 2019 to October 22 last year which were closed without a referral to a standards committee or the Adjudication Panel for Wales that considers the most serous complaints.