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0 votes

Recently there have been several cases where my Council's Standing Orders have been ignored and I am concerned that policies and procedures are not being properly followed by a small group of Councillors who include the Chairman and who form a majority on the Council.

I wrote to our Clerk (who is also the Proper Officer) who suggested I make a formal complaint under my Council's Complaints Procedure but my concern is that it appears that any investigation will be conducted BY the Council themselves and that the final point of the Procedure says "Excepting any statutory rights, the Council’s decision is final, there is no further appeals process".

I fear therefore, that my complaints will be "brushed under the carpet" and that by following this course of action, I will not then be able to take them any further?

My question to you is should I use the Council's Complaint Procedure or is there some other, more independent body to whom I can address my concerns?

Thank you in advance for any suggestions you may have.

by (270 points)

4 Answers

+1 vote
This situation is all too common and to be frank unless you have some Councillors to support you you’ll get nowhere

For a lot of Councils Standing Orders are advisory not compulsory unless of course they can be used against “ troublemakers”

In the last year or so I’ve seen Standing Orders, Financial Regulations, document retention policy, the Freedom of Information Act and Local Government Acts all ignored

Record the meetings so you have proof and consider contacting the Internal Auditor ?
by (11.6k points)
Thank you for that. But does the Internal Auditor have any "power"? I know the Monitoring Officer is a toothless beast but was hoping to learn that someone, somewhere had some kind of authority over the policies and prodcedures of Councils, especially in enforcing their own Standing Orders?
0 votes
Is there anything else you can do?  Well that depends on the circumstances and / or the SOs that you believe are being contravened and the standard of the SOs.

If you believe a SO is being contravened you should raise it as a point of order which must be heard and determined by the Chair.  Their opinion of the point of order is final but if you could show that a repeated pattern of discarding or ignoring what are believed to be valid points then it could merge into a code of conduct issue in relation to failing to treat others with respect, bullying, intimidation, conduct contrary to the duty to promote high standards, bringing office / council into disrepute etc, etc, etc.

Code of conduct and Monitoring officer authority are pretty meaningless anyway and probably a waste of time.  Probably the best course of action is to have your say, make your feelings known and get them on the record.
by (6.4k points)
Thank you. I was aware that the MO had no real authority but was hoping to learn that there was some way of ensuring Councils foillow their own Standing Orders? I guess not....
It's interesting that you mention the council's scrutiny of complaints about the council.
This 'could' fall foul of the "...has participated in the scrutiny of a matter on which the person has previously made a decision..." element of the code of conduct - but again, all that might provide is a route to MO code of conduct complaint which is time consuming and generally a bit pointless, even if the finding is favourable.

All you can practically do is raise your point of order, say your piece, get it on the minuted record and call for a named vote.  Then set about raising the profile of what you consider to be errant behaviour of Cllrs amongst the electorate in the hope that the next election will see the perpetrators held to account by electorate.

So many apparent examples of poorly performing councils (and staff)....
0 votes
Refer the issue to the External Auditor, not an internal auditor (who may another local Clerk who could be pally with your Clerk).  Ask for it to be an agenda item at a meeting and also provide details as one of the agenda support papers.
by (35.4k points)
Thank you, but does the External Augitor actually have any kind of authority? It would be pointless to have the matter put on an agenda with any amount of supporting documents as the group abusing the Standing Orders have the majority on the Council so nothing would happen anyway?
Battling Newbie, Battling oldie here . Welcome to my world.
The External Auditor cannot force the Council to comply but can publish an issues report with details of the breaches and what it wants to be done to resolve them - the report can be placed in the Public Domain and parish Electors could be made aware.  If the issues remain the EA can highlight them in subsequent reports.
What is the difference between an issues reports and a public interest statement?   The problem is that the main government "guiding principle".  is that  once elected Councillors should be allowed to "get on with it" with minimum intervention.  And that includes any critique from electors.    Such a scenario can lead to abuse. In the case of auditors their reports provide what is called limited assurance  a truly accurate statement .
0 votes
Very often policies and procedures are cut and pasted. Some councillors are notorious for not properly reading the documentation and then wonder why they find themselves not sticking to the policies which quite often contradict each other.

My suggestion is that you put your “complaint” in a pleasant letter / email to the chair as the first step.
by (6.3k points)

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