Report of an independent investigator attached.
The Chief Executive reported on an independent review carried out by East Midlands Councils into complaints from a member of the public about a parish council, the chairman of the parish council and the council’s Monitoring Officer. It was confirmed that the investigator from East Midlands Councils had been sent the vast amount of correspondence from the complainant and responses that had been provided by officers. In response to members’ questions, the following points were raised:
· The powers of a principal authority with regard to parish councils are limited to code of conduct matters in relation to the behaviour of individual councillors. As a separate legal entity, parish councils were responsible for their own processes, procedures and decisions, except in very rare and exceptional circumstances;
· The Independent Person, who was often in attendance to comment on complaints about councillors, had been unable to attend the meeting but had submitted written comments on the complaint. The chairman would discuss with officers the possibility of calling on other Independent Persons for future meetings, however it was noted that Independent Persons did not generally attend meetings at other authorities but we had been fortunate to have regular attendance;
· The decision whether to invoke the persistent complainant policy was a matter for senior management, however due to the nature of the complaints, members’ views and support would be taken into account;
· The original complaint about the chairman of a parish council was a separate matter on the agenda for this meeting.
During discussion, members made the following comments:
· No one, including officers of the council, should be subjected to bullying and harassment and a strong message should be sent that this would not be tolerated;
· The number of complaints received from this one complainant was considered excessive and unreasonable.
It was moved by Councillor Furlong and seconded by Councillor Bill that officers be sanctioned and supported in invoking the persistent complainant policy against the complainant. Upon being put to the vote, the motion was CARRIED.
It was moved by Councillor Bill and seconded by Councillor Furlong that the remaining recommendations within the report be supported. Upon being put to the vote, the motion was CARRIED and it was subsequently
(i) The content and outcomes of the independent review be endorsed;
(ii) The finding of the investigating officer be agreed in that
a. complaints relating to the parish council are not a matter for the council’s Monitoring Officer to investigate; and
b. the appropriate advice has been provided to the complainant on the matter.
(iii) The recommendation of the review in relation to the need to consider the original complaint made about the chairman of the parish council be noted and addressed at the relevant point on the agenda;
(iv) The conclusions of the review in respect of the council’s Monitoring Officer, confirming that she has not acted inappropriately or outside of the council’s code of conduct in respect of her dealings on these complaints, be endorsed;
(v) The placing of the complainant on the council’s list of persistent complainants be supported.