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Friday, October 28, 2011

Unbecoming conduct

Today's South Wales Evening Post casts some light on the toxic atmosphere generated by some Councillors and external individuals around Swansea Council and their habit of abusing the code of conduct and the Public Services Ombudsman as a means of trying to settle scores against each other and the Administration.

Importantly, they also correct an earlier story by making it clear that the latest complaint against a Tory Councillor and the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Authority was not made by the Chief Executive, as reported, but by the Leader of the Conservative Group after a falling out amongst Tory Councillors.

The paper reports that ombudsman complaints against Swansea councillors are the highest in Wales so far this year:

Between April 1 and September 30 this year, 11 code of conduct complaints were received by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

However, none were upheld, with the Ombudsman either choosing not to investigate (seven) or discontinue (one). Three cases are currently open.

Three complaints were against Chris Holley, council leader, two of which were not upheld while one which is still being investigated.

The way that the Ombudsman is being used by some individuals in my view, underlines how the code of conduct is not fit for purpose. Nor is the Ombudsman's office sufficiently robust in rejecting out of hand complaints that clearly have no merit. Instead, they investigate and then reject them later.

The fact that an investigation is underway gives the complainants their five minutes in the sun. The media are able to imply guilt by reporting that a particular councillor is under investigation, whilst the persons concerned are unable to defend themselves for fear of prejudicing the inquiry. It is no way to run a democrcay.

If these figures do not convince the Local Government Minister that the system needs reforming then I do not know what will. The danger is that good Councillors will be driven out of politics by the pressure being exerted on their families and them by a constant stream of complaints. Now that would not be good for democracy.

Update: Some comments have been removed from this blog entry because they were being used by a few individuals to pursue their own private agenda. My understanding, having spoken to people again is that the Chief Executive was inundated with complaints and a detailed report from Councillor Kinzett. He decided that he was not the right person to adjudicate on those complaints and passed them onto the Ombudsman. The point is that some people are treating that as a significant endorsement of those complaints by the Chief Executive but that is not the case. It was a neutral act on his part.
LA Ombusdsman - what a joke!!!

I can remember looking at the LA Ombudsman's Annual report around 2002-2004; at this time he was holding up around half of one percent of cases against LA's in Wales, which means total unaccountability!

What a waste of public money the LA Ombudsman's office is; where else, in what other job can you decide not to do your job in 50% of your workload???

I suggest you have a look at who the complaints were made against w.r.t. Councillors, I'm sure there are some clear favourites.

My nomination being Town Councillor Ian Jones of Maesteg Town Council who's had three complaints made against him by the Labour group in the Llynfi valley since 2008.
Ombudsmen are really no different from Regulators - they all get paid massive amounts of money for doing very little and having no real effect !
My experience in this area showed me that they are an extension of public services, especially local government, just a game of paper tennis !
As regards local government, at some stage some government has to take the radical decision to get rid of all local authorities, talk about past their sell by dates, these are Victorian established institutions !
Democracy my **** !
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