Setting the standard
There is a new way of dealing with complaints about councillors at Hull City Council
Standards Committee chair Chris Fenwick
There are 59 councillors or 'elected members' at Hull City Council, each of which has been democratically elected to represent the best interests of residents in their ward.
Each must follow a code of conduct which sets out how they must behave when undertaking their council duties.
For example, the code states they must not bully or intimidate other people, and that they must make known their personal and business interests before taking part in decision making.
"The vast majority of members comply with the code," says Chris Fenwick, chair of Hull City Council's Standards Committee, which has responsibility for ensuring openness and trust at the council.
"On rare occasions some do not always do so - and there are times when a member of the public or a council officer, or another councillor, believes that a member has breached the code." The code also applies to co-opted members, who are not councillors but are experts, or have interests in, a particular field, and sit on certain committees or boards, for example area housing boards.
These allegations used to be sent to the Standards Board for England, which then made investigations to decide whether any action should be taken.
But now this system has been turned on its head - all complaints about councillors should now be referred, in writing, to the Hull City Council Standards Committee.
The procedure is then as follows:
- An Assessment Sub-Committee decides whether a breach of the code might have taken place.
- If it's decided there's been no breach, or to take no action, the complainant has the right to a review by the Review Sub-Committee.
- If there is a case to answer, and it is deemed to be complex or very serious, then it may be referred to the Standards Board for England as previously.
- However, the complaint may also be referred to the council's monitoring officer to investigate.
This could result in a hearing by the Standards Committee.
Penalties could range from a councillor suspended for up to three months, or being required to undertake some training, or simply being asked to apologise.
- Members also have the right of appeal to the Adjudication Panel.
"We're ready for the challenge of our additional role, but hopefully we won't be too busy with it," said Mr Fenwick.
"That's because the Standards Committee is already active in ensuring there are programmes of training for councillors to ensure they fully understand the requirements of the code of conduct."
Any complaint about a councillor should be addressed to the Assessment Sub-Committee, c/o room 17, The Guildhall Hull HU1 2AA
To view the code of conduct in full and to find out more about the other roles and functions of the Standards Committee, visit www.hullcc.gov.uk