05:00PM, Thursday 15 April 2021
The number of complaints regarding councillor conduct rose significantly over the past year, a panel has heard.
At a virtual meeting of the Member Standards Panel on Monday, monitoring officer Emma Duncan presented a report detailing important matters under her role over the past year, as well as recommendations to update the Royal Borough’s Code of Conduct in line with the Local Government Association’s Model Code for local authorities across the country.
In total, 36 complaints had been made, mostly relating to matters connected to Royal Borough members, a ‘significant’ increase on previous years.
It comes after a year of high-profile disagreements between councillors, which have been streamed live on YouTube via Zoom in the absence of face-to-face meetings.
The monitoring officer said that she had met with group leaders and councillors to help them understand their responsibilities, which had contributed to a reduction in complaints in recent months.
“[The number of complaints] has tailed off in the past few months,” she said.
“We have been more robust about the threshold for investigation and dealing with complaints more quickly.”
The panel also discussed the gift and hospitality threshold for councillors.
Cllr Joshua Reynolds (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) said: “From reading the report, it seems the vast majority of respondents said that £25 was the right number, but the decision was made to double it.
“Personally, I do not feel that the £25 system doesn’t work. I would have thought that’s a number we might want to keep.”
Cllr Reynolds proposed to retain the current threshold which was seconded by Cllr Catherine del Campo (Lib Dem, Furze Platt), who said that councillors tended to “err on the side of caution” when gifts were received.
The leader of the Council Andrew Johnson also expressed his desire to retain the threshold.
The motion passed unanimously.
The candidates standing in the upcoming Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner election have outlined their priorities for policing in the region.