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Rise in councillor misconduct cases in Wales but not in Torfaen

The Civic Centre in Pontypool
Torfaen Council's Civic Centre

The chair of Torfaen Council’s ethics and standards committee has published a report that shows the behaviour of the borough’s councillors is not following a national trend.

Andrew Walsh, chair, presented a report to councillors at this week’s Council meeting. It contained info from the Public Services Ombudsman’s annual report for 2020/21 that showed 138 code of conduct complaints against county and county borough councils in Wales (an increase of 43.8%). The report notes that 35 complaints were about one county council member (not Torfaen Council).

The Ombudsman received four code of conduct complaints against Torfaen County Borough Councillors. In two of the cases the decision was “no further action required” and in the other two there was “no evidence of a breach”.

Mr Walsh: “We are very fortunate here in that we don’t have that problem. We’ve (the Ethics and Standards Committee) had one referral to under the local protocol and I think it’s a very time-saving way of resolving minor disputes between members and I think it needs to be encouraged to be used wherever possible rather than going to the Ombudsman.”

The committee found there was “no basis to the complaint” so no action was required.

“One of the reasons why we are in such a fortunate position is the quality of the training delivered by the monitoring officer to members. It’s of high quality and these mean members are in no doubt over what their responsibilities are and I think this has led to a very quiet year on the front of investigations and committee hearings.”

He said the committee had done 12 annual reports to Council but this was the first once since a change of legislation.  He said: “We did it because it was a good thing to do, it’s still a good thing but is now a statutory requirement that we do it as well.”

Attendance at meetings

In September 2021 the committee was given a report about councillors’ attendance at meetings. The “concerns” they had about the attendance of some councillors led to a reminder being issued about “the importance of giving reasons for not attending meetings where possible”.

Small scheme donations

The committee had agreed 21 “dispensations” to allow councillors to use their small scheme donations budget to support organisations they were involved in. Normally this would stop them taking part in “decision making” with anything involving those organisations. But the report said: “We are pleased to be able to consider dispensations which allow members who are particularly active in their ward through committee and club memberships to make these donations without infringing the Code.”

Councilor Rose Seabourne, Fairwater ward and presiding officer, sent the “personal thanks” of the council to the committee for their work.





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Rise in councillor misconduct cases in Wales but not in Torfaen