Pressure groups welcomes report into council's standards process
5:30am Friday 28th March 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
A GRASSROOTS pressure group has welcomed a report into the council’s standards process that has recommended a number of changes.
Following the experiences of several of their members, Better Swindon requested that a full review be carried out to see how things could be improved.
Last Monday, the standards committee heard the report of Hoey Ainscough, specialists called in to look at the system, and came up with a number of changes.
Among them was the need to bring in much stricter deadlines on how long it must take before a complaint is dealt with, as well as changes to the process.
The council was also given credit for the non-political approach to standards and the willingness of members to improve the system.
Better Swindon has been involved in the process from the start and said they were pleased with the outcome of the report.
Chairman Chris Barry said: “We are delighted, especially as we asked for it. If we had not put in the request then this might not have happened.
“Following some of the complaints our members made and how they were handled, we felt it was something that needed to be done. In one case a councillor was proved to have lied and yet no action was taken, which can’t be right.
“We were asked to be involved at every stage, which is a positive and refreshing move and all the members seemed willing to accept the need to change.”
Councillors, council officers and members of Better Swindon were all interviewed in the process, with many pointing to the problem it takes far too long for complaints to be dealt with.
The report recommends introducing far tighter deadlines that would see complaints handled in just over three months.
Mr Barry has said the current complaint being dealt with against the Mayor, Coun Nick Martin (Con, Shaw) was a prime example of why the process needed reforming. A complaint was made last September that Coun Martin allegedly made derogatory complaints about disabled people. It may not be until after the local elections in May that the issue is resolved.
“The complaint against the mayor highlights the deficiencies in the process,” said Mr Barry.
“In many ways though it has worked to show that the process is flawed as it has clearly taken far too long. If these changes are adopted we should see a much more efficient process that will serve Swindon much better.”
A sub-group has now been set-up to look at the recommendations in more detail, after the standards group broadly accepted them.
There were 9 Standards complaints made in 2013.