October 25th, 2016

Warwick District Council complaints bill tops £68,000

Warwick District Council complaints bill tops £68,000 Warwick District Council complaints bill tops £68,000
Updated: 8:51 am, Aug 16, 2015

WARWICK District Council has spent more than any other authority in the West Midlands investigating alleged misconduct by its councillors.

Around one third of the £223,000 spent overall in the region was forked out by Warwick – a total of £68,000 in the past five years.

The money was spent on 23 complaints, a sharp comparison to Birmingham City Council which received 150 complaints but spent £8,500 less than Warwick.

Figures show the most expensive investigation held by the council was in 2011 into then councillor Bob Dhillon, which cost more than £25,000. It found the Conservative councillor guilty of breaching the code of conduct regarding comments made about officers.

Complaints can be made by anyone from officers to members of the public when they feel a councillor is breaching the council’s code of conduct. The complaint is then resolved informally or can go to a formal investigation – usually conducted by hired solicitors or barristers – and then to a hearing panel made up of other councillors.

Former Independent councillor Linda Bromley was investigated a total of six times, with three complaints being dismissed and three upheld.

She said: “In one case I know of there was £10,000 spent and then the member of the public withdrew the case.

“And once I was accused of bullying and being disrespectful, that cost another £10,000 and I was cleared. It’s a complete waste of money.

“These concerns should be properly investigated but sometimes people should have thicker skins. These things could sometimes be stopped at the outset by informal meetings and even mediation which would not cost as much.

“If it is a serious complaint I agree it should be thoroughly investigated and I think the government’s intention was to have serious complaints considered, not petty, malicious ones.”

But the district council said its needed to hold councillors to account.

A spokeswoman said: “The council has recognised the expenditure on investigations was high, but that this was due to the number of cases being considered and in some cases the technical details involved.

“The council is committed to ensuring that it gets value for money from all expenditure and that any expenditure is justified. A decision to investigate any complaint is taken after careful consideration of the evidence of a complaint at an early stage.

“The process for complaining about a councillor needs to be robust and needs to ensure that if a councillor does not meet the standards of behaviour expected of them, as outlined in the code of conduct, they can be held to account and face appropriate sanctions.”