Standards Committee at Fenland clocks up record number of complaints

THE number of complaints made against Fenland councillors rocketed last year, according to a report from the district council’s standards committee.

During the year a total of 16 complaints were received by the standards committee - all involving district councillors- compared to just four complaints the year before.

Ian Hunt, the council’s chief solicitor, said the number of complaints made against councillors in the year ending March 31 was “significantly more” than the national average of 8.25.

He pointed out that only 13 per cent of local authorities have had the same or more complaints than Fenland.

Of the 16 complaints investigated, five had been from members of the public, nine from fellow councillors, and two from council officers.

However most of the complaints were thrown out before reaching a determination hearing and of the four investigated at this level, no councillor was found to have breached the code of conduct.

Three further cases, forwarded to the Standards Board for England, also cleared all three councillors. Just one case is currently being investigated at local level.

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Grant Osborn, the independent chairman of the standards committee, revealed today he had written to MP Steve Barclay calling for a meeting to discuss the future of the standards regime.

“Given the recent furore over standards and expenses on a national level it seems to us to be a bad time to think about abolishing a local, independent monitoring framework,” says Mr Osborn.

He felt a review was needed but questioned the abolition of the Standards Board regime as outlined in the Queen’s speech which he felt would “reduce public confidence in local democracy.”

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