'Disturbing' rise in complaints against South Tyneside councillors revealed

Town hall chiefs have demanded answers over the ‘disturbing’ surge in complaints against elected councillors.

By James Harrison
Tuesday, 8th December 2020, 6:00 am
16% of complaints submitted in 2020 have been found to be serious enough to prompt a formal investigation.
16% of complaints submitted in 2020 have been found to be serious enough to prompt a formal investigation.

Standards bosses at South Tyneside Council have been contacted more than 30 times in less than three months about the behaviour or actions of members of the local authority.

But just 16% of complaints submitted in 2020 have been found to be serious enough to prompt a formal investigation, leading to concerns some may be misusing the process for their own ends.

[The rises in complaints] is slightly concerning,” said independent opposition councillor Glenn Thompson.

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“I couldn’t help thinking when going through them, wouldn’t it be great if certain complaints could be identified as vexatious, to give us a better understanding.”

Thompson was speaking at a meeting of the borough council’s Standards Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

According to a report for the panel 59 complaints have been processed since the start of the year.

Of these, 47 have been closed either because the person who submitted the original representation later decided they did not want to pursue it, or because it was rejected by the local authority’s monitoring officer, the legal official responsible for standards.

John Rumney, the council’s head of legal services, said some were turned down ‘on the grounds of triviality or [because they are] tit for tat’.

Of this year’s complaints, 13 have progressed to a formal investigation, but none have yet gone the distance of being presented to the Standards Committee itself for consideration.

Almost two thirds of all complaints against councillors have been made by their fellow councillors.

Labour councillor Gladys Hobson said: “I’ve been a member of this committee for many years and I find the number of complaints coming through quite disturbing

“We’ve never had this many complaints coming through on an annual basis before and I think it quite disturbing that a lot of these involve members.”

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