Friday 29 July 2016

Ombudsman tells 'brawling councillors' to behave in future - update from 2015

Back in April 2015 the Llanelli Star (article has now gone but I blogged about it here) reported that the police had to be called to a meeting of Llanelli Rural Council after an'altercation' between two councillors on the 8th April 2015.

The ladies concerned, Cllrs Tegwen Devichand (Lab) and Theresa Bowen (Ind) also happen to be Carmarthenshire County Councillors as well as rural Councillors.

At the time, in April 2015, Cllr Devichand was deputy leader, no less, of Labour/Ind led Carmarthenshire Council. Cllr Bowen had parted company from her Labour colleagues and had joined Meryl and Pam on the Independent benches.

The police took no further action but one of the ladies reported the other to the Ombudsman for breaching the code of conduct by 'blocking her pathway' and behaving in a 'threatening manner'. The Ombudsman, given the conflicting statements which suggested that both were quite possibly as bad as each other, decided to investigate both councillors on his own initiative and this was concluded last month.

The outcome was that even though the bust-up had occurred on rural council premises, neither had been acting in their 'public capacity' at the time and so the 'respect' and 'bullying' elements of the Code had not been engaged. Presumably, had they come to blows over the re-positioning of a litter bin, it would have been engaged.

Whilst he concluded that they may well have brought the council into disrepute, and warned them both about their future behaviour, it wasn't in the public interest to refer them to the standards board for further action.

In another case looked at by the Ombudsman last month it seems that Carmarthenshire Council are still having trouble apologising - it's always been an unnatural concept for the top brass at County Hall.

Due to the council's failure to repair a central heating system a gentleman went without heat in his home from October 2015 until February 2016. He complained to the council who apologised - 'Carmarthenshire style'. The Ombudsman clearly judged the apology to be inadequate and told them to try again, re-issue a proper apology, and give the chap £280 for his hardship during those winter months.

You may recall the council were rapped for failing to issue a proper apology to the Breckmans following a damning Ombudsman report in 2012, and in the same year were slammed by the Ombudsman for the way they handle complaints.
In February 2015, in another example, the Ombudsman again took them to task over their complaint handling, describing it as "very poor.... defensive and lacked objectivity", it was also 'inadequate and ineffective' .
Nothing changes....

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