Calls for councillor conduct hearings to be held in public

Calls for councillor conduct hearings to be held in public

By Gareth Dennison | 05/02/2021

Calls for councillor conduct hearings to be held in public


OPPOSITION members have called for the council’s standards board hearings to be held in public.

Sessions where councillors are alleged to have broken the code of conduct are currently held behind closed doors.

Rotherham Democratic Party members have called for the hearings to be webcast.

Group leader Cllr Allen Cowles referred Cllr Sue Ellis, who was censured for breaching the code last month (JAN) after being overpaid £9,000 in allowances by RMBC.

He said: “I do think that these are public matters of concern, therefore in my opinion they should be open to members of the public.

“They could hear for themselves what their representatives on the council had to say, and then form their own opinions.

“I didn’t refer Cllr Ellis because of political or personal reasons. It was because members of the public believed some action should be taken.”

Fellow RDP member Cllr John Turner was reprimanded by the standards board in September 2019 after he asked at a council meeting why Christmas music was no longer played from Rotherham Minster — saying he had overheard a shopper say it was to avoid offending immigrants.

Cllr Turner said his standards board hearing was very stressful — and making the meetings public would give more insight to the public.

“I went home and was close to tears,” he added. “I slept for two hours, woke up and found I was wanting to well up again. I was so angry.


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“If people don’t raise concerns in meetings for fear of ending up in front of standards, then you risk serious subjects never being raised.”

Cllr Brian Cutts was removed from the regional police and crime panel by standards after questioning same-sex adoption placements in 2018.

He said: “I got the letter about my hearing and was told I was allowed to bring along one person. But they had four.

“It’s not right that people don’t see what happens in these cases. Is this Rotherham or Russia?”

Council leader Cllr Chris Read told the last full council meeting that webcasting had been considered by the constitution review group but no change was planned.

He added: “While there is no legal reason that says standards board hearings must be held in private, there is an underlying necessity for personal and exempt information to be received and heard in private and we need to ensure that witnesses can be assured that we are respecting these principles.

“The advice of the monitoring officer was that it would be very difficult in practice to stage these hearings in public. On that basis, we haven’t proposed any change to the current practice.”

Ironically, personal details relating to Cllr Ellis’ family accidentally appeared on RMBC’s website after her hearing, held in private.


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