PUBLICATION of an independent inspector’s review of East Hampshire District Council has been postponed for an investigation into councillor standards – carried out by councillors themselves behind closed doors.
During his governance review of the council, inspector David Bowles, a former council chief executive officer, looked at a number of topics.
The council was prepared to make his report public on Wednesday, September 2, but with the recommendation and reasons for an investigation by the councils’ standards committee left out.
But at the last minute it was decided to publish it at a later date.
The inspector’s report, critical in parts, has now been delayed until December.
In a message to staff and councillors, council leader Richard Millard and chief executive officer Gill Kneller said: “A review has been undertaken to ensure that we have the very best governance.
“This is something that all organisations should do to ensure they are fit for purpose and use it as an opportunity to make positive changes.
“The initial review has now concluded, and we have a preliminary report.
“David Bowles recommends that some matters should be referred to the council’s standards committee which considers code of conduct issues. We are now referring them.
“Until the code of conduct issues are concluded, legal reasons mean we cannot publish the governance review at this stage as we had previously expected.
“We will publish it once the matters have been through the standards committee process – which is expected to take approximately three months.
“In the interim we will be publishing a report that outlines our ‘governance improvement programme’ showing the work already done to ensure our decision-making processes are fit for purpose.
“It will also show the immediate further steps we are planning to take. This report will be a public one.
“We will let you know when the code of conduct issues are concluded, and the governance review has been finalised and we will then publish it and ensure it is available for you.”
Listed on the council website are ‘seven principles of good governance’ – these include expected standards for councillors when carrying out their duties.
The list includes; behaving with integrity, demonstrating strong commitment to ethical values and respecting the rule of law, and implementing good practices in transparency.
Councillors also agree to follow a code of conduct, and alleged breaches are looked at by the standards committee of six councillors.
At it’s last meeting on September 8, members saw a report on councillor code of conduct complaints since January 2020.
The report was not made public before it and it was recommended the meeting was held behind closed doors.
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