The Ombudsman report concerned a complaint that the Councillor Louise Hughes behaved inappropriately when she responded in German to correspondence she received in Welsh.
The Standards Committee concluded that the Councillor Louise Hughes had breached paragraphs 4(a), 4(b) and 6(1)(a) of the Code of Conduct. Accordingly, the Standards Committee decided that the Councillor Louise Hughes should be suspended for 1 month, be required to attend training and provide a written apology to the Complainant within 3 weeks. The Standards Committee also recommended for the Council to consider assisting Members when they receive correspondence in a language they do not understand, either by utilising its own staff or by sign-posting the Member to a relevant translation service provider.
As the purpose of the ethical standards framework in Wales is to promote high standards for councillors and to maintain public confidence in local democracy, the Ombudsman welcomed the decision to suspend the Councillor and thanked the members of the Standards Committee for their careful consideration of the case.
The Local Government Act 2000 provides us with the statutory powers to investigate allegations that members of local authorities in Wales have breached their Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct for elected members is intended to maintain high standards in public life and includes the requirement that elected members should not bring their authority or their office as a councillor into disrepute.
Where our investigation finds that the evidence suggests that a member has breached the Code of Conduct and further action is required in the public interest, we may refer the matter to either the Adjudication Panel for Wales or a local Standards Committee for consideration.
Where the Adjudication Panel for Wales decides that a member has breached the Code of Conduct it may suspend a member from office for up to 12 months or disqualify the member from holding office for up to 5 years.
Where a Standards Committee decides that a member has breached the Code of Conduct it may suspend a member from office for up to 6 months or issue the member with a censure. Where a member subject to a referral to a Standards Committee no longer holds office as a member the standards committee may only censure the member.