The Model Code of Conduct (“the Code”) for councillors sets out the high standards of behaviour which the public expects from its elected and co-opted representatives.
The Ombudsman’s role is to consider and where appropriate investigate complaints that members of local authorities and other relevant authorities in Wales have breached their authority’s Code of Conduct (Section 69 Local Government Act 2000 and the relevant Orders made by the National Assembly for Wales under that Act).
The Ombudsman is committed to investigating matters that are serious and can undermine the relationship between councillors and the public they serve. The types of complaints investigated by the Ombudsman often include allegations of corruption, discrimination, bullying, misuse of power in public office and actions or behaviour that significantly and negatively impact on the reputation or function of the authority.
During an investigation, the Ombudsman may issue an interim report (Section 72) prior to the conclusion of that investigation, if it appears from the evidence that the matter should be referred immediately to the President of the Adjudication Panel for Wales (“the APW”) for consideration. In doing so the Ombudsman may also recommend the suspension of that member from the authority to which they are appointed or co‑opted.
Such action will usually only be taken where the Ombudsman is satisfied that:
it is in the public interest to suspend or partially suspend that member immediately from their authority or specific activities in their role as member.
The Ombudsman will not take such action lightly and must consider that doing so is necessary and in the public interest. Factors which may influence a decision of this nature may include, but are not limited to, the need to:
Where the Ombudsman produces an interim report copies of it will be shared with:
Any interim report issued by the Ombudsman will be considered by an interim case tribunal of the APW who will decide whether to suspend or partially suspend the member or co-opted member from the Council or a role within it.
The Ombudsman may suspend his investigation pending the outcome of any interim tribunal.
The maximum duration of any suspension or partial suspension is 6 months or if shorter to the end of the members term of office. Unlike case and appeal tribunals of the APW, an interim tribunal is not disciplinary.