Report Date

05/03/2023

Case Against

Abertillery & Llanhilleth Community Council

Subject

Duty to uphold the law

Case Reference Number

202105443

Outcome

Referred to Standards Committee

The Ombudsman‚Äôs office received a complaint that a Member (‚Äúthe¬†Member‚ÄĚ) of Abertillery & Llanhilleth Community Council (‚Äúthe¬†Council‚ÄĚ) had breached the Code of Conduct.¬† It was alleged that the¬†Member had signed documents which resulted in excessive gratuity payments being made to the Council‚Äôs Former Clerk and Former Secretary, and that the Member failed to declare interests relating to the Former Clerk and the overpayments.

The investigation considered whether the Member failed to comply with the following provisions of the Code of Conduct:

  • 6(1)(a) – Members must not conduct themselves in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office or authority into disrepute.
  • 7(a) – Members must not in their official capacity or otherwise, use or¬†attempt to use their position improperly to confer on or secure for themselves, or any other person, an advantage or create or avoid for themselves, or any other person, a disadvantage.
  • 7(b) – Members must not use, or authorise others to use, the resources of their authority:
  1. imprudently
  2. in breach of their authority’s requirements
  3. unlawfully
  • 11(1) – Where a Member has a personal interest in any business of their authority and they attend a meeting at which that business is considered, they must disclose orally to that meeting the existence and nature of that interest before or at the commencement of that consideration, or when the interest becomes apparent.
  • 14(1)(a) – Where a Member has a prejudicial interest in any business of their authority they must, unless they have obtained a dispensation from their authority‚Äôs Standards Committee, withdraw from the room, chamber or place where a meeting considering the business is being held.
  • 14(1)(c) – Where a Member has a prejudicial interest in any business of their authority they must, unless they have obtained a dispensation from their authority‚Äôs Standards Committee, not seek to influence a decision about that business.
  • 14(1)(d) – Where a Member has a prejudicial interest in any business of their authority they must, unless they have obtained a dispensation from their authority‚Äôs Standards Committee, not make any written representations (whether by letter, facsimile or some other form of electronic communication) in relation to that business.

The investigation considered documentary evidence provided by Audit Wales and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council.  The Member was interviewed and said he signed the documents in good faith and saw the advice presented to the Council, which suggested the amounts were correct, as good advice and a rationale for signing.

The investigation found that the Member’s conduct was suggestive of a breach of paragraphs 6(1)(a) (disrepute), 7(a) and 7(b) i), ii), iii) (misuse of position and resources), and 11(1), 11(2)(b), 14(1)(a)(i), 14(1)(a)(ii) and 14(1)(c) (which relate to interests) of the Code of Conduct.  The investigation found that the Member’s conduct was not suggestive of a breach of paragraph 14(1)(d) of the Code of Conduct (which relates to interests).

The report on the investigation was referred to the Monitoring Officer of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council for consideration by the Council’s Standards Committee.

The Council’s Standards Committee found that the Member¬†had failed to comply with paragraphs 6(1)(a), 7(a), 7(b) i), ii), iii), 11(1), 11(2)(b), 14(1)(a)(i), 14(1)(a)(ii) and 14(1)(c) of the Code of Conduct.

The Committee decided that the most appropriate sanction to be applied was a censure, with a recommendation for further training in respect of the Members Code of Conduct, with a particular emphasis upon understanding the Code in order to prevent breaches arising in the future.