CODE : Integrity
CODE - No evidence of breach
Neath Port Talbot Council
The Ombudsman received a self-referred complaint that a Member (“the Member”) of Neath Port Talbot Council (“the Council”) had breached the Code of Conduct (“the Code”) in respect of comments he had made during a private Labour Party meeting during October 2019. The comments were secretly recorded and later published on social media on 5 March 2021.
The Ombudsman began an investigation of some of the comments made and considered whether the Member had breached the following paragraphs of the Code:
In the recording, the Member commented on school reorganisation. The investigation found that comments made about the relocation of a particular school appeared to have been made in the context of a report that identified that the school was at risk of being affected by a landslide. The comments were based on independent professional advice and were therefore not likely to amount to a breach of the Code.
The Member also made general comments about the Council’s school reorganisation plans. Whilst the Member clearly expressed his preliminary views on the matter, he did not appear to discount the possibility of other options. Neither did he indicate that he would not be willing to consider the advice of appropriate officers. That being so, the comments did not amount to a breach of the Code.
During the recording, the Member suggested that he would refuse funding for a proposal supported by another political party in favour of a contradicting Labour proposal and, in doing so, referred to his involvement in the repair of a cemetery road in Ystalyfera. The decision to fund the work on the road was made by the Council’s Capital Programme Steering Group. Whilst the Member was copied into correspondence, he was not involved in the decision to fund the work. As such, the Ombudsman concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that the Member misused his position in relation to this matter and there was no evidence of a breach of the Code.
The Member also made reference to “cutting out” another member when putting through a regeneration programme which that member had been campaigning about for several years. The investigation found no evidence of any deliberate action by the Member to “cut out”, or exclude the other member from the programme. There was a failure to keep the member informed of developments, however, it was not the Member’s responsibility to do so and, in any event, a Council officer took ultimate responsibility for this oversight. There was no evidence of a breach of the Code by the Member.
The Member was informed that no evidence of breaches of the Code were found during the investigation.