Report Date

03/26/2024

Case Against

Tenby Town Council

Subject

Promotion of equality and respect

Case Reference Number

202207862

Outcome

No action necessary

The Ombudsman received a complaint that a Member (“the Member”) of Tenby Town Council (“the Council”) had breached the Code of Conduct (“the Code”) by attending the Complainant’s home one evening to speak to her teenage son about an anti-social behaviour matter.  It was alleged that he used his position improperly to suggest that he would obtain an anti-social behaviour order against the Complainant’s son and that he would not be able to work again in the town.  It was also alleged that the Member failed to show respect and consideration for others because he raised his voice and was aggressive in his tone.

The Ombudsman’s investigation considered whether the Member had breached paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Code by bringing his office or authority into disrepute, or 7(a), by attempting to use his position improperly to confer an advantage for himself or create a disadvantage for another.  It was also considered whether the Member attended the Complainant’s home in his capacity as a Councillor in the community, and if so, whether any further breaches of the Code would apply.

Information was obtained from the Council.  Witness evidence was obtained from the Complainant, her son and a third party who attended at the Complainant’s home with the Member and who was present at the time of the incident alleged.  Information was also obtained from the Member.

The Ombudsman found that the Member did not, from what all the witnesses have said, say that he was attending the Complainant’s home in his capacity as a Councillor in the community.  He was not attending on council business – this was a private matter which he was dealing with in his personal capacity.  This being the case he was not bound to adhere to all provisions of the Code of Conduct for councillors.

The Member, however, would have been bound by the requirement not to act in a way which could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office, or his authority, into disrepute.  He would also have been required to ensure that he did not attempt to use his position improperly to confer an advantage for himself or create a disadvantage for another.

The Ombudsman found that whilst the Complainant said the Member referred, at one stage, to having been a Councillor, and a former Mayor and teacher in the town, overall, it was clear from the evidence that the Member was attempting to encourage the Complainant’s son to refrain from any such behaviour in the future.  He explained that the consequences of criminal damage could be serious.  It appears that part of the consequences of an anti-social behaviour order which the Member explained were difficulties getting jobs, and practical difficulties in working in hospitality if a curfew was in place.  Given the circumstances described, the Ombudsman was not of the view that there was evidence suggestive of an attempt by the Member to use his position improperly to gain an advantage or create a disadvantage for the Complainant’s son.

The Ombudsman found that on balance the Member was likely to have been annoyed.  Serious damage had occurred to his front door and his family had been frightened.  The Complainant’s son said he sensed he was annoyed as he was quite loud with his comments.  However, he did not specifically remember him making any gestures.  While the Complainant’s concern was understandable at having an ‘annoyed’ visitor attend her home late in the evening, the Ombudsman was not persuaded on balance that there was sufficient evidence to suggest the Member behaved inappropriately, so as to bring his office or his authority into disrepute.

The Ombudsman found that this was a private dispute which the Member sought to resolve in his private capacity.  Overall, the Ombudsman was not persuaded by the evidence considered that it was suggestive that a breach of the Code of Conduct for members has occurred.

The Ombudsman found that under Section 69(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 2000 no action needed to be taken in respect of the matters investigated