CODE : Promotion of equality & respect
Code - No Action Necessary
Ceredigion County Council
The Ombudsman received a self-referred complaint from a Member (“the Former Member”) of Ceredigion County Council (“the Council”), that they had breached the Council’s Code of Conduct for members.
The Member said that during a discussion at a public Council meeting about Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust (“WAST”) provision in Ceredigion, they had made inappropriate comments about “incomers” to the county and “immigrants” being allowed into Wales by the Welsh Government and the potential impact on those services. The Ombudsman’s investigation considered whether the Former Member’s conduct may have breached paragraphs 4(a), 4(b) and 6(1)(a) of the Council’s Code of Conduct.
Information was obtained from the Council including a transcript of what the Former Member had said in the meeting, minutes of Council meetings, and comments from the Former Member. The Ombudsman found that following the incident the Former Member had stepped down from their political party to sit as an independent member. During the investigation the Former Member stood in the election on 5 May 2022 and was not returned by the local electorate.
In comments to the Council and the Ombudsman, the Former Member said the remarks had been inappropriate and taken in a way not intended. The Ombudsman found that the Former Member’s remarks did not extend to gratuitous or personal comment or hate speech and would not have been interpreted as representative of the views of the Council. As such, they would not have amounted to a breach of paragraphs 4(a) or 6(1)(a) of the Code of Conduct. The Ombudsman determined, however, that they could be considered divisive and disrespectful, and suggestive of a breach of paragraph 4(b) in failing to show respect and consideration for others.
The Ombudsman considered that, as the Former Member’s role was ultimately decided by the local electorate and they were no longer a member of the Council, any sanction which could be given if a breach of the Code of Conduct was found by the Council’s Standards Committee would be limited and therefore it was not in the public interest to take any further action in respect of the matter.
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.