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No change to code of conduct to Councillors says Ombudsman

BBC Wales reports that the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales has rejected calls to reform the way that Councillors are policed, claiming that new guidance has helped reduce the number of cases referred to him:

Peter Tyndall was criticised after a series of high-profile cases including one where a councillor called Scientology “stupid” on Twitter.

Decisions to take no further action have made a “laughing stock” of the role, says Peter Black AM.

The Scientology remark occurred when Cardiff councillor John Dixon used Twitter to post his view as he walked past a Scientology centre in London.

Swansea councillor Rene Kinzett also came in for criticism when he said some members of his authority were “past it”.

Both men were referred to the ombudsman with complaints made under Section 4 of the code of conduct, which requires councillors to show “respect and consideration for others”.

In both cases the ombudsman decided the men should go before their council’s standards committees, and both of them decided to take no further action.

Liberal Democrat AM Mr Black, who is also a Swansea councillor, told BBC’s Eye on Wales he fears that the code of conduct and the ombudsman are being used by individuals to “sanitise debate” within Welsh local government.

He wants to see the whole system reformed.

“What we have at the moment is not fit for purpose. It’s actually bringing down the reputation of politics by turning it into petty back-biting and complaints when we should be serving a higher purpose and working on behalf of our constituents,” he said.

“It’s actually preventing councillors from doing their job of robust scrutiny and holding the administration to account and unless we reform it, it will continue to deteriorate.”

Despite this Mr. Tyndall argues that the code does not impede freedom of speech and that a reduction in complaints since new guidance was issued justifies leaving things as they are.

Related posts:

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  3. Welsh Councillors better paid than English counterparts

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