RESPONSE from Wigan Council chief executive Donna Hall following the recent stories about a number of councillors who have either been - or are in the process of being - investigated by the standards board because of their behaviour:
The standards committee is made up of members from both sides of the chamber and members are aware of the need for political neutrality.
The committee’s job is to assess whether complaints lodged against a councillor (which can be from residents or other councillors) can be resolved there and then or whether they need to be sent for investigation.
Wherever possible we try to resolve them straight away to avoid going through the lengthy and costly investigation process. Sometimes the severity of the case means there is no choice but to send it for investigation.
In the financial year April 2012 to March 2013, Wigan Council received more complaints about elected members than any other local authority in Greater Manchester, costing the authority almost £20,000.
These figures are expected to increase when the latest financial year figures are announced at the council’s next full meeting in April.
In the past year, additional measures have been introduced to deter councillors from behaving badly, including the suspension of Brighter Borough funding.
Yet the number of complaints continues to rise.
Until now stories regarding standards issues published in the local papers have received little if any response, but it appears recent articles concerning the outcome of police and standards investigations have grabbed readers’ attention.
People should expect the best behaviour possible from their councillors. They should be model citizens and the vast majority of them are.
Personally I have never worked anywhere where there are so many complaints generated by so few councillors.
They are the ones you read about regularly. People deserve better.
Staff are angry and frustrated because they have to put up with abuse on a daily basis from a small minority of councillors who think they are the boss.
They are aggressive, rude, inappropriate bullies. They are vindictive and waste a fortune of taxpayer’s money on ridiculous issues, abusing the position of trust they have been placed in by voters.
At the root of their problem is a failure to take responsibility for their own actions. Going back over the years it is always someone else’s fault and never their own. This leads them to think they can misuse council resources, boss staff about and be obnoxious until they get their own way just because they were elected.
Wigan’s Standards Committee is determined to stamp out this childish behaviour.
Ultimately however the only way they can be removed from office is by voters recognising their behaviour is a problem and not voting for them.
My two predecessors, Joyce Redfearn and Steve Jones, also committed to rid Wigan of this historic problem with the same individuals.
This behaviour needs to stop and I hope you will challenge it along with Wigan Council.
Donna Hall Wigan
Council chief executive