6 misconduct allegations made against Wakefield councillors in 2 years

The identity of the councillors concerned has been kept secret.
The identity of the councillors concerned has been kept secret.

A total of six misconduct allegations have been made against Wakefield councillors in the last two years, but the identities of those elected members have been kept secret.

The authority has refused to name the councillors subject to each of the complaints, which have all been made since January 2017.

All but one of the allegations was referred to a standards panel, from which the press and the public are excluded from attending in full. In each instance, it was decided that none of the allegations should be formally investigated.

The other case is yet to be dealt with and will be considered, again behind closed doors, in February.

Wakefield Council also declined to give any details about any of the allegations when asked to do so in a Freedom of Information request.

In relation to three of the complaints, the standards panel concluded that there was no case to answer, while in one instance it decided the issues concerned were beyond its remit.

However, in one of the cases, which was heard in June 2018, a councillor was advised to attend equality and diversity training.

But no further action was taken because the member concerned had already been disciplined by their party and by council leader Peter Box.

No further details were given about how that councillor had been penalised.

The situation, which is commonplace across other councils, was criticised by campaign group Transparency International.

Rachel Davies, from the group's UK branch, said that low levels of transparency among authorities provide a "fertile breeding ground" for misconduct in public office.

She said: "Strong institutions that are transparent and accountable are bulwarks against corruption.

"If local authority standards committees are serious about tackling misconduct head on and being accountable to local citizens, they should provide details about the conclusions of investigations into alleged breaches as a matter of course."

The Local Government Association (LGA) said it offered no guidance on how transparent misconduct issues should be made, and that it was up to individual councils to decide.

Wakefield Council's chief legal officer Gillian Marshall said: "We take all complaints very seriously and all are fully reviewed by an independent person and then considered by our Standards Committee.

"We would not share personal information in relation to any allegations until there is found to be a breach of the code of conduct."