Posted tagged ‘complaints’

A question of standards

January 25, 2012

Guest post alert, and this pleases us.  As regular readers will know, WLLG Towers is home to more than one brain, but even between us all we find a fair few corners of the local government world about which we know pitifully small amounts.  If you happen to have some thoughts to share about any such corner then please send them in to us at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com, as did today’s fantastic guest blogger DSO.  Enjoy!

In those heady days after the last general election, the coalition government sat down and hammered out a document, The Coalition: our programme for government, subtitled “Freedom Fairness Responsibility”. Included in the proposals for local government was a sentence which met with cheers from many local councillors: “We will abolish the Standards Board regime.”

Now, the Standards Board regime might have had a lot of reasons to be disliked, but it would never have been established if there hadn’t been a need for some oversight of ethical standards in the conduct of local councillors. The vast majority had no trouble sticking to the Code of conduct although they might have resented the necessity of legislating requirements to treat people with respect, not bullying and not to abuse their position for personal gain.

The real problems came from those determined to breach it on principle and from the complicated framework for dealing with complaints: investigations could drag on for months, there was secrecy concerning what information was seen and by whom, and no one was ever satisfied with the outcome of a Standards Committee hearing. Some of these criticisms were addressed when the regime was overhauled in 2008, transferring most of the work to local councils to speed up the process and bring local knowledge into play, but at the same time increasing costs for the local council. Everything had to be filtered through a first-stage committee meeting which could consider only evidence from the complainant and, based on this one-sided view, had to decide what to do next: investigate or drop it. An authority in the southwest received more than 800 complaints from one resident, and had to meet to decide what to do with each of them as the legislation didn’t allow the Monitoring Officer any discretion to dismiss clearly vexatious complaints. (more…)

Fingers in our ears

September 7, 2011

Constructive criticism isn't found in the sand

We’ve all heard people criticising the council before. Whether it’s been through corporate complaints and members enquiries, through standing behind someone in a queue at a Council office or even just sitting at home listening to a friend or family member maon about the potholes in the road; criticism is everywhere.

This also isn’t restricted to ‘real world’ settings. Increasingly people are criticising councils digitally, through e-mails, Facebook postings and groups, Twitter, forums and other online spaces, people more than ever are telling us and the rest of the world what they think.

So what do we do with all this valuable feedback? Do we thank them for this information, even if it’s usually negative, and go about righting wrongs where possible and explaining our positions when not? Do we collect it all and analyse it in a darkened room, adding it to reams of resident survey findings and referring to it in reports?

Or do we pointedly ignore it, refusing to do anything unless prompted to directly and making sure that no online space provided by us has anything other than positive news on it?

I’ll give you one guess.

The overwhelming majority of councils in the experience of this blogger sadly seem to be making the final option presented there their preffered MO. Whilst individual officers may go out of their way to search out and collect this information in the full knowledge of how useful it may be, collectively as organisations we tend to take the ostrich approach instead. (more…)