Councils, such as Wokingham Borough Council are all required to have a Constitution that lays out the rules and guidelines of how it operates. It covers the protocols on how Council meetings are conducted as well as how Councillors and Officers should behave when conducting Council Business.
Any Councillor, Council Officer or member of the public can ask for a review of any part of the Wokingham Borough Council Constitution, if they think there is something that needs to be updated. This is agreed on a cross party basis and we often do amend things as the world around us changes. We absolutely include the recommended elements from respected local government bodies, but there are still elements of the Constitution that are unique to each Council. Over time, WBC’s Constitution has got quite a large and difficult to navigate. So, we are currently reviewing the Constitution in a hope to make it simpler and easier for everyone to follow, but that does not mean we can reject the industry standard components that we already have in there.
The Constitution also sets out the guidelines of how complaints are handled within the Council. The Councillor Code of Conduct, is the area that discusses individual Councillor behaviour. It is reviewed annually by the Local Government Association and is applied to all Councils across the UK, including ours. This consistency is important because if there is a complaint made about WBC, it can be raised with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, who will seek to treat each Council in an even-handed manner.
The Code of Conduct requires Councillors to be selfless, honest, accountable, open, maintain integrity and objectivity – so they are making decisions impartially – and Councillors also need to show leadership. We also should be able to undertake our role as a Councillors without being bullied, abused, intimidated, or threatened by anyone. It also requires us to treat Council officers with respect, even when the advice that they offer is in a direction that we may not like. It clearly states that individual Councillors should not try to bring the Council into disrepute, because collectively, we are all part of the Council and should treat it responsibly.
As Councillors, we are trusted to represent our local area, taking decisions fairly and transparently. Anyone can make a complaint against a Councillor and there are sanctions that can be made against us, if there is a problem. Complaints can be made against the council and its processes via our monitoring officer and if that does not satisfy the situation, it can be raised with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. I would recommend that anyone with a grievance against the Council, Councillors or its officers follow that appropriate route as it has the capacity to make real changes, if that is what is needed. Thankfully in Wokingham Borough Council, complaints about councillors or the council are rare
Cllr Imogen Shepherd-DuBey
Executive Member for Finance
Councillor for Emmbrook Ward