Hartlepool politicians told to be more respectful

Dave Stubbs
Dave Stubbs

COUNCIL chiefs say they do not need to employ more staff to deal with councillor complaint investigations.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s most senior officer, chief executive Dave Stubbs, previously warned he may need to bring in more people to help handle the workload caused by significant numbers of complaints lodged against councillors.

Party politics are said to have contributed towards the high number of cases that are putting pressure on resources of the council’s legal services department.

There were 13 complaints made against councillors from January 2013 to 2014, including three relating to parish council members.

And there were 14 from January 2014 to 2015 with four against parish councillors.

The council admitted the number of complaints has at times impacted upon the work of the Legal Services Division, but a legally-qualified scrutiny support officer has helped out.

A joint report by Mr Stubbs and council chief solicitor Peter Devlin said: “It is not requested that any additional resource is provided to deal with complaints received in relation to members of the borough council, at the present time. Members simply need to treat others with respect and civility.”

In December, Councillor Jonathan Brash, who refers to himself as Independent Labour but is classed as Independent on the council’s website, proposed a review of the current complaint handling system to see if more members of the public could play a bigger role.

But while the council said the idea of a citizens panel had some merit it was not legally permissible to make judgements on complaints.

The report added the suggestion for a panel of Independent Persons of between six to eight members was beyond what is legally required and would have the potential to be overly bureaucratic, difficult to organise and could put an increased burden on council staff who lead investigations into complaints.