Complaints against Arun councillors’ behaviour during virtual meetings will not be taken any further

Littlehampton Civic centre. Pic Steve Robards SR2103252 SUS-210326-165324001Littlehampton Civic centre. Pic Steve Robards SR2103252 SUS-210326-165324001
Littlehampton Civic centre. Pic Steve Robards SR2103252 SUS-210326-165324001
A report to Arun District Council says that behaviour during online meetings was a ‘prominent issue’.

During the pandemic, council meetings were moved online but members of the public complained that councillors were eating, drinking and smoking whilst taking part.

The monitoring officer – who is responsible for handling complaints against councillors – received several complaints about this but has decided not to prioritise the issue.

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They say this is because central government ruled that future meetings must be taken in person, explaining that: “The issue of refreshments during physical meetings has not caused concern.”

The issue is set to be discussed during a meeting of ADC’s standards committee tomorrow (Thursday September 16).

The committee will also discuss five separate complaints made against councillors since July 1 as well as a review of the council’s code of conduct and complaints form.

A report to the standards committee noted that some councillors had behaved in an ‘aggressive’ way which could ‘undermine trust and confidence’.

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As ADC adopted a new committee system this year, a review and consultation are considered necessary.

This could see an update to the code of conduct which would extend to councillors’ behaviour on social media as well as in person.

The code would also stress the importance of ‘work/life balance’ for councillors and officers. This was considered important because the ‘growing use of technology’ allows messages to be sent and accessed ’24 hours a day, seven days a week’.

Some members of the public also said they had been ‘put off’ by the length of the council’s complaint form and jargon that they did not understand.

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During a briefing in June, the standards committee wanted to make it clear to members of the public that complaints would only be considered regarding conduct if the person was acting in their capacity as a councillor at the time.

As a result, the complaints form is under review and those wishing to make a complaint will be made immediately aware of which complaints will be considered.

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