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Standards allegations

Arrangements for dealing with standards allegations under the Localism Act 2011

These “Arrangements” set out how you may make a complaint that an elected or co-opted member of Wyre Forest District Council, or of a parish or town council within the District, has failed to comply with the Authority’s Code of Conduct, and sets out how the Council will deal with allegations of a failure to comply with the authority’s Code of Conduct.

Under Section 28(6) and (7) of the Localism Act 2011, the Council must have in place “arrangements” under which allegations that a member or co-opted member of the Council or parish or town council within its area has failed to comply with that Authority’s Code of Conduct can be investigated and decisions made on such allegations.

Such arrangements must provide for the Council to appoint at least one independent person, whose views must be sought by the Council before it takes a decision on an allegation which it has decided shall be investigated, and whose views can be sought by the authority at any other stage, or by the member against whom an allegation has been made.

Making a complaint

It is important to note that not every complaint that the Code has been broken will be referred for investigation for example:

  • If the complaint covers allegations that may be caught by criminal law, for example, assault
  • Is a private law matter, for example,  neighbour dispute or
  • Pertains to other matters where there are ongoing legal procedures.
  • Other circumstances, for example, where a councillor is not acting in an official capacity.

If the Council decides not to refer your complaint for investigation, we will give you the reasons for this decision.

The Monitoring Officer may request further information from either the Complainant, the Subject Member or any other persons the Monitoring Officer considers appropriate before reaching a decision whether a matter should be referred for investigation.

If you wish to make a complaint, please write to or complete the online form on our website to

The Monitoring Officer
Wyre Forest District Council
Wyre Forest House,
Finepoint Way,
Kidderminster,
Worcestershire,
DY11 7WF

Independent Person annual reports

Several cases have been referred to me by the Monitoring Officer for the Wyre Forest District Council, the Monitoring Officer for Wychavon District Council, and the Monitoring Officer for Worcestershire County Council during the period January 1 2020 until January 26 2021.

The cases referred to me this year have been interesting, demanding and frustrating.

Much of my work and frustration was concerned with complaints within Hartlebury Parish Council brought to my attention via an email from Ms. Meesha Patel, Monitoring Officer Wychavon and Malvern Hills District Council, on 24 February 2020.  She asked if I would review the case against a Councillor who would not accept the findings of a complaint against him. This was a continuation of the problems within Hartlebury Parish Council that had been bubbling for some time. Briefly the complainant would not accept the findings of two separate Independent people and persisted in his complaint. I reviewed the material that had been sent to me and I was of the opinion that there had been no breach of the code of conduct. I did make some recommendations to the Monitoring Officer regarding future training for the complainant and that apologies should be made where relevant. The complainant persisted and asked to meet with me or to have a phone conversation. In light of the previous dealings he had had with Officers and legal people I declined his request and made my recommendations to the Monitoring Officer. I understood that a meeting with the complainant and the Standards Committee was scheduled but I believe the requirements of Covid regulations have prevented this meeting taking place.

Whilst this long running case was proceeding I also received complaints about other issues from Wyre Forest District Council and Worcestershire County Council.

On January 29 2020 Mr S. Mallinson, asked me to consider a complaint by a County Councillor against the conduct of another County Councillor at a meeting of the County Council. The complaint centred on inappropriate use of terms by a councillor from one political party re the conduct of the ruling party. I accepted that the phrase was inappropriate, however as the matter had already been addressed by the chair of the meeting the complaint appeared to be an attempt to continue unwelcome insult. I found that there had been no breach of the Code of Conduct although the incident and phrase was unacceptable. I recommended that the Chair of the Council along with the Leader of the relevant party should have a formal, advisory meeting with the transgressor.

On March 11 2020  Ms Caroline Newlands, Monitoring Officer Wyre Forest District Council referred a complaint to me from a member of the public re alleged “ This is a breach of the code of conduct by not respecting the contents therein”! This was a complaint re a meeting of a Parish Council, Kidderminster Foreign, where the complainant did not make any specific complaint with reference to the Code of Conduct but seemed to be unhappy with the format of the meeting which in some ways was informal and reflected tensions between neighbouring property owners. I reviewed all the material sent to me and concluded that there was no breach of conduct.

I attended the Wyre Forest District Council Ethics and Standards Committee meeting on 11 September, 2020. This was an interesting meeting as there was discussion on the update on Declaration of Interests requirements. This meeting was held on line.

Purely out of interest I have recorded the time I have spent dealing with the referrals I have received this year in considering evidence, requesting and assessing clarifications and in producing my report/recommendations.

  • 29/01/20 referred by S. Mallinson, 2 hours 45 minutes.
  • 24/02/20 referred by M. Patel, 9 hours 20minutes.
  • 11/03/20 referred by C. Newlands, 3 hours 20 minutes.
  • 10/09/20 Ethics and Standards Committee Wyre Forest District Council, 37 minutes.
  • 12/12/20 referred by S. Jones, 1 hour 54 minutes.

I have found the activities as Independent Person this year to be very interesting and demanding as evidenced above.

I am grateful to Ms Caroline Newlands, Monitoring Officer Wyre Forest District Council, for keeping me up to date with case law and judicial decisions pertinent to my role and to the other Monitoring Officers for their clarity and assistance in their referrals.

J.T. Hipkiss
Independent Person Hereford and Worcester County Council and Hereford and Worcester Fire Rescue Service.

26 January 2021

Numerous cases have been referred to me by the Monitoring Officer for the Wyre Forest D.C. during the period January 1 2019 until January 13 2020.

The cases referred to me this year have been interesting, demanding and frustrating. Much of my work and frustration was concerned with complaints within Bewdley Town Council. This was a continuation of the situation which was raised at the end of last year i.e. complaints by and concerning Town Councillors.

I will summarise the situation as I saw it. There was a collection of factions that had personal issues and this resulted in a seemingly non ending saga of complaints and counter complaints. There was also evidence of influence from external factions and from a neighbouring Parish Council. I was very grateful for the advice and support from the Monitoring Officer of the Wyre Forest District Council in addressing these issues. The complaints started in March 2019 and continued until, hopefully, a final resolution at the beginning of December 2019. During this period there was also a case involving Bewdley Town Council referred to an employment tribunal and again there were complaints about and by Town Councillors re evidence etc. in this hearing.

The Local Elections of May 2019 led to some individuals leaving the Town Council but the tensions continued.

In order to clarify the situation that existed I submit the bullet points from the letter sent by the Monitoring Officer, to the complainants, at the end of my investigation;

          “… the previous note covered serious concerns that had emerged during recent code of conduct complaints including:

  • The publishing and availability of minutes with committee agendas
  • Transparency of decision making processes
  • Opportunity for full committee debate before votes are taken and decisions are made
  • Potential inappropriate information sharing outside the Town Council
  • Inappropriate emails with persons outside BTC that may raise other conduct issues.

I have now had the opportunity to consider other matters that have come to light, interview third parties and meet again with the independent person

The further issues that have surfaced include

  • Bullying
  • Intimidation
  • Threats to staff members
  • Potential illegality when constituting sub committees

A further report from the CALC Training Officer includes serious concerns about the welfare of staff employed by Bewdley Town Council, chaotic practice and procedures and dysfunctional member/officer relationships.

It is clear that the strength of integrity of the Corporate Governance framework and member/officer working relationships are broken. The member v member tit for tat complaints are the tip of the iceberg. The independent person has over the past 6 months devoted considerable time to the consideration of a multitude of complaints relating to Bewdley Town Council. The independent person has further considered the structure and integrity of the Corporate Governance Framework and culture of the Council. Other concerns have included matters that have been referred to the police”.

The whole matter was concluded eventually at a Town Council meeting on December 2 2019 when all parties calmed down following firm, sound and supportive advice from the Monitoring Officer. There was also a public apology made by a councillor re conduct, this was accepted unanimously.

Whilst this long running case was proceeding I also received complaints about other issues from Wyre Forest District Council and Worcestershire County Council.

On May 23 2019, Mr. S. Mallinson, Monitoring Officer Worcestershire County Council referred a complaint to me from a member of the public re alleged pressure being applied to a Councillor from another party to change allegiance. I reviewed all the material sent to me and concluded that there was no breach of conduct.

On June 13 2019, Ms. Newlands, Monitoring Officer Wyre Forest District Council referred a complaint to me from a parish councillor within the Wyre Forest District re comments and images on social media made by two other parish councillors. There was clear poor conduct and after initial non-compliance re apology, following a meeting with the Monitoring Officer an apology was made.

I have found the activities as Independent Person this year to be very interesting and demanding as evidenced above. I have I attended the Wyre Forest District Council Ethics and Standards Committee meeting. I also chaired the Independent Remuneration Review Panel for Wyre Forest District Council in October.

I am grateful to Ms Caroline Newlands, Monitoring Officer Wyre Forest District Council, for keeping me up to date with case law and judicial decisions pertinent to my role. Her support during the somewhat trying issues with the Bewdley Town Council has been most welcome.

J.T. Hipkiss
Independent Person Hereford and Worcester County Council and Hereford and Worcester Fire Rescue Service.

13 January 2019

Four cases have been referred to me by the Monitoring Officer for the Wyre Forest District Council during the period January 1 2018 until January 10 2019. To date only two have been resolved although I feel frustrated that no formal action could be taken in either case as a result of technicalities. The other two cases have been fully considered and after a request for more detailed documentation in each case the complainant has advised the Monitoring Officer that they wish to end the complaint procedure.

The first case of the year was a matter referred to the Monitoring Officer by two councillors and involved a Leader of a political party in Wyre Forest District Council and a very public protest at the unveiling of the Stanley Baldwin statue in Bewdley. The complainants were a current Town Councillor and a former Town and District Councillor. The complaints could not be processed with a conclusion as the subject of the complaints was not at the function in any political capacity. I attach my report NK Oct1.

The second case referred to the Monitoring Officer, was from a resident about the conduct of a Parish Councillor. This case was new ground for me as it involved a  Parish Council and I was grateful for the help I received from the Monitoring Officer's staff re the relevant guidelines and provision of documents. This case proved to be particularly taxing as the initial complaint seemed valid, however much investigation by the Monitoring Officer found that the complainant was not resident for much of the year and she was trying to involve the Monitoring Officer in an ongoing land dispute. No action was taken re the alleged conduct of the Parish Councillor.

The remaining two cases were complaints that involved the same Bewdley Town Councillor. Both cases were complex in that the complaints were forceful but the actual documentary evidence has not been produced to date. The first case involved a complainant who has a history of confused behaviour and non-compliance with various authorities including his landlord. The case notes are attached, ref. Councillor Coleman v Mr. Brown. The case is now closed.

The final case was a long running issue involving a variety of matters raised by the former Town Clerk and various Town Council situations. The Monitoring Officer had asked for detailed documentation in order for the complaint to be progressed, this was not produced. The complainant has advised the Monitoring Officer he does not wish to proceed. Case notes ref NF and outline issues.

I have had several meetings with the Monitoring Officer to discuss these complex cases and I am grateful for her time in supporting and guiding me on these matters. I also had a meeting/interview with members of the Nolan Committee team who were conducting a review entitled   ‘Local Government Ethical Standards Review’. Their report is to be published on January 30 2019.  I found this a very interesting experience and hope the input I gave was useful and reflected the support and help I have received at both District and County level.

I have found the activities as Independent Person very interesting and rewarding this year. I have discussed with the Monitoring Officer the value of attending the Wyre Forest Distrcit Council Ethics and Standards Committee meetings. It was felt that attendance at these meetings would be appropriate. I am grateful to Ms Caroline Newlands, Monitoring Officer Wyre Forest Distrcit Council, for keeping me up to date with case law and judicial decisions pertinent to my role.

J.T. Hipkiss
Independent Person Hereford and Worcester County Council and Hereford and Worcester Fire Rescue Service.

14 January 2019

Two cases were referred to me by the Monitoring Officer for the Wyre Forest District Council, I was particularly concerned that the first case involved a councillor whom I understood to be experienced and had held senior office.

The first case of the year was a matter referred to the Monitoring Officer by two councillors. I attach my report for your information (Oborski Wrench) I was particularly vexed by this case as it involved a senior councillor who has featured in several referrals over the past few years. I am particularly grateful to the Monitoring Officer and her staff for the help, advice and material they supplied me regarding social media.

The second case was referred to the Monitoring Officer by an employee of Wyre Forest District Council concerning a councillor on Bewdley Town Council. I attach my report for your information (Edmundson Bakr). Again this case involved social media specifically text messaging. This case was new ground for me as it involved a Town and Parish council and I was grateful for the help I received from the Monitoring Officer's staff re the relevant guidelines.

The fact that I had just two referrals this year and they both involved misuse of social media has been interesting. Perhaps the message both at national and local level is making those in public office more aware of the need for care when using social media.

Again I am grateful to Ms Caroline Newlands, Monitoring Officer Wyre Forest District Council, for keeping me up to date with case law and judicial decisions pertinent to my role.

J.T. Hipkiss
Independent Person Hereford and Worcester County Council and Hereford and Worcester Fire Rescue Service.

23 January 2017

Two cases were referred to me by the Monitoring Officer for the Wyre Forest District CouncilI was particularly concerned that both cases involved councillors whom I understood to be experienced and had held senior office.

The first case of the year was a matter referred to the Monitoring Officer by the Chief Executive of Wyre Forest District Council in his role of Returning Officer for Wyre Forest Local Elections in May. I attach my report for your information. I was particularly vexed by this case as it involved a senior councillor who has featured in several referrals over the past few years. This case, was quite complex and I was grateful for the detailed evidence provided by the officers of Wyre Forest District Council. Officers also provided me with information regarding Election Procedure which was most helpful in determining my recommendation. This case, involving a senior experienced councillor, was disturbing in that I considered there were possible elements of intimidation in several aspects along with possible breach of election regulations. I attach my report and recommendations as Clee Local Election 16.  

The second case was a matter referred to the Monitoring Officer by the Leader of the Council regarding the conduct of a senior councillor in a Planning Meeting. Whilst this case appeared to be trivial my consideration of the complaint took a great deal of time as I watched the film of the meeting on the Wyre Forest District Council website several times. It was a particularly delicate case as the individuals concerned were experienced councillors but were very heated in their attitude! I was grateful for the material provided by the Monitoring Officer as this enabled me to bring a degree of formality and objectivity to what was in my personal opinion a 'spat' rather than a serious breach of conduct. However, the fact that this was a public meeting and recorded/transmitted on the council website was an important factor in reaching my recommendation.  The complainant was not happy with my recommendation and I was asked by the Monitoring Officer to respond. I looked at the initial matter again and at the further complaint but could see no reason to change my report. My full report is attached as JS recommendation and the second referral is attached as Further Response and Recommendation.

I am grateful to Ms Caroline Newlands, Monitoring Officer Wyre Forest District Council, for keeping me up to date with case law and judicial decisions pertinent to my role.

J.T. Hipkiss
Independent Person Hereford and Worcester County Council and Hereford and Worcester Fire Rescue Service.

23 January 2017

The year has been quite quiet, possibly because of the General Election and District elections, in that councillors were more conscious of their responsibilities!

Three cases were referred to me by the Monitoring Officer for the Wyre Forest District Council, two involving inappropriate use of social media and the other concerned the inappropriate use of council staff and resources. I was particularly concerned that all three cases involved councillors whom I understood to be experienced and had held senior office.

I have found dealing with the misuse of social media particularly taxing in that I am not fully aware of the range of methods and systems employed by these modern communication processes. I attended a training session for new Councillors in the Wyre Forest DC in June to hear the message from the relevant officers about taking care when using social media. In light of the most recent referral I am to have a training session with a member of the IT staff at Wyre Forest District Council on January 21 to raise my knowledge and awareness of such areas as Facebook, Blogging, Twitter etc.

The first case of the year was a matter referred to the Monitoring Officer by the Chief Executive of Wyre Forest District Council following a series of statements on Twitter. I found the complaint proven and suggested appropriate action be taken. I attach my report for this case as February IM.

The second case this year, inappropriate use of council staff and resources, was quite complex and I was grateful for the detailed evidence provided by the officers of Wyre Forest District Council. This case, involving a senior experienced councillor, was disturbing in that I felt there were possible elements of intimidation in several aspects. I attach my report and recommendations as April SC.  

The third case referred to me this year, attachment December FB, involved another senior experienced councillor. This matter was particularly disturbing in that it involved inappropriate use of social media for the third time by this Councillor. In the two previous matters I understood advice about conduct on social media had been proffered. At the beginning of 2015 Wyre Forest District Council had adopted a process to address minor misuse of social media but this recent case I felt was a more severe problem and my recommendation, after a detailed examination of the material provided by the Officers of Wyre Forest District Council following my request, was that a more formal approach be taken.

I am grateful to the Monitoring Officer and relevant officers of Wyre Forest District Council for the fast professional response to my requests for material. This material has helped me come to what I believe were formal, considered decisions and recommendations.

J.T. Hipkiss
Independent Person Hereford and Worcester County Council and Hereford and Worcester Fire Rescue Service.

11 January 2016

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