Brighton and Hove City Council’s approach to whistleblowers has been criticised by an independent report.
The Audit Commission report says: “The council’s whistleblowing policy is not well publicised and more work is needed to strengthen arrangements for reporting (in confidence) incidents of inappropriate behaviour.
“The council has a policy in place but 56 per cent of officers and 45 per cent
of councillors surveyed did not believe that the council has an effective whistleblowing policy.
“In addition, there was a very high percentage of ‘don’t know’ responses to the survey by senior officers and councillors for this area.
“This means that the policy has not been effectively communicated to councillors and officers.”
The report, into the way the council is run, also suggested that when the new cabinet system was brought in – in place of traditional council committees – other problems came to light.
It indicated that there was confusion over which decisions should be taken by officers and which by councillors, that the way decisions were scrutinised needed improvement and that councillors’ behaviour was attracting too many complaints.
It said that only a few complaints were upheld and recommended an action plan to resolve other problems.
Overall, the Audit Commission believed that the council was well run.
Referring to the criticisms about arrangements for whistleblowing, Paul Elgood, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Brunswick and Adelaide, said on his blog: “The Audit Commission has highlighted the very issues we’ve been raising with the council for years now.
“A majority of officers and a huge number of councillors now support this view.
“The council must now act to restore confidence in its whistleblowing practices.
“If there was an effective policy in place, then the council would not be constantly dogged by this criticism.
“It astounds me that this isn’t the case and that the council hasn’t acted to ensure that an effective policy is there for when it is needed.
“They need only look to other councils for examples of good practice.
“Whistleblowing processes in the council simply do not encourage people to come forward to raise their concerns over wrongdoing and malpractice.
“Why does the council have to be dragged to act on this?”