Councillors slated for shameful, deeply wrong and incredibly corrosive behaviour

Shameful, deeply wrong and incredibly corrosive behaviour by councillors came under fire from a former mayor at a town hall meeting.

Green councillor Pete West, who served as mayor of Brighton and Hove from 2016-17, urged the political groups – Conservative, Labour and Green – to take the matter in hand.

Councillor West spoke out after learning that members of Brighton and Hove City Council received many more “standards” complaints than those elected to neighbouring or comparable councils.

It was “shameful”, he said, adding: “What is wrong with us? There’s something deeply wrong here – and it is incredibly corrosive on the council’s reputation. It’s also expensive (to investigate complaints).

“We’re looking for savings and members need to be careful about provoking and making complaints. It’s a cost upon the council in financial and reputational terms.”

Councillor West made his criticisms at a meeting of the council’s Audit and Standards Committee as members discussed the annual review of standards.

The review said that the council received 26 complaints about councillors last year, down from 36 in 2021 and 33 in 2020.

Councillor West said that Bristol was a “politically lively place” but did not have the same complaint culture, having received just five complaints, none of which required investigation.

He also said that the Greens, who had the most councillors, might be expected to be the subject of the most complaints – but the smallest group, the Conservatives, received the most.

He urged the political groups to guide “repeat offenders” after learning that seven councillors were the subject of more than one complaint.

One of the council’s two “independent persons”, Helen Aston, who is stepping down after four years, urged members to use their influence with colleagues and group leaders to encourage participation in standards and social media training.

The committee’s other independent person, David Bradly, said that in half of the cases, the councillor who was the subject of a complaint had not engaged with the complaints process at all.

He said: “There appears to be a significant problem with the attitude of some of the councillors who have been complained about to the complaints process. I’d have thought the public would be very concerned about that.

“I ask the committee to consider not only what it is going to do about standards but what it is going to do about the commitment of a proportion of its membership to the whole standards process.”

Councillor Pete West

Conservative councillor Dee Simson said that, after the election of a new council in May, members should be “committed enough” to participate in the training on offer.

Labour councillor Daniel Yates said that there were fewer complaints about councillors’ use of social media but many more about councillor behaviour in meetings.

Councillor Yates said: “Frankly, from what I’ve observed at council meetings in person and watching on the web, there has been a deterioration in the behaviour of councillors at the very thing that should be fundamental to what they do, to come to a meeting and discuss stuff.”

The annual review of standards is due to be presented to a meeting of the full council at Hove Town Hall on Thursday 2 February. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

  1. Ian Reply

    My first question is whether any complaints have a political background to them, either in the complainant’s reasoning or in a minority councillor needing to be more excessive to be properly heard?

  2. Patcham Guy Reply

    Yes, think it’s deeply suspicious that Conservative councillors have got the most complaints, perhaps today’s snowflake generation don’t like the truth being told by them.

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