Posted: Sun 9th Jul 2023

Gate-gate: Former Powys councillor censured over actions in private civil dispute /
This article is old - Published: Sunday, Jul 9th, 2023

A former Powys County Councillor has been censured for failing to comply with the fire authority’s Code of Conduct after he asked a member of the public to remove a gate. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

In May, the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority met to consider a complaint by the member of the public made to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.
It alleged that former Powys County Councillor Timothy Van-Rees acting in his capacity as a member of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority was alleged to have breached the members’ Code of Conduct by stating the gate should be removed as it posed a fire risk. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

For many years former army officer Mr Van-Rees represented the town of Llanwrtyd Wells on Powys County Council and stood down at the election in May 2022.
After hearing from Mr Van-Rees’s representative, and the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales’s representative the Standards Committee found that Mr Van-Rees had failed to comply with paragraphs 4(a), 4(b), 6(1)(a) and 7(a) of the members code of conduct in that he had not treated the member of the public equitably or with respect.
The committee also said that Mr Van-Rees had conducted himself in a manner that was likely to bring the authority, or the member into disrepute and had attempted to use his position improperly to secure an advantage or create a disadvantage for himself, and/or others. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The report said: “Notwithstanding former Cllr Van-Rees’s long and distinguished record of public service, that in view of the seriousness of the conduct in question, former Cllr Van-Rees should be censured for his actions in failing to comply with the members’ Code of Conduct, particularly as he was still an active  member of Llanwrtyd Wells Town Council.”
The decision was welcomed by Michelle Morris the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales who had referred the complaint on to the Fire Authority’s Standards Committee. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

During the investigation, the Ombudsman found that former Cllr Van-Rees had relied on his position as a member of the authority and had written to the complainant to require removal of a gate that he said posed a fire risk. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The evidence suggested that the member had no authority to determine whether the gate posed a fire risk and that such functions were for the fire service, not for the authority or its members. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Due to this the Ombudsman concluded that the member may have breached the Code of Conduct and used his position as a member of the authority improperly to secure an advantage for his clients in a private civil dispute. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Ombudsman also found that the “tone” of Mr Van-Rees’ correspondence to the complaint to be “inappropriate.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Ombudsman said: “During the course of the investigation, the member made a number of comments about the complainant’s mental health, which the Ombudsman considered to be disrespectful and discriminatory in respect of a potential disability.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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