Posted: Sat 20th Apr 2024

Monmouthshire: Standards Chair Resigns Amid Council Controversy /

MEMBERS of a council’s standards committee were prevented from discussing reports from the watchdog who oversees the behaviour of councillors it has been claimed. 
The accussation was made as members of Monmouthshire County Council discussed the resignation of the committee’s independent chairman who claimed his role and the committee’s independence had been undermined. 
Richard Stow quit the £268 a day job as the independent chairman earlier in April and at the full council meeting on April 18 part of his resignation letter was read out. 
Conservative councillor Fay Bromfield, who is one of three county councillors on the eight-member committee, said an email had been sent to all of them at the end of January informing them they couldn’t discuss reports from the Public Services Ombudsman Wales in a confidential session at their February meeting. 
She also said it was “disconcerting” that it is understood the ombudsman is to issue “a number of decisions” related to the council.  
Independent councillor Frances Taylor said Mr Stow wasn’t a councillor but had served as a lay or community member of the committee for almost seven years, and the past three as its chairman. 
Reading from his resignation email Cllr Taylor said: “I have decided to resign as an independent member with immediate effect as the proper functioning of the committee and my role have been undermined to the extent I’m not prepared to continue as a member.” 
Cllr Taylor said the Ombudsman had put in place a new process where decisions she has made, on whether to take up or not a complaint against a county or community councillor, should be shared with county council standards committees. 
She said that would allow standards committees to discuss the Ombudsman’s rational in reaching decisions, even though the details of the decisions themselves wouldn’t be shared with the committees. 
Cllr Taylor said sharing the rational behind the decisions would enable the committee to “support standards in public life”. 
The Ombudsman’s office has been criticised after one of its investigators resigned over social media posts that undermined their political neutrality.
Independent councillor Simon Howarth said Labour leader Mary Ann Brocklesby should sit down with Cllr Taylor and Conservative opposition leader Cllr Richard John to “reflect” on why Mr Stow had resigned. 
He said he was “quite shocked” by Cllr Bromfield’s revelations and said: “I didn’t know what had been going on. I must say it all seems a little bit strange a member of an independent panel has to resign. It doesn’t seem correct.” 
Cllr Brocklesby said Mr Stow’s last report, to the full council in September 2023, highlighted “all members of the authority had continued to maintain high standards” and added: “At my meeting with the chairman in January this year he again stated his belief the whole authority was upholding these standards.” 
Cllr Taylor said the report covered the previous council year and the chairman hasn’t yet had the opportunity to write the report for the past year. 
A motion, put forward by Cllr Taylor, that the council supports upholding the highest standards was agreed. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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