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Report shows 'significant increase' in complaints against West Berkshire councillors

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West Berkshire Council offices in Market Street, Newbury
West Berkshire Council offices in Market Street, Newbury

THERE has been a “significant increase” in the number of complaints made about councillors in West Berkshire.

West Berkshire Council says 33 formal complaints were lodged in 2020/21 – 19 more than the previous year – but none of them have been referred for an independent investigation.

Sixteen of the complaints were made about a parish council that was not named in the report.

No further action was taken after 21 complaints, seven were withdrawn and three are still being considered.

In two of the cases, councillors were ordered to take part in training on social media use.

A report, published by West Berkshire Council, states there has been an “increase in requests for anonymity” from complainants but “anonymity will only be granted in exceptional circumstances”.

It adds: “Despite the significant rise in the number of complaints over the past year, it is considered that members in West Berkshire continue to maintain high standards of ethical conduct, which is to be applauded.

“It is of note that to date, no complaints have been referred for investigation during 2020/21.

“The number of Declarations of Gifts and Hospitality has decreased significantly, which is no doubt reflective of the restrictions imposed in response to Covid 19.”

It adds: “It is very important that both officers and members understand the potentially serious implications of accepting gifts when it is not appropriate to do so.”

According to the report, 72 gifts were declared in 2019/20 and 28 were declared the following year.

The report will be discussed by West Berkshire Council’s Governance and Ethics Committee at a meeting on Monday, April 19.

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