Agenda item

To update the Human Resources & Council Tax Committee on the review of the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy in line with identified best practice and employment legislation.


The Committee had before it a report of the Assistant Director (Partnership) (report A.1) which was a review of the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy in line with identified best practice and employment legislation.


Members were told that Tendring District Council had committed to high standards of openness, integrity, and accountability in the provision of quality services for the benefit of the local community and was fully committed to being fully accountable for those services.


Members were made aware that the Council had set in place rules, regulations, quality standards and procedures to ensure that high standards of conduct and commitment to service were observed, but it recognised that malpractice could occur.


The Committee heard that whistleblowing was an action that someone  took to report wrongdoing at work. An example was, where there had been suspected misconduct, illegal acts, or failure to act within the Council’s established governance framework.


It was reported that the Whistleblowing Policy and Procedure document made it clear that employees could raise concerns without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination, disadvantage, or dismissal. It was intended to encourage and enable employees to raise serious concerns within the Council rather than overlooking the problem or “blowing the whistle” outside of the organisation.


The Committee  was informed that the Policy applied to all:-


-        Employees of Tendring District Council;

-        Employees of contractors working for the Council, for example agency staff;

-        Employees of suppliers;

-        Those providing services under a contact or other agreement with the Council; and

-        Voluntary workers working within the Council.


Any disclosures against Elected Members were  dealt with under a separate procedure and the Council’s Monitoring Officer should be contacted directly in that regard.


Members were made aware of the recently published “Lessons from Public Interest Reports and other interventions Report” (Part II) by Grant Thornton (a professional services network which provided assurance, tax and advisory services to privately held businesses, public interest entities, and public sector entities) which outlined a number of recommendations to encourage best practice and mitigate risk.


A number of the recommendations from the report specifically related to ‘Whistleblowing’ and the Council’s Policy on those matters was as follows:-


-        “Cultivate an open and transparent culture;

-        Ensure staff can raise concerns/whistle blow, and that this practice was encouraged and was independently investigated. Formal channels would be in place for the involvements of both the s151 and Monitoring Officers;

-        Embed an active review of all complaints and a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviours;

-        Undertake regular training to ensure officers are aware of the Officer code of conduct and that they understand their roles;

-        If it was not already in place, councils should consider the introduction of regular reviews of key governance policies such as their whistleblowing and confidential reporting, fraud prevention and anti-corruption policies.”


The Committee  was reminded that the review of the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy, considered those recommendations, specifically the reporting and investigation mechanisms for dealing with, and responding to, Whistleblowing concerns, and the roles and responsibilities of those involved, as outlined under the ‘Procedure for Making a Disclosure’ heading.


Members were informed that the ‘Monitoring & Review’ heading outlined the Council’s approach to the monitoring of disclosures, including the introduction of regular reporting of the number of disclosures made to the Audit Committee as part of the usual Table of Outstanding Issues reporting process.


As a result, the Audit Committee would evaluate the effectiveness of this policy to ensure that the Policy fulfilled its objective of providing a clear, transparent, and robust procedure to deal with disclosures and that Whistleblowers were supported and confident in the procedure.


Finally, the Committee was told that the information held in the central disclosure record would be evaluated and reviewed periodically by the Council’s Statutory Officers, to establish whether current policies, procedures and protocols needed to be reviewed and whether any further action would need to be taken by the Council.


It was moved by Councillor G Stephenson, seconded by Councillor Amos and:-


RESOLVED that the Council’s updated Whistleblowing Policy & Procedures be approved and adopted.

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