This report presents a draft “Speak Up” policy as a new whistleblowing policy for Members to consider and comment upon.
This report provided details of the draft “Speak Up” policy as a new whistleblowing policy for Members’ consideration, prior to consideration by the Employment Matters Committee on 2 December 2020 and Full Council on 21 January 2021.
The Chief Legal Officer informed the Committee that the draft Policy had been developed taking into account work that he had been undertaking as part of his MBA studies, as well as work with the HR team. The draft Policy reflected the findings set out in the review, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report and aimed to provide a Policy which would be easier to read and understand setting out the Policy and the process to be followed by anyone wishing to raise concerns. He also advised the Committee that it was proposed that concerns would initially be considered by the Chief Legal Officer, Chief Finance Officer and the Head of HR, the aim of which was to provide an assurance from the outset that any concerns would be treated seriously.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments which included:
Number of concerns raised under the current Policy – the Chief Legal Officer advised the Committee of the number of concerns raised in the last few years, including three in the last year.
Terminology – it was commented that the draft Policy represented a much clearer approach, in particular, the new name of the draft Policy. In response to a question about whether the draft Policy reflected the Council being at the forefront of new ways of thinking on this issue, the Chief Legal Officer stated that the Council was forward thinking and that the academic work that he had undertaken had resulted in the term Speak Up Policy being used to improve accessibility to the Policy.
Use of electronic links – it was commented that providing weblinks within the draft Policy ensured the document was user friendly.
Current version of the Policy – in response to a question about multiple versions of the current Policy being available online, the Chief Legal Officer confirmed that he had contacted the Digital Team following the last Committee meeting for investigation and that he would follow up on this matter.
Relationship between the draft Policy and the Council’s complaints and compliments process – in response to a question, the Chief Legal Officer confirmed that the draft Policy would allow members of the public to raise serious concerns which would not be covered by the complaints and compliments process.
The likely impact of the Policy – in response to a question as to whether the introduction of this Policy may result in increasing the number of concerns being raised, the Chief Legal Officer stated that whilst he did not know what the number may be, the intention was to make the Policy more understandable and ensure that the Council did not miss any concerns being made. He advised that it may take a couple of years to start to see the effect of the Policy. He hoped that the launch of the Policy may also help raise awareness, which in turn, may lead to an increase in the number of concerns being made.
Wording – Committee Members suggested the following amendments to the draft Policy:
Paragraph 2.0 of the draft Policy - replace 5th bullet point “Company” with “Council”. It was also suggested whether matters relating to ethics and the public interest could be included in this section.
Paragraph 1.0 of the draft Policy, fourth paragraph replace “will be subject…” to “could be subject…”
References to whistleblowing in the draft Policy should be removed.
Paragraph 4.0 – reference to “employees of the Council” should also include reference to subsidiaries.
Paragraph 8.0 – it should be made clearer as to how members of the public could raise concerns.
The Chief Legal Officer thanked Committee Members for their comments and he confirmed that he would give consideration to updating the draft Policy as necessary. He undertook to include references to ethics and the public interest within the body of the draft Policy, details of which would be provided outside the meeting.
The Committee agreed to forward its comments on the draft Policy as set out above to the Employment Matters Committee.