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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Rise in complaints about councillors

There has been a large increase in the number of written complaints received by the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) about Causeway Coast and Glens councillors.

Figures provided by NIPSO show that since the formation of the Causeway Coast and Glens Council ‘super council’ in 2015 there have been a total of 40 complaints, however, last year (2020-21) saw a substantial increase with 17 written complaints lodged in comparison with the previous year when seven complaints were received.

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Already this year 2021/22, two written complaints have been received by NIPSO, however, they were unable to provide a breakdown of the party the councillors complained of belong to.

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NIPSO considers complaints from people who believe a councillor may have failed to comply  with the Northern Ireland Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors (the Code).

The Code of Conduct for councillors sets out the principles and rules of conduct which councillors must observe. Councillors have a personal responsibility to ensure that they are familiar with, and understand their obligations under the Code.

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The 12 principles are: public duty; selflessness; integrity; objectivity; accountability; openness; honesty; leadership; equality; promoting good relations; respect; and good working relationships.

The rules relate to: obligations as a councillor; behaviour towards other people; disclosure of information; use of position; use of council resources; expenses and allowances; acceptance and registration of gifts and hospitality; and planning matters.

In the Local Government Commissioner for Standards Annual Report for 2019-20, it stated that the investigations team received a total of 41 complaints that councillors had breached the Code. 

Causeway Coast and Glens Council had the second highest number of complaints (seven) behind Antrim and Newtownabbey with 14 complaints. Overall figures for 2020/21 were not available.

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