West Norfolk Council updates whistleblowing amid Cllr Simon Nash worries about ‘little shop of horrors’
Councillors have agreed to update their whistleblowing policy amid concerns that a “little shop of horrors” lurks behind the complaints process.
At West Norfolk Council’s full meeting last Wednesday, members discussed the policy which sets out the protections given to themselves, staff and relevant third parties when they reported wrongdoing to the council.
This was drafted back in 2017, and following a cabinet meeting in early December, plans to update it were recommended.
The key revisions included “clarifications in a number of areas, a more robust structure for the assessment of whistleblowing reports, and a monitoring programme”. The council voted to approve them.
However, while they did not disapprove of the proposals themselves, some councillors did raise issues about the way the whistleblowing policy works.
Among them was Cllr Simon Nash, who said the policy is “something I am familiar with”.
“I once said at an audit committee meeting that they are good to look at and great for the public,” he said.
“But they are simply window dressing, behind which lies a little shop of horrors.”
He told the meeting that in the past when he has made whistleblowing complaints, he expected the council officer he contacted to keep the matter confidential – but to his “horror”, other officers had been quoted his worries in correspondence.
“This policy clearly doesn’t work,” Cllr Nash added.
“What are we going to do as a council to make sure this policy is adhered to and officers who are possible suspects aren’t being tipped off?”
Cllr Charles Joyce said he had similar concerns after hearing from Cllr Nash.
“With a whistleblower, the whistleblower shouldn’t be identified as a general rule,” he said.
“It should be investigated initially through the complainant, giving a better understanding, and then they investigate.
“But a whistleblower won’t blow the whistle when they suspect, and only if they suspect, there is detriment going to come to them.”
Cllr Joyce added: “I know faith is for the religious, but you also need to have a little faith in yourself and in a policy”.
Cllr Steve Everett said that, as a former union representative, he agreed that the council’s policy should be “fit for purpose, and not just window dressing or a PR stunt”.
Meanwhile, Cllr Jo Rust said that from a trade union perspective, she fully supports the policy.
Her fellow cabinet member Cllr Jim Moriarty told the meeting that he will make sure to look into any concerns.
Cllr Nash concluded: “The policy is fine – it is the administration of the policy which is the problem.”