Dear Harrogate Borough Council
Harrogate Council employs a Head of Legal Services whose role includes monitoring the conduct of both councillors and officers and, when necessary, holding them to account for their actions and conduct.
I should be grateful if you would clarify as to whom the Head of Legal Services reports to?
Who monitors the Monitoring Officer? If there is any criticism of their actions; their decisions or conduct, who deals with such complaints? Or is the Monitoring Officer seen to be above criticism or reproach?
Yours faithfully
Peter Lilley

Rich Kemp, Harrogate Borough Council

Dear Mr Lilley

 

Thank you for your email which we received on 29/09/2016. We are treating
this as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act
2000. This means that —

 

o if we need more information about what you want, we will contact you
again as soon as we can; the twenty working days in which to give you
the information will start once we know exactly what you want
o if we do not hold the information, we will, if we can, transfer your
request to an authority who does hold it, and tell you what we have
done (please contact us immediately if you do not want us to do this);
otherwise, we will let you know that we do not hold the information
o if we hold the information and there is no reason to withhold it, we
will send it to you as soon as we can.  If there is likely to be a
delay for any reason, we will let you know
o if we believe that there is a good reason why the information should
not be disclosed, we will let you know as much as we can about how we
reached our decision

 

We will respond to your request promptly, and in any event, within the 20
working day limit as set out in s10 of the Act.

 

Regards

 

Rich Kemp LLB (Hons)

Legal Assistant (Debt & Information Law)

Legal & Governance

Harrogate Borough Council

PO Box 787

Harrogate

HG1 9RW

 

tel: 01423 500600 (ext - 58602)

email:  [1][email address]

[2]www.harrogate.gov.uk

 

 

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Steven Robinson left an annotation ()

I suspect that the brief answer is "no-one". There is a hole in the law here as Parliament anticipated that MOs would conduct them selves properly at all times so did not put in place any mechanism for dealing with errant MOs.

The Head of Paid Service may have a role if there has been some maladministration perhaps but that sends you down a different complaint route to one that is not really suited to the role of the MO.

The SRA Code of Conduct does not help either unless the STA would accept a complaint under 1B(11.10) "taking unfair advantage of a public office held by you, or a member of your family, or a member of your firm or their family.". Even then it can take the SRA around a year to get round to dealing with a compliant and it will not tell you the outcome of its investigation. You have to study their web page of code complaints every day for ages to see if they post anything about your complaint and its outcome.

Steven

Rich Kemp, Harrogate Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Lilley

 

Thank you for your email received by the Council on 29/09/2016 requesting
information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘FOIA’).

 

In response please see the attached management structure. As you will see
the Monitoring Officer (Head of Legal & Governance) reports directly to
the Director of Corporate Affairs. If someone is unhappy about the
standard of service provided by the Monitoring Officer, their behaviour or
action, they can make a complaint through the Council’s Corporate
complaints process and then if not satisfied with the response through
that process they can complain to the local government ombudsman.

 

We hope you are happy with our service.  But if you are not satisfied with
the way your request has been handled, please contact -  

 

Freedom of Information Officer, PO Box 787, Harrogate, HG1 9RW

 

or email [1][Harrogate Borough Council request email]

 

The Council has an internal appeal system.  If your complaint is about the
decision which has been made you will usually be entitled to have your
case reviewed by an officer from a department which has not been involved
in the decision previously.   

 

If, after their decision, you are still not happy, you may appeal to-  

 

The Information Commissioner

Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF

Tel: 01625 545745

Fax: 01625 524510

e-mail: [2][email address]

website: [3]www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

 

Regards

 

Rich Kemp LLB (Hons)

Legal Assistant (Debt & Information Law)

Legal & Governance

Harrogate Borough Council

PO Box 787

Harrogate

HG1 9RW

 

tel: 01423 500600 (ext - 58602)

email:  [4][email address]

[5]www.harrogate.gov.uk

 

 

show quoted sections

Steven Robinson left an annotation ()

The MO will not "report" up to the CEO when acting as an MO. He has to remain independent. if you wish to complain about an MO then you go through the hierarchy in the complaints process and which can be up to the CEO. However, all that the CEO will do is to consider whether the process used by the MO was correct rather than consider any decision of the MO. The CEO may suggest that some certain relevant piece of information was not considered and ask the MO to re-consider his decision in the light of that information. That is not the same as telling the MO what decision to reach. The MO should then reach a decision which reveals that he did take the information into account that he ignored earlier. He can still come to the same decision.

Then you go to the Ombudsman who will only consider a complaint about the way a decision was reached and not the decision itself.

There is a hole in the process. Pop to DCLG on whatdoyouknow and you will find a complaint from East Devon about Code of Conduct and Councillors and how the process is flawed. DCLG response was "that is how Parliament wanted standards dealt with and we believe that is right" . Not interested

So we have a flawed system where Councillors can please themselves almost with impunity. Only when it gets so bad on a national scale will they go back to how standards used to be dealt with. Governments change things and go round in circles until they get back to where they were in the fist place e.g Grammar Schools

Dear Mr Kemp
I'm grateful for your response.
Sadly, the table you attached showing the Council's existing management structure simply raises further questions and does not really address my underlying concerns.
My understanding was that part of the Monitoring Officer's role was to hold both councillors and officers to account for their conduct. But as your table makes clear, the Monitoring Officer reports to the Council's Director of Corporate Affairs who, in turn, reports to the Chief Executive. This therefore raises the obvious question: if there was ever a complaint about the conduct of the Chief Executive, how can the Monitoring Officer be expected to make an entirely impartial assessment when the Chief Executive is also their ultimate boss?
It's also not clear from your management structure table to whom the Chief Executive reports?
Yours sincerely,
Peter Lilley

Steven Robinson left an annotation ()

Is the MO a Solicitor?

All Solicitors are bound by the SRA Code of Conduct which has 10 principles only 7 of which apply

1. To uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice
2. Act with integrity
3. Not allow his independence to be compromised
4. Act in the best interest of each client
5. Provide a proper standard of service to your clients
6. Behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services
7. Comply with your legal and regulatory obligations and deal with your regulators and ombudsmen in an open, timely and co-operative manner

If there has been a breach of any of those there may be a possible complaint to the SRA. Problem there is that the SRA does not tell you that they have investigated nor of their decision. You have to look at their web site every day for a year to see if they have done anything!

So all you are left with really is litigation, perhaps Judicial review but that can cost about £25,000 ish .

The process is weighted against the little man.

Rich Kemp, Harrogate Borough Council

Dear Mr Lilley

 

Thank you for your email received on 24/10/2016, which was logged as a new
request, our ref: 1617-458. Your request is not one which seeks
information that the authority "hold", it asks general questions and is
not therefore appropriate for disclosure under the Freedom of Information
Act.

 

Notwithstanding there is no statutory requirement to provide responses to
your general questions I can inform you that the Chief Executive’s
accountability is to the elected Council and his performance is appraised
on behalf of Council by the Leaders of the two largest groups on the
Council. In the event of a complaint against the Chief Executive that
would be directed to the Leader of the Council.

 

We hope you are happy with our service.  But if you are not satisfied with
the way your request has been handled, please contact -  

 

Freedom of Information Officer, PO Box 787, Harrogate, HG1 9RW

 

or email [1][Harrogate Borough Council request email]

 

The Council has an internal appeal system.  If your complaint is about the
decision which has been made you will usually be entitled to have your
case reviewed by an officer from a department which has not been involved
in the decision previously.   

 

If, after their decision, you are still not happy, you may appeal to-  

 

The Information Commissioner

Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF

Tel: 01625 545745

Fax: 01625 524510

e-mail: [2][email address]

website: [3]www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

 

Regards

 

Rich Kemp LLB (Hons)

Legal Assistant (Debt & Information Law)

Legal & Governance

Harrogate Borough Council

PO Box 787

Harrogate

HG1 9RW

 

tel: 01423 500600 (ext - 58602)

email:  [4][email address]

[5]www.harrogate.gov.uk

 

show quoted sections

Closing In left an annotation ()

Unexpected action was taken by the elected leader of North East Lincolnshire Council ( http://tinyurl.com/htcy7gp ) after a complaint making serious allegations about the Chief Executive and Monitoring Officers, was submitted ( http://tinyurl.com/z28hj29 ):

Dear Mr Kemp
I acknowledge receipt of your response.
If you didn’t wish to answer my follow-up question, I would have happily submitted a completely new FOI request specifically asking the question: who is Harrogate Borough Council’s Chief Executive accountable to?
With respect, I don’t consider this to be a “general question”. Indeed, I would have thought it’s a fairly fundamental and important question. I also consider it to be one that the authority would "hold" information about since, presumably, Harrogate Council does hold information on the Chief Executive’s job description, his contract and who he reports to?
I think the residents of the Borough of Harrogate have a right to know who the Council’s most senior officer is accountable to; and so I am grateful to you for your clarification that he is accountable to the leaders of the two largest party groups on the Council. And that, in the event of a complaint against the Chief Executive, any investigation process would be led by the Leader of the Council.
Kind regards
Peter Lilley

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