The Monitoring Officer advised that SBC’s Whistleblowing Policy, which was a statutory requirement, had been reviewed following the Internal Audit carried out in 2020/21. RSM who had carried out the review, had proposed a number of amendments to the Policy, this included guidance regarding the process to be followed upon receipt of a complaint, implementing a formal logging process for complaints and a lessons learnt section.
The Code had been revised in light of the recommendations and was included in the Appendix to the report. The Committee was being asked to approve the new policy for incorporation into the Constitution. The policy was last reviewed 2018 and would be reviewed annually going forward. It was noted that Officers had decided not to implement the recommendation of a Case Management System as it was considered unnecessary and unduly expensive due to the very low number of complaints. In response to a question, assurance was provided that proper records and processes would be followed whatever IT system was being used.
The Monitoring officer advised that no complaints had been received in the past two and a half years. The Committee queried whether a contributory factor could be that staff were not fully aware of the whistleblowing policy and process. It was noted that staff had been made aware of the existing policy but it was recognised that more could be done raise awareness of the policy and ensure it was properly embedded into the corporate induction programme as part of the suite of mandatory training.
A Member asked whether there was an independent mechanism to investigate complaints. In response it was noted that complaints would be referred to the Monitoring Officer in the first instance and the Monitoring Officer was independent of individual services about which such complaints would be raised. Members also discussed the evidence required to support complaints to avoid malicious accusations being made and the equalities impacts.
At the conclusion of the discussion the revised Whistleblowing Code was agreed and Officers would ensure further action was taken to raise awareness of the policy.
(a) That the revised Whistleblowing Code, including new guidance, be approved for incorporation into the Council’s constitution.
(b) That the revised Schedule of Activity and the new arrangements for record keeping and formalised reviews of whistleblowing be noted.