Agenda item

Whistleblowing annual report


The Monitoring Officer introduced the report which provided Members with an annual update in relation to the Council’s whistleblowing arrangements.


The provision of an annual report to the committee increased the profile of whistleblowing across the Council and provided an opportunity to highlight areas of good practice and requirements for improvement.  Members agreed that an annual report on whistleblowing be provided to the committee by the Monitoring Officer.


The Committee were reminded that in response to an internal audit report, the Whistleblowing Code was reviewed by Audit and Corporate Governance Committee in July 2021.  The Code had been amended in response to recommendations in the internal audit report and it was agreed that the Code should be formally reviewed annually.  The current code had been reviewed against the requirements of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s guidance and it was considered that the Council’s code was compliant.  Minor changes to the Confidential Whistleblowing Code were proposed, as set out in Appendix 2 to the report, and the Committee agreed that they should be recommended to Council for approval.


In 2021/22 the Council’s internal auditors, RSM, conducted a review of the Council’s whistleblowing arrangements which included a survey of staff, although the response rate had been very low with only 35 responses. The results indicated that nearly half of those respondents had either not been informed about or knew where to find the whistleblowing code, the majority did not understand the procedure and a significant proportion did not feel that the culture of the organisation encouraged whistleblowing where necessary or were confident that a concern would be handled appropriately. 


Members noted that the 2021 governance review of the Council did not specifically refer to whistleblowing as a concern, it did raise significant concerns about the culture and leadership, including the lack of an annual governance statement for 2020/21 or an action plan for the previous statement. It was noted that whilst an effective whistleblowing code and associated procedures were important they were part of a much wider system to ensure ethical practices were understood and complied with and that the Council was a learning organisation, seeking continuous improvement and encouraging staff to raise concerns.  The Monitoring Officer stated that the Council’s corporate plan had raised leadership and culture and governance as two of its seven recovery themes.


Members asked about the number of whistleblowing complaints received in the past year.  The Monitoring Officer confirmed that none had been received.  A small number of concerns raised by individuals had been termed whistleblowing at the point they had been submitted, but on examination did not fall under the definition of whistleblowing as set out in the code.  It was recognised for example that some ‘whistleblowing’ concerns raised were often in fact grievances which would be dealt with under the relevant policy.


At the conclusion of the discussion, the Committee agreed that the changes to the whistleblowing code be recommended to full Council for approval. 


Resolved  -


(a)  That the contents of the report be noted.

(b)  That the minor changes to the Confidential Whistleblowing Code as set out in Appendix 2 be agreed and recommended to full Council for approval.

(c)  That the Committee receive an annual report on whistleblowing.


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