Revealed: The cost of town hall scrutiny

St Helens Council has spent �13,000 investigating three high-profile complaints about misbehaving councillors.
St Helens Council has spent �13,000 investigating three high-profile complaints about misbehaving councillors.

Town hall bosses spent more than £13,000 investigating three high-profile complaints about misbehaving councillors, the Reporter can reveal.

All the probes were carried out by external investigators following allegations elected members had seriously breached the council’s code of conduct.

The staggering cost to the taxpayer comes at a time when council chiefs have been forced to make swingeing cuts to frontline services and was revealed following a Freedom of Information request by the St Helens Reporter.

Officials deal with numerous complaints every year about councillors, with the overwhelming majority being dealt with in house.

However, where the complaint is of an extremely serious or complex nature a specialist, outside organisation is brought in to take over the investigation.

Between 2009 and 2011, three complaints were deemed by officers as requiring external assistance. One complaint during the 2010/11 financial year cost £8,716,80, while a further two the previous year cost the taxpayer £5,000.

A town hall spokeswoman said the cost reflected national rates similar to other local authorities.

She added: “We used independent external investigators which accounts for the cost. Fees are the national standard rate.”

Officials declined to reveal the nature of the three investigations, or which councillors were involved, but a number of high-profile code of conduct probes took place during that period.

However, the number of complaints - and the resulting cost - in St Helens is relatively small compared to the bill Wigan Council is landed with annually.

There, a total of 17 complaints about the behaviour of warring councillors were received from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013, costing the authority almost £20,000.

The local authority’s standards committee has tabled proposals that members found guilty of breaching the Code of Conduct.