Cheshire East Council

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Mayor blasts rise in councillor-on-councillor complaints

The Mayor of Middlesbrough has said there are too many "self-obsessed, selfish and frankly not very bright" councillors seeking to "cause trouble", amid rising councillor-on-councillor complaints at the council.

Mayor Andy Preston's comments come as Middlesbrough Council's Standards Committee met this week to discuss the high rate of complaints being lodged by councillors against other councillors this year.

To date, twelve such complaints have been made in 2021, which is almost as high as the last two years combined (4 lodged in 2020 and 9 in 2019).

Teesside Live reported that the Mayor said: "There are some brilliant councillors here but there are also way too many self-obsessed, selfish and frankly not very bright people who seek to cause trouble for the good of their own self-promotion.

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"Politics in Middlesbrough features a significant number of people who seek to cause trouble for others by making official complaints about them citing all sorts of false allegations - from bullying to pretty much anything they can dream up.

"What the public don't necessarily realise is that every single one of those complaints costs the tax-paying people of Middlesbrough thousands of pounds in council time and resources."

Mr Preston claimed that some councillors were "racking up council bills that amount to thousands simply to cause political trouble.

"I want to see a culture change in Middlesbrough Council that will end this outrageous waste of time and money and, for once, get all councillors focused on putting Middlesbrough first."

The Standards Committee report said councillors needed to consider whether there was a culture that has developed within the local authority to have a low tolerance to the “usual cut and thrust of political debate”, and whether some of the complaints have been of a retaliatory nature, with complaints being made from and against the same members in regards to the same issue.

The report added that an ongoing theme around the complaints was members' comments on social media.

Social media-related cases accounted for around half (14 out of 29 complaints) of the complaints made at the local authority this year. Twelve such complaints were made in 2019 and 14 in 2020.

Having to deal with the complaints impacts upon council resources, with some taking up a "significant amount of time".

"With this in mind the Code of Conduct has been updated with a greater focus on appropriate social media activity," the report said. 

Twenty-five members recently attended a training session on social media use to learn etiquette, which included lessons on when a member might be considered to be acting in an official capacity rather than in a private capacity online.

Adam Carey

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