Calls for Wrexham Council to introduce a new “ethical behaviour in public life policy” have been made, which would see a new policy going above and beyond the current code of conduct.
Councillor Dana Davies, leader of the Labour Group, made the suggestion at a meeting of the democratic services committee last week.
Although not mentioned in the meeting, the call has been made just days after Little Acton councillor Bill Baldwin announced that he would be standing down as lead member for children’s services on the executive board after his Facebook account was seen sharing a series of anti-Muslim posts. The Facebook posts in question included a meme originally circulated by the West London branch of the far-right British Nationalist Party, along with a separate image titled “How the British have passively succumbed to the Muslim invasion”.
Cllr Baldwin, who is also part of the democratic services committee, was not present at Thursday’s meeting and sent his apologies.
Recently councillor use of social media has become a focus of interest, with accusations of ‘spying‘ last month, and we are told a totally separate social media incident also being looked at.
Speaking at the meeting Cllr Davies proposed that councillors looked at “developing an ethical behaviour in public life policy” which could then be presented to full council for discussion.
Cllr Davies said: “All 52 councillors are responsible for how we act, what we say and how we behave.
“I think we in Wrexham should be setting the bar.
“I know we have a code of conduct and that is in place nationally. However I think the difficulty we have with a code of conduct is that because it isn’t behaviour specific, it is very subjective, and because of that it’s difficult for our monitoring officers – who are the independent opinion on code of conduct and behaviour – it is really difficult for them to police how things have changed and how poor behaviour is becoming even poorer.
“In the policy we could address that, and give more powers to our independent monitoring officer in order to improve the standard we see now quite regularly.
“We have to realise that as elected members how we behave has a huge impact on how society behaves.
“We are leaders of our communities and we have to step up to the plate now. So much is happening on a national basis that I think this constant poor behaviour is now attacking what democracy is all about.”
Cllr Davies has explained she hoped Wrexham council could take the lead and ‘set the standard in Wrexham’ in developing such a policy, and that it could then be taken up by other councils and perhaps even across Wales itself.
Cllr Davies was concerned ‘there was no pace of change’.
Cllr Davies was told by the Officer that such policy falls within the remit of the council’s standards committee, and that it could be discussed and developed at a future meeting.
The Officer did indicate that such a policy or debate could be forthcoming as it was ‘something that is on our radar’, and there was a future report being prepared ‘to look at behaviour’ that could come forward as soon as next month.
Cllr Davies said, “All 52 of us here a choice here, to increase standards and find that base line, and be accountable in public life.”
“It is a choice on how you behave. People are making the wrong choices, and we need to change that behaviour.”
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