Speaking Up Policy (Whistleblowing)
- Meeting of Audit, Governance and Standards Committee, Monday 11th July, 2016 6.30 pm (Item 12.)
- View the background to item 12.
The Head of Audit Partnership presented a proposed new Policy to support people working for or with the Council who wished to speak up and raise concerns. It was noted that:
· In September 2015, the Committee had commissioned Mid-Kent Audit to undertake a review of the effectiveness of the Council’s arrangements for raising concerns at work. At that time these arrangements were set out in a Whistleblowing Charter which had not been reviewed for some considerable time and, in particular, did not reflect changes in the Council’s structure or developments in regulations and best practice around whistleblowing.
· The opportunity had been taken to expand the scope of the work to include comparative information from Ashford and Tunbridge Wells Borough Councils.
· The review had concluded that whilst arrangements were not fundamentally deficient, the opportunity should be taken to update and refresh the Whistleblowing Charter and to raise its profile among staff. The new Policy conformed to best practice guidance issued by CIPFA and Public Concern at Work, an independent charity that provided support and advice regarding whistleblowing. It also sought to resolve significant issues associated with the previous Charter by clearly establishing a route for reporting concerns, ownership of the Policy and integration with other developing policy approaches such as Safeguarding.
· The new Policy had been produced in booklet form and would be featured at forthcoming training and development sessions.
During the discussion on the proposed new Policy, Members raised a number of issues as follows:
· There was a possible requirement for an Equality Impact Needs Assessment to be undertaken in respect of the new Policy (the Head of Audit Partnership indicated that he would give further consideration to this).
· The new Policy should be called the “Whistleblowing Policy” rather than the “Speaking Up Policy”.
· There was a need to make people aware of the protection given to whistleblowers by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and to provide assurance that the Council values staff who raise their concerns, will give those concerns proper consideration and will protect confidentiality.
· There was a need to place greater emphasis in the document to the Council’s commitment to protecting and supporting whistleblowers (by making specific reference in the introduction) and to clearly establish overall responsibility for whistleblowing at an Officer level.
· The sentence in section five of the new Policy stating that “It will never be appropriate to alert the media” should be deleted. However, staff should be strongly encouraged to seek advice before reporting externally, especially before contacting the media, and avoid divulging confidential or personal sensitive information.
In response to questions by Members, the Head of Audit Partnership explained that:
· The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 fundamentally related to protecting people from harassment, but in terms of anonymity, it was not possible to protect a person if their identity was not known. However, action could be taken to protect a person’s identity by not disseminating information beyond the need to know.
· If a member of staff wished to blow the whistle about the actions of a person working for another organisation, they would have to use that organisation’s whistleblowing policy.
· The new Policy had not been trialled in practice, but once in operation amendments could be made if necessary.
The Committee approved the principle of the new Whistleblowing Policy, but asked the Head of Audit Partnership to report back to the next meeting of the Committee with a revised draft incorporating the points raised by Members during the discussion. Members also asked that all Members of the Council be given the opportunity to see and comment on the revised draft prior to it being reported to the Committee for approval.
1. That the principle of the new Whistleblowing Policy be approved, but the Head of Audit Partnership be requested to report back to the next meeting of the Committee with a revised draft incorporating the points raised by Members during the discussion.
2. That all Members of the Council be given the opportunity to see and comment on the revised draft prior to it being reported to the Committee for approval.
3. That in the meantime, the Head of Audit Partnership be requested to continue with existing commitments to raise the profile of whistleblowing among staff.
4. That appropriate periodic updates on matters raised through the Whistleblowing Policy once approved be included in the Committee’s work programme.
Voting: 7 – For 1 – Against 0 – Abstentions
- Speaking Up Policy (Whistleblowing), item 12. PDF 68 KB View as HTML (12./1) 58 KB
- Enc. 1 for Speaking Up Policy (Whistleblowing), item 12. PDF 317 KB
- Enc. 2 for Speaking Up Policy (Whistleblowing), item 12. PDF 561 KB