Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

New twist in Ombudsman scandal as council’s standards committee chair quits

15 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Monmouthshire councillor Sara Burch

Martin Shipton

The scandal surrounding the office of Wales’ Ombudsman has taken a new turn with the resignation of a council’s independent standards committee chair who says his position has been undermined.

Nation.Cymru revealed that Sinead Cook, the chief investigator at the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, had written a series of inflammatory and prejudiced posts on social media including one that said “F*** the Tories”. She quit her job after a disciplinary investigation was launched.

Now Richard Stow, the independent chair of Monmouthshire County Council’s standards committee has resigned, stating in an email to senior council officials: “I have decided to resign as an independent member of the standards committee with immediate effect. The proper functioning of the committee, and my role as independent chair, have been undermined to the extent that I am not prepared to continue as a member.”

We contacted Mr Stow to seek further details of his reason for resigning, but he responded: “At present I don’t want to discuss my resignation email with the press, but if things change I will contact you.”

However, a council source told us: “One of Richard’s concerns was that the Ombudsman’s office was blocking complaints about some councillors being investigated. In at least one instance, Sinead Cook was involved.”

Holocaust

It is understood that the Ombudsman’s office was not prepared to investigate Labour councillor Sara Burch, who had posted a message to X comparing concerns expressed by Welsh Secretary and Monmouth MP David TC Davies about proposed sites for Gypsy Travellers to aspects of the Holocaust.

Cllr Burch apologised and resigned from the council’s cabinet, but the Ombudsman did not launch an investigation.

Another complaint that wasn’t investigated by the Ombudsman followed an event at Monmouth Comprehensive School where Labour’s local general election candidate, Cllr Catherine Fookes, was campaigning.

There are understood to be concerns about other complaints involving Monmouthshire county councillors too.

Equally, there are concerns elsewhere in Wales about decisions made by the Ombudsman’s office as to whether councillors should be investigated or not.

Review

Last week the Ombudsman, Michelle Morris, said James Goudie KC had been asked to review the operation of her office in the light of the revelations about Ms Cook. Non-Labour politicians raised concerns about the impartiality of Mr Goldie when it was confirmed that he is a former Labour council leader in London and a one-time Parliamentary candidate for the party.

On Thursday, April 18, Monmouthshire County Council will consider a motion submitted by Cllr Frances Taylor, leader of the authority’s Independent group which states: “That this council agree that it is of concern that the chair of the standards committee has resigned citing that the proper functioning of the committee, and his role as independent chair, has been undermined to the extent that he is not prepared to continue as a member.

“That this council commits to upholding standards of conduct in public life to supporting the committee in addressing the issues the independent members of the committee identify as undermining the proper functioning of the committee”

Cllr Taylor told Nation.Cymru: “This is a matter of serious concern. Richard Stow has enormous experience, having chaired the standards committee for seven years, and his judgement is highly respected. It’s essential that we get to the bottom of what’s gone wrong to the extent that he feels he has no alternative but to resign.”

Reconstituted

Meanwhile David TC Davies, who has called for the Ombudsman’s office to be shut down and reconstituted, has requested an urgent meeting with Ms Morris. In a letter to her he states: “The individual tasked with leading the investigation [into whether biased decisions have been made about which councillors to investigate] must be someone independent and impartial. This decision [to appoint Mr Goudie] simply reinforces the perception that the Ombudsman is not impartial in its dealings. I must tell you that this is a perception which I hold myself.”

The Welsh Conservative Senedd group will be proposing a motion that raises concerns about the scandal at the plenary meeting on Wednesday April 17.

Ms Morris denies that Mr Goudie’s previous role as a Labour local politician represents a conflict of interest that should disqualify him from leading the review.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
9 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Another Richard
Another Richard
28 days ago

The impartiality of the person reviewing the work of the Ombudsman needs to be beyond question. However well qualified for the role Mr Goudie KC may be in other respects, his political affiliations make him unsuitable and a different candidate should be found

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
28 days ago

Westminster’s fault.

Dave
Dave
26 days ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

spoken like a true ignorant, poorly educated, nationalist bigot

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
27 days ago

Is that Therese Coffey’s sister ?

Owain Glyndŵr
Owain Glyndŵr
27 days ago

There’s two points here for me; 1. If a politician, supposedly representing constituents, makes racist comments and then complains about being called out, then no the second elected representative has no case to answer. The racist politician should be held to account. It’s called accountability culture. Necessary in a democratic civilised society. 2. Those investigating politicians, and others in positions of power, must be above reproach. No one should be allowed to mark their own homework! The wider issue here that has led to an independent chair of a Council’s standards committee resigning, once again shows how in many ways… Read more »

Dave
Dave
26 days ago
Reply to  Owain Glyndŵr

Talking of marking their own, did you see Drakeford awarded himself a covid hero’s medal

End the UK
End the UK
27 days ago

TC Davis is the biggest cry baby there is and f#&k the tories

Dave
Dave
26 days ago
Reply to  End the UK

They’re all corrupted you simpleton

Dave
Dave
26 days ago

Should be investigated for hate speech, and abuse of power

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.