Issue - meetings
Whistleblowing policy review
To consider the operation of the Council’s current Whistleblowing Policy and to seek approval for a further review of the policy to be brought to the committee’s next meeting on 30 January 2023.
The committee considered a report on the position with whistleblowing complaints to date and on the proposed further review of the current Whistleblowing Policy.
The Interim Head of Legal Services introduced the report and drew attention to the following:
i. A review of the Whistleblowing Policy had been considered by the committee on 24 November 2021 (link to the item).
ii. In view of experiences in operating the policy and of the recommendations of an external investigator, it was considered that a further review was needed in order to focus and simply the policy, supported by more guidance and procedures.
iii. The policy demonstrated that the council was open and supportive of people making disclosures, and the process provided the organisation with the opportunity to address issues and risks.
iv. A further report would be provided to the next meeting; this would include exploration of the options for an external specialist whistleblowing facility, commonly called a ‘whistleblowing hotline’.
v. Enhanced documentation, including the use of flowcharts, should ensure consistency, particularly given recent levels of staff turnover.
vi. It was understood that 6 complaints had been received to date during 2022/23; 4 in the Children and Young People Directorate, 1 in Social Care, and 1 in relation to employee conduct.
The principal matters raised during the discussion included:
1. The Chairperson noted: ‘the ability for staff to make disclosures to a senior officer at Buckinghamshire Council’ and that ‘2 disclosures have come via this route’ (paragraph 5, agenda page 72), indicating that some staff members were perhaps more comfortable with an externalised facility; the involvement of a specialist organisation could help with the robustness of the process; and, given the relatively small number of complaints each year, it was difficult to draw statistically valid correlations.
2. In response to questions from a committee member, the Interim Head of Legal Services commented: it was acknowledged that a small number of complaints could indicate that some people may not have confidence in the system; whistleblowing disclosures involving serious matters were being put out to external investigators; many specialist organisations had dedicated logging systems for this process; and assurance could not be given that the figures were absolutely correct due to staff turnover and the limitations of the current system.
In response to further questions, the committee was advised that a wider group of staff were now involved to avoid a single point of failure, there was a project group, an assurance was given that the figures from this point onwards would be accurate, and the review would strengthen the approach.
3. It was noted that specialist organisations were well placed to provide support to people making disclosures, and there was an employee assistance programme in place to help staff deal with personal or professional problems.
a) The position with whistleblowing complaints to date be noted, including the caution expressed by the monitoring officer in respect of the complaints data; and
b) A further review of the current Whistleblowing Policy ... view the full minutes text for item 57