Agenda item

Whistleblowing Policy

This report seeks to provide members with a revised Whistleblowing Policy for approval.


The Senior Lawyer introduced the report, the principal points included:


i.             The Whistleblowing Policy had been rewritten to: provide clarity about the handling of concerns and the support to be provided; include a procedure for managers; enable the policy to be used by staff at maintained schools; and assure members of staff about the independence of the Monitoring Officer, as they had a legal duty to report to the Council any instances of non-compliance with the law or maladministration.


ii.            The draft policy had been informed by comments received from Human Resources but no comments had been received from the trade unions.


iii.          Following a discussion at a previous meeting (minute 57 of 21 November 2022 refers), further thought had been given to externalised support but, with around six to eight cases per year, it was considered that whistleblowing cases could be monitored through a spreadsheet.


iv.          If staff members did not feel able to raise a concern with a line manager or another senior officer, independent advice could be sought from Protect (link to the website of the whistleblowing charity) or matters could be reported through a relevant body (link to a list of prescribed people and bodies).


v.           In view of the channels available, it was not considered that the facility for staff to make disclosures via another local authority, currently Buckinghamshire Council, was necessary.


In response to questions from committee members, the Senior Lawyer advised:


1.           The trade unions had not responded to a request to contribute to the review of the policy (11 January 2023) or to a request for comments on the proposed changes (9 February 2023).


2.           The number of whistleblowing cases had been fairly consistent over the last four years and were slightly higher than those received by equivalent sized local authorities.  Nevertheless, the need to publish and raise awareness of the revised policy was recognised. 


A committee member commented on the need to raise awareness of the health and wellbeing services available to staff members. 


The Chairperson suggested that committee members be informed about the process by which the policy would be propagated among staff members.


3.           With reference made to the 2022 Employee Survey (where 78% of staff members agreed that ‘I feel able to raise any concerns with my manager’, and 65% agreed that ‘I feel I could report a concern about my manager’), the added value of staff members being able to make disclosures via another local authority was explored further.  The Senior Lawyer described the current arrangement as a ‘postbox’, with concerns referred to Herefordshire Council, and that Protect and other relevant bodies provided equivalent functions.


It was suggested that an additional question about whether staff members felt confident about using the Whistleblowing Policy could be considered for inclusion in the next Employee Survey.


4.           It was confirmed that the council could commission external support on an ‘ad hoc’ basis in the event that independent investigations were needed.


Further points raised during the discussion included:


·             It was considered that the item should be deferred to provide a further short period for the trade unions to comment, with appropriate encouragement to do so from Human Resources and from the Chairperson.


·             In relation to the Whistleblowing Checklist (agenda page 49), where the employee had requested confidentiality, it was considered that the caveat ‘we will not disclose your identity, without your consent, unless required by law’ should be subject to an explicit acknowledgement from the employee reporting the concern.   It was suggested that the caveat could be repeated above the signature section (agenda page 52).


·             It was requested that further consideration be given to the wording in section 5.7 ‘Raising your concerns’, step three (agenda page 44), in relation to Protect and that an erroneous link in Appendix A ‘Procedure for Managers Receiving a Concern’ (agenda page 46) be corrected.




That consideration of the revised Whistleblowing Policy and associated guidance be deferred until the next meeting to provide a further short period for the trade unions to comment and for clarifications to be provided in terms of:


a)           The process by which the Whistleblowing Policy would be propagated among staff members;


b)          The potential for an additional question to be included in the next Employee Survey about whether staff members felt confident about using the Whistleblowing Policy; and


c)           Suggested changes to: explain the function of Protect in section 5.7, step three, of the Whistleblowing Policy; repeat the caveat on confidentiality before the signature box in the Whistleblowing Checklist; and correct the link in the Procedure for Managers Receiving a Concern.

Supporting documents: