To consider the results of the review of the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy.
A report on the findings of the review of the Council’s whistleblowing arrangements was presented by the Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer).
The Whistleblowing Policy had last been revised by Human Resources Committee in July 2013 and was attached at Appendix 1 to the report. No amendments had been made since the last review, except to update details such as the telephone number of the whistleblowing hotline and the internal audit contractor. The Policy was due to be refreshed by the Human Resources Lead Specialist alongside updating other Human Resources policies and would be considered by the Joint Consultative Panel and Human Resources Committee.
In February 2013, Public Concern at Work had set up a Commission to focus on workplace whistleblowing. The Whistleblowing Commission had published a report in November 2013 which had recommended a Code of Practice for effective whistleblowing arrangements which could be rooted in statute and taken into account in court cases and by regulators. The Council’s current policy incorporated the main requirements of the Code of Practice. Public Concern at Work was now called Protect, and the refresh of the HR Policy would be based on the latest best practice from that organisation. The review of this Policy demonstrated that the Council took the matter very seriously and was genuinely committed to providing an environment of openness where individuals felt that they were able to raise genuine concerns without fear of future reprisal or detriment.
Whilst whistleblowing protection applied only to employees, the Council encouraged others to raise concerns about potential wrongdoing, including employees of the Council’s contracts and members of the public. The Council’s Whistleblowing Policy was published on the intranet and the Council’s website. A review of the website would be carried out during the next six months to ensure it was clear and comprehensive. The Policy was also forwarded to the Council’s principal contractors who undertook services on behalf of the Council. The Policy was also referred to in the induction process for new staff entrants.
One issue, concerning health and safety arrangements, had been raised under the whistleblowing procedure since it had last been reviewed by the Committee in September 2017. A full investigation had been carried out and improvements made to staff facilities.
Discussion took place on staff confidence levels around reporting incidents and awareness of the Whistleblowing Policy. The Legal, Governance and Democracy Specialist (Monitoring Officer) advised that this issue had not formed part of the recent staff review, however, suggested that, now that the new structure was in place, an appropriate message should be communicated and training provided. The Director of Strategy, Innovation and Resources explained that the Authority’s overall approach was to encourage a just culture and instil confidence in staff and that whistleblowing formed part of a wide range of work being carried out in this regard. He undertook to ensure that a question around staff confidence in relation to whistleblowing formed part of the next staff survey. Gareth Kelly, External Audit, recommended that the Council should make contact with colleagues in the local National Health Trust, as the National Health Service had excellent procedures in this regard. The Chairman raised the potential for testing Whistleblowing procedures.
RESOLVED – That the following be noted:-
(1) the actions taken following the whistleblowing case outlined above; and
(2) the proposals for revising the whistleblowing arrangements.