INVESTIGATING whistle blowing and staff grievances could be difficult for the Monitoring Officer while trying to protect Powys County Council’s reputation.

Independent member of the standards committee, Hugh Pattrick, believed that that staff should be able to speak to someone independent about their problems.

The comments were made as part of a general discussion over work to update the Council’s whistle blowing policy.

This follows advice from the Welsh Audit Office to update the policy which is “many years old and out of date”.

Steve Holcroft from PCC’s human resources department explained that Clive Pinney, head of legal and democratic services in his role as monitoring  officer, co-ordinates all whistle-blowing complaints.

Mr Pattrick said: “I’m not sure that’s appropriate I think there’s possibly a conflict of interest.

“They are not there to control it, if someone wants to whistle blow they have to feel free to give the facts.

“The solicitor has a dual responsibility of looking after the council’s interest and that’s not always the same.”

Deputy monitoring officer, Debby Jones, said: “If a conflict arose, and it was confirmed, it would be sent to someone who is entirely separate to deal with.

“It may even come straight to me, it would depend on its nature.”

But Mr Pattrick remained unconvinced: “But he would know about it first.”

He believed contact details for bodies outside of PCC to help whistle blowers needed to be highlighted in the updated policy.

Mr Holcroft pointed out that details of external contacts such as the Wales Audit Office, Health and Safety Executive and Care Inspectorate Wales, were included in the policy.

Mr Holcroft said: “90 per-cent of whistle blowing cases that we deal with in HR, they have been through their trade union.

“They have discussed it with their trade union and they have advised them on the best way of resolution.”

Mr Pattrick remained unconvinced and believed that staff with issues would not trust  a policy where a worker would have to go through an internal process, before contacting a body outside of the council.

Mr Pattrick, said: “They have to go to who they feel safe and get a proper response. The trouble is the geography is big but the council is small and people are bound to know each other.”

Committee chairman, Stephen Hayes, added that the whistle blowing policy needed to be “shown” to be working.

“That would give people more confidence,” said Mr Hayes.

Mr Hayes asked if it was possible to publish comments from whistle blowers who were satisfied with the process: “So that everyone knows it’s worth doing?”

Mr Holcroft replied that it could be done.

A final draft copy will come back in front of committee in the future.