WHY don’t the standards committee get to know that the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has been investigating complaints about Powys County Council itself?

At the Standards Committee meeting on June 5, complaints against county councillors were discussed.

But no mention was made of a decision made by the Ombudsman against PCC itself in December 2018.

Deputy monitoring officer, Debby Jones, suggested the committee members read the latest casebook – decisions made by the Ombudsman between October and December.

On page 46 of the casebook Ombudsman, Nick Bennett,  pointed out that PCC had handled a complaint made by two former councillors,  Mr A and Mr Z, “badly.”

The Ombudsman in his report said: “Mr A and Mr Z complained about the council’s failure to investigate their complaints concerning public statements made by a senior officer of the council, who, they said, had lied.

“They felt the statements made to be defamatory, distressing, and having had a consequential affect on their livelihood since they both stepped down as elected members of the council.

“Mr A and Mr Z also complained about the council’s delay in investigating their complaints, which they first made in November 2017.”

The Ombudsman said that investigating whether the statements made were defamatory or not were “outside his jurisdiction.”

He believed that allegation that the officer had lied was a matter of staff conduct which was not for him to investigate.

But the Ombudsman did say he was “concerned” that the complaint had been handled poorly.

He said: “Whilst the council had acknowledged an earlier episode of delay, and apologised, it had further compounded the matter by failing to keep Mr A and Mr Z updated on its investigation, and failing to reply to a letter (dated August 31, 2018) from a solicitor they had instructed.”

The Ombudsman considered this to be “unacceptable” and made four recommendations,

a) To offer an apology in writing for the continued delay in the handling/investigation of their complaints;

b) To offer £250 each as redress for the complaint handling delays and communication failings

c) To offer an apology in writing to the solicitors acting for Mr A and Mr Z for the failure to reply to their letter;

d) To provide a meaningful update to both Mr A and Mr Z (and their solicitors) with an action plan /timeline for concluding the investigation and responding in full to the complaint.

A spokesman for Powys County Council, said: “The council has complied with the recommendations.

“Standards Committee deals with issues connected with elected members and the Code of Conduct.

“Complaints against officers/services are dealt with under the council’s complaints policy and if necessary the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.”