Code of Conduct Investigation

Denmead Parish Council has been the subject of some negative press and social media coverage since March, related to a Winchester City Council Code of Conduct investigation. We were unable to respond at the time because the Code of Conduct proceedings were ongoing.  Now that the ‘investigation’ is complete, we wanted to set out what has happened and what happens next.

Denmead Parish Council (DPC) consists of up to 13 volunteer Councillors and a similar number of employees. These include the office staff who manage our finances and clerk the meetings and the Grounds team who maintain our parks and open spaces and keep our village looking lovely.

In early 2021, 12 complaints were raised with Winchester City Council under the Code of Conduct. Winchester City Council is the district council and is the next level council which employs a Monitoring Office to deal with any Code of Conduct Complaints raised again Parish and District Council members. 

The subsequent investigation concluded in 2022, and the Winchester City Council Monitoring Officer’s report was finally released in March 2023.  Two Councillors were found to be in breach of the code of conduct, and a number of failings of Council governance were identified. We do not wish to simplify the report’s findings, so these have been published on the DPC website.

You can find the full letter to the Chairman of DPC here.

Because the initial findings had been shared with those involved in the Code of Conduct proceedings earlier,  work had already begun to address the governance issues identified in the report. At the time of writing this article, a mitigating action plan has been developed and is regularly updated, a range of policies have been changed, and we were delighted to welcome a new Parish Clerk in 2022. Winchester City Council listed a number of recommended actions in their report, and two are outstanding:

1) An apology by the two sitting Councillors found to be in breach of the Code of Conduct; and

2) Mediation to overcome any issues.

At the 21 June Full Council meeting, DPC resolved to proceed to mediation as soon as the apologies had been received. Neither DPC nor Winchester City Council has any powers to compel or sanction Councillors for non-compliance with Code of Conduct findings.

While DPC has accepted all of the report’s findings, including that “no-one… can consider themselves beyond reproach in the context of matters that have taken place at DPC”, we do want to set the record straight about some comments which were made in the press at the time of the report’s publication. These insinuated that there may have been some financial mismanagement at DPC which was categorically not the case, and, in fact, for the last ten years Council has received completely clear audits.

So, how are we moving forward?

It is clearly very important to learn from mistakes but just as crucial to put these issues behind us and focus on our day-to-day parish business. We have now established a close working relationship with the Winchester City Council Monitoring Officer and team and can ask for advice or guidance at any time. We will continue to work hard to serve the residents of Denmead, moving forward with our full range of Council business and are busy developing our exciting new strategy for 2023-2027.

DPC’s meeting times are all published on our website and Facebook page and are open to the public. The only exceptions to this are the confidential matters discussed at the very end of meetings from which the public are excluded.

If you want to know precisely what is said at any meeting but are unable to attend, don’t worry, as now they are all recorded and uploaded onto the DPC YouTube channel. If you wish to speak to Council outside of our meetings, you can contact us via the DPC website, phone 023 9224 7947, at our offices in Ashling Pavillion or via the official DPC Facebook Page. We will also have a stall at the Denmead Village Show on 19 August, so please come along and chat with us then.