Please accept the Council's apologies for the significant delay in responding to your complaint about Councillor Brewer of Cornwall Council.
The attached provides information in response to the complaints that have been received and an update on the handling of the complaints.
The Council will not be entering into correspondence with any individual complainant given the number of complaints and the diversion of resources required to do so.
Complaints relating to Collin Brewer received primarily in May 2013
Response to complainants
The Council has received in excess of 180 complaints about, primarily, the comments recorded as having been made by Councillor Collin Brewer of Cornwall Council in a telephone interview with John Pring, a journalist with the Disability News Network and the re-election of Councillor Brewer to Cornwall Council. Points mentioned in some of the complaints include:
that the Council should not have permitted Collin Brewer to stand for election;
that the Council is wrong for not having dismissed Councillor Brewer from office; and
further complaints about the comments made by Councillor Brewer in 2011.
The Council is not going to provide individual responses to each complainant but this response is being provided to all complainants who have provided e-mail or postal contact details.
That the Council should not have permitted Collin Brewer to stand for election
The statutory qualifications to be able to stand and take office as a councillor are such that Collin Brewer was able to lawfully submit nomination papers for the Cornwall Council elections on 2 May. Those qualifications are set out in section 79 of the Local Government Act 1972.
The statutory disqualifications from being able to take and hold office as a councillor are such that Collin Brewer is not prevented from taking the office to which he was elected on 2 May. Those disqualifications are set out in section 80 of the Local Government Act 1972.
It would have been unlawful and indeed illegal for the Council or the Returning Officer to have prevented Collin Brewer from submitting nomination papers to stand for office or to take office as a Cornwall Councillor. Neither the Council nor the Returning Officer can properly act unlawfully or illegally irrespective of the circumstances and nor would they wish to.
The outcome of the public vote was such that Collin Brewer prevailed in the election for his Division and it would have been illegal for the Council or Returning Officer not to give effect to that result. The Council has no control over the manner in which votes are cast and there are strict procedures that must be followed in relation to the elections process, including the counting of votes and the declaration of results.
That the Council is wrong for not having dismissed Councillor Brewer from office
Collin Brewer is not an employee of the Council. He is an elected Member of the Council and as a result the Council cannot take any action under its employment policies and procedures as he is not subject to them.
Neither the Council nor the Returning Officer has any power to remove Collin Brewer from his position as a Councillor, either through the electoral process, the Code of Conduct complaints process or otherwise. There was previously the ability for the Council to suspend councillors following the investigation and determination of Code of Conduct complaints and there existed the ability for the First Tier Tribunal to disqualify councillors from office on referral to them of investigated complaints. However, the Government has significantly revised the Code of Conduct complaints process and those sanctions are no longer available.
If the Council or the Returning Officer purported to dismiss Councillor Brewer from office they would be acting unlawfully and in all probability illegally. That would expose them to the risk of legal proceedings which would undoubtedly result in significant expense being incurred.
Further complaints about the comments made by Councillor Brewer in 2011
The circumstances relating to the comments made in 2011 by Councillor Brewer about disabled children have been the subject of complaints that have been investigated and in relation to which Councillor Brewer has been required to apologise.
The Council will not be reopening the investigation into those original comments and nor will it be taking any further action in relation to those earlier comments. However, the Council is treating seriously the complaints that have been made about Councillor Brewer’s latest comments as reported by the Disability News Service.
Current position with the recent complaints
The Council has distanced itself from Councillor Brewer’s comments
The complaints received more recently about Councillor Brewer have been investigated to the extent that they fall within the Council’s Code of Conduct complaints process. The only aspect of the complaints that can properly be considered under this complaints process relates to the comments attributed to Councillor Brewer in his interview with John Pring of Disability News.
The investigating officer has completed his investigation and is finalising the investigation report.
We expect the investigation report to be considered by the Standards Committee at its next meeting on 27 June.
After the Standards Committee has considered the investigation report and provided the Monitoring Officer with their comments a final decision on the complaints will be made and published as soon as practicably possible.
The investigating officer’s report will remain confidential but after the final determination on the complaints a decision notice will be published on the Council’s web site and sent to those to whom this response is being provided.