THE number of complaints made against councillors doubled in the second half of 2019, St Helens Council’s monitoring officers have revealed.

Mark Fisher, who is also the council’s legal services manager, told the standards committee on Monday that since July 1 there has been 21 complaints made to the monitoring officer’s post.

He said the vast majority of these complaints have related to social media posts.

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The number of complaints was substantially more than the 10 complaints received between January and June 2019.

Out of the 21 complaints alleging a breach in the code of conduct for elected members received by the monitoring officer, 10 have been dealt with.

Mr Fisher said seven of these complaints were upheld.

Advice was subsequently given to members over their future conduct and in some cases apologies were offered by members.

Mr Fisher said there was found to be no breach for three of the complaints.

One of the complaints has involved an independent third party to review the complaint and is yet to be resolved.

Mr Fisher said: “Whilst it is pleasing to note that in terms of the nature of the matters being complained about, they are towards the lower end of the spectrum, it goes without saying that it is a concern that there has been 21 complaints against member conduct in a six-month period.”

Deputy council leader Sue Murphy asked whether members involved in the complaints could be involved in appropriate social media training.

Labour’s Martin Bond, cabinet member for finance and chairman of the standards committee, said social media is simply part of modern society.

The Haydock councillor also noted the lack of powers the standards committee have to actually deal with any breaches of the code of conduct.

Cllr Bond said: “Social media is social media.

“It’s part of the 21st century isn’t it, the discourse, unfortunately, or fortunately, whichever way you may want to view it.

“We have a protocol and a code that we must abide by. And as a standard committee ultimately we’re the body that would deal with breaches.

“But I understand this committee’s powers are rather limited to deal with it, which is a matter of government policy.”