COUNCILLORS banned the press and public from a meeting this week set up to consider dozens of complaints about elected members’ bad behaviour.

Herefordshire Council’s standards panel agreed to review a large sample of the 64 decisions relating to complaints against parish and county councillors and cabinet members behind closed doors.

The decisions under review were made by council monitoring officer Claire Ward between April 30, 2017 and September 30, this year.

Chairman Roger Phillips asked Ms Ward what the rationale was behind her recommendation to exclude the press and public.

“The reason I’ve considered that it should be dealt in a confidential session is because it identifies individuals,” she replied.

“A number of the complaints, because of the sampling that has been requested, contains rejected complaints where the subject members do not even know these complaints have been made because that is our process.

“And also, it contains third party data as well.”

But councillor Chris Chappell said he strongly believed the meeting should be held in public so that the facts could be accurately reported and not made up on social media.

“I take onboard the substance of what you are saying but everybody knows that nobody keeps anything quiet in here,” he said.

“And I suspect the complainant has said in the pub, at the parish council meeting or to the neighbours ‘I reported so and so and nothing happened’.

“And probably you’ve been damned as well for making that decision.

“That is the way of Herefordshire. I prefer for things to be out in the open with the facts reported by the press rather than facts made up by social media.

“As we all know, when you say something in a pub or to the neighbour it gets on social media and the wrong story is out there.

“If we go public, we are protecting the innocent from awful false accusations.”

But Herefordshire Association of Local Councils representative Richard Gething disagreed.

He said “When we are looking at individual cases later on, in some of those, the subject person is unaware there has been a breach of the code of conduct complaint against them.

“It would be wrong for them to find out in the press.”

A censored summary report on the complaints will be presented at the audit and governance committee meeting later this month.