Islington Council review whistleblowing reports

Council considering how much detail on whistleblowing is released to public

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Islington Town Hall
Photo: Islington Council

A review is underway into the way whistleblowing concerns from Islington Council employees are made public.

Currently Islington Council discusses these kind of concerns raised behind closed doors, but this week it revealed how many allegations have been made in the six months to January.

Town hall bosses have said it keeps most of the twice-yearly report confidential because there could be “information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual” or the action the council is taking to look into allegations.

Any of the council’s 5,500 employees, contractors , partner agencies such as the Health Authority and voluntary sector groups; casual and agency workers; consultants; trainees and self-employed people working for the council can blow the whistle about any concerns.

Following a request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the council’s acting head of monitoring, Marie Rosenthal, has said it will look at the amount of information about whistleblowing and fraud reports it makes public.

Other London councils, including Kensington and Chelsea, and Hackney, publish detailed whistleblowing and fraud reports.

Nasreen Khan, the council’s head of internal audit, investigations and risk management revealed in the public part of the audit committee’s discussion that there were five whistleblowing referrals between August 2022 and 31 January this year.

Two investigations are on-going, she said. No allegations have been substantiated. Between February and July 2022, the council looked at five allegations, none of which related to schools. They also looked at one from the previous year.

One investigation closed due to a lack of evidence, according to the town hall.

The details came in advance of the press and public being asked to leave a meeting on 13th March, after which the committee made up of four councillors and two lay members discussed details of the exempt report.

The council saw a peak of 18 whistleblowing disclosures in 2016-17, with 17 in 2019-20, which dropped to ten in 2020-21 during the first year of the pandemic.

Ms Khan told the public part of the meeting on 13the March that it is “helpful to compare with other councils” and most have around five to ten allegations from year to year.

She said at one time the whistleblowing policy was “too broad, we were covering things beyond the statutory requirements.”

The council’s whistleblowing policy aims to encourage people working for it to report “inappropriate action” by fellow workers, councillors or contractors “which would not normally be revealed due to fears of victimisation or retribution.”

It “reassures employees that they will be protected from reprisals or victimisation for making reports of malpractice, in the public interest, which they reasonably believe to be true,” according to a town hall report.

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