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Whistleblowing Policy

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Introduction

  • A Discloser is the person who is the whistle-blower. They must have a reasonable belief that raising the concern is in the public interest.
  • This procedure outlines the process to follow when reporting a perceived wrongdoing or malpractice within the LEP, including something they believe goes against the core values of Standards in Public Life (the Nolan Principles) and the Code of Conduct for LEP Board Members and staff. The Standards in Public Life include the principles of: integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership and impartiality.
  • LEP Board Members, as the key decision makers of the LEP, have a right
    and a responsibility to speak up and report behaviour that contravenes
    these values.
  • It is important that this procedure is followed when raising any concerns, to
    ensure that the matter is dealt with correctly.

Definitions

  • This document uses the following definitions:
    • Whistleblowing – where an individual who has concerns about a danger, risk, contravention of rules or illegality provides useful information to address this. In doing so they are acting in the wider public interest, usually because it threatens others or impacts on public funds. By contrast, a grievance or private complaint is a dispute about the individual’s own position and has no or very limited public interest.
    • The LEP – The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership
    • Discloser – this is the person who is the whistle-blower. They might be an employee, a LEP Board Member, a contractor, a third party or a member of the public.
    • Responsible Officer – this is the person, appointed by the LEP, with overall responsibility for maintaining and operating this whistleblowing policy. They will maintain a record of concerns raised and the outcomes (but will do so in a form that does not endanger confidentiality) and will report to senior decision makers as necessary. Their name Ilia Bowles and their contact details are [email protected], 07458 073509, Cameron House, Knights Court, Archers Way, Battlefield Enterprise Park, Shrewsbury, SY1 3GA. If the concern relates to the Responsible Officer then the concern should be raised with Gill Hamer, LEP Chief Executive, [email protected], 07990 086392 Cameron House, Knights
      Court, Archers Way, Battlefield Enterprise Park, Shrewsbury, SY1 3GA.
    • Relevant Concern – something the Discloser has been asked to do, or is aware of, which they consider to be wrong-doing and is in the public interest.

Scope

  • The LEP is committed to creating a work environment with the highest possible standards of openness, probity and accountability. In view of this commitment, we encourage Disclosers with serious concerns about the work of the LEP to come forward and voice their concerns, as soon as they notice them, without fear of reprisal.
  • Whistleblowing is important to protect and reassure the workforce and to maintain a healthy and efficient working culture.
  • Disclosers should note that where the concern is one that might fall under the LEP’s staff or work force policies on equality and diversity or harassment and bullying or other staff policies, they should consider using the reporting mechanisms for those other policies first.
  • The LEP has a pre-existing complaints procedure that in many cases will be more appropriate for third parties or members of the public to follow. Third parties or members of the public should review the separate confidential complaints procedure outlined in the LEP’s complaints policy on the LEP’s website first before going through the whistleblowing process. However, if a member of the public or third party believes that their complaint fits the description of a ‘relevant concern’ outlined below, they may report their concerns through the
    whistleblowing policy procedure.
  • The reporting of a wrongdoing or malpractice under this procedure may be covered by the law concerning protected disclosures of information
  • The procedure has therefore been written with reference to the Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998), which offers protection to those in both the private and public sectors, who ‘blow the whistle’, in certain circumstances.

Policy Statement

  • The LEP acknowledges that Disclosers may often be the first people to realise that there may be something seriously wrong within the organisation.This policy aims to:
    • Encourage people to feel confident about raising serious concerns and to question and act upon their concerns without fear of victimisation or harassment;
    • Provide avenues for Disclosers to raise those concerns and receive feedback on any action taken;
    • Allow Disclosers to take the matter further if they are dissatisfied with the LEP’s response; and
    • Reassure all Disclosers, employees in particular who may have specific concerns about their position and employment status in the LEP, that they will be protected from possible reprisals or victimisation if they have a reasonable belief that they have made any disclosure in the public interest.

What is a relevant concern?

  • If a Discloser is asked to do something, or is aware of the actions of another, which they consider to be wrongdoing, they can raise it using this procedure.
  • The Discloser must have a reasonable belief that raising the concern is in the public interest.
  • A Discloser may decide to raise a concern under the whistleblowing policy if they are aware of a situation that they feel:
    • is against the LEP’s procedures and protocols as set out in its code of
    • conduct and individual LEP Accountability and Assurance Framework;
    • falls below established standards of practice the LEP subscribes to;
    • amounts to improper conduct; or
    • is an abuse of power for personal gain.
  • The types of matters regarded as a relevant concern for the purpose of this procedure include, but are not limited to, the following:
    • Fraud or financial irregularity;
    • Corruption, bribery or blackmail;
    • Other Criminal offences;
    • Failure to comply with a legal or regulatory duty or obligation;
    • Miscarriage of justice;
    • Endangering the health or safety of any individual;
    • Endangering the environment;
    • Improper use of authority; and
    • Concealment of any of the above.
  • Disclosers should not raise malicious or vexatious concerns, nor should they raise knowingly untrue concerns. In addition, this procedure should not be used to raise concerns of a HR/personal nature, such as, complaints relating to a management decision or terms and conditions of employment. These matters should be dealt with using the relevant alternative procedure, for example, the grievance procedure. Equally, this policy would not apply to matters of individual conscience where there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the LEP but, for example, an employee or LEP Board Member is required to act in a way which conflicts with a deeply held personal belief.

Safeguards

  • The Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998) gives legal protection to employees against being dismissed or penalised by their employers as a result of publicly disclosing certain serious concerns. The LEP believes that no member of staff should be at a disadvantage because they raise a legitimate concern.
  • The LEP will not tolerate harassment or victimisation and will take action to protect Disclosers when they raise a concern in the public interest.

Raising a concern

  • If a Discloser experiences something in the workplace which they consider a relevant concern, it is important that the concern is raised as early as possible. Proof is not required at this point – it is for the LEP to investigate. The Discloser must, however, have a reasonable belief that disclosing the information is in the public interest before raising a concern.
  • All concerns will be treated in confidence and every effort will be made to protect the Discloser’s identity if they wish to remain anonymous. However, at the appropriate time, it is possible that the Discloser will need to come forward as a witness for the matter to progress.
  • It is important to follow the correct procedure when raising a whistleblowing concern. The following steps should be adhered to:
    • It is important that the concern is raised with the person best placed to deal with the matter, in most cases this will be the Responsible Officer. However, the Discloser may want to raise the concern with someone
    • they know and trust, such as their line manager who can raise it with the Responsible Officer on their behalf.
    • If it is suspected that the concern may implicate the line manager in some way, then it could be raised with a more senior manager in the line management chain.
    • If the Discloser is unable to raise a relevant concern with a line manager or a senior manager or feel that it has not been adequately addressed, it should be raised directly with the Responsible Officer.
    • Ultimately, the Discloser can raise their concern with the LEP Chief Executive.

Information needed to raise a concern

  • When raising a concern under the procedure the Discloser should try to provide the following information:
    • The background and reason behind the concern;
    • Whether they have already raised a concern with anyone and the response; and
    • Any relevant dates when actions related to the concern took place.
  • This information should demonstrate that there are reasonable grounds for the concern to be acted upon. It is important that matters are not investigated by the Discloser themselves. Proof is not needed; just a reasonable, honest belief that wrongdoing has occurred or is likely to occur.
  • If applicable, personal interests must be declared from the outset.
  • The LEP appreciates that this might be a difficult time for employees, who may feel uncertain about how to progress a concern. Support is available at all stages of the process.

How the concern will be handled

  • All investigations will be conducted sensitively and as quickly as possible. While the LEP cannot guarantee that the outcome will be as the Discloser may wish, it will handle the matter fairly and in accordance with this procedure. All concerns will be treated in confidence and every effort will be made to protect the Discloser’s identity if they wish to remain anonymous. However, at the appropriate time, it is possible that the Discloser will need to come forward as a witness for the matter to progress. Once a concern has been raised with either the line manager or Responsible Officer, Senior Manager or LEP Chief Executive, a meeting may be arranged with them to determine how the concern should be taken forward
  • The LEP may decide to take the matter forward by a number of methods,
    including:
    • An internal inquiry or other formal investigation;
    • An internal or external audit;
    • Referring the matter to the police;
    • Referring the matter to another relevant authority for investigation.
  • Before a final decision is taken on how to proceed, or as part of the investigation, the Discloser may be asked to meet with those investigating their allegation.
  • If a meeting is arranged, the Discloser may wish to be accompanied by a trade union representative, colleague or friend. The person who accompanies the Discloser should not be involved or have a direct interest in the area of work to which the concern relates. The meeting can be conducted over the telephone or virtually rather than face to face.
  • Within 10 clear working days of a concern being raised, the LEP’s Responsible Officer will write to the Discloser to:
    • Acknowledge that the concern has been received;
    • Indicate how they propose to deal with the matter;
    • Give an estimate of how long it will take to provide a final response;
    • Tell the Discloser whether any initial investigation or enquiry has been made;
    • Tell the Discloser whether further investigation will be made, and if not, why not;
    • Tell the Discloser how frequently the LEP will keep them up to date on progress of the investigation.
  • The amount of contact between the LEP and the Discloser concerned will vary depending on the concern raised, any difficult issues and any further clarity required. If necessary, the LEP will seek further information from the Discloser.
  • The LEP will confirm when the matter is concluded and, if appropriate, the outcome of the investigation, maintaining security and confidentiality for all parties as far as possible. Whilst the LEP cannot guarantee that the outcome would be as the Discloser may wish, it will handle the matter fairly and in
    accordance with the whistleblowing procedure.
  • Throughout any investigation, the Discloser will still be expected to continue their duties/role as normal unless deemed inappropriate.

Confidentiality and anonymity

  • The LEP always encourages potential Disclosers to speak up about potential serious wrongdoing in a way that they feel comfortable. The best way to raise a concern is to do so openly, as this makes it easier for the LEP to investigate and provide feedback.
  • Any disclosures made under this procedure will be treated in a sensitive manner. However, the LEP recognises that the Discloser may want to raise a
    concern in confidence, i.e. they may want to raise a concern on the basis that their name it is not revealed without their consent.
  • The LEP will respect any request for confidentiality as far as possible, restricting it to a ‘need to know’ basis. However, if the situation arises where it is not possible to resolve the concern without revealing the Discloser (for example in matters of criminal law), the LEP will advise them before proceeding. The same considerations of confidentiality should be afforded to the recipient(s) at the centre of the concern, as far as appropriate.
  • Disclosers may choose to raise concerns anonymously, i.e. without providing their name at all. If this is the case, the investigation itself may serve to reveal the source of information. Disclosers are therefore encouraged, where possible to put their names to concerns raised. When anonymous concerns are raised, they will be treated as credible and investigated so far as possible. Where concerns cannot be validated, the Responsible officer must be informed for future reference.

Protection

  • If a concern is raised in the reasonable belief that it is in the public interest and procedures have been followed correctly, the Discloser raising the concern will be protected by the terms of this policy and, where applicable, by whistleblowing legislation (see gov.uk for more information on who is covered by whistleblowing legislation). Where a Discloser has been victimised for raising a concern, the LEP concerned will take appropriate action against those responsible, in line with the LEP’s disciplinary policy and procedures.

Changes to procedures or policy as a result of whistleblowing

  • If changes are made to LEP policies and processes as result of whistleblowing investigations, the LEP will publicise the changes as appropriate, taking into consideration the importance of protecting the anonymity and confidentiality of individuals.

Untrue allegations

  • If a Discloser makes an allegation but it is not confirmed by the investigation, no action will be taken against them. However, if a malicious or vexatious allegation is made without good reason to: cause trouble; for personal gain; or to discredit the LEP an investigation may take place. Where the Discloser is an employee or a LEP Board Member or a contractor this may result in disciplinary or other action if they have broken the terms of their employment, acted against the LEP Code of Conduct or broken a clause in a contract.

How this matter can be taken forward if you are not satisfied

  • This procedure is intended to provide Disclosers with an avenue to raise legitimate concerns. If you are either unable to raise the matter with the LEP or you are dissatisfied with the action taken you can report it directly to the Cities and Local Growth Unit in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, at the following email address: [email protected] or by writing to: LEP Compliance Deputy Director, Cities and Local Growth Unit, Fry Block, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF. You should clearly mark your email or letter as “Official – whistleblowing”.
  • In addition, if you are either unable to raise the matter with the LEP or you are dissatisfied with the action taken you may consider raising it with:
    • The police;
    • The relevant regulatory body or professional body;
    • Your Trade Union;
    • Your solicitor;
    • Your Citizens Advice Bureau.
  • Further information and signposting for potential Disclosers is available on
    www.gov.uk.
  • If a Discloser does take the matter outside the LEP, to an external body, they
    should ensure they do not disclose information that is confidential, for
    example, if you are an employee your contract of employment may set out
    expectations of your regarding what is confidential.

Feedback on Whistleblowing Policy

  • Any feedback or comments on this policy should be directed to the LEP’s Responsible Officer.

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