Councillors who are the subject of complaints about their behaviour are costing tax payers thousands of pounds in code of conduct investigations.

South Hams District Council has revealed it is having to shell out £24,000 a year to carry out the growing number of investigations into the behaviour parish and town councillors.

And even when they find a councillor guilty of breaching the code of conduct there is virtually nothing they can do to punish them or get any of their costs back.

Now the district councillors are so fed up with the situation that they are looking at complaining to the Government and local MPs. At the same time they want town and parish councils to realise just how expensive the complaints are and try to persuade them to look at sorting out problems before they get to the formal complaint stage.

And they want to see the council consider code of conduct training sessions for town and parish councillors and clerks.

Totnes deputy mayor Rosie Adams was told she should be publicly censured following a conduct hearing last week when a district council panel was told how she had sent emails accusing a member of the public of being “arrogant” and “obnoxious”.

The panel had wanted to recommend that she should make a public apology but admitted they could not do so because Cllr Adams had told them she had no intention of apologising to anyone.

At a separate hearing on the same day, the panel

recommended Dartmouth town councillor Gina Coles, a former landlady of the Bay Horse Inn in Totnes and before that a former editorial manager of South Hams Newspapers, should undergo code of conduct training after she accused a member of the public of lying.

Both cases had had to undergo a lengthy and expensive investigation by a monitoring officer before they even reached the conduct panel.

A report due to go before Thursday’s South Hams overview and scrutiny committee pinpointed councillors’ “frustrations” over the current complaints system involving:

* The lack of any meaningful sanctions to underpin the process.

* The costs to the district council of administering the current process, estimated to be in the region of £24,000 per year.

* The proportion of complaints being received by the monitoring officer that were alleging that town and parish councillors had breached their code of conduct.

* The length of time that was being taken to resolve a complaint.

The report added: “In addition, the lack of ability for the district council to receive any remuneration, or compensation, from a town/ parish council or councillor in the event of being found to have breached their code, was a matter of further frustration that was felt to be grossly unfair to the district council.”