AN 'explosion' of complaints against councillors across County Durham has been reported, with figures more than tripling over a four-month period.

On October 5, Durham County Council’s Standards Committee heard an update on code of conduct complaints against county, parish and town councillors.

Councillors heard that 39 complaints had been logged since the last update on June 7 where only eight complaints were recorded. Of the comments, 17 separate complaints were linked to one town councillor, former Ferryhill Town Mayor Richard Smith, against whom no further action was taken.

Five individual complaints were linked to another town councillor accused of “bullying” a clerk during a meeting – with the complaint currently being investigated.

Solicitor to the committee, Laura Renaudon, speaking at Durham County Hall, said: "It looks like there’s an explosion in the number of complaints and the number of complainants. It’s not necessarily indicative of behaviour on the part of members."

She explained social media was a “fertile ground for complaints” with new councillors more likely to “inadvertently fall foul of the rules”.

An annual report for the committee also revealed the number of complaints regarding breaches of the code for county, town and parish councillors over the last two years. While the number of complaints dropped from 70 in 2016/17 to 31 in 2017/18, more complaints were resolved or referred for investigation. Of the complaints in 2017/18, eight were related to the behaviour of councillors in meetings and seven were allegations linked to social media.