Whistleblowing policy

Our whistleblowing policy explains how council employees/workers, council members and members of the public can pass on concerns about wrongdoing within the council, and how these cases are handled.

1 Introduction

1.1 Leeds City Council is committed to the highest standards of openness, probity, and accountability. In line with that commitment, we encourage Council employees and workers who have legitimate concerns about any aspect of the Council’s work, to come forward and voice those concerns through accessible channels rather than overlooking the issues or discussing them externally. Making your disclosure under this policy will enable the Council to address any concerns and risks as early as possible. 

1.2 As an employee or worker of the Council, you are often the first to realise that there could be something seriously wrong with the way we are operating. This policy sets out the principles that enable you to raise concerns without the fear of adverse consequences. 

1.3 As a member of the public or in your role as an elected member, you may also have concerns that there is something wrong with the way that the Council is operating. This policy is designed to encourage you to report your concerns relating to matters set out at 3.5 and 3.6 and are in the public interest to raise. 

1.4 The Council recognises that you may wish to raise your concern confidentially and in such cases the Council will make every effort to protect your identity.

2 Aims and scope of the policy

2.1 This policy applies to anyone who wishes to raise concerns about suspected wrongdoing in the Council. 

2.2 The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), the law that protects whistleblowers from negative treatment or dismissal for raising their concerns, applies to both employees and workers, including permanent and temporary employees, casual staff, apprentices, agency staff, consultants, contractors, sub-contractors or a partner organisation who are engaged in work for the Council.

2.3 If you are not a Council employee or worker, you can still contact the Council to report any concerns or disclosures about wrongdoing and these will be investigated in line with this policy. Unlike disclosures made by employees, protection under PIDA law does not extend to disclosures made by employees of external organisations, volunteers, job applicants, members of the public or elected members.

2.4 This policy has a specific section detailing the process that schools based staff should follow when raising concerns (section 5.7-5.9).

2.5 The aim of this policy is to:

  • Encourage reports of suspected wrongdoing or malpractice within the Council as soon as possible, in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated as appropriate
  • set out the safeguards you can expect when raising concerns under this policy
  • reassure Council employees and workers that reprisals or victimisation for whistleblowing in the public interest will not be tolerated even if you turn out to be mistaken
  • demonstrate the Council’s zero tolerance commitment to tackling fraud and corruption
  • demonstrate the Council’s commitment to treat all disclosures consistently and fairly

2.6 This policy does not form part of a contract of employment. It is regularly reviewed and may be amended from time to time.

3 What are whistleblowing and qualifying disclosures?

3.1 Whistleblowing is the confidential disclosure by an individual of any concerns relating to wrongdoing involving any aspect of the Council’s work, or dangers in the workplace.

3.2 For Council employees and workers, to be covered by whistleblowing law the disclosure must be a ‘qualifying disclosure’. Qualifying disclosures are disclosures of information about wrongdoing which include criminal offences, bribery, failure to comply with legal obligations, miscarriages of justice, threats to health and safety of an individual, damage to the environment and a deliberate attempt to cover up any of the above.

3.3 The law is designed to protect whistleblowers from detrimental treatment or victimisation from their employers after they have made a qualifying disclosure.

3.4 To be protected, the disclosure must be in the public interest, the worker must have reasonable belief that the information shows that one of the categories of wrongdoing listed in the legislation has occurred, or is likely to occur, and the concern must be raised in the correct way.

3.5 Qualifying disclosures covered by whistleblowing law include any disclosure of information which tends to show that:

  • A criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed e.g. financial fraud;
  • A person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which that person is subject;
  • A miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur;
  • The health and safety of any individual had been, is being or is likely to be endangered;
  • The environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged;
  • Any of the above examples have been, are being or are likely to be deliberately concealed.

3.6 Disclosures relating to the following matters may fall into the categories of qualifying disclosures above:

  • improper conduct, including serious misuse or abuse of authority;
  • a failure to comply with the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules, Financial Regulations, the Council’s Constitution or other policies;
  • Something falls below established standards or practice;
  • Gross waste or mismanagement of funds has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur.

3.7 The Whistleblowing Policy is intended to cover concerns that fall outside the scope of other procedures and which involve an issue in the public interest, although the Council reserves the right to determine which procedure is appropriate. Concerns relating to the way you are being treated at work (bullying, harassment, discrimination) do not fall under the remit of whistleblowing and should be dealt with under the Council’s Grievance Procedure.

3.8 A confidentiality clause in a settlement agreement does not prevent a worker from making a disclosure in the public interest.

3.9 If your concern relates to the conduct of an elected member, safeguarding or other issues including, a complaint about the standard of service received or regarding a member of staff, tenancy fraud, benefit fraud, blue badge misuse, council tax, then there are specific procedures in place to address these. Details on how to make a referral can be found at Appendix B.

4 Safeguards


4.1 The Council will take all reasonable steps to keep the identity of the whistleblower confidential unless there is a legal requirement to disclose it.

Protection from reprisal

4.2 The Council recognises that as a Council employee or worker, the decision to report a concern can be a difficult one to make, not least because of the fear of reprisal from those responsible for the wrongdoing. The Council will not tolerate harassment or victimisation and will take action to protect you when you raise a concern which you reasonably believe to be true. This may include disciplinary action against those that subject an individual to detriment as a result of a whistleblowing referral. 

4.3 If you are already the subject of procedures such as disciplinary, improving performance, grievance or improving attendance, these will not be halted as a result of your whistleblowing referral.

4.4 If at any time, either during or after the investigation, you feel that you have suffered any detriment as a result of your whistleblowing referral you should contact Internal Audit. Details will be considered and where action is required this will be led by HR and will be conducted in accordance with the Disciplinary Policy.

Anonymous disclosures

4.5 Concerns can be raised anonymously and will be considered wherever possible at the discretion of the Council. However, it may be more difficult or even impossible to investigate them properly if further information cannot be obtained from the informant. This policy encourages you to provide your name and contact details when reporting your concern.

Untrue allegations

4.6 If you make an allegation which is either malicious and/or false, and/or one which you could not have reasonably believed to be true, then this may be considered an abuse of the whistleblowing policy and disciplinary action may be taken against you. 

5 How concerns can be raised

5.1 Whistleblowing concerns can be raised with your line manager or a senior manager within your service. You can raise your concern initially in person, by telephone or in writing. The manager will consider any information you provide in line with the requirements of this policy.

5.2 If you would prefer to report your concerns directly to Internal Audit, or you are not a Council employee or worker, then a referral can be made as follows:


0113 378 8008 (dedicated hotline answered by a member of the Internal Audit team or an answerphone).



Option to use the whistleblowing raising concerns form at Appendix C.

In writing:

Internal Audit, 3rd Floor West, Civic Hall, Leeds, LS1 1JF

Online (internal only):

When logged into the Council network there is the option to complete a whistleblowing referral form via Insite.

5.3 Refer to Appendix B for more detail on how to report other issues.

Independent advice

5.4 If you are unsure whether to raise your concerns under this policy, or if you wish to obtain independent advice at any time you may contact:

  • Your trade union
  • The independent charity Protect, which operates a confidential helpline.

Contact details can be found at the end of this policy.

External contacts

  • The aim of this policy is to provide an internal mechanism for reporting any wrongdoing in the workplace. In most cases you should not find it necessary to alert anyone externally.

The law recognises that in some circumstances it may be appropriate to report your concern to certain ‘prescribed’ people and bodies. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before reporting a concern to anyone external. If you tell a prescribed person or body, it must be one that you reasonably believe deals with the issue you are raising. A list of prescribed people and bodies can be found online on GOV.UK.

5.6 In order to raise your concern externally it still must be a qualifying disclosure which meets the criteria for protection as outlined in paragraph [3] above. This means that you must have a reasonable belief that the information disclosed is substantially true, the disclosure is being made in the public interest and the matter falls within the remit of the prescribed person or body.

Whistleblowing by individuals employed in schools

5.7 Individuals employed in schools maintained by the Council such as community schools, community special schools, voluntary controlled or maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units where the Council is the legal employer, fall under the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy.

5.8 Each of the above schools should have their own Whistleblowing Policy and reporting arrangements in place which reflect the requirements of and principles within this policy.

5.9 Schools based staff are encouraged to raise concerns in accordance with the schools own Whistleblowing Policy. This Leeds City Council policy recognises that in some cases, the employee may not feel they are able to discuss the concerns with management, the Headteacher or Chair of Governors at the school. In these instances, you may report your concerns to Leeds City Council who will respond in accordance with this policy. 

6 How the Council will respond

6.1 The Council is committed to treating all concerns raised consistently and fairly. Where a referral is made to Internal Audit an initial assessment of the information received will be completed which may include preliminary enquiries. This will determine if further investigation will be undertaken and if so, who is best placed to complete this considering any skills, knowledge and areas of expertise felt to be necessary.

6.2 Details of all referrals received by managers under this policy should be notified to Internal Audit to allow a central record to be maintained. A regular review of referrals notified and actioned by management will be undertaken to ensure all concerns are being dealt with on a consistent basis.

6.3 The matters raised may:

  • be investigated internally (this is the most likely option). This may be via a referral to the relevant Director, Chief Officer, HR, or Internal Audit. Where referrals are made every effort is made to maintain confidentiality;
  • be referred to the external auditor;
  • form the subject of an independent inquiry; or
  • any combination of the above.

6.4 Where the allegation is of a criminal nature then a referral may be made to the Police, but this will only be following an assessment of the information provided.

6.5 Some concerns may be addressed without the need for investigation. Concerns or allegations that fall within the scope of specific procedures (for example, child protection or discrimination issues) will normally be referred for consideration under the relevant procedures.

6.6 Within ten working days of a concern being received, where practicable, the Council will contact you to acknowledge receipt of your concern. Where feasible we will advise you how we propose to deal with the matter. If it is decided that further investigation is not to take place, then the reason for this decision will be provided to you.

6.7 The amount of contact between yourself and those considering the issues will vary depending on the nature of the matters raised, the potential difficulties involved, and the clarity of the information provided. We may contact you for further details during the investigation if you have provided your contact details.

6.8 When any meeting is arranged with you, you may, if you wish, be accompanied by a trade union or professional association representative or a person who is not involved in the area of work to which the concern relates.

6.9 The Council acknowledges the need to provide you with assurance that the matter has been properly addressed. The Council will aim to keep you informed of the progress of the investigation and its likely timescale. However, sometimes the need for confidentiality may prevent us giving you specific details of the investigation or any disciplinary action taken as a result. You should treat any information about the investigation as confidential.

7 Monitoring of whistleblowing referrals

7.1 All referrals received by managers should be notified to Internal Audit upon their receipt. Internal Audit will maintain a log of all concerns received and the action taken. This will help to ensure that all referrals received are addressed on a consistent basis no matter where they have been initially reported or investigated.

7.2 The Head of Internal Audit is the person within the Council with overall responsibility for this policy. The overall outcomes and effectiveness of the policy will be reported in anonymised form to the Corporate Governance and Audit Committee.

8 How the matter can be taken further

8.1 This policy is intended to provide you with an avenue to raise concerns within the Council. The Council hopes you will be satisfied with the way your concerns is handled and the response provided. If you are not, and if you feel it is right to take the matter further, the following are possible contact points.

The external auditor - Grant Thornton Leeds

0113 245 5514

Protect – formerly Public Concern at Work (independent charity that provides free advice for employees who wish to express concerns about fraud or other serious malpractice)

020 3117 2520
Contact Protect

A prescribed person or body

GOV.UK whistleblowing list of prescribed people and bodies.

Your trade union:

Unison (Leeds): 0113 245 8442 branch@leedsunison.org.uk

GMB (Leeds): 0113 378 9010

Unite: Andy Jones (Unite Convenor) Andy.jones@leeds.gov.uk 07891 272763

8.2 Further contact points are included below:

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas)


Citizens’ Advice


Legal advice


Appendix A

How to raise a concern (Do’s and Don’ts)

DO NOT ignore the concern. It is important that you feel comfortable in raising legitimate concerns in the public interest, as this provides the Council with an opportunity to address the associated issues as early as possible. The whistleblowing referral form at Appendix C can be used to report your concern and assess if it meets the qualifying criteria.

DO report your suspicions in line with this policy to your line management, the relevant service management, or to Internal Auditusing the contact details provided in this policy. The decision on to whom to report your suspicions will depend on the seriousness and sensitivity of the issues concerned, and who is thought to be involved in the wrongdoing. For example, if you believe that management is involved then Internal Audit can give advice and guidance on how the matter can be pursued.

DO make an immediate note of your concerns and deal with the matter promptly.

The earlier you express the concern, the easier it is to take action. Over time these details can be forgotten, or remembered incorrectly, which can make a concern more difficult to investigate and so it would help us if you make a note of your concerns at the time and let us know about them as soon as possible.

You will need to demonstrate that there are sufficient grounds for your concern. It would be useful to provide relevant information including, where possible, but not limited to;

  • the background and history to the case;
  • the reason why you are particularly concerned;
  • any specific details available including names, dates, times and places;
  • details of any particular conversations that support the concerns; details any personal interest that you may have in the matter; and
  • how you think that things may be put right, if possible.

DO NOT be afraid of raising your concerns, and if a manager, DO be responsive to staff concerns.

We want to encourage people to voice any reasonably held suspicions to help us develop a culture of openness, honesty and accountability. All concerns should be treated sensitively and seriously and be subject to the necessary investigation and follow up communication where possible. If you are a manager receiving a concern you also need to make sure you send details of all referrals to Internal Audit for monitoring and action.

DO NOT approach or accuse any individuals directly or tell anyone about your suspicions other than those with the proper authority.

If a concern is discussed with someone directly involved, then it creates an opportunity for evidence to be tampered with or removed.

Concerns should not be discussed with others who are not involved in an appropriately structured investigation. Doing so may leave you open to accusations of making slanderous or libellous comments should your concerns be unfounded, as these could damage the reputation of individuals and the Council even if there is no evidence of any wrongdoing.

DO NOT try to investigate the matter yourself.

There are special rules surrounding the gathering of evidence. Any attempt to gather evidence by people who are unfamiliar with these rules may adversely affect the outcome of the investigation as evidence has to be collected in accordance with current legislation. This is of particular importance with regard to surveillance. If you are at all unsure about the gathering of evidence, you should contact Internal Audit for advice.

All referrals made will be treated in the strictest of confidence and you may invite your trade union or professional association to raise a matter on your behalf. 

Appendix B

Other contacts

If your concern is regarding the following please see the contact details below:

A complaint about the standard of service received or regarding a member of staff

(including people who volunteer on our behalf) See the Compliments and Complaints Policy.

Email: complaints@leeds.gov.uk

Phone: 0113 2224405

The conduct of an elected Member

If you believe that a Member has broken the Members Code of Conduct, you can make a complaint to councillorconduct@leeds.gov.uk.

The safeguarding of children and young people

To report a concern if you work with children or young people, call the Duty and Advice team on 0113 3760336 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, except Wednesday when open at 10am) or the Children’s Emergency Duty Team on 0113 5350600 if outside of office hours. 

Members of the public should report concerns on 0113 2224403 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, except Wednesday when open at 10am). If you think a child is in immediate danger, please call the police on 999.

Further details can be found at report a child protection concern.

The safeguarding of vulnerable adults

Call 0113 222 4401 during office hours and 0113 378 0644 outside of office hours. Further details can be found at report neglect or abuse of an adult

Suspected benefit fraud

Report this to the DWP.

Online - https://www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud

Telephone – 0800 854 440

Textphone – 0800 328 0512 (Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm) Write – NBFH, PO Box 224, Preston, PR1 1GP

Suspected Housing fraud

Call 0800 188 4000 or 0113 376 0410

Email: tenancyfraud@leeds.gov.uk

Further details can be found at housing fraud.

Blue badge misuse

Call 0113 222 4444 (Weekdays, 9am to 5pm, except Wednesdays when we're open from 10am) 

Email: bluebadge@leeds.gov.uk

Further details can be found at report a lost, stolen or misused badge.

Council tax

Call 0113 222 44 44 (Weekdays, 9am to 5pm, except Wednesdays when we're open from 10am)

Workplace disputes

Contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) for help and advice

Online https://www.gov.uk/acas

Telephone 0300 123 1100

Appendix C

Whistleblowing Referral Form

You should use this form to enable you to raise a concern where you believe there is a danger, risk, malpractice or wrongdoing that affects others. 

Please make sure you have read and understand the Whistleblowing Policy for guidance on what constitutes a ‘qualifying disclosure’ and support when completing this form.

1. About you

Your name: 

Your job title: 

Where you work:

How we can contact you:

Phone Number:


Please note allegations can be made anonymously, but these may be more difficult or even impossible to investigate if further information cannot be obtained from you. 

2. Whistleblowing Law ‘Qualifying Disclosures’

To be a qualifying disclosure, the disclosure must be made in the public interest and you must have a reasonable belief in its truth. Please indicate below where you believe your concern shows or tends to show one of the following:

a) A criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed e.g. financial fraud. Yes/No

b) A person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which that person is subject. Yes/No

c) A miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or likely to occur. Yes/No

d) The health and safety of any individual had been, is being or is likely to be endangered. Yes/No

e) The environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged. Yes/No

f) The information tending to show any of the above is being or is likely to be concealed. Yes/No

Disclosures relating to the matters below may also fall into the category of qualifying disclosure. Please indicate if your concern shows or tends to show one of the following:

g) Something is contrary to the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules, Financial Regulations or other policies. Yes/No

h) Something falls below established standards or practice. Yes/No

i) Gross waste or mismanagement of funds has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur. Yes/No

3. Further Information

Although you are not expected to prove an allegation, you will need to demonstrate that there are sufficient grounds for your concern. Please provide as much information as possible including, where possible, the following:

  • the background and history to the case
  • the reason why you are particularly concerned
  • any specific details available including names, dates, times and places
  • details of any particular conversations that support your concerns
  • details of any personal interest that you may have in the matter, and
  • how you think that things may be put right, if possible

Please continue on a blank sheet if required and attach

Reviewed 2021
Next review due 2024