Agenda and minutes

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Contact: Committee Administration 01905 722027, 722005, 722085 

Items
No. Item

1.

Appointment of Substitutes

To receive details of any substitutes.

Minutes:

None.

2.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

None.

3.

Public Participation

Up to a total of fifteen minutes can be allowed, each speaker being allocated a maximum of five minutes, for members of the public to present a petition, ask a question, or comment on any matter on the Agenda or within the remit of the Committee.

Minutes:

None.

4.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 52 KB

Of the meeting held on 11th March 2020 to be approved and signed.

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 11th March 2020 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

5.

Standards Committee Annual Report 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 84 KB

That the Committee consider the draft Annual Report of the Standards Committee for the Municipal Year 2019/20.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the draft Annual Report of the Standards Committee for the Municipal Year 2019/20. The Monitoring Officer highlighted some of the main points.

 

In the ensuing discussion, the following main points were made:

 

·         With reference to Reporting Back on Outside Bodies, Committee Members were advised that to date approximately 30 reports from representatives have been received. These are available to view on the “Councillor Access” pages of the Council website. Members asked for a comprehensive report to be presented at the November meeting on reports received. Before then, Members asked if a reminder can be sent to all representatives together with a list of who serves on which body. The need to maintain confidentiality when completing reports was also mentioned.

 

·         The Monitoring Officer explained that, should representatives have any issues regarding individual bodies that they wish to bring to the attention of the Council, this can be done via her.

 

·         Preparation of a toolkit for Members on Outside Bodies is still in progress and the Monitoring Officer intended to complete this by the end of the calendar year.

 

·         It was noted that the Council at its meeting on 14 July 2020 had adopted the revisions to the local Code of Conduct previously agreed by this Committee in November 2019.

 

·         With regard to the requirement to declare any interests relating to positions held on charities, the Monitoring Officer clarified that registrable interests extend solely to pecuniary matters. The proposals for a new Code of Conduct (see next item) raises the issue of “other registrable interests” and the Monitoring Officer stated that she will discuss this in more detail with the questioner outside the meeting.

 

·         With reference to Ombudsman cases upheld, the Monitoring Officer will check the percentage figure upheld and send a note for clarification to all Committee Members.

 

RESOLVED: That the Committee approve the draft Annual Report for the Municipal Year 2019/20.

6.

Response to the Local Government Association's Consultation on a Model Member Code of Conduct pdf icon PDF 118 KB

That the Committee:

 

1.     considers and comments on the Local Government Association’s draft Model Member Code of Conduct and related consultation questions set out in the Appendices; and

 

2.   delegates authority to the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of Standards Committee to submit a consultation response on behalf of the Council.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the Local Government Association’s (LGA) draft Model Member Code of Conduct and related consultation questions. The Monitoring Officer presented the report and highlighted the main points.

 

The Monitoring Officer’s overall assessment of the draft Model Code was that it strikes a constructive tone, is generally clear and is written in plain English. In some instances, a change in law would be required before a proposed change could be introduced. The deadline for consultation responses is 17 August and the LGA expect to launch the new Code in the Autumn. Whilst adoption is optional, doing so will align with national standards and the new Code will be supported by guidance and documents. 

 

The Committee proceeded to consider a number of questions raised in the consultation document, as follows:

 

·         To what extent should the Code cover situations where it may been considered that a councillor is publicly acting as, identifying as, and/or giving the impression that they are acting as, a councillor? The majority of Committee Members expressed the view that they are always “on duty” although some have different roles in their lives, and are not a councillor when acting in another capacity. The Code should make it clear when a councillor is deemed to be acting in this capacity.

 

·         It is important that the new code addresses conduct and standards when using social media as this will become more relevant for future generations of councillors. There is merit in considering introduction of a social media code locally, depending on what the new Code says about this.

 

·         The concept of treating other councillors and members of the public with “civility” is a shift from “respect.” It may be easier to interpret for the purposes of the Code but potentially many more people may express the view that this standard has been breached and will therefore need careful monitoring.

 

·         Reference was made to the use of social media by the public and in particular the potential to make accusations and threats to local councillors, often anonymously. The new Code can hopefully help to offer some safeguards in this respect and this point can be relayed as part of the consultation.

 

·         Registration and declarations of interests – Members are keen to disclose a wide range of interests, not just pecuniary interests. A requirement to disclose “other personal interests” –for example as a charity trustee – would be supported.

 

·         Declaring financial interests of a “friend, relative or close associate” is a broad requirement which needs to be more clearly defined.

 

·         Following other rules and policies of the Council is still an important consideration and a requirement for this should be incorporated into any local Code.  

 

The Monitoring Officer noted the comments made during the debate and proposed that following this discussion, a consultation response will be prepared by her in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee. A progress report will then be given at the November meeting including consideration of any finalised national template and discussion on  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Reports of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman pdf icon PDF 92 KB

To receive any reports of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

Minutes:

The Committee were advised that there had been no reports or upheld decision received or incidents of maladministration identified by the Ombudsman since the previous report to this  Committee on 11th March 2020.

8.

Complaints Made Under the Members' Code of Conduct pdf icon PDF 79 KB

That the Committee note the report.

Minutes:

The Committee were informed that, since the last meeting, 4 complaints had been received, three of which were connected.

 

Before making a decision in relation to each complaint, the Monitoring Officer consulted with one of the Independent Persons from the pool appointed to consider complaints. Some work was still under way to assess and progress them. A summary of the current position was as follows:

 

·         Complaint 1: no action

·         Complaint 2: informal resolution

·         Complaint 3: under assessment

·         Complaint 4: under assessment

 

RESOLVED: That the Committee note the report.

9.

Any Other Business

Which in the opinion of the Chairman is of sufficient urgency as to warrant consideration.

Minutes:

None.

10.

Items Involving the Disclosure of Exempt Information

The Committee is invited to pass the following resolution:

 

That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of information as defined in Schedule 12A of the said Act.

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of information as defined in Schedule 12A of the said Act.

11.

Minutes (Exempt Items)

Of the meeting held on 11th March 2020 to be approved and signed.

Minutes:

RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 11th March 2020 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.