Agenda and minutes

Standards (This Committee has now been combined with Audit and Governance and no longer meets)
Monday, 26th March, 2012 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 2 Town Hall. View directions

Contact: Denise Sunman 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

To receive the apologies of any Member who is unable to attend this meeting.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received on behalf of Borough Councillors Anita Clayton, Andy Fry, Jinny Pearce and Mark Shurmer and Parish Councillors Pam Eaton and Antonia Pulsford.

 

2.

Declarations of Interest

To invite Councillors to declare any interests they may have in items on the agenda.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

3.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 138 KB

To confirm as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Standards Committee held on 20th April 2011.

 

(Minutes attached)

Minutes:

RESOLVED that

 

the minutes of the meeting of the Standards Committee held on 20th April 2011 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

 

4.

Monitoring Officer's Report pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To receive a report from the Monitoring Officer on any matters of relevance to the Committee.

 

(Report attached)

Minutes:

The Committee received a report from the Monitoring Officer outlining the latest local and national developments and the details of complaints considered by the Committee since the previous meeting.

 

It was reported that the two outstanding complaints had been concluded. The first, complaint reference 02/2010, had been considered by the Determination Sub-Committee and it had been determined that the Code of Conduct had not been breached. The second, complaint reference 01/2011, had been considered by the Assessment Sub-Committee who had determined that the Code of Conduct had not been engaged in that instance and the matter was consequently closed.

 

The Monitoring Officer gave an update on the training that was to be provided to Members in preparation for the new Standards regime which was due to come into effect from 1st July 2012. Three sessions were scheduled for June, each of which was open to Members of the authority to attend. It was acknowledged that the training available to Standards members had been more robust over the past year than had been the case previously and the intention was to pursue a similar strategy in the coming municipal year. However, it was stressed that it was for elected Members to decide which training might be deemed mandatory. The attendance of sufficient numbers of elected Members at training sessions was raised as an issue. Officers highlighted the responsibility that lay upon themselves to make such training worthwhile and engaging, but were willing to explore any avenues to increase levels of attendance.

 

RESOLVED that

 

the report of the Monitoring Officer be noted.

 

5.

Localism Act 2011 - New Standards Regime pdf icon PDF 95 KB

To receive a report on upcoming changes to the standards regime in light of the Localism Act 2011 and to consider proposals for implementation of the new regime.

 

(Report attached)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report setting out the changes to the system of regulation of the standards of conduct for Members brought about by the Localism Act 2011. Members received a brief overview of the major differences that would result from the Act. It was stated that Officers had been engaged in drafting a new Code of Conduct and a process for managing standards complaints in collaboration with colleagues from other District Councils within Worcestershire and the County Council. A clear benefit of this approach, with the adoption of a common set of principles and guidelines, would be the clarity provided to dual-hatted Members in particular. The Committee then considered a series of recommendations in respect of the draft proposals.

 

Members were in agreement that the authority should continue to operate a Standards Committee in order to promote and maintain high standards of conduct among elected Members. This was felt to be particularly important in the present climate wherein elected officials were expected to maintain, and be seen to maintain, exemplary standards of behaviour. The removal of the role of Independent Member on the Standards Committee was considered to be a retrograde step, as an independent component in the membership was seen as the most certain means of demonstrating an independence of view. As a means of emphasising the importance of the Standards regime the Committee advised that Members elected to the new Standards Committee should undertake the appropriate training and that this training be made mandatory. Following discussion of the matter, it was conceded that the inclusion of non-voting co-opted Independent members would not be advisable. Aside from the lack of any voting rights or a statutory basis for their inclusion, they could also lead to confusion in respect of the newly created role of Independent Person. Members were in agreement that normal proportionality rules should apply.

 

The Committee was very much in favour of a single Code of Conduct for the County of Worcestershire. Officers advised that the regulations providing the definition of what the different categories of interest covered had not been forthcoming as yet and this detail would be added to the draft Code when available. In response to a question, Officers clarified that the Principles of Public Life (the Nolan Principles) would be set out near the start of the general provisions of the draft Code of Conduct.

 

Officers explained that the District Council, as the principal Council, would retain responsibility for upholding the standards of behaviour within the parishes within its area. For this reason it was proposed that there was some merit in co-opting non-voting Parish representatives onto a new Standards Committee. The clerks of local Parish Councils were to be actively involved in the new Standards process for these reasons.

 

The draft process for dealing with complaints against Councillors was detailed for the Committee. The process was similar in a number of respects to that which it was replacing, albeit with several significant differences. Paramount amongst these was the continual recourse throughout  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Chair's / Members' Reports

To consider any Chair / Member updates not separately covered on the agenda list, including brief feedback from any Seminars or Conferences.

 

(Oral report)

Minutes:

There were no reports from the Chair or Members of the Committee.

 

7.

Parish Council Report (if any)

To consider any report in relation to Feckenham Parish Council.

 

(Oral report)

Minutes:

There were no reports from the Parish Council representatives.

 

8.

Publications

To note any publications which the Committee may find of interest.

Minutes:

There were no publications to consider.