Agenda and minutes

Standards (This Committee has now been combined with Audit and Governance and no longer meets)
Wednesday, 12th December, 2012 5.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 2 Town Hall. View directions

Contact: Debbie Parker-Jones 

Items
No. Item

11.

Apologies

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

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Derek Taylor, Fiona Hawker (Feckenham Parish Council Representative) and Patrick Hawkins (Deputy Feckenham Parish Council Representative).

 

12.

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.

 

13.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 130 KB

To confirm as correct records the minutes of the meetings of the Standards Committee held on 16th July 2012 and 22nd October 2012.

 

(Minutes attached)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the meetings of the Standards Committee held on 16th July 2012 and 22nd October 2012 were submitted.

 

It was noted that, in relation to the meeting held on 22nd October 2012, Councillors Pat Witherspoon and Debbie Taylor had not been present at the meeting as they were the subject of reports which appeared on the agenda for the meeting.

 

RESOLVED that

 

the minutes of the meetings of the Standards Committee held on 16th July 2012 and 22nd October 2012 be confirmed as correct records and signed by the Chair.

 

14.

Monitoring Officer's Report pdf icon PDF 80 KB

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

 

(Report attached)

Minutes:

Members received a report from the Monitoring Officer (MO) outlining the current position in relation to matters of relevance to the Committee.

 

The MO advised that, in relation to the appointment of Ms Megan Harrison as an Independent Person (IP) under the new standards regime, the Committee had previously agreed that should any conflict ever arise regarding Ms Harrison's ability to deal with a complaint then it would be possible to utilise the services of one of Bromsgrove District Council's IPs, and vice versa.  The MO added that, with this in mind, there had already been an occasion whereby a Bromsgrove IP had assisted her in handing a Redditch complaint. 

 

It was queried why Ms Harrison was not present at the meeting that evening.  The MO responded that Ms Harrison was not a member of the Committee and that, for the most part, she should remain independent of this.  However, if at any point a complaint could not be managed locally by the MO and IP, the IP would become involved at any Committee hearing stage.  It was further noted that Ms Harrison was sent, for information, a copy of all Committee agendas, and that she had been advised that she was welcome to observe any meetings of the Committee should she so wish.   

 

The roles of the Feckenham Parish Council Representative and Independent Observer on the Committee, as detailed in the report, were noted. 

 

The MO reported that Member training was proceeding well and that she had spoken with the political Group Leaders regarding possible training for the 2013/14 Municipal Year.  Group Leaders had been asked to speak with their Members on any training wishes and it was hoped that the dates for the 2013/14 Member training programme would be agreed in January.

 

RESOLVED that

 

the report of the Monitoring Officer be noted.

 

15.

Parish Council Representative's Report

To consider any report from the Feckenham Parish Council Representative on any matters of relevance to the Committee.

 

(Oral report)

Minutes:

Officers reminded Members that, owing to work commitments, both the Parish Representative and her Deputy had regrettably had to tender their apologies for the meeting.  No issues of concern in relation to the Parish Council had been raised by the Parish Representatives for discussion at the meeting.

 

RESOLVED that

 

the position be noted.

 

16.

Localism Act 2011 - New Standards Regime - Dispensations and Complaints Processes pdf icon PDF 69 KB

To consider the granting of general dispensations under s33 of the Localism Act 2011, the processes for the investigation, reporting and recording of complaints made against Members and the process for local hearings.

 

(Report attached)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report on the granting of general dispensations under s33 of the Localism Act 2011 and under the Members' Code of Conduct, to enable Members to participate and vote on matters under consideration at meetings in certain circumstances.  The report also sought approval of guidelines for both the conduct of investigations into allegations of breach of the Members' Code of Conduct, and of a Hearing following such an investigation.  Members' views were also sought on the management and investigation of complaints and when information in this regard should be made public.  

 

(i)  Dispensations

 

Officers explained that there had been some debate nationally as to whether such dispensations were required.  Following discussions with County colleagues it was felt that there was some ambiguity in this regard and that it was therefore best to bring this to Members should any issues arise in this regard in the future. 

 

The Monitoring Officer (MO) explained that blanket dispensations no longer applied under the Localism Act and Members who may have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (DPI) in a matter under consideration, and who would therefore otherwise be precluded from participating and voting on the matter, were now required to make a written request for dispensation.  Full Council had delegated to the Standards Committee the consideration of whether to grant a dispensation, and rather than taking each individual request for dispensation to the Committee the MO was seeking Members' approval for general dispensations to be granted in certain circumstances.

 

The MO considered that general dispensations might be required where the business of a meeting was the setting of Council Tax, Council Rents or Members' Allowances.  In order to satisfy this requirement it was proposed that the MO would circulate to all members of the Council a request form seeking such dispensations.  Officers advised that they would likely draft a single form for all Members to sign prior to consideration of the budget.  

 

Subject to the Committee's approval of the grant of general dispensations in the circumstances outlined, and on receipt of a written request from a Member for dispensation, the dispensations would take effect until the first Standards Committee meeting following the Borough Council Elections in 2014. 

 

The Committee approved the granting of general dispensations in the above circumstances, save for Councillor Braley who requested that it be recorded that he had voted against this. 

 

The Committee's approval was also sought on the grant of a general dispensation where a Member with a DPI in a matter under consideration could address Council and committees in circumstances where a member of the public may elect to speak.  Such an exemption had applied under the previous standards regime but had not transferred under the Localism Act. All Members supported a general dispensation in these circumstances and the MO advised that in such cases the Member seeking dispensation would need to make an individual written request for dispensation, which would be kept on file for future reference. 

 

(ii)  Investigation guidelines

 

Members considered the draft  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 85 KB

To consider and review the Committee’s Work Programme.

 

(Report attached)

Minutes:

Members considered the future Work Programme of the Committee.

 

It was noted that as the meeting that evening was an additional meeting, it might not prove necessary for the 14th January 2013 meeting to proceed.  The Monitoring Officer stated that she was currently managing some local issues which might need to be reported to the Committee in January, and that Officers would therefore update Members as early as possible in the New Year as to whether or not the January meeting needed to proceed.

 

RESOLVED that

 

subject to noting the position in respect of the meeting of the Committee scheduled to take place on 14th January 2013, the Work Programme be approved.