Agenda and minutes

Standards (This Committee has now been combined with Audit and Governance and no longer meets)
Thursday, 24th October, 2013 7.00 pm

Venue: Town Hall

Contact: Debbie Parker-Jones 

Items
No. Item

8.

Apologies and Named Substitutes

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

 

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received on behalf of Councillors Phil Mould and Derek Taylor.

 

Councillor Roger Hill was confirmed as a substitute for Councillor Taylor.

 

An apology for absence was also received on behalf of Mr Michael Collins, Independent Observer.

 

9.

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.

 

10.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 151 KB

To confirm as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Standards Committee held on 25th July 2013.

 

(Minutes attached)

 

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting of the Standards Committee held on 25th July 2013 were submitted.

 

A Member queried whether the user-friendly explanatory note detailing the complaint Arrangements referred to in the final paragraph of Minute No. 6 (Localism Ac t 2011 – Updated Arrangements for Handling Standards Complaints against Members) had yet been drafted.  Officers advised that full Council had on 9th September 2013 agreed the Standards Committee’s recommendation on the proposed changes to the Arrangements, and that the explanatory note would therefore be drafted and published on the Council’s website as soon as practicably possible.

 

RESOLVED that

 

the minutes of the meeting of the Standards Committee held on 25th July 2013 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

 

11.

Monitoring Officer's Report pdf icon PDF 239 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 Committee received the findings of the external Investigating Officer (IO), Mr Kevin Douglas, into the complaint which had been made by Borough Councillor Chance against Borough Councillors Brunner and Hopkins. 

 

Mr Douglas concluded that whilst licence had been taken in the way Councillor Chance’s (as Portfolio Holder) responses in the matter at question were reported, that was part of the political interaction in which councillors were engaged in order to gain political advantage.  Mr Douglas concluded that in the absence of guidance or rules to Members about press releases and media contact generally, leaving the area unregulated, there was no breach of the Code of Conduct.  He had however recommended that the Council should give consideration to agreeing a protocol for contact with the press and media by Members, in particular by senior Members .of the Council.  Officers had already started researching media protocols and the MO asked the Committee to agree this course of action and for this task to be included on the Committee’s Work Programme.

 

Secondly, regarding the decision on the complaint, the MO had considered the IO’s Report in consultation with the Independent Person (IP), as required by the Council’s Arrangements for Managing Standards Complaints.  The MO and the IP had agreed with the Report’s findings and reasoning for this.  The MO had written to the complaint parties to advise them of this and to confirm that she was satisfied that no further action was required and that the complaint was concluded.  In this regard, the IP had raised the issue of the length of time it had taken from when the complaint was made until it was concluded, some 9 months later.  The information detailed in the MO’s report in relation to the time delays was noted and the MO tabled for Members’ information a full chronology of the complaint process. 

 

In relation to the time delay in resolving the complaint, the MO had suggested in her report to the Committee that where a complaint had been made by a Member against another Member, the Committee consider whether the Arrangements for managing complaints should be amended so that in the first instance an inter-Member complaint should be referred to the Group Leaders to resolve before any referral to the MO.  This would strengthen the role of Group Leaders in inter-Member complaints, enable them to be more proactive in dealing with such complaints in the first instance and encourage their Member/s engagement in the process.  It was suggested that this approach could be taken where both the subject Member and complainant were members of a political group and neither was a Group Leader.  Any complaints involving non-grouped Members, Group Leaders or where the complaint had been made by a member of the public would continue to be dealt with by the MO in the normal manner.                   

 

The MO expressed a degree of caution  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

Parish Council Report

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

 

(Oral report)

Minutes:

Ms Hawker, Feckenham Parish Council Representative, advised that Mr Wreide Poole had resigned as a parish councillor and was therefore no longer the Deputy Parish Council Representative on the Standards Committee. 

 

Ms Hawker added that the Parish Council would be seeking a replacement deputy representative and would advise the Committee on any developments in this regard in due course.

 

RESOLVED that

 

the position be noted.

 

13.

Localism Act 2011 - Standards Regime - Budget Setting Dispensation pdf icon PDF 137 KB

To consider the granting of a general dispensation under s33 of the Localism Act 2011 to enable Members to participate and vote in the Budget setting process.

 

(Report attached)

 

Minutes:

Members received a report which sought the granting of a general dispensation under s33 of the Localism Act 2011 to enable Members with a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (DPI) to participate and vote in the Council’s budget setting process. 

 

The Monitoring Officer advised that a general dispensation was being sought to ensure that Members were protected should any question arise as to whether or not they could participate and vote in the budget setting process.

 

The request followed a similar report to Members in December 2012 at which point the Committee granted general dispensations in relation to the setting of the Council Tax, Council Rents, Members’ Allowances and Members’ speaking rights, where Members may otherwise have a DPI which would preclude them from participating and voting in these matters.  The general dispensations granted were subject to Members lodging a formal written request for dispensation as and when they were considering any relevant business at meetings.  

 

The caveat detailed in the report in relation to the budget setting dispensation under section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, that any Member who was 2 months (or more) in arrears with their Council Tax payments could not participate in any Council meeting concerning the budget, was noted.  In the event that any Members were affected by the provisions of section 106, the statutory rule that they be barred from taking part in the budget decisions would prevail and any general dispensation granted by the Standards Committee would not apply.

 

The legislative requirement for Members to make a request in writing for dispensation at the time of considering any budget setting business at meetings remained.

 

RESOLVED that

 

1)            subject to the caveat detailed in paragraph 3.11 of the report (and as noted in the preamble above) in relation to Members who are 2 months or more in arrears with their Council Tax payments, a dispensation under Section 33 (2) of the Localism Act 2011 to allow all Members to participate in and vote at Council and committee meetings when considering setting the budget be granted;

 

2)            the dispensation referred to at 1) above take effect on receipt of a written request from Members for a dispensation and where Members may have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in the matter under consideration, which would otherwise preclude such participation and voting; and

 

3)            the dispensation referred to at 1) above be valid until the first Standards Committee meeting after the Borough Council elections in 2014.

 

14.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 141 KB

To consider and review the Committee’s Work Programme.

 

(Report attached)

Minutes:

Members considered the future Work Programme of the Committee.

 

As detailed under Minute No. 11 (Monitoring Officer’s Report), the Monitoring Officer would be bringing back to the January meeting details of any discussions with the Group Leaders on the referral of inter-Member complaints to the Group Leaders in the first instance.   

 

It was anticipated that a further dispensations report for Members on certain outside bodies would also be referred to the January meeting as some Members might need to apply for such dispensations.  A Member queried whether his being on the Tardebigge Trust would necessitate a dispensation, which the Monitoring Officer advised he should discuss with the Deputy Monitoring Officer.

 

RESOLVED that

 

subject to the comments detailed in the preamble above, the Work Programme be noted.