The Principal Solicitor presented a report on the Model Code of Conduct and in doing so drew Members’ attention to the Local Government’s Association (LGA) New Model Code of Conduct document included as an appendix to the main report. The differences between the New Model Code of Conduct and the existing Code of Conduct were highlighted to Members who were then asked to provide comment on these differences in order to provide feedback to the pan-Worcestershire Monitoring Officer Group.
It was highlighted that the style and language of the new Model Code of Conduct was very different to the existing Code and that a great deal of narrative had been included in the New Code.
The Principal Solicitor advised Members that during discussions with Monitoring Officers throughout the County there had been different opinions on whether to adopt the New Model Code. However, it was clarified that it would be possible to tweak the New Model Code at a local level if required. Members were reminded that there had been an appetite in the past for a pan-Worcestershire code that covered all three tiers of Local Government. This had been achieved previously through the collaboration of Monitoring Officers across the County and Members expressed that they hoped that this collaboration would continue in the future.
During the consideration of the report, Members provided the following feedback:
· It seemed sensible to adopt a pan-Worcestershire Code that covered all of the Local Authorities. This would make it simpler for any Members who were Members on more than one Authority across the County.
· That the LGA’s New Model Code of Conduct seemed overcomplicated and that the current Code was more streamlined. Members were assured that the narrative contained within the New Code could be removed and a guidance document provided separately.
· There was little clarification included in the New Model Code in respect of social media and that this might be an area where further clarification would be needed if the LGA New Code were to be adopted.
· That a limit of £15 should remain in place regarding Gifts and Hospitality received rather than the suggested £50 limit included in the LGA’s New Code.
· In respect of training, it was felt that Member Code of Conduct training should be undertaken on an annual basis and that it should be mandatory. Although it was widely acknowledged by the Committee that training should be undertaken some Members felt that even if training were to be made mandatory in the future it would be difficult to enforce a breach of the Code due to the lack of sanctions contained within the Code. It was suggested that a more appropriate resolution might be to ‘strongly recommend’ at Group Leader level that Member training be undertaken rather than it being mandated.
After detailed discussion, it was confirmed by the Principal Solicitor that the feedback that Members had provided would be reported back through the appropriate channels for consideration.
Members were advised that it would be useful to start with the LGA’s version as a template and ensure tweaks were made at a local level. It was agreed that this would be the most appropriate way forward as it ensured consistency across all of the Authorities in the County.
There was some confusion regarding the recommendations however after clarification it was confirmed that a slightly amended recommendation be proposed which combined all three recommendations contained within the report.
using the LGA’s New Model Code of conduct as a template, the Monitoring Officer (MO) liaise with other MOs across Worcestershire to consider the feedback from all councils to bring forward a new Worcestershire wide Code for consideration.