Agenda and draft minutes

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Items
No. Item

10.

Apologies for Absence and Substitutions

The Committee is asked to note any apologies for absence and substitutions received from Members.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Amos (with Councillor Alexander substituting), Overton (with no substitute) and Clarissa Gosling (one of the Council’s appointed Independent Persons).

 

11.

Minutes of the Last Meeting pdf icon PDF 73 KB

To confirm and sign as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Standards Committee, held on Wednesday 3 July 2019.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the last meeting of the Committee held on 3 July 2019 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

 

12.

Declarations of Interest

Councillors are invited to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Personal Interest, and the nature of it, in relation to any item on the agenda.

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest made at this time.

 

13.

Questions on Notice pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 38

Subject to providing two working days’ notice, a Member of the Committee may ask the Chairman of the Committee a question on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties which affect the Tendring District and which falls within the terms of reference of the Committee.

Minutes:

There were none on this occasion.

 

14.

Report of Head of Democratic Services & Elections - A.1 - Councillor Development Statement pdf icon PDF 134 KB

To ensure that the Committee is aware of the development of the Statement, has the opportunity to input into the Statement and can be re-assured that within the overall ambit of good governance at the Council the need to support the development of Councillors in their roles is being given further recognition through the development of the Statement.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There was submitted a report of the Head of Democratic Services & Elections (report A.1) which sought to ensure that the Committee:-

 

(i)     was aware of the development of the Councillor Development Statement;

(ii)    had the opportunity to input into the Statement; and

(iii)  could be re-assured that within the overall ambit of good governance at the Council the need to support the development of Councillors in their roles was being given further recognition through the development of the Statement.

 

It was reported that the draft Councillor Development Statement 2019-2023 attached at Appendix A to the Officer’s report sought to provide the overarching position in respect of Councillor development at the Council whilst addressing needs analysis and different modes of provision in order to address those needs. 

 

The Committee was requested to consider the draft Statement and determine whether to endorse it for adoption as the framework for Councillor development over the term of the current Council.  The Statement would be kept under review and, should there be a need to substantially update, refine and amend it there would be a further report to the Committee. 

 

Members were aware that ensuring that Councillors were as best equipped as practically possible to fulfil the range of responsibilities that role entailed was a key component to delivering good governance.

 

The Committee raised areas of concern which included:-

 

Member Comment/Suggestions

Officer Response

 

[Councillor J Henderson]

 

Training should be offered for newly appointed Members of the Cabinet in order to help them adjust to their new responsibilities and duties.

 

[HoDS&E]

 

This was a good suggestion that would be taken on board moving forward.

[Councillor Steady]

 

Overview and Scrutiny Members should be allowed to attend Management Team meetings and the Senior Managers’ Forum in order to increase their understanding of the operational decision making process and how information is shared across the Authority.

 

[HoDS&E]

 

Undertook to take up this suggestion with the Chief Executive, as Head of Paid Service as the request related to operational management of the Authority, rather than the item under consideration

 

[HoGLS&MO]

 

Reminded Members that the items discussed at Group Leader meetings with the Chief Executive and at All Member Briefings are for information purposes and share similar topics to those discussed with senior officers, at Management Team/Senior Managers’ Forum, for example the draft emerging corporate plan

 

[Councillor Harris]

 

Newly elected Councillors need prompt training on the “calling in” process for Planning Applications to go to the Planning Committee especially in teasing out the valid planning reasons for doing so.

[HoDS&E]

 

This was a good suggestion that would be taken on board moving forward.

 

[HoGLS&MO]

 

Undertook to re-circulate to Members the Members’ Referral Scheme & Guidance Note for Planning Applications (January 2019) and also to arrange a training session on this at a future All Members’ Briefing.

 

[Councillor Land]

 

Guidance should be produced for newly elected Councillors on how best to represent their communities.

 

[HoDS&E]

 

This was a good suggestion that would be taken on board moving  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.

15.

Report of the Monitoring Officer - A.2 - "The Local Government Ethical Standards Report dated January 2019 following a review by the Committee on Standards in Public Life" pdf icon PDF 126 KB

Further to Minute 7 of the meeting of the Committee held on 3 July 2019, Members will consider a breakdown of:-

 

(1)  which of the CSPL’s recommendations required changes in legislation;

 

(2)  which of the CSPL’s ‘good practice’ recommendations could be adopted and implemented straight away by local authorities; and

 

(3)  which of the ‘good practice’ recommendations referred to in (2) above this Council has already implemented.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There was a report submitted by the Monitoring Officer (report A.2) which enabled the Committee to consider a breakdown of:-

 

(1)    which of the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s (CSPL) recommendations required changes in legislation;

 

(2)    which of the CSPL’s ‘good practice’ recommendations could be adopted and implemented straight away by local authorities; and

 

(3)    which of the ‘good practice’ recommendations referred to in (2) above this Council had already implemented.

 

The Committee recalled that, at its meeting held on 3 July 2019 (Minute 7 referred), it had received an update from the Monitoring Officer on the progress being made on the implementation of the CSPL’s recommendations.

 

 

Following a discussion of the issues arising in the update the Monitoring Officer had undertaken to submit to this meeting of the Committee a breakdown of:-

 

(1)    which of the CSPL’s recommendations required changes in legislation;

 

(2)    which of the CSPL’s ‘good practice’ recommendations could be adopted and implemented straight away by local authorities; and

 

(3)   which of the ‘good practice’ recommendations referred to in (2) above this Council  has already implemented.

 

Appendix A to the Officer’s report submitted to this meeting provided an update on the progress made (if any) in implementing the recommendations contained in the CSPL’s report.

 

Appendix B to the report provided a breakdown of this Council’s current practice in relation to the list of best practice recommendations to local authorities contained in the CSPL’s report.

 

In relation to the Committee’s previous resolution also made on 3 July 2019 that the Head of Finance, Revenues and Benefits Services be requested to produce for the Committee’s consideration a business case for providing a general professional indemnity cover for Members, Officers and, in particular, the Independent Persons, the Monitoring Officer reported that this matter was on-going and would be reported back to Committee when progressed.

 

Having considered and discussed the contents of the two Appendices:-

 

It was moved by Councillor Harris, seconded by Councillor J Henderson and:-

 

RESOLVED that –

 

(a)    in relation to Appendices A and B, the Committee notes the updates and other information provided; and

 

(b)    the Monitoring Officer investigates the feasibility of introducing DBS checks as mandatory for all elected Members (having had regard to the statutory criteria) and reports the outcome of such investigation to a future meeting of the Committee.

 

16.

Review of the Council's Complaints Procedure pdf icon PDF 362 KB

The Committee will review the Council’s Complaints Procedure in order to determine whether it is still ‘fit for purpose’.

Minutes:

The Committee reviewed the Council’s Complaints Procedure in order to determine whether it was still ‘fit for purpose’.

 

The Monitoring Officer highlighted two minor textual amendments which would need to be made to the Complaints Procedure namely:-

 

(1)       in paragraph 11.1 to amend the number of Independent Persons from two to four;

(2)       in paragraph 13.2 to include the address for the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

 

Having considered the contents of the Complaints Procedure:-

 

It was moved by Councillor Harris, seconded by Councillor Steady and:-

 

RESOLVED, that no changes be made to the Council’s Complaints Scheme at present with the exception of the two minor textual amendments to paragraphs 11.1 and 13.2 highlighted at the meeting by the Monitoring Officer.

 

17.

Case Review and Guidance Update

The Monitoring Officer will update the Committee on decisions and actions taken nationally in relation to standards cases and/or guidance.

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer drew the Committee’s attention to national cases relating to:

 

(1)       a Councillor who had called for the Prime Minister to be “hanged for treason” but was found not to have breached the Code of Conduct;

(2)       Flintshire Council who had expanded their Code of Conduct with a ‘Standard’ following abusive language and gestures being made by Councillors in meetings; and

(3)       a Council Leader who had resigned from office and who had referred himself to the Ombudsman following concerns raised by the Welsh Audit Office.

 

The Senior Solicitor & Deputy Monitoring Officer then described for Members’ benefit two cases under the previous national standards regime where an elected Member had been sanctioned by being disqualified from office. These cases highlighted the sorts of issues that could once more arise should disqualification from office be restored as a permitted sanction following a Code of Conduct investigation and hearing. 

 

The Monitoring Officer then made the Committee aware of:-

 

(a)       a recent publication by the Local Government Association of a document entitled “Councillors’ Guide to Handling Intimidation”; and

(b)       an open letter to public officeholders circulated by the Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life on the importance of upholding high standards of behaviour in public debate. This followed recent fractious and high tempered debates on Brexit in the House of Commons in Parliament.

 

The Committee noted the foregoing.

 

 

18.

Quarterly Update on Complaints

The Monitoring Officer will give an update on existing cases together with general details of new cases, if any.

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer circulated to the Committee the quarterly schedule, which gave an update on the one existing case from the last update, without providing any names, and went through it with the Committee explaining that,following discussion of the case with one of the Independent Persons, the matter was referred to two of the Council’s trained mediators for resolution.  Following the mediators’ involvement, the matter had been concluded satisfactorily with both parties agreeing a way for all future contact to be conducted.  There had been no new cases arising since the last update to Members and there had been no requests for dispensations from Members.

 

The Monitoring Officer also informed the Committee that a complaint had been received from a member of the public in relation to a recent decision by the Planning Committee which had made reference to the Code of Conduct. However, this was being treated as a general complaint at present due to the breadth of matters contained within it.

 

Members were also made aware that the Monitoring Officer would shortly be delivering a refresher session on the Code of Conduct to Harwich Town Councillors.

 

The Committee noted the foregoing.