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Contact: Ian Ford 01255 686584
Change in Membership of the Committee
The Committee Services Manager (Ian Ford) formally reported that, in accordance with the wishes of the Leader of the Conservative Group and the authority delegated to the Chief Executive, Councillor V E Guglielmi had been appointed to serve on the Standards Committee in place of Councillor Amos.
Apologies for Absence and Substitutions
The Committee is asked to note any apologies for absence and substitutions received from Members.
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Sue Gallone, Clarissa Gosling and David Irvine, three of the Council’s appointed Independent Persons.
To confirm and sign as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Standards Committee, held on 27 October 2021.
It was moved by Councillor Fowler, seconded by Councillor Wiggins and:-
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 27 October 2021 be approved as a correct record and be signed by the Chairman.
Further to Minute 10 (27.10.21), Councillor Turner re-iterated that he had still not been contacted in respect of being this Committee’s representative on the Councillor Development Portfolio Holder Working Party.
The Monitoring Officer confirmed that Councillor Turner had been appointed to that Working Party and that it was anticipated that the Working Party would hold its first meeting later on in the month.
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.
There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this time.
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.
No Questions on Notice had been submitted by Members pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 38 on this occasion.
To review the Council’s Social Media Guidance for Members and give specific advice to be issued for Elected Members.
The Standards Committee considered the Council’s Social Media Guidance for Members, which had been last updated in June 2017.
The Council recognised the benefits of communication with residents that Social Media could bring and recognised that it had become part of everyday life for some, if not all, Councillors. It also reached a demographic of society that might not always be reached by more traditional means, plus the speed of communication that traditional correspondence did not lend itself to.
Therefore, the Standards Committee was requested to review the Council’s Social Media Guidance for Members in order to ensure that the guidance was clear in order to assist Elected Members in understanding the potential pitfalls of using Social Media.
In addition to the updated guidance, it was reported that a virtual training session for Elected Members had been held on 27 January 2022. The course had covered the following content:-
• Identify the strengths and weaknesses of major social media channels
• Work within the major dos and don’ts of social media
• Find and target an audience
• Build a ‘brand’ across platforms
• Manage trolls and keyboard warriors
• Apply the Nolan Principles/Code of Conduct to their use of Social Media
• Identify TDC’s existing policies for social media use (and development of future policies)
• Identify the Point for Reporting misuse
Draft updated guidance, which set out some simple rules for members to adhere to, was attached as Appendix A to item A.1 of the Report of the Monitoring Officer and included a reminder that inappropriate use of Social Media could amount to a breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
Having duly considered and discussed this matter:-
It was moved by Councillor Land, seconded by Councillor Turner and:-
RESOLVED that the Standards Committee:
(a) welcomes the intention of the Monitoring Officer to arrange for the circulation to all Members of the Council of guidance in relation to security settings on social media accounts;
(b) approves and formally adopts the Social Media Guidance for Members and that it be circulated to all Members of the Council and to Town & Parish Councils within the District; and
(c) endorses social media use by Councillors being included as part of the regular training programme for members and especially that it be included as part of the Members’ Induction Training programme following the District Council Elections in May 2023.
To update the Standards Committee, as part of its agreed work programme, on the current position of mandatory training for Members (and named substitute members) of the Council’s Audit, Licensing & Registration, Planning and Standards Committees.
The Standards Committee, as part of its agreed work programme, was updated on the current position of mandatory training for Members (and named substitute members) of the Council’s Audit, Licensing & Registration, Planning and Standards Committees.
Members were reminded that the Standards Committee, as part of its annual work programme since 2014, had received a report providing details of the mandatory training provided to members of the Planning and Licensing and Registration Committees.
It was reported that Members of the Planning Committee had attended a session on Planning Appeals on Tuesday 21 April 2021.
It was further reported that members of the Licensing and Registration Committee had been invited to attend their mandatory training session on 28 March 2022.
Mandatory Training in the context of Councillor Development more widely
Members were informed that the mandatory training referenced in this report also formed part of the overall training provision for all Councillors within the framework established by the Council’s “Councillor Development Statement” (as reported to this Committee on 2 October 2019 (Minute 14 referred)). For 2021/22, and future years, it had been recognised that the resources required for training for Councillors (beyond the mandatory training on which this report focussed), would require an additional budget to be allocated. This budget had been expanded from £1,870 to £6,870 as a consequence.
The Committee was advised that, more recently, the Portfolio Holder for Corporate Finance and Governance had established a Working Party to provide a cross-party mechanism for Members’ regular input going forward into development opportunities for Councillors. The membership provided for input from all the main Committees of the Council and all the political groups on the Council in a manner that was broadly proportionate to the overall position on the Council as a whole. The first meeting of the Working Party was envisaged to take place later on in February 2022.
The Committee was informed that access to the Local Government Association’s online training portal had been arranged for all Councillors and this provided training modules on:-
Community Engagement and Leadership
Commissioning Council services
Equality, Diversity and Unconscious Bias
The Effective ward Councillor
Facilitation and Conflict resolution
Handling Complaints for service improvement
Holding Council meetings online
Licensing and regulation
Local Government Finance
Police and crime panels
Scrutiny for councillors
Stress management and personal resilience
Supporting mentally healthier communities
Supporting your constituents with complex issues
The Committee was further advised that in-house training sessions had also been provided to Councillors during 2021 on Fraud, developing key lines of enquiry for scrutiny work, time management and speed-reading. In addition, a total of 30 places had been booked on external training sessions in 2021, including on Scrutiny essentials, implementing the new taxi and private hire vehicles standards, personal safety for Councillors and (for those elected in 2021) information for newly elected Councillors.
The completed and returned evaluation sheets, circulated following the training sessions provided, were used to assist the Council to refine and improve its training offer.
To present the Committee with an overview on the register of, and declarations of, interests made by Members from 1 April 2021 until 21 January 2022.
Members recalled that it had been agreed at the meeting of the Standards Committee held on 29 June 2016 that, as part of its annual work programme, the Committee would receive an annual report on declarations of interest and associated matters. The report now before the Committee covered the period from 1 April 2021 to 21 January 2022 and provided statistics on:-
· the number of declarations of interest made at meetings;
· the number of offers of gifts and hospitality that have been registered by Members during this period; and
· updates to the Members’ Register of Interests.
The data had been collated from the Committee IT system Modern.gov which the Council had started using as of August 2016 and from Members’ submissions.
Register of Members’ Disclosable Pecuniary Interests
The Committee was aware that the Council was required to publish the ‘Register of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests’ on its website in accordance with the Localism Act 2011 and The Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012, which prescribed the categories of interests.
It was confirmed that the Council’s website included a Register of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests for all District Councillors and this was updated, when an individual Member provided details of an amendment directly to the Monitoring Officer. Any entry, which was relevant to a business item on an agenda, must be declared by the individual Member and they must subsequently remove themselves from the meeting, unless a prior dispensation had been granted by the Monitoring Officer.
Two individual dispensations had been requested and granted during the relevant period.
Declarations of interest at meetings
Members were required to declare Personal and Disclosable Pecuniary Interests at meetings and those recorded on the committee system, as declared by District Councillors for the period 1 April 2021 to 21 January 2022 were set out in Appendix A to the Monitoring Officer’s report. Minutes of the meetings also record the declarations.
Use of Blanket dispensations
The Committee was reminded that the Members’ Code of Conduct at paragraph 7.3, as agreed by full Council in January 2018, contained blanket dispensations for any business of the Authority where that business related to the Council’s functions in respect of:
i. housing, where the Member is a tenant of the Authority provided that those functions do not relate particularly to their tenancy or lease;
ii. school meals or school transport and travelling expenses, where the Member is a parent or guardian of a child in full time education, or are a parent governor of a school, unless it relates particularly to the school which the child attends;
iii. statutory sick pay under Part XI of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, where the Member is in receipt of, or are entitled to the receipt of, such pay;
iv. an allowance, payment or indemnity given to Members;
v. any ceremonial honour given to Members; and
vi. setting Council Tax or a Precept under the Local Government Finance Act 1992
Since their introduction, some of those blanket dispensations had been ... view the full minutes text for item 22.
The Monitoring Officer will give an update on existing cases together with general details of new cases, if any.
The Monitoring Officer circulated to the Committee the quarterly schedule, which gave an update on existing cases together with general details of new cases, without providing any names, and went through them with the Committee. There had been no requests for dispensations from Members.
The Monitoring Officer informed the Committee that the Executive Projects Manager (Governance) and her had provided training, or would be providing training, to several parish/town councils as a result of the above and other matters.
The Committee noted the foregoing.
Monitoring Officer's Update - Review of the Model Code of Conduct
The Monitoring Officer will give an oral update on the current position in relation to the review of the Model Code of Conduct.
The Monitoring Officer gave an oral update on the current position in relation to the Local Government Association’s (LGA) review of the Model Code of Conduct.
The Monitoring Officer informed the Committee that the LGA had revised its model Code of Conduct on two occasions as a result of consultative feedback and that it had now indicated that it was not intending to make any more revisions. The LGA had produced Guidance on the Model Code of Conduct and, in conjunction with Lawyers in Local Government (LLG), was finalising a “LGA Model Councillor Code of Conduct Training Pack”.
The Monitoring Officer advised Members that it was the view of the Essex Monitoring Officers’ Group that, as a result of the two revision processes, the Model Code of Conduct was now much improved though still not perfect.
The Monitoring Officer reported that Essex County Council was proposing to adopt the LGA’s Model Code of Conduct.
As a result, the Monitoring Officer considered that there was now an obligation on this Council (TDC) to review TDC’s own Code of Conduct to see if it wished to adopt it in total or incorporate parts of it in to TDC’s Code of Conduct. The Monitoring Officer suggested that the review (which would involve input from all TDC Members and parish/town councils in the District) should take place over the course of 2022/23 and that any changes should take effect with the new Council that would be elected in the May 2023 District Council Elections.
The Monitoring Officer undertook to bring a report on the above to the next meeting of the Committee.
Start Time for the Next Meeting of the Committee
Members were made aware that, due to a clash with a nationally organised online training event, the Council’s legal services officers would not be able to attend the scheduled start time of 10.00 a.m. for the next meeting of the Committee due to be held on Wednesday 6 April 2022.
In order to enable the Officers to attend that meeting, the Chairman (Councillor Land) informed the Committee that he was changing the start time to 2.00 p.m.