Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Committee Room - Town Hall, Station Road, Clacton-on-Sea, CO15 1SE. View directions

Contact: Ian Ford Email:  iford@tendringdc.gov.uk or Telephone:  01255 686584

Items
No. Item

26.

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 Councillor V E Guglielmi (with Councillor Alexander substituting), Councillor J Henderson (with no substitute) and Clarissa Gosling (one of the Council’s four Independent Persons).

27.

Minutes of the Last Meeting pdf icon PDF 185 KB

To confirm and sign as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Standards Committee, held on Wednesday 2 February 2022.

Minutes:

It was moved by Councillor Turner, seconded by Councillor Wiggins and:-

 

RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 2 February 2022 be approved as a correct record and be signed by the Chairman, subject to the deletion from the text of Minute 20 of the following paragraph:-

 

“This Committee are asked to re-visit Appendix A at its meeting to be held on 6 April 2022, and to reflect upon the above training when doing so.”

 

28.

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 by Members at this time.

29.

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:

No Questions on Notice had been submitted by Members pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 38 on this occasion.

30.

Report of the Monitoring Officer - A.1 - Adoption of the Local Government Association's Model Members' Code of Conduct pdf icon PDF 223 KB

To review part of the elected Members’ Model Code of Conduct (the Model Code), as authored by the Local Government Association (LGA), in comparison to Tendring District Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct (the Code), for eventual determination as to whether to recommend the Model Code to Full Council for adoption.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Further to Minute 24 (2.2.22), the Committee reviewed part of the elected Members’ Model Code of Conduct, as authored by the Local Government Association (LGA), in comparison to Tendring District Council’s (TDC) Members’ Code of Conduct (the Code), for eventual determination as to whether to recommend the Model Code to Full Council for adoption.

 

Members recalled that, in 2018, following a recommendation made by the Standards Committee, the Full Council had adopted the Members’ Code of Conduct (the Code) as detailed within Part 6 of the Council’s Constitution and as attached as Appendix A to the Monitoring Officer’s report.  The Code set out the standards, values and rules of conduct that elected Members were expected to abide by.

 

It was reported that, in May 2021, a final version of the Members’ Model Code of Conduct (the Model Code) had been authored and released by the LGA (after two amended versions had previously being issued).  The aim of the Model Code was to provide consistency for Members across Parish, Town, District and County Councils, especially for those Members representing two or more electorates (also known as ‘dual hatters’ or ‘triple hatters’).

 

As part of its work programme, the Standards Committee was requested to review TDC’s Code in comparison with the Model Code, together with associated guidance, and recommend to Full Council as to whether the Model Code should be adopted or whether to review and keep the TDC Code.  Should the Committee wish to recommend that the Model Code be adopted, it had previously been proposed that implementation would not take effect until the new municipal period following the 2023 District Council elections.

 

Members were informed that the LGA planned to undertake an annual review of the Model Code to ensure it continued to be fit for-purpose, incorporating advances in technology, social media and changes in legislation. Therefore this Authority would be required to review its Code, if adopted, to ensure consistency.

 

In addition to the publication of the Model Code, the LGA, in consultation with Monitoring Officers and associated Officers nationally, was compiling a training package for Members and Officers which could be utilised following elections, or for refresher training.  The training package, which was currently in draft form, could be either completed in a single session or broken down into multiple sessions focussing on specific areas, whichever catered to Members’ needs at that time, allowing for questions throughout. The training package could be conducted in person or online and there was supporting material available for Members’ reference.

 

The training was broken down into ’bite size’ sections following the Model Code with relevant scenarios and case studies.  Due to the training package still being in draft form at this stage, a further report would be presented for discussion to the Committee at its next meeting.

 

The Model Code was attached as Appendix B to the Monitoring Officer’s report.

 

The Committee was reminded that theTDC Code covered three main areas as follows:-

 

Part 1 set out some general obligations regarding the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.

31.

Case Review Presentation and Guidance Update on decisions and actions taken nationally pdf icon PDF 221 KB

To give the Committee a presentation and guidance update on decisions and actions taken nationally.

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer presented a guidance update on conduct complaint decisions and actions taken nationally.

 

The Monitoring Officer’s external case review covered the following:-

 

Case 1 – Maldon District Councillor

 

·      6 complaints of bullying by the Councillor and his deliberately attempting to undermine the process had been upheld by the standards committee;

·      that Councillor had then deliberately disrupted a subsequent full Council meeting which had necessitated the Police to be called and the meeting abandoned. The Councillor had shown no remorse for his actions despite the impact of his behaviour on a number of staff and Councillors; and

·      that Member had subsequently been convicted earlier this year of breaching a non-molestation order in 2019. He had been given an eight month prison sentence (suspended) which had automatically disqualified him from the office of Councillor (Section 80 Local Government Act 1972). Therefore, he had lost his office due to an incident in his private life. 

 

Case 2 – Financial Costs of Investigating Handforth Parish Council (Jackie Weaver)

 

·      main problem was differing interpretations of Section 85 Local Government Act 1972 (disqualification of Councillor due to non-attendance at meetings);

·      arguments at online parish council meeting had gone ‘viral’ and had attracted huge media attention which had exacerbated existing problem and had increased the number of conduct complaints;

·      resulting report to Cheshire East Council’s Audit & Governance Committee had had external costs of £85,000 due to threats of a Judicial Review and need for independent advice;

·      other aggravating factors had included:-

 

          i.    three separate investigation reports involved six different councillors;

         ii.   reports had appendices in excess of 1,000 pages;

        iii.   breaches of Code had been found resulting in multiple recommendations;

        iv.   prolonged and repeated delay in the process;

         v.    Councillors had resigned;

        vi.   Monitoring Officer’s offer of help had merely generated more complaints;

       vii.   allegations of financial impropriety had necessitated involvement of the Police and auditors;

      viii.   external organisations employed to carry out the investigations had had to implement protocols for the protection of their staff;

        ix.   complaints continued to be submitted;

         x.    Information Commissioner’s Office was now also involved.

 

Case 3 – Borough Council forced to revise its Complaints Procedure

 

·      a Borough Council had had the practice of referring all complaints (unless obviously vexatious, frivolous or politically motivated) to a Member Assessment Panel even if the Monitoring Officer was intending to take no further action;

·      this had resulted in delays in the process and a detrimental impact on that Council’s limited resources;

·      that Council had now implemented revised arrangements; and

·      lesson to be learnt was the need to ensure that robust frameworks were in place and that Councillors should be regularly informed on how the Monitoring Officer delegated powers were being exercised.

 

Case 4 – Breach of Code of Conduct by a Member of a Council in Wales

 

·      Councillor in question had applied for planning permission to open a café but then proceeded to operate that café before the planning application had been determined;

·      Councillor had relied on defence of “limited and confused knowledge  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.

32.

Draft Committee Work Plan for 2022/2023 pdf icon PDF 164 KB

The Committee is invited to give consideration to its draft Work Plan for the 2022/2023 Municipal Year.

Minutes:

The Committee considered the following draft Work Plan for 2022/2023:-

 

27th July 2022

 

·      Review of Tendring District Council’s Code of Conduct and Local Government Association Model Code of Conduct

 

·      Review of the Independent Person Protocol and recruitment preparations for 2023

 

·      Regular Complaints update by Monitoring Officer

 

26th October 2022

 

·      Review of the Monitoring Officer Protocol

 

·      Case review and guidance update for the Committee on decisions and actions taken nationally

 

·      Regular Complaints update by Monitoring Officer

 

1st February 2023

 

·      Update on Mandatory Training

 

·      Annual Report on declarations of interest (meetings, gifts and hospitality)

 

·      Regular Complaints update by Monitoring Officer

 

15th March 2023

 

·      Work Programme 2023/24

 

·      New Member Induction Programme for 2023/24

 

·      Regular Complaints update by Monitoring Officer

 

Members were aware that the above meeting dates were provisional pending ratification at the Annual Meeting of the Council on 26 April 2022 and that, in addition, individual matters might be referred to those meetings by the Monitoring Officer, in accordance with the Committee’s Terms of Reference as necessary, for example, an appeal against a dispensation decision or a Code of Conduct hearing.

 

In response to a request made by Councillor Alexander, the Monitoring Officer (Lisa Hastings) undertook to refer the issue of whether a member of the Planning Committee should be enabled to appoint their substitute from a different political group to their own to the Review of the Constitution Portfolio Holder Working Party for its consideration.

 

Having duly considered and discussed the contents of the draft work plan:-

 

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

 

RESOLVED that the Work Plan for the Standards Committee for 2022/2023 be approved and adopted.

33.

Quarterly Complaints Update and other General Matters pdf icon PDF 129 KB

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

Minutes:

The Committee had before it the Monitoring Officer’s quarterly schedule, which updated it on existing and new conduct complaint cases, along with other matters.

 

Conduct Complaints Update

 

TENDRING DISTRICT COUNCIL MONITORING OFFICER UPDATE APRIL 2022

 

Council

Complainant

Current status

Final outcome

Comments

 

Existing Cases from last update:

TOWN

PUBLIC

2 x TOWN COUNCILLORS

ONGOING

Informal resolution

Matter related to claims of bullying.  Informal resolution and training with an external company conducted.  All Members within Town Council engaged to positive working arrangements going forward.

 

DISTRICT

PUBLIC

CLOSED

No further action

Matter relates to conduct in proceedings external to the Council.  Inconsistent information provided by Complainant related to a separate dispute.

 

PARISH

PUBLIC

CLOSED

No further action

Complaint mainly related to the dissatisfaction of the Council’s lack of action in a particular matter.

 

New Cases since last update:

Council

Complainant

Current status

Final outcome

Comments

PARISH

PUBLIC

ONGOING

Response from Councillor identified in complaint only recently received.

 

Matter relates to conduct in a public meeting.  Second complaint of this nature Independent Person will be consulted prior to any MO decision.

 

TOWN

PUBLIC

ONGOING

Response from Councillor identified in complaint only recently received.

 

Matter relates to various areas which need to be identified more clearly. Independent Person will be consulted prior to any MO decision.

General Notes – 2021/22 Summary: 

 

11 new cases had been received in 2021/22, however, 5 complaint forms had been sent relating to correspondence received for District/Parish/Town Councillors conduct but had not been returned.

 

1 Town Council matter was still on-going from March 2021 but it includes all members and stakeholders as part of the process.

 

1 District Councillor complaint from 2020/21 had been considered by the Standards Committee at a Hearing and a breach of the Code of Conduct had been found.

 

1 District Councillor complaint had resulted in No Further Action.

 

2 Parish Councillor complaints had resulted in No Further Action.

 

1 Parish Councillor complaint had resulted in Informal Resolution including training.

 

2 cases were pending.

 

Training had been conducted at 1 Parish Council, with a recent request for training received from another Parish Council.  A separate training session had been conducted for Clerks.

 

Requests for Dispensations: 

 

6 separate requests had been received of which 5 had related to the same matter being discussed recently at several meetings.  The TDC Website needed to be updated with that information.

 

 

The Committee noted the foregoing.