Agenda item

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.



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 behaviour of elected and co-opted Members (“Rules of Conduct”);


Part 2 explained how Members should behave if they had a personal/code interest in an item of Council business (“Members’ Interests”); and


Part 3 set out rules requiring registration of interests for public inspection (“Register of Members’ Interests”)


Members were reminded that the Code covered the following areas:-


  • Duties and Responsibilities
  • Information
  • Conduct
  • Use of the Position
  • Registration of Interests
  • Sensitive Information
  • Decision Making
  • Compliance with the Law and the Authority’s Rules and Policies
  • Disclosable Pecuniary Interests
  • Declaration of Members’ Interests
  • Declaration of Personal Interests generally
  • Effect of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests on participation
  • Effect of Personal Interests on participation


The Committee was informed that the LGA Model Code had been written in the first person, in order to make it more personal to individual Councillors and that it covered the following areas:


  • General Conduct
  • Respect
  • Bullying, harassment and discrimination
  • Impartiality of officers of the council
  • Confidentiality and access to information
  • Disrepute
  • Use of position
  • Use of local authority resources and facilities
  • Complying with the Code of Conduct
  • Interests
  • Gifts and Hospitality


Members were advised that, although the Code and Model Code stated slightly differing titles for the areas covered within them, the content was extremely similar within each document and the Model Code covered each area in more detail giving some explanatory text.  The main differences between the Code and Model Code were as detailed hereunder:-


The Code - 3.4 Conduct


“Members must:


(a)   not conduct themselves in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office or Authority into disrepute;

(b)   not make vexatious, malicious or frivolous complaints against other Members or anyone who works for, or on behalf of, the Authority.

(c)   comply with any request of the Authority’s Monitoring Officer or Section 151 Officer, in connection with an investigation conducted on accordance with their respective statutory powers.”


The Model Code - 8 Complying with the Code of Conduct


“8.1 I undertake Code of Conduct training provided by my local authority.

8.2 I cooperate with any Code of Conduct investigation and/or determination

8.3 I do not intimidate or attempt to intimidate any person who is likely to be involved with the administration of any investigation or proceedings.

8.4 I comply with any sanction imposed on me following a finding that I have breached the Code of Conduct.


It is extremely important for you as a councillor to demonstrate high standards, for you to have your actions open to scrutiny and for you not to undermine public trust in the local authority or its governance.  If you do not understand or are concerned about the local authority’s processes in handling a complaint you should raise this with your Monitoring Officer.”


The Model Code also included a definition of bullying, something which the TDC Code did not have.  The Committee on Standards in Public Life had recommended that local authorities included such a definition within their code.


The Code - 3.7 Decision Making


“Members must:


(a)    when participating in meetings or reaching decisions regarding the business of the Authority, do so on the basis of the merits of the circumstances involved and in the public interest having regard to any relevant advice provided by the Authority’s officers, in particular by – 


(i)    the Authority’s Head of Paid Service

(i)    the Authority’s s.151 Officer / Chief Financial Officer

(iii)  the Authority’s Monitoring Officer / Chief Legal Officer


(b)   give reasons for all decisions in accordance with any statutory requirements and any reasonable additional requirements imposed by the Authority.


Decision making in this form was not referred to in the Model Code, however Article 13 within the Council’s Constitution, set out the responsibilities and principles for decision making in detail, including reference to the Statutory Officers, therefore in the view of the Monitoring Officer, this would be sufficient were the Model Code to be adopted.


The Code - 3.6 Registration of Interests


In accordance with and subject to Part 2 of the Code, Members were required to register details of their Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and their Personal Interests within 28 days of becoming a Member (or being re-elected or reappointed) or a change in those details, in the Authority’s Register of Interests.


The Model Code - 9.1 I register and disclose my interests


“Section 29 of The Localism Act 2011 requires the Monitoring Officer to establish and maintain a register of interest of members of the authority.


You need to register your interests so that the public, local authority employees and fellow councillors know which of your interests might give rise to a conflict of interest.  The register is a public document that can be consulted when (or before) an issue arises.  The register also protects you by allowing you to demonstrate openness and a willingness to be held accountable.  You are personally responsible for deciding whether or not you should disclose an interest in a meeting, but it can be helpful for you to know early on if others think that a potential conflict might arise.  It is also important that the public know about any interest that might have to be disclosed by you or other councillors when making or taking part in decisions, so that decision making is seen by the public as open and honest.  This helps to ensure that public confidence in the integrity of local governance is maintained.”


The Committee was made aware that, should the Model Code be adopted then particular attention would need to be given to training for Members in this area.  Further research into the differences between the Interests sections would be conducted by Officers, with a report compiled, to be presented in further detail for discussion by the Committee at its next meeting.


Members were further informed that, from initial conversations between Monitoring Officers across the County, there did appear to be an eagerness for the majority of the authorities to consider and then subsequently adopt the Model Code, subject to approval from their respective Full Councils.  Indeed, both Essex County Council and Southend-on-Sea City Council had received reports recommending adopting the Model Code.  If all Essex Authorities adopted the Model Code, this would achieve the aim of bringing consistency across the county.


The Committee then duly considered and discussed this matter. That discussion included the following:-


(i)     the advantages and disadvantages of the two Codes;


(ii)    the possibility of the Monitoring Officer providing Members with a visual comparison of the two Codes on a “side-by-side” basis;


(iii)   the complexity of the language used within the two Codes;


(iv)   the potential to incorporate the definitions and explanatory text contained within the Model Code as part of TDC’s Code, possibly as appendices; and


(v)    the desirability generally of whether to adopt the Model Code, or amend the TDC Code with elements of the Model Code, or keep the TDC Code without any alterations being made.


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


RESOLVED that the Standards Committee:


(a)    notes the contents of the Monitoring Officer’s report and its Appendices;


(b)    confirms its satisfaction of the comparison of the Tendring District Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct and the LGA Model Code of Conduct; and


(c)    requests the Monitoring Officer to present in more detail the implications of the differences in Declarations and Registration of Interests, for the Committee to consider prior to agreeing its recommendations to Full Council.

Supporting documents: