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Contact: Alan Maher
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No Declarations of Interest
Minutes PDF 223 KB
The minutes of the meeting held
on Monday 27 March 2017 were approved as a true record.
Standards Work Plan 2017-2018 PDF 169 KB
The report set out the proposed
Work Plan for the 2017/18 municipal year. The Council’s
Monitoring Officer, Ruth Dennis, explained that the plan included
those standing work items, which the Committee usually considered
annually, such as updating the Constitution, the operation of the
Council’s Whistleblowing Policy and quarterly monitoring of
complaints against Members.
Mrs Dennis went on to explain
that the plan also included several other reviews. The first of
these would be into the Members’ Code of Conduct complaints
process. The second would look at politically restricted officer
posts within the Council and the third would review the Co-opted
Members and Independent Person arrangements.
The Committee discussed and
approved the Work Plan. In particular, Members agreed that the
three additional reviews be included. They supported strongly a
review into the Members’ Code of Conduct Complaints Process.
They noted that the LGA Peer Challenge had recommended that this
take place. They also recalled that the Committee had independently
identified problems with the complaints process. Members had made
it clear that they were keen to find ways of speeding up the
process in order to reduce costs and to ensure that it was not
being used for vexatious or trivial reasons.
With this in mind, the
Committee asked for information on the costs of carrying out
investigations to complaints, including the cost of officer time
involved in investigations that could have been used for other
purposes. The Monitoring Officer agreed to provide this.
The Committee considered how to
carry out the review. There was a consensus that a small Task and
Finish Group should be established. This would be comparable to the
type of body set up to conduct scrutiny reviews. It was agreed that
it consist of the Chair of the Committee along with a Committee
Member, drawn from each of the political groups (4 Members in
Members discussed the scope of
the review and in particular, some of the specific issues that
would have to be addressed; such as whether sanctions could be
imposed at District and Parish Council levels, at what stage
apologies should be permitted in order to informally resolve
complaints, whether the political groups could play more of a role
in helping to prevent and resolve complaints and whether a
presumption of guilt on those who refuse to co-operate with
complaint investigations would be permissible?
What became clear from the
discussion was that the apparent misuse of social media to make
unacceptable personal comments had contributed to many of the
recent complaints. Although there are clear rules on the use of
social media these may not have always been followed and this may
have been especially true of those serving on lower level councils.
Members agreed, therefore, that in the context of this to review
policies on the use of social media, how they are implemented and
the impact on the behaviour by some Members and that this should
also be looked at by the Task and Finish Group.
That the Committee approves ...
view the full minutes text for item 3.
Quarterly Complaints Monitoring Report PDF 152 KB
The report to Committee
provided information on complaints of alleged Member misconduct.
This information covered both District and Parish Councillors. It
also explained the progress which had been made in assessing them
for the period 17 March 2017 to 23 June 2017.
Members were told that the
investigation into the complaint ADC2016-01 had now been completed.
The draft report had been sent to the Independent Person for his
comments. It would then be sent to both parties involved in the
complaint, who could also comment.
The Committee was informed the
other cases involving District Councillors. No further action had
been taken on some, others had been dealt with through action which
did not involve hearings and the remainder were awaiting
Mrs Dennis went on to state
that she had received a significant number of complaints involving
Parish Councillors since the beginning of the year.
The Committee discussed the
reasons for these complaints and especially the role which social
media posts had played in them.
During this discussion Members
made it clear that they were concerned about the reputational
damage this behaviour was causing in terms of how the public viewed
Councillors and local government as a whole. They also wanted to
explore what could be done to ensure more appropriate behaviour and
to understand the impact on the Council’s own workload of
responding to this high volume of new complaints and if necessary
having to investigate them.
It was agreed that these and
other issues raised by these complaints should be considered by the
Task and Finish Group formed to review the Members’ Code of
Conduct Complaints Process.
That the Committee notes the
updated position in respect of Members’ Code of Conduct
complaints for the period 17 March 2017 to 23 June 2017.
To reflect good practice. To
enable Members to monitor the volume and progress of