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Agenda and minutes

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Contact: Susan Hardy 

Items
No. Item

115.

Appointment of Chairman and Vice-Chair

The Committee is asked to appoint its Chairman and Vice‑Chairman for the 2008/09 municipal year.  In accordance with the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, the Standards Committee must be chaired by a person who is neither a Member or an Officer of the authority ie. an independent person.

Minutes:

Noted that under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, the Committee Chairman was required to be an Independent member.

 

RESOLVED that Mr Mark Haftel and Mrs Brenda Griffiths be appointed as Chairman and Vice-Chair respectively of the Committee for the Municipal Year 2008/2009.

116.

Communications and Apologies

(a)            Communications (if any) relating to business on the agenda.

 

(b)            Apologies for absence.

Minutes:

The Chairman reported that revised Appendices C and D, the terms of reference for the Referrals and Review Sub-Committees had been circulated.  At his invitation, the Head of Legal and Democratic Services outlined to changes from the versions included in the agenda.

 

Apologies for absence had been received from Independent members Rev Warr and Mr Kumar, who both had business commitments which affected their availability for meetings at present.

117.

Declarations of Interest

Members must clearly state the nature of the interest, and indicate whether it is Personal or Personal and Prejudicial.  The responsibility for declaring an interest rests solely with the Member concerned.

 

Personal interests: A personal interest arises in relation to any matter which might reasonably be regarded as affecting, to a greater extent than other Council Tax payers, ratepayers or inhabitants of the authority’s area, the well‑being or financial position of the Member or of a relevant person.  Members need only declare a personal interest at a meeting when they address the meeting on that business.

 

Personal and Prejudicial interests: A Member has a personal and prejudicial interest in a matter if the interest is one which a member of the public with knowledge of the relevant facts would reasonably regard as so significant that it is likely to prejudice the Member’s judgement of the public interest.  In these cases the Member concerned must declare the interest and withdraw from the meeting room while the matter is being considered.  Members with such interests may, however, attend the meeting for the purpose of making representations, answering questions or giving evidence relating to the business where the public have a similar right.

 

Further details and full definitions of personal and prejudicial interests are set out in the Councillors’ Code of Conduct (Section 5.1 of the Constitution).

Minutes:

No members had any interests to declare in relation to any of the items on the agenda.

118.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 24 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 8 January 2008

 

In accordance with the Constitution no discussion shall take place upon the minutes, except upon their accuracy.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 8 January 2008 were approved and signed as a correct record.

119.

Appointment of Monitoring Officer and Deputy Monitoring Officer

To note that the Council at its meeting on 27 February 2008 appointed Jill Coule, Head of Legal and Democratic Services as Monitoring Officer and Susan Hardy, Acting Democratic Services Manager, as Deputy Monitoring Officer.  The Council also expressed its appreciation to the Interim Head of Legal Services, David Raggatt, for his work as Monitoring Officer in the interim period.           

Minutes:

The Committee noted the appointment of Jill Coule, Head of Legal and Democratic Services as Monitoring Officer and Susan Hardy, Democratic Services Manager, as Deputy Monitoring Officer by the Council at its meeting on 27 February 2008.  The Committee welcomed the new Monitoring Officer to her first Standards Committee meeting and added their thanks to that of the Council to David Raggatt for his work as Monitoring Officer in the interim period.

120.

Local Assessment Arrangements pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Report of Officers.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services outlined the arrangements which needed to be put in place following the implementation of the new local assessment framework for the consideration of allegations of misconduct relating to Councillors and co-opted members from 8 May 2008 resulting from the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007.  Report of Officers ST/08/02 set out the details of the arrangements.

 

Attention was drawn to the revised terms of reference for the Referrals Sub‑Committee and Review Sub-Committee setting out their role and remit which had been tabled.  With respect to the provision in the terms of reference that allegations in respect of persons who were no longer members of the authority but were a member of another authority being referred on to that authority, the Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that this was because the original authority no longer had any powers to sanction the person.  However she confirmed that the original authority would gather information together to send to the other authority and liaise with the other Monitoring Officer.

 

Consideration was given to the proposed Complaints Form which had been based on the one issued in the Standards Board for England (SBE) toolkit.  It was considered that it was slightly overlong and may not be easy to complete.  The Democratic Services Manager advised that it would be made available to download from the website and she would be looking at producing it in a leaflet form with the Corporate Communications Manager in a more user friendly format.  It was confirmed that complainants would not be required to complete the form but that using it would ensure that as much information as possible was submitted with the allegation.  It was also confirmed that the Sub-Committee would not see the ethnic monitoring information and that this would be sent to the Human Resources unit for their equalities and diversity monitoring statistics.

 

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services referred the Committee to the proposed Monitoring Officer’s Protocol.  It was necessary for there to be a process approved by the Committee to filter irrelevant complaints but if the complainant insisted that they be considered by the Referrals Sub-Committee then she would have to refer them on.

 

Under the SBE guidance, the Monitoring Officer had discretion as to whether or not to advise the subject member of an allegation that it had been received.  The Committee agreed that, in the interests of natural justice, the Monitoring Officer should do so unless the Monitoring Officer considered that the subject member may interfere in the process or the complainant had asked for confidentiality and there was a good reason to adhere to the request.

 

Consideration was given as to whether the Standards Committee should take anonymous complaints.  The Head of Legal and Democratic Services explained that it would not be possible to engage with the complainant to verify information and that there may be a malicious or inappropriate aspect to the allegation.  Discussion took place about the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 120.

121.

Constitution and Appointment of Sub-Committees

The Committee is asked to agree the membership of the Referrals Sub‑Committee and Review Sub‑Committee for the current municipal year. 

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the membership of the sub-committees to take forward the various stages of the process. 

 

The Chairman proposed that the Referrals Sub-Committee and the Review Sub-Committee should each comprise two independent members and one elected member and that the Hearings Sub-Committee should comprise five members, chaired by an independent member.  However he recommended that the membership was not fixed as flexibility was essential.  The Head of Legal and Democratic Services confirmed that this was permissible under the Standards Board guidance.  She also advised that the guidance provided that those members involved in the original assessment of an allegation could be members of the sub-committee that subsequent heard the outcome of the investigation.  However, although this was permissible, she would avoid putting the same independent members on the hearing who sat on the Referrals or Review Sub-Committee, wherever possible.

 

During discussion concern was expressed that the membership of the Standards Committee was not resilient enough for the anticipated workload, particularly the number of independent members and their availability.  The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that this was a matter that she and the Democratic Services Manager had been considering.  The term of office for all four independent members was due to expire in May 2009 and a recruitment and selection process would begin in the autumn.  The number of independent members on the Committee would be reviewed at that time when there would be a clearer idea of the workload involved.  Another way forward was the appointment of joint committees with neighbouring authorities which was the action recommended by the Standards Board for England.  The Democratic Services Manager advised that she had contacted neighbouring authorities but at present there was no interest in having joint committees although the officers were keen to assist each other in relation to the investigation and hearings work on a reciprocal basis.

 

In response to a query as to what would happened if a complaint was withdrawn, the Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that it would depend on what stage the complaint had reached.  Consideration would need to be given as to whether there may have been intimidation, however it would still be possible to proceed even if the complaint was withdrawn.  

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1.                  the Referrals Sub-Committee and the Review Sub-Committee each comprise two independent members and one elected member and that the Hearings Sub-Committee comprise five members, all chaired by an independent member; and

 

2.                  the membership of the Sub-Committees be not fixed but drawn from the pool of Standards Committee members as required for meetings when the nature of the allegations and to whom they related were known.

122.

Budget for Local Investigations

The budget for the Standards Committee in 2008/09 is £2650.  This includes funding for the undertaking of local investigations.  The budget has been increased from previous years in view of the new local assessment regime.  However, if further funding is required, the Committee will need to seek approval from the Executive.  The budget will be kept under review and, if it is found to be insufficient, then this will be reported when the budget for 2009/10 is being prepared and representations made to increase it further.

Minutes:

It was noted that the budget for the work of the Standards Committee in 2008/09 was £2650, which included funding for the undertaking of local investigations.  The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that the budget had been increased in the light of the new local framework but that if further funding was required authority would need to be sought from the Executive.  The budget would be monitored and, if it was found to be insufficient, then representations would be made for the 2009/10 budget.

  

123.

Date of Next Meeting

Minutes:

It was agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would take place at 6.00pm on Monday 6 October 2008.