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Agenda and minutes

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Contact: Susan Hardy  020 8207 7578 Email: susan.hardy@hertsmere.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

378.

Communications and Apologies

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

 

(b)            Apologies for absence.

Minutes:

The Chairman advised that a revised Appendix B Draft Guidance on Gifts and Hospitality to Report of Officers ST/08/04 at agenda item 4 had been circulated.  Officers would draw attention to the minor changes when presenting the item.

 

Apologies for absence had been received from Independent member Ranjan Kumar and Parish Councillor Wilkins.

379.

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 an interest declare under any of the items of business on the agenda.

380.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 32 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 19 June 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 19 June 2008 were approved and signed as a correct record.

381.

Local Assessment Framework - Update and Follow up work pdf icon PDF 38 KB

Report of Officers.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Report of Officers ST/08/04 provided an update following the first five months of the new local assessment regime and sought approval of a proposed press policy and guidance on gifts and hospitality.

 

Quarterly Returns to the Standards Board for England

 

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that, as Monitoring Officer, she was required to submit a quarterly return to the Standards Board for England as to the number of allegations of misconduct received by the Standards Committee.  Since the new regime had come into operation on 8 May 2008, four allegations of misconduct had been received.  Of these, one had been referred to the Monitoring Officer for investigation and two had subsequently been withdrawn by the complainant.  With respect to the fourth, a request for a review of the decision to take no action had been submitted by the complainant and a meeting of the Review Sub-Committee was currently being arranged.

 

Indemnity Insurance

 

The Committee’s attention was drawn to the decision to take out indemnity insurance to enable any Member (Borough, Parish/Town or independent) who was the subject of an allegation of misconduct to seek legal support and representation throughout the process.  The Head of Legal and Democratic Services explained that, as Monitoring Officer, both she and her Deputy were unable to provide that support, as their role was to act on behalf of the Standards Committee.  The insurance indemnity was governed by specific legislation, which required the repayment of the legal costs by the subject member if they were subsequently found to have been in breach of the Code of Conduct.  The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that she had explored the possibility of legal support being provided by Monitoring Officers in other authorities on a reciprocal basis however, in view of their existing workloads, this had not been a viable option.  However she had sourced a legal firm of solicitors, which included former Monitoring Officers, who could give subject Members the advice, guidance and support they needed at a relatively affordable cost.  The Committee expressed concern that the cost of the indemnity insurance should not be met from its budget which was required for investigations and hearings.  The Democratic Services Manager advised that there was a separate budget for indemnity insurance which could be utilised and the increased costs built into the budget in future years. 

 

A Member queried who would meet the cost of any witnesses who may need to be interviewed during an investigation or be asked to attend a hearing.  It was explained that interviews could be conducted by telephone or written answers sought if necessary.  Witnesses expenses for attendance at any hearings would be met by whoever requested it.

 

Press Policy

 

The Committee’s views were sought on a draft press policy which had been based on the toolkit issued by the Standards Board for England and adapted to make it Hertsmere specific.  Concern was expressed that the resultant draft policy was confusing to read and it was agreed that more  ...  view the full minutes text for item 381.

382.

Local Code of Governance pdf icon PDF 39 KB

A Local Code of Governance has been compiled in accordance with best practice as set out in the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers Guidance framework.  All local authorities are urged to prepare, adopt and maintain an up to date local code of corporate governance.

 

The draft Code was considered by the Council’s Executive on 23 July 2008.  In referring the Code to the Council for approval, the Executive asked that it be brought to the Standards Committee for endorsement.

 

The Code was formally approved by the Council at its meeting on 17 September 2008 and now forms part of the Council’s Policy Framework.  To set it in context, the covering report considered by the Council’s Executive is also attached with the Code.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services drew attention to the Local Code of Governance which had been compiled by the Council in accordance with best practice as set out in the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers Guidance framework.  It was a new requirement and now formed part of the Council’s Policy Framework.  The draft Code had been considered by the Council’s Executive on 23 July 2008 before being formally approved by the Council at its meeting on 17 September 2008.

 

The Committee was advised that, in referring the Code to the Council for approval, the Executive had asked that it be brought to the Standards Committee for endorsement.  It was intended that in future years it would be brought to the Committee for consideration as part of the review process. 

 

During discussion the Committee agreed that they could not endorse the Code at this stage, having not been involved in the consultation process.  However they were happy to note that it had been through the Council’s procedures and that it would be brought to the Committee for consideration in future years.   The Head of Legal and Democratic Services confirmed that the Code had also been considered by the Audit Committee.

 

RESOLVED that the Local Code of Governance be noted.

383.

Annual Governance Statement 2007/2008 pdf icon PDF 40 KB

The Council is now required to compile an Annual Governance Statement (AGS) to provide assurance that governance arrangements are adequate and operating effectively in practice and, where the review has revealed gaps, what actions are planned that will ensure effective governance in the future.  It replaces the former Statement of Internal Control.

 

The AGS for 2007/08 was approved by the Council’s Executive on 23 July 2008 and formally signed by the Acting Chief Executive and Leader of the Council on behalf of the Council.

 

The AGS has been brought to the Standards Committee for noting.  It is intended that in future years it will be brought to the Committee prior to approval as part of the consultation process.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that the Council was now required to compile an Annual Governance Statement (AGS) to provide assurance that governance arrangements were adequate and operating effectively in practice and, where the review had revealed gaps, what actions were planned that would ensure effective governance in the future.  It replaced the former Statement of Internal Control.

 

Members were advised that the AGS for 2007/08 had been approved by the Council’s Executive on 23 July 2008 and formally signed by the Acting Chief Executive and Leader of the Council on behalf of the Council.  It had been brought to the Standards Committee for noting but it was intended that, in future years, it would be brought to the Committee prior to approval as part of the consultation process.

 

RESOLVED that the Council’s Annual Governance Statement be noted.

384.

Formal Complaints by the Council's Customers - 2007/2008 pdf icon PDF 44 KB

Report of Officers.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to Report of Officers ST/08/03 which provided information on the outcome of Ombudsman cases during the year 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008 and information on complaints dealt with under the Council’s own complaints procedure for the same period.  It was noted that the number of complaints was slightly up on the previous year and that they were typically spread across the Council’s functions and services. 

 

In response to queries, the Head of Legal and Democratic Services explained that, in the majority of cases, the Ombudsman would expect a complaint to have been dealt with under the Council’s own internal complaints procedure first before being referred to them for consideration.  She further explained the action the Council took on receiving the findings of the Ombudsman and advised that information about complaints would form part of the Council’s Comprehensive Area Assessment score in future.

 

RESOLVED that the report be noted.

385.

Protocol on Member/Officer Relations

The Council is reviewing the Protocol on Member/Officer Relations in the Constitution.  A draft will be considered by the Council’s Constitution and Meetings Arrangements Working Group at its meeting on 28 October and a revised protocol will be submitted to the Council meeting on 19 November.  As part of the consultation process the Standards Committee is asked to nominate a small working group of members who could be invited to comment during the draft stage.

Minutes:

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that the Council was reviewing the Protocol on Member/Officer Relations in the Constitution.  A draft would be considered by the Council’s Constitution and Meetings Arrangements Working Group at its meeting on 28 October 2008 and a revised protocol would be submitted to the Council meeting on 19 November.  As part of the consultation process, the Standards Committee was asked to nominate a small working group of members who could be invited to comment during the draft stage.

 

During discussion, concern was expressed about the lack of time available for the Committee to give consideration to the revised draft and reference was made to previous discussion of the Committee when considering the current protocol.  The Head of Legal and Democratic Services explained that the timetable for consideration had been brought forward by senior managers in the light of the arrival of the new Chief Executive.  

 

RESOLVED that the Chairman and Councillors Hoeksma and Gamble be consulted on the revised Protocol on Member/Officer Relations.

 

(Action: Democratic Services Manager)

386.

Dates of Future Meetings

The Committee usually meets on an as required basis however, in view of the move to the new local assessment framework, it is considered that it would be beneficial to schedule regular meetings throughout the year and these will be included in the annual schedule of meetings for the next Municipal Year (starting in May 2009).  

 

For the remainder of the current Municipal Year it is proposed that a further meeting be held in late January/early February.

  

Minutes:

The Committee supported to proposal that regular meetings of the Committee be scheduled in the next municipal year and agreed that a further meeting should be held in late January/early February.  The Democratic Services Manager undertook to circulate some proposed dates to the members outside of the meeting.

 

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that she and the Chairman would be attending the Standards Board Conference the following week.  She undertook to circulate information about the main items discussed to the Committee prior to the next meeting.

 

(Action: Democratic Services Manager)