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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Rooms A and B, Civic Offices, Elstree Way, Borehamwood. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services 

Items
No. Item

118.

Declarations of Interest (if any)

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 Member had an interest to declare in any of the items of business on the agenda.

119.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 79 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 9 June 2009.

 

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

 

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 9 June 2009 were approved and signed as a correct record.

120.

Update of Council Report pdf icon PDF 104 KB

At the last meeting an annual report prepared by the Monitoring Officer was presented to the Committee. This was deferred for consideration to the September meeting of Council, so as to include information from the Standards Board for England Quarter 4 return. Attached is the revised report, which will be presented to Council.

Minutes:

Report of Officers CO/09/34 on the agenda was presented to the Committee. This report was the first Annual Report on the work of the Standards Committee and would be submitted to Council on 17 September 2009.

 

The Chair asked that the report make clear in paragraph 2.4 whether the training provided was for Standards Committee members or elected members. She also asked that item (f) “Pro-active promotion of the work of the Standards Committee” be placed higher in the list of issues identified by the Audit Commission for improvement. Other members made corrections to the report and the following were noted;

 

-         the word “and” in the fifth sentence of paragraph 2.1 be

      replaced with “to”;

-         the word “and” in the third sentence of paragraph 2.17 be replaced with “of which”;

-         the date “2008” in the second sentence of paragraph 2.20 be replaced with “2009”.

 

The Chair reminded the meeting that at their last meeting they had agreed to establish a Working Party to work on preparation of the Committee’s annual report. Unfortunately that Working Party had not met due to staffing difficulties in Legal and Democratic Services. As the annual report had now been prepared and was before members this evening, the Chair said there was no longer a need for this working party to meet. 

 

The meeting then discussed presentation of the Annual Report to Council and suggested that Councillor Choudhury advise that meeting of this Committee’s view on the Annual Report. Members went on to discuss whether it was possible for any of them to attend the meeting to hear the debate but concluded that it was not convenient for any. The elected members of this Committee would be in attendance.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1.            subject to incorporation of the amendments detailed above, the

2008/09 Annual report of the Standards Committee be approved; and

 

2.            Council be advised of the amendments by Councillor Choudhury at the 17 September meeting. 

 

(Action: Acting Democratic Services Manager)

121.

New Standards Committee Regulations pdf icon PDF 84 KB

New Regulations came into force on 15 June 2009.  The attached report sets out the provisions of the legislation and the implications for Hertsmere’s Standards Committee.

Minutes:

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services introduced her report (ST/09/07) and particularly drew attention to provisions relating to suspension of local standards committee functions and establishment of a joint standards committee.

 

The Committee noted the provision relating to a Joint Standards Committee and, while not wishing to explore the establishment of a joint committee at this time, wanted to keep in contact with other Standards Committees within the county to exchange learning and experiences.

 

RESOLVED that provision of the Standards Committee (Further Provisions)(England) Regulations 2009 be noted.

122.

Procedures for granting dispensations pdf icon PDF 117 KB

Guidance has been issued by Standards for England (formerly the Standards Board for England) aimed at assisting standards committees when considering whether or not to grant dispensations for Councillors allowing them to speak and vote at a meeting when they have a prejudicial interest.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services reported on guidance issued by Standards for England on the procedure for issuing dispensations. The meeting noted that a dispensation could be granted in two circumstances:

 

-         when the number of members of the authority prohibited from voting

on the business of the authority at a meeting exceeds 50% of

those members that, but for the granting of any dispensation

relating to that business, would otherwise be entitled to vote on that

business, or;

 

-         when the number of members prohibited from voting on the business of the authority at a meeting would, but for the granting of any dispensation relating to that business, upset the political balance of that meeting to such an extent as to prejudice the outcome of voting in that meeting.

 

The meeting discussed how it would deal with requests for dispensations and noted that a sub-committee could be established to deal with such business. As it was probable that few requests would be made for dispensations, it was proposed that a sub-committee consisting of the Chair or Vice Chair and two other Members be authorised to consider any such requests as and when they were received.

 

Members wanted all Council Members to be informed of the new arrangements for granting dispensations, including the need for Members to submit an initial request in writing. It was also proposed that members have an opportunity to make an oral submission to Standards Committee members later if they considered that necessary. Members agreed that an original submission could be made via email. The meeting noted that there was an opportunity to operate local criteria for dispensations but, apart from the submission arrangements, did not wish to make further provision.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

(1)       the Standards for England guidance for granting dispensation be

noted:

(2)       a group of three members of the Standards Committee, to include the

Chair or Vice Chair, be authorised to consider and determine requests

for dispensations from members of Hertsmere Council;

(3)       the Monitoring Officer be authorised to receive applications for

dispensations from members on behalf of the Standards Committee;

(4)            Council members be asked to submit an initial request for a

dispensation in writing only (to include emails), and have an

opportunity to make an oral submission to Standards Committee

members later, and that this provision be the local procedural

arrangement for dispensations; and

(5)            Council members be advised of the new arrangements for granting a

dispensation by circulation of this report, appendix and minutes to all

councillors along with a covering letter from the Chair of the Standards

Committee.

 

(Action: Acting Democratic Services Manager)

123.

Communications and Apologies

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

 

(b)            Apologies for absence.

Minutes:

The Chair informed the meeting of the recent sad death of Councillor Martin Heywood, a long standing and valued Member of this Authority. Members recorded their condolences to his family.

 

The Chair reported that Democratic Services Manager, Sue Hardy was absent from this meeting through ill health and had submitted her resignation from Hertsmere Council. The meeting expressed their thanks for all the work she had undertaken on their behalf.

 

Apologies for absence had been received from Councillor Roach and Parish Councillor Dempster.

124.

Public Perception of Ethics pdf icon PDF 101 KB

Every two years Standards for England measures and monitors the public’s perceptions of local councillors’ ethical standards and their confidence in the redress mechanisms for dealing with shortcomings in individual’s behaviour.  Attached is their report setting out their findings and making comparisons with data collected in 2005 and 2007.  Also attached is the press release issued by Standards for England when the report was released on 5 August 2009. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair drew attention to an interesting piece of research carried out by Standards for England into the public’s perception of local councillors’ ethical standards and their confidence in the redress mechanism for dealing with shortcomings in individuals’ behaviour. Members commented on the low level of knowledge members of the public displayed about councillors and their activities. To help overcome this it was suggested that regular publicity be issued on work undertaken to maintain ethical standards. The meeting noted that the next edition of the Council magazine would include an article on the work of the Standards Committee. It was intended that future editions would also include further information on the work of this committee.

 

The Chair asked that Committee members consider how information on standards could be communicated to their parishes and organisations. She suggested that Committee members each try and secure the publication of a piece of publicity to raise the profile of the work of the Standards Committee before the next meeting.

 

RESOLVED that the Standards for England “Public Perceptions of Ethics” be noted.

125.

Formal Complaints by the Councils Customers - 2008/09 pdf icon PDF 97 KB

This Committee is responsible for the overview of complaints handling and Ombudsman investigations.  An information report on complaints is published annually and published in the Council’s Information Digest. A copy is enclosed for information.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services introduced this report (ST/09/05), which provided information on the outcome of Ombudsman cases and complaints dealt with under the Council’s own complaints procedure for the year 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009. The meeting noted that a low number of complaints was not necessarily a positive indicator as it could be that public knowledge of the complaints processes was limited. The Chair suggested that more publicity be given to the complaint processes available to the public.

 

In response to points raised by members, the Head of Legal and Democratic Services stated that the format of the report was to be refreshed and would in future include information on the outcome of complaints and any organisational learning points arising from them..

 

RESOLVED that the information contained in the report “Formal complaints by the Council’s customers 2008/2009” be noted.

 

(Action: Acting Democratic Services Manager)

126.

Date of Next Meeting

The next scheduled meeting of the Committee will take place on Wednesday 27 January 2010 at the Civic Offices, Elstree Way, Borehamwood.

 

Minutes:

Noted that the next meeting of the Committee would take place at 6.00pm on Wednesday, 27 January 2010.

 

The Chair asked that members of the Committee be reminded of the remaining provisional dates for this Committee until the end of this municipal year. She then advised the meeting that plans were being made for a training event, held jointly with Welwyn Hatfield Council, to be held in early November. Further details would be circulated when arrangements had been finalised.

 

(Action: Acting Democratic Services Manager)

127.

Exclusion of the Public

Recommendation that, under S100A(4) Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part I, Schedule 12A to the said Act:-

 

Part II Agenda Item                                                 Paragraphs in

Schedule 12A

 

Update on complaints                                         7A and C

Minutes:

Recommendation that, under S100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part I, Schedule 12A of the said Act:-

 

Part II Agenda Item                                Paragraphs in

                                                    Schedule 12A

 

Update on current complaints.                7C      

128.

Update on Current Complaints

Oral Update.

Minutes:

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services provided the meeting with an update on actions arising from three past complaints. She reminded members that no formal action had been taken on these cases but some learning points had arisen and it was progress on those that was now reported.

 

The first point was an opportunity for those members complained about but where no complaint had been found, to have the finding published in the press. In all three recent cases this option had been declined.

 

The second point related to the use of the internal post system. The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised the meeting that a review of this service was underway and that a further report would be made to the next meeting.

 

The final point highlighted was the lack of written procedures for dealing with complaints. The Chair suggested that a flow chart be drawn up to represent this process, which should include the full Committee being informed of the outcome of each case.  The Head of Legal and Democratic Services said that full written procedures for dealing with complaints would be drawn up and would include a flow chart.

 

The Complaints and Investigation Working Party was to consider the process of handling complaints, and to help their work the Chair asked that Working Party members be sent anonymised copies of previous complaints prior to their first meeting. The Chair also suggested that members scheduled to hear complaints as part of the Standards Committee Sub Committee be advised of whether or not the meeting was taking place no less that a week before the scheduled meeting.

 

(Action: Acting Democratic Services Manager)