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Agenda and minutes

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Contact: Jenny Smith 

Items
No. Item

110.

Appointment of Chair and Vice-Chair

The Committee is asked to appoint its Chair and Vice‑Chair for the 2009/10 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:

RESOLVED that Ms Brenda Griffiths and the Reverend Tim Warr be appointed as Chair and Vice-Chair respectively of the Committee for the Municipal Year 2009/2010.

111.

Communications and Apologies

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

 

(b)            Apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Members of the Committee were reminded that the following items had been circulated separately the previous day:

 

·        Agenda item 5:  Annual Review and Various Standards Issues – Report of Officers ST/09/04; and

 

·        Item 7:  Appendix to Report of Officers ST/09/03 - The Council’s Draft Annual Governance Statement for the Financial Year 2008/09.

 

The Chair announced a change in the order of agenda items such that items 7 and 6 would be taken before item 5, thereby allowing the presentation on the Draft Annual Governance Statement to be considered first.

 

The Chair welcomed new Members to the meeting and, at her request, all Members of the Committee introduced themselves.  In order to facilitate the arrangement of future meetings, the Chair requested that a full set of contact details be circulated to the Committee.

 

Aplogied for absence had been received from Independent Member, Janet McNulty.

 

(Action:  Principal Democratic Services Officer)

112.

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

113.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 59 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 29 April 2009.

 

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

Minutes:

Subject to the following amendment, the Minutes of the meeting held on 29 April 2009 were approved and signed as a correct record:

 

Minute 911, Resolution – the words:  “…no breach of evidence…” to be replaced by “…no evidence of breach of The Code…”.

114.

The Council's Draft Annual Governance Statement for the Financial Year 2008/09 pdf icon PDF 85 KB

To consider the Draft Annual Governance Statement (AGS) prior to its submission to the Executive for approval.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

During his presentation (see Appendix to these Minutes), the Audit Manager explained that the Annual Governance Statement aimed to ensure good management and stewardship of public funds within the authority as a whole.  The Statement had clear links with the Audit Commission’s Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOEs) and it needed to be signed off by the Head of Paid Service and the Council’s Leader.

 

Following the presentation, the following points were raised and amendments to the Draft Statement agreed accordingly:

 

·        Paragraph 52 – the Committee considered that its responsibility for advising, training or arranging to train Councillors and co-opted members in matters relating to the Members’ Code of Conduct, as set out in this paragraph of the Draft Statement, was of pivotal importance.

 

·        Paragraph 72 – Members questioned the use of the word “ensuring” in the second of the two paragraphs in this section.  It was also pointed out that, with reference to the third paragraph, whilst the full Committee had met three times during the year, Standards Committee Members had met far more frequently during the course of the year to conduct complaints hearings.  It was agreed that reference to this activity should be made.

 

·        Paragraph 77 – the paragraph number appeared twice; the first should be replaced by “75”.

 

·        Paragraph 81 – responding to a question on the omissions from the right hand column of the table under “Proposed Action”, the Audit Manager confirmed that the detail would be addressed and actions identified before the Statement was published.  For example, points 1, 2 and 3 in this table related to information provided in paragraph 80.  Responding to a further question as to whether Elstree Film and Television Studios should also be included here, the Audit Manager undertook to look into the matter.

 

It was agreed that copies of the presentation should be circulated to Members of the Committee.

 

RESOLVED that the Draft Annual Governance Statement for the Financial Year 2008/09 be noted prior to its presentation to the Executive for approval at its meeting on 21 July 2009.

 

(Action:  Audit Manager/Principal Democratic Services Officer)

115.

Draft Revised Whistleblowing Policy pdf icon PDF 78 KB

The Committee is asked to consider and approve the draft revised Whistleblowing Policy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Report of Officers ST/09/02 on the agenda presented the Committee with the Council’s draft revised Whistleblowing Policy.

The Committee discussed the draft Policy and commented as follows:

·        External Contacts – it was suggested that the wording of the Policy be adjusted to make clear that contact with external agencies should be made only as a last resort.  Reference to the Standards Committee could also be made under External Contacts. 

·        It was unclear in the Policy to whom the term “we” referred.

·        Paragraphs 2.5 and 4.1 – there was an apparent discrepancy between the reference to subscription costs of £500 in para 2.5 of the report and financial implications in para 4.1.

·        Paragraph 3.5 – the word “castigate” in report para 3.5 was considered inappropriate and should be substituted.

RESOLVED that the draft revised Whistleblowing Policy, as set out at the appendix to Report of Officers ST/09/02, be approved as amended above.

(Action:  Audit Manager)

116.

Annual Review and Various Standards Issues pdf icon PDF 99 KB

To consider the work undertaken by the Standards Committee during the course of the last local government year, 2008/09.

Minutes:

Following the Monitoring Officer’s presentation of Report of Officers ST/09/04, comments were made as set out below.

 

Training

 

The Committee expressed an interest in contributing to the training of Members.  It was agreed that the Monitoring Officer should extend an invitation to all Members of the Standards Committee when training sessions were being organised and thereby ensure that the Standards Committee had a presence.  It was noted that training sessions were generally offered at a variety of times – morning, afternoon and evening.  It was also agreed that consideration should be given to any training requirements for the Committee in respect of its work during the purdah election period and that this should form an agenda item at the following meeting on 10 September 2009 so that procedures could be clarified.

 

Issues Arising from the Standards Committee Annual Return

 

The Monitoring Officer highlighted paragraph 2.5 of the report which indicated that the Annual Return had raised a number of issues not currently being addressed, including the involvement of Standards Committee Members in the consideration of amendments to the Council’s Constitution.  She added that the Council’s Constitution and Meetings Arrangements Panel (CMAP) now had Member involvement.  Three meetings had been held over the last municipal year.  In future, when considering Standards matters, a nominated member of the Standards Committee would be invited to that meeting of the CMAP.

 

During discussion, the Committee agreed that, aside from the annual on-line return, attention should be focussed on two main areas of statutory requirement: the annual report to be presented to the Council and the review of current procedures and practices for the hearing of complaints with a view to their revision and improvement.  It was agreed that two separate working parties, drawn from members of the Committee, should be established to deal with each of these issues.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1.      the Report of Officers ST/09/04 be noted;

 

2.      when organising training sessions for councillors in relation to standards matters, this Committee be given the opportunity to contribute and participate in the process;

 

3.      consideration be given at the next meeting on 10 September 2009 to any possible training requirements for the Committee arising from its work during the purdah election period;

 

4.      a working party, composed of the following Standards Committee members, be established for the purpose of working on the annual report to the Council:

 

 

Councillor Gamble, Councillor Hoeksma, Brenda Griffiths (Chair), Leslie Powell and Reverend Tim Warr (Vice-Chair);

 

5.      the Council be recommended to approve the establishment of a working party, composed of the following Standards Committee members, to review the current complaints and investigation procedures and practices:

 

Brenda Griffiths (Chair), Reverend Tim Warr (Vice-Chair), Councillor Choudhury, Parish Councillor Wilkins and William Boyes;

 

6.      in order to initiate the review referred to in (5) above, members of the working group and all new members of the Committee, be circulated with copies of the investigation reports submitted to the previous meeting of the Committee on 29 April 2009; and

 

7.   some provisional  ...  view the full minutes text for item 116.

The Monitoring Officer referred to the current staffing difficulties in Democratic Services, in particular the long-term sickness absence of her Deputy Monitoring Officer.

 

The Chair, on behalf of the Committee, extended her best wishes to the Deputy Monitoring Officer for a speedy recovery and her thanks to the Principal Democratic Services Officer for stepping into the role over the last few months.

117.

Date of Next Meeting

The next scheduled meeting of the Committee will take place on Thursday 10 September 2009 at the Civic Offices, Elstree Way, Borehamwood.

Minutes:

Noted that the next scheduled meeting of the Committee would take place at 6pm on Thursday 10 September 2009.

Appendix pdf icon PDF 674 KB

Appendix – Presentation on Draft Annual Governance Statement 2008/09