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Agenda and minutes

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Contact: Jenny Smith  020 8207 7578 Email: susan.hardy@hertsmere.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

904.

Communications and Apologies

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

 

(b)            Apologies for absence.

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting.  The Committee’s attention was drawn to some additional information in respect of the second case to be considered under item 9 in part II of the agenda, copies of which had been circulated at the meeting.

 

Councillor Hoeksma gave her apologies for an anticipated early departure at 7pm.

905.

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:

Councillor Gamble declared a personal and prejudicial interest in item 9, Report of the Monitoring Officer on the Outcome of Investigations, as her husband had acted as a witness during the investigation of one of the cases.  She announced her intention to withdraw from the meeting while the relevant case was discussed.

906.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 71 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 10 February 2009.

 

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 10 February 2009 were approved and signed as a correct record.

907.

Consideration and Determination Sub-Committee

When investigation reports are finalised by investigators the Monitoring Officer must refer them to the Standards Committee.  The Standards Board has advised that a Consideration and Determination Sub-Committee should be appointed to receive and consider such reports.  It would seem advisable for this Sub‑Committee to be established rather than a full meeting of the Standards Committee to be called each time.  It is also recommended that the membership of the Sub-Committee should comprise at least those members of the Assessment or Review Sub-Committee that referred the allegation of misconduct for investigation. 

 

The Committee’s approval is sought for the establishment of such a Sub‑Committee and to determine its membership.

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer explained that, when investigation reports were finalised by investigators, she was obliged to refer them to the Standards Committee.  The Standards Board had advised that a Consideration and Determination Sub-Committee should be appointed to receive and consider such reports.  It was therefore proposed that such a sub‑committee be established rather than convene a full meeting of the Standards Committee each time.  It was also recommended that the membership of the sub‑committee should comprise at least those members of the Assessment or Review Sub-Committee that had referred the allegation of misconduct for investigation.  The Committee was asked to approval the establishment of a Sub‑Committee and to determine its membership.

 

During discussion, Members of the Committee expressed concern that the creation of yet another sub-committee might dilute the position of the wider committee and that the Committee might lose its oversight of the complaints situation.  There was also a real danger of the same membership occurring on the sub-committees.  Members expressed support, however, for the monthly feedback sent to them on complaint cases which was proving very useful

 

The Monitoring Officer pointed out that, in terms of convening meetings of the full committee, the main issue was members’ availability and that this problem was likely to grow with the new enlarged membership.  However, she suggested that the way forward might be to incorporate some extra meetings, for the sole consideration of completed investigations, into the Council’s current scheduled list of meetings.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1.      the proposal to establish a Consideration and Determination Sub‑Committee be not approved, but some extra meetings of the full Standards Committee be added to the Council’s schedule of meetings for the purpose of considering the outcome of investigations; and

 

2.      Officers be instructed to determine the title and frequency of the meetings.

 

(Action:  Monitoring Officer/Democratic Services Manager)

908.

Committee membership

Following the recent recruitment exercise the Council is being recommended to appoint six independent members to the Committee from the start of the next Municipal Year on 13 May 2009.

 

The Standards Board Guidance now recommends that there should be at least three parish councillors on the Committee where it is responsible for considering allegations of misconduct by parish/town councillors.  The parish members are appointed for a two year term and the parish/town councils take it turn to appoint a member on a rota basis.  The current two members have a further year to serve and therefore an approach has been made to South Mimms Parish Council which is next on the rota to ask them to nominate a member to serve from 13 May 2009 for a two year period.

 

The Annual meeting of the Council on 13 May 2009 will be asked the increase the number of Borough members as well from the current three to four to ensure that there are sufficient to serve on the sub-committees throughout all stages of the process - assessment, review and hearing.

Minutes:

Following the recent recruitment exercise, the Council had approved the appointment of six independent members to the Committee from the start of the next municipal year on 13 May 2009.

 

The Standards Board Guidance was now recommending that there should be at least three parish councillors on the Committee where it was responsible for considering allegations of misconduct by parish/town councillors.  The parish members were appointed for a two-year term and the parish/town councils took it turn to appoint a member on a rota basis.  The current two members had a further year to serve and therefore an approach had been made to South Mimms Parish Council, which was next on the rota, to ask them to nominate a member to serve from 13 May 2009 for a two-year period.

 

The Council, at its annual meeting on 13 May 2009, would be asked to increase the number of Borough members as well from the current three to four to ensure that there were sufficient to serve on the sub-committees throughout all stages of the process - assessment, review and hearing.

 

Some Members expressed concerns about the approach that had been adopted to engage an additional parish council member and also that the proposed pro rata increases in parish and borough council membership might render the Committee too large and unwieldy.  The Chairman noted the comments made about the procedure and confirmed that the Committee was now being asked to make its decision.  The Monitoring Officer clarified that, whilst the proposals were not a Standards Board requirement, the intention was to emulate the current balance of membership and improve overall resilience in the Committee’s arrangements.

 

Responding to a question from the Vice-Chair, the Monitoring Officer confirmed that the political balance would be maintained, with the additional borough council member taken from the Conservative Group, and that Officers would ensure the two members did not sit on the same sub‑committees.

 

RESOLVED that the appointment to the Standards Committee of an additional parish council member be approved and recommended to the Council and the proposal to add a further borough council member to the Committee be noted.

 

(Action:  Monitoring Officer/Democratic Services Manager)

909.

Date of Next Meeting

The next scheduled meeting of the Committee will take place on Wednesday 9 June 2009 at the Civic Offices, Elstree Way, Borehamwood.

Minutes:

Noted that the next meeting of the Committee would take place at 6pm on Tuesday 9 June 2009.

910.

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

 

Investigations into allegations                 7C

of misconduct referred to the

Monitoring Officer

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

 

Investigations into allegations                 7C

of misconduct referred to the

Monitoring Officer

911.

Report of the Monitoring Officer on the outcome of Investigations

The Monitoring Officer will report on the outcome of investigations into allegations of misconduct referred to her.

 

 

 

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer reported on the outcome of investigations into allegations of misconduct referred to her.

 

The Chairman announced his intention to consider the cases in a different order to that published in the agenda in order to accommodate Councillor Gamble’s interest and allow for her early departure from the meeting.

 

Case 2 (agenda page 119)

 

Following discussion, it was –

 

RESOLVED that the Committee agrees a finding of no evidence of breach of The Code, the precise wording of the decision notice to be delegated to the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Vice-Chair, Borough Councillor Roach and Parish Councillor Wilkins.

 

(Action:  Monitoring Officer)

 

 

Councillor Hoeksma left the meeting at 7.05pm at the conclusion of the discussion on the above case.

 

 

Case 1 (agenda page 17)

 

Following discussion, it was –

 

RESOLVED that the Committee agrees a finding of no breach of evidence, the precise wording of the decision notice to be delegated to the Monitoring Officer.

 

(Action:  Monitoring Officer)

 

 

Councillor Gamble left the meeting at 7.10pm prior to consideration of the investigator’s report for the following case.

 

 

Case 3 (agenda page 209)

 

Following discussion, it was –

 

RESOLVED that the Committee agrees a finding of no breach of evidence, the precise wording of the decision notice to be delegated to the Monitoring Officer.

 

(Action:  Monitoring Officer)

 

 

During a general discussion that followed, Members agreed on the value of sending out regular ‘holding letters’ to all interested parties during the handling of complaints to keep them informed at all stages about what was happening.  The Vice-Chair suggested that it would also be useful for the Committee to have an idea of the cost to the Council of each case.  The Monitoring Officer confirmed that she had already asked for these costs which would include an estimate of the Investigating Officers’ time.

The Vice-Chair reminded all present that Mark Haftel was attending his last meeting of the Standards Committee this evening.  The Committee joined with her in thanking him wholeheartedly for his many years of chairmanship.