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Agenda and draft minutes

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

Contact: Democratic Services 

Items
No. Item

291.

Appointment of Chair and Vice Chair

The Committee is asked to appoint its Chair and Vice Chair for the 2011/12 Municipal Year. The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 states that the Standards Committee must be chaired by a person who is neither a Member nor officer of the Authority i.e. an independent person.

 

Minutes:

RESOLVED that Mrs Brenda Griffiths and Reverend Tim Warr be appointed as Chair and Vice Chair respectively of the Committee for the reminder of the 2011/12 Municipal Year.

 

292.

Communications and Apologies

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

 

(b)            Apologies for absence.

Minutes:

The Chair noted that since their last meeting Parish Council representative, Councillor Ian Dempster had passed away. He had been a long standing member of the Committee and would be sorely missed. The Committee recorded their sincere thanks for his past efforts.

 

The Chair then welcomed Parish Councillor Chris Wilkins back as a member of the Committee.

 

 

293.

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:

None

 

294.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 56 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 26 January 2011.

 

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

 

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 26 January 2011 be confirmed and signed as a correct record.

 

295.

Standards Regime pdf icon PDF 88 KB

This report seeks direction from the Committee on the recommendation to be made to the Council on how the Council can discharge its responsibility to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by members and co-opted members.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

At their last meeting, the Committee had been informed of the Government’s intention to abolish Standards for England, the code of conduct governing the behaviour of councillors and Standards Committees. This Committee had given initial consideration as to what, if anything, should replace the abolished bodies and code. Five questions on the future regime had been posed at the last meeting and the Committee response to those questions anticipated a local standards regime continuing to operate in Hertsmere. The report now before the Committee revisited those questions and provided further information and advice on the implications of that ambition.

 

The meeting first considered an alternative structure for a local standards regime which proposed a regime which was more efficient than the previous Standards for England prescribed system. The alternative way forward suggested that the Monitoring Officer decide if a complaint was actioned or not. If the complaint was considered serious, then the Audit Committee, with independent members co-opted among its members, would consider the complaint. Any appeal on the decision reached would be dealt with by the Chief Executive or Director.     

 

The Committee had concerns about the number of independent members who would serve on the Audit Committee when it considered complaints, and suggested that an even split of councillors and independent persons would be required. Other Members commented that the present system, although bureaucratic, worked well and had the advantage of transparency of operation. The reference of appeals to officers was not supported. The Committee concluded that the alternate system was flawed could not be recommended.

 

The Committee then considered the five questions before it, the first of which was “how to discharge the new duty to promote high standards of conduct?” Previously the Committee had expressed a wish for a local procedure to be established which would allow the public to submit complaints about the behaviour of councillors. The Committee noted that the operation of the present Referral, Review and Hearing Sub Committee system had worked effectively and produced reliable results. Members wanted this system to continue with an amendment which would see the Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Chair or Vice of the Committee, having the ability to decide whether or not to refer a complaint for consideration by the Referral Committee. 

 

The second question was “should Hertsmere retain a Code of Conduct” and the Committee was clear that a Code should be retained. However Members wanted a shorter more concise version that the present Code and were informed that the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors were producing a new version. Members asked officers to find out when this would be available for consideration. The Committee wanted a new Code to provide for proportionate response to misbehaviour and not be sanctions driven.

 

The third question was “should investigation of complaints continue?” and the Committee was clear that they should. This would show that appropriate standards of behaviour among councillors mattered in Hertsmere.

 

The forth question was “what powers should the Standards Committee have in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 295.

296.

Formal Complaints by the Council's Customers - 2010/2011 pdf icon PDF 113 KB

Report ST/11/?? provides information on the outcome of Local Government Ombudsman cases and on complaints made under the Council’s own complaint procedure during the year.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report providing information on the outcome of Local Government Ombudsman cases and on complaints dealt with under the Council’s own complaints procedure. Members noted that the number of complaints to the Ombudsman, 13 in 2010/11, was very similar to the number of complaints made over the past five years. Similarly the number of internal complaints, nineteen, was comparable to previous years.

 

As noted in the previous minute, the Committee did not see themselves as the appropriate body to receive and respond to information on complaints. Members made the point that they would not rubber stamp a matter which they did not have an opportunity to influence.

 

RESOLVED that any future consideration by Council of the terms of reference for the Standards Committee be informed that that Committee considers it inappropriate for their terms of reference to include responsibility for the overview of complaints handling and Ombudsman investigations.

 

297.

Decisions of the Referrals Sub Committee

The Referrals Sub Committee has met on two occasions since the last meeting to consider complaints alleging a breach of the Code of Conduct and the Review Sub Committee has met once.

 

Case Ref                    Case Status               Date complaint          Source

received

 

 

1/2011                        Closed                        29 June 2011            Member of the 

                                                                                                            Public

 

1/2011                        Closed                        (Review)                     ,,

11 August

 

2/2011                        Open                           3 August                     Member of the

                                                                                                            Public

 

 

 

 

 

Minutes:

The Committee noted decisions of the Referral and Review Sub Committee made since the last meeting of this Committee.

 

298.

Exclusion of Press and Public

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 to the said Act:-

 

Part II Agenda Item                                                 Paragraphs in

Schedule 12A

 

 

Decisions of the Hearings                                               7C

Sub Committee

 

Decisions of the Referrals                                               7C

Sub-Committee

 

Decisions of the Referrals                                               7C

Sub Committee

 

 

Minutes:

RESOLVED 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

 

Decisions of the Referral                                  7C

Review and Hearing Sub

Committees.

                       

 

 

299.

Decisions of the Referral Sub Committee, the Review Sub Committee and the Hearings Sub Committee

Further to agenda item 7 in Part 1 of this agenda, attached are the minutes of recent meetings of the Referral Sub Committee on 8 and 23 August; the Review Sub Committee on 23 August and the Hearings Sub Committee on 18 April.

 

Minutes:

The Committee had before them the minutes of the Hearing Sub Committee held on 18 April 2011; the Referrals Sub Committee held on 8 August 2011; the Referral Sub Committee held on 23 August 2011 and the Review Sub Committee held on 23 August 2011.

 

The Committee noted that the training proposed made by the Hearing Sub Committee had been undertaken and commented that the length of time taken to resolve this matter was disappointing.

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the Referral Sub Committees held on 8 and 23 August, the Hearing Sub Committee held on 18 April and the Review Sub Committee held on 23 August 2011 be noted.