Agenda and minutes
Venue: Committee Room 1, Shire Hall
Contact: Caroline Marshall, democratic services officer
To receive apologies for absence.
There were no apologies for absence.
Named substitutes (if any)
To receive any details of panel members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a member of the panel.
There were no named substitutes.
Declarations of Interest
To receive declarations of interests in respect of Schedule 1, Schedule 2 or Other Interests from members of the committee in respect of items on the agenda.
The chairman of the standards panel stated that this was the second standards panel meeting to review the quality of the management of arrangements for dealing with code of conduct complaints.
The first meeting had taken place on 13 November 2018 and because the panel would be different each time, the minutes of the previous meetings would not be approved. However, the monitoring officer confirmed that all the actions from the meeting held in November 2018 had been completed.
With regard to declarations of interest, the following comments were made
· Councillor Nigel Shaw recognised the names in appendix 7 and 10 but confirmed that none were close personal associates.
· Councillor Christy Bolderson recognised some names but confirmed that none were close personal associates.
Exclusion of press and public
In the opinion of the Proper Officer, the following item will not be, or is likely not to be, open to the public and press at the time it is considered.
RECOMMENDATION: that under section 100(A)(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 Schedule 12(A) of the Act, as indicated below and it is considered that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
2 Information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual.
It was noted that the appendices to the report were exempt under Schedule 12 A of the Local Government Act because they identified individuals. The panel needed to decide whether or not the review could take place in a public session. During the discussion the following points were made:
· The behaviour of councillors is a matter of public interest.
· The matter could be considered without identifying individuals, however, there was a risk that the panel may inadvertently identify an individual.
· Neither Councillor Mike Wilson or Jake Bharier had a vote but they could express their opinion.
· The election in May 2019 had voted for openness and was supported by the council.
· It was a review of the process and not of the complaints themselves.
· The panel did not have the power to change the decisions made but could make recommendations in connection with the process used.
· On the basis of the above, there was no reason why the meeting could not be held in public.
· If the panel wished to discuss a complaint in more detail and would have to identify the individuals as part of the discussion, then the panel could move into private session.
That the meeting of the standards panel held on 10 September 2019 be held in public.
To review a sample of monitoring officer resolution decisions between 1 October 2018 and 30 April 2019.
The chairman set out the parameters under which the review would be undertaken as follows:
· The panel would go through each appendix and would use the appendix number as the identifier.
· The complainant would also be referred to as the complainant.
· The subject of the complaint would be referred to as the councillor
· The council would always be referred to as the council.
It was noted that the previous review had looked at 38 complaints and the panel felt that that may be too unwieldy but that there needed to be a process of sampling. The current review was in relation to a smaller number of complaints and the panel would consider at the end whether or not it needed to be re-convened to review the remainder of the complaints. One independent person had provided their views on all the complaints.
The criteria which the panel would be considering were:
· Timeliness of decision making
· Consistency of decision
· Any sanctions or recommendations.
It was noted that the monitoring officer was reliant on the complainant and / or subject member providing information in a timely fashion. The panel stressed the importance of people responding promptly to enquiries.
The monitoring officer does not normally reject complaints for delay, but may if the delay was substantial and the complaint was deemed to be frivolous, or insufficient evidence.was provided.
The broad outline of this complaint was in relation to allegations of malicious comments by two councillors.
The outcome for one councillor had been no further action because the councillor had resigned and there was no overriding public interest in continuing the complaint.
It was noted that councillors cannot resign in order to halt a complaint against them as the monitoring officer did consider whether it was in the public interest to continue. The other factor considered was whether the councillor would co-operate once they resigned.
The outcome for the second councillor was no further action as remedial action had been taken to resolve the complaintThe panel noted that if the councillor had not undertaken the action they said had or would occur, the complainant would be able to submit another complaint.
The monitoring officer’s view was that it was always better when a councillor remedied the situation.
The panel used the example of a councillor physically assaulting a person, then resign and soon after, being re-elected. The monitoring officer confirmed that the resignation would not prevent the complaint continuing to be investigated in such a circumstance. .
The outline of the complaint was about the general behaviour of the council where there had been a fairly lengthy history between the council and the complainant. The complaint was detailed and lengthy but it had been challenging to find any complaint against an individual councillor. The complaint had been rejected because it was related to the behaviour of a council and not a councillor and therefore outside of the scope for the arrangements for dealing with code of conduct complaints.
It was noted ... view the full minutes text for item 13.