Agenda and minutes
Venue: Committee Room 1, Shire Hall
Contact: Caroline Marshall, democratic services officer
Election of Chairperson
To elect an chairperson for the panel meeting.
Councillor RJ Phillips was elected as the chairperson for the meeting.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest by Members in respect of items on the agenda.
Councillor RJ Phillips declared that he knew some of people named in the complaints but they were not close personal associates
Councillor ACR Chappell declared that he knew some of people named in the complaints but they were not close personal associates.
Councillor RJ Gething declared that he knew some of people named in the complaints but they were not close personal associates.
Councillor Richard Gething also stated that currently Ledbury Town Council are investigating factors that have resulted in the Council incurring legal costs. As Chairman of the Herefordshire Association of Local Councils (HALC), I may have a potential conflict of interest regarding this issue. The monitoring officer confirmed that as the complaints in relation to Ledbury did not form part of the sampling, then this did not preclude Cllr Gething from participating in the panel’s meeting.
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 purpose of the report was to sample monitoring officer decisions and then make recommendations to audit and governance committee. The recommendations would be public.
The monitoring officer confirmed that the reason why the panel needed to decide whether or not the meeting should be in private or public was because the appendices identified individuals. A number of the complaints being reviewed had been rejected and as such the councillor concerned would be unaware that a complaint had been received against them.
A member of the panel stated that they took on board the points but would prefer the meeting to be held in public as this would stop any rumours.
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.
Exempt information - Information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual.
To review a sample of monitoring officer resolution decisions between 30 April 2017 and 30 September 2018.
The monitoring officer presented the report and explained that this would be the first time that the panel had meet to sample monitoring officer resolution decisions. The period covered by the sampling was 30 April 2017 to 30 September 2018.
It was noted that Herefordshire had adopted their own arrangements for dealing with code of conduct complaints in line with the requirements of the Localism Act 2011. Monitoring officer resolution had always been part of the local arrangements.
The standards panel held on 16 October had set the criteria to be use and they cover a range of different complaints as set out in the covering report.
The monitoring officer explained the procedure used as follows:
· The access to information team carried out a pre-qualification criteria and then forwarded the complaint to the monitoring officer.
· The monitoring officer considered the complaint at the initial assessment stage and would determine whether to reject the complaint or whether to look into the complaint. At this stage, the monitoring officer may seek the views of the independent person.
· The criteria for rejecting complaints were set out in the arrangements for dealing with code of conduct complaints which was available on the council’s website:
· If the complaint was not rejected, then the procedure set out in the arrangements was followed.
During the sampling of the 24 complaints which had been rejected during the period, the following points were raised:
· a complaint which had been rejected because a councillor had resigned would not be re-opened if they were re-elected or co-opted. Should the complainant wish to resubmit their complaint in these circumstances it would be necessary to consider whether, having regard to the passage of time since the incident complained of, it would be reasonable to accept the new complaint. However, the recent addition of a public interest test in determining whether or not to proceed with a complaint when a councillor had resigned was welcomed. If a complaint proceeded after the councillor had resigned and there was a breach of the code, then this information would be available on the council’s website and the former councillor concerned would have an automatic right of appeal to the standards panel
· If a tit-for-tat complaint revealed a potential breach of the code of the conduct, then the complaint would be looked into and not rejected.
· Group leaders were informed when there was a breach of the code and recommendations could involve the group leaders, e.g. a recommendation that councillors be withdrawn from sitting on committees.
· Advice was needed to be provided to councillors stressing the need to be careful about what is said over social media, emails, etc.
· Advice was needed to be provided to councillors in relation to ward members presenting the views of their residents at planning and regulatory committee as it was felt that the current guidance in the planning code was not sufficiently clear. It was further noted that parish councils were not statutory consultees for planning applications but that Herefordshire ... view the full minutes text for item 8.