Agenda and minutes
Venue: Conference Suite, County Offices, Plough Lane, Hereford, HR4 0LE
Contact: Caroline Marshall
Apologies for absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
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.
Councillor Bolderson stated that she was named in one of the complaints because she provided advice to submit the complaint to the complainant.
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.
During the discussion of whether the review meeting should be held in public or private, the following points were raised:
· Previous panel meetings had been held in pubic and personal information was not discussed.
· The panel were reviewing the process but not the content of the complaint which is why individuals did not have to be named.
· If there is a need for a detailed conversation where personal information would need to be disclosed, the panel could move into private session.
the meeting of the standards panel held on 12 January 2022 be held in public.
To review a sample of monitoring officer resolution decisions between 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2021.
The director of law and governance presented the report and highlighted:
· 42 complaints had been received during 2020/21
· There were 2 outstanding appeals.
· The complaints were typical in number and types of complaints.
· 2020/21 had been an extraordinary due to Covid-19, staff changes, the court judgement in children’s services.
· There had been a number of different decision makers as both the monitoring officer and deputy monitoring officer had been dealing with other high priority issues. It was also noted that the administrator for code of conduct complaints had also been supporting the court case.
· Due to the above there had been issues with timeliness on the complaints being reviewed. The normal process took 55 working days. The average complaint was 87 days, but one complaint was resolved in 171 days and the other was resolved in 15 days. This was not satisfactory
· It was acknowledged that there would need to be more officers involved in the complaints process. This would also allow the monitoring officer and deputy monitoring officer to meet complainants/subject members whilst others then dealt with the complaint.
· The panel which had been scheduled for 28 January would be re-arranged.
· The reasons for delay in dealing with complaints was now being tracked and would form part of the tracking spreadsheet presented to panel at review meetings.
· The panel were reviewing all closed complaints received in 2020/21.
A member of the panel commented that that if the council informed the public and those subject to complaint of the delay, complaints may have been minimised.
The complaint had been rejected as there had been no evidence provided that the councillor had been acting as a councillor at the time. It was acknowledged that this would be difficult for complainants to tell the difference.
The issue went to the heart of the Nolan principles and councillors should consider these principles carefully.
The issue of maladministration, pre-determination and parish council procedures were all outside of the remit of the code of conduct.
The decision on this complaint had been to find a breach of code of conduct. This was in relation to NDP regulations, no bad faith had been evident but there had been a finding that there was a failure to uphold the code. The councillor had apologised unreservedly.
If the councillor had written in their personal/private capacity, then there would not have been a breach of the code. However, if they had been using information which was only available to them as a councillor, then there was a potential link to the code or it could be considered as bringing the council into disrepute.
This was similar to appendix 2 in relation to a councillor acting in their personal capacity and pre-determination.
Councillors are not normally made aware of complaints against them which have been rejected.
The monitoring officer can only recommend that appropriate training is undertaken but there is no legal obligation for the councillor to comply.
It was noted that:
· Herefordshire Council ... view the full minutes text for item 26.