Agenda and minutes
Venue: Conference Room 1, Herefordshire Council Offices, Plough Lane, Hereford, HR4 0LE
Contact: Henry Merricks-Murgatroyd, Democratic Services Officer
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive any apologies for absence.
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.
There were no apologies received.
To receive any details of panel members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a member of the panel.
There were no 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.
Councillor David Hitchiner (Chair of Audit and Governance committee) advised members that he knew some of the councillors involved in the complaints being reviewed by the panel.
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.
The Chair asked members if a vote could be taken on whether to hold item 5 of the agenda in public as long as all members are careful to protect the anonymity of subject members involved in complaints.
Sean O’Connor (Deputy Monitoring Officer) advised members that by having the session in public, this could prohibit meaningful conversation as it could prevent members discussing part of the complaints.
A vote was held and members decided to pass the resolution to move into Part 2 to enable members to discuss matters which might otherwise be a breach of confidentiality or data protection.
To review a sample of monitoring officer resolution decisions between 1 May 2022 – 30 April 2023.
The Chair noted that there had been a lot of changes in the last year. The principal points included:
Councillor Robert Highfield asked if the panel is required to review cases that are still open.
The Chair responded that the standard rule is to specifically look at the monitoring officer’s decisions of complaints that are resolved.
The Deputy Monitoring Officer added that the constitution states that the panel is to look at complaints which have been resolved in order to spot check and comment on the decisions which have been made. This provides members an opportunity to review the decision-making process that governs code of conduct complaints.
The Chair asked members therefore that if they wish to make any recommendations that could be forwarded to the Audit and Governance committee.
Deborah Upton (Senior Governance Lawyer) said that while most of the complaints within the sample were handled internally, some were handled by Cornwall Council. The Senior Governance Lawyer explained the process which was now used for dealing with complaints to members of the standards panel.
She added that there have been a number of changes with receiving complaints which used to come in via PDF format and were usually sent to the Corporate Complaints team, adding to delays. An e-form has now been created and the complaint goes directly to the code of conduct email inbox, which provides better service for customers.
The Chair proceeded to go through the complaints as listed in the sample.
Members heard that recommendations to parish councils were often wider than training in an effort to ensure that the issue which led to the complaint in the first place is resolved, in an effort to avoid repeat complaints.
As part of the process, Independent Persons can act as a sounding board for a subject member who request support from an Independent Person.
From a recruitment perspective going forward, there will be three members of staff involved in dealing with complaints for the future including the Deputy Monitoring Officer, a Governance Lawyer, and a Paralegal post. Therefore more resources are being put in to help deal with the timeliness of complaint cases, bearing in mind the number of ... view the full minutes text for item 10.