Annual report on code of conduct
- Meeting of Audit and Governance Committee, Tuesday 25 January 2022 10.15 am (Item 71.)
- View the declarations of interest for item 71.
- View the background to item 71.
To enable the committee to be assured that high standards of conduct continue to be promoted and maintained. To provide an overview of how the arrangements for dealing with complaints are working together with views from the latest standards panel sampling review.
Update, 21 January 2021:
Please note the following additional recommendations (shown in italics) to those published on page 91 of the agenda reports pack:
a) the annual report on code of conduct complaints be reviewed and any areas for further work be identified for inclusion in the work programme;
b) the recommendations from the standards panel advising this committee (appendix 1), following their annual sampling exercise, are considered and are adopted as appropriate into the action tracker;
c) consultation with all members of this council, together with all parish and town councils on adopting the LGA Model Code of Conduct and arrangements is commenced; and
d) The committee note the progress outlined in the code of conduct action tracker attached at appendix 3.
The committee received an annual update on the code of conduct and on the arrangements for dealing with complaints.
The director of governance and law introduced the report, the principal points included:
i. two independent persons had resigned but four independent persons continued to play an important role in the process;
ii. the Local Government Association (LGA) ‘Model Councillor Code of Conduct’ was appended to the report (agenda pages 101 – 116) and it was recommended that consultation be undertaken with all members of this council, together with all parish and town councils, on adopting the model code and related arrangements;
iii. attention was drawn to the number of complaints handled (paragraph 25, agenda page 94), with the primary cause for complaint relating to lack of respect;
iv. the implications of councils holding remote meetings during the Covid pandemic in terms of accessibility and conduct were explored briefly;
v. there had been three upheld complaints;
vi. there were parish councils with a number of complaints but the monitoring officer could only assist with code of conduct complaints;
vii. focus on the Covid response had resulted in some delays which had been reported to the standards panel;
viii. it was important to be mindful of the ‘Nolan Principles’ and, at the recommendation of the committee, the seven principles of public life were published in the agenda for meetings held in public;
ix. attention was drawn to the recommendations action tracker appended to the report (agenda page 117/118), particularly to the actions on hold due to the work of the LGA on the model arrangements; and
x. training for councillors would be recommenced during the current year.
The chairperson made a number of comments, including:
· The independent persons were thanked for their work in supporting the monitoring officer and in offering support to councillors who were subject to complaints.
· It was suggested that the dispensations granted to Herefordshire Council councillors be summarised in a single location on the council’s website.
· It was suggested that the number of complaints referred to the police be included in the complaints received table in future reports.
· Noting the additional recommendation c) about consultation on the model code, the chairperson suggested the inclusion of the Herefordshire Association of Local Councils as part of this activity.
· In response to a question, the director of governance and law said consideration would be given to the support that was available for potential complainants who did not speak English as a first language.
In response to other questions from committee members, the director of governance and law advised that: in relation to recommendations from the standards panel (agenda page 99), a range of scenarios, such as referrals from chairpersons of committees, would be considered in terms of making ‘it clear who can make a complaint’; a breakdown of the general origins of complaints could be provided to Walford Parish Council; failure to submit a completed registration of interests form within 28 days of a councillor’s election or appointment to office would represent a breach of the code of conduct; training was mandatory for Herefordshire Council councillors but was advisory for parish and town councillors; training could be recommended more than once in response to complaints; it was noted that the model code included an undertaking by councillors to ‘undertake Code of Conduct training provided by my local authority’ if so adopted by the relevant council; and the principal differences between the model code and the existing local code related to the estimated value of any gift or hospitality to be registered and to the matters included in schedule 2 interests.
Later in the meeting, Jake Bharier, an independent person that was in attendance, commented on the level of public interest in standards currently and the challenges arising from the Localism Act 2011 which had effectively taken parish and town councils out of any formal structure for monitoring and support.
a) the annual report on code of conduct complaints has been reviewed;
b) the recommendations from the standards panel, appendix 1 to the report, following their annual sampling exercise, be adopted as appropriate into the action tracker;
c) consultation with all members of this council, together with all parish and town councils, and the Herefordshire Association of Local Councils, on adopting the LGA Model Code of Conduct and arrangements is commenced; and
d) the progress outlined in the code of conduct action tracker, appendix 3 to the report, be noted.
Action 142 That dispensations granted to Herefordshire Council councillors be summarised in a single location on the council’s website.
Action 143 The number of complaints referred to the police, even if nil, be included in the complaints received table in future reports.
Action 144 A breakdown of the general origins of complaints be provided to Walford Parish Council.
- Annual report on code of conduct, item 71. PDF 181 KB
- Appendix 1 - Recommendations from Standards Panel held on 12 January 2022, item 71. PDF 112 KB
- Appendix 2 - LGA Model Code of Conduct, item 71. PDF 421 KB
- Appendix 3 - Action Tracker, item 71. PDF 91 KB