Agenda and minutes
Monday, 16 January 2012 6:30 pm
Venue: Committee Room, Civic Offices, Leigh Road, Eastleigh
Contact: Jon Brown, Assistant Head of Legal & Democratic Services; Tel: 023 8068 8124; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Election of Chair and Vice-Chair of the Committee for the remainder of the 2011/12 municipal year
RESOLVED that David Bevis and Rosemary Smith be appointed Chair and Vice-Chair respectively for the remainder of the municipal year.
Declarations of Interest
Members are invited to declare interests in relation to items of business on the agenda. Any interests declared will be recorded in the Minutes.
There were no declarations of interest on this occasion.
Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Legal and Democratic Services which updated Members of the Committee on Code of Conduct complaints received and dealt with under the current local scheme managed by the Committee. Since the responsibility for dealing with Code of Conduct complaints made against Borough and Parish Councils had transferred to local standards committees in May 2008, some 19 complaints had been submitted to this Committee, of which 10 were felt necessary to be investigated. Only two complaints to date had been taken to a hearing, at both of which the Code was found to have been breached.
It was requested that these two upheld complaints be recorded in these minutes:
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
Localism Act 2011 - Discussion item
The Committee considered a discussion paper prepared by Alison Ball, Democratic Services Officer, which highlighted key aspects of the Localism Act 2011 that had implications for the Standards regime and management of a Members’ Code of Conduct. It was likely that changes would come into effect on 1 July 2012.
The paper highlighted a number of key issues which included the following: that the current Code will cease to have effect and a ‘new’ Code would need to be adopted; parish councils also had to adopt a Code; that there was no longer a requirement to have a standards committee but that responsibility remained with the Borough Council to administer Code of Conduct complaints made against Borough and Parish Members; new Independent Member(s) would be required but would not have any voting rights at any meeting dealing with complaints or related matters; the concepts of personal and prejudicial interests would be abolished, with regulations soon to define new ‘disclosable pecuniary interests’ (DPI) and that failure to register a DPI would be a criminal offence; that there was no requirement to register or declare gifts and hospitality; and the ability to grant dispensations to Members could be delegated to a Standards Committee or the Monitoring Officer.
The Council needed to have in place arrangements to investigate Code of Conduct complaints but the new legislation did not provide for any powers to impose sanctions such as training, an apology or suspension (currently up to 6 months) if a member was found to have breached the code. Action that could be taken included:
· making recommendations to the relevant Group Leader to remove the Member from committees of the Council;
· recommending to the Council or relevant committee that the Member be removed from outside bodies;
· withdrawing facilities provided by the Council such as a computer and/or internet access; and
· excluding the Member from the Council’s offices (except for meeting rooms for attendance at meetings).
Whilst the Council was responsible for investigating any complaints about parish councillors who had allegedly breached the code of conduct, it had no power to take any action other than recommend to the parish council a course of action.
There was now no requirement to include provision for an appeals system either, although it could be open to judicial review.
The Committee was asked for its thoughts on how best to implement the required changes as initial work was now being done on preparing a report for consideration at Council. Members largely felt that some form of Standards Committee was still needed, with a mixed and sufficient membership, to have scope to consider complaints in an open and transparent manner. However, the report to Council should detail a range of options wherever possible to enable the best and most appropriate system to be developed, given the new legislation.
It was noted that the role of the Independent Member(s) would be very different and much reduced to what currently existed, and could effectively be no more than a consultee. This would need to be made clear at the recruitment stage, and could prove unappealing to potential applicants.
The possible confusion over multiple Codes of Conduct being in existence was also recognised (eg the Borough Council could potentially need to be aware of its own and ten different parish Codes, and dual-hatted Members could have to be aware of their responsibilities under two or three different Codes), and this may need to be an issue for a scrutiny panel to consider in due course. The National Association of Parish Councils was giving consideration to drawing up a model ... view the full minutes text for item 4.