Venue: Exe Room, Phoenix House, Tiverton
Contact: Julia Stuckey
Link: audio recording
APOLOGIES AND SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS
To receive any apologies for absence and notices of appointment of Substitute Members (if any).
There were no apologies given.
PUBLIC QUESTION TIME
To receive any questions relating to items on the Agenda from members of the public and replies thereto.
Note: A maximum of 30 minutes is allowed for this item.
There were no members of the public in attendance.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the last meeting of this Committee (attached).
The Minutes of the last meeting were approved as a true record and signed by the Chairman.
To receive any announcements the Chairman of the Committee may wish to make.
The Chairman welcomed the newly appointed Independent Persons Mr John Smith and Mr David Williamson to the meeting.
The Chairman also welcomed Donna Nolan, Deputy Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer from Mendip District Council and Maria De Leiburne, Solicitor.
To receive a report from the Deputy Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer of Mendip District Council following her peer review of the Standards regime for this authority.
To seek approval (via a recommendation to Council) of the Complaints and Hearing Procedures (attached) following consideration of the peer review and any suggested amendments thereon.
The approved Constitution is also attached for reference during discussion.
The Committee had before it a report * from Donna Nolan, the Deputy Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer, Mendip District Council.
Following the recent resignation of the Council’s Monitoring Officer the Chief Executive had sought a peer review of the Council’s current standards regime.
The review had been undertaken mindful of the fact that the Council had appointed a new Legal Services Group Manager and Monitoring Officer and the report had been prepared with the intention of assisting the Council and the new post holder improve its current standards regime.
Ms Nolan explained that the Localism Act 2011 (the Act) made fundamental changes to the system of regulation of standards of conduct for Councillors and Co-opted Members. The report reviewed the Council’s system and revisited the changes brought into force by the Act and recommended points for debate and proposed actions to assist the Council to further improve its system. To enable consideration of the recommendations a number of model documents and examples were appended to the report.
Ms Nolan informed the Committee that it was important to note that the report did not highlight any fundamental issues in respect of the Council’s current ethical standards regime.
Ms Nolan thanked officers for their support in undertaking this review. She reported that officers had been very cooperative and helpful and that she had found it to be an interesting piece of work.
1 The Code of Conduct
In accordance with the Act, the Council had adopted a new Code of Conduct governing elected and Co-opted Members’ conduct, when acting in that capacity. The Council had discretion as to what it included in its Code of Conduct provided it was consistent with the following seven Nolan principles.
Discussion took place regarding:
· The website address within the document required changing;
· This authority did not have prejudicial interests within its Code of Conduct;
· The number of authorities that had adopted the code.
It was RECOMMENDED that Council, subject to an amendment to paragraph 5.1 of appendix 1 to remove text so that the paragraph started at ‘The Monitoring Officer must…’
(Proposed by the Chairman)
2 Disclosable Pecuniary Interests
Ms Nolan explained what a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (DPI) was and that Councillors must declare interests of their spouse or civil partner.
Discussion took place regarding:
· Training could be undertaken when the new Monitoring Officer was in post;
· Member Services sent reminders that Register of Interest forms must be updated via the weekly information sheet;
· The use of the Annual Council meeting to remind Members of the need ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
To receive an update from the Monitoring Officer with regard to any on-going complaints being dealt with. During the discussion it may be necessary to consider passing the following resolution to protect the Members of District, Town and Parish Council’s being discussed.
During discussion of this item it may be necessary to pass the following resolution to exclude the press and public having reflected on Article 12 12.02(d) (a presumption in favour of openness) of the Constitution. This decision may be required because consideration of this matter in public may disclose information falling within one of the descriptions of exempt information in Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972. The Committee will need to decide whether, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption, outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION ACT – EXCLUSION OF THE PRESS AND PUBLIC
RECOMMENDED that under section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the next item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act, namely information relating to an individual
The Solicitor informed the Committee that she had provided advice to three Parish Councils and one Town Council since November 2016. All had been resolved apart from one where advice was being provided to the clerk.
The Solicitor had also handled four complaints in connection with two matters and had concluded that there had been no breach of the Code. Two of these complaints had been withdrawn and the others closed.
Four new complaints had been received that day.
IDENTIFICATION OF ITEMS FOR THE NEXT MEETING
Members are asked to note that the following items are already identified in the work programme for the next meeting: