Agenda and minutes

Standards
Thursday 31st January 2019 6.00 pm

Contact: Jane Fulton 

Items
No. Item

383.

Declarations of Interest

Members and Officers are invited to make any declarations of pecuniary, personal and/or prejudicial interests that they may have in relation to items on this agenda, and are reminded that they should re-declare their interest before consideration of the item or as soon as the interest becomes apparent.

 

Members and Officers should make their declaration by stating:

 

a)    The item that they have in the interest in

b)    Whether it is a pecuniary, personal and/or prejudicial interest

c)    The nature of the interest

Minutes:

There were no Declarations of Interest made.

384.

Minutes

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 21 June 2018, which are attached.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 21 June 2018 were approved by the Committee as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

385.

ASSESSSMENT PANEL DECISION - ALLEGATION AGAINST A BONGOR REGIS TOWN COUNCILLOR pdf icon PDF 74 KB

This report advised the Committee of the outcome of the Assessment Panel’s investigation into allegations received against Councillor Damien Enticott, a Bognor Regis Town Councillor.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report from the Group Head of Council Advice & Monitoring Officer advising Members of the outcome of the Assessment Panel’s investigation into allegations received against Councillor Damien Enticott, a Bognor Regis Town Councillor.

 

The Committee was reminded that in this case, three separate complaints had been received against the Councillor which had been investigated by the Assessment Panel on 17 October 2018. The findings of the Panel had been attached to the report as Appendices A, B and C. No review of the decision had been requested by either the Subject Member or the Complainant by the expiry date of the review period. The decision notices had been published on 26 November 2018.

 

In finding the Subject Member in breach of the Code of Conduct, the Panel determined that its decision notices should be published for the maximum period of 12 months. In line with Paragraph 6.8 of the Local Assessment Procedure, the Panel wished to ask the Committee to carry out a further review of its findings to determine whether the publication of the decisions reached should be for a longer timeframe in view of the nature of the complaints received and breaches found.

 

A discussion took place with some Members of the Committee stating that the maximum timeframe of 12 months publicising the Assessment Panel’s decision was adequate. However, other Members felt that in view of the severity of the complaints, in this instance the publication period should be extended beyond the maximum 12 months. Although both arguments were felt to be justified, the Committee agreed that unless it had a rating system built into its Local Assessment Procedure, it would be impossible to determine a suitable publication length, beyond the maximum period of 12 months and so this made it difficult to apply a longer term retrospectively.

 

The Group Head of Council Advice & Monitoring Officer confirmed that the Police Protocol had been actioned for this case. At this time, the Council had not been advised of the outcome of the Police’s investigation.

 

Following some further discussion, the Committee

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)  the decisions of the Assessment Panel be noted; and

 

(2)  the outcome of the Committee’s review of the publication

period be confirmed as the maximum period of 12 months from

26 November 2018.

386.

REVIEW OF THE LOCAL ASSESSMENT PROCEDURE pdf icon PDF 105 KB

A revised Local Assessment Procedure was adopted by the Council on 8 November 2017 and it was agreed that a review would be undertaken following a year of operation.  This report therefore considers how the Procedure has worked in practice, proposes some minor amendments for clarity, and seeks the views of the Committee on any other changes to be put forward.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Group Head of Council Advice & Monitoring Officer reminded the

Committee that a revised Local Assessment Procedure had been adopted by Full Council on 8 November 2017 and that it had been agreed that a review would be undertaken following a year of that Procedure’s operation.

 

            The Committee received a report reviewing how the Procedure had worked in practice and it proposed some minor amendments for the Committee to consider for clarity purposes and to increase transparency of the process for dealing with Code of Conduct complaints. The Committee’s views were also sought on any other changes that it felt should be put forward and proposed.

 

The Group Head of Council Advice & Monitoring Officer outlined that the procedure had worked well and had met the aims that the Committee had wanted in introducing a two staged review process in terms of practical use and application.

 

Taking into account comments received, there were six sections where change was being proposed, as set out below:

 

Paragraph 4

There were three additions proposed:

(i) Whilst the flow chart at Appendix 3 confirms that this stage will be completed within 28 working days, it is suggested that an additional paragraph be added to confirm this timescale for clarity. This new paragraph (4.2) also confirmed the timescale for acknowledging any complaint received.

(ii) In practice, the Monitoring Officer has been consulting with an Independent Person before using her discretion not to proceed with a complaint under one of the sub-paragraphs in paragraph 4.3. This was so that some independence could be seen to all parties from any decision taken. It was therefore proposed that this practice be formalised.

(iii) This stage had no right of review and for clarity it was suggested that an additional paragraph be added to confirm this and that the Monitoring Officer’s decision would be reported to the Standards Committee for information.

 

The Committee agreed to these changes.

 

Paragraph 5

Clarity was being proposed in:

(i)            A new paragraph 5.5 to confirm that the investigation would be completed within 28 working days (as explained in Appendix 3), unless the Monitoring Officer advised within that timeframe that more time was needed by the Investigating Officer to conduct their review.

 

 

(ii)           This stage also had no right of review and for clarity it was suggested that an additional paragraph be added to confirm this and that the Monitoring Officer’s decision would be reported to the Standards Committee for information.

 

The Committee agreed to these changes.

 

Paragraph 6

To reflect the practice introduced, it was proposed that:

(i) The third, fourth and final bullet points in paragraph 6.6 be amended to state that the report would be issued when the decision notice was published as well as in a report to the Standards Committee, so Members and the relevant Town/Parish Council were made aware as soon as the final decision notice was issued to all parties.

 

The Committee agreed to these changes.

 

Paragraph 8

To reflect the practice introduced, it was proposed that:

(i)  ...  view the full minutes text for item 386.

387.

RECRUITMENT OF ADDITIONAL INDEPENDENT PERSONS TO THE STANDARDS COMMITTEE pdf icon PDF 83 KB

As requested by the Committee at its last meeting on 21 June 2018, this report seeks further views from Members on the approach to recruiting additional Independent persons and presents options for a way forward.

Minutes:

The Committee received a report from the Group Head of Council

Advice & Monitoring Officer which was asking the Committee for its views on the approach to be taken to recruiting additional Independent Persons to the

Standards Committee as requested at the last meeting of the Committee on

21 June 2018.

 

The Group Head of Council Advice & Monitoring Officer explained that it had not been possible to commence a recruitment process until now due to an unprecedented increase in workload. This was because there had been a significant number of complex complaints made against Councillors under the

Code of Conduct between July to November 2018.

 

            Despite this, the consequential workload had provided an opportunity to test out all stages of the Local Assessment Procedure and had involved the

Independent Persons in the majority of the complaints received. It was reported that the work had been evenly distributed between the two

Independent Persons and both had been able to respond in a timely manner to the Monitoring Officer.

 

The two Independent Persons, Mr Green and Mr Thompson, had been consulted on whether they felt that the workload from the recent cases had been too onerous and whether they had any views on the appointment of additional Independent Persons.

 

The view of the Monitoring Officer was that two Independent Persons was sufficient but at the same time, the Committee needed to bear in mind how much work was involved in managing and assessing complaints. On an average, 5-6 complaints were received over a year, however since July 2018,

22 complaints had been received to date.

 

The two Independent Persons were then invited to provide their views.

They confirmed that the workload for them had not been too onerous, however, they felt that it would be sensible for consistency and training purposes to appoint one further Independent Person to cover for any unforeseen absences such as holiday or illness.

 

Following a brief discussion, the Committee agreed that a recruitment exercise should be pursued to appoint one further Independent Person. The

Group Head of Council Advice & Monitoring Officer proposed that a similar approach be taken to recruitment to that adopted by the Audit & Governance

Committee in July 2018 in appointing new members to the Independent

Remuneration Panel which conducted reviews of the Council’s Members’

Allowances Scheme. Having explained the stages to the approach used, it was confirmed that a new Independent Remuneration Panel had been successfully appointed through advertising in the business community and on the Council’s website.

 

The Committee

 

            RESOLVED – That

(1) the option for recruiting one additional Independent Person to the Standards Committee, as set out in the report, be endorsed with authority being given to the Group Head of Council Advice & Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Chairman of the Committee, to agree the application pack and advertisement; and

 

(2) the Group Head of Council Advice & Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Chairman of the Committee, be given authority to appoint two Members of the Committee and an Independent Person to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 387.

388.

EXEMPT INFORMATION

Minutes:

The Committee

 

RESOLVED

 

That under Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and accredited representatives of newspapers be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it may involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part 1 and Part 5 of Schedule 12A of the Act by virtue of the paragraph specified against the item.

389.

REGISTER OF ASSESSMENTS OF COMPLAINTS AGAINST COUNCILLORS

This report updates the Committee on the complaints against Councillors received over the past two years.

Minutes:

(Prior to the commencement of the discussion on this item, Councillor Mrs Bower declared a Personal Interest in some of the complaints contained within this report as her husband was the Subject Member. Councillor Mrs Bower confirmed that she would therefore leave the meeting for this item.)

 

The Committee received and noted a report from the Group Head of Council Advice & Monitoring Officer which updated Members on the complaints against Councillors received over the past two years.