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STANDARDS COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 16th December, 2014.

 

Present:  Mr. A.G. Hallett (Chairman); Mr. D. Carsley and Town Councillor M. Cuddy and Councillor C.P. Franks.

 

 

699     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –  

 

This was received from Mr. A.J. Lane (Chairman), Mr. J.F. Baker and Mrs. M.J. Pearce and Councillors Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and Mrs. A.J. Moore.

 

           

700     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –  

 

Town Councillor M. Cuddy declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 4 in that he knew one of the Applicants for dispensation, Councillor Lis Burnett.  This personal interest did not equate to a prejudicial interest and he was therefore able to speak and vote on the matter. 

 

 

701     MINUTES –  

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 5th November, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

702     APPLICATIONS FOR DISPENSATION (MO) –

 

The Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 permitted Members to apply to the Standards Committee to speak and, if appropriate, to vote on matters concerning which, due to a prejudicial interest, they might not otherwise be able to speak or vote.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the dispensations as set out in the schedule below be granted as indicated.

 

[View Dispensations]

 

Reason for decision

 

To comply with the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 governing applications for the grant of dispensation to speak / speak and vote.

 

 

703     MATTER WHICH THE CHAIRMAN HAD DECIDED WAS URGENT –

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the following matter which the Chairman had decided was urgent for the reason given beneath the minute heading be considered.

 

 

704     APPLICATION FOR GRANT OF DISPENSATION (MO) –

(Urgent by reason of the need to consider a request for dispensation to speak and vote received from Vale of Glamorgan Councillor Mrs. A.J. Moore prior to the next meeting of the Committee)

 

The Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 permitted Members to apply to the Standards Committee to speak and, if appropriate, to vote on matters concerning which, due to a prejudicial interest, they might not otherwise be able to speak or vote.

 

Councillor Mrs. A.J. Moore’s application had been to speak and vote at meetings of the Council, when matters relating to the review of Council employment terms and conditions were considered in view of her daughter being an employee of the Council.  The paragraphs of the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 under which the dispensation was sought was (d), (e) and (f). 

 

It was

 

RESOLVED – T H A T dispensation be granted to Councillor Mrs. A.J. Moore to speak and vote at meetings of the Vale of Glamorgan Council during which matters relating to the review of Council employment terms and conditions are considered in view of Councillor Mrs. Moore’s daughter being employed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  This decision was taken in compliance with paragraphs (d) and (f) of the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 which govern the grant of dispensations to speak / speak and vote. 

 

Reason for decision

 

To comply with the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 governing applications for the grant of dispensation to speak / speak and vote.

 

 

705     CODE OF CONDUCT TRAINING FOR TOWN AND COMMUNITY COUNCILLORS (MO) –

 

Committee were advised of training that had been provided / offered to all Members of the Town and Community Councils within the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

A Charter existed between the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Town and Community Councils, part of which required Town and Community Council Clerks and Councillors elected / appointed post November 2012 to receive a presentation on the role of the Monitoring Officer and Members’ Code of Conduct. 

 

To this end, a training session had been held on 4th December 2014.

 

The training session was addressed by Ms. Debbie Marles, Monitoring Officer, and Mr. Hallett, Chairman of the Standards Committee, who provided an overview of the Standards Committee.

 

The training had been delivered by the organisation 'One Voice Wales, the Voice of Community and Town Councils in Wales', and the cost met by the Vale of Glamorgan Council. 

 

There had been 15 attendees (of which one was a Finance Officer and one was a Vale of Glamorgan Member attending in their role as Town / Community Councillor and 13 were Town or Community Councillors).

 

Following the session, all attendees were invited to complete a Feedback Questionnaire comprising six questions and give a score of between 1 and 6 (Score 1 low, 6 high). 

 

Overall the satisfaction rate for all questions amounted to 5.7.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the contents of the report be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

To inform Members of the Standards Committee.

 

 

706     STANDARDS CONFERENCE WALES 2015 (MO) –

 

Committee was advised of the likely dates of the Standards Conferences Wales 2015.

 

Full details of the Conference had not yet been received, but it was known that the theme of the Conference would relate to the 20th Anniversary of the introduction of the Nolan Principles of Conduct in Public Life which fell in 2015. 

 

Whilst the exact date had not been finalised yet, it would be on one of the following: 

 

            1st, 5th, 12th, 19th or 20th October 2015

 

and would be held in Cardiff.

 

The Conference would provide an opportunity to hear directly from senior officials involved in the adjudication of the Code of Conduct, to question them on matters of concern and to enable delegates to debate current issues on the Code of Conduct.

 

Mr. Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, would be in attendance.

 

As the full details of the Conference were still awaited, it was proposed that the Chairman of the Standards Committee be authorised to determine the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s representation, if any, when the full details were known.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the Chairman of the Standards Committee be authorised to consider and determine the Council’s representation at the Conference.

 

Reason for decision

 

To enable the Council to be represented at the Conference.

 

 

707     ALLEGATIONS OF FAILURE TO OBSERVE THE MEMBERS’ CODE OF CONDUCT MADE AGAINST COMMUNITY COUNCILLOR LINO SCAGLIONI OF SULLY AND LAVERNOCK COMMUNITY COUNCIL (MO) –

 

Standards Committee on 31st July 2014 were requested to consider allegations made against Community Councillor Lino Scaglioni of failure to observe the Sully and Lavernock Community Council’s Code of Conduct.  After considering representations, the Committee made its determinations in line with Regulation 9(1) of the Local Government Investigations (Functions of Monitoring Officers and Standards Committees) (Wales) Regulations 2001.

 

The decision of the Standards Committee had been:

 

(1)       That, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee, and contrary to Paragraph 4(b) of the Sully and Lavernock Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor L. Scaglioni made inappropriate and personal comments about Councillor k. Mahoney in an e-mail dated 25th September 2012, Councillor Scaglioni be suspended from being a Member of Sully and Lavernock Community Council for a period of six months.

 

(2)       That, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee, and contrary to Paragraphs 4(b) and 6(1)(a) of the Sully and Lavernock Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor L. Scaglioni made inappropriate and personal comments about Councillor K. Mahoney in an e-mail dated 13th December 2012, Councillor Scaglioni be suspended from being a Member of Sully and Lavernock Community Council for a period of six months.

 

(3)       That, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee, and contrary to Paragraphs 4(b) and 6(1)(a) of the Sully and Lavernock Community Council’s  Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor L. Scaglioni made inappropriate and personal comments about Councillor K. Mahoney in an e-mail dated 18th December 2012, Councillor Scaglioni be suspended from being a Member of Sully and Lavernock Community Council for a period of six months.

 

(4)       That, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee, and contrary to Paragraphs 4(b) and 6(1)(a) of the Sully and Lavernock Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor L. Scaglioni made inappropriate and personal comments about Councillor K. Mahoney in an e-mail dated 4th January 2013, Councillor Scaglioni be suspended from being a Member of Sully and Lavernock Community Council for a period of six months.

 

(5)       That Community Councillor L. Scaglioni be required to attend a training session regarding the Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

(6)       That Community Councillor L. Scaglioni be advised of his right to appeal against the Committee’s determination within a period of 21 days of his receiving notification, by giving notice in writing to:

 

The Registrar

Adjudication Panel for Wales

Government Buildings

Spa Road East

Llandrindod Wells

Powys

LE1 5HA

 

and that the notice of appeal must specify:

 

the grounds for appeal, and

whether or not the person giving notice of the appeal consents to the appeal being conducted by way of written representations.

 

(7)       That, subject to an appeal (if any) the findings of the Standards Committee as detailed in paragraphs (1) to (5) above be publicised in accordance with the requirements of the Local Government Investigations (Functions of Monitoring Officers and Standards Committees) (Wales) Regulations 2001.           

 

Councillor Scaglioni exercised his right of appeal against the Committee’s determination, by giving notice within the specified time, to the Registrar of the Adjudication Panel for Wales.

 

Standards Committee was advised that the Monitoring Officer had been informed by the Registrar to the Adjudication Panel for Wales that it was anticipated that Community Councillor Scaglioni’s appeal would be considered in January 2015.

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a further report be submitted when the outcome of the appeal was known.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       Having regard to the contents of the report.

 

(2)       To keep Members of the Standards Committee apprised.

 

 

708     GUIDANCE ON THE CODE OF CONDUCT FOR LOCAL AUTHORITY MEMBERS – PUBLIC INTEREST TEST (MO) –

 

Committee was advised of the proposed introduction by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales of a public interest test when dealing with complaints relating to breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct. 

 

In determining whether to investigate a complaint or whether to continue an investigation of a breach of the Code to the stage of referring the matter to the Adjudication Panel for Wales or a Standards Committee, the Ombudsman had, for a number of years, applied the following two stage test.

 

The first stage which had been applied was to establish whether there was evidence that a breach of the Code actually took place.  The second stage was whether the breach alleged would be likely to lead to a sanction.  When exercising his discretion to investigate or to refer a matter for further consideration, the Ombudsman took account of previous cases considered by Standards Committees across Wales.

 

Since taking up office, the Ombudsman had become increasingly concerned about the number of low level complaints being received.  Whilst the local resolution process within county or county borough councils appeared to have had the effect of resolving many of the low level Member versus Member complaints within those bodies, the Ombudsman remained concerned about the number of frivolous, trivial and vexatious complaints being received from Town and Community Council Members.

 

The Ombudsman had therefore decided to expand upon the two stage test and also consider whether an investigation or a referral to the Adjudication Panel or a Standards Committee was required in the public interest.

 

When applying the public interest test, the Ombudsman would consider each of the following public interest factors set out below.  These factors were not exhaustive, and not all may be relevant in every case.  The weight to be attached to each of these factors, and the factors identified, would also vary according to the facts and merits of each case:

  • The seriousness of the breach, for example, has the Member brought their Authority seriously into disrepute?  The more serious the breach the more likely investigation and referral for further hearing is required.
  • Has the Member deliberately sought personal gain for himself or another person at the public expense?  If there is evidence of this, the Ombudsman is likely to investigate and refer the matter for further hearing.
  • Are the circumstances of the breach such that a Member has misused a position of trust or authority and caused harm to a person?  If there is evidence of this, the Ombudsman is likely to investigate and refer the matter for further hearing.
  • Was the breach motivated by any form of discrimination against the victim's ethnic or national origin, gender, disability, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender identity?  If a Member's conduct is motivated by any form of discrimination, the Ombudsman is likely to investigate and refer the matter for further hearing.
  • Is there evidence of previous similar behaviour on the part of the Member?  If so and the matter complained about is serious enough, the Ombudsman is likely to investigate and refer the matter for further hearing.
  • Is the breach such that an investigation or referral to the Adjudication Panel or a Standards Committee is required to maintain public confidence in Elected Members in Wales?  If so, the Ombudsman is likely to investigate and if evidence of a serious breach is found, refer the matter for further hearing.
  • Is investigation or referral to the Adjudication Panel or a Standards Committee a proportionate response?  Namely, would the cost of an investigation or hearing by the Adjudication Panel or a Standards Committee be regarded as excessive when weighed against any likely sanction?

The Ombudsman’s role was to investigate serious cases in order to maintain public confidence in standards in public life.  If he was not satisfied that an investigation or referral to the Adjudication Panel or Standards Committee was proportionate in the circumstances, he would decline to investigate or, if having started an investigation this became apparent, he would close his investigation. 

 

In considering the Ombudsman’s proposals, it was noted that should the Ombudsman decline to investigate a complaints there would be no further avenue open for complainants to seek redress. 

 

The view was expressed that an analysis of the types of complaints received by the Ombudsman would have assisted the Committee in its deliberations and Members were advised that the Ombudsman had not issued the Public Interest Test yet and would welcome the comments of the Standards Committee. 

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Ombudsman be advised of the views of the Committee.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To inform Members of the Standards Committee.

 

(2)       to inform the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.