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STANDARDS COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 26th February, 2015.

 

Present:  Mr. A.J. Lane (Vice-Chairman in the Chair); Mr. J.F. Baker, Mr. D. Carsley and Mrs. M.J. Pearce; Town Councillor M. Cuddy and Councillors C.P. Franks, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and Mrs. A.J. Moore.

 

 

910     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE – 

 

These were received from Mr. A.G. Hallett (Chairman).

 

 

911     MINUTES – 

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 16th December, 2014 be approved as a correct record, subject to it being recorded in Minutes No. 699 that Mr. A.J. Lane was the Vice-Chairman.

 

 

912     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

Town Councillor M. Cuddy declared an interest in Agenda Items No. 4 and 8 in that he knew two of the Applicants for dispensation, i.e. Councillors M.R. Wilson and G. Roberts.  This personal interest did not equate to a prejudicial interest and he was therefore able to speak and vote on the matter. 

 

Councillor C.P. Franks declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 8 in that he knew Councillors Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, K. Hatton and Dr. I.J. Johnson.  Furthermore, Councillor Franks also had a personal application which would be considered.  These personal interests equated to prejudicial interests, and Councillor Franks vacated the room whilst these applications were under consideration.

 

 

913     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 –

 

(1)       T H A T dispensation be granted to Vale of Glamorgan Councillor M.R. Wilson to speak and vote at meetings of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Penarth Town Council on matters relating to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s 'Reshaping Services Strategy' in view of his step-daughter being an employee of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, in compliance with paragraph (d) of the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 which governs a grant of dispensation to speak / speak and vote.

 

(2)       T H A T Vale of Glamorgan Councillor G. Roberts be granted dispensation to speak and vote at meetings of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Penarth Town Council on matters relating to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s 'Reshaping Services Strategy' in compliance with paragraph (d) of the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 which govern the grant of dispensations to speak / speak and vote.

 

(3)       T H A T the above dispensations be granted until the date of the next local government elections.

 

Reason for decisions

 

(1-3)    To comply with the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 governing applications for the grant of dispensations to speak / speak and vote.

 

 

914     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.

 

 

915     APPLICATIONS FOR GRANT OF DISPENSATION (MO) –

(Urgent by reason of the need to consider requests for dispensation to speak and vote 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.

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T dispensation be granted to Councillor Mrs. V.M. Hartrey to speak and vote at meetings of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Dinas Powys Community Council on matters relating to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s 'Reshaping Services Strategy' in compliance with paragraph (d) of the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 which governs a grant of dispensations to speak / to speak and vote.

 

(2)       T H A T dispensation be granted to Councillor K. Hatton to speak and vote at meetings of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Dinas Powys Community Council on matters relating to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s 'Reshaping Services Strategy in compliance with paragraph (d) of the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 which governs a grant of dispensations to speak / to speak and vote.

 

(3)       T H A T dispensation be granted to Vale of Glamorgan Councillor C.P. Franks to speak and vote at meetings of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Dinas Powys Community Council on matters relating to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s 'Reshaping Services Strategy' in compliance with paragraph (d) of the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 which governs a grant of dispensations to speak / to speak and vote.

 

(4)       T H A T dispensation be granted to Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson to speak and vote at meetings of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Barry Town Council on matters relating to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s 'Reshaping Services Strategy' in compliance with paragraph (d) of the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 which governs a grant of dispensations to speak / to speak and vote.

 

(5)       T H A T dispensation be granted to Councillor E. Williams to speak and vote at meetings of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Llantwit Major Town Council on matters relating to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s 'Reshaping Services Strategy' in compliance with paragraph (d) of the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 which governs a grant of dispensations to speak / to speak and vote.

 

(6)       T H A T the dispensations above be granted until the date of the next local government elections.

 

Reason for decisions

 

(1-6)    To comply with the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 governing applications for the grant of dispensations to speak / speak and vote.

 

 

916     OUTCOME OF APPEAL TO THE ADJUDICATION PANEL FOR WALES (MO) –

 

Committee was updated regarding the decision of the Adjudication Panel for Wales dated 22nd January 2015 and were further advised of the issuing of notification pursuant to the Local Government Investigations (Functions of Monitoring Officers and Standards Committees) (Wales) Regulations 2001.

 

Standards Committee, on 31st July 2014, had resolved:

 

'(1)      T H A T, 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)       T H A T, 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)       T H A T, 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)       T H A T, 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)       T H A T Community Councillor L. Scaglioni be required to attend a training session regarding the Members’ Code of Conduct. 

 

(6)       T H A T 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)       T H A T, 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.

 

The appeal was considered by a Tribunal of the Adjudication Panel for Wales on 22nd January 2015 and it was the finding of the Appeal Tribunal that Councillor Scaglioni did not breach Paragraph 4(b) of the Community Council’s Code of Conduct on the basis that some of his comments were political in nature and attracted enhanced protection under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The Tribunal considered that the comments were not sufficiently offensive or abusive in the context in which they were written to amount to a failure to show respect and consideration.

 

The Appeal Tribunal, having found that Community Councillor Scaglioni did not breach the Code of Conduct with regard to failing to show respect and consideration agreed that Community Councillor Scaglioni could not therefore have brought the office or Authority into disrepute. 

 

The Appeal Tribunal decided to overturn the determination of the Standards Committee and the sanction imposed by the Standards Committee was rescinded.

 

The Tribunal’s full reasoned decision would be available on the Adjudication Panel’s website in due course.

 

In accordance with Regulation 13 of the Local Government Investigations (Functions of Monitoring Officers and Standards Committees) (Wales) Regulations 2001, a report on the outcome of the investigation had been sent to Community Councillor Scaglioni, the person who made the allegations which gave rise to the investigation and the Local Commissioner in Wales. 

 

Additionally, a report notifying of the outcome of the investigation had been published in the Gem Newspaper and on the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s website.  Copies were available for inspection by the public at all reasonable office hours.

 

Discussion ensued on the decision of the Adjudication Panel for Wales and it was noted that there was no suggestion that the hearing had not been conducted fairly. 

 

Members accepted that there was no choice but to accept the decision of the Adjudication Panel for Wales although Members expressed the view that the Standards Committee on 31st July 2014 had devoted a great amount of time and effort considering the allegations prior to arriving at its decisions. 

 

The conclusion that could be drawn from the Tribunal’s decision appeared to be 'where do you draw the line when dealing with comments which were adjudged to be political in nature'.

 

It was recognised that, without the Tribunal’s full reasoned decision, any comments would be conjecture. 

 

Following discussions, it was

 

RESOLVED – T H A T consideration of the decision of the Adjudication Panel for Wales be deferred pending the publication by the Adjudication Panel for Wales of the full reasons for its decision.

 

Reason for decision

 

To await the publication by the Adjudication Panel for Wales of its full reasoned decision.

 

 

917     CONSULTATION ON AN INQUIRY INTO THE CONSIDERATION OF POWERS OF THE PUBLIC SERVICES OMBUDSMAN FOR WALES (MO) –

 

Comments were sought from the Standards Committee by the Finance Committee of the National Assembly for Wales’ Inquiry into the Powers of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. 

 

The National Assembly for Wales Finance Committee was undertaking an Inquiry to consider extending the powers of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.  It was reported that, should the evidence support the extension of the Ombudsman’s powers, the Finance Committee may consider the introduction of a Committee Bill. 

 

Five main areas had been highlighted for potential legislative changes to strengthen the Ombudsman’s role and Committee was requested to comment on these five main areas. 

 

  • Own-initiative powers – this would enable the Ombudsman to initiate his own investigations without having first received a complaint about an issue.

-       The Standards Committee supported this proposal.

 

  • Oral complaints – at present, the Ombudsman could only accept complaints in writing.

-       Committee supported this proposal i.e. that the Ombudsman be permitted to consider oral complaints.

 

  • Complaints handled across public services – this would enable the Ombudsman to have a role in advising on complaints handling across public services.

-       Committee noted that the consultation document did not list the public services that would be encompassed and felt that it was outside of its remit to comment on this area of the consultation document.

 

  • The Ombudsman’s jurisdiction (to include private health services) – this would extend the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction to enable him / her to investigate when a patient has received private health care (self-funded rather than being commissioned by the NHS) in conjunction with public health care.

-       The Committee felt this topic fell outside of its remit.

 

  • Links with the Courts – the removal of the statutory bar to allow the Ombudsman to consider a case that had or had the possibility of recourse to a court, tribunal or other mechanism for review (this would give complainants the opportunity to decide which route was more appropriate for them).

-       The Committee felt that this topic fell outside of its remit.

 

It was noted that the Council’s Local Dispute Resolution Procedures were intended to deal with low level complaints within the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  The system was not in place to deal with complaints involving Members of Town and Community Councils.

 

Should extended powers be granted, there would be a requirement for the resulting increased workload to be adequately funded.  In addition, there would be staffing implications. 

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the Finance Committee of the National Assembly for Wales be informed of this Committee’s views in respect of the Inquiry into the Powers of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales as outlined above.

 

Reason for decision

 

To inform the Finance Committee of the National Assembly for Wales of the views of the Standards Committee.

 

 

918     WHITE PAPER – REFORMING LOCAL GOVERNMENT: POWER TO LOCAL PEOPLE (MO) –

 

Committee was invited to consider that part of the consultation document published by the Welsh Government entitled 'Reforming Local Government: Power to Local People' which related to the Standards Committee.

 

The White Paper Reforming Local Government: Power to Local People was the Welsh Government’s statement of intent about the future of Local Government in Wales.  The White Paper set out the changes the Welsh Government wanted to make to the law so people could give their opinion before it happened.

 

The White Paper set out the Welsh Government’s proposals for reform in the following fields:

  • Local Democracy
  • The Roles and Remuneration of Elected Members and Senior Officers
  • Community Governance and Community Councils
  • Community Rights
  • Corporate Improvement
  • Service Performance
  • Scrutiny, Audit, Inspection and Regulation
  • Finance.

 

Committee considered that part of the Consultation Survey that related to the Standards Committee and which was attached at Appendix 2 to the report. 

 

Six main areas had been highlighted and Committee was requested to comment on these areas:

 

  • The powers of Standards Committees should be enhanced to enable them to consider cases where there is an allegation of a Councillor failing to fulfil their duties satisfactorily.

-       Committee strongly agreed with this statement.

 

  • If you agree, how should their powers be enhanced?

-       The powers of Standards Committees should be enhanced by granting the power to disqualify Councillors, in line with the powers granted to the Adjudication Panel for Wales.

 

  • What sanctions might there be for Councillors failing to fulfil their duties satisfactorily?

-       The powers should be enhanced by the grant of powers to suspend and disqualify in addition to the existing power to suspend.

 

  • Where internal processes have failed to operate satisfactorily should there be a role for an independent body?

-       Yes.

 

  • If yes, in what circumstances should they be involved?

-       Standards Committee felt that this question was too vague and that further information would be required, including guidance on performance standards to be required of Councillors.

 

  • Who do you think would be best placed to undertake this role?

-       It was felt that the powers of the Adjudication Panel for Wales should be extended to deal with these cases.

 

Members noted the contents of Paragraph 3.12 of the Consultation Document, headed 'Electoral Qualification'.  Although not specifically a question for Standards Committees as part of the consultation process, comments had been requested on whether it should be easier for employees of a Local Authority to stand for election to their employee Council, and whether there should be restrictions preventing Elected Members of Local Authorities also serving as either Assembly Members or Community Councillors. 

 

The proposal as contained in the Consultation Document was that Local Authority officers – other than those holding politically restricted posts – should be entitled to stand for election to their own Authority.  Only if elected should they be required to resign their paid employment with the Authority.  This was intended to widen the pool of potential candidates whilst ensuring there was no conflict of interest once the candidate was elected.


RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Standards Committee’s response to the Consultation Document published by the Welsh Government entitled 'Reforming Local Government: Power to Local People' be as outlined above.

 

(2)       T H A T the Standards Committee’s decisions be incorporated into the Council’s response to the White Paper.

 

Reason for decisions

 

(1&2)  To be considered as part of the Council’s proposed response to the Consultation Document.

 

 

919     LOCAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURE – STAGE 3 HEARING (MO) –

 

Agenda Item No. 9 had been withdrawn. 

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