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STANDARDS COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 9th December, 2015.

 

Present:  Mr. A.G. Hallett (Chairman), Mr. A. Lane (Vice-Chairman), Mr. J.F. Baker, Mr. D. Carsley, Mrs. M.J. Pearce and Town Councillor M. Cuddy.

 

Also present: Community Councillor V. Driscoll (Dinas Powys Community Council), Ms. A. Ginwalla (Investigation and Improvement Officer, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales) and Ms. L. Green (Observer – Public Services Ombudsman for Wales).

 

 

666     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillors K. Hatton, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and Mrs. A. Moore.

 

 

667     MINUTES – 

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 23rd November, 2015 be approved as a correct record subject to the addition of the name of Mrs. M.J. Pearce to the list of those present.

 

 

668     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

669     ALLEGATIONS OF FAILURE TO OBSERVE THE MEMBERS’ CODE OF CONDUCT MADE AGAINST A COMMUNITY COUNCILLOR (MO) –

 

The Chairman introduced all present.

 

A copy of the Procedure for Dealing with Allegations Made Against Councillors and Referred to the Standards Committee (“the Procedure”) had been distributed to all parties with the agenda for the meeting.

 

A meeting of the Standards Committee, on 6th July 2015, had considered a report prepared by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales in respect of allegations against Community Councillor V. Driscoll of Dinas Powys Community Council.  The Committee, having considered the report of the Public Services Ombudsman Investigating Officer, made an initial determination that there was a case to answer and resolved as follows:

 

(1)       That Community Councillor A be given the opportunity to make representations at a future meeting of the Standards Committee, either orally or in writing, in respect of the findings of the investigation and any complaint that he had failed, or may have failed, to comply with the Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

(2)       That the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Investigation Officer be requested to attend the Standards Committee in line with Regulations 8(3A) and 8(3C) of the Local Government Investigations (Functions of Monitoring Officers and Standards Committees) (Wales) Regulations 2001.

 

The Ombudsman had received a number of complaints against Community Councillor Driscoll, namely:

 

-     That Community Councillor Driscoll had failed to observe the Code of Conduct for Members of Dinas Powys Community Council.  It was alleged that Community Councillor Driscoll had “unlawfully and illegally” operated a Dog Boarding Kennels at his home.

-     That Community Councillor Driscoll had failed to observe the Community Council’s Code in that Community Councillor Driscoll had lobbied members of the Community Council’s Planning Committee before they were due to discuss his Planning Application.

-     That Community Councillor Driscoll had failed to declare an interest during a meeting of the Community Council’s Commons, Open Spaces, Allotments, Cemetery and Footpaths (COSACF) Committee on 22nd January, 2014.

 

The Analysis of the evidence and conclusions were set out at pages 18-23 and the summary of the Ombudsman’s investigations were set out at page 23 of the Investigation Report.  The conclusions were summarised as follows:

 

(1)       By carrying out building works at his home known as Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys, sometime between January 2014 and 18 June 2014, without planning permission, Councillor Vince Driscoll’s conduct could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office and his Council into disrepute and thereby breaching paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Dinas Powys Members’ Code of Conduct. 

 

(2)       Despite having a personal interest in his planning application (planning application number 2014/00751/FUL dated 19 June 2014) by virtue of paragraphs 10(2)(a)(i) and/or 10(2)(a)(vi) and/or 10(2)(c)(i) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor Vince Driscoll failed to consider whether he had a personal interest when he emailed Councillors Foxwell and Hayley on 3 August 2014 concerning the said planning application in advance of the Dinas Powys Planning Committee meeting which considered the planning application on 5 August 2014 and thereby breached paragraph 10(1) of the Dinas Powys Members’ Code of Conduct.  

 

(3)       Despite having a personal interest in his said planning application, Councillor Vince Driscoll failed to include details of that interest in his written representations contained in his email dated 3 August 2014 sent in part to two Dinas Powys Community Councillors (more particular Councillors Hayley and Foxwell) and thereby breached paragraph 11(2)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

(4)       Despite having a personal interest in his said planning application, Councillor Vince Driscoll failed to disclose orally to that meeting the existence and nature of that interest before or at the commencement of the consideration of the matter or when the interest became apparent and thereby breached paragraph 11(1) and/or paragraph 11(2)(b) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

(5)       Despite having a personal interest in his said planning application and a prejudicial interest by virtue of paragraph 12(1) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor Vince Driscoll sought to influence a decision about his planning application by his email dated 3 August 2014 sent in Part 2 Councillor Foxwell and Hayley (both members of the Dinas Powys Community Council who considered Councillor Driscoll’s planning application on 5 August 2014 as members of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Planning Committee) and thereby breached paragraph 14(1)(c) and/or paragraph 14(1)(d) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

(6)       Despite having a personal interest in his said planning application and a prejudicial interest by virtue of paragraph 12(1) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor Vince Driscoll on 5 August 2014 failed to withdraw from the room, chamber or place where the meeting of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Planning Committee was being held to consider his planning application, immediately after the period for making representations, answering questions or giving evidence relating to the business had ended and in any event before further consideration of the business began and thereby breached paragraph 14(1)(a)(i) and/or 14(2) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

(7)       Councillor Vince Driscoll (in his personal capacity as Mr. Vince Driscoll) advertised during 2014 the kennels at Sunnycroft Farm as licensed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council albeit they were not licensed and have not been licensed and misrepresented the position when he advertised the kennels as being licensed thereby breaching paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

(8)       Councillor Vince Driscoll either operated the kennels at Sunnycroft Farm without a licence from the Vale of Glamorgan Council or misrepresented via the website that the kennels at Sunnycroft Farm were operational and thereby breached paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Dinas Powys Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

(9)       Despite having a personal interest in Public Bridleway No 45 St. Andrews Major (‘the Bridleway’) by virtue of paragraph 10(2)(a)(vi) and/or 10(2)(c)(i) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor Vince Driscoll failed to disclose his personal interest at meetings of the Dinas Powys Community Council or sub-committees of the Community Council on 8 October 2013 and/or 10 October 2013 and/or 14 November 2013, thereby breaching paragraph 11(1) and/or paragraph 11(2)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

Standards Committee on 6th July 2015 was requested to consider a number of proposed changes as set out below:

 

(1)       By carrying out and/or permitting building works to be carried out at his home and his wife’s property known as Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys, sometime between January 2014 and 18th June, 2014 without planning permission, the Councillor’s conduct could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office or the Council into disrepute and thereby breaching paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Code of Conduct. 

 

(2)       Despite having a personal interest in planning application number 2014/00751/FUL dated 19th June, 2014 (‘the Planning Application’) by virtue of paragraphs 10(2)(a)(i) and/or 10(2)(a)(vi) and/or 10(2)(c)(i) of the Code of Conduct, the Councillor failed to consider whether he had a personal interest and whether he was required to disclose that interest, when he emailed Councillors X and Y on 3rd August, 2014 concerning the said Planning Application in advance of the Dinas Powys Planning Committee meeting which considered the Planning Application on 5th August, 2014 and thereby breached paragraph 10(1) of the Code of Conduct.  

 

(3)       Despite having a personal interest in his said planning application (the ‘Planning Application’), the Councillor failed to include details of that interest in his written representations contained in his email dated 3rd August, 2014 sent in part to two Dinas Powys Community Councillors (more particularly Councillors Mrs. M.R. Hayley and R.A. Foxwell) and thereby breached paragraph 11(2)(a) of the Code of Conduct.

 

(4)       Despite having a personal interest in his said planning application (the ‘Planning Application’), the Councillor failed to disclose orally to the meeting of the Dinas Powys Planning Committee on 5th August, 2014 the existence and nature of that interest before or at the commencement of the consideration of the matter or when the interest became apparent and thereby breached paragraph 11(1) and/or paragraph 11(2)(b) of the Code of Conduct.

 

(5)       Despite having a personal interest in his said planning application (the ‘Planning Application’) and a prejudicial interest by virtue of paragraph 12(1) of the Code of Conduct, the Councillor sought to influence a decision about the Planning Application by his email dated 3rd August, 2014 sent in part to two Councillors, i.e. Councillors Mrs. M.R. Hayley and R.A. Foxwell (both members of the Council who considered the Councillor’s Planning Application on 5th August, 2014 as members of the Council’s Planning Committee) and thereby breached paragraph 14(1)(c) and/or paragraph 14(1)(d) of the Code of Conduct.

 

(6)       Despite having a personal interest in his said planning application (the ‘Planning Application’) and a prejudicial interest, the Councillor on 5th August, 2014 failed to withdraw from the room, chamber or place where the meeting of the Council’s Planning Committee was being held to consider the Planning Application, immediately after the period for making representations, answering questions or giving evidence relating to the business had ended and in any event before further consideration of the business began and thereby breached paragraph 14(1)(a)(i) and/or 14(2) of the Code of Conduct.

 

(7)       The Councillor (in his personal capacity as Mr. Driscoll) advertised during 2014 the kennels at Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys as licensed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council albeit they were not licensed and had not been licensed and therefore misrepresented the position thereby breaching paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Code of Conduct.

 

(8)       The Councillor either operated the kennels at Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys without a licence from the Vale of Glamorgan Council or misrepresented that the kennels at Sunnycroft Farm were operational and thereby breached paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Code of Conduct.

 

(9)       Despite having a personal interest in Public Bridleway No. 45 St. Andrews Major (‘the Bridleway’) by virtue of paragraphs 10(2)(a)(i) and/or 10(2)(a)(vi) and/or 10(2)(c)(i) of the Code of Conduct, the Councillor failed to disclose his personal interest at meetings of the Council or sub-committees of the Council on 8th October, 2013 and/or 10th October, 2013 and/or 14th November, 2013 and/or 22nd January, 2014 and/or 24th June, 2014 and/or when the interest became apparent on 5th August, 2014 and within 14 days of 5th August, 2014, thereby breaching paragraph 11(1) and/or paragraph 11(2)(a) and/or 11(2)(b) of the Code of Conduct.

 

As at the 23rd November, 2015 meeting it was resolved that the Standards Committee on 9th December, 2015, will consider all allegations outlined in Paragraphs 5(1) – 5(9) of the Monitoring Officer’s report dated 9th December, 2015 as referred to above.

 

Office copy entries in respect of Title No. CYM149975 and Confirmation Order relating to Public Bridleway No. 45, St. Andrews Major had been obtained and copies were attached to the report. 

 

The findings of the Ombudsman’s Investigations Officer were “There is persuasive evidence that Councillor Driscoll failed to comply with Paragraphs 10(1) and 12(1) of the Code and that his conduct may have breached Paragraphs 6(1)(a), 10(2)(a)(i), 10(2)(c)(i), 11(1), 11(2)(a), 11(2)(b), 14(1)(c), 14(1)(d) and 14(2) of the Code”.

 

Ms. Ginwalla referred to her letter dated 25th November, 2015, included within the bundle of papers before the Committee, in which it was stated that the Ombudsman did not intend to make representations to the Standards Committee in respect of the matters referred to in paragraphs 5(2) – (6) of the Monitoring Officer’s report together with the reasons for this decision. 

 

The Chairman confirmed that the Committee would pursue all of the allegations made against Community Councillor Driscoll in line with paragraphs (1) to (9) above and in line with the resolution of the Standards Committee on 23rd November, 2015. 

 

Having been invited to introduce the Investigation Report, Ms. Ginwalla referred to the evidence as detailed within the report.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll was given an opportunity to question Ms. Ginwalla and stated:

 

The Investigation Report stated that he had viewed a map of the proposed Bridleway.  He refuted that statement and claimed that he did not know about the proposal until 5th August, 2014.

 

In response, Ms. Ginwalla referred to page 45 of Appendix 40 to the report (transcript of an interview) and claimed that Community Councillor Driscoll’s comments give the impression that he had seen the map.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll stated that he did not accept this statement.

 

In referring to the transcript of the interview, the Monitoring Officer noted that Community Councillor Driscoll had referred to Map 2 and enquired if there was a Map 1. 

 

Ms. Ginwalla advised that a copy of Map 1 was shown at Appendix 13 to the Investigation Report and was the map shown at one of the Committee Meetings prior to 5th August, 2014.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll repeated his comments that he did not recall seeing Map 2 prior to 5th August, 2014.

 

Ms. Ginwalla was asked if she had examined the works that had been carried out to Community Councillor Driscoll’s house and was informed that Ms. Ginwalla was not the Investigating Officer and was unable to answer that question.

 

There were no further questions of Ms. Ginwalla.

 

The Chairman offered Community Councillor Driscoll an opportunity to outline his case and Community Councillor Driscoll referred to Appendix 39 of the Investigation Report.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll added:

 

-     The works undertaken were temporary in nature and could have been taken down.  Each Kennel would have taken 10 minutes apiece to dismantle.  The planning application was for change of use.

-     There was no evidence that dogs had ever been boarded at the Kennels.

-     Keeping friends’ dogs did not mean that the Kennels were used commercially.

-     In referring to the Map contained within Appendix 14 of the Investigation Report, Community Councillor Driscoll stated that the works that were being considered at that time did not affect his house at all.  At no time was access to his house mentioned. 

-     Community Councillor Driscoll had taken out a large indemnity against someone blocking the access to the house.

-     Community Councillor Driscoll did not declare an interest in this matter because he did not think it affected him.

-     Later, Community Councillor Driscoll became aware that the proposals for the Bridleway had changed in that the whole of the lane would be affected.  Following this date (5th August, 2014), Community Councillor Driscoll had omitted to declare an interest when this matter had been discussed and for this he was sorry.

-     Community Councillor Driscoll stated that he was not sure if his interest was “positive” or “negative”.

-     At the Planning Committee meeting in question, at no time did he refer to himself as Councillor.

-     He had received no remuneration from the Kennels.

-     He had applied for planning permission retrospectively.

-     That he had challenged throughout that he had no personal interest regarding the property and had done so until today’s meeting.

 

Ms. Ginwalla accepted that Community Councillor Driscoll had not declared that he was a Councillor, but drew the Committee’s attention to paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Code of Conduct which applies at all times. 

 

Community Councillor Driscoll enquired if he ever had a “private” life. 

 

A Member questioned the interest that somebody would show about something so near to one’s house.  As a Councillor, Community Councillor Driscoll would be responsible for knowing what was going on in the locality.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll stated that the Bridleway was a muddy path and the intention had been to spread bark along its length.  Community Councillor Driscoll did not know that the amended plans would encompass the outside of his house, so he thought nothing more about the proposals. 

 

The path had existed for approximately 300 years and no one had claimed ownership of the land. 

 

A Member, in referring to the indemnity, enquired if it would have been in Community Councillor Driscoll’s interest to have notified his insurance company of the proposals relating to the Bridleway. 

 

Community Councillor Driscoll replied that he could not find the indemnity which he had taken out in 2003.  The indemnity had been lodged with his solicitors who had misplaced the document. 

 

A Member enquired as to how long Community Councillor Driscoll had been a Councillor and was advised that it had been since 2008.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll was asked if he sat on the Planning Committee and advised that he did not and never had done.  He sat on the Commons, Open Spaces, Allotments, Cemetery and Footpaths Committee, the Finance Committee and Full Council. 

 

A Member enquired as to why Community Councillor Driscoll had not thought about applying for planning permission for the Kennels.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll stated that this had been based on his own judgement, he had not taken any advice.  He had been dealing with the Vale of Glamorgan licensing section who had not mentioned the requirement for planning permission.

 

A Member asked Community Councillor Driscoll to expand on the issue of the Bridleway and Community Councillor Driscoll acknowledged that the issue became important after 5th August 2014, but he still didn’t declare an interest although the footpath had been made a Bridleway by that time. 

 

A Member noted that the Finance and General Purposes Committee, on 8th October had discussed the Bridleway and Community Councillor Driscoll, who had been present, did not declare an interest.  The Member assumed that Community Councillor Driscoll would have known that the creation of a Bridleway would have affected his property. 

 

Community Councillor Driscoll replied that he did not think the Bridleway would affect his property. 

 

The Member expressed the view that this was an opportunity for Community Councillor Driscoll to improve his property. 

 

The Member noted that Community Councillor Driscoll had stated that the Kennels had taken no bookings yet Community Councillor Driscoll’s advertisement for the establishment contained the words “book before spaces go”. 

 

Community Councillor Driscoll stated that any bookings taken were provisional and that there were no dogs boarded at the Kennels.

 

In noting that Community Councillor Driscoll no longer possessed the indemnity for his property a Member observed that he now had a blight on his property. 

 

A Member further observed that when Community Councillor Driscoll stated on his advertisement for the dog Kennels “bookings are being taken” he should have added “subject to the grant of a Licence and Planning approval”. 

 

Members also noted that it was a matter of two weeks between the publication of Map 1 and Map 2 relating to the creation of the Bridleway.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll observed that he felt the Council’s Rights of Way Officers should have notified all affected parties of the changed proposals. 

 

In referring to the e-mail sent by Community Councillor Driscoll on 3rd August in support of his Planning Application, it was noted that the distribution of the e-mail had included two fellow Community Councillors.  Community Councillor Driscoll was asked if it had not crossed his mind that by doing this, Community Councillor Driscoll would be in breach of the Code of Conduct. 

 

Community Councillor Driscoll replied that he had just sent it to “friends”. 

 

Community Councillor Driscoll was asked if he had attended Code of Conduct training and he replied that he had. 

 

There were no further questions or comments.

 

Prior to all parties vacating the room, the Monitoring Officer advised that she would remain with the Members of the Standards Committee to advise on any procedural matters relating to the second stage of the procedure - Making Findings of Fact. 

 

All parties vacated the room whilst the Standards Committee deliberated on the representations received.

 

Having arrived at a decision, all parties were invited to re-enter the room and were advised of the findings of fact by the Standards Committee, as follows:

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll had carried out and/or permitted building works to be carried out at his home and his wife’s property known as Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys, sometime between January 2014 and 18th June, 2014 without planning permission – Facts proven on the balance of probability to the satisfaction of the Committee.

 

(2)       Community Councillor Driscoll had a personal interest in Planning Application number 2014/00751/FUL dated 19th June, 2014 (‘the Planning Application’) by virtue of paragraphs 10(2)(a)(i) and/or 10(2)(a)(vi) and/or 10(2)(c)(i) of the Code of Conduct, the Councillor failed to consider whether he had a personal interest and whether he was required to disclose that interest, when he emailed Councillors Mrs M.R. Hayley and R.A. Foxwell on 3rd August, 2014 concerning the said Planning Application in advance of the Dinas Powys Planning Committee meeting which considered the Planning Application on 5th August, 2014 – Facts proven on the balance of probability to the satisfaction of the Committee.

 

(3)       Despite having a personal interest in his said Planning Application (the ‘Planning Application’), Community Councillor Driscoll failed to include details of that interest in his written representations contained in his email dated 3rd August, 2014 sent in part to two Dinas Powys Community Councillors (more particularly Councillors Mrs. M.R. Hayley and R.A. Foxwell) - Facts proven on the balance of probability to the satisfaction of the Committee.

 

(4)       Despite having a personal interest in his said Planning Application (the ‘Planning Application’), Community Councillor Driscoll failed to disclose orally to the meeting of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Planning Committee on 5th August, 2014 the existence and nature of that interest before or at the commencement of the consideration of the matter or when the interest became apparent – Facts/allegation not proven.

 

(5)       Despite having a personal interest in his said Planning Application (the ‘Planning Application’) and a prejudicial interest by virtue of paragraph 12(1) of the Code of Conduct, the Councillor sought to influence a decision about the Planning Application by his email dated 3rd August, 2014 sent in part to two Councillors, i.e. Councillors Mrs. M.R. Hayley and R.A. Foxwell (both members of the Council who considered the Councillor’s Planning Application on 5th August, 2014 as members of the Council’s Planning Committee) – Facts proven on the balance of probability to the satisfaction of the Committee.

 

(6)       Despite having a personal interest in his said Planning Application (the ‘Planning Application’) and a prejudicial interest, Community Councillor Driscoll on 5th August, 2014 failed to withdraw from the room, chamber or place where the meeting of the Council’s Planning Committee was being held to consider the Planning Application, immediately after the period for making representations, answering questions or giving evidence relating to the business had ended and in any event before further consideration of the business began  – Facts/allegation not proven.

 

(7)       Community Councillor Driscoll (in his personal capacity as Mr. Driscoll) advertised during 2014 the Kennels at Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys as licensed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council albeit they were not licensed and had not been licensed and therefore misrepresented the position – Facts proven on the balance of probability to the satisfaction of the Committee.

 

(8)       Community Councillor Driscoll either operated the Kennels at Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys without a licence from the Vale of Glamorgan Council or misrepresented that the Kennels at Sunnycroft Farm were operational – Facts proven on the balance of probability to the satisfaction of the Committee.

 

(9)       Despite having a personal interest in Public Bridleway No. 45 St. Andrews Major (‘the Bridleway’) by virtue of paragraphs 10(2)(a)(i) and/or 10(2)(a)(vi) and/or 10(2)(c)(i) of the Code of Conduct, the Councillor failed to disclose his personal interest at meetings of the Council or sub-committees of the Council on 8th October, 2013 and/or 10th October, 2013 and/or 14th November, 2013 and/or 22nd January, 2014 and/or 24th June, 2014 and/or when the interest became apparent on 5th August, 2014 and within 14 days of 5th August, 2014 – Facts proven on the balance of probability to the satisfaction of the Committee.

 

It was now for the Committee to consider whether Community Councillor Driscoll had failed to comply with the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Code of Conduct (i.e. third stage of the Procedure).

 

All parties vacated the room in order that the Committee could arrive at its decision.

 

Having arrived at a decision, all parties were invited to re-enter the room and were advised of the findings of the Standards Committee as follows:

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll had carried out and/or permitted building works to be carried out at his home and his wife’s property known as Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys, sometime between January 2014 and 18th June, 2014 without planning permission thereby breaching paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Code of Conduct.

 

(2)       Community Councillor Driscoll had a personal interest in Planning Application number 2014/00751/FUL dated 19th June, 2014 (‘the Planning Application’) by virtue of paragraphs 10(2)(a)(i) and/or 10(2)(a)(vi) and/or 10(2)(c)(i) of the Code of Conduct, the Councillor failed to consider whether he had a personal interest and whether he was required to disclose that interest, when he emailed Councillors Hayley and Foxwell on 3rd August, 2014 concerning the said Planning Application in advance of the Dinas Powys Planning Committee meeting which considered the Planning Application on 5th August, 2014, thereby breaching paragraph 10(1) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Code of Conduct.

 

(3)       Despite having a personal interest in his said Planning Application (the ‘Planning Application’), Community Councillor Driscoll failed to include details of that interest in his written representations contained in his email dated 3rd August, 2014 sent in part to two Dinas Powys Community Councillors (more particularly Councillors Mrs. M.R. Hayley and R.A. Foxwell), thereby breaching paragraph 11(2)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Code of Conduct.

 

(5)       Despite having a personal interest in his said Planning Application (the ‘Planning Application’) and a prejudicial interest by virtue of paragraph 12(1) of the Code of Conduct, the Councillor sought to influence a decision about the Planning Application by his email dated 3rd August, 2014 sent in part to two Councillors, i.e. Councillors Mrs. M.R. Hayley and R.A. Foxwell (both members of the Council who considered the Councillor’s Planning Application on 5th August, 2014 as members of the Council’s Planning Committee), thereby breaching paragraph 14(1)(c) and / or paragraph 14(1)(d) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Code of Conduct.

 

(7)       Community Councillor Driscoll (in his personal capacity as Mr. Driscoll) advertised during 2014 the Kennels at Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys as licensed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council albeit they were not licensed and had not been licensed and therefore misrepresented the position, thereby breaching paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Code of Conduct.

 

(8)       Community Councillor Driscoll either operated the Kennels at Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys without a licence from the Vale of Glamorgan Council or misrepresented that the Kennels at Sunnycroft Farm were operational – Facts proven on the balance of probability to the satisfaction of the Committee, thereby breaching paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Code of Conduct.

 

(9)       Despite having a personal interest in Public Bridleway No. 45 St. Andrews Major (‘the Bridleway’) by virtue of paragraphs 10(2)(a)(i) and/or 10(2)(a)(vi) and/or 10(2)(c)(i) of the Code of Conduct, the Councillor failed to disclose his personal interest at meetings of the Council or sub-committees of the Council on 8th October, 2013 and/or 10th October, 2013 and/or 14th November, 2013 and/or 22nd January, 2014 and/or 24th June, 2014 and/or when the interest became apparent on 5th August, 2014 and within 14 days of 5th August, 2014, thereby breaching paragraph 11(1) and / or paragraph 11(2)(a) and / or paragraph 11(2)(b) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Code of Conduct.

 

It was now necessary for the Committee to consider what sanction (if any) should be taken against Community Councillor Driscoll in line with the fourth stage of the Procedure.

 

Ms. Ginwalla requested that the Committee bear the following in mind:

 

-     Reference was made to the guidance issued by the Adjudication Panel for Wales;

-     By constructing the Kennels without planning permission, Community  Councillor Driscoll had brought the office of Councillor into disrepute;

-     His misrepresentations to the public regarding the licensing position gives the impression of dishonesty;

-     The Ombudsman considered that Community Councillor Driscoll had failed to declare an interest in the Bridleway on at least seven occasions;

-     Community Councillor Driscoll was an experienced Councillor;

-     Councillors were expected to show high standards in office.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll was asked if he had any comments and he stated that there was not much he could add to what he had already said.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll felt that he had been a conscientious Councillor and had never attempted to deceive anyone. 

 

Community Councillor Driscoll apologised for everything that he had done.

 

There being no further statements or questions, all parties vacated the room in order that the Committee could arrive at its decision.

 

Having arrived at a decision, all parties were invited to re-enter the room and were advised that Committee had determined that a sanction would be imposed on Community Councillor Driscoll.

 

Prior to determining what form the sanction should take, both parties were offered an opportunity to make representations. 

 

Ms. Ginwalla advised that the Ombudsman’s Office did not make recommendations in cases such as these. 

 

However, Committee’s attention was drawn to the Guidance issued by the Adjudication Panel for Wales. 

 

Ms. Ginwalla added:

 

-     Community Councillor Driscoll’s apology was relevant as mitigation although Community Councillor Driscoll had contested the findings of the Investigation throughout which could be taken to show a lack of regret.

-     Community Councillor Driscoll had said that there was no gain involved in the granting of Bridleway status to the path.

-     Community Councillor Driscoll had brought Dinas Powys Community Council into disrepute.

-     Community Councillor Driscoll was an experienced Councillor and as such, should be familiar with the Code of Conduct.

-     It was Ms. Ginwalla’s view that the breaches were not severe enough to attract the highest level of sanction.

-     There was a need to balance the seriousness of the breach with the expectations of the public. 

-     The application for planning permission was made retrospectively.

-     Community Councillor Driscoll had challenged throughout that he had a personal interest up until today’s meeting.

-     The public would have gained the impression of dishonesty from Community Councillor Driscoll’s actions.

 

Community Councillor Driscoll was invited to comment, but stated that he had nothing to say.

 

All parties vacated the room in order that the Committee could arrive at its decision.

 

Having arrived at a decision, all parties were invited to re-enter the room whereupon they were advised that the Standards Committee had

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee and contrary to Paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor V. Driscoll carried out and / or permitted building works to be carried at his home and his wife’s property known as Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys, sometime between January 2014 and 18th June 2014 without planning permission; Community Councillor Driscoll be suspended from being a Member of Dinas Powys Community Council for a period of one month.

 

(2)       T H A T, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee and contrary to Paragraphs 10(1) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor Driscoll failed to consider whether he had a personal interest in Planning Application Number 2014/00751/FUL dated 19th June, 2014 and whether he was required to disclose that interest when he e-mailed Dinas Powys Community Councillors Hayley and Foxwell on 3rd August, 2014 concerning the said Planning Application in advance of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Planning Committee meeting which considered the Planning Application on 5th August, 2014; Community Councillor Driscoll be suspended from being a Member of Dinas Powys Community Council for a period of one month.

 

(3)       T H A T, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee and contrary to Paragraphs 11(2)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor V. Driscoll failed to include details of his personal interest in planning application 2014/00751/FUL in his written representations contained in his e-mail dated 3rd August, 2014 sent in part to two Dinas Powys Community Councillors (more particularly Councillors Hayley and Foxwell); Community Councillor Driscoll be suspended from being a Member of Dinas Powys Community Council for a period of one month.

 

(4)       T H A T, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee and contrary to Paragraph 14(1)(c) and / or Paragraph 14(1)(d) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor Driscoll sought to influence a decision about Planning Application 2014/00751/FUL by his e-mail dated 3rd August, 2014 sent in part to Councillors Hayley and Foxwell (both Members of the Council) who considered the Councillor’s Planning Application on 5th August, 2014 as Members of the Council’s Planning Committee (despite having a personal interest in the said Planning Application and a prejudicial interest by virtue of Paragraph 12(1) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct; Community Councillor Driscoll be suspended from being a Member of Dinas Powys Community Council for a period of one month.

 

(5)       T H A T, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee and contrary to Paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor V. Driscoll (in his personal capacity as Mr. Driscoll) advertised during 2014 the Kennels at Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys as licensed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council albeit they were not licensed and had not been licensed and therefore misrepresented the position; Community Councillor Driscoll be suspended from being a Member of Dinas Powys Community Council for a period of one month.

 

(6)       T H A T, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee and contrary to Paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor V. Driscoll either operated the Kennels at Sunnycroft Farm, Sunnycroft Lane, Dinas Powys without a licence from the Vale of Glamorgan Council or misrepresented that the Kennels at Sunnycroft Farm were operational; Community Councillor Driscoll be suspended from being a Member of the Dinas Powys Community Council for a period of one month.

 

(7)       T H A T, arising from the decision of the Standards Committee and contrary to Paragraphs 11(1) and / or 11(2)(a) and / or 11(2)(b) of the Dinas Powys Community Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Community Councillor V. Driscoll failed to declare his personal interest in Public Bridleway No. 45, St. Andrews Major, at meetings of the Community Council or sub-committees of the Community Council on 8th October, 2013 and / or 10th October, 2013 and / or 14th November, 2013 and / or 22nd January, 2014 and / or 24th June, 2014 and / or when the interest became apparent on 5th August, 2014 and within 14 days of 5th August, 2014; Community Councillor Driscoll be suspended from being a Member of Dinas Powys Community Council for a period of one month.

 

(Note: For clarity, the one month suspension referred to in paragraphs (1)-(7) above to run concurrently.)

 

(8)       T H A T, Community Councillor V. Driscoll 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

            Llandridnod 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 representations.

 

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

 

Reasons for decisions

 

Consideration was given to the evidence / information contained within the report of the Ombudsman’s Investigation Report, together with representations made at the meeting. 

 

Resolution (1)

 

Evidence on Behalf of the Ombudsman

 

(1)       It was clear that Community Councillor Driscoll did carry out building works at his home without planning permission. 

 

(2)       Community Councillor Driscoll stated that in April, the Kennels were almost ready to open, yet he did not submit the Planning Application until June.

 

(3)       The Planning Application that Community Councillor Driscoll had submitted on 24th June had stated that work had been completed on 18th June. 

 

(4)       Community Councillor Driscoll said that he thought planning permission was not needed because the basement had not been used before and was not part of the residential part of the property.  Community Councillor Driscoll also stated that “with hindsight” he should have applied for planning permission straight away.

 

(5)       Whether Community Councillor Driscoll was acting in his private capacity when he submitted his Planning Application to the County Council or not, the Code of Conduct applied to Members at all times, if the conduct could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office, or their Community Council, into disrepute.

 

(6)       As an experienced Councillor who had been both Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Community Council, Community Councillor Driscoll should have known that planning permission was necessary.

 

(7)       Community Councillor Driscoll acknowledged that the Community Council regularly discussed planning matters.  From those discussions, he would be familiar with the requirement for planning permission to be granted.

 

(8)       Community Councillor Driscoll had received training on the Code of Conduct for Members.

 

Evidence on Behalf of Councillor Driscoll

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll’s decision to not seek planning permission had been based on his own judgement.

 

(2)       When dealing with the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Licensing Section concerning the Kennel licence, no one had mentioned to him the requirement for planning permission.

 

 

Resolution (2)

 

Evidence on Behalf of the Ombudsman

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll had a personal interest in the Community Council’s consideration of his Planning Application, and he should have declared it. 

 

(2)       In sending the e-mail to other Community Councillors on 3rd August, 2014, Community Councillor Driscoll should have declared an interest.  The evidence was clear that he did not.

 

(3)       If Community Councillor Driscoll had properly considered the Community Council’s Code of Conduct, Community Councillor Driscoll should have concluded that he had a prejudicial interest in any Community Council business related to his Planning Application.

 

(4)       The Ombudsman was satisfied that the e-mail on 3rd August, which asked other Members of the Community Council to support his Planning Application was persuasive evidence that Community Councillor Driscoll’s conduct had  breached the Code.

 

(5)       Community Councillor Driscoll had received training on the Code of Conduct for Members.

 

Evidence on Behalf of Community Councillor Driscoll

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll stated that he had sent the e-mail dated 3rd August, 2014 to his “friends”. 

 

(2)       Community Councillor Driscoll had not sent the e-mail out of a desire to deceive anyone or for financial gain.

 

 

Resolution (3)

 

Evidence on Behalf of the Ombudsman

 

(1)       The Ombudsman was satisfied that the e-mail of 3rd August, which asked other Members of the Community Council to support his Planning Application, was persuasive evidence that Community Councillor Driscoll’s conduct had breached the Code.

 

(2)       Community Councillor Driscoll’s 3rd August, 2014 e-mail made no reference to his personal interest.

 

(3)       Community Councillor Driscoll had received training on the Code of Conduct for Members.

 

(4)       Community Councillor Driscoll had many years’ experience as a Councillor.

 

Evidence on Behalf of Community Councillor Driscoll

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll had not sent the e-mail out of a desire to deceive anyone or for financial gain.

 

 

Resolution (4)

 

Evidence on Behalf of the Ombudsman

 

(1)       The Ombudsman was satisfied that the e-mail on 3rd August which asked other Members of the Community Council to support his Planning Application was persuasive evidence that Community Councillor Driscoll’s conduct had breached the Code.

 

(2)       Community Councillor Driscoll had received training on the Code of Conduct for Members.

 

(3)       Community Councillor Driscoll was an experienced Community Councillor.

 

Evidence on Behalf of Community Councillor Driscoll

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll stated that he had sent the e-mail dated 3rd August 2014 to his “friends”.

 

(2)       Community Councillor Driscoll had not sent the e-mail out of desire to deceive anyone or for financial gain.

 

 

Resolution (5)

 

Evidence on Behalf of the Ombudsman

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll had acknowledged that he had advertised the Kennels as licensed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  Community Councillor Driscoll now accepted that the Kennels were not, and never had been, licensed. 

 

(2)       The Code applied to Members at all times if their conduct could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office, or the Council, into disrepute.  Community Councillor Driscoll’s comments that he did not use his full name or refer to himself as a Councillor in the advertising was still relevant to the Code of Conduct.

 

(3)       Community Councillor Driscoll had received training on the Code of Conduct for Members.

 

(4)       Community Councillor Driscoll was an experienced Community Councillor.

 

(5)       Appendix 23 of the Investigation Report contained a photocopy of an advert for Dinas Powys Dog Kennels and Doggie Day Care which contained the words “Licensed by the Vale of Glamorgan”.

 

Evidence on Behalf of Community Councillor Driscoll

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll did not use his full name or include any reference to being Councillor in the advertising of the Kennels.

 

(2)       At the beginning of May 2014, Community Councillor Driscoll decided to commence with the advertising of the Kennels as he felt that he had no reason to believe that there was any problem or any likelihood that delays would occur in the granting of the licence for the Kennels. 

 

 

Resolution (6)

 

Evidence on Behalf of the Ombudsman

 

(1)       On 26th May, 2014, a social media page included an advert for the “Dinas Powys Dog Kennels and Doggie Day Care”.  The feed included an advert with images of dogs with the captions “say hello to Ellie, our first ever guest” and “our second dog is Humphrey, cute enough?”.  The feed also listed Community Councillor Driscoll’s home address and also listed Community Councillor Driscoll’s mobile phone number as contact details. 

 

(2)       Either the business was operating without a Licence or Community Councillor Driscoll made disingenuous statements on his website to encourage custom.  In either case, Community Councillor Driscoll’s conduct was capable of bringing his office and his Council into disrepute.

 

Evidence on Behalf of Community Councillor Driscoll

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll stated that the Council had not served an Enforcement Notice on him.

 

(2)       At the beginning of May 2014, Community Councillor Driscoll decided to commence with the advertising of the Kennels as he had no reason to believe that there would be any problem or that delays would occur in the granting of a licence. 

 

(3)       Any bookings that were taken were done so on a provisional basis on the basis that the Kennels would be licenced and ready for business shortly.  All enquirers were told that the Kennels were not licensed but would be imminently. 

 

(4)       On no occasion during his visits to the Licensing Section was Community Councillor Driscoll informed of the requirement for Planning Permission.

 

(5)       The pictures on the social media feed were of friends’ dogs who allowed Community Councillor Driscoll to use the photos to advertise the Kennels.  A dog did stay for a few nights but no money was exchanged as it was a favour to the dog’s owner as a family friend. 

 

 

Resolution (7)

 

Evidence on Behalf of the Ombudsman

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll attended several Community Council meetings where the Bridleway was discussed.  Some he attended as Chairperson.  He did not declare an interest at any of the meetings.

 

(2)       Community Councillor Driscoll said he did not declare an interest because he did not think the matter would affect him.  He said the project map indicated that the work started away from his home.  He also said that if he had known where the improvements would be made he would have objected to the Bridleway.  He said the first he knew about how it would actually affect his property was during the meeting on 5th August, 2014. 

 

(3)       Community Councillor Driscoll also attended the meeting on 8th October, 2013, the minutes noting that the Bridleway would go to his address.  Community Councillor Driscoll also attended the meeting on 10th October, 2013 when the Community Council approved the financial contribution to the Bridleway project.  Community Councillor Driscoll attended a meeting of the Community Council on 14th November, 2013 when the minutes note that the grant applications (with Map 2) had been submitted.  Community Councillor Driscoll was Chairperson of the Community Council over this period.

 

(4)       Minutes of meetings referred to in Resolution (7) were contained in the Ombudsman’s report which referred to Community Councillor Driscoll being in attendance.

 

(5)       A Member would have an interest if the matter being discussed was capable of negatively affecting their wellbeing.  Community Councillor Driscoll’s comments that he would have objected to the Bridleway indicate that he should have declared an interest.

 

Evidence on Behalf of Community Councillor Driscoll

 

(1)       Community Councillor Driscoll refuted any allegations that he knew of the amended route of the Bridleway prior to 5th August, 2014. 

 

(2)       It was never suggested that the Bridleway would encompass the lane Community Councillor Driscoll used for access to his home.  Community Councillor Driscoll stated that the project map indicated that the work started away from his home.  He thought that the first he knew about how it would affect his property was when the matter was raised during the Sub-Committee meeting on 5th August, 2014. 

 

(3)       Community Councillor Driscoll had said that if he had known where the improvements would be actually made he would have objected to the Bridleway.

 

(4)       Community Councillor Driscoll had confirmed that he did not initially declare an interest.  He also said that, on 5th August, 2014 when he found out the extent of the work, perhaps he should have then declared an interest.

 

(5)       Community Councillor Driscoll had been trained on the Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

(6)       Community Councillor Driscoll thought that Rights of Way Officers should have notified all affected parties of the amended plan.

 

 

Resolutions (8) and (9)

 

To comply with the provisions of the Local Government Investigations (Functions of Monitoring Officers and Standards Committees) (Wales) Regulations 2001.

  

For clarity, the Monitoring Officer read and explained to Community Councillor Driscoll the contents of Paragraph 13 of the Procedure for Dealing with Allegations Made Against Councillors and Referred to the Standards Committee, headed “Suspension” and she explained to Community Councillor Driscoll that his suspension would not take effect until the expiration of 21 days of his receiving written notification unless he had exercised his right of appeal to the Adjudication Panel for Wales. 

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