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STANDARDS COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 15th April, 2016.

 

Present:  Mr. A.G. Hallett (Chairman), Mr. J.F. Baker, Mr. D. Carsley, Mrs. M.J. Pearce, Town Councillor M. Cuddy, and Councillors K. Hatton and  Mrs. A. Moore.

 

 

1010   APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Mr. A. Lane.

 

 

1011   MINUTES – 

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 28th January, 2016 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

1012   DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

1013   THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES (MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT) (WALES) (AMENDMENT) ORDER 2016 (MO) –

 

Committee was advised of the provisions of the Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2016. 

 

The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2016 amended existing subordinate legislation made under Part III of the Local Government Act 2000.  The Order came into force on 1st April, 2016 and was required to be adopted by Council by 26th July, 2016. 

 

The Order amended the Model Code of Conduct for Local Government Members (the existing provisions of which were reflected in the Members’ Code of Conduct as contained in the Council’s Constitution).  The amendments were as follows: 

  • The 2013 Act transferred responsibility for maintaining the Register of Interests of Members of Community Councils from the Monitoring Officer of the Principal Local Authority for the area to the “Proper Officer” of each Town and Community Council with effect from 1st May, 2015.  A number of consequential amendments were made to the Model Code to reflect this change.
  • The Model Code was also amended to clarify that, in terms of the Register of Members’ Interests, any interest disclosed for the first time must be entered in the Register.  This was not a change of policy, but clarified the original intention.  The exemption for Community Councillors from the requirement to register certain financial and other interests up front was maintained.
  • The obligation on a Member to report a potential breach of the Code of Conduct to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales was now omitted from the Code.  However, there continued to be the obligation to report such matters to the Monitoring Officer.
  • Paragraph 18.3.1(K) of the Code was now omitted.  This was to overcome unintended difficulties in the practical application of this paragraph in relation to participation in business relating to constituency interests.  Nevertheless, a Member participating in the consideration of a Ward matter was still under an obligation to act objectively and in the wider public interest in accordance with paragraph 18.2.9 of the Code. 

Other minor changes had been made and they were also incorporated in the revised Members’ Code of Conduct as attached at Appendix A to the report with the amended sections being shown emboldened.

 

A Member enquired as to training on the contents of the Members’ Code of Conduct and was advised that training had been given at the end of 2014 and that training would again be given following the elections to be held in 2017. 

 

In noting paragraph 18.2.4 of the Members’ Code of Conduct, namely “ you must: (c) not use bullying behaviour or harass any person;” a Member enquired if this applied to the private life of Members and was advised that some of the provisions of the Code did affect the private life of Members, these being the provisions contained in paragraphs 18.2.6 and 18.2.8. 

 

The Monitoring Officer was asked the effect of the change to the Members’ Code of Conduct whereby there was now no obligation on a Member to report any conduct by another Member which was reasonably believed to breach the Code of Conduct to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and if was highlighted that although the obligation had been removed to report such matters to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, the obligation remained to report to the Monitoring Officer. 

 

Members felt that this was an example of a “scaling down” of work from the Ombudsman to Monitoring Officers. 

 

The Monitoring Officer advised that, should she receive such a report, she would deal with it but this would not preclude her reporting the matter to the Ombudsman. 

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the provisions of the Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2016 be noted and reported to Council for consideration and incorporation into the Council’s Constitution..

 

Reason for decision

 

To ensure the Members’ Code of Conduct reflects the provisions of the above Order.

 

 

 

1014   THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT (STANDARDS COMMITTEES, INVESTIGATIONS, DISPENSATIONS AND REFERRAL) (WALES) (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2016 (MO) –

 

Committee considered the provisions of the Local Government (Standards Committees, Investigations, Dispensations and Referral) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016, effective from 1st April, 2016 and which implement changes in the operation of the system governing Member conduct. 

 

Regulation 2 of the 2016 Regulations facilitates the operation of Joint Standards Committees and makes provision for the appointment of Community Committees, independent and executive members to the Joint Committee. 

 

Provision was also made within Regulation 2 of the 2016 Regulations amending the length of the term of office of members of Standards Committees, namely: 

  • The term of office of a member of a Local Authority Standards Committee who is a Member of that Authority shall be no longer than the period until the next ordinary Local Government Elections for that Authority following the Member’s appointment to the Committee (or, in the case of a Joint Committee, of a constituent Local Authority of that Committee);
  • The term of office of a member of a Local Authority Standards Committee who is a Community Committee Member shall be no longer than the period until the next ordinary elections for the Community Council of which he or she is a Member following his or her appointment to the Standards Committee (or, in the case of a Joint Committee, of a constituent Local Authority of that Committee).           

Regulation 2 of the 2016 Regulations also makes provision to exempt a Standards Committee or Sub-Committee from making a misconduct report or recommendations available for public inspection until misconduct proceedings under the Functions Regulations were concluded.  The 2016 Regulations also set out the events that would signify the end of the proceedings and which gave rise to the obligation to publish the materials as soon as reasonably practicable.

 

The Functions Regulations 2001 set out the responsibilities of the Monitoring Officer and the Standards Committee in relation to an investigation, the production of a report and the outcome of an investigation.

 

Section 69 of the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 amended the regulation-making power of the Local Government Act 2000 so as to allow the Welsh Ministers to make provision enabling a Monitoring Officer or a Standards Committee to refer a report or recommendations relating to a misconduct investigation to the Standards Committee of another relevant Authority.  The 2016 Regulations set out the procedure to be followed when making such a referral. 

 

In relation to the right of a Member to appeal against the decision of a Standards Committee, Regulation 3 of the 2016 Regulations provide that an appeal may only proceed if the President of the Adjudication Panel for Wales, or a nominee, has first granted permission for the appeal to proceed.  The procedure and timescales apply to an application for permission to appeal and are set out within the 2016 Regulations.

 

Regulation 4 of the 2016 Regulations amends the Dispensations Regulations so an application by a Member for a dispensation can be referred to the Standards Committee of another relevant Authority for determination.  The Regulation also made provision for an additional category of general dispensation.

 

Regulation 4 of the 2016 Regulations also placed a duty on a Standards Committee of a relevant Authority to review any dispensation granted by the Standards Committee in accordance with Regulation 2(j) (“it appears to the Committee to be otherwise appropriate to grant a dispensation”) and which remained in effect, once in every twelve month period from the date on which the dispensation was first granted.  In conducting such a review, the Standards Committee must determine whether the dispensation should continue to have effect.

 

The Monitoring Officer advised that all Members had been informed of the new ground for the grant of a dispensation.  In noting the provisions relating to the establishment of a Joint Standards Committee, a Member enquired if there had been any progress towards the establishment of such a Committee.

 

Committee was advised that the legislation contained an enabling provision, so there was no strict requirement on Local Authorities to establish such a Joint Committee.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the provisions of the Local Government (Standards Committees, Investigations, Dispensations and Referral) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

To inform the Standards Committee of the contents of the 2016 Regulations.

 

 

1015   CORPORATE ASSESSMENT (MO) –

 

Committee was advised of the Vice-Chairman’s involvement in the Council’s Corporate Assessment.

 

Every four years, the Council was subject to an in-depth inspection of the improvement arrangements that were in place by external auditors known as a Corporate Assessment.  The inspection was undertaken in addition to any other annual inspection work.  The Corporate Assessment was undertaken by the Council’s external auditors, the Wales Audit Office and overseen by the Auditor General for Wales. 

 

The purpose of the Assessment was for the Wales Audit Office to provide an opinion on the Council’s capacity and ability to deliver “continuous improvement” by looking at the track record of performance and the outcomes that had been achieved for the Council’s customers.  It also involved inspecting the arrangements that were in place that supported any improvements to how the Council worked and delivered services.

 

The Assessment provided a judgement on how the Council was performing at that point in time in the form of a written report.  The report would identify the key strengths and areas for further improvement which may be included as recommendations for improvement.  The Corporate Assessment judgement would impact on the Council’s reputation in terms of the how the Council was viewed by customers, the Welsh Government and other public bodies.  The outcome of the inspection would also decide whether the Authority needed to face further follow up monitoring and inspection.

 

The Wales Audit Office’s work focused on assessing the Council’s priorities and performance in meeting the improvement programme and what impact this was having on achieving outcomes for the Council’s customers.  The Assessment sought to answer the following question: “Is the Council capable of delivering its priorities and improvement outcomes for citizens?”. 

 

To answer this question, the Council was assessed against four project brief themes as follows: 

  • Performance Management
  • Governance
  • Use of Resources
  • Collaboration and Partnerships. 

In the Chairman’s absence, Mr. Lane, Vice-Chairman of the Standards Committee was interviewed as part of the Corporate Assessment process. 

 

In the absence of Mr. Lane, the Monitoring Officer advised that Mr. Lane had.

 

-               Been interviewed by two Wales Audit Officers;

-               Spoken of the Ombudsman’s Investigation Report which had been considered by the Standards Committee in relation to Code of Conduct matters relating to a Community Councillor and the subsequent finding of the Adjudication Panel for Wales which had overturned the ruling of the Standards Committee;

-               Spoken of the introduction of the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure;

-               Informed of the work carried out by the Council’s Audit Service in relation to gifts and hospitality;

-               Spoken about the Code of Conduct training provided to the Vale of Glamorgan Councillors and Town and Community Councillors.

 

Town Councillor Cuddy advised that he, together with Mr. P. Egan, the Deputy Chief Executive and Resources Manager of One Voice Wales, had also been interviewed as part of the Corporate Assessment process in view of their work on the Reshaping Services Agenda.

           

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the involvement of Mr. Lane in the Corporate Assessment process be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T Mr. Lane be thanked for his contribution.

 

 

Reason for decisions

 

(1&2)  For the information of the Standards Committee.

 

 

1016   CONDUCT OF MEMBERS – THE PRINCIPLES (MO) –

 

Committee was advised of the updated Nolan Principles. 

 

Whilst receiving an update on the Standards Conference Wales 2015, in particular the papers considered at a workshop entitled “Are the Nolan Principles fit for purpose now and in 20 years?”, Members noted the seven Nolan Principles, namely: 

  • Selflessness
  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Accountability
  • Openness
  • Honesty
  • Leadership. 

Committee was advised that the Nolan Principles had been drawn up in 1995 and had subsequently been revised, resulting in three additional principles being added to the original seven, namely: 

  • Duty to Uphold the Law
  • Stewardship
  • Equality and Respect. 

Committee was advised that the Principles had been included as an appendix to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Code of Conduct for Members, a copy of which was attached as an appendix to the report. 

 

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

 

Reason for decision

 

For the information of the Standards Committee.

 

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