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The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 11 January, 2016

Report of the Leader

Code of Conduct Protocol

Purpose of the Report

  1. To seek the approval of Cabinet on the proposed Protocol, documentation and associated procedures to be adopted to support the application and administration of the Code of Conduct within the Council.

Recommendations

  1. That Cabinet approves the attached draft Code of Conduct Protocol and the circulation of the Protocol throughout the Council as soon as practicable.
  2. That Cabinet approves the additional documentation and information appended to the Protocol in relation to the application/notification, determination, registration, reporting and flow process arrangements to support the administration of the Council's statutory Code of Conduct.
  3. That Cabinet provides delegated authority to the Head of Human Resources in consultation with the Leader, the Head of Finance and the Head of Legal Services to administer any necessary future changes to the Protocol.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To provide an effective framework for workers to apply/notify the Council of their individual circumstances in relation to their employment.
  2. In order for the Council to implement and maintain supporting guidance, necessary registration and reporting arrangements to enable workers to apply/advise of their individual circumstances and to obtain a formal response of the decision of the Council.
  3. To maintain the integrity and the effective application of the Protocol to support the objectives of the Council's Code of Conduct.

Background

  1. In 2001 the Welsh Government introduced a Code of Conduct in respect of "qualifying employees" in Welsh Unitary Councils. The Code of Conduct for "qualifying employees" continues to apply in the Vale of Glamorgan Council. The Code of Conduct can be found in Section 20 of the Council's Constitution, a copy of which is included at Appendix A of this report.
  2. Qualifying employees are described within the Code of Conduct as follows-

"Qualifying employees of relevant authorities work for their employing authority and serve the whole of that authority. They are accountable to, and owe a duty to, that authority. They must act in accordance with the principles set out in this Code, recognising the duty of all public sector employees to discharge public functions reasonably and according to the law".

  1. From 2001 to date, general guidance in particular to Hospitality & Gifts has been available in the Council. The existing guidance provides examples of issues that would fall in or out of scope of acceptance/disclosure along with details as to how a worker(s) can register their individual circumstances to enable the worker(s) to remain compliant with the requirements of the Code of Conduct.
  2. At present, applications/notifications under the provisions of the Code of Conduct are determined and logged on a register(s) across the various sections of the Code of Conduct by managers in each of the Council's Directorates/Services. The register(s) are intended to record all applications from the workforce including details of which have been approved and those which have been declined.
  3. A previous review by Internal Audit and the subsequent report recommended that a comprehensive review of the existing guidance and registration arrangements be conducted in relation to the Code of Conduct within the Council. In this context, consideration was given to the Welsh Government draft Model Welsh Constitution (published May 2013) in particular to Section 20 (page 170 onwards) within the document which provides an alternative form of wording to that of the Council's published Code of Conduct for Employees.
  4. The Corporate Management Team recently confirmed that the alternative Welsh Government draft Code (as referenced in paragraph 6 above) should be used as a framework to form the basis of a Protocol to support the Council's published Code of Conduct (as set out in Appendix A to this report). The focus of the Protocol would be to provide additional explanation and guidance to assist workers and managers to determine whether their circumstances would "fall within or outside" the remit of the requirements of the Code of Conduct in the Council.
  5. In recognition of the above the Corporate Management Team agreed the attached draft Protocol (as set out in Appendix B to this report) subject to the implementation of a corporate process to administer the recording of all applications/notifications, the determination, registration as well as a means to facilitate a periodic review of the register(s) through a structured corporate process and the provision of a central database. This work has now been concluded and a flow process for the administration of applications/notifications within scope of the Code of Conduct has been developed using the Council's TRIM and associated internal ICT systems.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Members of the Cabinet will note that the draft Code of Conduct Protocol (as set out in Appendix B) includes within its content "links" to all appropriate internal policies and procedures and in particular to the Council's Whistleblowing Policy to provide a comprehensive "library" of what is expected of a "qualifying employee" along with the means to enable an employee to raise any concerns.
  2. A summary of the core activity/subject headings covered within the draft Code of Conduct Protocol are set out below:
  • Standards and Attitude
  • Confidentiality and Disclosure Information
  • Political Neutrality
  • Relationships
  • Appointment and Other Employment Matters
  • Planning Administration
  • Outside Commitments
  • Personal Interests
  • Investigations by the Monitoring Officer
  • Equality
  • Tendering Procedures
  • Corruption
  • Possible Inducements
  • Sponsorship - Giving and Receiving
  • Whistle blowing
  • Financial Procedure Rules
  • How to apply and responsibilities
  • Appeals and concerns
  1. The new draft Protocol also provides additional advice and guidance to assist workers and their line managers to identify whether the worker's individual circumstances may or may not fall within scope of the Code of Conduct. The Protocol also includes template letters which workers are required to complete to enable their application/notification/disclosure to be determined and recorded under the provisions of Code of Conduct where it is considered that the worker's individual circumstances fall within scope of the Code.
  2. Gifts and Hospitality have traditionally been a difficult area to provide definitive advice and in this context a "Checklist" has been developed and is included in the draft Protocol to help the worker and the manager to determine the appropriate action if any, to be followed. The "Checklist" is set out on page 14 within the attached draft Protocol.
  3. The inclusion of the template letters in the draft Protocol have been included to assist workers to make an application/notification and to assist the information being captured in an appropriate format so it can be directed to the relevant Code of Conduct register in a consistent manner and to ease future audit and reporting arrangements.
  4. The draft Protocol makes it clear that workers are required to use the template letters and that Chief Officers/managers are required to follow the mandatory administrative process. This is necessary to assist the administration of the application/notification process, recording, reporting and registration requirements.
  5. If this report is approved, the Protocol will be published on the Council's internal StaffNet. In addition, a detailed "step by step" guide will also be included on Staffnet which will include screen shots to assist managers to input applications/notifications onto the dedicated system so that these can be directed to the appropriate register. It is intended that the register(s) will be periodically reviewed and, where appropriate workers will be contacted and invited to confirm their existing registration details and advise of any changes to maintain the integrity of the system.
  6. The above administration process will bring about an improvement in the council's process for reporting and recording Code of Conduct matters. To realise this objective the following roles and responsibilities have been developed-

Key Roles & Responsibilities

  1. The Operational Manager (Customer Relations) will initially be responsible for the receipt; recording/ registration and maintaining a central record of all applications/notifications under the Code of Conduct and the supporting Protocol. In addition, the Operational Manager (Customer Relations) will retain responsibility for the system including obtaining details of existing registration information from Directorates/Services and inputting the information onto the corporate register (s), maintenance/upkeep of the Code of Conduct register (s). The responsibility will also incorporate the circulation of relevant details as contained on the corporate register(s) to the employing Chief Officer(s), the Monitoring Officer, Section 151 Officer and Operational Manager (Audit) as appropriate and on a regular basis.
  2. The responsibility for the administration and registration will subsequently transfer to the Operational Manager (Human Resources) once the procedure has been fully embedded.
  3. Directors and their nominated officers will be responsible for the receipt of all application/notifications, and the determination of such applications (in consultation with the relevant Statutory Chief Officer, elected Member as appropriate) and the inputting of the information on to the dedicated Code of Conduct ICT system. The Director /nominated Officer will be responsible for ensuring that all application/notification under the provisions of the Code of Conduct are included on the Code of Conduct central register and for the effective operation of the policy within their own Directorate. This will include the need to ensure that:-
  • Each employee is aware of the Policy and the Protocol and how to apply/notify of their circumstances.               
  • Managers are effectively trained in the use of the Policy and supporting Protocol and in particular, how they are to register applications on the dedicated Code of Conduct system.
  • All applications/notifications under the terms of the Code of Conduct are appropriately recorded and managed in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol.
  1. The Head of Human Resources in consultation with the Leader, the Head of Finance, and Head of Legal Services will be responsible for updating the Protocol as appropriate.
  2. In all the above administrative procedures, all disclosures will be considered having regard to data protection, appropriate confidentiality requirements and the need to meet the Council's obligations under the Policy.

Responsible Officer

  1. The Head of Human Resources acting through the Monitoring Officer and Section 151 Officer will retain overall responsibility for the maintenance and operation of the Protocol.
  2. The Monitoring Officer will be responsible for the Code of Conduct and for reporting the outcome of any concerns as appropriate.
  3. The implementation of a central database meets the requirements of the Head of ICT in his capacity as the Senior Information Risk Officer (SIRO) and those of the Corporate Management Team.
  4. It is intended that the database would be "locked down" with access restricted to those staff identified by the Head of Human Resources and to those staff identified by Directors for the input of the information and updating progress. The databases will contain personal details/information and will be available to the relevant employing Chief Officer, the Monitoring Officer, the Section 151 Officer and inspection by officers of Internal Audit.

Qualifying Employee

  1. It will remain the responsibility of the "qualifying employee" to ensure that they remain compliant with the Code of Conduct and supporting Protocol and that they apply/notify the Council and to receive a formal response to their application/notification. Similarly, the responsibility will rest with the "qualifying employee" to formally advise their Chief Officer/nominated manager/supervisor of any changes in their circumstances and to receive formal confirmation of the same.

Training and Communication

  1. Directors and Heads of Service will be need to ensure that:
  • all relevant Directorate/Departmental policies and procedures take account of both the Code of Conduct Policy and the supporting Protocol.
  • the Protocol and the supporting attachments are made accessible to all relevant "qualifying employees" within their establishment.
  1. All new staff must undertake appropriate training on the Code of Conduct and the Protocol and in particular, be made aware of their obligations and the arrangements to enable them to apply/notify and to obtain a decision of the Council in respect of their individual circumstances.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. It is intended that the register for the confidential recording of the Code of Conduct applications/notifications and the Council's response will be administered through the Council's existing TRIM system and supporting software and be administered within existing personnel establishments.
  2. The Policy, Protocol and supporting procedures will apply to all "qualifying employees" of the Council (excluding those working in a school and employed by a School Governing Body where separate arrangements will apply). A number of the provisions in the Protocol will also apply to those employed/engaged through an external agency.
  3. Employees will be encouraged to consider obtaining the advice and support of their Chief Officer, HR Officer or their Trade Union in circumstances where they may be unclear as to how to progress an application/notification or an appeal under the provisions of the Code and the supporting Protocol.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. All Council employees are required to comply with the relevant provisions of the Council's Code of Conduct as contained within the Council's Constitution and published on the Council's Staffnet (except teachers, who have their own Code of Conduct).
  2. The Code of Conduct is incorporated by law into the employment contracts of all "qualifying employees" in the employment of the Council, and failure to comply with the Code and the supporting Protocol may result in disciplinary action.
  3. Applications/notifications held in relation to the Code of Conduct administered through the arrangements as set out within the Protocol will be managed in accordance with the relevant statutory disclosure obligations and data protection law.
  4. Members will recall that the Council's existing Whistleblowing Policy was revised last year to take account of the changes necessary to respond to the requirements within the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. The current Whistleblowing policy and procedure provides a confidential reporting process to enable all staff and members of the general public to register their concerns.
  5. The Council has a commitment in its Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy to confidential reporting which is afforded equal consideration within the Whistleblowing Policy.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. The Code of Conduct Protocol will provide the means for all "qualifying employees" to apply/notify the Council of any individual circumstances that may have a bearing on their employment in the Council. This will enhance the transparency of service delivery, bolster public confidence, and reduce potential suspicion of bias for personal gain/benefit of a worker through the disclosure of issues and inclusion on the Council's Code of Conduct register(s).
  2. The Protocol and associated processes should provide a means to mitigate potential criminal matters arising through the Council's employment relationship within the workforce.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. The Human Resources team will support the application of this Protocol and other related policies and procedures.
  2. The Council incorporates the statutory equalities duties in all its activities, policies and delivery of services as set out in the Council's Corporate Equality Strategy.
  3. During the development and consideration of the Protocol the impact of equality of access will be considered, for example ensuring that all workers are able to apply/notify the Council under the terms of the Code of Conduct and to submit an appeal or concern, in the manner which best suits their individual needs.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The Code of Conduct, supported by this Protocol will provide the means for workers to contribute to the Council's Strategic Core Value to achieve Transparency through the registration of any potential conflicts of interest.
  2. In addition, the Policy as supported by the Protocol will form a key element in the Council's Community Leadership objective so that the community/service users may retain their confidence in how decisions are made and are proud to live in the Vale.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. There has been extensive consultation at the Joint Employee Policy Formulation Group at which both teaching and non-teaching trade unions are represented and at meetings of the Single Status Terms and Conditions group. The comments of the recognised joint trade unions have been incorporated within the attached draft Protocol.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

Appendix A - Section 20 - Statutory Code of Conduct for qualifying employees of the Council.

Appendix B - Draft Code of Conduct Protocol

Contact Officer

Adrian Unsworth - Operational Manager Human Resources 01446 709359

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team.

Operational Manager Finance

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Managing Director

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