Agenda Item No. 7
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
COUNCIL MEETING: 25TH JUNE, 2014
REFERENCE FROM STANDARDS COMMITTEE: 11TH APRIL, 2014
'1054 LOCAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURE (MO) –
Committee were requested to consider and agree an informal local dispute resolution procedure to address low level complaints of breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct ('the Code') and Protocol – Standard of Conduct Expected by Members, in response to Welsh Government and the former Public Services Ombudsman for Wales’ concerns.
In the most recent revision of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales’ Guidance on the Code of Conduct for Members of Local Authorities, there was an expectation that local authorities throughout Wales would implement a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure to deal with low level complaints which were made by a Member against a fellow Member.
The Ombudsman had indicated that the following would fall within this category:
(i) Failure to show respect and consideration for others contrary to paragraph 4(b) of the Code.
(ii) Duty not to make vexatious, malicious or frivolous complaints against other Members under paragraph 6(1)(d) of the Code.
Complaints of this type were expressly mentioned by the Ombudsman although other breaches of the Code may also be regarded as low level complaints.
The Ombudsman set out the advantages of dealing with such low level complaints as follows:
(i) Speeds up the complaints process permitting a local and quick resolution of lower order issues.
(ii) Avoids unnecessary escalation of the situation which might impact on personal relationships within the Authority and damage the Authority’s reputation.
(iii) Avoids unnecessary formal complaints and the involvement of the Ombudsman whose resources could be devoted to the investigation of more serious or repeated complaints.
On 5th December 2013, the Committee was informed that approximately 13 Councils had introduced some form of Local Dispute Resolution Procedure and a number of other Councils were developing models. The model adopted by some comprised a relatively formal procedure and involved the Standards Committee. Conversely, the model adopted by others involved the adoption of a self-regulatory protocol which incorporated a procedure for dealing with complaints via Group Leaders and only involved participation by an independent Member of the Standards Committee if the matter could not be resolved at the first stage. The Standards Committee considered that a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure, which operated with the full support and commitment of all political groups was key to securing a swift resolution of what were deemed low level complaints.
Standards Committee on 5th December 2013 resolved 'That the Monitoring Officer draft a proposed Local Dispute Resolution Procedure incorporating elements of examples of such procedures attached as appendices to the report, but not being confined to these documents for consideration at the next meeting of the Committee'.
Attached at Appendix A to the report was a revised Local Dispute Resolution Procedure which, in summary, incorporated a three stage process summarised as follows:
Stage 1 – determination by Monitoring Officer or Deputy Monitoring Officer of whether the Procedure was applicable.
Stage 2 – conciliation meeting held to attempt to resolve the matter.
Stage 3 – hearing before an independent member of the Standards Committee, advised by the Monitoring Officer or Deputy Monitoring Officer.
Having considered the report, it was
(1) T H A T the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for the Vale of Glamorgan Council as attached at Appendix A to the report be agreed.
(2) T H A T the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Group Leaders be consulted regarding the contents of the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure.
(3) T H A T the Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Chair of the Standards Committee, be given delegated authority to consider the comments from the Group Leaders and amend the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure if deemed appropriate.
(4) T H A T, subject to any amendments in light of Resolution (3) above, the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure be referred to Council with a recommendation that it be incorporated into the Council’s Constitution.
(5) T H A T a progress report be submitted to the next meeting of the Standards Committee.
Reasons for decisions
(1-4) To address the recommendations of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales to adopt a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for dealing with low level Member-against-Member complaints.
(5) To ensure that Standards Committee is kept informed.'
Attached as Appendix - Report to Standards Committee: 11th April, 2014
Members are asked to note that, with regard to Resolutions (3) and (4) above, no requests/suggestions for amendments to the procedure were received from Group Leaders