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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Standards Committee: 5 December 2013

 

Report of the Monitoring Officer

 

Local Dispute Resolution Procedure

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To consider the options of an informal local dispute resolution procedure to address low level complaints of breaches of the Members Code of Conduct and respond to Welsh Government and Public Services Ombudsman for Wales concerns.

Recommendation

THAT Committee considers the options for a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

Reason for the Recommendation

To address the recommendation of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales to adopt a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for dealing with low level member on member complaints.  

 

Background

2.         In the most recent revision of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales’ Guidance on the Code of Conduct for Members of Local Authorities, there is an expectation that local authorities throughout Wales will implement a Local Dispute Resolution procedure to deal with low level complaints which are made by a Member against a fellow Member

3.         The Ombudsman indicates 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 of Conduct and

(ii)        Duty not to make vexatious, malicious or frivolous complaints against other Members under paragraph 6(1)(b) of the Code.

 

Complaints of this type are expressly mentioned by the Ombudsman although other  breaches of the Code may also be regarded as low level complaints.

 

4.         The Ombudsman sets 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.  

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         To date approximately 13 Councils have introduced some form of Local Dispute Resolution Procedure and a number of other Councils are currently developing models. The model adopted by some comprises a relatively formal procedure and involves the Standards Committee. Conversely the model adopted by others involves adoption of a self regulatory protocol which incorporates a procedure for dealing with complaints via Group Leaders and only involves participation by an independent Member of the Standards Committee if the matter cannot be resolved at the first stage.

6.         Given that the objective is to secure swift resolution of what are deemed low level complaints, Members may consider that a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure, which is intended to operate with the full support and commitment of all political groups better meets the requirement of informality.

7.         I’ve attached at [Appendices A] [and B] examples of the 2 different approaches for consideration, which are appropriate for dealing with Member-on-Member complaints and breaches of the Protocol on Officer/Member relations.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

8.         None directly arising from this report.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

9.         None.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

10.      By virtue of the Local Government Act 2000, Members are required to comply with the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct. The Code is supplemented by guidance issued from time to time by the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales who is encouraging adoption of an informal Local Dispute Resolution Procedure to deal with low level complaints.

11.      Members’ compliance with the proposed Procedure will be voluntary. Members will still be at liberty to complain directly to the Ombudsman where complaints cannot be resolved locally or the behaviours complained of continue unabated.

Crime and Disorder Implications

12.      None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

13.      In the event that a complaint involved either equality or issues or potential breaches of Human Rights they may not be suitable for consideration under the Procedure proposed and this would be considered by the Monitoring Officer when the complaint is raised.

Corporate/Service Objectives

14.      The adoption of a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure will support Community Leadership.

Policy Framework and Budget

15.      This is a matter for Standards Committee.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

16.      None at this stage. Group Leader consultation will be carried out following Standards Committee’s consideration of the options and once a preferred option is identified.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

17.      None.

Background Papers

Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Guidance

Contact Officer

Debbie Marles – Head of Legal Services

01446 709402  email: DMarles@valeofglamorgan.gov.uk

 

Officers Consulted

 

Responsible Officer

Debbie Marles – Head of Legal Services (and Monitoring Officer)

 

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