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Agenda Item No.

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Standards Committee: 9th December 2015

 

Report of the Monitoring Officer

 

Allegations of Failure to Observe the Members' Code of Conduct Made Against a Community Councillor

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. Standards Committee is requested to consider the allegations made against Community Councillor Vince Driscoll of failure to observe the Dinas Powys Community Council's Code of Conduct. After considering representations, Committee is requested to make its determinations in line with Regulation 9(1) of the Local Government Investigations (Functions of Monitoring Officers and Standards Committees) (Wales) Regulations 2001 ("2001 Regulations").

Recommendations

  1. That Standards Committee makes its determinations in line with Regulation 9(1) of the Local Government Investigations (Functions of Monitoring Officers and Standards Committees) (Wales) Regulations 2001, in respect of the conclusions of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales' Investigation Officer detailed in paragraph 4 of this report.
  2. That the Standards Committee notifies relevant parties in line with Regulation 9(3) of the Local Government Investigations (Functions of Monitoring Officers and Standards Committees) (Wales) Regulations 2001.

Reason for the Recommendations

1&2 To comply with the provisions of the 2001 Regulations.

Background

  1. At its meeting on 6th July 2015, Standards Committee resolved as follows:

(1)                T H A T 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)                T H A T 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.

  1. Attached at Appendix A is a copy of the Ombudsman's Investigation Report ('Investigation Report') in respect of the complaint against Councillor Driscoll. As various appendices contained in the Investigation Report contain emails and letters which bear the personal email or postal address of the sender or the recipient these have been redacted. However a master copy of the Investigating Report has been retained.
  2. The Analysis of the evidence and conclusions are set out at pages 18-23 and the summary of the Ombudsman's investigations are set out at page 23 of the Investigation Report. The conclusions are 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 18th 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 19th 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 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 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 3rd 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 3rd 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 5th 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 5th 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 8th October 2013 and/or 10th October 2013 and/or 14th November 2013, thereby breaching paragraph 11(1) and/or paragraph 11(2)(a) of the Dinas Powys Community Council Members' Code of Conduct.

  1. 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 X and Y) 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 X and Y (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.

  1. Standards Committee, on 6th July 2015, was also advised that office copy entries in respect of Title No. CYM149975 and Confirmation Order relating to public bridleway Number 45, St. Andrews Major, had been obtained. Copies are attached at Appendix D.
  2. The Ombudsman's summary as set out at page 23 of the Investigation Report is as follows:

"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".

  1. Attached at Appendix B is a copy of the 'Procedure for Dealing with Allegations Made Against Councillors and Referred to the Standards Committee'. Paragraph 8.4 of the Procedure requires the Standards Officer to provide specified information to the Members of the Committee, Councillor Driscoll and the Investigating Officer. This information is provided at Appendix C to the report.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Standards Committee, on 23rd November 2015, received a report which outlined allegations made against Community Councillor Driscoll and the decisions of the Committee are shown below:

(1)                T H A T consideration of the allegations made against Councillor X be conducted under Part I of the Agenda.

(2)                T H A T consideration of the Ombudsman's Investigation Report be conducted under Part I of the Agenda.

(Note: In accordance with the Council's Procedure Rules and the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended), the item was deferred to the next meeting of the Committee in the interests of transparency.)

(3)                T H A T a meeting of the Standards Committee be convened at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 9th December, 2015 in order to consider the allegations made against Councillor X and the Investigation Report of the Ombudsman.

(4)                T H A T the Standards Committee on 9th December, 2015 will consider all allegations outlined in Paragraphs 5(1) - 5(9) of the report of the Monitoring Officer.

(5)                T H A T, notwithstanding the above decision, the Ombudsman's Investigation Officer be requested to advise in more detail of the reasons why there was no intention on the part of the Ombudsman to make representations regarding the allegations outlined in Paragraphs 5(2) - 5(6) of the Monitoring Officer's covering report.

(6)                T H A T delegated authority be granted to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Standards Committee to determine whether a hearing and associated documentation pursuant to the Procedure for Dealing with Allegations Made Against Councillors and Referred to the Standards Committee ("The Procedure") be considered under Part I or Part II of an Agenda having regard to the circumstances of the matter, the Procedure and the provisions of Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.

  1. In line with the 2001 Regulations, after considering any oral or written representations made by or on behalf of Councillor Driscoll, Standards Committee must determine:
  • That there is no evidence of any failure to comply with the Code of Conduct of the relevant Authority and that therefore no action needs to be taken in respect of the matters which are the subject of the investigation;
  • That a Member of co-opted member (or former Member or co-opted member) of a relevant Authority has failed to comply with the relevant Authority's Code of Conduct but that no action needs to be taken in respect of that failure;
  • That a Member or co-opted member (or former Member or co-opted member) of the relevant Authority has failed to comply with the Authority's Code of Conduct and should be censured, or
  • That a Member or co-opted member of a relevant Authority has failed to comply with the Authority's Code of Conduct and should be suspended or partially suspended from being a Member or co-opted member of that Authority for a period not exceeding six months.
  1. The Standards Committee is required to notify Councillor Driscoll, any persons who made the allegations which gave rise to the investigation and the Ombudsman of its decisions together with reasons for the decisions.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. None.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. None.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The Standards Committee is required to comply with the 2001 Regulations.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. None.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. None.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. None.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The report does not require consultation with other parties.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Not applicable.

Background Papers

Report by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales on an investigation into allegations against Councillor Vince Driscoll of Dinas Powys Community Council dated 12th May 2015.

Contact Officer

Ms. D. Marles - Tel. No. (01446) 709401

Officers Consulted

None.

Responsible Officer:

Ms. D. Marles, Monitoring Officer

 

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