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Agenda Item No. 4

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Standards Committee: 25th January 2017

 

Report of the Monitoring Officer

 

The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2016 : Town and Community Councils

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To apprise Members of the responses received from the Town and Community Councils within the Vale of Glamorgan regarding compliance with the provisions of the Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2016 and section 51(6) of the Local Government Act 2000.

Recommendations

  1. THAT the contents of this report be noted.
  1. THAT Sully and Lavernock Community Council and Michelston le Pit with Leckwith Community Council be requested to inform the Standards Committee of the timescale by which they propose to comply with the Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2016 and section 51(6) of the Local Government Act 2000.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To note the current position.
  2. To comply with the statutory obligations.

Background

  1. The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2016 amends existing subordinate legislation made under Part III of the Local Government Act 2000, consequential upon provisions in the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 ("the 2013 Act"). The Order came into force on 1st April, 2016.
  2. The Order amends the Model Code of Conduct for Local Government Members. The main amendments are 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 Community Council with effect from 1st May, 2015. A number of consequential amendments are made to the Model Code to reflect this change.
  • The Model Code is 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 is not a change of policy, but clarifies the original intention. The exemption for Community Councillors from the requirement to register certain financial and other interests up front is maintained.
  • The obligation on a Member to report a potential breach of the Code of Conduct to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales is now omitted from the Code. However, there continues to be the obligation to report such matters to the Monitoring Officer.
  • The following paragraph is now omitted:

"a member of the public might reasonably perceive a conflict between your role in taking a decision, upon that business, on behalf of your authority as a whole and your role in representing the interests of constituents in your ward or electoral division".

 

This is 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 is still under an obligation to act objectively and in the wider public interest.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. All relevant Authorities must within six months of the Amendment Order adopt a revised Code of Conduct. The Order was made on 27th January, 2016 and, therefore, the Council had until 26 July, 2016 in which to adopt a revised Code. However, it was suggested by Welsh Government that it would be sensible for Local Authorities to do so no later than at their 2016 Annual Meeting.
  2. Section 51(6) of the Local Government Act 2000 requires the Authority as soon as reasonably practicable after revising its Members' Code of Conduct:
  • to ensure that copies are available at an office of the authority for inspection by the public at all reasonable hours;
  • to publish in one or more newspaper circulating in the area a notice which states that the Authority has revised the Code and made it available for inspection; and
  • to send a revised copy of the Code to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.
  1. To assist with compliance by the Town and Community Councils, the Monitoring Officer has shared with the Clerks to the Town and Community Councils within the Vale of Glamorgan, copies of associated reports submitted to the Standards Committee and the Vale of Glamorgan Council which detail the relevant legal obligations.
  2. In order to assess the level of compliance by the Town and Community Council's, the Monitoring Officer wrote to the 26 Town and Community Councils within the Vale of Glamorgan on 13 October 2016 requesting the dates when the following actions were taken by the respective Town or Community Council:
  • The adoption by your Council of the revised Members' Code of Conduct.
  • When copies of the revised Members' Code of Conduct were made available at an office of your Council for inspection by members of the public.
  • When your Council published in one or more newspapers, circulating in the area of your Council a notice stating that the revised Members' Code of Conduct has been adopted, that copies of the revised Members' Code of Conduct were available at an office of the Council for inspection by members of the public at such times as may be specified in the notice and specifying the address of the relevant office.
  • When a copy of the revised Members' Code of Conduct was sent to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.
  1. The outcome is as follows:
  • 12 Town/Community Councils revised their Members' Code of Conduct and published a notice in a newspaper circulating in their area on 20 October 2016 and thereafter sent a revised copy of their Members' Code of Conduct to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales;
  • Llandough Community Council took all appropriate action with their notice being published on 27 October 2016;
  • St Athan Community Council took all appropriate action with their notice being published on 10 November 2016;
  • 10 further Town/Community Councils took all appropriate action with their notice being published on 19 January 2017;
  • Feedback is awaited from Sully and Lavernock Community Council and Michelston le Pit with Leckwith Community Council. To date both Councils have indicated that the recent joint notice being published on 19 January 2017 is not in a newspaper in the area of their respective Councils.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. There are no direct implications arising from this report, other than officers time spent in corresponding with the clerks to Town/Community Councils.
  2. To assist in minimising publication costs for Town and Community Councils, a joint approach has been suggested.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no direct implications arising from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. As detailed in the body of this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no direct implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. There are no direct implications arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. To ensure compliance with statutory obligation.
  2. The Constitution is part of the framework supporting the Council's commitment to provide political leadership and active relationship and engagement.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. Not applicable.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. This is an internal matter and consultation is, therefore, not necessary.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. None.

Background Papers

The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2016.

Contact Officer

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

Officers Consulted

None

Responsible Officer:

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

 

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