STANDARDS COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 25th January, 2018.

 

Present:  Mr. A. Lane (Chairman); Mr. D. Carsley (Vice-Chairman); Mr. R. Hendicott, Mrs. L. Tinsley (Independent Members), Councillor M. Cuddy (Town and Community Council Representative), Councillors L. Burnett, B.T. Gray and A.D. Hampton.

 

 

629     APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Mrs. P. Hallett (Independent Member).

 

 

630     ANNOUNCEMENT -

 

The Chairman having welcomed Councillors L. Burnett and A.D. Hampton who had replaced Councillors Mrs. A. Moore and Mrs. R. Nugent-Finn as the elected representatives on the Committee subsequently asked all present to introduce themselves.

 

 

631     MINUTES -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 23rd November, 2017 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

632     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

Councillor B.T. Gray declared an interest in respect of the application for dispensation from Councillor V.P. Driscoll at Agenda Item 4 stating that although he did not have a personal interest in Councillor V. Driscoll’s dispensation application, to avoid the risk of the perception of bias, as Chairman of the Planning Committee he would withdraw from the meeting when the application was being considered.  Councillor Gray confirmed that he had also received advice from the Monitoring Officer to this effect.

 

 

633     APPLICATIONS FOR DISPENSATION (MO) -

 

The Standards Committee Grant of Dispensation (Wales) Regulations 2001 permitted Members to apply to Standards Committee to speak and if appropriate to vote on issues which due to prejudicial interests, they may not otherwise be able to speak or vote on. In this regard two applications for dispensation had been received as follows:

 

(1)           Vale of Glamorgan Councillor V.P. Driscoll to speak and vote at Planning Committee on the planning application relating to the St. Cyres site and any related reports;

(2)           Barry Town Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson to speak and vote at Barry Town Council and any relevant Committees on matters relating the the Pioneer Hall and any future community facilities owned and managed by Barry Town Council.

 

Having considered the applications it was subsequently

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the application for dispensation from Councillor V. P. Driscoll to speak and vote at Planning Committee on the planning application relating to the St. Cyres site and any related reports be refused.  The Committee being mindful of paragraphs 18.3.5 (b) and (bA) of the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct as set out in the Council’s Constitution and as below:-

 

18.3.5 Participation in relation to disclosed interests

 

(b)          Where you have a prejudicial interest in any business of your authority you may attend a meeting but only for the purpose of making representations, answering questions or giving evidence relating to the business, provided that the public are also allowed to attend the meeting for the same purpose, whether under a statutory right or otherwise.

(bA)       Where you have a prejudicial interest in any business of your authority you may submit written representations to a meeting relating to that business, provided that the public are allowed to attend the meeting for the purpose of making representations, answering questions or giving evidence relating to the business, whether under a statutory right or otherwise.

(2)       T H A T dispensation be granted to Barry Town Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson to speak and vote at meetings of Barry Town Council and any relevant Committee or Sub Committees on matters relating to the Pioneer Hall and any future community facilities owned and managed by Barry Town Council whilst also being a Vale of Glamorgan Trustee for the Alexandra Gardens Community Association.  That the dispensation be granted in compliance with paragraphs (d) and (f) of the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 which govern a grant of dispensation to speak / speak and vote. 

(3)       T H A T the dispensation in respect of Resolution (2) above be granted until the date of the next Local Government Elections.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)          Having considered the public interest in preventing a Member with a personal and prejudicial interest fully taking part in the determination of a planning application against the public interest in the determination being made by a reasonably representative group of Members of the Council.

 

 

(2&3)  To comply with the Standards Committees (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 governing applications for the grant of dispensation to speak/ speak and vote.

 

 

634     MODEL LOCAL RESOLUTION PROTOCOL FOR COMMUNITY AND TOWN COUNCILS (MO) -

 

At its meeting on 13th July, 2017 Members of the Standards Committee resolved that all Town and Community Councils in the Vale of Glamorgan be recommended to consider adopting the Model Local Resolution Protocol or to use the model version to draw up their own protocol. 

 

All Town and Community Councils had been contacted to ascertain if their Councils had adopted the Protocol or whether they used it as a basis to draw up their own Protocol.  Appendix 1 to the report detailed the responses received to date and at the meeting the Committee was informed that as a result of confirmation from Llandow Community Council, the number of Town and Community Councils that had confirmed adoption of the Protocol was 21, with some Councils yet to confirm / consider their position. 

 

In respect of Penllyn and Wenvoe, the Clerk to the Community Councils had advised that in consultation with the Chairman of the respective Councils, the Protocol was disproportionate to the size of the Council and with the number of complaints received being nil, there was no intention to put the document before the Councils. 

 

Having considered the report, in noting that 21 out of the 26 Community Councils had already agreed to adopt the Protocol and having been made aware that other Town and Community Councils were yet to confirm their position, the Committee Members felt that Penllyn and Wenvoe Community Councils should be advised that adopting a protocol was recommended by the Standards Committee as good practice and important for the respective Councils should issues come forward in the future.

 

Having considered the report, it was subsequently

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a letter be forwarded to the Chairmen and the Clerks of Penllyn and Wenvoe Community Councils, with copies to all Members of the Community Councils for their information, advising of the importance of establishing a procedure should complaints be received in the future.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       In light of the contents contained therein.

 

(2)       In order that governance arrangements can be strengthened.

 

 

635     ASSESSING PUBLIC INTEREST - CODE OF CONDUCT - FACTSHEET (MO) -

 

The Model Code of Conduct for Councillors sets out the high standards of behaviour which the public expects from its elected representatives.  The Ombudsman's role was to consider complaints where Members of Local Authorities in Wales had breached their Authority's Code and it supported the Standards Committees of Local Authorities to help Councillors achieve the standards of conduct that meet public expectations. 

 

In order that the Ombudsman's office could focus on investigations on matters that were serious and were capable of undermining the relationship between Councillors and the public they served, such as corruption, bullying and misuse of power in public office, the factsheet attached as Appendix 1 to the report had been prepared for assessing the public interest.  The factsheet highlighted that there was no widely accepted definition of public interest but it had been described as "something which is of serious concern and benefit to the public".  The process involved the application of a two-stage test, and where the Ombudsman was satisfied that a complaint was supported by direct evidence that a breach had taken place, initially the public interest was considered in deciding whether a complaint against a Councillor could and should be investigated.  The link to the factsheet can also be found on the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales' website at http://www.ombudsman-wales.org.uk/~/media/Files/Factsheets_Eng_post%202015%20review/Factsheet%20%20Public%20Interest%20Considerations%20Version%2010.ashx

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report and the attached factsheet be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Monitoring Officer, on behalf of the Standards Committee, forward the link to the factsheet to all Councillors in the Vale of Glamorgan Council and to all Town and Community Councillors via their Clerks for information.

 

Reason for decisions

 

(1&2)  Having regard to the contents contained therein.

 

 

636     CODE OF CONDUCT TRAINING 2017 - VALE OF GLAMORGAN TOWN AND COMMUNITY COUNCILS AND CO-OPTED MEMBERS OF THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL (MO) -

 

The report provided Members with an update on the feedback received following the training that had been provided for Members of Vale of Glamorgan Town and Community Councils and Clerks by One Voice Wales. 

 

The Terms of Reference of the Standards Committee included the requirement to:

 

promote and maintain high standards of conduct; and 

  • advise, train or arrange to train
  • Councillors, Co-opted Members and Church and Parent Governor representatives on matters relating to the Members' Code of Conduct. 

Following the Local Government elections on 4th May, 2017 training on the Members' Code of Conduct had been provided to all elected Vale of Glamorgan Councillors between 16th May and 6th June, 2017.  At its meeting on 1st June, 2017 the Standards Committee resolved that training for Members of Vale of Glamorgan Town and Community Councils, including Clerks, would be delivered by the organisation One Voice Wales - The Voice of Community and Town Councils in Wales.  The following training sessions were therefore held: 

  • 17th October, 2017;
  • 19th October, 2017;
  • 24th October, 2017;
  • 7th November, 2017; and
  • 14th November, 2017. 

A total of 72 feedback response forms had been received and a copy of the feedback summary was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  On a scoring rate of 1 to 6 (1 for low and 6 being for high) the overall rating of the training provided was 5.76.  Feedback received from attendees had been very positive which was borne out by the feedback summary received.  It was also important to note that 46 respondents also indicated that they would attend further training, whilst others indicating that they would possibly attend further training. 

 

In considering the report, the Committee considered that a number of Town and Community Councillors may not have received or had taken part in Code of Conduct training and suggested that all Town and Community Council Clerks be reminded to advise their Councillors of the importance of such training.  It was accepted that the Vale of Glamorgan had provided five training sessions and that it would not be purchasing any further sessions for some time, following which it was subsequently

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the contents of the report be noted and all Town and Community Council Clerks be requested to ensure that Councillors within their area had received the necessary training on the Code of Conduct and that the Standards Committee be informed accordingly.

 

Reason for decision

 

In recognition of the role of the Standards Committee to promote and maintain

high standards of conduct of Members as detailed in the Council's Constitution and to develop and assist Town and Community Councils' Councillors and Clerks to be

compliant with the Code of Conduct.

 

 

637     OVERVIEW OF MEMBERS’ CODE OF CONDUCT COMPLAINTS POST 2012 (MO) -

 

The report provided Members with an update on the number of complaints that had been reported to the Standards Committee since 2012.


Appendix 1 to the report provided the list of complaints that had been presented since June 2014 as prior to that between the period of May 2012 to May 2014 no Ombudsman complaints had come before the Committee.

 

The list included complaints that had been considered following reports received in respect of Town and Community Councillor complaints from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales as well as details of Vale of Glamorgan Local Dispute Resolution Procedure hearings where decisions to censure had been made.

 

The Standards Committee also received update reports from time to time in respect of decisions of Case Tribunals from the Adjudication Panel of Wales.

 

In considering the report, new Members of the Committee thanked the officers for the information which they stated provided them with sufficient details of the number and types of matters that had been dealt with. 

 

Having requested the details for information purposes only, the Committee subsequently

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

To apprise Members of the outcomes of complaints reported to the Standards Committee.

 

 

638     REVIEW OF LOCAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURE (MO) -

 

On 11th April, 2014, the Standards Committee had considered and agreed a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure to address low level complaints and breaches of the Members' Code of Conduct (the Code) and Protocol - Standards of Conduct Expected by Members, in response to Welsh Government and the former Public Services Ombudsman for Wales' concerns.  The Public Services Ombudsman guidance on the Code of Conduct for Members of Local Authorities had stated 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.  At the Full Council meeting on 25th June, 2014, a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure ('the Procedure') was duly approved and subsequently incorporated into the Council's Constitution.  As with the Council's Constitution generally, the Procedure was subject to review and changes could be proposed if considered appropriate (either by the Monitoring Officer or the Standards Committee itself).

 

The Procedure also allowed for the Independent Member at a hearing to make recommendations to the Council regarding changing any procedures or taking any further action.  Hearings at Stage 3 were dealt with in private and publicity was not to be given to the names of the Members involved in the complaint unless it was decided that there was a basis to the complaint and the Member be censured.

 

At its meeting in July 2016, the Committee considered a report detailing some suggested amendments for the Procedure.  The Monitoring Officer had suggested that it would be beneficial if a specific timescale could be inserted into the Procedure clarifying the deadline by which complaints should be brought to the attention of the Member against whom the complaint had been lodged.  It was recommended that this be within seven working days of the complaint being received by the Monitoring Officer.  Furthermore, if a Member in lodging a complaint had identified a specific witness(es) whom they wished to call to give evidence, details of the complaints and response (redacted if considered necessary) should also be forwarded to the witness(es);  if approved, this would be akin to pleadings being made available in civil proceedings.

 

At the last meeting of the Committee on 23rd November, 2017, the Committee was presented with a suggested Forward Work Programme for the current administrative year, with it being agreed that a draft proposal for a review of the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure be presented to the Committee for consideration at the January meeting.  Attached at Appendix 2 to the report was a copy of the proposed revised Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for the Committee’s consideration.  Appendix 3 detailed the suggested procedure for approval for use at Local Dispute Resolution hearings and Appendix 4 was a document that had been prepared for administrative purposes in dealing with Local Dispute Resolution Procedure complaints which included particular reference to timescales associated with the process.

 

During consideration of the document, Mr. Hendicott (Independent Member) stated that he had a number of queries that he would like considered in relation to the procedure and together with the response received from Mrs. Hallett who had emailed her comments for consideration and which was tabled at the meeting, it was subsequently

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the Monitoring Officer and Mr. Hendicott meet to further develop the Council’s Local Dispute Resolution Procedure with a revised draft to be circulated to Members of the Committee and for their views and or / comments to be forwarded to the Monitoring Officer to be incorporated into a draft report to be presented to the next meeting of the Committee.

 

Reason for decision

 

In order that comments from all Members can be incorporated into a document for further consideration.

 

639     STANDARDS CONFERENCE WALES SEPTEMBER 2018 (MO) -

 

The Committee was informed of the forthcoming Standards Conference in September 2018 which was to be held at Aberystwyth University on Friday, 14th September, 2018.  It was noted that the full details
of the conference had not yet been received but that the Monitoring Officer had been made aware that the key speaker was to be Mr. N. Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.  The conference would also provide an opportunity to hear directly from senior officials involved in the adjudication of the Code of Conduct, to question them on matters of concern and to enable delegates to debate current issues on the Code of Conduct.

 

Although it was anticipated that three places would be offered to each Local Authority within Wales further details in this regard were awaited.  The Monitoring Officer took the opportunity to advise Members that it was a date for their diary and that further consideration would be given when fuller details were received. 

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

To apprise Members in order for the date of the conference to be noted.

 

 

640     EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part 4 of Schedule 12A (as amended) of the Act, the relevant paragraphs of the Schedule being referred to in brackets after the minute heading.

 

 

641     LOCAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURE STAGE 3 HEARING (MO) (EXEMPT INFORMATION - PARAGRAPHS 12 AND 13) -

 

Committee was apprised of the outcomes of two hearings that had been held on 24th November, 2017 in accordance with Stage 3 of the Council’s Local Dispute Resolution Procedure.

 

Committee was informed that the Member involved had been found to have breached paragraphs 18.2.4 (a), (b) and (c) and 18.2.6(a) of the Members’ Code of Conduct and Sections 4 and 7 of the Conduct of Members (the Principles) with the Independent Member having determined that there was a basis to the complaint and that the Member be censured. 

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

Having considered the contents contained therein.