STANDARDS COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 22nd March, 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) and Councillor B.T. Gray.

 

 

805     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Mrs. P. Hallett (Independent Member) and Councillors L. Burnett and Mrs. R. Nugent-Finn.

 

 

806     MINUTES –

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 25th January, 2018 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

807     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –  

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

808     REVIEW OF THE LOCAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURE (MO) –

 

A Local Dispute Resolution procedure had been approved by the Standards Committee in April 2014, however in view of lessons learned to date the Committee subsequently requested that a review of the Procedure be undertaken.  On 25th January, 2018, the Committee received a draft revised Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for its consideration together with a copy of a procedural document to be used at Local Dispute Resolution Hearings (Local Dispute Resolution Procedure – Conduct of Stage 3 Hearing) and an administrative procedural document for dealing with the Local Dispute Resolution process (Local Dispute Resolution Procedure – Procedure for Dealing with Paperwork and Timescales).   

 

Mr. Hendicott, an Independent Member, stated that he had a number of suggestions that he wished to highlight and the Committee agreed that both the Monitoring Officer and Mr. Hendicott meet to further develop the Procedure outside of the Committee meeting and to have regard to an e-mail that had been received from Mrs. P. Hallett who had also raised a few points,.  It was further resolved that following such discussions, a revised draft  be circulated to Members of the Committee for their views and / or comments which, in turn, would be forwarded to the Monitoring Officer to be incorporated into a final report to be presented to the next meeting of the Committee.

 

The document attached at Appendix 1 to the report contained the revised version following the meeting that had taken place with Mr. Hendicott.  However, it had been noted that the Appendices 2 and 3 which had been despatched with the agenda were the original Appendices minus any changes with the Monitoring Officer subsequently tabling the correct revised versions for the Committee’s consideration. 

 

In presenting the report the Monitoring Officer, highlighted the key additions that had been inserted into the document as outlined below:- 

  • The addition at Paragraph 14 that a decision to reject a complaint be included and the Monitoring Officer or Deputy Monitoring Officer be able to make this decision subject to consultation with the Chairman of the Standards Committee or, in his absence, an Independent Member of the Standards Committee as nominated by the Chairman of the Standards Committee. 
  • Timescales had also been tightened up in the Procedure to ensure that matters were dealt with in a timely manner;
  • Paragraph 19  referred to the importance of providing an opportunity for both parties to receive support during the process;
  • Paragraph 23, the hearing would be held before three Independent Members of the Standards Committee as opposed to one in the previous Procedure. To allow for a more democratic process;
  •  Paragraph 25 that witnesses be required to provide statements and that those witnesses who had provided statements would be required to attend the Hearing; and 
  • Paragraph 29, the addition to the conclusions that could be reached by Independent Members of a direct apology being offered to a Complainant.

During the discussion Members also suggested the following amendments to the revised Procedure:-  

  • All references to “calendar days” be amended to read “working days” except for the statement that would appear on the Council’s website this was to remain as “28 calendar days”.
  • Paragraph 16 – to be amended to read “The Complainant will submit to the Monitoring Officer in writing within 10 working days of the submission of the Complaint Form any further details relating to the complaint which are not already detailed in the Complaint Form. The same to the Member who is the subject of the complaint
  • Paragraph 17 – be amended to read “The Member who is the subject of the complaint will submit to the Monitoring Officer a written response to the complaint within 10 working days thereafter (having been informed by the Monitoring Officer of the commencement date of the 10 working days period) and the Monitoring Officer will forward the same to the Complainant..
  • Paragraph 24 - The word “they” be amended to read “the witnesses” (“the witnesses will be given an overview of the complaint”).
  • Paragraph 25 – Reference to “5 working days” should read “  not less than 5 working days”.
  • Paragraph 34 – Remove the word “internal”.

In respect of the tabled Appendix 2 document, again it was suggested that the reference to “calendar days” be amended to “working days” with the only exception being the statement that would appear on the Council’s website being not less than “28 calendar days” and that where reference is made to working days, the words “not less than” appear in front of them.

 

It was also suggested that reference should also be made in the document to the fact that if the Complainant or Respondent were to be legally represented, then they should notify the Monitoring Officer in advance of the hearing in order that all parties could be informed of such attendance to ensure the opportunity for parties to be equally represented.

 

With regard to Appendix 3, point 7 to be amended to read “ if the matter is not resolved at Stage 2, the Complainant may elect to stop the Procedure or proceed to Stage 3 of the Procedure subject to notifying the Monitoring Officer in writing  within 7 working days of the Mediation meeting” and insert in the document the sentence that “all parties will receive copies of the Statements in advance of the Hearing. “  Again, reference to “working days” should be preceded by the words “not less than” with the exception of “calendar days” being in respect of the statement that would appear on the Council’s website for “not less than 28 calendar days”.

 

The Monitoring Officer further stated that the comments received by Mrs. Hallett in the report had been captured in the document.  With regard to Mr. Carsley’s comments  the Monitoring Officer advised as follows:-

 

(1)       “Is there a particular reason why complaints received from Members of Town Councils etc. are not dealt with in the same manner?”,

 

Response - The Ombudsman had recently been working with the organisation One Voice Wales who had developed a local model resolution protocol for Town and Community Councils to consider and the Standards Committee had recommended that either the Model or a revised Model be adopted by each Town and Community Council.  The Standards Committee was monitoring the responses. 

 

(2)       “Conduct of Stage 3 – Why is it necessary to have three Members of the Standards Committee to adjudicate at a Hearing.  One Member has been used previously and as far as I am aware there has not been a problem.”

 

Response - This had been considered appropriate in order to ensure that the Procedure is more robust and assist the decision making process.  

 

The Chairman also advised that he wished to ensure that all Members of the Standards Committee could take part in such Hearings and the introduction of three Members forming a Hearing panel would allow for more opportunities for Members to broaden their knowledge as well as providing more flexibility.

 

Following consideration of the report and the tabled Appendices, it was subsequently

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Monitoring Officer be authorised to amend the documents as outlined above.

 

(2)       T H A T a final draft be forwarded to all Members of the Committee, thereafter to Group Leaders for acceptance, and thereafter to Full Council for formal approval. 

(3)        T H A T following discussions with Group Leaders, delegated authority be granted to the Monitoring Officer, in conjunction with the Chairman, to amend any typographical errors and make any minor changes.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To provide the Monitoring Officer with approval to make the amendments as outlined in the Committee meeting.

 

(2&3)  In order to progress the matter and to seek Full Council approval.

 

 

809     OBSERVATIONS BY INDEPENDENT STANDARDS COMMITTEE MEMBERS AT VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL MEETINGS (MO) –

 

Members were requested to consider the attendance of Independent Standards Committee Members at Committee meetings to be an appropriate action to observe practices in order to build on knowledge, further develop insight into the Member role within the Council and primarily to raise the profile of the Standards Committee and support the role of the Committee with regard to promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct and compliance with the Members Code.of Conduct  To this end, a copy of the Council’s calendar of meetings for the forthcoming Municipal year was attached to the report for the Committee’s information.  It was suggested that Members of the Standards Committee consider the timetable of meetings from May 2018 to May 2019 and inform the Democratic Services Officer of the meetings that they would wish to attend.

 

In considering the programme, the Monitoring Officer also recommended that the Standards Committee may wish to consider a further work programme item in the future for Independent Standards Committee Members to observe Town and Community Council meetings.  It was agreed that this could be considered for Municipal year 2019/20.

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T as part of the Committee’s work programme, Independent Members attend a number of Vale of Glamorgan Council meetings during the Municipal Year 2018/19 to observe meetings with a view to promoting high standards of conduct in line with the Members’ Code of Conduct. 

 

(2)       T H A T Members’ availability be channelled through the Democratic Services Officer in order that a calendar of attendance can be collated.

 

3)         T H A T feedback reports be presented to the Standards Committee on a quarterly basis following observations at Council meetings.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       In the interests of promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct.

 

(2)       In order that a calendar of attendance at meetings can be devised.

 

(3)       In the interests of promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct.

 

 

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

 

At the meeting of the Standards Committee on 25th January, 2018, the Committee received feedback in respect of Code of Conduct training undertaken on behalf of the Vale of Glamorgan Council by One Voice Wales.  Town and Community Councillors, Clerks and an Audit Lay Member attended the training, (a total of 73 people) with five sessions being made available which were held on 17th, 19th, 24th October and 7th and 14th November, 2017.

 

With regard to four Co-opted Members on the Council's Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee, the Monitoring Officer had provided Code of Conduct training to three Members on 16th October, 2017.  The Monitoring officer had offered the remaining Co-opted Member who had  only recently been appointed training on 26th March prior to their attendance at the next Scrutiny Committee meeting.

 

There being 26 Town and Community Councils within the Vale of Glamorgan which covered some 270 seats, the Standards Committee had previously resolved:

 

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

 

Attached at Appendix 1 to the report were details of the responses that had been received to date from Town and Community Clerks relating to the training that had been undertaken by Members of the Town and Community Councils.  The Democratic Services Officer also tabled at the meeting a revised response list which detailed six further responses that had been received since the Committee agenda had been despatched.

 

Following a query from a Member as to the length of time permissible for Members to undertake further training, the Monitoring Officer stated her advice to be Members was that training should be undertaken following Local Government elections.  Although this was not a mandatory requirement the Monitoring Officer could advise that for the Vale of Glamorgan Council a number of areas had been agreed by the Council to be mandatory with Code of Conduct training being one of them.  In noting that some Town and Community Council Councillors had not attended training for some years as far back as 2012, the Standards Committee Members considered this to be insufficient.

 

Although not mandatory for Town and Community Councils, the Monitoring Officer advised that in response to some requests she had provided the following advice  “there is no statutory sanction if Members do not attend training (this is something that Welsh Government have fairly recently consulted on in order to make certain training mandatory by law, however no such legislation has been introduced at this stage).  Therefore unless the Community Council requires Members’ Code of Conduct training to be mandatory (and this would require a Community Council Resolution) then the matter of attending training will be in the discretion of the individual Councillor.

 

The Monitoring Officer however, suggests that it would be worth following up any discussions with the Councillors in writing explaining that the Councillors at the time of accepting their office of Councillor also undertook to abide by the Members’ Code of Conduct and that it is the recommendation of the Council’s Standards Committee and the Monitoring Officer (also backed by the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales’ guidance) that training on the Members’ Code of Conduct and refresher sessions are attended by all Members given the implications on the individual Member if the Members’ Code of Conduct is breached and also the reputational damage that can be caused to a Council if a breach occurs.”

 

During the discussions a Member referred to the comment on the Appendix that a Community Councillor had difficulties in such settings as a result of hearing problems.  The Monitoring Officer suggested that as she was due to undertake a Code of Conduct training session with a Co-opted Member on a one to one basis on Monday, 26th March the opportunity to attend that training would be offered to the Community Councillor should they be able to attend.

 

It was subsequently

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the report be noted and a letter forwarded to all Town and Community Council Clerks providing the Monitoring Officer’s advice in respect of Code of Conduct training as outlined above.

 

Reason for decision

 

To remind all Town and Community Councillors of the responsibilities in respect of Code of Conduct.

 

 

811     MODEL LOCAL RESOLUTION PROTOCOL FOR COMMUNITY AND TOWN COUNCILS UPDATE REPORT (MO) –

 

The report provided an update in respect of responses received since the last meeting of the Standards Committee held on 25th January, 2018 regarding the adoption of the One Voice Wales Model Local Resolution Protocol by Town and Community Councils.

 

At the All Wales Monitoring Officers meeting in June 2017, a presentation and a copy of the One Voice Wales' Model Local Resolution Protocol for Community and Town Council had been presented.  On 13th July, 2017, the Standards Committee subsequently 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.  At the meeting on 25th January, 2018 an update had been provided of the responses that had been received from Town and Community Councils regarding whether their Councils had adopted the Protocol or whether they had used it as a basis to draw up their own Protocols.

 

At that time it was noted that 21 out of the 26 Town and Community Councils had confirmed that the Protocol had been adopted by their Councils.

 

The Clerk for Penllyn and Wenvoe had advised that the Protocol had been considered to be disproportionate to the size of the Councils and with the number of complaints received being nil, following consultation with the Chairmen at that time, there was no intention to put the document before the Councils.  However, having written again to the Councils following the resolution of the Standards Committee, the Monitoring Officer had since been advised that both Councils would be considering the Model Protocol at their March meetings.

 

Cowbridge and Llanblethian Town Council had advised that as part of its Council's review of Standing Orders, the Protocol would be considered by the Council with completion expected to take place by April 2018 and for the remaining Councils, namely St. Brides Major and Sully and Lavernock Community Councils, confirmation was still awaited however, the Democratic Services Officer would continue to seek a response.

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

In recognition of the contents contained therein.

 

 

812     STANDARDS COMMITTEE – FORWARD WORK PROGRAMME (MO) –

 

A Forward Work Programme for the Municipal Year 2018/19 was presented for the Committee’s consideration. 

 

The Monitoring Officer advised that she would also be bringing a report to the Standards Committee to update Members on some matters that had been referred to the Ombudsman for investigation in order that Members of the Standards Committee could be aware of the issues involved.  It was noted that there were currently three ongoing investigations in respect of Town and Community Councils.

 

Councillor Cuddy took the opportunity to refer to the review of Town and Community Councils that was being undertaken by an Independent Review Panel, with the suggestion that this also be included in the Committee’s Work Programme for the Committee’s consideration when available. 


RESOLVED – T H A T the Forward Work Programme attached at Appendix 1 to the report be approved to include the addition of the following reports:

  • Ombudsman’s Investigations;
  • Independent Review Panel on the future role of Community and Town Councils.

Reason for decision

 

To set a Work Programme.