STANDARDS COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 12th July, 2018.

 

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

 

 

146     MINUTES -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 17th May, 2018 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

147     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

148     APPLICATIONS FOR DISPENSATION (MO) -

 

The Standards Committee Grant of Dispensations (Wales) Regulations 2001 permitted Members to apply to the Standards Committee to speak and if appropriate vote on issues which due to a prejudicial interest they were not otherwise able to speak or vote on.

 

The following applications had been received for consideration: 

  • Application for dispensation from Pendoylan Community Councillor A.J. Chiplen to speak and make decisions regarding the process of the consultation and any subsequent actions in respect of Junction 34/M4 to A48 Sycamore Cross Transport Improvements.  Councillor Chiplen was not seeking dispensation to speak or vote with regard to the options put forward as part of the consultation (paragraph (a)). 
  • Application for dispensation from Pendoylan Community Councillor P.S. Fox to speak and assist with decisions regarding the process of the consultation and any subsequent actions in respect of Junction 34/M4 to A48 Sycamore Cross Transport Improvements.  Councillor Fox was not seeking dispensation to speak or vote with regard to the options put forward as part of the consultation (paragraph (a)). 
  • Application for dispensation from Pendoylan Community Councillor H. Hanmer to speak and make decisions regarding the process of the consultation and any subsequent actions in respect of Junction 34/M4 to A48 Sycamore Cross Transport Improvements.  Councillor Hanmer was not seeking dispensation to speak or vote with regard to the options put forward as part of the consultation (paragraph (a)).
  • Application for dispensation from Pendoylan Community Councillor S.G.T. Parnell to speak and make decisions regarding the process of the consultation and any subsequent actions in respect of Junction 34/M4 to A48 Sycamore Cross Transport Improvements.  Councillor Parnell was not seeking dispensation to speak or vote with regard to the options put forward as part of the consultation (paragraph (a)).
  • Application for dispensation from Pendoylan Community Councillor R.T. Rees to speak and make decisions regarding the process of the consultation and subsequent actions in respect of Junction 34/M4 to A48 Sycamore Cross Transport Improvements.  Councillor Rees was not seeking dispensation to speak or vote with regard to the options put forward as part of the consultation (paragraph (a)).

A late application was approved for consideration as outlined below: 

  • Application for dispensation from Pendoylan Community Councillor G.J. Thomas to speak and make decisions regarding the process of the consultation and any subsequent actions in respect of Junction 34/M4 to A48 Sycamore Cross Transport Improvements.  Councillor Thomas was not seeking dispensation to speak or vote with regard to the options put forward as part of the consultation (paragraph (a)).

Following discussion concerning the consultation process being undertaken the Monitoring Officer advised that the WelTAG guidance had been set by Welsh Government.  The Councillors had applied to speak on the consultation process and there was no intention to speak and vote with regard to the options that were to be put forward due to the fact that they had personal and prejudicial interests.  The Monitoring Officer also advised that should any member of the Community Council be appointed to the WelTAG Working Group then any dispensation would not extend to business before the WelTAG Group.

 

In view of the prejudicial and personal interests of all the Members, the Committee suggested approval be subject to strict limitations; concern was also expressed regarding the vagueness of that part of the applications referring to “any subsequent actions”. 

 

Having considered the applications it was subsequently

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T Pendoylan Community Councillor A.J. Chiplen be granted a dispensation to speak and vote in relation to the process of the consultation only in respect of the WelTAG Stages 1 and 2 of the Junction 34/M4 to A48 proposed schemes in compliance with Paragraph (a) of the Standards Committee (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 until the next Local Government elections insofar as this relates to business conducted by the Pendoylan Community Council.

 

(2)       T H A T Pendoylan Community Councillor P.S. Fox be granted a dispensation to speak and vote in relation to the process of the consultation only in respect of the WelTAG Stages 1 and 2 of the Junction 34/M4 to A48 proposed schemes in compliance with Paragraph (a) of the Standards Committee (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 until the next Local Government elections insofar as this relates to business conducted by the Pendoylan Community Council.

 

(3)       T H A T Pendoylan Community Councillor H. Hanmer be granted a dispensation to speak and vote in relation to the process of the consultation only in respect of the WelTAG Stages 1 and 2 of the Junction 34/M4 to A48 proposed schemes in compliance with Paragraph (a) of the Standards Committee (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 until the next Local Government elections insofar as this relates to business conducted by the Pendoylan Community Council.

 

(4)       T H A T Pendoylan Community Councillor S.G.T. Parnell be granted a dispensation to speak and vote in relation to the process of the consultation only in respect of the WelTAG Stages 1 and 2 of the Junction 34/M4 to A48 proposed schemes in compliance with Paragraph (a) of the Standards Committee (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 until the next Local Government elections insofar as this relates to business conducted by the Pendoylan Community Council.

 

(5)       T H A T Pendoylan Community Councillor R.T. Rees be granted a dispensation to speak and vote in relation to the process of the consultation only in respect of the WelTAG Stages 1 and 2 of the Junction 34/M4 to A48 proposed schemes in compliance with Paragraph (a) of the Standards Committee (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 until the next Local Government elections insofar as this relates to business conducted by the Pendoylan Community Council.

 

(6)       T H A T Pendoylan Community Councillor G.J. Thomas be granted a dispensation to speak and vote in relation to the process of the consultation only in respect of the WelTAG Stages 1 and 2 of the Junction 34/M4 to A48 proposed schemes in compliance with Paragraph (a) of the Standards Committee (Grant of Dispensations) (Wales) Regulations 2001 until the next Local Government elections insofar as this relates to business conducted by the Pendoylan Community Council.

 

(7)       T H A T should any of the Members granted dispensation as per Resolutions (1) to (6) above, as a Member of the Community Council, be appointed to the WelTAG Working Group at any stage, then the dispensation would not apply to meetings of such a Group and the Member would be required to adhere to any conditions which relate to such appointment.

 

Reason for decisions

 

(1-7)    To comply with the Standards Committee Grant of Dispensations (Wales) Regulations 2001 governing applications for the grant of dispensations to speak and/or vote.

 

 

149     DELEGATED POWERS TO CONSIDER APPLICATION FOR DISPENSATION (MO) -

 

Members were apprised of an application that had been received for dispensation and the use of the Monitoring Officer’s Delegated Powers in consultation with the Chairman of the Standards Committee.

 

On 29th May, 2018 the Monitoring Officer received a dispensation application from Councillor R. Nugent-Finn to speak and vote on matters relating to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Reshaping Services Strategy.  The application was for dispensation as a Vale of Glamorgan Elected Member and a Barry Town Councillor Elected Member in order to be able to discuss matters regarding the Reshaping Services Strategy on both Councils when the matter arose. 

 

Having been made aware that Barry Town Council was due to consider a matter of reshaping prior to the next meeting of the Standards Committee and Councillor Nugent-Finn’s recent election to the Town Council, the Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Chairman granted a dispensation under paragraphs (c) and (d) of the Standards Committee Grant of Dispensations (Wales) Regulations 2001.  The dispensation to speak and vote being granted until the date of the next Local Government Elections.

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the use of the Monitoring Officer’s Delegated Power in consultation with the Chairman of the Standards Committee be noted and approved.

 

Reason for decision

 

To note the current situation and the compliance with delegated powers.

 

 

150     REVIEW OF COMMUNITY AND TOWN COUNCILS SECTOR IN WALES: JUNE NEWSLETTER (MO) -

 

The Monitoring Officer in presenting the report advised that as part of its Work Programme a report had been presented to the Standards Committee on 17th May, 2018 regarding the independent review that was being undertaken of the Community and Town Councils Sector in Wales. 

 

The Independent Review Panel had been commissioned by Welsh Government with the following remit: 

  • To explore the potential role of local government below principal Councils;
  • To draw on best practice;
  • To define the most appropriate models / structures to deliver this role; and
  • To consider how these models and structures should be applied across Wales, this to include consideration of any situation to which it would not be necessary or appropriate.

The review had commenced in July 2017 and the Council had been informed that the Panel had heard the views and gathered evidence via a range of stakeholders.

 

The Independent Panel had published a newsletter which was attached at Appendix A to the report detailing the programme to date with the final report being expected to be presented to the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services on 18th October, 2018.

 

Councillor Cuddy advised that he had attended a meeting the previous day where he had been informed that the findings of the Independent Review Panel were anticipated in July 2018.

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

In view of the contents contained therein.

 

 

151     REVIEW OF THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL’S LOCAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURE FOLLOWING CONSULTATION WITH GROUP LEADERS (MO) -

 

On 11th April, 2014 the Standards Committee had considered and agreed a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure to address certain 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.  On 25th January, 2018 the Committee received a copy of the proposed revised procedure for consideration which included a copy of the procedural document to be used at Local Dispute Resolution hearings (Local Dispute Resolution Procedure to be Followed at Stage 3 Hearings) and an administrative procedure for dealing with Local Dispute Resolution process (Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for Dealing With Paperwork and Timescales).  A copy of the latest drafts were attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

At the Standards Committee meeting held on 22nd March, 2018, the revised documents were presented for consideration and it was resolved that 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 to the revised Procedure.

 

All Group Leaders had been consulted on the documents with comments being received as follows: 

  • Councillor John Thomas, Leader of the Council and Conservative Group Leader advised that he was in agreement with the documents at Appendix 1.
  • Councillor Gwyn John, Llantwit First Group Leader advised he was happy to accept the documents at Appendix 1.
  • Councillor Neil Moore, Labour Group Leader, following a meeting with the Monitoring Officer, continued to be concerned regarding a number of aspects and was of the view that:

    -      the submission of witness statements should not be mandatory;

    -      the attendance of witness(es) should only be required if a statement was disputed;

    -      if a legal representative was to be in attendance at the Hearing the complaint should be referred to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and not dealt with under the Council’s Local Dispute Resolution Procedure;

    -      Paragraph 28 be amended to make it clear that the representative or person accompanying a Member was entitled to speak on behalf of the Member that they are representing / accompanying including asking questions and summing-up;

    -      that a representative or person accompanying a Member be permitted to provide evidence to the Hearing;

    -      Paragraph 30 – an apology to a Complainant should take the form of a formal apology and made in the same way as the dispute arose. It should be in writing to the Complainant; it should not be private and confidential unless the Complainant wishes that to be the case.

 

Two additional comments had been received from the Labour Group Leader as below:

 

-           Paragraph 6 of the report an amendment to the second point previously raised - the attendance of witnesses should be required if the statement is disputed but the witness may attend to be called if they wished to participate, if any further issues need to be clarified at the meeting (for example by the Panel Members)

-           Paragraph 35 - this to be amended to read - There should be a right of appeal against the decision of the Independent Members at Stage 3 of the procedure and the appeal should be to the Ombudsman, as final arbiter.

 

The Monitoring Officer advised the Committee that whereas two Group Leaders had responded confirming agreement with the documents, no response had been received from the Plaid Cymru Group Leader and at the meeting with Councillor N. Moore (Labour Group Leader), also attended by Councillor L. Burnett (Deputy Labour Group Leader) some issues of concern had been addressed.  However, the Monitoring Officer felt that the remaining concerns needed to be brought to the Committee for its consideration.

 

With regard to the concern that the attendance of witnesses should only be required if the statement was disputed, it was the Labour Group Leader’s view that witnesses should attend if they wished to do so.  However, the Members of the Standards Committee considered that if evidence was accepted there should be no need for witnesses to attend.  Members also considered that the submission of witness statements needed to be mandatory and that if statements were made witnesses should be bound by them. 


Councillor Burnett advised that following her experience of the process, it was important that if a particular point was recalled then that opportunity should be afforded for that to be presented.  A Member of the Panel considered that this was covered by the general power of the Chairman to alter the procedure and to consider or not the submission of extra evidence.  Members considered that it was also important to be mindful to not unduly add to the process to make it unwieldy.  Councillor Burnett was of the view that Members may not wish to be present as some may find the proceedings uncomfortable and would prefer not to attend.  A Member of the Standards Committee further pointed out that it was important to note this was a hearing not an investigation.  It was also recognised that any statements that needed to be prepared could be supported by assistance in their preparation from officers within the Council should a Member have any difficulty with preparing statements. 

 

In referring to the Labour Group Leader’s point that if a legal representative was to be in attendance at the hearing, the complaint should be referred to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and not dealt with under the procedure.  The Monitoring Officer advised that a number of Members of the Council were lawyers by profession and it was important not to preclude a Member of the Council in this regard as they quite often would support their colleagues. 

 

With regard to paragraph 28, the Committee agreed the paragraph should be made clearer to ensure that a representative could not be a witness and a representative and that any representative could be legal or otherwise.

 

Paragraph 30 – the Committee agreed with the Labour Group Leader’s suggestion that an apology to any complainant should take the form of a formal apology and be made in the same way as the dispute arose i.e. if the incident happened at Full Council the apology should be made at Full Council. 

 

With regard to the suggestion that there should be a right of appeal following a discussion, the Committee considered that this was inappropriate as there were three Members making the decision and the Ombudsman had requested that a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure  be adopted. 

 

Having fully considered the report, the following was subsequently

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T support to witnesses in preparing statements be provided by officers of the Council as appropriate.

 

(2)       T H A T the following amendments be made:

 

    -       paragraph 25 be amended to read “unless both parties agree not to attend” and that this be made in writing to the Monitoring Officer;

    -       the reference to legal representation be deleted, it being accepted that any Member had the opportunity to bring a representative to the hearing;

    -       paragraph 27 be amended to read “Only one representative to accompany the complainant which can be a legal representative or otherwise”;

    -       at paragraph 30, reference to be made that if an apology is recommended this is to take the form of a formal apology and made in the same way (including place) as the dispute arose;

    -       failure to apologise in the specified manner to be referred back to the Standards Committee for consideration;

    -       paragraph 28 be amended to include that a representative could not be a witness and a representative but that the representative could be from a legal background or otherwise.

 

(3)       T H A T the draft Local Dispute Resolution Procedure and Appendices be amended as outlined above, and the documents shared with Group Leaders with delegated authority given to the Monitoring Officer to amend any typographical errors in consultation with the Chairman in order that the final report can be presented to Full Council in September 2018.

 

Reason for decisions

 

(1-3)    Having regard to the comments made by the Group Leaders and discussions at the meeting.

 

 

152     STANDARDS CONFERENCE WALES: 14TH SEPTEMBER, 2018 (MO) -

 

Standards Committee Members had been informed on 25th January, 2018 of the date of the conference and noting that further details were awaited.  To date, the Monitoring Officer had been informed that Ceredigion County Council and Powys County Council would be hosting the conference which is aimed at Councillors, Officers and Independent Members involved in promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct within Authorities in Wales and would provide an opportunity to network and discuss issues of common interest and best practice.

 

A flyer for the conference was attached as an Appendix to the report.  The Monitoring Officer advised that at a recent Monitoring Officers’ meeting she had been informed that Annie Ginwalla and Catrin Shaw from the Public Services’ Ombudsman for Wales Office and Daniel Hurford from the WLGA would also be in attendance as key note speakers on issues around social media and bullying. 

 

The Monitoring Officer network had also been informed that a mock hearing video of a Standards Committee investigation was also to be shown on the day.

 

Mrs. Hallett, Independent Member had, following 25th January meeting expressed an interest in attending the conference and during consideration of the report Councillor L. Burnett stated that she would attend if no other Member wished to put their name forward.

 

The Monitoring Officer drew attention to four places being available and if no other Member wished to attend she would attend with the Deputy Monitoring Officer.

 

Following consideration of the report it was subsequently

 

RESOLVED - T H A T Mrs. P. Hallett, Councillor L. Burnett, the Monitoring Officer and Deputy Monitoring Officer be nominated to attend the Standards Conference Wales on 14th September, 2018 and Ceredigion County Council and Powys County Council be informed accordingly.

 

Reason for decision

 

In order that the Vale of Glamorgan Standards Committee can be represented.

 

 

153     CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE PUBLIC SERVICES OMBUDSMAN FOR WALES (MO) -

 

In line with the Committee’s Forward Work Programme it had been agreed that a standing item appeared on the Committee’s agenda in order that the Committee could be apprised of correspondence received from the Ombudsman and any matters arising.

 

The Monitoring Officer advised that she would provide an update to the Standards Committee under Part II of the agenda in relation to recent correspondence and matters arising in line with the procedures of the Ombudsman which were confidential matters at this stage.

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

Having regard to the Part II report on the agenda.

 

 

154     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 ground 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.

 

 

155     CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE PUBLIC SERVICES OMBUDSMAN FOR WALES (MO) (EXEMPT INFORMATION - PARAGRAPHS 12, 13 AND 14) –

 

As outlined in Part I of the agenda, it had been agreed by the Standards Committee that a standing item appeared on the agenda in order for the Monitoring Officer to be able to apprise Standards Committee Members of correspondence received from the Ombudsman and any matters arising.  The items were confidential at this stage in line with the Ombudsman procedure.

 

The Monitoring Officer apprised Committee of recent correspondence with the Ombudsman and a meeting with the Chairman of a Community Council.

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the information provided by the Monitoring Officer be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

Having regard to the correspondence received from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.