Agenda Item No. 8

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Council: 26th September, 2018

 

Report of the Monitoring Officer / Head of Legal and Democratic Services

 

Review of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Local Dispute Resolution Procedure

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. Council approval is sought following a review of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's  Local Dispute Resolution Procedure.

Recommendation

THAT the revised Local Dispute Resolution Procedure attached at Appendix 1 and the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure: Conduct of Stage 3 Hearing attached at Appendix B be approved and replace the existing Procedure in the Council's Constitution.

Reason for the Recommendation

To address the recommendations of the Standards Committee following a review of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Local Dispute Resolution Procedure.

Background

  1. On 11th April, 2014, the Standards Committee 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.  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 certain complaints which were made by a Member against a fellow Member.
  2. At the Full Council meeting on 25th June, 2014, a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure ('the Procedure') was duly approved and was 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).
  3. Following a Local Dispute Resolution hearing, at its meeting in July 2016 the Standards Committee considered a few minor changes to the procedure however following discussion it was subsequently resolved:

"(1)      That Stage 2 of the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure should not become mandatory.

(2)       That internal procedures relating to the Members' Code of Conduct be revised to provide that any complaint lodged under the Procedure be brought to the attention of the Member against whom the complaint has been lodged within seven working days of it being received by the Monitoring Officer. Furthermore, if a Member, in lodging a complaint, has identified a specific witness(es) whom they wish to call to give evidence, details of the complaint (redacted if considered necessary) should also be forwarded to the witness(es), the contents of the Guidance be noted.

  1.      (3)       That a future report be submitted to a future Standards Committee meeting following a review of the Welsh Local Authorities Local Dispute Resolution Procedures."
  2. On 25th January, 2018, the Committee received a copy of a proposed revised procedure for consideration which included a copy of a procedural document to be used at Local Dispute Resolution Hearings and an administrative procedure for dealing with Local Dispute Resolution process (Local Dispute Resolution Procedure - Procedure for Dealing With Paperwork and Timescales) and recommended consultation with Group Leaders. 
  3. Following the consultation with Group Leaders a number of comments were  received as outlined below. 
  • Councillor John Thomas, Leader of the Council and Conservative Group Leader advised that he was in agreement with the documents.
  • Councillor Gwyn John, Llantwit First Group Leader advised he was happy to accept the documents.
  • Councillor Neil Moore, Labour Group Leader following a meeting 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 is disputed;

    -   if a legal representative is 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 is 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.

  1. In view of the above a meeting was subsequently held with the Labour Group Leader, Labour Deputy Group Leader, the Monitoring Officer and Democratic Services Officer to discuss issues of concern.  Following the meeting, some responses to queries were accepted by both the Labour Group and Deputy Labour Group Leader.  The remaining concerns were brought to the attention of the Standards Committee and were subsequently considered at the Standards Committee meeting on 12th July, 2018. 

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Following further consideration by the Standards Committee it was recommended that the Draft Local Dispute Resolution Procedure and appendices be amended as outlined below and the documents re- shared with Group Leaders with delegated authority being given to the Monitoring Officer to amend any typographical errors in consultation with the Chairman in order that the final report could be presented to Full Council in September 2018 -.
  • That support to witnesses in preparing statements be provided by officers of the Council as appropriate
  • That for paragraph 25 - should both parties agree that witnesses do not need to attend the hearing this must be made in writing to the Monitoring Officer
  • The reference to paragraph 27 to that Members will have the right to be accompanied by a representative which may be a legal representative or otherwise this meant that only one representative to accompany the Members
  • That a representative should not be a witness and a representative
  • Paragraph 30 - if an apology was recommended this to take the format of a formal apology and made in the same way including the place as the dispute arose with failure to apologise in a specified manner being referred back to the Standards Committee for consideration.
  • The revised Local Dispute Resolution Procedure at Appendix 1 and the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure Conduct of Stage 3 Hearing at Appendix B including the amendments as outlined above are therefore before Full Council for consideration and approval.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. None.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The procedure forms part of the Council's Constitution.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The report relates to the role of the Standards Committee to promote and maintain high standards of conduct of Members as detailed in the Council's Constitution.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. Any changes to the procedure require Full Council approval.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. Group Leaders have been consulted on the proposed revisions to the Council's Local Dispute Resolution Procedure.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. N/A

Background Papers

Vale of Glamorgan Council's Local Dispute Resolution Procedure

Reports to Standards Committee

Contact Officer

Karen Bowen, Principal Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer

01446 709856; kbowen@valeofglamorgan.gov.uk

Officers Consulted

N/A

Responsible Officer:

Ms. D. Marles

Monitoring Officer and Head of Legal and Democratic Services