Agenda Item No 9

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Standards Committee: 25th January 2018

 

Report of the Monitoring Officer

 

Review of the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To consider proposals for a review of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Local Dispute Resolution Procedure.

Recommendations

  1. That the Standards Committee approve the proposed revised Local Dispute Resolution Procedure attached at Appendix 2 to the report for consultation with Group Leaders of the parties which make up the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
  2. That the draft Procedures attached at Appendices 3 and 4 be also approved for consultation with Group Leaders of the parties which make up the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
  3. That following the consultation a further report be presented to the Standards Committee at its meeting on 22nd March, 2018.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1&2    To seek Standards Committee approval for consultation with Group Leaders.

3.       That a final report be presented for approval to the Standards Committee following the consultation process.

Background

  1. On 11th April, 2014, the Standards Committee 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 has been incorporated into the Council's Constitution. As with the Council's Constitution generally, the Procedure is subject to review and changes can be proposed if considered appropriate (either by the Monitoring Officer or the Standards Committee itself).
  2. The Procedure also allows 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 are dealt with in private and publicity is not to be given to the names of the Members involved in the complaint unless it is decided that there is a basis to the complaint and the Member be censured.
  3. 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.
  4. In addition to the above, the opportunity had also been taken to amend a typographical error in paragraph 3.1 of the Procedure. Reference to "paragraph 4(b)" should, in fact read, "paragraph 18.2.4(b)".
  5. The Standards Committee made the following resolutions at that time:

(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.

(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.

  1. In September 2016, the Standards Committee also considered and agreed a report that the Monitoring Officer liaise with all Welsh Monitoring Officers and request sight of their individual Councils' Local Dispute Resolution Procedure. Out of the 21 Welsh Local Authorities, responses had been received from 13 Local Authorities. A copy of the report and the minute of the meeting of 22nd September, 2016 are attached to this report for Committee's information at Appendix 1.
  2. Following the suggestion from the Monitoring Officer that a further report be prepared with particular emphasis on improving timescales and conciliation the Standards Committee resolved that such a report be submitted to a future meeting. Given the timing of the local elections in May 2017 and the need to appoint 3 new Independent Members to the Standards Committee it was considered appropriate to bring this report to Committee at this stage.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. 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.
  2. Following the above resolution at the last meeting of the Committee, attached at Appendix 2 to this report is a copy of a proposed revised Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for the Committee's consideration together with a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure Complaints Form at Appendix A.
  3. I would also advise that at the last Local Dispute Resolution Procedure hearing that was held on 24th November, 2017, the Independent Member (as nominated by the Chairman of the Standards Committee) suggested that a procedure be developed for use at future Local Dispute Resolution Hearings. Appendix 3 to this report has therefore been prepared as a suggested procedure for approval for use at such hearings.
  4. Appendix 4 to the report has also been prepared for administrative purposes in dealing with Local Dispute Resolution Procedure complaints which include particular reference to timescales associated with the process.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

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. None as a direct result of this report.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for consideration by the Standards Committee in the first instance and if any changes to the Procedure are proposed to Full Council to consider thereafter.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The report does not require consultation with other parties or Members of the Council at this stage, however observation on the Procedure will be received from a number of Members as reflected in the report if agreed by the Committee.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Not applicable.

Background Papers

Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for Dealing with Low Level Allegations of Breaches of the Members' Code and the Council's Constitution.

Contact Officer

Mrs. Karen Bowen, Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer, Tel: 01446 709856

Officers Consulted

None.

Responsible Officer:

Ms. D. Marles, Monitoring Officer