Agenda Item No 4

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Standards Committee: 22nd March 2018

 

Report of the Monitoring Officer

 

Review of the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To consider a revised version of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Local Dispute Resolution Procedure.

Recommendations

  1. That the Standards Committee approve the revised Local Dispute Resolution Procedure for consultation with Group Leaders of the political parties which make up the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
  2. That, should the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure be accepted by the Group Leaders, the document be forwarded to Council for formal approval.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To seek Standards Committee approval.
  2. To seek Full Council approval.

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. At its meeting in July 2016 the Standards Committee made the following resolutions:

(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.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. 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 (Local Dispute Resolution Procedure - Procedure to the Followed at Stage 3 Hearing) and an administrative procedure for dealing with Local Dispute Resolution process (Local Dispute Resolution Procedure - Procedure for Dealing With Paperwork and Timescales). 
  2. At that meeting during consideration of the documents, Mr. Hendicott, an Independent Member, stated that he had a number of queries that he would like considered in relation to the Procedure and the email response received from Mrs. Hallett, tabled at the meeting, was also noted..  The Committee subsequently resolved that the Monitoring Officer and Mr. Hendicott should meet to further develop the Procedure with a revised draft to 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 draft report which would be presented to the next meeting of the Committee.
  3. As a result of the above recommendation, the revised documents attached at Appendices [ 1 ], [ 2 ] and [ 3 ] have been prepared for Committee's consideration.
  4. The Comments received to date from Members of the Committee are as follows:
  • Mrs Hallett -

I suggest that the IM (Independent Member) ask both parties to confirm that they have received all relevant documentation in the correspondence you have sent to them.  This will ensure both parties have received a similar bundle of papers - this could be included as part of the second paragraph.  It would be helpful if the paragraphs were numbered.

What is not addressed in the complaints procedure is the role of the witness - when witnesses are called and after having given their evidence are they then -

(a)       thanked by the IM and asked to leave, or

(b)       are then in the room from the start of the hearing and remain until the hearing is completed.

If it is the latter they will need to be informed that they may not make any further contribution to the hearing - if that is their role.  Also on that basis what is the point of them remaining for the whole of the hearing?  It could be said that they are not there to support the complainant or the defendant as they have their representatives with them throughout the hearing.  A further point is that their time could better be utilised on Council business.

  • Mr. Carsley -

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

(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.

If this is found necessary I would suggest that one of the three Members should be the Chairman and in his absence the Vice-Chairman and if neither is available then the Chair should be consulted with regards to the make-up of the Panel.

In fact in any situation where the Chairman is not available the person chosen as Vice-Chairman should deputise.

  • Mr. Hendicott -

I wonder whether in para 18, we should include words to the effect "on the basis of whether there are reasonable prospects of dealing with the complaint by mediation" as being the basis of whether the matter should be referred to mediation or not?  It might be considered obvious, but does set it out.  Further in para 19 perhaps it should read "may" rather than "will"?

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 consequence 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, for consideration by Full Council 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 observations on the Procedure will be sought from Group Leaders 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