Agenda and minutes
Venue: Committee Room 1 - Wallasey Town Hall. View directions
Contact: Shirley Hudspeth
Everyone in attendance at the meeting introduced themselves for the benefit of the four Independent Persons who were attending for the first time in this capacity.
Members' Code of Conduct - Declarations of Interest
Members of the Committee are asked to declare any disclosable pecuniary and non pecuniary interests, in connection with any application on the agenda and state the nature of the interest.
No declarations of interest were received.
To confirm the Minutes of the last meeting of the Committee held on 3 July 2012 as a correct record.
That the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 3 July 2012 be confirmed as a correct record.
(1) The Committee is asked to welcome the following four independent persons to their first meeting:
· Mr Brian Cummings MBE
· Mr David Robert Burgess-Joyce
· Mr Chris Jones
· Prof Ronald Samuel Jones
(2) The Committee is asked to consider whether it would like an Independent Person to sit on the Standards Working Group.
(The Working Group will meet next at 4pm on Monday, 10 December 2012 in Committee Room 2 of the Town Hall, Wallasey.)
Following a recruitment process four Independent Persons had been appointed to support the work of the Standards Committee. The role of an Independent Person was to assist the Council in promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct amongst its Elected Members. Independent Persons would be consulted on the decision to investigate complaints and before making a decision on an investigated complaint. The appointed persons may be consulted on other standards matters, including by the Member who was subject to an allegation.
The Council had agreed that fixed attendance allowance of £25 per meeting, would be payable to the Independent Persons (Minute No. 51 refers). The Council would also reimburse travel expenses.
The Committee welcomed the following four Independent Persons to their first meeting:
· Mr Brian Cummings MBE
· Mr David Robert Burgess-Joyce
· Mr Chris Jones
· Professor Ronald Samuel Jones
Members gave consideration to a proposal that one of the Independent Persons be invited to attend each meeting of the Standards Working Group. It was noted that the next meeting of the Working Group was scheduled for 4pm on Monday, 10 December 2012 in Committee Room 2 of the Town Hall, Wallasey. The Committee agreed that it wished to be as transparent as possible and that the proposal was an appropriate way forward.
(1) the appointments of the four Independent Persons as detailed above be noted; and
(2) an Independent Person, to be nominated, by the Independent Persons on a rotation basis, to attend each meeting of the Standards Working Group.
Email From Mr John Brace
Members of the Committee acknowledged that they had received an email from Mr John Brace. The Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset Management agreed to speak to Mr Brace, outside of the Committee meeting, about the content of his email.
Those Members who had been the subject of a complaint and/or had made a complaint against another Member, declared a non disclosable interest in the next item of business on the agenda.
At the last meeting of the Committee held on 3 July 2012 it had resolved
‘That the Head of Legal and Member Services be requested to bring a detailed report, to the next meeting of the Committee, on the confidentiality of findings on complaints made about Councillors under the old Standards Regime.’ (Minute No. 11 refers)
A report by Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset Management and Monitoring Officer provided advice in relation to whether investigation reports carried out under the ethical framework (prior to 1 July 2012) could be disclosed in the public domain given that a new ethical framework was now in place.
On 21 May 2012, the Council had approved new arrangements in relation to the promotion and maintaining of high standards of conduct by Members. (Minute No. 14 refers) The changes included:
(a) changes to the Article 9 (Terms of Reference of the Standards Committee (and its Panels)) of the Council’s Constitution;
(b) a new Members’ Code of Conduct;
(c) a new Protocol dealing with arrangements for investigating and making decisions in relation to allegations made under the Members’ Code of Conduct;
(d) the new Complaint Form that is to be used in relation to complaints relating to the Members’ Code of Conduct.
The new ethical framework came into force on 1 July 2012.
The Acting Director reported that in considering whether investigation reports prepared in relation to complaints made under the previous ethical framework could and/or should be disclosed, consideration needed to be given to the following:
(a) Under the previous ethical framework (established under Local Government Act 2000 and the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008 (as amended)), where an investigation had been undertaken, the investigation report, its findings and conclusion remained confidential unless disclosed in accordance with the above mentioned Regulations.
(b) The Guidance issued by Standards for England advised that investigation reports be marked ‘confidential’ and that all interviewees should maintain confidentiality. The member(s) subject to a complaint were required to comply with paragraph 4(a) of the then Code of Conduct regarding the disclosure of information that they receive in confidence (i.e. in relation to an investigation).
(c) Under Paragraph 7C of Schedule 12A Local Government Act 1972 (as amended), the deliberations of the Standards Committee in reaching any finding on a matter relating to the conduct of an elected/co-opted/advisory member could be exempt from disclosure providing the Committee considered the public interest in not disclosing the exempt information outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
(d) Under paragraph 17 The Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008, where the Monitoring Officer’s investigation made a finding of ‘no case to answer’, which was subsequently accepted by the Standards Consideration Panel, the Monitoring Officer was obliged to publish a notice in a local newspaper unless the subject member requested that ... view the full minutes text for item 19.
Report of the Member Equipment Steering Group
To receive an oral report.
Further to Minute No. 13 of the last meeting of the Committee, held on 3 July 2013, when Members’ ICT Policy (Use of Council Facilities) had been under consideration, the Head of Information Technology Services was in attendance at the meeting at the request of the Committee to report orally on the work of the Member Equipment Steering Group (MESG).
The Head of Information Technology Services reported that the MESG consisted of both Members and Officers whose remit was to identify the most appropriate ICT equipment to fulfil the Elected Members’ function. Members’ current ICT equipment was four years old and in need of replacement as the contract expired in March 2013.
The Head of Information Technology Services also informed that the MESG’s work currently included looking at ways to:
Officers had carried out a Members’ Equipment Survey to try to indentify the equipment that best meet their needs. Various electronic devices had been demonstrated to Members and a pilot exercise was currently underway where some Members and Officers were trialling ipads and slate type technology. This trial would end in January 2013. The outcomes would then be analysed and equipment selected that Members had indicated met their needs best.
The Head of Information Technology Services was aware that Members were keen to use personal equipment and informed that they must abide by the Government’s Code of Connection so finding a way for this solution to work would provide Officers with a challenge.
The Head of Information Technology Services informed that the Cabinet had approved the installation of wifi in Wallasey Town Hall and the business case to illustrate where savings would be made was in the process of being prepared for the Executive Team’s consideration.
The Acting Director of Law, HR and Asset Management reported that alongside Streetscene enquiries it was proposed to develop an overall Members’ complaints/enquiries system within the Council’s CRM system. This would log, monitor and track Members’ complaints/enquiries and store all of that information in a central point with a unique complaint/enquiry reference number. This would allow Members and Officers to access the CRM system and Members could do this via the Members’ Home Page. Members would be able to lodge requests completing an electronic complaint/enquiry form which would then be entered into the system and either be directed to Streetscene or another Department. There would also be an up to date directory of key Officer contacts available to assist Members.
It was noted that there were other case management systems on the market but the Council’s own CRM System was able to deliver what Members required and that the System would be configured in a different way to the Streetscene ... view the full minutes text for item 20.