Agenda and minutes
Venue: Committee Room 3 - Wallasey Town Hall. View directions
Contact: Shirley Hudspeth
Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors R Abbey, J Hale and Independent Member Mr Brian Cummings.
The Chair informed the Committee that Mr Cummings was unable to attend due to ill health and that he had also decided to step down from his duties as an independent member of the Committee.
The Chair advised Members that she was sorry to hear of Mr Cummings’ decision as he was a much valued member of the Committee. She would be writing to Mr Cummings to wish him well for the future, and to thank him for his contributions and services to the Committee over the years.
Members' Code of Conduct
Members are asked to consider whether they have any disclosable pecuniary interests and/or any other relevant interest in connection with any item(s) on this agenda and, if so, to declare them and state the nature of the interest.
Members were asked to consider whether they had any disclosable pecuniary interests and/or any other relevant interest in connection with any item(s) on this agenda and, if so, to declare them and state the nature of the interest.
No such declarations were made.
Order of Business
The Chair proposed and it was agreed that the meeting’s order of business be varied and that item 6 on the agenda (Local Government Ombudsman’s Report – Specialist Home to School Transport in Wirral) be considered after item 3 (Minutes).
Minutes of the meeting Wednesday, 26 April 2017 of Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (attached).
Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 26 April 2017, be confirmed as a correct record.
To review the outcome of the Local Government Ombudsman’s Report on the subject of Specialist Home to School Transport in Wirral.
Council Constitution Article 9 Paragraph 9.3 (xii) refers.
This report will be published along with a supplementary agenda on 9 June 2017.
The Senior Manager Admissions and Place Planning introduced the report of the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) on an investigation into complaints against the Council relating to the provision of Specialist Home to School Transport in the 2015-2016 academic year for some families whose children had special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).
The Committee noted that the Council’s home to school travel policy set out eligibility criteria for free home to school travel for children and young people in Wirral, and that the policy in its current format came into force from September 2014 and that the 2017-2018 home to school transport policy was attached as an appendix to the report.
Members were apprised that the usual form of home to school travel provided (where young people are eligible under the policy) was through the provision of a free to user scholars travel pass for use on public transport. In relation to transport to special schools, bases and units for children with SEND, the form of transport provided may be through the provision of a specialist vehicle, e.g. a minibus, or via a free scholar’s travel pass where the young person was able to utilise public transport.
In addition Members noted that where a home to school travel application for any young person had been refused or the applicant disagreed with the mode of transport provided, the applicant may follow the Council’s two stage appeal process. The first stage was for the original decision to be considered by a Senior Officer. The second stage appeal was before a panel of Senior Officers. If applicants did not agree with the outcome of the Stage 2 appeal, they may then choose to make a complaint to the LGO.
The LGO report covered four applicants, A, B, C and D who had made complaints in relation to their child’s transport arrangements in the 2015-2016 academic year. The report did not find that the home to school transport policy itself was at fault or that the decisions themselves were incorrect. However, the report identified several areas for action in relation to the appeal process and the Council’s actions in relation to the four families involved. The Council had agreed to all of the recommendations, and the related actions as advised, to the Committee for consideration.
The Committee noted that letters of apology had been sent to all four families on 23 February 2017 along with cheques for the amount set out by the LGO. The Committee further noted that Applicant C’s vehicle transport had already been re-instated in May 2016. Applicants A, B and D had already been provided with new transport application forms prior to the LGO report and new decisions had been made in relation to A, B and D accordingly, as set out by the LGO. Any subsequent appeals resulting from these decisions would be dealt with under the improved appeal processes.
As agreed, transport application forms had also been sent to the four other non-complainant families, identified by the Council ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Article 9 of the Council Constitution (paragraph 9.5) requires that the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee establish a Standards Panel and a Standards Appeal Panel (attached).
The Committee is requested to nominate 3 Members (one Member from the three main political parties) to each Panel who shall be members of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (unless an Alternate Member is nominated) Article 9 (Paragraphs A2 and B4) of the Council Constitution refer.
[Please note: the first meeting of the Standards Panel takes place on 15 June 2017]
A report by the The Assistant Director: Law and Governance and Monitoring Officer proposed that the Committee establish the Standards Panel and Standards Appeal Panel in accordance with the paragraph 9.5 of Article 9 of the Council’s Constitution and the Protocol for Dealing with Complaints against Members.
Appended to the report were the following appendices:
Resolved - That
(1) a Standards Panel be formally established pursuant to paragraph 9.5 of Article 9 of the Council’s Constitution;
(2) Membership of the Standards Panel comprise:
Councillors M McLaughlin (Lab), C Blakeley (Con), P Gilchrist (Lib Dem) and Independent Member Prof RS Jones;
(3) nominations for the membership of the Standards Appeal Panel be sought from the Political Groups as and when there is a requirement to hold a meeting;
(4) where a representative Member, confirmed under paragraph (2) above, is unavailable to attend a proposed meeting of the Standards Panel or Standards Appeal Panel but that meeting can be attended by all other persons required, then the relevant political group through their Group Leader/Deputy Group Leader or Party Spokesperson shall promptly confirm another representative member who is able to attend that meeting; and
(5) the proposed procedure for dealing with a matter before either the Standards Panel or Standards Appeal Panel set out at Appendix 4 to the report be agreed.
Annual Report of the Assistant Director – Law and Governance, including suggestions for the forthcoming Municipal Year Work Programme.
Further to the meeting of Council held on 16 May 2017 - Appointment and Constitution of Council Committees 2017/18 (minute 13 refers), Members are also requested to consider appointments to the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee Working Group.
The Assistant Director: Law and Governance and Monitoring Officer presented a report to the Committee, which:
(i) sought approval to establish the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group for the current Municipal Year;
(ii) provided details of the work undertaken by the Working Group during the last Municipal Year; and
(iii)subject to (i) proposed a Work Programme for the Working Group for the 2017/18 Municipal Year which included:
· Review of the Council’s Constitution
· Review of the Members’ Code of Conduct and Protocol
· Review of the Member/Officer Protocol
· Completion of the recruitment exercise for additional Independent Persons
The Terms of Reference for the Working Group were set out in an appendix to the report.
Resolved – That, this Committee -
(1) agrees to establish a cross party Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group for the current Municipal Year;
(2) agrees the Terms of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group as set out at Appendix 1 to the report;
(3) Membership of the Working Group comprise:
Councillors M McLaughlin (Lab), B Davies (Lab), P Stuart (Lab), C Blakeley (Con), G Ellis (Con), P Gilchrist (Lib Dem) and Independent Members; and
(4) agrees to the Work Programme of the Working Group for the 2017/18 Municipal Year as set out in the report.