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 Bill Davies (Councillor Meaden substituting) and John Hales (Councillor Hayes substituting) and from Angela Lloyd-Prince (Independent Person).
Declarations of Interest
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 are reminded that they should also declare whether they are subject to a party whip in connection with any item(s) to be considered and, if so, to declare it and state the nature of the whipping arrangement.
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve the accuracy of the minutes of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee meeting held on 20 November 2017.
That the minutes of the meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee held on 20 November 2017 be approved as a correct record.
To consider the minutes of the meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group held on 13 February 2018.
That (1) subject to the amendment of Minute 19 to indicate the next meeting of the Working Group to be held on Friday 23 March 2018, the minutes of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group be approved as a correct record;
(2) the recommendation at Minute 11 ‘Discussion on the Timely Handling of Cabinet Member Questions at Council’ be confirmed and the Council be recommended that Cabinet Member question time be extended to 45 minutes.
To consider and approve a revised draft of a Protocol for Filming of Public meetings as recommended by the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group, 13 February 2018.
Further to Minute 15 of the meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group held on 13 February 2018, the Committee received a recommended draft Protocol for Webcasting, Filming and Recording of Council Meetings. Further to the submitted draft Protocol, the Committee was asked to note the references to ‘public meetings’ in paragraphs 15, 17 and 18 should be amended and read as ‘meetings held in public’.
The Monitoring Officer advised that the Council was moving towards the webcasting of meetings and it was appropriate for the Council to have a policy in relation to the recording of meetings. To date the Council had relied on the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) guidance; this had been enhanced and the draft Protocol was now presented for adoption. The Chair confirmed that the Protocol had been considered by the Working Group and recommended as now submitted to the Committee for adoption.
The Chair, noting that Mr J. Brace had submitted written questions in respect of this item and received answers prior to the meeting, permitted Mr Brace an opportunity to address the Committee.
Mr Brace addressed the Committee, commenting that while the proposal was very different to the current Policy, there had been no consultation with the media or public on the revised Protocol. He noted a major change to be the introduction of a designated area for public filming and queried who would decide where this area was to be, would there be a sufficient area identified, and would chairs be provided. Mr Brace asked the Committee that if a person took a photograph on a mobile phone in the public area, would they be asked to move, and queried whether anyone had complained of problems hearing meetings in progress as he struggled at times due to other noises in the room.
Content relating to filming and exclusion from the meeting at paragraph 15 of the draft Protocol was highlighted. It was queried as to what constituted disruptive behaviour, it being suggested that the Council had legal powers only to suppress disorderly behaviour, and whether the Council Constitution would need amendment.
Further to his comments regarding control of the meeting and consultation, Mr Brace asked the Committee to consider the withdrawal of the second sentence of paragraph 15 in the draft Protocol; this sentence referred to the designated area.
Councillor Gilchrist noted that whoever filmed and wherever they were sat, all members of the public should have full sight of the meeting process. Further, there were times when committee rooms were full and there was a need to be clear on safety grounds for everybody’s protection.
On matters raised, the Monitoring Officer commented on the DCLG guidance that noted recording equipment might not be left in the room where a private meeting is held and that those undertaking recording activities must not act in a disruptive manner, which could result in their being excluded from the meeting. This meant that the Council could require that equipment was not ... view the full minutes text for item 33.
To consider and approve a revised draft of the Social Media Policy as recommended by the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group, 13 February 2018.
Further to Minute 17 of the meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group held on 13 February 2018, the Committee received a draft revised Social Media Policy for consideration.
The Working Group had recommended re-affirmation of the current Policy subject to the following amendments which were indicated within the submitted draft -
· amendment to Section 2 to indicate that the listings of online forums and sharing websites are examples only and not comprehensive;
· amendment to the last sentence of Section 7 such that “Employees must [delete ‘should’] not….”; and
· amendment to Section 10 to indicate adherence to the Policy is required by all groups identified in that Section.
Councillor Abbey noted the list of related policies listed at Section 12, and sought clarity as to which applied to elected members. The Monitoring Officer noted that the Disciplinary Process and Employee Code of Conduct might be considerations in the event of failure by staff to comply with the Policy; the comparable policy for elected members would be the Members’ Code of Conduct.
That the recommendations of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Working Group in respect of the Social Media Policy be accepted and the revised Social Media Policy be adopted.
The Monitoring Officer advised that the Committee on Standards in Public Life, in recognition that robust standards arrangements are needed to safeguard local democracy, maintain high standards of conduct, and to protect ethical practice in local government, had launched a consultation exercise to inform their review of local government ethical standards.
The terms of reference for the review are to:
· examine the structures, processes and practices in local government in England for:
o maintaining codes of conduct for local councillors
o investigating alleged breaches fairly and with due process
o enforcing codes and imposing sanctions for misconduct
o declaring interests and managing conflicts of interest
· assess whether the existing structures, processes and practices are conducive to high standards of conduct in local government
· make any recommendations for how they can be improved
· note any evidence of intimidation of councillors, and make recommendations for any measures that could be put in place to prevent and address such intimidation
The Committee gave consideration to the formal consultation document, appended to the submitted report, and the following comments and observations made –
Structures, processes and practices - The Committee considered that structures and procedures were considered to be working to ensure high standards of conduct, though there were concerns about sanctions and timescales, both matters considered under later sections.
Codes of conduct – The Monitoring Officer advised that legislation gave considerable freedom with regard to content of a Code of Conduct. The Wirral Council Code was comprehensive, following the former Model; this was not the case elsewhere and some Codes contained little more than the Nolan principles. The Committee agreed that the Council’s Code was extensive, and the approach should be a model followed by all Authorities.
Members agreed that the Code was something that should be included in Member induction, but that the way this was presented needed to be checked given the amount of material available to new members. Refresher training for all Members should also be required on a periodic basis.
Investigations and decisions on allegations - The Committee considered that the investigation procedure required timescales which ensure prompt consideration and that could be rigorously applied, noting that in instances where the subject member prevaricated or did not respond the timescales for dealing with a complaint became unreasonably long. It was however noted that a timescale should not be imposed that might allow allegations to be ruled out of order because they were not dealt with; if personal circumstances did not allow for a speedy consideration this should be accommodated.
It was noted that the only timescale applying was when notifying the subject member of the receipt of a complaint. Thereafter, timescales were discretionary. It was suggested that deadlines for each stage should be specified and take no more than six months, and that should a subject member be not compliant with timescales, the Standards Panel should have the ability to hear the case without them.
With regard to the role of the Independent Person, the ... view the full minutes text for item 35.
The Committee were advised of required amendments to Part 3 of the Council’s Constitution relating to delegation of functions.
The following Committee were advised of the relevant legislative provisions and considerations given by the Council that now required amendment to the constitution:
i. a delegation at Part 3 ‘Responsibility for Functions’ Schedule 4A Part 2 of the Council Constitution enabling Officers, including the Assistant Director of Environmental Services, to authorise Officers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices to drivers of idling vehicles pursuant to Part 6(3) of the Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002, as recommended by theEnvironment Overview and Scrutiny Committee at a meeting held on 30th November 2017; and
ii. a delegation at Part 3 ‘Responsibility for Functions’ Schedule 5 ‘Delegation of Functions to Individual Cabinet Members’ of the Council Constitution to enable the Cabinet Member for Environment, supported by Officers, to be the person nominated by the authority to hear the applicant and determine the matter pursuant to Schedule 1 s7 to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, agreed by the Cabinet at a meeting held on 10 October 2013, but not included in the Constitution at that time.
That the required amendment to the Council Constitution be noted and the Council be recommended to confirm their adoption.