Agenda and draft minutes
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Members' Code of Conduct - 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.
No declarations of interest were received.
A joint report of the Monitoring Officer and the Deputy Monitoring Officer reminded the Committee that in 2014 the Council had adopted a Members’ Code of Conduct and a process for dealing with complaints made under that code following the changes to the ethical standards regime introduced by the Localism Act 2011. Since 2014 the experience gained from dealing with complaints had highlighted areas for improvement and clarification in the arrangements for handling complaints made under the Members’ Code of Conduct. In particular, Members noted that issues had been raised in relation to the timeliness with which complaints had been dealt with under the current Protocol. The report sought approval to adopt a revised procedure for investigating and making decisions in relation to allegations made under the Members’ Code of Conduct.
Appended to the report were:
· A Draft Revised Protocol – Arrangements for Investigating and Making decisions in relation to allegations made under the Members’ Code of Conduct. (Appendix A)
· The online Complaint Form (Appendix 1).
· The Standards Complaint Process Flowchart (Appendix 2).
· The Standards Panel Procedure for Investigations (Appendix 3).
It was reported that robust standards arrangements were needed to safeguard local democracy, maintain high standards of conduct, and to protect ethical practice in local government. The proposed amendments would improve the clarity of the process and would provide the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee and the Monitoring Officer with the opportunity of dealing with complaints in a timely manner in accordance with what was currently considered to be professional best practice.They would also provide clarity and transparency for the general public.
Other options for the Committee to consider were that the present Protocol for dealing with complaints about Members could remain unchanged or it was revised in some other way.
The Deputy Monitoring Officer in introducing the report referred to the Committee’s meeting on 7 November 2018 when Members had requested that the Protocol be revised and informed that she had considered the comments Members had made and in particular, that complaints should be dealt with within a maximum of six months from being received and that Members had wanted more involvement when there were complicated and difficult complaints being considered. Therefore, the Deputy Monitoring Officer had revised the Protocol to include an Assessment Panel. She had also tried to include a clear set of criteria against which to assess allegations.
At the previous meeting Members had indicated that they wished to retain the right of appeal although many local authorities no longer did this. The right of appeal was included in the revised Protocol. Flow charts were appended to the report to make it easier for members of the public to understand the process. The Deputy Monitoring Officer also informed that a number of amendments had been made throughout the Protocol and she was interested in receiving Members’ comments on them. She had tried to maintain the overall timescales but there were some elements within the Protocol which were conflicting.
A Member informed that it ... view the full minutes text for item 21.
The Director: Governance and Assurance, Monitoring Officer introduced his report that set out proposals to address deficiencies in Standing Order 18 of the Council Procedure Rules (Part 4(A) of the Constitution) concerning voting methods. The report had regard to the model standing order contained in statutory Guidance and recommended a revised standing order for procedural improvements and to cater for use of the electronic voting system in the Council Chamber.
The report informed that Council was legally required to have regard to the statutory Guidance in drafting Council standing orders. A draft revision at the report Appendix C was based on the model standing order contained within the Guidance, together with:
(a) those elements of the existing WBC standing order that appear to have been drafted with good reason and are not otherwise found in the Model; and
(b) amended to cater for the addition of an electronic voting system and the Council’s preferred custom and practice.
The Monitoring Officer, apprised the Committee that the Council’s current Model Standing Orders build on, and remain largely similar to, the model standing orders issued in 1963 (and reprinted 1973) and earlier. They provided a ‘factory re-set’, which was worth regularly coming back to, to re-examine where the Council has strayed from them and whether the reason for so doing remains, and are thus worth retaining or not.
A Member pointed out that at recent meetings of Council he felt that an inordinate amount of time had been taken using the electronic voting for every vote, and asked if the revision to Standing Orders could accommodate this concern.
A Member also requested that the proposed Standing Order 18(1) be amended to reflect that Members not only be present, but be seated in their places, as per the Council’s current Standing Orders.
Concerns were also expressed by a Member regarding Council’s controls in respect of the methods used when voting.
Members similarly questioned the Monitoring Officer, seeking clarification on the specific nature of the wording in respect of affirmation of Council for procedural votes that could be dealt with without recourse to the electronic voting system e.g. acceptance of meeting minutes, and where it may be the will of Council not to utilise electronic voting for one reason or another. Members believed that this could in effect help address concerns regarding use of electronic voting for every vote.
The Monitoring Officer explained that ‘affirmation of the meeting’ was included at Standing Order 18(3) specifically for this purpose. Likewise, although not recommended, the Council would always have the backstop of moving the suspension of Council Standing Orders. The Monitoring Officer summarised that the new Standing Order did move the default position from all votes being by a show of hands, to that of use of an electronic voting system if available and functioning correctly.
Council be recommended to adopt a revised Standing Order 18 of the Council Procedure Rules (Part 4(A) of the Constitution) attached at report Appendix C and as appended ... view the full minutes text for item 22.