Agenda item

Article 9 of the Council's Constitution, The Members' Code of Conduct and Protocol

The following documents are included with the agenda for Members’ information:


(a)  Article 9 of the Council’s Constitution which relates to The Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee;


(b)  The Members’ Code of Conduct; and


(c)  The Protocol on arrangements for investigating and making decisions in relation to allegations made under the Members’ Code of Conduct.


The Panel considered a copy of Article 9 of the Council’s Constitution along with copies of The Members’ Code of Conduct and the Protocol which detailed the arrangements for Investigating and Making Decisions in relation to allegations made under The Members’ Code of Conduct.


Reference was made to Paragraph 10.1 of the Protocol that set out the arrangements for investigating and making decisions in relation to allegations made under the Members’ Code of Conduct and it was noted that the Investigator should make arrangements to hold interviews with relevant persons within ten working days of being appointed.  Councillor Chris Blakeley asked when the Investigator had been appointed and if he had met the timescales detailed above.  The Investigator informed that he had been appointed on 9 January 2018, had made some appointments by 17 January 2018 but had not been able to meet the timescale in respect of all the interviewees because one had not been available. He confirmed that he had made contact very quickly with the individuals concerned but not all had been able to meet him within the timescale.


Reference was made to Paragraph 16.1of the Protocol that stated that where a Standards Complaint has been referred for investigation and a finding of a breach had been found by the Investigator, the Standards Panel should be convened within 20 working days of the Monitoring Officer receiving the Investigator’s final report.  Councillor Chris Blakeley made the point that the Monitoring Officer had received the report on 19 June 2018 and 20 working days from that date was 16 July 2018.  Therefore, this timescale had not been adhered to.


Also, Councillor Chris Blakeley informed that Paragraph 8.5 of the Protocol stated that the investigation would be carried out having regard to any guidance provided by the Standards Committee and/or Monitoring Officer; and should normally be completed (i.e. a final report produced) within twelve weeks from the date the decision was made that the Standards Complaint should be investigated. However, the Investigator informed the Panel that some investigations could be concluded quickly but sometimes this was not the case.  He drew attention to the word ‘normally’ and emphasised that this did not mean every time. The Investigator confirmed that Investigations should be concluded as quickly as possible and stated that he was able to provide the reasons for not meeting the timescales but would only do so in the absence of the press and public.


Councillor Moira McLaughlin reported that she had met with officers, in the summer, to try to identify a date for the Standards Panel Hearing.  A date had initially been identified but unfortunately had proved to be unsuitable later on due to unforeseen circumstances.


It was also noted that the subject Member’s name had been included, in error, as an attendee on the Council’s website and by a process of elimination he had been identified as such by a member of the public.  Councillor Chris Blakeley considered that publicly naming the Member had tainted and damaged the process for dealing with complaints against Members and had prejudiced the subject Member’s chance of a fair hearing.


Councillor Chris Blakeley raised concerns over the breaches of the Protocol, on this occasion, and the failure to meet the timescales laid down on previous occasions as well and he considered that a special meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee may be requested shortly by Members to discuss the Council’s failure to follow the Code of Conduct Protocol which had resulted in unacceptable delays to the Standards process.




(1)  the contents of the documents provided be noted;


(2)  the Panel will be guided by the documents provided during the course of its decision making in respect of the complaint to be considered; and


(3)  under section 100 (A) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the next item of business only, on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined by paragraphs 1 and 5 of Part I of Schedule 12A (as amended) to that Act in that it contains information relating to an individual and of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings.  The Public Interest test has been applied and favours exclusion.

Supporting documents: