Venue: Kennet Room - County Hall, Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, BA14 8JN. View directions
Contact: Lisa Alexander
Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from:
· Julie Phillips (non-voting)
· Joanne Cetti (non-voting)
· Kathy Barnes (non-voting)
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 5 October 2022 (copy attached).
The minutes of the meeting held on 5 October 2022 were presented for consideration.
To approve and sign the minutes as a true and correct record.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of disclosable interests or dispensations granted by the Standards Committee.
There were no declarations.
Joint SLCC and LGRC survey on Local Government to conduct a survey of parish, town and community council clerks across England and Wales.
Joint SLCC and LGRC survey on Local Government
The Society Of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) had collaborated with the Local Governance Research Centre (LGRC) at De Montfort University (DMU) to conduct a survey of parish, town and community council clerks across England and Wales. This was the first comprehensive, national survey of the local council sector in more than thirty years.
The report, compiled by the research team at DMU in collaboration with colleagues from Staffordshire University and the Open University, highlights changes and challenges, making recommendations about the future of local councils, particularly around revisiting antiquated legislation, sector professionalisation, the importance of better collaboration with national government and further improvements on standards. It also made suggestions about improved democratic representation, better discourse with principal authorities, more focused engagement with young people and made a call for a strategic review of the sector and its role within local government.
An update would be provided to a future meeting should the input of the Committee be required at a further stage of the work.
Wiltshire Council Code of Conduct and Positive Conduct, Positive Democracy campaign
All town and parish councils had been informed that Wiltshire Council had adopted a new Code of Conduct for members, modelled on that produced by the Local Government Association. In doing so, town and parish councils had been reminded that all local authorities must have a Code of Conduct in place.
These codes could be locally determined but must reflect the seven principles of ethics in public life.
A reminder of Wiltshire Council’s Positive Conduct, Positive Democracy Charter was also recently circulated. The Charter was part of a wider campaign to promote and support positive local democracy in Wiltshire. All local councillors and clerks had been encouraged to sign up to the Charter, to show their commitment to being a positive conduct ambassador and to promoting high standards in public life. When councillors and clerks sign the Charter and email Wiltshire Council to confirm they had done so, they are sent a special email signature banner to use, demonstrating that they are a Charter signatory.
Re-Appointment to Assessment Sub Committee
The Standards Committee would re-appoint the membership of the Assessment Sub-Committee at the next meeting on 20 June. Members would be approached by email for expressions of interest ahead of the meeting.
The Council welcomes contributions from members of the public.
If you would like to make a statement at this meeting on any item on this agenda, please register to do so at least 10 minutes prior to the meeting. Up to 3 speakers are permitted to speak for up to 3 minutes each on any agenda item. Please contact the officer named on the front of the agenda for any further clarification.
To receive any questions from members of the public or members of the Council received in accordance with the constitution.
Those wishing to ask questions are required to give notice of any such questions in writing to the officer named on the front of this agenda no later than 5pm on Wednesday 12 April 2023 in order to be guaranteed of a written response. In order to receive a verbal response questions must be submitted no later than 5pm on Friday 14 April 2023. Please contact the officer named on the front of this agenda for further advice. Questions may be asked without notice if the Chairman decides that the matter is urgent.
Details of any questions received will be circulated to Committee members prior to the meeting and made available at the meeting and on the Council’s website.
Cllr John Hughes of Clyffe Pypard Parish Council read a statement to the Committee on matters relating to Clyffe Pypard Parish Council.
Cllr John Hughes of Clyffe Pypard Parish Council asked two questions to the Committee. Details of the questions and answers are attached to these minutes.
Status Report on Code of Conduct Complaints
To note the Status Report on the current position on Code of Conduct Complaints.
The Committee received the status report, updating on the number and outcome of Code of Conduct complaints received since the last meeting on 27 September 2022 and providing a summary of the complaints considered by the Assessment Sub-Committee (ASC).
There had been 22 Code of Conduct complaints received by the Monitoring Officer during that period. Of these, 6 were determined No Further Action (NFA) by the Monitoring Officer, 7 were determined NFA by the ASC, 1 was resolved via Informal Resolution, 2 were referred for Investigation by the ASC, 1 was dismissed as ‘out of time’ by the Monitoring Officer, 2 were due to be assessed by the ASC at its next meeting and 3 were awaiting assessment by the Monitoring Officer.
A table of current cases had been provided to the Chairman on 6 December 2022, 11 January, 14 February and 4 March 2023 for a dip sample of cases to be undertaken to enable oversight.
The Committee discussed the level of complaints received and the time in which they had been processed, noting that each complaint needed to be measured on its own merits and to allow for flexibility when dealing with the more complex complaints.
The Committee agreed that it would be useful to monitor the statistics over a longer period of time to establish whether any changes were required to the process.
The Chairman of the Standards Assessment Sub-Committee noted that there was no correlation between the newly adopted Code of Conduct and the increase in number of complaints received, as the complaints process dealt with complaints against Councillors across Wiltshire at parish and town council level, not just Wiltshire Council members, and as such this meant that the code of conducts varied due to there being no requirement for town and parish councils to adopt the same code of conduct as Wiltshire Council.
To consider an updated version of the Dispensations Policy relating to Member Interests.
Report to follow
The Committee received a report on an updated version of the Dispensations Policy relating to Members Interests.
The Committee discussed an option where the Monitoring Officer would have the function to decide all dispensation requests rather than needing to schedule a meeting of a Dispensation Committee.
It was advised that a change to the council’s Constitution would be required should that process be adopted and therefore it may be necessary to delegate the wording to the Officer.
Cllr Dean moved the motion that all dispensation requests be decided by the Monitoring Officer. This motion was not seconded.
The Chairman moved the motion in line with the Officer recommendation as set out in the report. This was seconded by Cllr Hopkinson.
To approve the revised Dispensation Policy as set out in Appendix A.
The Committee considered the recommendations of the Constitution Focus Group.
Report to follow
Kieran Elliott, Democracy Manager (Democratic Service) presented a report on proposed changes to Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Constitution, following review by the Constitution Focus Group This included updates to committee terms of reference, debate procedural rules and decision making procedures.
The Officer outlined some further minor changes, which had been made since publication of the agenda in relation to Director sub-delegations and licensing committee responsibilities.
The Committee supported the changes with additional amendments as presented. At the conclusion of debate, it was;
To recommend Full Council approve changes to the following sections of the Constitution:
· Part 1 – Summary and Contents
· Part 2 – Articles of the Constitution
· Part 3 – Responsibility for Functions and Schemes of Delegation
· Part 4 – Council Rules of Procedure
LGSCO decision on the Council's handling of a CoC complaint
The Committee received an update on the decision of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) not to investigate a complaint about the council’s handling of a Code of Conduct complaint.
The Committee discussed the process for taking a complaint to the LGSCO. It was also clarified that the complaint in question had been to the Assessment Sub-Committee for consideration and that the Subject Member had taken the matter to the LGSCO because they had not agreed with the content of the Decision Notice.
To note the LGSCO’s decision not to investigate a complaint regarding the council’s handling of a Code of Conduct complaint.
There were no urgent items.