Agenda, decisions and minutes

Standards Hearing Sub-Committee - Wednesday 11 October 2023 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber - County Hall, Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, BA14 8JN. View directions

Contact: Kieran Elliott  Email:

No. Item


Election of Chairman

To elect a Chairman for this meeting only


Nominations for a Chairman of the Standards Hearing Sub-Committee were sought, and it was




To elect Councillor Allison Bucknell as Chairman for this meeting only.



Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of disclosable interests or dispensations granted by the Standards Committee or Monitoring Officer.


There were no declarations.


Meeting Procedure

To note the procedure for the meeting as included in Protocol 11 of the Constitution – Arrangements for dealing with Code of Conduct complaints, in particular Paragraph 8.

Supporting documents:


The procedure listed within the agenda papers was noted.


Introductions of all those present were made.


Exclusion of the Press and Public

To consider passing the following resolution:


To agree that in accordance with Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 to exclude the public from the meeting for the business specified in Item Number 5 because it is likely that if members of the public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information as defined in  Paragraph 1 of Part I of Schedule 12A to the Act and the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information to the public.



After seeking views from the Investigating Officer, Subject Member, and Monitoring Officer in accordance with procedure, the Sub-Committee did not resolve to move into Part II private session for the conducting of the Hearing.


Determination of a Code of Conduct Complaint COC145647 in respect of Councillor P.E Snell, Southwick Parish Council

To receive a report from the Monitoring Officer.


The Hearing was in relation to complaint COC145647 made by Councillor John Eaton of Southwick Parish Council (The Complainant) regarding the alleged conduct of Councillor P.E Snell, to be referred to as Elizabeth Snell, also of Southwick Parish Council (The Subject Member).


Investigating Officer Representations

Jed Matthews, Investigating Officer, presented his investigation report into the alleged conduct, as set out with the agenda papers circulated to all parties.


It had been alleged that on 28 April 2023 the Subject Member made claims of improper behaviour and a lack of transparency by the Complainant in respect of a local planning matter to a local news reporter during a phone conversation. It was further alleged she had then sought to coerce the newspaper from giving evidence.


In doing so it had been alleged that the Subject Member breached the following sections of the Southwick Parish Council Code of Conduct:


Paragraph 2.1           I do not bully any person.


Paragraph 5.1           I do not bring my role or local authority into disrepute.


Paragraph 8.3           I do not intimidate or attempt to intimidate any person who is likely to be involved with the administration of any investigation or proceedings.


The Investigating Officer briefly summarised the detail of the report, and his conclusion there had been a breach in respect of Paragraphs 2.1 and 5.1 as detailed above. He noted the Subject Member’s stated perception that she had been acting in a personal capacity during the phone conversation with the local reporter, but drew attention to the guidance within the Code approved by the Parish Council, on acting in a way which would give a reasonable member of the public with knowledge of all the facts that someone was acting as a councillor.


John Baker was then called as a witness by the Investigating Officer. Mr Baker was the local reporter who had spoken to the Subject Member, and perceiving there to be serious accusations made regarding the Complainant, had sought his comments in relation to a potential news story, which had prompted the formal complaint.


Mr Baker confirmed that his statement and submissions as detailed in the agenda papers were in his view accurate. In response to questions from the Investigating Officer he provided details on why he had considered the Subject Member to be acting in an official capacity, and the nature of the conversation involving other parish councillors and matters involving the Parish Council.


Complainant Statement

Councillor Eaton, as the Complainant, then made a statement in accordance with procedure. He stated that the unevidenced allegations made against him had caused significant personal distress to himself and his family. He detailed what he considered a history of animosity from the Subject Member, which he believed arose due to their disagreements over potential development within the parish, and provided alleged examples of other actions he believed demonstrated that animosity. In summary of the complaint, he stated that false allegations had been made to a Wiltshire Times reporter, and that the Subject Member had not shown  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.