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Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: Online Meeting

Contact: Kieran Elliott  Email: kieran.elliott@wiltshire.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Election of Chairman

To elect a Chairman for this meeting only

Minutes:

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

 

Resolved:

 

To elect Councillor Ruth Hopkinson as Chairman for the Hearing Sub-Committee in consideration of Complaints COC126486 and COC126543.

 

2.

Declarations of Interest

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

Minutes:

Councillors Richard Britton and Peter Evans declared a non-pecuniary interest that they were members of the same political group on the council as the Subject Member. It was confirmed by all parties that this would not prevent them sitting in fair consideration of the matter.

3.

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.

 

Note: The complaint was submitted prior to 1 January 2020 when revised arrangements and procedures for assessment were adopted under Protocol 11, but procedures for Hearings remained the same.

Supporting documents:

Minutes:

The procedure for Hearing Sub-Committees was noted.

 

The Chairman advised that the Sub-Committee was required under the Localism Act 2011 to seek and take account of the views of an Independent Person before making a determination on an allegation of a breach of a Code of Conduct. The Independent Person assigned for this purpose was unfortunately unable to be present, and as had been communicated to all parties before the meeting, it was therefore intended to adjourn the meeting to a future date following agreement of procedural matters. All parties confirmed they were content with that approach.

 

All parties present were then introduced.

4.

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 onwards 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.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman sought views from the parties, including legal representatives, as to whether the Hearing should be conducted in public or whether the press and public should be excluded.

 

No objections were raised to the Hearing being conducted publicly in the interests of openness and transparency. This would not prevent a resolution during Hearing to enter confidential session if necessary, at some point. As it was intended to adjourn the remainder of the meeting to a future date, however, it was agreed that all documentation should remain confidential until at least the resumption of the Hearing and a decision taken at that time.

 

Accordingly, whilst indicating that it was the current intention that the Hearing be conducted publicly once held, for the time being it was,

 

Resolved:

 

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 onwards 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.

 

Following resumption of the meeting on 2 November 2020, it was resolved to proceed in public, as detailed further under Minute 5.

5.

Determination of Code of Conduct Complaint COC126486 Regarding Councillor M Douglas, Wiltshire Council

Minutes:

23 September 2020

The Hearing would be in relation to two complaints (COC126486 and COC426543) received against Councillor Mary Douglas of Wiltshire Council (the Subject Member), each in relation to the same facts and incident, and so both would be considered and determined together.

 

For the reasons set out under Minute 3, the Hearing was then adjourned to a future date. It was agreed that there would be an exchange of written submissions from the legal representatives for the Investigating Officer and the Subject Member in advance of that date, for publication within Agenda Supplements.

 

The meeting was therefore adjourned until 2 November 2020 at 1230.

 

2 November 2020

Background

The Chairman, Councillor Ruth Hopkinson, summarised the business that had been conducted on 23 September 2020 when the meeting had been convened, including election of a Chairman, declarations of interest, meeting procedure and exclusion of the press and public. Introductions of each party present then took place. It was confirmed that one complainant had provided a statement in place of attendance, and the other had indicated they did not wish to attend.

 

The Sub-Committee, after taking comments from the parties present, resolved to conduct the remainder of the Hearing in public session.

 

Following reconfirmation of the procedure that would be followed in accordance with Paragraph 8 of Protocol 11 of the Constitution, and noting the papers provided in the Agenda, Agenda Supplement 1 and Agenda Supplement 2 including the written submissions on behalf of the Investigating Officer and the Subject Member, the meeting then proceeded.

 

Investigating Officer

Frank Cain, Barrister, Head of Legal Services, presented the findings of the Investigating Officer, Marie Lindsay, as detailed in her reports set out in the Agenda and the written submission and supporting information in Agenda Supplement 1.

 

The complaints each related to a meeting of Salisbury Area Board on 4 November 2019 where it was alleged that Councillor Douglas had breached the Code of Conduct by failing to promote high standards of conduct in her public office in that she:

 

·       Did not act in the public interest when she expressed her personal views on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) community to justify her position in not supporting the provision of a grant for the Pride March in Salisbury during 2020;

·       failed to have regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) when she expressed her personal views in regard to the LGBTQ community; failed to consider the needs of different groups within her constituency; and in doing so,

·       failed to have regard to the principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership as required by the Code.

 

The complainants, Maxine Nutting and Lisa Taylor, were not present at the meeting, but separately submitted complaints following media reports of the meeting and the statement which Councillor Douglas made at the meeting. Although the accuracy of media reporting had been raised during the investigation, a copy of the statement was provided by Councillor Douglas, and it was that statement which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Determination of Code of Conduct Complaint COC126543 Regarding Councillor M Douglas, Wiltshire Council

 

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