Agenda and draft minutes

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Contact: Committee Section  Email: committee.section@gravesham.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

7.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

An apology of absence was received from Cllr Diane Marsh; Cllr Les Hoskins substituted.

 

8.

To sign the minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting on Thursday, 01 August 2019 were signed by the Chair.

 

9.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting on Thursday, 01 August 2019 were signed by the Chair.

 

10.

Review of Ethical Standards Report pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee were provided with a report that updated them on the Council's response to the best practice recommendations made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life following its review of ethical standards in local government, which was published in January 2019.

 

The Head of Legal Services drew Members attention to Appendix Five to the report which listed the Councils proposed response to the fifteen best practice recommendations from the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

 

The Head of Legal Services outlined each proposed response to the Committee and Members gave their comments:

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 1 Approved

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 2 Approved

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 3 Approved

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 4 Approved

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 5 Approved subject to the following:

 

Members agreed to the £50 value limit for recording any gifts and hospitality but the Chair advised that the value limit would be reviewed again following the results of the consultation and amended to £25 if necessary.

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 6    Approved subject to the following:  

 

A typographical error, a second use of the word ‘or’, was noted on page 163 and the Head of Services agreed to amend it.

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 7 Approved subject to the following:  

 

The Head of Legal Services added that the interviews for the recruitment of two Independent Persons concluded this week; thirteen applications were received. 

 

In response to a question on the key criteria for an Independent Person, the Head of Legal Services advised that the Panel looked for an applicant who had an interest in maintaining high standards, had experience in dealing with complaints, legal experience, a high level of communication skills, a high level of reading and report writing. The desired applicants were qualified lawyers or barristers but that was not essential.

 

Some concern was noted by a Member in difficulty finding a completely independent person in the Legal profession.

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 8   Approved;

 

Concern was raised by a Member with regards to Question Four in Appendix Seven as he felt that the Independent Person would have too much power in terms of deciding if no further action was needed to be taken with a complaint from a Member. The Head of Legal Services assured Members that it was still the decision of the Standards Committee if a complaint received from a Member was deemed serious enough to warrant an investigation

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 9 Approved

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 10 Approved

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 11 Approved

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 12 – Approved subject to the following:  

 

The Head of Legal Services advised that the proposed response had a typographical error which she would amend; it should read ‘Since April 2017’

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 13 Approved

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 14 Approved

 

  1. Response to Recommendation 15 Approved subject to the following:  

 

Cllr Lyn Milner asked that congratulations be noted for the Head of Legal Services for her work on the documents submitted to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Recruitment to Statutory Post of Independent Person x2 pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Minutes:

The Committee were updated on the need to recruit to the statutory post of Independent Person x2 and the outcome of the recruitment process.

 

The Head of Legal Services stated that all local authorities were required under Section 28 (7) of the Localism Act 2011 to appoint at least one Independent Person. Since the introduction of The Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) Regulations 2015, it was amended so that a local authority had to include at least two independent persons to a panel hearing the dismissal of a senior officer.

 

Gravesham Borough Council already had one Independent Person who was appointed in 2016; amendments were made to the process for considering complaints in 2019, which included the provision to recruit to the IP role for a new 4 year term commencing on 13 October 2020.

 

The Head of Legal Services advised that thirteen applications were received and eight of them were shortlisted for interviews which were concluded this week.

 

It was resolved that the Committee:

 

  • Noted the need to recruit to the statutory Independent Person post and the outcome of the recruitment process.

 

12.

Delegation to the Monitoring Officer to consider and determine requests for dispensations from Members pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Legal Services sought agreement from the Committee to recommend to Council that a delegation be made to the Monitoring Officer to consider and determine any requests for dispensation from Gravesham Members and co-opted Members.

 

The Head of Legal Services assured the Committee that the delegation was not a blanket authority for the Monitoring Officer and it was envisaged that the delegation would be used very rarely and only in urgent situations where a particular issue arose and it was not practical to convene a Standards Committee in time. It will remain the case that the majority of requests for dispensations will be considered by the Standards Committee and only a small minority of requests would be considered and determined by the Monitoring Officer in genuine emergencies.

 

The Head of Legal Services advised that all decisions that were delegated to the Monitoring Officer would be reported back to the Standards Committee and Members would be fully updated.

 

It was resolved that the Committee:

 

  • Recommended to Council that a delegation be made to the Monitoring Officer to consider and determine any requests for dispensations from Gravesham Members and co-opted Members in cases where the timing of a request would make it impractical to convene a meeting of the Standards Committee.

 

13.

Response to LGA's Consultation on Model Code of Conduct pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee were provided with a draft response from the Monitoring Officer to a consultation on a model code of conduct for Councillors prepared by the Local Government Association for comments/suggested amendments.

 

The Head of Legal Services drew Members attention to Appendix Two to the report which highlighted the Monitoring Officers comments in red on the LGA’s Model Member Code of Conduct Consultation Draft. 

The Head of Legal Services informed Members that the comments made by the Monitoring Officer were all draft suggestions to assist the Committee in formulating a response to the consultation and their comments/amendments were requested.

 

It was explained to the Committee that the deadline for the consultation was the 17 August 2020 and the Monitoring Officer would submit a response on behalf of the Council; the public consultation mainly targeted local authority Heads of Legal, Monitoring Officers, Council Leaders and members of the public. The Head of Legal Services explained that adoption of the LGA Code of Conduct was voluntary but the LGA were hopeful that many local authorities would adopt it so that there was consistency across the country.

 

The Head of Legal Services went through each draft comment from the Monitoring Officer, at Appendix Two, and the Committee approved all of the comments for the consultation response subject to the following amendments:

 

  • The third bullet point ‘treat all persons with civility’ should be included in the Model Code of Conduct:

 

A lengthy discussion was had by the Committee on the draft comment from the Monitoring Officer recommending that ‘treat all persons with civility’ be removed from the Model Code of Conduct. Members of the Committee felt strongly that ‘civility’ was an important factor in the conduct of Members but there was some discussion around using different words such as integrity and honesty. Upon conclusion of the discussion, it was agreed that ‘treat all persons with civility’ should be kept in the Model Code of Conduct but if any problems arose by adopting this in the future such as a significant increase in petty complaints due to the differing perception of “civility” then the line would be revisited and reviewed again. In response to a question regarding similarity with Medway’s Code of Conduct, the Head of Legal Services explained that Gravesham and Medway’s Code of Conducts were similar but they did not need to be identical; however Medway Council still underwent the same process as Gravesham.

 

  • It was agreed that the additional paragraphs for the below sections of the LGA Model Code of Conduct would not be included in Gravesham Codes of Conduct as that extra level of detail was deemed not necessary and it would make Gravesham’s Code of Conduct too text heavy and the response to the Consultation would reflect this:

 

-       4.               Impartiality of Officers of the Council

-       5 & 6.         Confidentially and Access to Information

-       7.               Disrepute

-       8.               Your Position

-       9.               Use of Council Resources and Facilities

-       10.             Interests