Review of Ethical Standards Report
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:
- Response to Recommendation 1 – Approved
- Response to Recommendation 2 – Approved
- Response to Recommendation 3 – Approved
- Response to Recommendation 4 – Approved
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Response to Recommendation 9 – Approved
- Response to Recommendation 10 – Approved
- Response to Recommendation 11 – Approved
- 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’
- Response to Recommendation 13 – Approved
- Response to Recommendation 14 – Approved
- 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 the Committee; Cllr Milner was particularly pleased to see that Parish Councils had been actively engaged with during the process.
It was resolved that the Committee:
- Recommended the proposed changes to the Code, as demonstrated as tracked changes at Appendix 6 to the report, to Full Council
- Approved the changes to the procedure for dealing with Member Conduct complaints, as demonstrated as tracked changes at Appendix 7 to the report
- Agreed to review the Member Code of Conduct on an annual basis and make recommendations to full Council as necessary, and that where possible when substantial changes are proposed, the views of the public, community organisations and neighbouring authorities are sought
- Agreed that decision notices relating to the outcome of formal investigations be produced and published, including a brief statement of facts, the provisions of the code engaged by the allegations, the view of the Independent Person, the reasoning of the decision- maker, and any sanction applied and that these be kept on the website for a period of 12 months, subject to that when the outcome of a hearing is a Committee finding of no breach, the subject member is given the option as to whether the decision notice includes their names or whether it remains anonymous and does not provide information that could identify the subject member
- Agreed that the Monitoring Officer request the 6 parish councils in Gravesham to formally acknowledge the expectation that formal complaints about the conduct of a parish councillor towards a clerk should be made by the chair or by the parish council as a whole, rather than the clerk in all but exceptional circumstances and confirm their commitment to adhere to this in relation to any future complaints of this nature
- Agreed that the Monitoring Officer ask all alternative delivery models set up by the local authority to publish board agendas, minutes and annual reports
- Noted all other responses set out in the table at Appendix 5 where no specific or additional action is required.
- 1. Review of Ethical Standards Report 30 July 20, item 10. PDF 84 KB
- 2. Ethical Standards - Recommendations and highlights, item 10. PDF 106 KB
- 3. Full Report on Local Government Ethical Standards, item 10. PDF 1 MB
- 4. Minutes of the Standards Committee on 1 August 2019, item 10. PDF 69 KB
- 5 . UPDATED Proposed Council response to the Best Practice Recommendations 30 july 2020, item 10. PDF 93 KB
- 5. Proposed Council response to the Best Practice Recommendations 30 july 2020, item 10. PDF 93 KB
- 6. Annex 3.1 Members’ Code of Conduct (track changes), item 10. PDF 223 KB
- 7. Procedure for dealing with Member Conduct Complaints July 20, item 10. PDF 138 KB