Response to LGA's Consultation on Model Code of Conduct
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
- With regards to gifts and hospitality, it was agreed that GBC’s Code of Conduct was amended to the thresholds of £50 and £100 to reflect the CSPL recommendations in January 2019. However, if the outcome of the consultation for the LGA Model of Conduct was confirmed to have reduced the threshold further to £25 for a single or series of gifts then it would be reflected in Gravesham’s Code of Conduct. In the response to the consultation the Committee would agree to the suggested threshold of £25.
- The outcome of the consultation will be awaited before making a decision regarding creating a right of appeal
The Head of Legal Services drew Members attention to Appendix Four to the report which held a questionnaire from the LGA to the Monitoring Officer regarding Gravesham’s Code of Conduct.
The Head of Legal Services advised that the answers were in draft form and the actual answers to the questions would be submitted online; Members feedback on the answers was requested to complete the response:
- Question 1 & 1A – Approved
- Question 2 – Approved
- Question 3 – Approved subject to the following:
Concern was raised by a Member over the phrase ‘personal tense’ as it was not grammatically correct. The Head of Legal Service responded that it was the standard form received from the LGA but she promised to try and amend the wording.
- Question 4 – Approved subject to the following:
The Head of Legal Services advised that the answer to the first obligation ‘Treating other councillors and members of the public with civility’ would be amended to agree with that proposal ‘to a great extent’.
It was pointed out by a Member that obligation twelve advised that the value limit for registering a gift or hospitality with the Monitoring Officer was £25 but it had been agreed earlier in the meeting to keep the value limit at £50.
The Chair agreed and asked that the Head of Legal Service ensured obligation twelve was amended before submission.
- Question 5 - Approved subject to the following:
The Head of Legal Services advised that the amendment regarding ‘Civility’ would be added to the question.
- Question 6 – Approved
- Question 7 – Approved subject to the following:
It was agreed that the Head of Legal Services would amend the answer to question seven to ‘To a great extent’.
- Question 7a – Approved subject to the following:
Due to the previous discussion on ‘Civility’ it was agreed that the wording of the answer would be completely removed by the Head of Legal Services and left blank.
- Question 8 & 8A – Approved
- Question 9 & 9A – Approved
- Question 10, 10A & 10B – Approved
- Question 11 – Approved subject to the following:
The Head of Legal Services agreed to amend the answer to question 11 to ‘To a great extent’.
- Question 11a – Approved subject to the following:
The Head of Legal Services agreed to delete the answer to question 11a.
- Question 12 & 12A – Approved
- Question 13 & 13A – Approved
- Question 14 & 14A – Approved
- Question 15 – Approved
- Question 16 & 16A – Approved
- Question 17 – Approved
The Head of Legal Services concluded the discussion and advised that a document was circulated via email earlier in the day which summarised a webinar meeting that the Head of Legal Services attended to discuss the LGA’s Model Code of Conduct.
The Chair and The Head of Legal Services thanked Members of the Committee for their feedback on the draft response to the LGA's consultation Model Code of Conduct.
- Report -Response to LGA's Consultation on Model Code of Conduct, item 13. PDF 85 KB
- 2. LGA Consultation Draft Model Code - GBC MO comments 20200702, item 13. PDF 161 KB
- 3. 2020.3.20 Appendices A-B LGA Consultation Draft Model Member Code of Conduct, item 13. PDF 171 KB
- 4. Model Code Questions 30 july 2020, item 13. PDF 287 KB
- 5. Code of Conduct for Members, item 13. PDF 538 KB