Agenda and draft minutes

Standards Committee
Tuesday, 15 October 2019 6.30 p.m.

Venue: Georgian Room, Kendal Town Hall

Contact: Committee Services 

Items
No. Item

S/1

Standards Committee - Parish Representatives pdf icon PDF 211 KB

To consider the re-appointment of Parish Representatives to the Standards Committee.

Minutes:

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) explained that, due to a recent change in personnel and an administrative oversight, consideration had not been given to the need to advertise the two vacancies which had arisen in September 2019 following the expiry of the terms of the two parish representatives on the Standards Committee.

 

In view of the need to meet legislative requirements and following discussion with the relevant individuals, the Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) was asking Members to consider the re-appointment of Parish Representatives David Peters and Peter Smillie to the Standards Committee, as co-opted Members without voting rights.

 

Note – David Peters, Chairman of South Lakeland District Association of Local Councils (SLDALC) and Natland Parish Councillor and Peter Smillie, Arnside Parish Councillor, entered the room in order to make representation to the Committee and to clarify the recommended terms of appointments prior to a decision being made.

 

Parish Councillor Peters referred to the recommendations contained within the report, drawing attention to the proposed terms and periods of time.  He explained that SLDALC appointed its Chairman on an annual basis.  He, therefore, suggested that, should he be appointed, then the term referred to within the resolution should be “for as long as he holds the position of Chairman of SLDALC, or is the nominated representative thereof.”  He further drew attention to the proposal of a three year period to 2022 and to the Council’s Constitution and the composition of the Standards Committee in which it was stated that the appointment of the two co-opted members of a parish council would be for a four year term.

 

Note – Both David Peters and Peter Smillie left the room.

 

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) clarified that a decision to invite the Chairman of SLDALC to sit on the Standards Committee had been passed in September 2015.

 

Note – At this point in the proceedings, Councillor Pete McSweeney declared a non-pecuniary interest by virtue of being well-acquainted with Parish Councillor Peter Smillie and due to attendance at Arnside Parish Council meetings as a District Councillor for the Arnside and Milnthorpe Ward.  Councillor Chris Hogg also declared a non-pecuniary interest by virtue of his connection with Parish Councillor David Peters due to being a Kendal South and Natland Ward District Councillor and attending Natland Parish Council meetings.  Both Councillors McSweeney and Hogg left the room for the remainder of the item.

 

It was, subsequently

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        the Chairman of South Lakeland District Association of Local Councils (SLDALC), Parish Councillor David Peters, be re-appointed as a co-opted Member of the Standards Committee until September 2023, or for as long as he holds the position of Chairman of SLDALC or is the nominated representative thereof if shorter; and

 

(2)        Parish Councillor Peter Smillie be re-appointed as a co-opted Member of the Standards Committee until September 2023, or for as long as he remains a member of Arnside Parish Council, if shorter.

 

Note –  ...  view the full minutes text for item S/1

S/2

Minutes pdf icon PDF 210 KB

To authorise the Chairman to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 23 April 2019.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That the Chairman be authorised to sign, as a correct record, the minutes of the meeting held on 23 April 2019.

S/3

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations by Members of interests in respect of items on this Agenda.

 

Members are reminded that, in accordance with the revised Code of Conduct, they are required to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests or other registrable interests which have not already been declared in the Council’s Register of Interests.  (It is a criminal offence not to declare a disclosable pecuniary interest either in the Register or at the meeting.)

 

Members may, however, also decide, in the interests of clarity and transparency, to declare at this point in the meeting, any such disclosable pecuniary interests which they have already declared in the Register, as well as any other registrable or other interests.

 

If a Member requires advice on any item involving a possible declaration of interest which could affect his/her ability to speak and/or vote, he/she is advised to contact the Monitoring Officer at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That it be noted that no declarations of interest were raised under this item.

S/4

Local Government Act 1972 - Excluded Items

To consider whether the items, if any, in Part II of the Agenda should be considered in the presence of the press and public.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That it be noted that there are no excluded items on the agenda.

S/5

Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 197 KB

To note the Terms of Reference for the Standards Committee.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That the Terms of Reference for the Standard Committee be noted.

S/6

Local Government Ombudsman Annual Review 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 126 KB

To receive the Annual Report of the Local Government Ombudsman for 2018/19.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) presented the Annual Report of the Local Government Ombudsman for 2018/19.

 

During this reporting period, the Ombudsman had made decisions in seven cases.  In comparison, seven decisions had been made in 2017/18 and ten in both 2016/17 and 2015/16.  In 2018/19, two out of the seven decisions had been upheld, and the Council had ensured the appropriate action in compliance with the recommendations made by the Ombudsman.  The Council continued to work hard to resolve any complaints that did arise before any referral to the Ombudsman.  The report drew attention to the fact that the complaints process was being reviewed as part of the Customer Connect project to implement a more streamlined and digital approach.

 

With reference to the two decisions which had been upheld, a query was raised as to whether the officers involved had been provided with appropriate training to ensure that no similar complaints were received in the future; it was suggested that they had undertaken to ensure that there was no recurrence.  In response to a further question, the Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) explained that the financial redress in relation to one of the complaints upheld had been in acknowledgement of the inconvenience caused.

 

A query was raised with regard to how the Council advertised the complaints procedure.  The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) explained that the Complaints Team was fully conversant with the process and that details were available on the Council’s Website.  She further advised that work was currently being carried out to ensure that all areas of the Website were accessible and clear to all, in accordance with new Regulations.  Reference was made to a flyer on how to complain, which used to be available in all Council offices, and it was suggested that this should be introduced. 

 

RESOLVED – That the Local Government Ombudsman Annual Review 2018/19 be noted.

S/7

Code of Conduct Complaints pdf icon PDF 119 KB

To consider the report of the Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) with regards to complaints under the Council’s Standards Arrangements from April 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) presented a report regarding complaints received under the Council’s Standards Arrangements from April 2019.  She distributed copies of an updated Appendix 1 to the report, which detailed complaints received from members of the public since April 2019 and which had been revised to identify whether resolutions were informal or local.  Informal resolution related to where the Monitoring Officer and Independent Person decided that no investigation or further action was required.  Local resolution related to where a complaint resulted in an investigation and on to consideration by a Sub-Committee.  The Appendix now also included information regarding the position at the date of the meeting of the Standards Committee.

 

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) informed the Committee that she had regular discussions with the Independent Person and that the four complaints listed on the revised Appendix were being examined.  One, relating to a District Councillor, awaited completion of a complaints form and the other three, relating to Parish Councillors, were being worked through; some, it was felt, may fall outside the remit of the Code of Conduct, and further information was being sought.  She hoped shortly to be able to come to a resolution with regard to these three complaints and would report back at the next meeting of the Committee.

 

A question having been raised, the Legal, Governance and Democracy Specialist (Monitoring Officer) explained that the one complaint with regard to three parish councillors related to receipt of information and inadvertent sharing of the material.  In response to a further query regarding the potential for Freedom of Information requests in relation to the matter, she assured the Committee that any response to a Freedom of Information request would indicate that the matter remained subject to review or investigation and that, as such, there would be no further comment.

 

The lack of information for the Standards Committee regarding individual complaints was raised and it was queried as to whether feedback indicating gaps in training could be provided.  The Legal, Governance and Democracy Specialist indicated that an assessment could be carried out and raised with the relevant parish clerk as a matter for them to pursue.

 

The Independent Person took the opportunity to inform the Committee that he had met with the Legal, Governance and Democracy Specialist earlier in the day and that he was content with the manner in which matters were proceeding.  The Legal Governance and Democracy Specialist added that there were concerns regarding the need for better and smarter information to be provided by both complainants and Members which may assist with dealing with these complaints.

 

The Chairman raised the need for the provision of assistance to complainants without generating complications.

 

RESOLVED – That the report be noted.

S/8

District Register of Disclosable Pecuniary and Other Interests pdf icon PDF 121 KB

To review the Register of Disclosable Pecuniary and Other Interests for District Council Members and Co-optees for the period to October 2019.

Minutes:

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) presented a report which reviewed the Register of Disclosable Pecuniary and Other Interests for District Council Members and Co-optees for the period to October 2019.

 

Following the District Council Elections in May 2019, all newly-elected Members had completed a register of interests form, with those having been re-elected all having either completed a new form or having confirmed that there had been no changes to their register of interests.  In addition, Members not involved in the Elections had been reminded to ensure that their registers were up to date.

 

The new Members had also received training on the Code of Conduct which had also been offered to existing Members.

 

The seven Parish/Town Council Members co-opted onto the Lake Administration Committee following Parish Elections in May 2019, and one by later co-option, had all either completed a new form or had confirmed that there had been no changes to their register of interests.  Following approval early in the meeting of the re-appointment of the two co-optees on the Standards Committee, David Peters and Peter Smillie, they were also being asked to either complete new interest forms or to confirm that there had been no changes.

 

Discussion took place on the potential for digital, online completion of the forms and the Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) undertook to look into the matter.

 

RESOLVED –That the report and review be noted.

S/9

Parish Register of Disclosable Pecuniary and Other Interests pdf icon PDF 123 KB

To review the Register of Disclosable Pecuniary and Other Interests for Parish Councillors for the period to October 2019.

Minutes:

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) presented a report which reviewed the Register of Disclosable Pecuniary and Other Interests for Parish Councillors for the period to October 2019.

 

In May 2019, there had been 24 Parish elections.  With the exception of two, the Monitoring Officer had received a register form from all newly-elected Parish Councillors, with re-elected Parish Councillors either having provided either new or updated forms.

 

Discussion took place on the means of pursuing outstanding parish councillor forms.  The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) explained that it was her responsibility, as Monitoring Officer, to do what she felt to be reasonable in this regard.  This was acknowledged, however, the need to escalate, if necessary, was raised.

 

RESOLVED – That the report and review be noted.

S/10

Employee Register of Interests and Gifts and Hospitality pdf icon PDF 121 KB

To review the register of interests and gifts and hospitality for employees for the period September 2018 to September 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) presented a report reviewing the Register of Interests and Gifts and Hospitality for Employees for the period September 2018 to September 2019.  She informed the Committee of a small number of hospitality events attended by the Chief Executive, all of which had been declared.

 

The Committee discussed the fact that employees were required to notify the Monitoring Officer of gifts and hospitality where the value was £25, whilst the figure for councillors was £50.  It was suggested that the disparity in amounts should be examined.

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        the report and review be noted; and

 

(2)        the Monitoring Officer be requested to address the disparity in the figures relating to notification of gifts and hospitality by employees and councillors within the forthcoming Annual Review of the Constitution.

S/11

Standards Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 364 KB

To consider the Committee’s Work Programme.

Minutes:

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) presented the Standards Committee Work Programme for April 2019 to May 2020.  This was a rolling programme which would be reviewed as the year progressed.

 

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) referred to the review of best practice recommendations following the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s review on Local Government Ethical Standards.  She informed the Committee that some work had to be carried out around amending the Code of Conduct and processes.

 

Reference was made to the existence of a flowchart in relation to the process followed in relation to allegations of misconduct.  The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist referred to a previous discussion by the Committee for the potential for a mock hearing, to be held jointly with neighbouring authorities.  She undertook to discuss this further with the Cumbrian Monitoring Officer Group and to include an item relating to training on the Work Programme.

 

RESOLVED – That the Work Programme be noted.

S/12

Dispensations

To consider requests, if any received, for dispensations (verbal report).

Minutes:

No requests for dispensations had been received.