Agenda and draft minutes

Standards Committee
Monday, 8th July, 2019 7.00 pm

Venue: David Hicks 2 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN

Contact: Neil Carr  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist

Items
No. Item

4.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

An apology for absence was submitted from Wayne Smith.

5.

Minutes of Previous Meetings pdf icon PDF 215 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meetings held on 4 March and 6 June 2019.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meetings of the Committee held on 4 March and 6 June 2019 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman, subject to the addition of apologies for absence from Sally Gurney.

6.

Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

7.

Public Question Time

To answer any public questions.

 

A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.

 

The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this Committee.

 

Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting.  For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions

Minutes:

There were no public questions.

8.

Member Question Time

To answer any Member questions.

Minutes:

There were no Member questions.

9.

Parish / Town Council Question Time

To answer any questions from Parish/Town Councillors.

Minutes:

There were no Town or Parish Council questions.

10.

Update on Complaints and Feedback pdf icon PDF 465 KB

To consider an update on any complaints under investigation since the previous meeting.

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 11 to 16, which gave details of progress relating to Code of Conduct complaints since the previous meeting.

 

The report stated that, since the meeting on 4 March 2019, six new complaints had been received.

 

Appended to the report was a summary of progress against each of the complaints. Four of the complaints had been resolved and two were still under consideration.

 

Members sought clarification on the situation where Members under investigation lost their seats which meant that the investigation was terminated. Would an investigation be reopened if a Member was then re-elected? It was confirmed that further action was possible, but it would depend on the seriousness of the earlier complaint.

 

RESOLVED: That the update report on Code of Conduct complaints be noted.

11.

Committee on Standards in Public Life - Best Practice pdf icon PDF 203 KB

To consider the list of Best Practice arrangements published by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 17 to 20, which gave details of the Best Practice arrangements highlighted in the Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) on Standards in Local Government.

 

The report stated that the CSPL report (January 2019) had concluded that the vast majority of local government Members and Officers wished to maintain the highest standards of conduct. However, there were ongoing examples of bullying, harassment and disruptive behaviours.

 

The CSPL also identified risks around conflicts of interest, gifts and hospitality and expressed concern about the increasing complexity of decision making which put governance procedures under increasing strain.

 

The CSPL report included a list of Best Practice arrangements and suggested that each local authority compare existing arrangements against the list.

 

Andrew Moulton commented that the Council’s procedures were generally in line with the Best Practice list. However, it may be appropriate for the Committee to give further consideration to the following issues:

 

·           Best Practice 3 – annual review of the Code of Conduct;

·           Best Practice 5 – update the Gifts and Hospitality Register each quarter;

·           Best Practice 14 – greater transparency relating to Council-owned companies and arm’s length bodies.

 

Andrew suggested that a report be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee with suggested updates to the Code of Conduct, followed by a public consultation process in line with the Best Practice guidance.

 

Members requested that a review of the implications of Best Practice 9 – publication of the outcome of complaint investigations – be included in the report to the next meeting.

 

Members also requested further analysis of the implications of Best Practice 11 – complaints about the conduct of a Parish Councillor towards a clerk.

 

Finally, Members endorsed Best Practice 15 – Officers to meet with Group Leaders or Whips to discuss standards issues.

 

RESOLVED That:

 

1)     progress against the CSPL Best Practice standards be noted;

 

2)     at its next meeting the Committee consider a review of the current Code of Conduct including provisions relating to the publication of complaint decisions (Best Practice 9);

 

3)     following agreement by the Committee, the updated Code of Conduct be the subject of consultation with residents, community organisations and neighbouring authorities;

 

4)     the report to the next meeting also consider measures to comply with Best Practice 15 (transparency of Council-owned companies, etc.);

 

5)     the Gifts and Hospitality Register be updated in line with Best Practice 5;

 

6)     further clarification be provided on Best Practice 11 – complaints about the conduct of a Parish Councillor towards a Clerk;

 

7)     Best Practice 15 be formalised through more regular meetings between senior Officers and Group Leaders/Whips.