Agenda and draft minutes

Virtual meeting, Standards Committee - Tuesday, 19th January, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Online via the Zoom app

Contact: Sue Howl  01395 517541; email:  showl@eastdevon.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

27.

Public speaking

Information on public speaking is available online

 

Minutes:

There were no members of the public registered to speak.

 

28.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 252 KB

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer advised that the Chair was present at the last meeting but not recorded as being so at the time.  It was noted that Mr Martin Goscomb, Cllr Bob Nelson and Cllr Pauline Stott had also been present, but had not been recorded.

 

Subject to the above corrections to the attendance list, the minutes of the meeting held on 13 October 2020 were agreed as a correct record.

 

 

29.

Declarations of interest

Guidance is available online to Councillors and co-opted members on making declarations of interest

 

Minutes:

Minute 32.  East Devon Standards Regime.

Councillor Paul Millar, Personal, Councillor was the subject member of a Sub-Committee hearing.

 

30.

Matters of urgency

Information on matters of urgency is available online

 

Minutes:

There were no matters of urgency.

 

31.

Confidential/exempt item(s)

To agree any items to be dealt with after the public (including the Press) have been excluded. Thereare no itemswhich officersrecommendshould be dealtwithin thisway.

 

Minutes:

There were no confidential / exempt items.

 

32.

East Devon Standards Regime pdf icon PDF 396 KB

Minutes:

Members considered the report of the Monitoring Officer regarding the approach which members would like to adopt in relation to East Devon’s Code of Conduct in light of the recent LGA Model Code of Conduct.  The report also addressed what members should be including on their register of interests, declarations at meetings and the practicalities around the potential introduction of a Standards Assessment Sub Committee, including possible stakeholder engagement on any proposed changes.  The report also considered the voting rights of co-opted members following a question from one of the Town / Parish Council representatives.

 

Discussion included the following points:

·        That decisions made at the last meeting should stand and the agreed changes to the Register of Interest forms to distinguish member interests from relevant person interests should proceed

·        Regarding acceptance of gifts and hospitality, the LGA Model Code was weaker than the current EDDC Code of Conduct as there was the potential for multiple donations from a single donor which were each under the limit, but which cumulatively could amount to a gift or hospitality far exceeding the limit above which they must be declared

·        Consideration as to whether all gifts and hospitality should be declined, although it was recognised that there could be occasions when it would be appropriate for members to accept

·        Guidance on the Code could include organisations, the membership of which could potentially result in a conflict of interest for councillors.  Membership of those organisations could be included on Register of Interest forms

·        Consideration of whether a working group or sub-committee would be the best method of reviewing the EDDC Code of Conduct or whether to request the Portfolio Holder for Democracy & Transparency to convene her portfolio team

·        A review of the Code of Conduct could include stakeholders, specifically town and parish councils as many adopt all or parts of the EDDC Code

·        The Monitoring Officer advised that recommendations would need to be agreed at the April meeting of the Standards Committee in order to meet the deadline of the Annual Council meeting in May 2021

·        Consideration of the practicalities and various approaches taken by other councils with regard to a Standards Assessment Sub-Committee, examples discussed included arrangements at East Riding of Yorkshire and Wiltshire Councils

·        It was noted that the introduction of a Standards Assessment Sub-Committee could protect the Monitoring Officer from partiality when deciding which complaints should be progressed

·        It was also noted that the introduction of a Standards Assessment Sub-Committee would require additional staffing resource if members approve a revised complaints process

·        A Standards Assessment Sub-Committee could be difficult to administer as the membership of the Council changed over time whereas the current Monitoring Officer was a legally trained paid professional.  Other authorities in the South West relied on the post of Monitoring Officer to undertake this work, rather than on members

·        The Monitoring Officer advised that the critical question to consider in any of the approaches taken was at what point the decision is made as to whether a breach of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.

33.

Code of Conduct complaint update pdf icon PDF 336 KB

Minutes:

The Committee considered and noted the report of the Monitoring Officer, which provided an update for the Committee on Code related cases received from 1st January 2020 to 31st December 2020.

 

It was noted that complaint C21 had been closed with a finding of no breach since the report was published.

 

The Monitoring Officer advised that the reporting of complaints does not distinguish whether the complainant is a Councillor or an Officer.  Complainants could also be members of the public.

 

It was agreed that future reports could include the number of complaints by category of complainant whether District Council Member / Officer; Parish Council Member / Officer; member of the public.

 

RESOLVED that the report be noted.

 

 

 

34.

Forward Plan

Minutes:

Members did not have any items to add to the Forward Plan.