Agenda and draft minutes

Consultative, Standards Committee - Wednesday, 27th July, 2022 10.00 am

Venue: online via zoom

Contact: Debbie Meakin  01395 517540; email:  dmeakin@eastdevon.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

22.

Public speaking

Information on public speaking is available online

 

Minutes:

There were no members of the public registered to speak.

23.

Minutes of the previous meeting held on 12 April 2022 pdf icon PDF 348 KB

Minutes:

The minutes pf the previous meeting held on 12 April 2022 were agreed.

24.

Declarations of interest

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

 

Minutes:

Minute 27(b) Complaints update – 1 Jan 2021 to 31 Jan 2021.

Councillor Jess Bailey, Affects and prejudicial Non-registerable Interest. Member of a Town Council the subject of a number of complaints during that time period.  Cllr Bailey absented herself from the meeting for this item.

 

Minute 27(c) Complaints update – 1 Jan 2022 to 12 Jul 2022.

Councillor Vicky Johns, Affects and prejudicial Non-registerable Interest. Subject member of a complaint during that time period.  Cllr Johns absented herself from the meeting for this item.

25.

Matters of urgency

Information on matters of urgency is available online

 

Minutes:

None.

26.

Confidential/exempt item(s)

To agree any items to be dealt with after the public (including the Press) have been excluded. Thereis one itemwhich officersrecommendshould be dealtwithin thisway.

 

Minutes:

One Member requested that the report was heard in public session because of the public interest in the content of the report.

The Monitoring Officer re-iterated that report under minute 28 must be considered in private session, because the report content met the criteria of being exempt under paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (information relating to an individual).  Recommendations arising from the report would still form part of the published minutes.

The Committee agreed with the advice of the Monitoring Officer, agreeing the report be heard once the public and press had been excluded.

27a

Complaint updates - 1 Jan 2020 to 31 December 2020 pdf icon PDF 99 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer updated the Committee on the outcomes from those complaints outstanding from that period.  The complaints in question were to be discussed further under minute 28.

 

The Committee noted the update.

27b

Complaint updates - 1 Jan 2021 to 31 Dec 2021

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer updated the Committee on the outcomes from those complaints outstanding from that period. 

 

The Committee noted the update.

 

27c

Complaint updates - 1 Jan 2022 to 12 July 2022

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer updated the Committee on the outcomes from those complaints outstanding from that period.  These included those complaints relating to the new Code of Conduct.

 

The Committee noted the update.

 

28.

Reporting the outcomes from a Standards Investigation

Minutes:

The Committee had previously discussed, at their meeting on 12 April 2022, the value of pursuing those complaints where the subject member had since resigned.  Discussion was minuted at that meeting as:

·         No sanctions could be imposed on the subject member if they were no longer a councillor (and therefore no longer bound by the Code of Conduct); there was no duty on the subject member to continue to co-operate in any investigation that was ongoing at the time of her/her resignation/failure to be re-elected;

·         There was validity in progressing outstanding complaints where there may be recommendations to the body for which the subject member was formerly a member of; so that lessons could be learnt and to demonstrate to the complainant the outcome of the process;

·         Such complaint investigations could be put on hold for a period of time, such that if the subject member was re-elected and re-standing for election/co-option, the complaint would be revisited.  This was to ensure that resigning and re-standing for election/co-option was not used as a means of avoiding answering to a complaint.

 

The report presented to the Committee gave a full account of the timeline of the complaints, as well as appraising the committee of the protracted and substantial detail of those complaints.  A significant sum had already been spent on the investigation of the four complaints (circa £44K excluding VAT) with an outstanding invoice to be received; as well as substantial hours spent by the Monitoring Officer and his team, alongside the work of the Independent Person.

 

One complaint had reached a decision on 13 June 2022 and the decision was published on the Council’s website, at the request of the subject member.

 

As the remaining three complaints related to subject members that had resigned, a formal finding either way could not be issued by the Council.

 

In discussion, the Committee covered:

·         Merit in using the investigation documentation to date on the three complaints, in order to learn lessons that could be disseminated to the Council involved, and may prove useful to other councils;

·         The code in place at that time meant that confidentiality was expected and that the Monitoring Officer referring matters for investigation was an option;

·         The costs incurred to date were substantial, and ways of exploring how those costs could be curtailed, either by thresholds or recharge, should be explored to examine what could be achieved but that did not inhibit complaints or deny the right of the complainant to see the process completed;

·         Format and quality of submissions (paragraph 3.3 of the procedure), as well as examining any alternative means of resolution (paragraph 2.4 of the procedure), were already assessed as part of the adopted complaints process;

·         Training was key but resource intensive, and not all Councils could afford to cover such training costs for training beyond that which the District Council could offer.  It was also difficult to secure attendance by all Councillors;

·         Encourage town and parish councils to record both the offer and engagement/decline of training,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.