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(i) Meeting of the Standards Sub-Committee held on 14 May 2018 (Annual Council)
(a) Minutes of Meeting held on 14 May 2018 (following Annual Council)
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the Meeting of the Standards Sub-Committee held on 14 May 2018 be confirmed and signed as a correct record.
Members Declarations of Interest
Members may make any declarations of interest at this point but may also make them at any time during the meeting.
All Councillors present declared a non-pecuniary interest in agenda item 4 a) (To review the number nature and outcome of complaints received during the civic years 2016/17 – 2018/2019) due to the fact that they were all subject to the Code of Conduct.
Members gave consideration to a report which presented a data analysis of the number nature and outcome of complaints received under the Code of Conduct regime for the civic years 2016/17, 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 (to-date).
The report further asked Members to give consideration as to whether the Standards Sub-Committee should undertake proactive work in the run up to all out Elections in 2019.
Section 2 of the report included a number of graphs, including graphs which set out: -
* The total no. of complaints received and whether these related to District or Parish Councillors;
* The nature of complaints received and how these were split between District and Parish Councillors;
* The Outcome of those complaints received; and
* The Actions taken where potential breaches of the Code had been identified
Section 4 of the report summarised some of the evident trends; points which were brought to Members’ attention included: -
* There had been a significant reduction in the number of complaints following the new Code’s introduction, although these had started to increase again during the current year, particularly in respect of District Councillors;
* The main source of complaints continued to be around respect, bullying and intimidation;
* In recent months social media had been at the centre of a number of complaints; and
* The majority of complaints still resulted in a “no breach” determination being made at the initial assessment stage. This was primarily due to them relating to behaviour in a Councillor’s private capacity, or having been deemed to not meet the threshold worthy of investigation.
Finally Section 5 of the report set out a number of suggestions regarding pro-active work the Sub-Committee may wish to consider undertaking in the run up to all out Elections in May 2019.
Debate ensued and Members sought indication as to how the content of the report was publicised, as they were of the view it contained a number of good news stories. The Monitoring Officer advised that the report had been available on the website in accordance with agenda publication rules. In response to suggestions that Social Media could be used, caution was expressed and the Monitoring Officer outlined his reasons for this. It was suggested that a simple statement could be made in both the resident’s digital newsletter and the Members’ Bulletin as an alternative.
In response to questions posed, Officers clarified how the total number of complaints was measured and also outlined the “threshold principle” used when considering complaints regarding allegations relating to respect, bullying and harassment.
With regard to undertaking pro-active work going forward, Members considered the following would be of assistance: -
* Timely advice and guidance in respect of purdah for both District and Parish Councillors (to which purdah would now apply)
* Training for all newly elected and returning District and Parish Councillors, making this as mandatory as possible;
* Information in candidates packs setting out the requirements of the Code and the requirement of training in order that expectations were ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Update on the Adoption of the Code of Conduct by Parish Councils
The District Council, having adopted its new Code of Conduct in May 2017, tasked the Monitoring Officer to work with Parish Councils across the District with a view to them also adopting its Code or alternatively adopting the National Association of Local Councils’ (NALC) Code by May 2018.
To-date 47 parish council’s had adopted the WLDC Code, 18 the NALC Code and 6 had adopted their own Code. Only 1 Parish Council was yet to respond.
RESOLVED that the information be noted.