Venue: Via Ms Teams at https://west-lindsey.public-i.tv/core/portal/home
Register of Attendance
The Monitoring Officer undertook the attendance roll-call, in line with the adopted virtual meeting procedure, during which apologies were noted from Councillor David Cotton.
The Independent People and Parish Council representatives were welcomed to the meeting and round table introductions were made.
Declarations of Interest
Members may make any declarations of interest at this point but may also make them at any time during the meeting
There were no declarations of interest made.
The Committee gave consideration to the report giving statistics on the nature, number and outcome of complaints received during the civic years 2016/17 – 2020/21 (to-date 31 October 2020).
There was an acknowledgement that social media now played a part in the number of complaints and since the start of lockdown the number of complaints was rising.
There was long discussion around possible proactive work the Sub-Committee could undertake but Members were urged to remain cautious given the limited sanctions which could be imposed. Considering the likely outcome to be achieved was always an over-riding consideration. Managing expectations was an important role and under the current regime results where only achievable if people were willing to work together.
Resources could only realistically be invested where people were prepared to work together, the Authority did not have the power to remove councillors from office and if this was the only desirable outcome it was quickly acknowledged that a satisfactory resolution was unlikely.
All were in agreement that training, guidance and repeated reminders for Members were key and lengthy discussion took place on the ways in which Members may be better engaged, the messages kept fresh and that they addressed emerging issues.
Suggestions made included:
* Regular reminders be issued about adhering to the Code of Conduct.
* A training session on social media be recorded – and this be rolled out by the Monitoring Officer to all Parish Councils asking that the video be included as a workshop session on their agenda.
* Development of crib sheets giving phrases that could be used when in a confrontational situation.
* Creation of a district wide campaign for when online, prompting the Member to pause and think before publishing - is it true/helpful/necessary. If it isn’t, then just don’t say anything, for example.
* Do’s and Don’ts sheets for particular areas.
* Promoting and encouraging the use of Standing Orders to manage behaviour and protect Councillors.
Encouraging people to register a “concern” earlier, rather than wait for matters to worsen and culminate in a complaint, was discussed as being a possible avenue to explore. Both Officers and the IPs outlined the pragmatic approaches currently used. Considerable amounts of time were already spent
(a) the statistical data presented within the report be received and noted; and
Having given consideration as to whether there is proactive work that should be undertaken, Officers be requested to give further consideration to the creation of a
The Monitoring Officer will provide the Committee with a brief update in respect of the LGA’s work in developing a new Model Code of Conduct following the national consultation undertaken.
Attached is a slide presentation received at the recent Annual MO Conference.
Officers had recently had attended a workshop on the consultation for the LGA’s new model Code of Conduct, and were pleased to note from the key findings, that other authorities were like-minded with West Lindsey.
The phrase civility had not been well received and it was likely the word “respect” would be introduced into the new Code.
Officers had also attended the Monitoring Officer conference and again the Sub-Committee’s feedback had been well aligned with most other Authorities’ views. The LGA had been made very much aware of our thoughts on sanctions and again these views were common across the sector.
Members were again reminded that those areas which would generate fundamental change still required legislation amendments and all things considered, this had not been a priority for the Government.
The Code was expected to be considered by the LGA Board prior to the end of the year.
Brief mention of the best practice recommendations was made, two remained outstanding namely : -
* The creation of a Flow Chart – the Authority didn’t currently publish a flow chart for sifting cases, deciding whether to take a case forward for investigations. Whilst there was a clear, publicised process the best practice recommendations expected that this be accompanied by a simple flow chart. Officers undertook to progress this work over the coming months
* An Annual Review of the Code – The Authority had last fundamentally reviewed its Code in 2017/18 however it was not common practice for it to be reviewed every year. Best practice recommended this should be case, and should the Authority choose in the future to adopt a new Code, an annual review process would be built in.
One best practice recommendation the Authority had chosen not to implement was the recommendation that written details of the IPs advice should be included in decision notices. Until such time as the law required the Authority to do this, and that Independent Persons were given indemnity against any kind of legal action regarding their comments, as was the case with the post of Monitoring Officer, the Officer view was that this seemed unreasonable.
As previously reported to the Sub-Committee all the remaining best practice recommendations had been implemented by WLDC under its own volition prior to the Committee for Standards in Public Life being published.
The update was NOTED.