To consider the report of the Monitoring Officer, (copy enclosed).
The Committee considered the report and associated appendices of the Monitoring Officer that set out the Council’s position in relation to the Committee on Standards in Public Life - Best Practice Recommendations.
The Chairman introduced the report and deferred to the Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer to present the detail.
He took the Committee through the report and drew Members’ attention to Appendix 1 that contained the letter issued to all authorities from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL), setting out fifteen best practice recommendations. The CSPL had asked that authorities reply confirming adoption or otherwise. He explained that there was no legal requirement to adopt the recommendations but that it was good practice to benchmark the Council’s standards against the CSPL. He then took Members through Appendix 2 that contained the CSPL recommendations together with the suggested response from the Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer displayed in italics.
Councillor Nunn, referring to the recommendations as a whole felt that the Council should adopt the principles and that he was pleased to note that the Council already covered most of the practices in the existing code. However, he said he was concerned regarding the application of the policy, given the recent volume and nature of complaints and hoped to move to more harmonious and stable times in the future.
At this point Councillor Mrs P A Channer, CC declared a non-pecuniary interest as she had recently gone through this exercise at Essex County Council.
A debate ensued where issues were raised around bullying, the complaints process and the Members Code of Conduct. It was agreed that examples of bullying could be a ‘one-off’ or a ‘continuous pattern’ of behaviour and that a definition of bullying must be included to inform the work of the Standards Committee. It was further agreed that it be clarified that these best practice recommendations related to the Code of Conduct for Members not employees.
Councillor Nunn proposed that the Committee adopt the recommendations and suggested changes outlined in Appendix 2 subject to the Monitoring Officer circulating the appendix to committee members for further comment, re-submitting the revised draft to the next Standards Committee for final approval and recommendation to Council. This was seconded by Councillor Mayes.
Further discussion then took place about the application of the Complaints Procedure, difficulties with interpreting the procedure and the importance of the Independent Person in the process. Councillor Mrs P A Channer acknowledged the importance of the issues raised. However, she reminded Members that the agenda item today was about the CPSL best practice recommendations and the Council’s intended response to it and she suggested that the other important issues be dealt with separately.
The Committee agreed that the other issues raised around the Complaints Procedure and the Code of Conduct were extremely important and should therefore come back as a separate agenda item to a future committee meeting.
The Chairman moved Councillor Nunn’s proposal and upon a duly seconded recorded vote being taken it was agreed as follows:
For the proposal
Councillors M L Bassenger, Mrs P A Channer, M W Helm, K V Jarvis, C Mayes, S P Nunn, R H Siddall and Mrs M Thompson.
Against the proposal
RESOLVED that the Committee adopt the recommendations and suggested changes outlined in Appendix 2 subject to the Monitoring Officer circulating the appendix to committee members for further comment, re-submitting the revised draft to the next Standards Committee for final approval and recommendation to Council.