Meeting documents

SCC Standards Committee
Thursday, 10th November, 2022 10.00 am

  • Meeting of Standards Committee, Thursday 10th November 2022 10.00 am (Item 14a)

To consider the report.


The Committee discussed the Code of Conduct Complaints Procedure and the following was a summary of the areas raised:-

·         The Chair gave an update on what the Priority One Group had discussed which included a focus on the publicity of the complaints process and a suggested adoption of Buckinghamshire’s section three of their code for discussion.

·         Members suggested that the committee tested the system for the complaints process.

The Monitoring Officer agreed that was a good idea to see how breeches were dealt with by stress testing the system with hypothetical examples.

·         Members queried if a Somerset County Council (SCC) Councillor was being investigated under the complaints process, would they be suspended from the committee.

The Monitoring Officer advised that councillors would not be removed from the committee.  Only severe levels of complaints would incur sanctions.  He further advised that certain sanctions could be used but committee composition was for Full Council to decide.

·         Members queried whether the 279 parishes included the Unparished Area of Taunton, soon to be Taunton Town Council.

The Monitoring Officer advised that yes that number did include the Taunton Town Council.

·         Members queried whether the Taunton Town Council would adopt the Model Code of Conduct.

The Monitoring Officer advised that he was working with Somerset West and Taunton Council and the Shadow Taunton Town Council to ensure that the Model Code of Conduct was adopted.

·         Members queried whether the five Independent Persons, would include the three being proposed in the report for agenda item 7b (minute number 14b).

·         Concern was raised on whether two Deputy Monitoring Officers (DMOs) would be enough, Members further suggested that four or five Deputy’s would be preferrable.

The Monitoring Officer advised that a comparable of what other councils had in terms of resource and complaints received had been given in the presentation.

·         Concern was raised that not all the parishes had adopted the Model Code of Conduct, which would lead to the complaints process being quite complicated for the Monitoring Officer, as they would need to refer back to too many different codes.

The Monitoring Officer agreed with the comments.

·         Members highlighted what was happening with Parish Meetings.

The Monitoring Officer advised that the Parish Meetings were not covered by the 1972 Act and so therefore did not require a Code of Conduct and explained what a Parish Meeting was.

·         Members queried whether two DMOs had been factored into the budget to be agreed at Full Council in February 2023.

The Monitoring Officer advised that the budget did not include the finer detail of officer posts.  He advised that he had investigated other Local Government Reorganisations to see how many DMOs they had appointed.

·         Members repeated their query about the use of parish representatives on Standards Sub-Committees.

The Monitoring Officer advised that they were not part of the decision-making process, however, they could be co-opted onto the panel.

·         Members suggested that parish representatives should be included on the Standards Committee of the New Council.

The Monitoring Officer advised that could be part of the work being carried out on the new Constitution.

·         Members highlighted that many of the SCC Councillors were also Parish Councillors and suggested that it was an anomaly that all councillors were judged on the same level of conduct.

·         Members suggested that when appointing members to the Standards Committee, that ‘twin hatters’ could be chosen to ensure both county and parish experience was included in the committee.

·         Members queried if a councillor did not submit their register of interest form with 28 days of becoming a councillor, would they would cease to be a councillor.

The Monitoring Officer advised that if they did not return their register of interest, they would be in breach of the Code of Conduct.

·         Members queried what was happening with Whistleblowing Complaints.

The Monitoring Officer advised that the policy had only just been revised in May 2022 and that the South West Audit Partnership was used for independent reporting.

·         Members requested that a schematic should be drawn up for the complaints process to show members of the public how complaints were dealt with and the timescales.  They further requested that this should be included in the Constitution.

The Monitoring Officer suggested that the item could be brought back to the January meeting and that a compare and contrast exercise could be debated.


Resolved that the Committee:-

2.1 Noted the update including the steps being taken by the LGR Governance Board to ensure a smooth transition of the countywide Code of Conduct complaint process and procedures to Somerset Council.

2.2 Noted the likely impact upon resources and the need for sufficient resource in the new structure.

2.3 Commented upon the proposals.


Supporting documents: