SCC Standards Committee
Thursday, 10th November, 2022 10.00 am
Venue: Luttrell Room - County Hall, Taunton. View directions
Apologies for Absence
To receive members apologies.
An apology was received from Councillor Norman Cavill.
Paul Hooper and Robin Horton joined the meeting via Microsoft Teams.
Declarations of Interest
Details of all Members’ interests in District, Town and Parish Councils can be viewed on the Council Website
The Statutory Register of Member’s Interests can be inspected via request to the Democratic Service Team. Any new or updated declarations of interest will be received.
The Committee noted the details of the personal interests of all Councillors present already declared in relation to their membership of County, District, Town and Parish Councils.
No additional declarations were made.
Public Question Time
The Chair will allow members of the public to ask a question or make a statement about any matter on the agenda for this meeting. These questions may be taken during the meeting, when the relevant agenda item is considered, at the Chair’s discretion.
No members of the public had registered to speak.
To note the minutes of the previous meeting of the Standards Committee, circulated within the agenda.
The minutes of the meeting held on Monday 20 October 2022 were approved and signed as a correct record.
Priority One Update
Tha Chair will give a verbal update on work for Priority One.
The Chair advised the update be given under agenda item 7a (minute item 14a).
To consider the report.
The Committee discussed the Annual Report and the following was a summary of the areas raised:-
· Members assumed that as the number of councillors had doubled, so would the number of complaints received.
The Monitoring Officer advised that agenda item 7a (minute number 14a) would give feedback on the level of complaints across all five councils and would give assurance on compliance and training.
· Members queried that if a complaint was received and it was taken to a Standards Sub-Committee, would it have Parish or Local Community Network representation to give some parish experience on the panel.
The Monitoring Officer advised that this would be covered under agenda item 7a (minute number 14a)
· Members queried what the resourcing plan was for the New Council in the Monitoring Officer department.
The Monitoring Officer advised this would be covered under agenda item 7a (minute number 14a).
Resolved that the Committee considered the annual report and provided any comments to the Monitoring Officer.
Agenda Item 7
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 ... view the full minutes text for item 14a
To consider the report.
The Committee discussed the recruitment of Independent Persons and the following was a summary of the areas raised:-
· Members queried who the current Independent Person (IP) was.
The Monitoring Officer advised that the appointment of the reserve IP would cover the post until April 2023.
· Members queried whether the IP attended the Standards Committee meetings.
The Monitoring Officer advised that the committee could request their attendance.
· Members queried whether the Monitoring Officer was confident that resource would be in place in time for Vesting Day.
The Monitoring Officer advised that the report would be signed off at the November 2022 meeting of Full Council, so he felt very confident that resource would be appointed in time.
Resolved that the Committee:-
2.1 Commented on the Monitoring Officer’s proposed recommendations to Council in relation to:-
1. Appointing Lorraine Davey as a Reserve Independent Person under Section 28 of the Localism Act 2011 with immediate effect until 31 March 2023
2. Authorising the recruitment of three Independent Persons for the new Somerset Council on the basis set out in this report
To receive a presentation from Justin Robinson from Somerset Association of Local Councils (SALC).
The Committee discussed the update from SALC and the following was a summary of the areas raised:-
· Members thanked Justin Robinson from SALC for his presentation.
· Members agreed that the suggested use of sanctions included in the presentation were good and they liked the idea of mediation.
· Members were very keen to work with SALC on training and raising awareness amongst councillors.
· Members agreed that Priority Two Group should pick up on the three points on the final slide.
· Members suggested Priority Two Group should compare what other Unitary Councils had in place for mediation.
· Members thanked Justin Robinson for the survey carried out on the adoption of the Model Code of Conduct.
· Members wanted to ensure that parish councils were supported.
Justin Robinson confirmed that both SALC and non-SALC members were included in data sharing.
· Members agreed that SALC played an important part in the work being carried out in the lead up to the New Council.
· Concern was raised on the number of parishes that had not adopted the Model Code of Conduct.
· Members queried whether those parishes who had not adopted the Model Code, would be followed up with a contact and work on possibly adopting the Model Code.
Justin Robinson advised that he was keen to work with those who had not adopted the Model Code.
· Members suggested that the Monitoring Officer would need a database of those who had and had not adopted the Model Code of Conduct.
· Members requested that the presentation be attached to the minutes.
Work Programme 2022/23
To discuss items for the Work Programme 2022/23.
The Chair advised that the Work Programme had been discussed throughout the meeting and points would be highlighted in agenda item 10 (minute number 17).
To agree any action points from the meeting.
The Committee discussed the Action Plan and the following was a summary of the areas raised:-