Agenda and minutes

Standards Committee
Monday, 21st January, 2019 5.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, Council Offices, The Burys, Godalming. View directions

Contact: Fiona Cameron  Democratic Services Manager

Items
No. Item

STD 12/18

Minutes

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting which took place on 11 June 2018 (to be laid on the table 30 minutes before the meeting commences).

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 11 June 2018 were confirmed as a correct record of the meeting.

STD 13/18

Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

 

The Town & Parish representative, Mrs Joan Holroyd was not required for this meeting.

STD 14/18

Disclosures of Interests

To receive from Members, declarations of interests in relation to any items included on the agenda for this meeting in accordance with the Waverley Code of Local Government Conduct.

Minutes:

There were no disclosures of interests.

STD 15/18

Questions by Members of the public

The Chairman to respond to any written questions received from Members of the public in accordance with Procedure Rule 10.

 

The deadline for receipt of questions is Monday 14 January 2019.

Minutes:

There were no questions from members of the public.

STD 16/18

Questions from Members

The Chairman to respond to any written questions received from Members in accordance with Procedure Rule 11.

 

The deadline for receipt of questions is Monday 14 January 2019.

 

Minutes:

There were no questions from Members.

PART I - RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE COUNCIL

Background Papers

 

Unless specified under an individual item, there are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to the reports in Part I of these minutes.

STD 17/18

Standards Committee - Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 137 KB

On 17 July 2018, Council agreed to re-designate the Standards Panel as the Standards Committee, recognising that the remit of the ‘Panel’ had grown beyond that originally envisaged.

 

To formalise the constitutional basis for the Standards Committee, the Terms of Reference as set out in Article 9 of the Constitution have been reviewed and updated, and are attached.

 

Recommendation

 

That the Standards Committee recommends to Council that the revised Terms of Reference for the Committee be adopted.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee reviewed its revised terms of reference, which had been updated to reflect better the function and purpose of the committee.

 

The Committee agreed that going forward, it should have a vice-chairman, and officers would need to flag this up to Group Leaders as part of the process for nominating committee memberships following the May elections.

 

The Committee felt that its role in keeping the Constitution under review should have a higher priority in the in the list of the Committee’s functions.

 

The Committee RESOLVED to RECOMMEND to Council that the revised terms of reference of the Standards Committee, as attached, be approved and incorporated into the Constitution at Article 9.

 

 

 

PART II - MATTERS OF REPORT

The background papers relating to the following items are as set out in the reports included in the original agenda papers.

STD 18/18

Monitoring Officer's Report pdf icon PDF 75 KB

The Standards Panel last received a report of complaints submitted to the Monitoring Officer under the Member Code of Conduct in January 2018. This report summarises the complaints received since the last report, and also updates the Committee on a number of matters that fall within its remit.

 

Recommendation

 

That the Standards Committee receives the report and makes any observations on it to the Monitoring Officer.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report from the Monitoring Officer, Robin Taylor, summarising complaints about councillors received between January 2018 and January 2019, and updating the Committee on other matters relating to the Council’s ethical framework.

 

Since January 2018, the Monitoring Officer had received nine complaints: two related to Town and Parish Councillors, and seven related to Borough councillors. Of the two complaints about Town and Parish Councillors, one had been withdrawn by the complainant and the other was being informally investigated by the Monitoring Officer. Of the seven complaints about Waverley Councillors, two had been withdrawn by the complainants, four had been informally investigated by the Monitoring Officer and resolved informally, and one was a live complaint currently being informally investigated by the Monitoring Officer.

 

Common features of the complaints received were: allegations of failing to treat others with respect, disclosure of interests and participation in decision-making, and the content of electronic communications.

 

The Monitoring Officer had also provided advice to elected councillors, members of staff, Town and Parish clerks and councillors, and residents, where no complaint has been made.

 

A meeting of the Standards Panel would take place on 1 February 2019 to consider the external investigator’s report into two complaints against a Waverley councillor submitted in April 2017.

 

Following the elections in May for Waverley Borough Council, training would be provided for new Waverley councillors on Standards and the Code of Conduct, Member-Officer relationships, and Operating Safely as a councillor. Similar training would be offered to new Town and Parish councillors.

 

Following the Town and Parish Council elections, arrangements would also be made to appoint two representatives from the town and parish councils to the Standards Committee, who would be invited to attend when matters affecting town and parish councils were being considered.

 

The Monitoring Officer also updated the Committee on action taken to raise awareness with staff of the need to register any gifts or hospitality offered to them or received that exceeded £25 in value. Arrangements had been reviewed following a routine internal audit, and the on-line form for submitting registrations had been made more visible on the staff intranet. Most of the gifts registered were less than £25 in value – typically biscuits or chocolates that were shared among colleagues, or donated to the Mayor’s Christmas tombola.

 

The Committee was pleased to learn that most complaints had been resolved informally, and thanked the Monitoring Officer for his report, which they noted.

STD 19/18

Standards Arrangements - Appointment of Independent Persons pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Under the Localism Act 2011, the standards arrangements adopted by the Council are required to include provision for the appointment of at least one Independent Person. Waverley has appointed two Independent Persons, whose term of office ends in May 2019.

 

The Standards Committee is asked to consider the arrangements to recruit and appoint Independent Persons to take office from May 2019.

 

Recommendation

 

The Standards Committee is asked to:

 

1)        agree the joint arrangements to advertise, shortlist and interview candidates for the appointment of Independent Persons from May 2019; and

2)        recommend to Council that the Monitoring Officer be given delegated authority to confirm the appointment of at least three Independent Persons for a four-year term from May 2019, after consultation with the Chairman of the Standards Committee.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Fiona Cameron, Deputy Monitoring Officer, reminded the Committee that under the Localism Act 2011, the standards arrangements adopted by the Council were required to include the provision of at least one Independent Person. Waverley had appointed three Independent Persons, whose term of office ended in May 2019.

 

Waverley had worked in partnership with Guildford, Mole Valley and Spelthorne borough councils in 2012 to recruit Independent Persons for an initial period to 2015, and then to extend the appointments to May 2019. Following discussion between Surrey Democratic Services Managers and Monitoring Officers, there was agreement in principle to once again undertake a joint recruitment exercise on behalf of seven Surrey boroughs and districts: Guildford, Epsom & Ewell, Mole Valley, Reigate & Banstead, Spelthorne, Surrey Heath and Waverley.

 

The intention was to appoint at least three Independent Persons for a four-year term commencing May 2019 and ending May 2023, with any of those appointed being available to act for any of the councils. The positions would be advertised on the websites of each of the participating councils at the end of January for a three-week period. The Joint Appointments Panel, comprising 3 of the Monitoring Officers of the participating councils, would meet at the end of February to shortlist, and interviews would be held in March, if necessary. Serving Independent Persons would be eligible for re-appointment. The aim was for each participating council to make formal appointments in time for May 2018.

 

The Committee was pleased to see that Waverley was once again working jointly with other Surrey councils to recruit to these very specialised positions, but felt that it would be advisable to appoint four or five Independent Persons, if possible. The Committee also noted that the Independent Person Protocol would need to be updated to change the name of the Standards Panel to Standards Committee.

 

The Committee RESOLVED to:

1.         agree the joint arrangements for advertising, shortlisting and interviewing candidates for the appointment of Independent Persons from May 2019; and

2.         note that recommendations for appointments would be brought to the May meeting of Council for approval.

STD 20/18

Members' Code of Conduct pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Waverley adopted a local Members’ Code of Conduct and Arrangements for dealing with complaints under the Code of Conduct on 17 July 2012, in accordance with the requirements of the Localism Act 2011.  The Code of Conduct, Arrangements for dealing with Complaints, and the Planning Code of Conduct, were reviewed in 2016, and revised versions agreed by Council on 18 October 2016.

 

This report proposes a number of additions to the Code of Conduct which provide additional clarification on the core principles of the Code, and address some procedural matters on which the Code is currently silent.

 

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Standards Committee considers the proposed amendments to the Members Code of Conduct and recommends to Council that these be adopted.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer introduced the report that set out proposed amendments to the Waverley Members’ Code of Conduct. The proposed amendments were largely to provide additional clarification on the core principles of the Code, and to address some procedural matters on which the Code was currently silent in relation to recording sensitive information on the Register of Interests, removal of entries from the Register, and dispensations.

 

The Committee reviewed the proposed amendments and agreed in principle to the amendments, but asked for further revisions to the wording on:

-        new paragraph 1 (7)  - to be split into two paragraphs, to separate out the two elements of the statement.

-        new paragraph 5 (6) – the wording in relation to dealing with including sensitive information on the Register of Interests to be simplified and made clearer.

-        new paragraph 7 – to be made clearer that the intention of this paragraph is to give a standing dispensation to Members to participate in certain business of the Council from which they might otherwise be excluded through having a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest, as set out in Paragraph 5 (1).

 

The Committee asked that these revisions to the Code of Conduct be brought back to the next meeting of the Standards Committee for further consideration, before making a recommendation to Council.

STD 21/18

Review of Scheme of Delegation pdf icon PDF 75 KB

The Scheme of Delegation to Officers was comprehensively reviewed and revised in 2017.

Officers have been asked to propose revisions to the Scheme of Delegation, based on their experience of using the Scheme over the past 12 months.

 

The Standards Committee is asked to consider the proposed amendments and make recommendations to Council to approve the revised Scheme of Delegation.

 

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Standards Committee endorses the proposed revisions to the Scheme of Delegation, and recommends that Version 5 of the Scheme of Delegation be approved by Council.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Borough Solicitor introduced the report setting out a number of proposed changes to the Scheme of Delegation to Officers. The Scheme had been comprehensively reviewed and revised in 2017 and the proposed revisions were based on experience of using the Scheme over the past 12 months.

 

The Committee noted that under the General Principles, the amendments would enable any Strategic Director to exercise the powers granted to the Chief Executive under the Scheme, either at the request of the Chief Executive or at the discretion of the Strategic Director in the absence of the Chief Executive. The Committee agreed that this was a practical approach to enable the efficient running of the Council.

 

With regard to the proposed delegation to the Section 151 Officer to approve adoption of new or revised fees and charges (new 8A), after consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Finance, the Committee asked that the wording was clear that this delegation was constrained by the Budget and Policy Framework, including the Financial Regulations.

 

With regard to the delegation to the Head of Customer and Corporate Services in relation to the administration of the Council’s estate and property portfolio at (17), the Committee noted that this had not been updated to reflect the role of the Investment Advisory Board in making recommendations to the Executive on the acquisition of interests in land or property.

 

With regard to paragraph (77) of the Scheme, the Borough Solicitor clarified that under the new Data Protection Act 2018, there was no longer an automatic charge for a Subject Access Request so there was no longer a need to be able to waive this in cases of hardship. The delegation was now proposed to allow a fee to be charged in respect of any manifestly unfounded or excessive Subject Access Request.

 

The Committee agreed that the wording of paragraphs (8A) and (17) be amended and the revised Scheme of Delegation brought back to the Committee for final consideration before making a recommendation to Council.

 

 

 

 

STD 22/18

Elected Member Access to Information pdf icon PDF 63 KB

In June 2018 the Chief Executive, Monitoring Officer and Borough Solicitor met with the Leader and Deputy Leader and a number of other councillors to discuss whether or not the Council needed a separate protocol or advice note clarifying Waverley Elected Members’ rights to access information. 

 

It was agreed that this matter should be put to the Standards Committee for their consideration. 

 

This report accordingly sets out a draft guidance and protocol note in respect of Elected Members’ access to information at Waverley Borough Council.

 

The Standards Committee is asked to consider whether any such document is needed and, if so, to consider putting forward, subject to any changes it wishes to make,  the attached draft document to Council for approval. 

 

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Standards Committee considers whether a new guidance and protocol on Elected Member access to information at Waverley Borough Council is needed and, if so, to consider putting forward, subject to any changes it wishes to make,  the attached draft document to Council for approval. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Robin Taylor introduced the draft guidance note clarifying Waverley Elected Members’ rights to access information, which had been developed following discussions with Members following a situation where a Town Council was seeking access to a Waverley document via a twin-hatted Member of both Waverley and the Town Council.

 

The Standards Committee was asked to consider if this was needed, and if so what status it would have in relation to the Access to Information Procedure Rules.

 

The Committee Members felt that the flow-chart was helpful, but had some concerns about who made the decisions – who decided if a Member needed the information to perform their duties as a councillor? The Committee Members also recognised that there was a difference between ‘need’ and ‘desire’, and that Members did not have a roving remit to see every piece of information held by the council. But, some Members felt that there was a lack of clarity about how they could request access to information.

 

The Borough Solicitor confirmed that all Waverley Members were able to access ‘pink papers’ that are exempt under any of the seven categories set out in the 1972 Local Government Act.

 

On balance, the Committee felt that it would be helpful to have the additional guidance, and that it should be clear that the Monitoring Officer is the Proper Officer for Access to Information. The Committee asked that this be referred to in the Access to Information Procedure Rules, and provided to Members as supplementary guidance.