Agenda and draft minutes

Standards and General Purposes Committee - Monday, 27th September, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber

Contact: Georgina Hall  Democratic Services Officer

Items
No. Item

STD 1/21

Confirmation of Chairman and Vice Chairman

To confirm the Chairman and Vice Chairman for the council year.

Minutes:

The Committee confirmed Cllr John Ward as Chairman and Cllr Michael Goodridge as Vice-Chairman of the Committee for the Council Year 2021/22.

 

The Chairman advised that as he would not be able to attend the Council meeting on 19 October, and Cllr Goodridge was not present at today’s meeting, Cllr Nicholson had agreed to present the minutes of the meeting and any recommendations to Council.

STD 2/21

Minutes

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting which took place on 1 February 2021 (to be laid on the table 30 minutes before the meeting commences).

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 1 February 2021 were confirmed as a correct record of the meeting.

STD 3/21

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 in relation to items on the agenda.

STD 4/21

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 5pm on 20 September 2021.

Minutes:

There were no questions from members of the public.

STD 5/21

Questions from Members of the Council

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

 

The deadline for receipt of questions is 5pm on 20 September 2021.

 

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 6/21

Proposals Following Council Resolutions on 20 April 2021 pdf icon PDF 306 KB

Recommendation

 

The Standards Committee is asked to consider the proposals set out in Section 4 (below) and the annexes attached, and recommend to Council that

1)    Two Overview and Scrutiny Committees be established with immediate effect:

Policy and Services.  Each committee will comprise 11 Members and meet a minimum of 5 times a year.

2)    Subject to recommendation 1 above, Article 6 of the Constitution and the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules be amended as set out in Annexe 2.

3)    A Landlord Services Advisory Board be established under the Executive Working Group Protocol with Terms of Reference as set out in Annexe 3.

4)    That the terms of reference of the Standards Committee be amended as set out in Annexe 4 and that the name of the Committee be amended to the Standards and General Purposes Committee.

5)    That the Executive Procedure Rules be amended as set out in paragraph 4.26 below and the Executive Working Group Protocol as set out in Annexe 5 be adopted.

6)    That the Council Procedure Rules be amended as set out in paragraph 4.27 to remove the requirement to stand to address the Mayor at meetings of the Council

7)    That authority be delegated to the Monitoring Officer to make the necessary changes to the Constitution arising from recommendations 1-6 above, and

8)    That the Committee consider any other proposals it wishes to make, including whether the Overview and Scrutiny Co-ordinating Board will still be required

Minutes:

The Head of Policy & Governance introduced the report setting out proposals for the implementation of Council’s decisions on 20 April 2021 in relation to: overview and scrutiny committees; a new Housing Landlord Service Board; the Standards Committee remit; and, Executive Working Groups.

 

Before the Committee members considered the proposals, the Chairman advised that he would be proposing that the Overview and Scrutiny Co-ordinating Board be abolished as it was no longer needed with there being only two committees going forward.

 

The following councillors had registered to speak on this agenda item:

 

Cllr Peter Martin reiterated his unhappiness at the Council decision to reduce the number of overview and scrutiny committees from four to two. However, he was pleased that the proposals recommended in the report in relation to the overview and scrutiny committees reflected most of those put forward by the O&S Co-ordinating Board. He did have concerns regarding the balance of the workload between the two committees, based on the split between the Service Areas as shown in the report, and he asked that this be reviewed in order to achieve a better balance between the committees. Cllr Martin also expressed concerns about the remit of the Landlord Services Board, and how this related to the overview and scrutiny function.

 

Cllr Martin noted the intention to present the recommendations to Council on 19 October and asked that the appointment of members to the new overview and scrutiny committees be delayed to the December Council meeting to allow time for the Groups to select their members and for an orderly transition from the current arrangements.

 

Cllr Richard Seaborne also asked for careful consideration to be given to the transition between the current overview and scrutiny arrangements and the new structure, and for this not to be rushed. There was only a month between the date of the Council meeting and the next cycle of overview and scrutiny committee meetings, which would not allow much time for the new committees to prepare.

 

Cllr Jerry Hyman advised that he was generally supportive of the proposal to introduce some flexibility around the requirement for councillors to stand when speaking at meetings of Council, but was concerned about how a councillor would make a Point or Order or Point of Personal Explanation and ensure that they were heard by the Mayor.

 

With regard to the overview and scrutiny committees, Cllr Hyman noted that the review of the Corporate Performance Report by each committee took a great deal of time and suggested that this report could be dealt with in a different way to make better use of committee time. Cllr Hyman emphasised the role of scrutiny to ask questions and contribute to making improvements in council services, but this relied upon being given full and honest answers to questions.

 

The Chairman thanked the Overview & Scrutiny Board for their report and recommendations, and noted the concerns raised by Cllr Martin and Cllr Seaborne relating to the transition to the new arrangements, and the balance  ...  view the full minutes text for item STD 6/21

PART II - MATTERS OF REPORT

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

STD 7/21

Monitoring Officer's Report Regarding Misconduct Allegations pdf icon PDF 144 KB

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Committee notes the cases referred to in Annexe 1, and advises the Monitoring Officer of any areas of concern about which the Committee would like further information and / or further work carried out.

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer introduced his report that summarised complaints received and action taken on allegations of misconduct against Waverley Borough and parish councillors during 2020 and 2021 (to date).

 

During the 18 months under consideration, there had been 15 cases with some involving more than one complainant and/or more than one subject member. Six cases were regarding town/parish councillors, and nine were regarding borough councillors. Most cases had been concluded following an informal investigation by the Monitoring Officer with two cases progressing to an external investigation.

 

The Committee noted that most complaints were not upheld, with the Monitoring Officer finding no evidence of a breach of the Code of Conduct; and that there had been an increase in the number of complaints received from councillors about the conduct of other councillors. The Monitoring Officer advised that the revised Arrangements for dealing with complaints proposed that such complaints be referred to the respective Group Leaders in the first place.

 

The revised Arrangements would be brought back to the Committee for consideration at the next meeting, following consideration received from parish councils and Independent Persons.

 

The Committee noted that complaints which could not be resolved informally were likely to be more complex in nature, and the referral to an external investigator inevitably resulted in them taking longer to resolve.

 

The Committee RESOLVED to note the summary record of complaints for the period 2020-2021 (to date), and

-       looked forward to receiving the revised Arrangements for dealing with complaints under the Member Code of Conduct;

-       asked that future reports include more analysis of lessons learned from investigation of complaints; and

-       asked for more training to be provided to Members on the Code of Conduct.

STD 8/21

Review of the Constitution - Approach and Timetable pdf icon PDF 124 KB

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Standards Committee

 

(i)            endorses the objectives for the Constitution review – to produce a Constitution for Waverley that is legally compliant and reflecting current standards of good practice; is easy to navigate and to understand who takes decisions and how; and reflects the present values of the council

(ii)          endorses the revised structure of the Constitution to improve the readability and accessibility for Members, Officers and the public, and ensure the Constitution is properly placed as a core working document in the governance structure

(iii)         notes the aim to submit the revised Constitution to Full Council in February 2022

 

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer introduced the report setting out a proposed approach and timeline for the comprehensive review of the council’s Constitution, which Council had asked the Committee to carry out. The Constitution was first approved in 2001 and was based on the original model constitution. Over the years, it had been revised and supplemented in a piecemeal fashion and it had become difficult to navigate and unwieldy, and was not a useful working document for councillors, officers, or the public.

 

Whilst the review would be a major project for officers and the committee, the aim was to bring forward proposals to Council for approval in February 2022.

 

Cllr Hyman spoke on this item. He noted that there was duplication in the current Constitution, and some internal contradictions, as well as it being very lengthy, and therefore addressing these issues would be beneficial. However, he reiterated his previous statements about the need for a ‘duty of candour’ or ‘right to an answer’ to be explicitly set out in the council’s Constitution.

 

The Committee agreed that the Constitution would benefit from a comprehensive review, including consideration of whether all the constituent parts needed to be part of the Constitution. The target date of February 2022 was ambitious, and it was felt that this might need to slip by a month or two depending on progress.

 

The Committee RESOLVED to:

(i)            endorse the objectives for the Constitution review – to produce a Constitution for Waverley that is legally compliant and reflects current standards of good practice; is easy to navigate and to understand who takes decisions and how; and reflects the present values of the council.

(ii)           endorse the revised structure of the Constitution to improve the readability and accessibility for Members, Officers, and the public, and ensure the Constitution is properly placed as the core working document in the governance structure.

(iii)          note the aim to submit the revised Constitution to Full Council in February 2022.