Agenda and minutes

Standards Committee
Thursday, 2nd February, 2012 7.30 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping

Contact: G Lunnun (The Office of the Chief Executive)  Tel: 01992 564244 Email:  glunnun@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

MEMBERSHIP OF THE COMMITTEE

(Monitoring Officer) To welcome new members to the Committee – Councillor Ann Mitchell, MBE (District Council Appointee) and Councillor Chris Pond (Parish/Town Council Representative nominated by the Essex Association of Local Councils – Epping Forest Branch).

 

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed Councillor Chris Pond (Parish/Town Council representative nominated by the Essex Association of Local Councils – Epping Forest Branch) to his first meeting of the Standards Committee.

 

The Chairman advised that the District Council had appointed Councillor Ann Mitchell MBE as a new member to the Committee but she was unable to be present at this meeting.

 

2.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

Minutes:

Pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct, Town Councillor Chris Pond declared a personal interest in agenda item 5 (Localism Act 2011 – New Standards Regime) by virtue of being a member of the Essex County Council and Essex Fire Authority Joint Standards Committee and in agenda item 8 (Allegations made about the conduct of District and Parish/Town Councillors) by virtue of being a member of Loughton Town Council.  The Councillor advised that he had determined that his interests were not prejudicial and that he would remain in the meeting for the consideration of the matters.

 

3.

LOCALISM ACT 2011 - NEW STANDARDS REGIME pdf icon PDF 79 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report describing the changes and actions required for the Council to implement the regulation of standards of conduct for elected and co-opted members introduced in the Localism Act 2011.  Members noted that the date for implementation of the required changes would be 1 July 2012 but that from 31 January 2012 Standards for England had ceased to operate its regulatory functions and would be abolished no later than 31 March 2012.

 

The Committee was advised that Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011 (Sections 26-37) dealt with standards issues.  Members noted that the Act repealed Section 55 of the Local Government Act 2000 which provided for the current statutory Standards Committee.  As a result in future there would be no requirement for a Standards Committee but the District Council would have to decide whether to deal with standards issues and casework through a discretionary local Standards Committee or some other forum.  If a Standards Committee was established it would be a normal Committee of the Council and as a result would comprise members of the District Council only with the composition governed by proportionality. 

 

The Deputy Monitoring Officer reported that a new category of Independent Person had been created under the Act who had to be consulted at various stages of a complaints process.  The Independent Person could be invited to attend meetings of the Standards Committee but could not be co-opted onto the Committee.  The current co-opted Independent members of the Committee would cease to hold office and would be unable to serve as new Independent Persons for the District Council for five years. 

 

The Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that the District Council would continue to have responsibility for dealing with standards complaints against elected and co-opted members of Parish Councils but the current Parish Council representatives on the Committee would cease to hold office.  The District Council could choose whether to involve Parish Council representatives and, if so, it would need to determine how many Parish Council representatives there should be.

 

The Committee noted that in summary there was a choice between:

 

(a)        establishing a Standards Committee as a Committee of the District Council with co-opted but non voting Parish Council representatives (who could then make recommendations in respect of Parish Council members);  or

 

(b)                           establishing a Standards Committee as a Joint Committee with some or all Parish Councils which would have a set number of Parish Council representatives as voting members on the Committee (thus being able to take decisions in respect of Parish Council members and subject to Parish Councils having delegated such powers to the Joint Committee); and

 

(c)        arranging for standards issues to be dealt with by the Monitoring Officer or in some other forum, eg. the existing Audit and Governance Committee.

 

The Committee also discussed the possibility of Parish Councils or a group of Parish Councils having their own Standards Committee.

 

The Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that many of the discretionary features of the new standards arrangements were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

LOCALISM ACT 2011 - BRIEFING ON NEW STANDARDS REGIME - 11 FEBRUARY 2012

(Deputy Monitoring Officer) Attention is drawn to this course being held in the Council Chamber on 11 February 2012 from 10.00am until 12 noon The course is suitable for District Councillors, Parish/Town Councillors and Independent Members of the Standards Committee.

 

It will provide an outline of the statutory provisions and highlight those matters on which the District Council and Parish/Town Councils will have to address in the coming months.

 

Reference will also be made to the Act’s provisions regarding “predetermination” of decisions by members in decision making.

Minutes:

The attention of the Committee was drawn to a course being held in the Council Chamber on 11 February 2012 from 10.00 a.m. until 12.00 noon.  Members noted that the course was suitable for District Councillors, Parish/Town Councillors and Independent members of the Standards Committee.  The Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that the course would provide an outline of the statutory provisions and highlight those matters on which the District Council and Parish/Town Councils would have to address in the coming months.  Reference would also being made to the  provisions in the Localism Act 2011 regarding “pre-determination” of decisions by members in decision-making.

 

5.

INVESTIGATIONS UNDERTAKEN BY THE MONITORING OFFICER AND DEPUTY MONITORING OFFICER FOR OTHER AUTHORITIES

(Monitoring Officer) To receive an oral report on two investigations undertaken for other authorities.

Minutes:

The Committee was advised that as part of reciprocal arrangements in Essex to avoid the expense of external investigations, the Monitoring Officer and the Deputy Monitoring Officer had undertaken investigations for other authorities.  The Monitoring Officer reported that she had undertaken an investigation in relation to a Harlow District councillor which had resulted on assessment in no further action being taken.  The Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that he had undertaken an investigation for Basildon District Council and was currently awaiting to hear from that authority following the submission of his report.

 

6.

ALLEGATIONS MADE ABOUT THE CONDUCT OF DISTRICT AND PARISH/TOWN COUNCILLORS pdf icon PDF 28 KB

(Monitoring Officer) To consider the attached schedule showing the current position of active cases.

 

Minutes:

The Committee received a schedule regarding current allegations made about the conduct of District and Parish/Town Councillors.

 

7.

DATES OF FUTURE MEETINGS

(Monitoring Officer) The next scheduled meeting is on 19 April 2012.

 

The calendar for 2012/13 provides for meetings of the Committee on 28 June 2012, 2 October 2012, 13 December 2012 and 28 March 2013.

 

Additional meetings can be arranged as and when required by the Committee.

Minutes:

The Committee noted that the District Council’s calendar for 2011/12 provided for a meeting of the Committee on 19 April 2012.

 

Members also noted that the calendar for 2012/13 provided for meetings of the Committee on 28 June 2012, 2 October 2012, 13 December 2012 and 28 March 2013 but these dates might have to be revised in view of the new regime to be introduced from 1 July 2012.

 

8.

EXCLUSION OF PUBLIC AND PRESS

To consider whether, under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press should be excluded from the meeting for the items of business set out below on grounds that they will involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the paragraph(s) of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act indicated:

 

 

Agenda Item No

Subject

Exempt Information Paragraph Number

11

Allegations made about the Conduct of District and Parish/Town Councillors – Issues Arising

1

To resolve that the press and public be excluded from the meeting during the consideration of the following items which are confidential under Section 100(A)(2) of the Local Government Act 1972:

 

Agenda Item No

Subject

Nil

Nil

 

Paragraph 9 of the Council Procedure Rules contained in the Constitution require:

 

(1)       All business of the Council requiring to be transacted in the presence of the press and public to be completed by 10.00 p.m. at the latest.

 

(2)       At the time appointed under (1) above, the Chairman shall permit the completion of debate on any item still under consideration, and at his or her discretion, any other remaining business whereupon the Council shall proceed to exclude the public and press.

 

(3)       Any public business remaining to be dealt with shall be deferred until after the completion of the private part of the meeting, including items submitted for report rather than decision.

 

Background Papers:  Paragraph 8 of the Access to Information Procedure Rules of the Constitution define background papers as being documents relating to the subject matter of the report which in the Proper Officer's opinion:

 

(a)       disclose any facts or matters on which the report or an important part of the report is based;  and

 

(b)       have been relied on to a material extent in preparing the report does not include published works or those which disclose exempt or confidential information (as defined in Rule 10) and in respect of executive reports, the advice of any political advisor.

 

Inspection of background papers may be arranged by contacting the officer responsible for the item.

 

Minutes:

            RESOLVED:

 

That, in accordance with Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press be excluded from the meeting for the item of business set out below as it would involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the paragraph of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act indicated and the exemption is considered to outweigh the potential public interest in disclosing the information:

 

Agenda                                                                     Exempt Information

Item No.         Subject                                              Paragraph Number

 

11                    Allegations made about the                         1

                        Conduct of District and Parish/Town

                        Councillors – Issues Aarising.

 

9.

ALLEGATIONS MADE ABOUT THE CONDUCT OF DISTRICT AND PARISH/TOWN COUNCILLORS - ISSUES ARISING

(Monitoring Officer) To discuss issues arising, if any, from Sub-Committee meetings held since the last meeting of the Standards Committee.

Minutes:

The Committee considered the schedule regarding current allegations made about the conduct of District and Parish/Town Councillors.  Members discussed the possible outcome of those cases under the proposed new regime.