Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping
Contact: Gary Woodhall (The Directorate of Governance) Tel: 01992 564470 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Deputy Monitoring Officer) To report the attendance of any substitute members for the meeting.
The Committee noted that there had been no substitute Members appointed for this meeting.
(Deputy Monitoring Officer) To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 12 October 2015.
(1) That the minutes of the meeting held on 12 October 2015 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
Declarations of Interest
(Deputy Monitoring Officer) To declare interests in any item on the agenda.
There were no declarations of interest pursuant to the Council’s Member Code of Conduct.
Terms of Reference
(Monitoring Officer) To note that the terms of reference for the Committee is as follows:
(a) Promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct by Councillors and Co-Opted Members;
(b) Assisting Councillors and Co-Opted Members to observe the Members’ Code of Conduct;
(c) Advising the Council on the adoption or revision of the Members’ Code of Conduct;
(d) Monitoring the operation of the Members’ Code of Conduct;
(e) Advising, training or arranging to train Councillors and Co-Opted Members on matters relating to the Members’ Code of Conduct;
(f) Considering dispensations to Councillors and Co-Opted Members (including Parish and Town Councillors) from requirements relating to interests set out in the Members’ Code of Conduct;
(g) Dealing with any reports referred from or on behalf of the Monitoring Officer on any matter, including investigations relating to Councillor conduct;
(h) The exercise of (a) to (g) above in relation to the Parish Councils wholly or mainly in its area and the members of those Parish Councils either directly or through joint arrangements from time to time agreed; and
(i) Adjudication on complaints regarding the operation of District Council protocols annexed to the Constitution.
The Committee noted its current Terms of Reference.
(Monitoring Officer) To consider the attached report (STD-002-2015/16).
The Monitoring Officer presented a report on the proposed Terms of Reference for a merged Audit & Standards Committee.
The Monitoring Officer advised the Committee that many local authorities had combined their Audit and Standards Committees, especially as the workload of the Standards Committee had dwindled in recent years since the introduction of the Localism Act 2011. The proposal was to combine the Standards Committee with the Audit & Governance Committee and have a combined Terms of Reference that followed good practice from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA). The Committee was reassured that there were no new functions in the proposed Terms of Reference that were not already being performed by one of the two Committees.
The Monitoring Officer reminded the Committee that it had had more issues to deal with in the past, but the Localism Act 2011 had delegated authority to the Monitoring Officer to deal with Member behaviour issues and report the outcomes to the Standards Committee. And although it still had a role in examining and commenting upon protocols and procedures, it was felt that it no longer had enough business to merit being a separate Committee - three of the scheduled six meetings in the previous 18 months had been cancelled due to a lack of business. There would be a standing item on each agenda of the new Committee for Standards issues to be discussed, and this approach had worked well at other Councils.
The Monitoring Officer reported that a number of other Councils had combined their Audit and Standards Committees, including Harlow District Council and Broxbourne Borough Council with whom the Council had a shared Chief Internal Auditor. The reasons for this being low complaint activity following the implementation of the Localism Act 2011, and the similarities and synergies as both Committees dealt with issues concerning governance, probity and the transparency of processes. This issue had been considered by the Audit & Governance Committee at its meeting on 30 November 2015, who had welcomed the report and had agreed the merger in principle as they felt that it would be more efficient. If the Standards Committee was in agreement then final approval for the merger would need to be sought from the Council.
The Monitoring Officer informed the Committee of the comments received from Parish Cllr Whybrow, who had been unable to attend the meeting. She had suggested that Standards issues be scheduled at the beginning of the agenda, so that Parish and Town Council representatives could excuse themselves from the rest of the meeting when that item had been dealt with, and the Monitoring Officer agreed that this would be a sensible course of action.
Cllr Stallan stated that he had not supported the merger of the two Committees last year, and that nothing had changed his opinion since then. He emphasised that a number of Committees had meetings cancelled on a regular basis due to a lack of business, but that did not mean they should be considered for dissolution. Cllr ... view the full minutes text for item 24.
Allegations Made about the Conduct of District and Parish/Town Councillors
(Monitoring Officer) To consider the attached schedule showing the current position of active cases.
The Monitoring Officer reported that there were no outstanding issues in relation to the conduct of District and Town/Parish Councillors to bring to the attention of the Committee.
The Committee noted that the new processes arising from the Localism Act 2011 for dealing with such issues were working well.
Dates of Future Meetings
(Monitoring Officer) The calendar for 2015/16 provides for further meetings of the Committee on 25 April 2016.
The Committee noted that a further meeting had been scheduled for 25 April 2016 before the end of the 2015/16 municipal year.
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:
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:
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.
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.
The Committee noted that there were no issues arising from the Allegations Made about the Conduct of District and Town/Parish Councillors which necessitated the exclusion of the public and press from the meeting.