The Standards Committee is requested to consider the agenda report and its appendix and to recommend to the Council that the Council’s Arrangements for Dealing with Standards Allegations under the Localism Act 2011 is amended as shown in the appendix and that the Monitoring Officer is given all delegated powers specified therein.
The SC considered (a) the agenda report written by the Monitoring Officer and the appendix thereto namely the proposed amendments to CDC’s Arrangements for Dealing with Standards Allegations under the Localism Act 2011 circulated with the agenda and (b) a revised version of the appendix containing further changes resulting from a discussion between Mrs Hardwick and the Monitoring Officer (copies of (a) and (b) attached to the official minutes).
Miss Golding presented the agenda report and the revised version of the proposed amendments appendix.
Miss Golding pointed out that the date in the top right-hand corner of the first page of the revised appendix should be altered to read ’10.09.15’ instead of ’27.08.15’.
Miss Golding first of all summarised the statistics set out in paras 5.1 to 5.3 inclusive.
With respect to the proposed amendments, Miss Golding highlighted the following:
(1) The addition of a sentence in the penultimate para of section 3 of the Arrangements stating that a copy of any response made by the subject member would be sent to the complainant (paras 5.8 and 5.9 of the report refer). The right to see such responses had recently been raised by a complainant after her complaint had been considered by the Assessment Sub-Committee (ASC) although the Monitoring Officer was already mindful of the case for making this reform. This would give the complainant the right of reply prior to the initial assessment.
(2) The main change was to include a new section 4 dealing with validation. The rationale for this was addressed in paras 5.4 to 5.7 inclusive of the report; the text had been refined as a result of a discussion between Miss Golding and Mrs Hardwick. The aim of the validation section was to avoid the complaints procedure being invoked in respect of the exchange of views, comments and opinions during the conduct of Council-related business eg at a Planning Committee meeting. It was not, however, intended to exclude complaints about how a member eg the chairman of a planning committee was alleged to have treated someone during a meeting. The incorporation of the validation section would avoid the need for the Monitoring Officer in those cases to have to consult an independent person.
(3) In the newly numbered section 5 (previously 4) – there was the need for consequential renumbering throughout the document as a result of the new validation section - there were some general textual refinements and an additional (fourth) potential reason for the Monitoring Officer deciding that a complaint should not proceed to the ASC stage. As stated in the Arrangements the list was not exhaustive.
(4) In Appendix 3 (Hearings Procedure) to the Arrangements the final sentence of the second para within the ‘The Hearing Sub-Committee’ (HSC) section was deleted in order to remove the bar on the same independent person being involved at both the ASC and HSC stages. There had been no such bar in the case of the parish representative.
Mrs Hardwick referred to the standards training session that had immediately preceded this meeting. As a result of a suggestion that had been made then, the re-numbered para 9 should be altered as follows:
(a) In sub-para 9.4 the possible situation of the group leader being the subject member needed to be addressed and
(b) In sub-para 9.5 the possible situation of the Leader of the Council being the subject member needed to be addressed.
The SC unanimously agreed that:
(a) In the first line of sub-para 9.4 the word ‘leader’ between ‘group’ and ‘’or’ should be deleted and
(b) After the final word of sub-para 9.5 ie ‘responsibilities’ a comma should be inserted and then the following words supplied: ‘or if the subject member is the Leader of the Council, recommend to the Council that the Leader be removed from office in accordance with Article 7 of Part 2 of the Constitution.’
Mr Jarvis suggested that the use of ‘she’ in the first and second lines of the new section 4 (Validation) should be avoided and be replaced by ‘the Monitoring Officer’ in each case. The SC unanimously agreed that this change should be made.
Mrs Purnell suggested that in the penultimate para of the re-numbered section 5 of the Arrangements the word ‘and’ after ‘police’ in the second line should be replaced with ‘and/or’. The SC unanimously agreed that this change should be made.
Miss Golding responded to questions on points of details. She confirmed that the number of parish councillor complaints was significant, in the region of 50%. She explained the rationale for qualifying the extent to which complaints relating to the planning process could be entertained as code of conduct complaints. It was specifically not the intention to prohibit complaints which alleged a breach of the general obligations set out in the Code of Conduct (para 2 of Part 2). Alleged misbehaviour amounting to, say, disrespect and/or bullying could be entertained but not complaints about the underlying merits of a Council process or a statement of fact or opinion.
RECOMMENDATION TO THE COUNCIL
That the Standards Committee recommends to the Council that Chichester District Council’s Arrangements for Dealing with Standards Allegations under the Localism Act 2011 is amended as shown in the revised draft version appended to the agenda report and with the further amendments agreed above and that the Monitoring Officer is given all delegated powers specified therein.