Agenda and minutes

Standards Committee - Monday, 25th January, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Via Teams

Contact: Lorraine Davis  Email:

No. Item


Roll Call and Apologies for Absence

To carry out a roll call and receive any apologies for absence.



All of the above members and officers were present at the meeting.



Exclusion of Press and Public

To consider whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting during consideration of any items of business on the agenda.



RESOLVED,that the press and public be not excluded from the meeting during consideration of any item on the agenda.



Declarations of Interest

Members are invited to disclose any disclosable pecuniary interest they have in any item on the agenda which comprises


1          Details of any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.


2          Details of any payment or provision of any other financial benefit (other than from the authority) made or provided within the relevant period in respect of any expenses incurred by you in carrying out duties as a member, or towards your election expenses.  (This includes any payment or financial benefit from a trade union within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.


3          Details of any contract which is made between you (or a body in which you have a beneficial interest) and the authority


(a)       Under which goods or services are to be provided or works are to be executed; and


            (b)       Which has not been fully discharged.


4          Details of any beneficial interest in land which is within the area of the authority. 


5          Details of any licence (alone or jointly with others) to occupy land in the area of the authority for a month or longer. 


6          Details of any tenancy where (to your knowledge)


            (a)       The landlord is the authority; and


            (b)       The tenant is a body in which you have a beneficial interest.


7          Details of any beneficial interest in securities of a body where


(a)       That body (to your knowledge) has a place of business or land in the area of the authority; and


(b)       Either –


(i)      The total nominal value of the securities exceeds £25,000 or one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that body; or


(ii)     If that share capital of that body is of more than one class, the total nominal value of the shares of any one class in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest exceeds one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that class.


In addition, you must also disclose other non-pecuniary interests set out in the Code of Conduct where these have not already been registered.




A “disclosable pecuniary interest” is an interest of a councillor or their partner (which means spouse or civil partner, a person with whom they are living as husband or wife, or a person with whom they are living as if they are civil partners).



There were no disclosures of interest on this occasion.



Minutes pdf icon PDF 63 KB

To confirm as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 29 October 2019 (copy enclosed).



RESOLVED,that the minutes of the meeting held on 29 October 2019 be agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.



LGA Model Code of Conduct pdf icon PDF 92 KB

To consider a report by the Monitoring Officer (copy enclosed).


Additional documents:


Members received a report on the Model Code of Conduct published at the end of 2020 by the Local Government Association (LGA) for adoption by local authorities.


The Monitoring Officer outlined the background to the Model Code of Conduct.  It was noted that in 2019 the LGA initiated a “Civility in Public Life” work programme to address growing concern in the level of toxicity of debate and public intimidation on democratic processes, particularly at local level.  The work programme included a review of the member Code of Conduct in response to the concerns and recommendations made in the 2019 report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s (CSPL) review of Local Government Ethical Standards. 


Members noted that the LGA had issued the new model Code in December 2020 after wide consultation, the main provisions of which were highlighted at the meeting.  Members noted the new model Code was non statutory and could be adapted in whole or in part by local authorities.  It was further noted that in 2011, the authorities in Cumbria adopted a single Code of Conduct and the Cumbria Monitoring Officers would meet on 28 January 2021 to consider the new model Code and the possibility of working together on whether this could be adopted across the county.


Members were invited to provide early comment on the new Code of Conduct as part of the consultation process.  The draft Code would be considered by the Cumbria Monitoring Officers, senior members from each of the Council’s main political groups, the members’ development group and senior officers prior to recommendations being made to full Council. 


In discussion, members supported the model Code of Conduct but questioned whether the specification to declare gifts and hospitality in excess of £50 was a reasonable threshold and felt that the current level of £100 was more appropriate.  A question was also raised on the necessity to declare gifts and hospitality that had been offered but refused.  Members welcomed the standards setting out expected behaviour, treating people with respect, not bullying, harassing or unlawfully discriminating and a short discussion took place around other legislation in place covering these issues.


Members sought clarity on non-registrable interests where a matter affected a member’s financial interest or wellbeing, or that of a friend, relative or close associate.  The Monitoring Officer advised that it re-introduced interests that were described as “prejudicial interests” prior to the Localism Act 2011 and agreed that more consideration could be given to this. 


Members were thanked for their considerations and assured that they would be taken into account in the next stage of consultation.


RESOLVED,that, subject to the comments made, the Committee supported the new model Code of Conduct.



Recruitment of Independent Persons pdf icon PDF 107 KB

To consider a report by the Monitoring Officer (copy enclosed).


Additional documents:


Members received a report advising on the steps taken by the Monitoring Officer to recruit Independent Persons under the Standards regime and were invited to comment on the Monitoring Officer’s recruitment proposals.


The Monitoring Officer reported that the appointment of the Independent Person was a statutory requirement under the Localism Act 2011 and the Council needed to appoint new Independent Persons before the end of July 2021.  Members noted that the Monitoring Officer had reviewed the Council’s processes and updated the role profile and person specification for Independent Person role in line with the January 2019 recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.  It was noted that the CSPL recommended that there should be at least two Independent Persons, to support the management of potential conflicts on interest in advising different people involved in a complaint.


In discussion, members recognised the importance of the role and noted the difficulties in recruiting to it.  It was suggested to involve the Council’s Communications Team and utilising Parish Council noticeboards to advertise these positions at community level.  It was further suggested that an allowance be attached to the position.  The Monitoring Officer reported on the training arrangements put in place for Independent Persons. 


The Monitoring Officer thanked members for their input and agreed to take their suggestions into consideration.


RESOLVED,that the proposals for recruitment of two independent persons and the recruitment process, taking into account the suggestions made above, be agreed.



Protocol for Dealing with Complaints About The Conduct of Members of Cumbria County Council pdf icon PDF 92 KB

To consider a report by the Monitoring Officer (copy enclosed).


Additional documents:


Members received a report which presented a draft revised protocol for how the Council would deal with complaints against elected and co-opted members of the County Council.


The Monitoring Officer reported that at the Standards Committee on 24 April 2019 had received a report on the Council’s implementation of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) best practice recommendations, which included a proposal to revise the Council’s member complaints protocol.  The CSPL had made several best practice recommendations about local authority arrangements for dealing with complaints about member conduct and these were set out in the report.


Members noted that the revised draft protocol incorporated the CSPL’s best practice recommendations and generally updated the Council’s arrangements and, if approved, the revised protocol would be published on the Council’s website, together with guidance to citizens generally about how to make a complaint and how it would be handled, including indicative timescales.


Members welcomed the draft protocol and noted that it had last been reviewed three years ago.  It was agreed that reviews of this protocol be undertaken every four years, to coincide with County Council elections.  It was confirmed that further reviews could take place if necessary within that timescale.  The Monitoring Officer agreed to clarify the wording in the Hearing of the Standards Committee section of the protocol and add a further footnote to specify consultation with a suitable Deputy in the absence of a Group Leader.




(1)  subject to clarification of the wording outlined above and the addition of the footnote, the revised draft protocol for dealing with complaints about the conduct of its elected and co-opted members be approved;


(2)  a review of the protocol takes place every four years, to coincide with County Council elections, not preventing further reviews if necessary within that timescale.



Monitoring Officer Update pdf icon PDF 104 KB

To consider a report by the Monitoring Officer (copy enclosed).



The Monitoring Officer presented a report on complaints about breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct received since its last meeting on 29 October 2019. 


Members noted that in the year April 2019 to March 2020, eleven matters had been raised with the Monitoring Officer, which were now all complete.  For the year April 2020 to March 2021, Member were informed that eleven matters had been raised of which ten were complete.  It was explained that four had not been pursued after the potential claimant was asked to complete the standard complaint form and one complaint was referred to the Town Council as it related to issues within the remit of the individual acting in their capacity as a town councillor.  Another was in respect of a member having a disclosable pecuniary interest, however the complainant had been mistaken and the decision referred to had been an officer decision therefore this complaint was not pursued as a Code of Conduct complaint.


The Monitoring Officer advised that of the four complaints that were dealt with under the protocol, three were not upheld as following enquiries there was no or insufficient evidence that a breach of the Code of Conduct had occurred, one complaint was brought to an informal resolution with the member offering an apology and the final complaint was still in progress.


It was recognised that conduct on social media was an issue.  The Monitoring Officer confirmed that a social media protocol was in place and would be included in the work being undertaken to update the members’ advice webpage in preparation for induction following the elections.


It was further recognised that few complaints were received in relation to the size of the organisation and councillors maintained high standards of ethical conduct.


RESOLVED, that the report be noted.



Date of Next Meeting

To note that the next meeting will take place on 26 April 2021 at 10 am.



The next meeting of the Standards Committee will be held on 26 April 2021 at 10.00 am.