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In the absence of the Chair it was agreed that Mr L Fisher be elected Chair for this meeting only.
Apologies for Absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Mr F Cassidy, Dr S Haraldsen, Mrs C McCarron-Holmes (Mr A McGuckin attended in her absence) and Mr S Sim.
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 admitted to the meeting for all items of business.
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.
To confirm as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 27 April 2018
(copy to follow).
RESOLVED, that the Minutes of the meeting held on 27 April 2018 be agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
To receive a report from the Monitoring Officer (copy enclosed).
A report from the Monitoring Officer was received which updated Members on the report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) on Local Government Ethical Standards which had been published in January 2019. The report presented the outcome of the Committee’s review of the effectiveness of the changes to the local government standards regime introduced by the Localism Act 2011. It was noted that the County Council had responded to the consultation process.
The Committee concluded that most councillors and officers maintain high standards of ethical conduct. The Monitoring Officer made members aware the CSPL were recommending bullying and harassment by Members be incorporated into Code of Conducts. She reported that following a recent reported court decision, it was clear that, where an allegation of bullying and harassment is against a member, it must be dealt with under the Members’ Code of Conduct and could not be dealt with under other Council policies.
Members noted that in total, 26 recommendations were contained in the report, mainly covering three broad areas:- the Code of Conduct, Investigations and Corporate Governance and Leadership. In discussion, it was agreed that most of the 15 Best Practices outlined in the report could be looked at now. The CSPL would be reviewing implementation in 2020. It was explained that the Code of Conduct would be reviewed following guidance received from the LGA but primary legislation by the Government was needed for many of the report’s findings. The Committee were informed that a further report would be brought to the Standards Committee once the LGA guidance had been received and reviewed by the Monitoring Officer.
The Committee were informed that with regard to Investigations, the Monitoring Officer had attended a meeting of the Cumbria Monitoring Officers’ Group which would be taking some of the recommended Best Practices forward. It had been agreed that the authorities’ Independent Persons could be utilised across the county if necessary. The difficulty in recruiting Independent Persons was discussed, and the Monitoring Officer agreed to review and start the recruitment process. The recommendation on Independent Persons having to be consulted before an investigation was highlighted as it was felt that this would provide an extra level of protection.
Following a question on Corporate Governance and Leadership, the Monitoring Officer agreed to review the current arrangements in place with Group Leaders.
It was noted that the District Councils operate under the same Code of Conduct for Members which complied with legislation. It was highlighted that the County Council’s Code also included prejudicial interests. The Cumbria Monitoring Officer Group was looking to standardise the codes as a number of members were also members of district and parish councils.
Members expressed concern about the length of time it would take Government to legislate. The Monitoring Officer advised that no specific timescale had been given by the LGA for the refreshed guidance on the Code of Conduct, but she anticipated up to 12 months.
Further to a question from the Independent Person, the Monitoring Officer ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
To receive a report from the Monitoring Officer (copy enclosed).
The Committee received an update report from the Monitoring Officer on complaints received since changes were made to the procedure for investigation of complaints regarding breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
Members were informed that since the implementation of the agreed protocol nine matters had been raised to date with the Monitoring Officer. She explained that three had not been pursued after the potential complainant had been asked to complete the standard form, three were for the District Council to handle, one was resolved informally prior to the submission of a form, one did not relate to Members and the final matter was rejected by the Monitoring Officer as the completed form did not contain sufficient information to enable investigation of the complaint.
In discussion of the report, it was noted that the Council had an open and transparent complaints procedure which was easily accessible for members of the public on the Cumbria County Council website. The Monitoring Officer explained that extra support was provided if necessary.
In discussion, the Monitoring Officer agreed to revisit the submission of an Annual Monitoring Officer report to Council. Members discussed the usefulness of looking at statistical trends that may highlight emerging standards issues. It was further agreed that a statistical comparison report on complaint numbers be submitted to the next meeting.
Appended to the report was the adopted Protocol with Cumbria Constabulary which explained the procedure when monitoring officers referred complaints about alleged criminal offences under the Localism Act 2011 (failure to register and/or declare disclosable pecuniary interests). During discussion of this, the Monitoring Officer agreed to inform Members by email who would undertake this role in the Police Force.
The Monitoring Officer informed members that a new protocol had been adopted to deal with complaints against the Police and Crime Commissioner but confirmed this process did not involve the Independent Person.
1) the report be noted;
2) the Monitoring Officer revisit submission of an Annual Monitoring Officer Report to Council;
3) the Monitoring Officer produce a statistical report on complaints to the next meeting.
Date and Time of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Standards Committee is due to take place on 5 July 2019, at 10.00 am at Cumbria House, Carlisle.
The next Meeting of the Standards Committee would be held on 5 July 2019 at 10.00 am at Cumbria House, Carlisle.