Agenda and minutes

Standards Committee (this Committee has now been combined wit the Audit, Standrds and Governance Committee and no longer meets) - Wednesday 28th November 2012 6.00 p.m.

Venue: The Council House, Burcot Lane, Bromsgrove. View directions

Contact: Debbie Parker-Jones 

No. Item


Apologies for absence


An apology for absence was received from Councillor Dr. B. T. Cooper.


Declarations of Interest


No declarations of interest were received.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 54 KB


The minutes of the meeting of the Standards Committee held on 25th July 2012 were submitted.


Mr. Cypher commented that the third paragraph of Minute No. 5/12 (Minutes) should read West Midlands County Associations of Local Councils (Associations in the plural).


RESOLVED that, subject to the amendment detailed in the preamble above, the minutes be approved as a correct record.


Monitoring Officer's Report pdf icon PDF 84 KB

[To receive a report from the Monitoring Officer on any matters of relevance to the Committee.]



The Deputy Monitoring Officer (DMO) introduced the Monitoring Officer's (MO's) Report and, in doing so, advised Members that all of the Register of Members' Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) forms received had been published on the District Council's website, in accordance with the requirements laid out in section 29 of the Localism Act.


Regarding the appointments of Mr. Mel Nock and Ms. Debbie Jinks as Independent Persons under the new standards regime, it was noted that the MO had already been working with Mr. Nock on complaint matters.


It was queried whether the Committee would have the opportunity of meeting the IPs.  Officers advised that it had been hoped that Mr. Nock would be present to observe the meeting that evening but that local traffic problems may have prevented this.  Ms. Jinks had still to receive her induction into the role, which had been delayed as a consequence of Officers having been busy and Ms. Jinks currently being on maternity leave. 


In relation to Member training, Officers confirmed that Councillors Dr. Booth and Mallett had, earlier that evening, completed the requisite mandatory training in order to sit on the Committee.  


The issue of Council and committee meetings no longer being tape recorded was raised, particularly in relation to the new criminal element associated with Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and any consequential legal implications for Police and/or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) involvement.  Members queried whether this was a temporary situation and whether the new Council building would have recording equipment installed.


The MO responded that Full Council had made the decision to no longer record meetings, and that a separate decision would need to be made further down the line as to whether recording equipment should be installed at the new Council premises.  The function limitations and unreliability of the previous equipment at the Council House were noted, together with the financial implications of replacing the equipment.  As the previous equipment failed to work on some occasions it could not be relied upon.


Regarding Police/CPS implications, the MO stated that tape recordings were likely to be inadmissible as these could be tampered with.  The MO added that she did not think the absence of tape recorded meetings would affect the position as the minute taking at meetings would become more detailed.



(a)       that the contents of the report be noted; and

(b)       that any required actions arising from the points detailed in the report and the preamble above be acted upon, as appropriate.


Parish Councils' Representatives' Report

[To receive an oral report from the Parish Councils' Representatives on any matters of relevance to the Committee.]



Mr. Cypher reported that the Democratic Services Officer (DSO) for Standards had attended the last Bromsgrove Area Meeting of the Worcestershire County Association of Local Councils.  The DSO had advised at the meeting of a temporary technical issue regarding the Register of Members' Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) forms which had been published on the District Council's website, the problem for which had subsequently been rectified.


Mr. Cypher reiterated the Parish Councils' concerns at the lack of current voting rights afforded to Parish Council Representatives on standards committees under the new regime.  He added that the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) was continuing to lobby Government in this regard and that it was hoped a meeting to discuss this would take place between NALC and Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) officials at some point in the future, which Mr. Cypher undertook to keep the Committee updated on.


RESOLVED that the position be noted.


Localism Act 2011 - New Standards Regime - Dispensations and Complaints Processes pdf icon PDF 71 KB

[To consider the granting of general dispensations under s33 of the Localism Act 2011, the processes for the investigation, reporting and recording of complaints made against Members and the process for local hearings.]


Additional documents:


The Committee considered a report on the granting of general dispensations under s33 of the Localism Act 2011 and under the Members' Code of Conduct, to enable Members to participate and vote on matters under consideration at meetings in certain circumstances.  The report also sought approval of guidelines for both the conduct of investigations into allegations of breach of the Members' Code of Conduct, and of a Hearing following such an investigation.  Members' views were also sought on the management and investigation of complaints and when information in this regard should be made public.  


An apology was made by Officers for the initial error with the Portfolio Holders name as denoted in the report.  Officers had contacted the correct Portfolio Holder and Leader of the Opposition and amended the website details as soon as the error had come to light.


(i)  Dispensations


Officers explained that there had been some debate nationally as to whether such dispensations were required.  Following discussions with County colleagues it was felt that there was some ambiguity in this regard and that it was therefore best to bring this to Members should any issues arise in this regard in the future. 


The Monitoring Officer (MO) explained that blanket dispensations no longer applied under the Localism Act and Members who may have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (DPI) in a matter under consideration, and who would therefore otherwise be precluded from participating and voting on the matter, were now required to make a written request for dispensation.  Full Council had delegated to the Standards Committee the consideration of whether to grant a dispensation, and rather than taking each individual request for dispensation to the Committee the MO was seeking Members' approval for general dispensations to be granted in certain circumstances.


The MO considered that general dispensations might be required where the business of a meeting was the setting of Council Tax and Members' Allowances.  In order to satisfy this requirement it was proposed that the MO would circulate to all members of the Council a request form seeking such dispensations.  Officers advised that, with the Group Leaders' approval, they would likely draft a single form for all Members to sign prior to consideration of the budget.


Subject to the Committee's approval of the grant of general dispensations in the circumstances outlined, and on receipt of a written request from a Member for dispensation, the dispensations would take effect until the first Standards Committee meeting following the District Council Elections in 2015. 


The Committee approved the granting of general dispensations in the above circumstances, save for Councillor Braley who requested that it be recorded that he had voted against this. 


The Committee's approval was also sought on the grant of a general dispensation where a Member with a DPI in a matter under consideration could address Council and committees in circumstances where a member of the public may elect to speak.  Such an exemption had applied under the previous standards regime but had not transferred under the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 73 KB

[To consider the future Work Programme of the Committee.]



Members considered the future Work Programme of the Committee.


Officers advised that the Calendar of Meetings for the 2013/14 Municipal Year (from May 2013 onwards) was currently being drawn up and that this would hopefully be finalised early in 2013. 


RESOLVED that the Work Programme be approved.