To receive a report from the Monitoring Officer on any matters of relevance to the Committee.
The Deputy Monitoring Officer (DMO) presented the report in the Monitoring Officer’s (MO) absence.
The DMO provided an overview of the Member complaints information set out in the report, which detailed all complaints received by the MO since the introduction of the current standards regime in July 2012.
Initially, the majority of complaints made were between district councillors, with the most common subject matter relating to Member comments made at meetings or in the press. More recently, there had been an increase in complaints made by members of the public (which totalled 35% of the complaints made since 2012) and in complaints made against parish councillors.
The positive input of the Independent Persons and Group Leaders in assisting in the resolution of complaints was noted. All complaints had been resolved locally by the Monitoring Officer without the need for a formal hearing. The new standards regime allowed for far greater flexibility in processing complaints and local resolution was seen to be working well. Members expressed their gratitude for the work of the Independent Persons.
The need for parishes to ensure they had clear processes relating to the conduct of meetings, and that their Members understood the rules surrounding declaration of interests, was noted. Further training on the Code of Conduct for parishes would also be taking place following the 2015 elections.
One of the Parish Councils’ Representatives thanked Officers for the report. He felt that the information contained in this would be helpful to the parishes and requested that a copy be forwarded to the parish councils. Officers advised that all parish council clerks automatically received an email confirming when a Standards Committee agenda had been published on the District Council’s website and providing a link to the agenda. However, given the significance of the information detailed in the report in relation to the increase in complaints received against parish councillors, Officers agreed to email a further copy of the report to the parish clerks.
A Member queried whether it would be possible for Officers to confirm which complaints had been made by members of the public. Officers responded that this issue had previously been discussed by the Committee and it had been agreed that, at present, such information would not be disclosed. At the last meeting however the MO agreed to consider this matter as part of the wider constitution review work which was currently being undertaken. The only instance in which a complainant’s details would be made public were where an Investigating Officer had found in their final report evidence of failure by the subject Member to comply with the Code of Conduct. In response to a further Member query, Officers confirmed that complainants were notified of the outcome of their complaints.
In relation to the re-arranged chairing skills training which had taken place on 16th December 2014, a Member queried whether all Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen had attended this, including the Chairman of the Council. The DMO responded that she did not have attendance details to hand but that she would check the position and report back to Members separately on this.
Constitution Working Group
It was queried whether the Constitution Working Group would be considering the Standards Committee element of the Constitution review prior to the 2015 elections.
The DMO advised that she was unable to give a specific timetable in this regard, but that this was on the list of matters to be considered, and that the Constitution Working Group was due to complete its work in time for any changes to be introduced with effect from the new municipal year.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.