To receive an oral report from the Parish Councils’ Representatives on any matters of relevance to the Committee.
Mr Cypher advised that immediately following the last meeting of the Standards Committee he had written to the Parish Council Clerks regarding emerging complaint trends and the increased number of complaints that had been made against parish councillors, and seeking any views from the parishes on the reporting of Members complaints, as discussed at the October meeting.
Mr Cypher had not received any responses from the parishes for the Monitoring Officer (MO) to feed into the Constitution Working Group, however the issues had at least been brought to the parishes’ attention. Unfortunately, the majority of the time at the December meeting of the Bromsgrove Area Committee of the Worcestershire County Association of Local Councils (CALC) had been taken up with planning questions to the District Council’s Head of Planning and Regeneration. Mr Cypher confirmed that he would therefore be taking these issues to the next CALC meeting in March.
In relation to the Standards Committee’s Terms of Reference which were appended to the Work Programme at Agenda Item 6, Mr Cypher queried whether point i. of these was correct in stating that only points g and h applied to parish councils. Mr Cypher stated his understanding that all categories applied to the parishes and commented that clarification on this might be sought as part of the constitution review. He added that if Code of Conduct training was due to take place for the parishes following the 2015 elections it would be helpful for the Standards Committee’s remit to be made clear. Mr Cypher also expressed a view that when the Monitoring Officer was due to write to the parish councils in relation to the Code of Conduct training, it be highlighted that attendance at the training should be more than optional, particularly in view of the increased number of complaints which had been received against parish councillors.
The Deputy Monitoring Officer (DMO) stated that the Terms of Reference were correct and that only sections g and h applied to parish councils in terms of legislative requirements. Whilst the Monitoring Officer and other Officers worked closely with the parish councils on standards-related matters, and to this end had forged good working relationships with the parishes, and whilst a generic Code of Conduct had for the most part been agreed between the district and parish councils, only certain elements of the standards regime were mandatory for parish councils under the Localism Act 2011. Although the Monitoring Officer aimed to provide support, assistance and training to the parishes, both she and the Standards Committee only had remit for certain statutory functions in relation to the parish councils and could only act within those powers.
Members agreed that it would be helpful to add some general wording to the document incorporating the Standards Committee’s Terms of Reference to make clear any statutory role of the Committee in relation to the parish councils, and to distinguish between statutory or other functions carried out by the Monitoring Officer or the Committee in the promotion of good working practices between the District and parish councils.
(a) that the report be noted; and
(b) the Standards Committee Terms of Reference document be updated to make clear any statutory role of the Committee in relation to the parish councils, and to distinguish between statutory or other functions carried out by the Monitoring Officer or the Committee in the promotion of good working practices between the District and parish councils.