The Principal Solicitor reminded the Committee that at the last meeting held on 21st January 2021, she had indicated that she would be presenting a report regarding the new model Code of Conduct issued by the Local Government Association (LGA).
It was highlighted that the style was very different in the new LGA model Code of Conduct, in addition to the provisions of the model Code there was quite a detailed narrative attached within the model Code itself. Members were advised that the guidance could be separated from the model Code in order to make the model code more streamlined.
The Principal Solicitor drew Members’ attention to the recommendations and highlighted the main areas of difference between the new LGA model Code of Conduct and the Worcestershire Code. Members were reminded that they had previously expressed a preference for a pan-Worcestershire model Code of Conduct that would apply across all three tiers of Local Government.
Members were informed that the countywide Monitoring Officers Group had looked at the existing Code and it was felt that the new LGA model Code of Conduct could be adapted slightly for local purposes, if required. It was clarified that any future changes from Local Government would more than likely be based on the new LGA model Code of Conduct and that a pan-Worcestershire Code would be based on the LGA model Code.
The Principal Solicitor also commented that Members had recently revisited the current Worcestershire Code and had agreed to keep the value for registering gifts and hospitality £15, the LGA model Code would be £50.
During lengthy discussion Members debated the option of a new pan-Worcestershire Code and the adoption of the LGA model Code and questioned the need for a different Worcestershire Code. Members also queried as to why a decision could not wait until primary legislation was passed.
The Principal Solicitor explained that there was currently so much going on with the recommendations to strengthen the Standards regime, that primary legislation may take quite a while to be passed.
The Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services further informed the Committee that Members had previously looked at the current Code before receiving anything from the LGA as it had taken longer than anticipated to receive the LGA model code. Members had looked at the current Worcestershire Code from a Bromsgrove perspective and had also taken into account the recommendations identified by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
Mr. J. Cypher commented that the Bromsgrove area Parish Councils continued to support the ‘Worcestershire Way’ and it was felt that the new LGA model Code be adopted and adapted locally, he would emphasise that sticking together with a pan-Worcestershire Code was the way for the future.
In response to Members, the Principal Solicitor explained that should the Committee be minded to approve recommendations C and D, that the new Worcestershire Code would be presented to the Committee for consideration.
The Chairman took the opportunity to thank officers for their detailed responses and clarification with regard to the decisions Members had made when they had previously looked at the current Code.
RESOLVEDtaking the five bullet points into consideration, as detailed at paragraph 5, that
a) the model Code issued by the LGA be amended; and
b) the Monitoring Officer liaises with the other Monitoring Officers across Worcestershire to consider the feedback from all councils and to bring forward a new Worcestershire wide Code.