Venue: Council Chamber, Forde House, Brunel Road, Newton Abbot, TQ12 4XX
Contact: Trish Corns Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 27 February, 2019.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 27 February 2019 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Three members of the Task and Finish Group: Independent Persons Mr Barnicott and Ms Smith, and Councillor Jones had given their apologies for the meeting. Councillor Connett had also tendered his apology.
The Chairman advised that all Members of the Council had been invited to provide comments on the findings of the Task and Finish (Code of Conduct) Group. No written representations had been submitted for the Committee’s consideration.
To consider the report on the review of the Members’ Code of Conduct and investigations procedure.
The Committee referred to the report of the Task and Finish (Code of Conduct) Group.
The Chairman invited Councillor Dewhirst who was in attendance, to address the Committee on any issues he wished to raise on the report of the Task and Finish (Code of Conduct) Group. Councillor Dewhirst made the following comments on specific parts of the report:
Paragraph 4.3 of the report:
This set out the view that good member and officer relationships could be promoted by members giving “officers advance notice of questions / issues they had before formal, usually public meetings so there was every prospect of comprehensive answers being given.”
Councillor Dewhirst advised he disagreed with this comment. He considered that a Councillor would not wish to give advance notice to an officer of issues and questions that the councillor may want to make at a public meeting, referring by way of example to planning committee meetings when members might want to determine an application contrary to officer advice.
· Paragraph 4.6 of the report:
This provided that “ ... members were representatives of the Council, at formal meetings in particular full Council, members should be expected to dress appropriately. How members presented themselves (in terms of their appearance and language) inevitably had an impact on the image which the Council gave of itself to the public generally.”
Councillor Dewhirst submitted that the word “appropriate” is subjective and that some Councillors may not be able to afford such clothing.
· Paragraph 4.4 of the Report Appendix A, which comprised the revised Code of Conduct:
This set out a requirement upon councillors“Not [to] disclose information which is confidential or where disclosure is prohibited by law.”
Councillor Dewhirst submitted he had previously provided confidential information to Councillors of another authority.
The Chairman reminded Councillor Dewhirst of the declaration of acceptance of office which he and all councillors signed following their election, which required each councillor to comply with the Code of Conduct. She pointed out that the existing code imposed this requirement on councillors.
· Paragraph 4.6 of the Report Appendix A:
This set out a proposed requirement on councillors “To co-operate and comply with any formal standards investigations and not to make trivial or malicious allegations against others.”
Councillor Dewhirst submitted what is considered malicious allegations by one, can be considered as political banter by another. He explained that Councillors who had been complained about may wish to seek advice from others, be on holiday or otherwise unavailable and that this might prevent them from complying with an investigation.
The Chairman added that the obligation at 4.6 is a recommendation from the national committee on Standards in Public Life which reported to the Government.
Councillor Keeling also supported paragraph 4.6 referring to there possibly being unacceptable delays with investigations due to councillors not co-operating and referred to a case in the past where that seemed to have happened.
· Paragraph 4.7 of the Report Appendix A:
This referred to a new proposed provision upon councillor “ ... view the full minutes text for item 7.