Agenda item

Allerdale Borough Council’s Code of Conduct and Arrangements for dealing with standards allegations under the Localism Act 2011

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer provided members with an overview on how the Council handles code of conduct complaints. The officer also explained how further advice and guidance is provided in the ‘arrangements for dealing with standards allegations’ and ‘guidance on code of conduct’ documents.

 

Members were advised that an independent review had been completed into the procedures that Allerdale have in place for handling complaints that may have breached the code of conduct. The review was carried out by Hoey Ainscough Associates Ltd, and as part of the review officers, parish clerks, parish councillors, and district councillors provided contributions. The review laid down four criteria for a successful standards process:

 

a)  It should enhance the reputation of the Council  through demonstrating that there is a culture of high standards and that any lapse from high standards in individual cases will be dealt with fairly, effectively and efficiently.

b)  It should ensure that the process is transparent and accountable, so that the public can see that misconduct has been dealt with, and members are able to demonstrate, where appropriate, that their name has been fairly cleared.

c)  It should have independent rigour and be free from party political interference; and

d)  It should comply with any legal requirements and ensure that members have the right to a fair hearing.

 

The review found that Allerdale standards procedures are typical and operate with good practice.

 

The review however did make recommendations that have been made to streamline and improve the process making it more efficient and transparent whilst promoting standards within Allerdale.

 

The Monitoring Officer advised that the recommendations would be implemented through the work programme.

 

Members then considered the recommendations in relation to the Code of Conduct that

 

1.  Failure to cooperate with a standards investigation should be added as a potential breach of the Code. (Para 95)

 

2.  The Council should consider whether the Code should say that members must have regard to the social media policy (Para 96)

 

3.  The interests’ provisions in the Allerdale Code should be expanded to make it clear that members should not make decisions where matters relate to or clearly affect their family members or close associates. (Para 106)

 

4.  Any changes made to the Allerdale Code should be effectively communicated and explained to the parish council sector. (Para 107)

 

The Monitoring Officer advised that the Cumbria Monitoring Officer Group considered that the interests provisions don’t need expanded as they are covered by common law bias. The Monitoring Officer requested that Members consider whether they wish to include it and have a different code to the other Cumbrian authorities Members considered whether  the interests provisions should be expanded as per the recommendation and instructed officers to clarify the Cumbrian authorities position and report back to the next meeting of the standards committee.

 

The Members then approved the recommendations as per the officer’s report as follows:

 

a)  The members considered the review of Allerdale Borough Councils Procedures for Handling Complaints that Members have breached the Code of Conduct attached as Appendix 1

b)  The members noted the amendments to the Arrangements attached as Appendix 2

c)  The members, having considered the recommendations in relation to the Code of Conduct, agreed to re-consider the recommendations following comments from the Cumbrian Monitoring Officer Group.

 

Supporting documents: