Agendas, Meetings and Minutes - Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

Venue: County Hall, Worcester, WR5 2NP

Contact: Simon Lewis  Committee Officer

No. Item

Available papers

The Members had before them:


A.    The Agenda papers (previously circulated); and


B.    The Minutes of the meeting held on 25 April 2018 (previously circulated).


Apologies and Named Substitutes (Agenda item 1)


Apologies were received from Mr R C Adams, Dr K A Pollock, Mr C Slade and Dr P Whiteman.


Declarations of Interest (Agenda item 2)




Public Participation (Agenda item 3)

Members of the public wishing to take part should notify the Director of Resources in writing or by e-mail indicating both the nature and content of their proposed participation no later than 9.00am on the working day before the meeting (in this case 23 October 2018).  Enquiries about this can be made through the telephone number/e-mail address listed below.




Confirmation of Minutes (Agenda item 4)

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 25 April 2018. (previously circulated – pink pages)


RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting held on 25 April 2018 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Code of Conduct - Complaints Update (Agenda item 5) pdf icon PDF 76 KB


The Committee considered a Code of Conduct and complaints update from the Head of Legal and Democratic Services.


The Head of Legal and Democratic Services outlined the details of each complaint in turn and Committee made the following points:


Complaint 03/18

·         A Cabinet member had understandably got involved in operational matters as a result of a complaint passed by an MP, but this raised the prospect of a Code complaint. However, in this case the complaint was ill-founded as the complainant was just disagreeing with the Council's stance.


Complaint 04/18

·         The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that a member using social media referring to their official capacity would prima facie be presumed to be acting as a councillor - and therefore the Code of Conduct would be engaged. This differed from comments that were clearly made in a private capacity. The difficulty arose where occasionally there was a blurring of these roles. The requirements of  the Code were contextual on the circumstances eg communication between politicians could be viewed more as part of the cut and thrust of political debate

·         Some concern was expressed that communication between politicians could be treated differently in terms of engaging the Code as the Nolan principles applied equally in terms of treating individuals with respect

·         In response to a query, the Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that Members of Parliament had absolute privilege against claims of defamation. County councillors received qualified privilege from defamation actions for statements made in good faith in Council meetings.  Privilege provides some protection  against legal action for defamation, but did not affect whether  the Code of Conduct was engaged or breached – they were separate topics

·         Although it could be difficult to get a consensus of opinion on what constituted respect in terms of engagement of the Code, members thought the current filtering system for complaints worked well. This Committee had a role as a check and balance to the system. The Head of Legal and Democratic Services indicated that as Monitoring Officer, he found it very useful to seek an alternative opinion/perspective when filtering, particularly from the Chairman and/or Independent Member/Person.  In this particular case, there was unanimity of opinion on the level of engagement of the Code.


Complaint 06/18 

·         The Head of Legal and Democratic Services commented that this particular complaint again raised questions about freedom of expression and the level of respect owed amongst politicians. The Monitoring Officer had provided advice to the councillor who was the subject of the complaint regarding the desirability of separating party politics from any formal functions exercised as a councillor

·         The opportunity for the Monitoring Officer to provide advice to councillors who were the subject of a complaint, such as in this case, was seen as beneficial.


Complaint 07/18

·         As was the case in this complaint, members were occasionally in receipt of Freedom of Information requests from members of the public. The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that there was a formal process for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 270.


Local Government Ethical Standards - Stakeholder Consultation (Agenda item 6) pdf icon PDF 75 KB


The Committee received an update on the Local Government Ethical Stakeholders Consultation.


In the ensuing debate, the following comments were made:


·         The Chairman stated that the delegation from the National Committee on Standards in Public Life had given no indication about the approach taken by other councils to address standards of conduct. The delegation were surprised that there was no consensus amongst members of this Committee on whether sanctions should be re-introduced for breaches of the Code

·         The delegation had been complimentary about the approach taken in this Council

·         Dr Mylechreest indicated that as part of the visit, he and Dr Whiteman, as Independent Members had met the delegation. The impression given was that other councils had expressed similar concerns about the need to reintroduce the voting rights for Independent Members

·         The Head of Legal and Democratic Services confirmed that Mr Tomlinson was no longer Chairman of the Committee as the constitution stated that the Chairman or Vice-Chairman of the Council could not sit as a Chairman of a Committee

·         Concern was expressed about the amount of work generated as a result of the increased number of complaints received since April. The Head of Legal and Democratic Services responded that there had been an unusual increase in complaints received over this period. He did not consider the number of complaints to be a great burden as some important issues were raised, but he hoped that this increase would not continue in the long term. It was vexatious complaints that were particularly difficult and time-consuming.




a)    the visit to the Council by the National Committee on Standards in Public Life as part of its review of standards in local government be noted; and


b)    the anticipated publication of its report in the New Year 2019 be noted.