Agendas, Meetings and Minutes - Agenda and draft minutes

Agenda and draft 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 24 October 2018 (previously circulated).


Apologies and Named Substitutes (Agenda item 1)


Apologies were received from Dr A J Hopkins and Dr K A Pollock.


Declarations of Interest (Agenda item 2)




Public Participation (Agenda item 3)

Members of the public wishing to take part should notify the Head of Legal Democratic Services 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, 9 April 2019).  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 24 October 2018. (previously circulated – pink pages)


RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting held on 24 October 2018 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Local Government Ethical Standards - Report of the National Committee on Standards in Public Life (Agenda item 5) pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee considered a report of the National Committee on Standards in Public Life.


In the ensuing debate, the following points were raised:


Nolan Committee – List of recommendations


·         The Head of Legal and Democratic Services indicated that the biggest change to the Ethical regime recommended by the Nolan Committee was for authorities to regain the power to suspend members (for up to six months) as a sanction for breaching the code, with an appeal to the Ombudsman

·         In response to a query, the Head of Legal and Democratic Services commented that in the filtering arrangements adopted by the Council, the Independent Person (IP) was usually consulted at an early stage but was not a decision-maker. It was therefore somewhat surprising that recommendation 10 was proposing that the IP would need to agree with a finding of a breach of the Code and that suspension was a proportionate sanction

·         Bearing in mind the number of councillors serving on both the county and district councils, it was vital to liaise with the district councils to ensure that any changes to the Code were consistently applied. The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that a pan-Worcestershire Code of Conduct had been adopted to address this matter and this approach had found favour with representatives of the Nolan Committee. Following this meeting, he would be liaising with monitoring officers from the districts to agree any potential changes to that code.  Members of the Standards and Ethics Committee strongly supported the continuance of a joint Code

·         Recommendation 3 implied that it was the responsibility of the member to rebut the presumption that they were not acting as a councillor when making statements on publicly-accessible social media. The Head of Legal and Democratic Services added that this distinction was often not easy to make especially in relation to the use of social media. The context of a statement should be taken into account

·         In relation to recommendation 11, did the Council provide legal indemnity for IPs? The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that standing indemnities were not provided but he could not see a situation where an IP could be legally liable. In any case, IPs would be granted qualified privilege against defamation.


Nolan Committee - Best Practice recommendations



Agreed that this could be adopted and the Head of Legal and Democratic Services would try to agree a definition of bullying and harassment with the other authorities.



·         There was some concern that this recommendation was almost implying that a councillor should incriminate themselves by complying with the investigation of a complaint made against them.  There was also a danger of tit for tat complaints.

Agreed that the matter be raised by the Head of Legal and Democratic Services with the other principal authorities in the county.



Agreed that a formal Annual Review of the Code as recommended was unnecessary, but could be done by the committee itself. Any review would be undertaken as and when determined necessary by the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 276.


Code of Conduct - Complaints Update (Agenda item 6) pdf icon PDF 69 KB


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


The Head of Legal and Democratic Services outlined the details of the complaint. He indicated that since the publication of the report, a further formal complaint had been received but at this early stage, there was nothing to report to the Committee. The Committee raised the following points:


·         Were there instances where the same complaint was received by both the county and a district council? The Head of Legal and Democratic Services responded that complainants were required to indicate if their complaint had been made elsewhere but on occasion failed to do so. In these cases, it was difficult to unpick the details and responsibilities to enable appropriate action to be taken but there was often close liaison between Monitoring Officers where 2 authorities might be involved

·         In response to a query about Purdah, the Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that all councillors had been issued with the traffic light signal guidance

·         Were councillors able to report to local parish council meetings during the Purdah period? The Head of Legal and Democratic Services advised that members were able to report to parish councils on county matters as business as usual

·         If a member were not a candidate in a local election, then Purdah would have a more limited impact on them.


RESOLVED: that the formal complaint that has been made about the conduct of a County Councillor be notedand no further action was necessary.