Standards Sub-Committee – 25 January 2010
Chair: Mr W Harvie
Venue: Function Room 2, Pittwood House, Ashby Road, Scunthorpe
Please note: The sub-committee may consider any applications submitted for the exclusion of the public under 1(i) below, and then may decide to exclude the public from the meeting for consideration of the following item on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in appropriate paragraphs of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).
- To conduct a hearing into allegations that Councillors Sarah Harriman, Norman Smith and David Oliver and ex Councillor Glen Sidell Butchers of Bonby Parish Council failed to comply with and breached the Parish Council’s Code of Conduct.Papers attached:
- Procedure at hearings.
- Legal Advisor’s summary.
- Report of Mel Holmes – Investigating Officer.
- Response by ex-Councillor Sidell-Butchers.
- Code of Conduct.
Note: Any responses from Councillors Harriman, Oliver and Smith will be reported at the meeting.
Hearing Date: 25 January 2010
Re: Reference concerning possible failure to follow the Code of Conduct
Respondents: Councillor Sarah Harriman, Councillor Norman Smith, Councillor David Oliver, Ex Councillor Glen Siddall-Butchers
Relevant Authority: Bonby Parish Council
Sub – Committee Members :
Mr Wayne Harvie (Independent Member) (Chair)
Councillor Richard Nixon (Parish Member)
Councillor Neil Poole (Member)
Councillor John England (Member)
Councillor Steve Swift (Member)
1. The Referral
1.1. The Sub Committee considered a matter which had been referred for investigation by an Assessment Sub Committee (reference 2008/01) Mr Mel Holmes (Democratic Services) had investigated the complaint and produced a report.
1.2 The Respondents had been provided with a copy of the investigating officer’s report and had been given an opportunity to respond. Councillors Oliver and Smith had indicated that they had no comments to make. Ex Councillor Siddall-Butchers submitted comments.
Mr Holmes attended and presented the report.
The sub-committee was advised by the Monitoring Officer, Mr Mike Wood.
Ex Councillor Siddall-Butchers attended
3. The Complaint
3.1 A complaint had been received that the Respondents had breached the Code of Conduct by failing to treat the complainant with respect, bullying and bringing the council into disrepute.
3.2 The complaint had been made by Mrs Pauline Coyle, a resident of Bonby who attended the hearing.
4. Submission by the Respondents
4.1 There was no submission for excluding the press and public.
4.2 Ex Councillor Siddall-Butchers attended and was given the opportunity to comment and address the sub committee throughout the hearing. Councillors Smith and Oliver had indicated that they would not be in attendance.
5. Submission by the Investigating Officers
5.1 The Investigating officer submitted an account of the investigation, the interviews which had been undertaken together with his findings and conclusions
6. Findings/Failure to comply with the Code
6.1 The parish council had published a leaflet entitled “What Bonby Parish Council Does For You” in an effort to explain to the parish the work carried out by the council with the intention of encouraging more people in the parish to become involved in its work and become parish councillors.
6.2 Following this a leaflet entitled “What Bonby Council Does For You!?” The Attentive View” had been published. It was unsigned. Mrs Coyle had contributed two elements to the document.
6.3 In response the Respondents had published a further document “The Parish Councillors Would Like To Respond To’ The Alternative View’ And Point Out A Few Facts That Might Interest The Village.” The document had been signed by the Respondents as councillors.
6.4 The document after dealing with various council issues ended with five bullet points to which Mrs Coyle had taken exception and on which her complaint was based. She regarded the comments as bringing her ‘character integrity and honesty into question and ridicule’ and as “an attempt to intimidate and bully (her) into not having a democratic voice”. The Respondents had acknowledged that although not named Mrs Coyle could be identified.
6.5 The document was circulated at the annual parish meeting on 15 May 2008.
6.6 Very strong and differing views are held in Bonby about the work of the parish council and how it is perceived by other non members of the council both through the exchanges in the leaflets and at parish council meetings.
6.7 Despite arguments to the contrary the Respondents were acting as councillors in connection with the preparation and distribution of the leaflet and so their activities were governed by the Code of Conduct.
The sub committee reached the following decision having considered written and oral contributions from the investigating officer and the Respondents.
7.1 While the inclusion of the five bullet points could be regarded as ill advised in all the circumstances the Respondents had not breached paragraphs 3(1) treating others with respect or 5 (bringing their office or authority into disrepute).
7.2 That the investigating officer’s conclusion that there had been no breach of paragraph 3(2)(b) (bullying) be upheld.