Standards Committee – 23 September 2010
Chair: Mr W Harvie
Venue: Function Room 1, Pittwood House, Scunthorpe
- Substitutions (if any)
- Declarations of Personal or Personal and Prejudicial Interests, if any.
- To take the minutes of the meeting held on 22 July 2010 as a correct record and authorise the chair to sign.
- Complaints update.
- Future of the Standards Regime.
- Reply from Standards for England dated 19 August 2010;
- Bulletin extract from Standards for England.
- Publication of the members’ Register of Interest on the council’s website – verbal report.
- Local Government Ombudsman’s Annual Review – year ended 31 March 2010.
- Any other items which the chair decides are urgent by reason of special circumstances which must be specified.
PRESENT: – Mr W Harvie (in the chair); Councillors Swift (Vice-Chair), Armitage, B Briggs, Barkworth, England, Swift and Whiteley.
Mrs Y Aubrey and Messrs D Cuckson and Kitwood.
MINUTES – Resolved –That the minutes of the meeting of this committee held on 22 July 2010, having been printed and circulated amongst the members, be taken as read and correctly recorded and be signed by the chair, subject to the inclusion of Mr J Kitwood in the list of attendees.
240 (8) COMPLAINTS/CODE OF CONDUCT UPDATE – The Monitoring Officer submitted an update on progress with complaints received.
Since the last meeting three complaints had been received, relating to members of town and parish councils. Assessments of these were to be carried out at a meeting immediately following this meeting. A Review had taken place resulting in a decision of no action. A total of nine complaints were currently outstanding.
Resolved – That the report be noted.
241 (9) FUTURE OF THE STANDARDS REGIME – Further to Minute 238, the Monitoring Officer submitted a copy of a reply from the Chair of Standards for England, together with an extract from the latest Standards Bulletin and a recent press release from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The chair also submitted a reply to a letter sent to Nic Dakin MP.
The press release indicated that the government was intending to abolish the whole “Standards Board regime”, including Standards for England itself and local standards committees. Serious misconduct would instead be made a newly created criminal offence to be dealt with by the courts and incompetence investigated by the Ombudsman under proposed new powers.
Members would have to register certain personal interests in a publicly available register.
Members were concerned at the proposal to remove powers from local standards committees, use of the criminal law and the lack of consultation.
Resolved – (a) That the Monitoring Officer write to DCLG expressing the committee’s concerns, and (b) that the matter be raised at the regional Independent Members’ Forum.
242 PUBLICATION OF MEMBERS’ REGISTER OF INTERESTS ON WEBSITE – Further to Minute 239, the Service Director Legal and Democratic reported on progress made towards publication of the Register of Members’ Interests for North Lincolnshire Council and parish and town councils in its area on the North Lincolnshire Council website. The registers for all North Lincolnshire councillors were now published. As previously agreed, a consultation exercise would be carried out with town and parish councils and with the East Riding and Northern Lincolnshire Local Councils Association, including a discussion at the October Liaison Meeting. So far as the co-opted members of North Lincolnshire Council committees were concerned, a decision needed to be made as to the information to be published on the site.
Resolved – (a) That the report be noted; (b) that the contact information given for co-opted members be via the council, and (c) that co-opted members be given a choice as to whether their photographs are published.
243 (10) LOCAL GOVERNMENT OMBUDSMAN’S ANNUAL REVIEW – YEAR ENDED 31 MARCH 2010 – The Monitoring Officer submitted the Ombudsman’s Annual Review for this period.
This indicated that, whilst 27 enquiries and complaints had been received during the year, there had been no ‘MI Reps’ (where the Ombudsman had concluded an investigation and issued a formal report finding maladministration causing injustice) or ‘M Reps’ (where the Ombudsman had concluded an investigation and issued a formal report finding maladministration but causing no injustice to the complainant). However report also indicated that the time taken to respond to complaints had increased from 26.4 days the previous year to 38 days on average. This was considerably more than the target of 28 days set by the ombudsman for all councils. The report had already been circulated to Service Directors with a request for attention to be taken to be paid to turn around times to enquiries.
Resolved – (a) That the report be noted, and (b) that officers dealing with complaints/returns be encouraged to undertake training.