Standards Committee – 13 September 2012
Time: 2 pm
1. Substitutions (if any)
2. Declarations of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and Personal or Personal and Prejudicial Interests.
3. To take the minutes of the meeting held on 12 July 2012 as a correct record and authorise the chair to sign.
4. Complaints update.
5. Ombudsman’s Annual Review Letter.
6. Openness and Transparency on Personal Interests – A Guide for Councillors.
7. Any other items which the chairman decides are urgent by reason of special circumstances which must be specified.
Note: All reports are by the Director of Policy and Resources unless otherwise stated.
PRESENT: Councillor Poole (in the Chair).
Councillors England (Vice-Chairman), Clark, Oldfield, Swift, Wells and Whiteley.
Co-opted (non-voting) Member: Mr W Harvie.
Independent Person: Mr J Goolden. Reserve Independent Person: Mr R Johnson.
The committee met at the Civic Centre, Scunthorpe
3. DECLARATIONS OF DISCLOSABLE PECUNIARY, PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS – Councillor England declared a personal interest in Minute 4 as the subject member in respect of one of the complaints.
4. (2) COMPLAINTS UPDATE – The Monitoring Officer submitted a report updating the committee on progress made with complaints received.
Of the pre-July 2012 complaints two were still to be concluded and the Monitoring Officer summarised action currently being taken and scheduled to be taken to address these. Since 1 July 2012 two complaints had been received and were to be considered by the Assessment Panel on the rising of this meeting.
Resolved – That the report be noted.
5. (3) OMBUDSMAN’S ANNUAL REVIEW LETTER – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report enclosing and summarising the Local Government Ombudsman’s Annual Review Letter for the year 2011-2012.
The Review Letter indicated that the Ombudsman had no concerns about the council’s response time to complaints and that there were no issues that she wished to bring to its attention. The report contained a note on interpretation of the statistics appended to the Review Letter.
Resolved – (a) That the report be welcomed and that the complaints co-ordinators be commended for their work.
6. (4) OPENNESS AND TRANSPARENCY ON PERSONAL INTERESTS – A GUIDE FOR COUNCILLORS – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report informing the committee of the publication by the department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) of a document entitled “Openness and Transparency on Personal Interests – A Guide for Councillors”.
The Guide had been published on 2 August 2012 DCLG and was intended to be a practical guide which would help all understand the new arrangements and legal requirements which meant that all councillors should be registering their disclosable pecuniary interests. A copy of the guide was appended to the report.
Generally speaking the arrangements adopted by the council were in line with both the legislation and the guidance. However the guidance explained that, whilst the detailed format of register of members’ interests was for the individual councils to decide, there was no requirement to differentiate between a members’ disclosable pecuniary interests which related to the member personally and those relating to the member’s spouse or civil partner. The documents approved by the council and issued to members suggested that members should differentiate between the two so as to make it more transparent for members of the public when accessing the register to see exactly which interests related to the member and which to their spouse or civil partner. Indeed this approach had been endorsed by the Association of County Secretaries and Solicitors (ACSeS). Research suggested that most local authorities had approached the matter in the same way and some had gone as far as to split the register so that there were separate boxes for the member’s interest and their spouse/civil partners.
Following publication of the guidance it was appropriate that the committee took a view on it and specifically the element relating to the differentiation between the members’ interests and their spouses/civil partners’.
Resolved – (a) That the report be noted, and (b) that the approach taken by the council to date in relation to the differentiation between the interests of members and their spouses/civil partners be endorsed as a more transparent process.