Standards Committee – 23 January 2013
Chairman: Councillor Poole
Venue: Function Room 1, Civic Centre, Scunthorpe
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 13 September 2012 as a correct record and authorise the chairman to sign.
4. Complaints update.
5. Localism Act 2011 – New Arrangements – Update on Parish and Town Councils – Monitoring Officer to report.
6. Localism Act 2011 – Dispensations.
7. Any other which that 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, Davison 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
7. MINUTES – Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting of this committee held on 13 September 2012, having been printed and circulated amongst the members, be taken as read and correctly recorded and be signed by the chairman.
8. DECLARATIONS OF DISCLOSABLE PECUNIARY, PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS – Councillor Wells declared a personal interest in Minute 11 as a member of the Executive Committee of the East Riding and Northern Lincolnshire Local Councils Association (ERNLLCA).
9. (5) 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 nine complaints had been received. One was to be investigated and five were to be considered by the Assessment Panel on the rising of this meeting
Resolved – That the report be noted.
10. LOCALISM ACT 2011 – NEW ARRANGEMENTS – UPDATE ON TOWN AND PARISH COUNCILS – The Monitoring Officer reported that all town and parish councils in North Lincolnshire had now adopted this council’s Code of Conduct. There were currently only twelve forms outstanding from individual councillors regarding Registration of Interests. This situation was being monitored and the individuals reminded.
Resolved – That the report be welcomed and the officers concerned be congratulated on their efforts.
11. (6) LOCALISM ACT 2011 (ACT) – DISPENSATIONS – The Monitoring Officer submitted a report updating the committee on the position concerning the granting of dispensations for the setting of Council Tax.
Recently there had been much debate within the local government sector, both at parish/town council and district council level, whether dispensations were required to enable members to take part in decisions concerning the setting of precept/council tax under the Local Government Finance Act 1992. Indeed, comment had also recently been made that the same principles might apply to the annual decision to set members’ allowances
Under the old standards regime, such decisions had fallen within the exempt category of decisions and as such members had been free to participate in such decisions. However no like exempt statutory category of decisions had been carried forward under the Act.
Opinion on the position remained unclear and in the absence of any statutory guidance on the issue, it was felt that a suitably pragmatic, but cautious approach should be adopted.
Council had, in May 2012 (Minute 2088 refers), approved that the granting of dispensations under section 33 2 (a) and (d) be delegated to the Monitoring Officer whilst those under section 33 2 (b), (c) and (e) be delegated to the Standards Committee. Further, a condition of the delegation to the Monitoring Officer was that he formally reported to this committee on any dispensations that he had granted.
Accordingly, following written requests, the Monitoring Officer had granted a dispensation to all members of the Council for a period of four years from the 4 January 2013 to participate in decisions relating to the following functions of the Council.
- An allowance, payment or indemnity given to members; and
- The setting of council tax or precept under the Local Government Finance Act 1992.
Such dispensation had been granted by the Monitoring Officer pursuant to section 33 2 (a) of the Act on the basis that without such dispensation the number of members prohibited from transacting such business would be so great as to impede the business from being transacted.
It was noted though that the restrictions on members taking part in decisions where they are in arrears with Council Tax (section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992) were not altered by the Act and as such could be dispensed with and remained in force.
The Monitoring Officer had written to the Clerks to all Town and Parish Councils in the area on this issue following on from advice that they had independently received from ERNLLCA this letter had also been sent to ERNLLCA.
The Monitoring Officer had also written to the respective Group Secretaries on the issues detailed in the report.
Resolved – That the dispensations granted by the Monitoring Officer detailed in paragraph 2.6 of the report be noted and endorsed.