Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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Standards Committee Minutes

Date:
Thursday, 15th March, 2012
Time:
4.00pm
Place:
Ground Floor Committee Room, Town Hall, High Street, Stockton-on-Tees TS18 1AU
 
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Present:
Mr F W Hayes(Chairman), Mr M Armstrong(Vice-Chair), Cllr Paul Baker, Cllr David Wilburn, Mr Tom Bowman (Parish Representatives) and Mr Chris Nestor (Substitute Independent Member)
Officers:
D. Bond and M Henderson (LD)
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Ken Dixon and Cllr Tracey Stott
Item Description Decision
Public
S
40/11
EVACUATION PROCEDURE
The evacuation procedure was noted.
S
41/11
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no interests declared.
S
42/11
MINUTES FOR SIGNATURE - 17TH NOVEMBER 2011 AND 27TH JANUARY 2012.
The minutes of the meeting held on 17 November 2011 and 27 January 2012 were confirmed as a correct record and were signed by the Chairman.
S
43/11
ASSESSMENT SUB COMMITTEE MINUTES FOR THE MEETINGS HELD ON 15TH NOVEMBER 2011, 5TH JANUARY 2012, 10TH FEBRUARY 2012 AND 23RD FEBRUARY 2012.
Members received the Assessment Sub Committee minutes of the meetings held on 15 November 2011, 5 January 2012, 10 February 2012 and 23 February 2012.
S
44/11
THE NEW STANDARDS REGIME
RESOLVED that the information be noted.
S
45/11
LOCALISM ACT 2011 - DRAFT CODE OF CONDUCT
RESOLVED that the information be noted and comments considered.
S
46/11
THE STANDARDS COMMITTEE'S ANNUAL REPORT 2011/12
RESOLVED that:

1. the draft report be approved.

2. the Director of Law and Democracy be authorized to finalise the Report, in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee, following the conclusion of consultation specified within the report.

3. the final version of the Annual Report be brought to the attention of all Members of the Council.
S
47/11
THE MONITORING OFFICER'S ANNUAL REPORT 2011/12
RESOLVED that the draft report be agreed.
S
48/11
STANDARDS COMMITTEE FORWARD PLAN 2011/12
RESOLVED that the information be noted.
4.00pm/4.50pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
S
44/11
Members considered a report that provided the Committee with an update regarding the Localism Act's standards provisions.

The Committee was reminded that it had agreed a response to the standards provisions, in the form of a set of recommendations to Cabinet, at its meeting on 27 January 2012.

Members were provided with a copy of the report presented to Cabinet, which included all the recommendations supported by the Committee plus an additional recommendation relating to appropriate training being provided to members on the Council's new code of conduct, which had been raised by, and agreed with, the Cabinet Member for Corporate Management and Finance.

It was explained that Cabinet had agreed all the recommendations presented to it, as had Council at its meeting held on 7 March 2012.

The Committee was provided with an update surrounding issues it had previously raised relating to transitional arrangements and insurance cover associated with the duties of the independent persons.

Members were also provided with an addendum to the report which attached:-

- The Standards Board for England (Abolition) Order 2012
- Explanatory Memorandum to the Abolition Order

The documents attached to the addendum, amongst other things,confirmed the Government's intention that the new standards regime would commence on 1 July 2012.
S
45/11
Members considered a report that provided the Committee with an early opportunity to consider and comment on a first draft of a new code of conduct for Stockton's members.

It was explained that work on a draft code had been taking place at a number of local authorities and through the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors (ACSeS).

Based on this work, an initial draft code had been prepared for Stockton and a copy was provided to Members together with a copy of the current approved code, for comparison purposes.

The Committee noted that the new draft code had not yet been discussed with Officers and Members, so it was possible that it may change as a result. Also, changes might be necessary as the ACSeS work on a new code progressed. It was also still possible that a national model may be developed by the Local Government Association in collaboration with ACSeS, however, there was no positive indication of this occurring at present.

The interests provisions of the draft code may also need to be revised once the regulations about disclosable pecuniary interests had been issued.

Subject to all of the above, Council would then have to approve a code of conduct for Stockton's members, as required by the Localism Act.

The Committee considered the new draft code and provided comments.
S
46/11
Members considered a report that presented the Committee's Annual Report for 2011/12.

This year the Annual Report had been prepared in the context of the significant changes to the national and local standards regimes as specified in the Localism Act. The content of the Annual Report reflected those changes, which were expected to come into effect on 1 July.

The Committee considered the draft report and agreed with its format and content.

Members noted the consultation underway. Subject to the outcome of the consultation it was proposed that the Director of Law and Democracy be given delegated authority to finalise the Report, in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee.

As the Audit Committee meeting, that had been scheduled to consider the Standards Committee's and the Monitoring Officer's reports, had been cancelled the Committee's Annual report would be circulated to the Audit Committee's members for any comments. The report would also be reported to Cabinet in April and Council in May.

The finalised Report would then be brought to the attention of all Members of the Council and would also be placed on the intranet and internet.
S
47/11
The Committee was provided with a copy of the Monitoring Officers draft Annual Report for 2011/12.

Members were asked to consider and provide comments.

It was explained that the report would be the subject of consultation with appropriate members and officers and would be considered by Cabinet and Council. It would also be circulated to Audit Committee Members for any comments.
S
48/11
Members considered the Committee's Work Programme and noted that the Committee's last meeting was likely to be on 10 May 2012, as the Localism Act - Standards Regime was scheduled to be introduced on 1 July 2012. Although, there was a possibility that another meeting or other meetings might need to be arranged, either in place of the 10 May meeting or in addition to it, in order to consider the code of conduct further and to receive details of the new disclosable pecuniary interest provisions.

Members were provided with a copy of the Council's Statutory Forward Plan.

During consideration of this item discussion turned to future arrangements, under the new Standards Regime, relating to Town and Parish Councils. It was reiterated that the final decision on any complaint about a Parish/Town Council Member would lie with the relevant Council.

It was explained that the vacancies for an Independent Person and two reserves had been advertised. Whilst the position relating to current/ recent Independent Members of the Standards Committee, acting as an Independent Person was still unclear, relevant members interested in any of the vacancies were nevertheless encouraged to submit applications before the closing date of 31 May 2012. It was anticipated that proposed transitional arrangements may be introduced which would enable current/recent independent members to become Independent Persons.

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