Agenda and minutes
Thursday, 19 January 2012 7:00 pm
Venue: Salon, York House, Richmond Road, Twickenham
Contact: Kathryn Thomas, Head of Democratic Services, 020 8891 7860, Email: email@example.com
Apologies had been received from Ms Janet Fraser.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Members are asked to declare any interests in matters for consideration at the meeting.
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve the minutes of
a) the Standards Committee meeting held on 29 November 2011 attached;
b) the Standards Assessment Sub-committee meeting held on 21 December 2011 attached.
The Chairman reported that in accordance with Minute 51 he had written to the Leader of the Council and received a reply stating that he was amenable to the suggestion of a meeting.
The Chairman also reported that following the recommendation in Minute 52, the Annual Report of the Standards Committee had been adopted by Council at its meeting on 13 December 2011.
That the minutes of the meeting of the Standards Committee held on 10 February 2011 be received and
approved and the Chairman be authorised to sign them.
REPRESENTATIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC (IF ANY)
There were no representations from members of the public.
UPDATE ON THE STANDARDS REGIME AND RECENT CASES
The Monitoring Officer will provide a verbal update on any developments relating to the future of the Standards Regime and significant cases that have been determined.
The Monitoring Officer provided an update on the changes to be introduced under the Localism Act 2012. Councils had received an indication from Central Government that the date for full abolition of the current Standards regime would be 1 July 2012. From 1 July 2012, this Council would therefore have
Ø A general duty to promote and maintain high standards
Ø Adopted a code to apply to members and voting co opted members when acting in that capacity
Ø Established a register for Members to declare “disclosable pecuniary interests” (Members who do not make disclosure may face criminal sanctions)
Ø “Arrangements” in place to consider, investigate and make decisions on any alleged breaches of the code
Ø Appointed an “independent person” to be consulted on investigations and complaints
Ø No express powers to sanction members found to breach code.
In terms of future practice, any “Standards” committee would be a normal committee of Council to which Members of the council would be appointed on a politically proportionate basis. There was no prescribed code of conduct and although models were being drafted, none were available as yet. Thus Councils could adopt different codes from each other. This could be a potential issue if any joint arrangements were adopted. No Councillor would be required to sign a declaration that they would observe the code as happens currently following election.
In terms of the necessary “Arrangements”, Councils have discretion to set their own processes and to delegate more of the process. There is no requirement for a review stage. The statutory requirement for a hearing has gone and the authority can find that a member has broken the Code without even having conducted an investigation although it would be expected that an authority would ensure that the principles of natural justice would be observed.
Counsel’s opinion, provided for the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors, is that an existing independent member cannot be the Independent Person to be appointed by the Council.
The Monitoring Officer is required to establish a register of members' interests for each authority. The content of any such register must be approved by full Council. It must contain "disclosable pecuniary interests" (to be defined in Regulations) but the Act also provides that an authority's Code must require registration of non-disclosable pecuniary interests and non-pecuniary interests, for which no definition is provided as yet. Failure to register the interests will become a criminal offence. Prosecution is at the instigation of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Once a member has made the initial registration, there is no requirement to update such registrations for changes of circumstances, such as the acquisition of development land, unless and until a relevant item of business arises at a meeting which the member attends.
The requirement for disclosure of interests at meetings applies to the same range of "disclosable pecuniary interests" as the initial registration requirement, plus any non-disclosable pecuniary interests and non-pecuniary interests which the authority's Code requires to be disclosed. The ... view the full minutes text for item 60.
REPORTS FROM COMMITTEE MEMBERS
This item enables members of the Committee to provide any relevant feedback in relation to the meetings that they have attended as observers since the last meeting.
There were none.