REVISIONS TO THE MEMBERS’ PROTOCOL AND ITS APPENDICES
This report proposes to update the contents of the Members’ Protocol, including the Appendices, and change their status to that of Guidance.
Report for the Head of Legal and Electoral Services attached.
- That discrete Planning and Licensing Protocols be retained and a sub-committee and procedure be established to hear complaints about breaches of the Protocols; this sub-committee and procedure to be separate from the hearings procedure for complaints about breaches of the Code of Conduct.
- That authority be delegated to the working group established initially to review the Members’ Protocol to finalise the details of the proposed guidance in advance of presentation to Council, following incorporation of further suggested amendments, and also of additions by the Monitoring Officer.
- That the Council be recommended to adopt the proposed guidance for incorporation in the constitution at the next appropriate meeting.
The Chair introduced the report and draft documents. She explained that when the Protocol was developed, there were no statutory codes. The national code of conduct now carries sanctions which are not available for breaches of the Protocol. The Committee had noted that complainants were attempting to utilise both Code and Protocol which was both time-consuming and resource heavy for the Sub-committees to manage. This Council was the only London Borough which had a double disciplinary system, though most others have protocols which they treat as guidance to members.
Standards Committee heard representations from Councillor Miller, Chair of the Planning Committee and Councillor Elengorn, Vice-chair of the Planning Committee which included the following points,
Ø Their concern was primarily with the Planning Protocol which contained detailed guidance on issues such as lobbying which was not covered by the Code
Ø The change of name from ‘Protocol’ to ‘Guidance’ was inappropriate as it suggested removal of a constraint
Ø Although breach of a Protocol might only mean embarrassment, this was a sufficient deterrent. Training could be used as a form of censure or, alternatively, removal from the Planning Committee
Ø Loss of the Protocol would make it more difficult for the Chair to direct the Planning Committee on the issues it covered. It also provided an immediate solution at the Planning Committee as a “light suit of armour” so that complaints to the Standards Committee were few
Ø The Planning Protocol was a useful discrete document which Members had to read
Ø All Members were happy with the current system which assisted in the making of fair decisions.
The Committee considered the points made to it carefully. In discussion, the Committee noted that a free-standing document on which it could hear complaints might be retained as it was possible to establish a procedure and sanctions outside the Code under the general provisions of the Local Government Act. Although the Committee was advised that the Protocol could not be linked to the Code, as the scope of the Code was clearly defined in law, it could be made clear that failure to observe the Protocol could possibly lead to a breach of the Code. The Committee explored the value of establishing a sub-committee to hear a complaint of breach of Protocol. This would apply to both planning and licensing protocols, be heard on written representations, and carry appropriate sanctions. This would be developed as a separate system so that the current dual complaints under Protocol and Code could not be invoked.
The Committee discussed the remainder of the draft Guidance and made suggestions for further changes. The Monitoring Officer was requested to prepare a document for insertion into the section entitled ‘Complaints against councillors’. The Committee decided to remit the draft to the working group which had proposed the initial draft for completion.
- Standards Report - Members' Protocol, item 33. PDF 51 KB
- Appendix 1 - LBRUT redrafted guidance, item 33. PDF 123 KB
- Appendix 2 - LBRUT draft legal advice for members, item 33. PDF 183 KB