To advise the Committee of activity within the Council’s Standards Framework from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019.
Sanjay Prashar, Borough Solicitor, presented a summary of the Annual Standards Report.
The report set out the current framework for the handling of complaints alleging a breach of the Code of Conduct for Members.
The data showed an increase in complaints received in 2018/19 from the 10 previous years; the figure being 9 complaints against a high of 7 complaints in 2016/17. The majority of complaints received in 2018/19 were against Parish and Town Councillors, and the grounds for each complaint and outcome were set out in appendix B of the Report.
Following a consultation on Local Government Ethical Standards launched in January 2018 by the CSPL, the findings of the review were published in a report in January 2019. Members were directed to the reports main recommendations for central government which were not expected to be made into legislation for some time. The recommendations included the reintroduction of the power to suspend Councillors for a period of up to six months and also for Councillors to be given the right to appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman against such a sanction.
The report also included a list of best practice recommendations directed to local authorities, most of which were already adopted by the Council. Where there was some divergence, those areas would form the basis of a separate report later in the year following consideration by the Code of Conduct Working Group.
In response to discussion and questions from Members, Sanjay Prashar, Borough Solicitor advised the Committee that:
1 The Standards outputs in 2018/19 as set out in appendix Bof the Annual Standards Report be noted.
2 The Best Practice recommendations set out in the report of the Committee for Standards in Public Life (CSPL) into ethical standards in appendices C and D and the proposal in paragraph 11 of the Annual Standards Report for these recommendations to be considered by the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Independent Member of the Committee with a view to any changes to the Council’s Standards Framework agreed by the Panel being presented to Council later in the year for adoption.