DRAFT REVISED GUIDANCE ON THE CODE OF CONDUCT
To consider a report by the Monitoring Officer (copy enclosed) informing members about a consultation being conducted by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, (the Ombudsman) about new draft guidance for elected members on the Code of Conduct.
The Monitoring Officer (MO) presented the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Consultation – Draft Revised Guidance on the Code of Conduct for Members of County, Town, City and Community Councils report (previously circulated). The report was about a consultation being conducted by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (the Ombudsman) in respect of new draft guidance for elected members on the Code of Conduct.
The Ombudsman’s current Guidance on the Code of Conduct for Members was published in August 2016. The guidance was designed to assist members to understand their obligations under the Code of Conduct. This continued to be the stated purpose in the latest draft.
The draft revised guidance that was the subject of the consultation followed a similar format to the previous guidance. The document appeared to have been amended to include slightly more explanatory text and this was supplemented by a greater number of examples, many of which members may recognise from previous issues of the Code of Conduct Casebook. The draft revised guidance feels more up to date than the current guidance and was likely to be of assistance to existing councillors and to those who were newly elected in 2022. The documents were likely to be of assistance in the provision of training following the 2022 elections.
There was as an Adjudication Panel dismissed an appeal by a Community Councillor against the decision of the local standards committee that he had failed to show respect and consideration for others by posting various online comments criticising the other members and the way in which the Council was run. The High Court found that, whilst the comments were sarcastic and mocking and the tone ridiculed his fellow members, because the majority of the comments related to the way in which the Council was run, how its decisions were recorded and the competence of the members, the comments were “political expression”. The ruling said no account had been taken of the need for politicians to have “thicker skins”.
In the second case, the High Court heard an appeal against the decision of the Adjudication Panel that a member of a county council had committed 14 breaches of the Code by failing to show respect and consideration for officers of the Council, using bullying behaviour, attempting to compromise the impartiality of officers and bringing the member’s office into disrepute. The breaches occurred over a period of two years and included comments and conduct which were critical of, and threatening towards, both senior and junior officers. The Court found that all of the breaches were intentional and some of the misconduct was serious.
The MO informed the committee that the report has been previously discussed at the Standards Committee, they believed that the guidance was easy to digest, however they felt that there should be additional guidance on the social media aspect of being a councillor.
The following points were discussed in more detail –
· Members highlighted the first case which was mentioned, about the difference about political and personal comments, they felt that it was hard to accept that those who were in a public role were required to have a thick skin. It was felt that this aspect of becoming a councillor detracted from people wanting to stand for election.
· The committee queried whether if they witnessed another Councillor breaking the code of conduct, could they intervene to inform them they were breaching conduct rules. The MO responded the ombudsman was in favour of minor, local problems between members being dealt with through local resolution procedures where possible. He added that there was nothing in the code about challenging bad behaviour but a quiet word by one member with another member suspected of breaching the code was well within the role of councillors.
RESOLVED that the committee considered the Draft Revised Guidance on the Code of Conduct for Members of County, Town, City and Community Councils.
- Code of Conduct Report - English, item 7. PDF 201 KB
- Appendix 1, item 7. PDF 402 KB
- Appendix 2, item 7. PDF 393 KB