CHAIRS ANNUAL REPORT
To consider a report by the Deputy Monitoring Officer (copy attached) prioir to the report being presented at Full Council.
A report was submitted by the Deputy Monitoring Officer (previously circulated) presenting the draft Chair’s Annual Report for consideration prior to its submission to full Council. The report detailed the Committee’s work during 2021.
The Standards Committee had previously agreed that an annual report on its work be presented to all council members as part of the Committee’s drive to increase standards of ethical behaviour and compliance with the Members Code of Conduct. Due to the May local government elections there had been a delay in receiving the report which would usually have been produced much earlier in the year.
The Deputy Monitoring Officer guided members through the content of the report and during debate the following amendments were agreed by the Committee –
· paragraph 4.2 – reference to the appointment of the new Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Michelle Morris who had taken over from Nick Bennett, be included in the report. It was noted that the term ‘Ombudsman’ was still used despite the new appointment. It was agreed that the local resolution protocol be included and referred to in a supportive way as a means of avoiding issues escalating and the link to the engagement of Group Leaders in such activities going forward. Whilst noting the report covered 2021 it was considered appropriate to mention that the current composition of the Standards Committee would be under future review with potential for up to two additional members
· paragraph 4.3 – the number of times the Committee met be amended to 4 occasions (from 3 occasions). It was agreed that listing the items provided an appropriate summary and the Chair may wish to elaborate on any of those items at full Council. Members noted the change to the annual reporting process to full Council from municipal year back to calendar year. There was some discussion on how best to report to Council the meeting held on 11 June 2021 to determine an allegation of breach of the code of conduct. Further reference had been included in paragraph 4.6. Whilst it was important to be sensitive to the situation it was also important that the new Council had an understanding of the role and processes of the Standards Committee. It was agreed to provide further clarity in the report in that regard and the Chair may wish to elaborate on the issue at full Council. It was agreed that the Chair and Deputy Monitoring Officer discuss and agree the best approach outside of the meeting
· paragraph 4.4 – the addition of ‘Dispensation Requests’ be included as a standing item for the Committee going forward. 4.4(a) – to reword the sentence and replace “from a support and educational angle” with “from a supportive and collaborative angle” to better reflect the approach taken. As part of the role of attendance and observation at meetings, reference be included to also ensuring that meetings were accessible to the public in an appropriate way. 4.4(b) it was agreed that the new approach taken by the Ombudsman regarding notification of complaints be referenced in the next annual report and not in the 2021 report, but that the wording be strengthened to further explain the Committee’s approach in identifying any trends and patterns to proactively target those issues as a preventative measure. It was agreed to include the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Code of Conduct Casebook as a standing item
· paragraph 4.5 – brief reference be made to the key issues arising from the Penn review in order to raise awareness of those matters and the potential implications for the Standards Committee and County Council together with the new responsibility on Group Leaders, and
· further clarity be provided that the report covered 2021 and the Committee’s membership at that time, which also covered the period of the previous Chair. The current Chair (Vice-Chair in 2021) would present the report to Council.
The Chair thanked the Deputy Monitoring Officer for her hard work in preparing the draft report and work to prepare an amended draft to incorporate the Committee’s amendments. It was agreed that the Chair and Vice-Chair approve the final draft.
RESOLVED that the Standards Committee –
(a) note the contents of the report, and
(b) subject to the above comments/amendments being incorporated into the report, and subsequent approval of the final draft by the Chair and Vice-Chair, recommend its presentation by the Chair to the full Council.
[At this point (12.30 pm) Councillor Bobby Feeley left the meeting.]