Agenda item

Agenda item


To receive a verbal update from the Chair following attendance at the National Standards Forum on 27 January 2023 (notes attached).


The Chair and Vice Chair reported on their attendance at the National Standards Forum Committee held on 27 January 2023.  The notes of the meeting, including the presentation received from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PSOW), had been previously circulated with the agenda.  [Given the number of acronyms in the notes, the Monitoring Officer (MO) agreed to feedback on the need for either a glossary of the terms or for the abbreviation to be set out in full in the first instance.]


The Chair and Vice Chair elaborated on the items discussed, and responded to questions raised thereon, which covered the election of the Chair and Vice-Chair, Role and Terms of Reference, implementation of the new duty on Group Leaders and how it would be reported as part of the Standards Committee Annual Report, a presentation from Guest Speaker Michelle Morris, PSOW and an update on the Penn Report from Lisa James, Welsh Government. Under AOB there was an action to establish the practice for Standards Committee in Wales to produce Members Annual Reports and to develop training for Chairs and Vice Chairs of Standards Committees.  It had been considered an excellent forum, very worthwhile and useful for information sharing.  It was noted that MOs in North Wales would agree a representative to attend each meeting going forward and feedback to their Group.


The following points were raised during the ensuing debate –


·         a number of the issues discussed at the meeting related to the Penn Report which would be further discussed by the Committee under the next agenda item when responding to the Welsh Government’s consultation thereon

·         more complaints had been received by the PSOW during April 2021 to March 2022 than in the last decade; just under 300 complaints, 240 complaints not taken forward to investigation, 20 complaints passed to Standards Committees.  The correlation between breaches of the Code of Conduct and councillors not undertaking regular training was also highlighted, emphasising the importance of training.  The PSOW had agreed to review the changes to the reporting system which had made it difficult for MOs to provide information to Standards Committees and looked forward to working with the forum going forward

·         the reasoning behind the majority of complaints received by the PSOW not being investigated was discussed taking into account capacity and the introduction of the public interest test.  There was an acknowledgement that low level misbehaviour still had a detrimental impact both on organisations and public confidence and the role of the local resolution process was highlighted in that regard.  The issue had been recognised in the Penn Report.

·         Chairs and Vice Chairs could attend the forum but if neither could attend it was likely any request for a further representative would be looked upon favourably

·         agendas for the forum should be set by Standards Committees and members were encouraged to raise items with the MO.  It was suggested that future items should include: monitoring the response to the Welsh Government’s consultation on the Penn Review and viewpoint of other local authorities; continual information sharing and good practice on implementation of the Group Leaders duty, and the provision of Standards Committees to the Corporate Joint Committees given the various options available.  As an aside, it was noted there had been no recent talks on the possibility of joint Standards Committees and the MO confirmed that if and when any approaches or recommendations were made, the matter would be brought before the Standards Committee

·         the forum would meet twice a year, with the next meeting to be arranged for late June/early July.


RESOLVED that the verbal report on the meeting of the National Standards Forum held on 27 January 2023 be received and noted.


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