Agenda item

Agenda item


To receive a report (copy enclosed) and presentation from the Monitoring Officer in respect of a consultation paper on the review of the Ethical Framework.


The Deputy Monitoring Officer submitted a report (previously circulated) presenting the consultation on the recommendations of the Penn Review and sought the Committee’s views on the Welsh Government’s response and 21 questions raised in the consultation, prior to collating the views of the wider Council membership and key officers involved in the Local Government Ethical Standards Framework.


The Monitoring Officer (MO) and Deputy Monitoring Officer (DMO) delivered a PowerPoint Presentation on the document to facilitate the debate and inform and contribute to the Council’s response.   The presentation included some background to the review and its conclusions; elaborated on the 12 recommendations and other related matters; guided members through the consultation questions, and reported on the next steps in the consultation process with a final response considered at the Committee’s next meeting and submission of comments by 23 June 2023.


With regard to Recommendation 2 and register of interests, the changes had been made in terms of members providing only a street name or postcode in order to provide a greater level of protection.  It was highlighted that, in some cases, the postcode/street name would identify only one property.  The MO agreed to look into the matter further and ascertain whether, given the changes to the regulations, the provision not to disclose an address in particular circumstances, still existed.


During a lengthy debate, the Committee responded to the questions as follows –


Q1 – agreed to the change to the Code to reflect the Equality Act 2010 definitions of protected characteristics


Q2 – agreed to the Adjudication Panel for Wales (APW) being able to issue Restricted Reporting Orders to be used proportionally in the interests of fairness and protection of witnesses


Q3 – agreed there should be express legal provision to enable the APW to protect the anonymity of witnesses


Q4 – agreed to support the changes to the permission to appeal procedure outlined in the recommendation to streamline the process but proposed that a timescale be included to ensure the process was completed within a reasonable period of time


Q5 – supported there being an express power for the APW to summon witnesses to appeal tribunals but commented on the difficulties of enforcing such a provision


Q6 – most members did not recognise the benefit of the APW referring appeal decisions back to the Standards Committee, particularly given the same Committee would be reviewing the same case and would likely prolong the overall process for the appellant, although one member felt there could be some flexibility given that every case was different.  One member considered there to be value in referring the matter back to the Standards Committee in order to reflect on the merits of the reasons given to reconsider their decision and retain local control and responsibility


Q7 – agreed there should be express provision to enable part or all of tribunal hearings to be held in private; that provision to be used proportionally in the interests of justice


Q8 – agreed that the requirement to provide not less than seven days’ notice of the postponement of a hearing should not be retained in order to provide greater flexibility.  However, reasonable notice should be given


Q9 – agreed there should be a wider range of powers available to the APW with the current powers available being too restrictive


Q10 – agreed to support interim case tribunal suspensions in extreme circumstances


Q11 – in relation to the operation of APW and disclosure, the Committee supported a requirement to make available unused material held by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PSOW) and MOs in the interests of natural justice


Q12 – agreed to the need to raise awareness of the Ethical Standards Framework and to work with others as appropriate in that regard


Q13 – whilst noting there were merits to advertising for lay members in the local newspaper, it was agreed that it should not be a mandatory requirement provided a variety of other means were used in order to reach a wide and diverse audience


Q14 – agreed the lifelong ban on former council employees being independent members of their previous employer’s Standards Committee be removed, with a 12-month grace period between employment and appointment for most employees, and a longer period for those formerly holding statutory or politically restricted posts


Q15 – agreed the lifelong ban on serving as an independent member on the Standards Committee of the Council to which a councillor was elected should be removed, with most members agreeing one council term would be a suitable grace period, with one member advocating a lesser grace period or none at all


Q16 – agreed the Standards Committee should not have the power to summon witnesses given that power could not be enforced


Q17 – agreed that the sanctions a Standards Committee can impose should be added to; suggesting powers to direct training be undertaken rather than the current recommendation, and an increase in the suspension period of up to one year


Q18/19/20 – considered the current bilingual provision to be sufficient with any changes having a neutral impact on the Welsh Language


Q21 – noted the document was first published and last updated on 24 March 2023.


The Chair thanked the MO and DMO for the presentation and the DMO agreed to keep the Committee updated with issues emanating from the Penn Review.


RESOLVED that the Committee’s initial views on the consultation as detailed above be collated and included in the final response for consideration by the Committee at their next meeting.


Supporting documents: