FORMAL RESPONSE TO THE WELSH GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION ON THE PENN REVIEW
To receive a report (copy enclosed) from the Monitoring Officer in respect of the Welsh Government’s review of the Ethical Framework in Wales.
The Monitoring Officer (MO) submitted a report (previously circulated) presenting the standards committee of the Council’s response to the consultation.
The Committee has been kept updated regarding the review of the Ethical Framework in Wales – the ‘Penn Review’ - which commenced in 2021; such framework has remained essentially unchanged for twenty years. Members would recall from previous reports that the initial phase of the review found that the framework was fit for purpose but that some areas may benefit from future amendments.
The Standards Committee received a presentation at its last meeting to provide their views on the consultation questions. Group Leaders are being consulted between the writing of this report and this Committee meeting due to the shortness of the time supplied to respond. Group Leaders' views would be shared with the Committee at the meeting.
The recommendations were as follows –
· Q1 – Group leaders agreed to include all protected characteristics within the code of conduct.
· Q3 –Group leaders agreed with the express legal provision to enable the APW to protect the anonymity of witnesses.
· Q4 – Members agreed with the proposed appeals procedure changes, which would streamline the timescales.
· Q5 – it was agreed that the APW should have express power to summon witnesses; however, they felt that the matter would be difficult to enforce.
· Q6 – the group leaders disagreed with any changes to the appeal referring process. 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. However, one member felt there could be some flexibility given that every case differed. One member considered there to be value in referring the matter back to the Standards Committee to reflect on the merits of the reasons given to reconsider their decision and retain local control and responsibility.
· Q8 - members agreed that the requirement to provide not less than seven days’ notice of the postponement of a hearing should not be retained to provide greater flexibility. However, reasonable notice should be given.
· Q9 – the group leaders agreed there should be a broader range of powers available to the APW, with the current ones being too restrictive.
· Q10b – there were no comments on the process.
· Q11 – it was felt that concerning 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 – the group leaders 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 to reach a broad and diverse audience.
· Q14b – relating to a lifelong ban on former council employees being removed, they felt that the ban should be lifted; however, 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.
· Q16 – regarding Standards committees’ powers to summon witnesses, the group leaders felt that the committee should not have the power as it would be difficult to enforce.
· 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.
There was no impact on the Welsh language regarding the Penn Review.
The chair queried the standards committee whether they had any further comments regarding the group leaders’ responses to the Penn review.
Members raised Q14b. They agreed with the comments submitted by the group leaders and wanted them included in the response. Regarding Q17, members also agreed with the comments raised by group leaders, and it was decided whether there was a higher sanction and agreed that it would be discussed at a higher level.
RESOLVED that the standards committee agree with the comments added by group leaders alongside their initial views on the Penn Review and that a response be submitted.
- PENN REVIEW RESSPONSE TO WG STANDARDS REPORT. JUNE 23, item 11. PDF 115 KB
- Penn response Appendix 1, item 11. PDF 220 KB