Agenda and minutes

Venue: Norfolk Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham

Contact: Committee Services  Tel 01362 656870

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 68 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 8 December 2009.


The minutes of the meeting held on 8 December 2009 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.




An apology for absence was received from the Standards Officer.


Urgent Business

To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.





Declaration of Interest

Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests that they may have in any of the following items on the agenda.  The Members’ Code of Conduct requires that declarations include the nature of the interest and whether it is a personal or prejudicial interest.



No declarations were made.


Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting

To note the names of any non-members wishing to address the meeting.



  • Mrs. Sue Lake – Norfolk Association of Local Councils (by invitation for agenda item 6)




The Chairman welcomed Mrs. Shirley Matthews as a new Member of the Committee, replacing Mr. David Myers.


Joint Working Opportunities (Agenda Item 6)

Mrs. Sue Lake, Training, Finance and Administration Officer of the Norfolk Association of Local Councils, has accepted the Committee’s invitation to attend to talk with members about the opportunities for joint working.


Members will recall the issue of joint working was discussed at the last meeting with a view to raising awareness and engagement on standards at the parish council level. (Minute 56/09 refers)


Mrs. Sue Lake, Training, Finance and Administration Officer of the Norfolk Association of Local Councils (NALC) attended at the Committee’s invitation to discuss with members opportunities for joint working on standards training for town and parish councils.


By way of background, the Chairman explained that a number of training sessions had taken place in the past but that the take up by parishes was, in the main, quite poor.  The Committee had worked previously with Stuart Chaplin of the NALC under its former title of Norfolk Association of Parish & Town Councils.


The Committee had noted that recent research by the SfE (Standards for England) showed that only 19% of the population knew about standards committees and that the SfE felt this may lay behind the low number of complaints occurring in the Breckland area, although members of the Committee felt that the basis for that view was not necessarily well-founded.


As a result, the Committee was reviewing how it might address training needs and whether there was any scope for a joint working arrangement for this purpose with NALC.


Mrs. Lake stated that the timing of this approach was appropriate, as the NALC was looking at embarking on a standards training programme around the Districts.  Two and a half years had now elapsed since the new Code of Conduct came into force and therefore it was timely to review how it was working in practice and to refresh members’ training, as there would have been a lot of new councillor appointments in the intervening period. 


Mrs. Lake was surprised that the SfE felt there were too few complaints in the District.


Mrs. Lake welcomed the opportunity to work with the Council in providing training sessions, as she felt it was very useful to have a local point of view.


Aside from a refresh on the Code itself, other topics that could be covered through the training sessions were the issues of vexatious complaints, charitable trustees and declarations of interests under the Code, bullying of a member/parish clerk by the public and the need for parish councils to have complaints policy and procedures.


The training sessions would not deal with any specific cases but it was agreed the use of topical case studies in a workshop setting provided a very practical training aid to members.  It was suggested that a planning case scenario to illustrate standards issues would be very useful.


A pilot training event was being planned for the North Norfolk District Council area.  Members of the Committee were welcome to attend to observe at that event.


The Breckland programme would be drawn up in consultation with Breckland’s Monitoring Officer and Standards Consultant and would essentially be based on a workshop format and themed in such a way as to engage people actively.


The Committee supported the idea for a joint training approach and accordingly


RESOLVED that the Monitoring Officer and Standards Consultant be authorised to liaise with Mrs. Lake to develop and arrange a joint training programme for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Publicity Article for Breckland Voice Magazine (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 55 KB

Further to minute 56/09 of the last meeting, a draft article for inclusion in the March edition of Breckland Voice is attached for the Committee’s consideration. 


As previously notified to Members, arrangements have been made for a photograph of the Committee to be taken to accompany the Voice article.  Members are asked to attend for this at 2.00pm, prior to the start of the meeting.


A final draft article was circulated at the meeting for the Committee’s consideration, including an update to the names of the Breckland Members to show Mrs. Matthews in place of Mr. Myers.


Some suggested amendments were put forward, principally to make a clearer explanation of what the Committee does and the numbers of councils and councillors covered, as well as giving some explanation of the role of the Monitoring Officer and Standards Sub-Committees.  It was also felt that the reference to independent members of the Committee should refer to them as non-elected to distinguish them from any elected or political connotation.


RESOLVED that the draft article be revised along the lines indicated above.<1>


Citizens' Panel - Questions (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 39 KB

Further to minute 54/09 of the last meeting, suggested questions for a Citizens’ Panel survey are attached for the Committee’s consideration.


The Corporate Communications and Consultation Officer presented the draft questionnaire for the Citizen’s Panel survey to take place in June this year.


Members were happy with the proposed content but asked that reference to independent members should preferably state “non-elected” and that for the sake of consistency reference should be to “elected councillors” where appropriate.


It was explained that the draft questions would be finalised with the company conducting the survey, BMG.  The results of the survey would be received in mid-November.


RESOLVED that the draft questionnaire be agreed and the Monitoring Officer be authorised to agree the final with BMG.


Standards for England Bulletin No.46 (Agenda Item 9) pdf icon PDF 78 KB

A copy of the Standards for England Bulletin No. 46 is attached for information.


The Standards Consultant explained that the Standards for England’s Bulletin was circulated for information generally but he drew members’ attention to two items that he felt were of particular interest –


  • The report from the Annual Assembly on the top five issues discussed, in particular that relating to vexatious or persistent complainants and the advice given.

  • The update on the process for the transfer of the Adjudication Panel for England into the unified Tribunal structure.


In answer to a question about the SfE governance toolkit, it was confirmed that information on this had been issued with the last Standards Newsletter.  A member suggested it would be useful to provide a link to the toolkit on the Council’s website.


So far as the new assessment DVD was concerned, the Standards Consultant explained that it did not cover any new ground and was unlikely to be of any added value to members.  However, it was thought that Mrs. Matthews as a newly appointed member to the Committee might benefit from viewing it.


Standards for England - Guidance on Charitable Trustees and Declarations of Interest (Agenda Item 10) pdf icon PDF 64 KB

A copy of the latest SfE guidance on Charitable Trustees and Declarations of Interest is attached for the Committee’s information.


Members agreed this paper provided an invaluable summary of the position for charitable trustees.


The Standards Consultant advised that it was proposed to include it in the next Newsletter.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 47 KB

A copy of the Committee’s work programme is attached.  The Committee is asked to consider whether any additions, deletions or amendments to the programme are required.


With regard to the topic of liaison, the Monitoring Officer advised members that there was, in principle, agreement to a joint meeting of the Committee with the Leader and Executive. It was proposed that members should have the opportunity to meet informally as a first step towards fostering a closer spirit of cooperation between the work of the Committee and the rest of the Council.


There was some reservation about the public perception of the Committee being seen to take part in a “private” meeting but it was accepted that an initial ‘ice breaker’ meeting would be helpful towards establishing a more structured approach for liaison for the future. 


RESOLVED that arrangements be made for an informal joint meeting as proposed.


In answer to a question, the Standards Consultant confirmed that work was in hand to produce a suggested rota for Members’ attendance at meetings of the Council and its committees after the joint meeting with the Executive Members.<2>


The Work Programme was otherwise noted and no amendments were made.


Next Meeting

To note the date of the next meeting on 16 March 2010 at 2.15pm in the Norfolk Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham.


The arrangements for the next meeting on 16 March 2010 were noted.