Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Committee Services  Tel 01362 656870

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 72 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 2 February 2010.


The Chairman wished to clarify that the Standards for England report did not refer specifically to Breckland, as was inferred in the second and fifth paragraphs of page 2 of the Minutes, but was concerned about Districts with large numbers of parishes in general.


Subject to this clarification, the minutes of the meeting held on 2 February 2010 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.



To receive apologies for absence.



Apologies for absence were received from Mr D Williams.


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.



None present.


Annual Assembly of Standards Committees

An invitation has been received to attend the Annual Assembly of Standards Committees on 18th – 19th October, 2010 in Birmingham.  The theme for the conference is “A place for standards”.  Sessions include:


·                    for new or less experienced delegates to build confidence in managing local assessment, investigations, hearings, determinations and the Code of Conduct;

·                    how to develop a place for standards in your authority, and proactively engage with members, leaders and key decision makers;

·                    how to successfully recruit independent standards committee members;

·                    how to develop a proactive work programme for your standards committee;

·                    how to deal with challenging behaviour and get 'difficult' members to understand the local standards framework;

·                    the right qualities and skills for an effective independent chair;

·                    to blog or not to blog: Using social media and staying within the Code;

·                    dedicated sessions focused on town and parish councils and fire, police, integrated transport and parks authorities .


The cost of attending the two day conference is £430.00 + VAT and will necessitate an overnight stay in Birmingham.


The Committee is asked to nominate two members to attend the Conference.



The usual invitation had been received for members of the Committee to attend the Annual Assembly.  The cost per member was considered to be high, but nevertheless the conference was of great value and provided an excellent opportunity for networking. 


The Chairman suggested that preference should be given to any members who had not previously attended and said that as her term as Chairman was reaching a conclusion, it would be wrong for her to go.


RESOLVED that Mrs Matthews and Mr Rayner be nominated to attend the Annual Assembly, with Mrs Oechsle and Mr Whittley being noted as potential reserves.


New Code of Conduct for Members – Item for Information

Standards for England (SfE) have written to advise that a new Code of Conduct for Members will not be laid during this Parliamentary session. Communities and Local Government have notified the SfE that the Government is concentrating on financial instruments and so there will not be Parliamentary time available for the Code.

In practice this means that a new Code will not now be laid until after a general election.



The Standards Consultant noted this further delay to the publication of the new Code and asked members for their thoughts on future training.


It was agreed that this could not be put off indefinitely and that it was important to regularly refresh the memories of Members on the requirements of the Code.


As the District Council elections would be held in May 2011, there was some concern that training could be arranged, but Members might not attend as there would be some who were not planning to stand for election again, and others who thought they might not be re-elected.  It was therefore suggested that the training could be held at the end of a full Council meeting to encourage attendance.


The Chairman felt that it was important to engage Members in training, especially for those serving on Committees and as Chairmen.  The Member Services Manager explained that there was a training programme in place for Members.


A Member noted that lack of training might count against a Member and the Standards Consultant agreed that this was mentioned in Standards for England reports and was a factor to be considered in any investigations of alleged breaches.


Standards for England : Bulletin 47 pdf icon PDF 250 KB

For information and discussion.


The Chairman received an electronic copy of the Bulletin and she enquired if other members did also.  She explained that it was a useful format as there were many links to other sites and articles of interest.  There was also a private forum for Standards Committee Members, which was useful as a discussion board.


The Standards Officer explained how members could subscribe to bulletins on the Standards for England website and she agreed to arrange passwords for those members not currently able to access the bulletin.


From the Forum, the Chairman had noted that there had been no progress in relation to vexatious complaints.  The Standards Consultant said that this was becoming a real problem in Norfolk, with some people taking up far too much time on Standards.  He felt that the current system was not set up to deal adequately with this problem. Some complaints might benefit from early investigation and mediation, saving both time and energy. 


Other items in the Bulletin were noted and a member asked how the authority’s risk level was assessed (Our Risk Based Approach – article on page 9 of the agenda).  The Standards Consultant advised that this was assessed from the monitoring information sent in by the Council and on the number of complaints about the Council, made direct to Standards for England.


Next Meeting

To note the date of the next meeting on 27 April 2010 at 2.15pm in the Norfolk Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham.


At the conclusion of the meeting the Committee had been invited to meet the Executive Members for a general discussion on the Committee’s role.


A schedule of committee meetings for coordination of visits by Committee members would be put to the next meeting.


As it was the aim of the Committee to raise their profile and to be known to all the Councillors it was suggested that they should be provided with magnetic name badges, like those recently distributed to elected members.  The Member Services Manager agreed to arrange this.


The arrangements for the next meeting on 27 April 2010 were noted.