Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Committee Services  Tel 01362 656870

No. Item



To appoint a Chairman of the Committee for the ensuing year.



RESOLVED that Mrs Joan Jenkins be elected Chairman of the Committee for the ensuing year.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 65 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 27 April 2010.


The minutes of the meeting held on 27 April 2010 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.



To receive apologies for absence.





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.



There were none.


The Future of the Standards Regime pdf icon PDF 4 MB

After the election, it is uncertain how the future will unfold for the current Code of Conduct and Standards Regime.  Standards for England has submitted to the DCLG a review entitled “Local Standards 2.0 – the Proportionality Upgrade?” which is available on the Standards for England website.  Section 8, which includes their recommendations, is attached to this Agenda for information and comment.


The Solicitor advised Members that the latest news from Standards for England was the Government’s proposal to abolish the Standards Board regime.  He said there were no clear details yet and that the current framework remained, pending any change.


He explained that the current system could carry on without the Standards Board, but not the Code of Conduct.


A Member asked if the report attached to the agenda was a consultation document and it was clarified that this was a paper from Standards for England to the Government, if Members wished to discuss the report they could.


The Chairman then asked Members to consider each recommendation in turn and they made the following observations: 


Recommendation 1: 

Members agreed with this but felt that the words - with appropriate legal support where necessary should be added as not all Monitoring Officers had legal qualifications.


Recommendation 2:  

After some discussion Members agreed with this recommendation on the proviso that legal advice could be sought.  It was accepted that some meetings caused unnecessary expense, but there was concern that this recommendation put a lot of responsibility on the Chairman.  A Member thought that the onus should be on the complainant and that more information should be required to clarify the reasons and grounds for the complaint.


Recommendation 3:

This was agreed – otherwise the Vice-Chairman would be unable to stand in for the Chairman if absent.


Recommendation 4:



Recommendation 5:



Recommendation 6:



Recommendation 7:



Recommendation 8:

“With appropriate legal advice” should be added.


Recommendation 9:

The Chairman was surprised that Standards for England thought that serial trivial complainants were rare.  The Solicitor also felt they were quite common.  Members discussed the possibility of charging an administration fee to emphasise the seriousness of making a complaint, but some felt that this would put barriers in the way and be against the spirit of openness.


Recommendation 10:



Recommendation 11:



In connection with this Recommendation, the Solicitor reported the current statutory provisions in relation to information given to the Subject Member where a complaint has been raised and the difficulties and uncertainty that can be caused to the Member.  The Committee acknowledged the problem and:


RESOLVED that the Monitoring Officer be given delegated authority to inform a Subject Member of the substance of a complaint made against him/her when it is received, at the discretion of the Monitoring Officer, where circumstances allow.


Recommendation 12:

Members accepted that this recommendation related to the cost of publishing decisions, but still felt that the decision should be as widely publicised as possible.  They therefore agreed that the decision should be published on the website and as a press release.


Recommendation 13:

No comments.


Recommendation 14:

No comments.


Recommendation 15:

Members felt strongly that the Code should apply to Town and Parish Councillors as well as District Councillors.  They also agreed that the Code should be simplified.


A Member was concerned that the review was a result of impending cuts  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.


Dispensation Granted to Holme Hale Parish Council (For Information)

At Standards Committee on 4th September, 2009 the Committee resolved at Minute 31/09(3): as a general rule in future, when a dispensation was granted to all members of a Town or Parish Council with a vacancy, delegated authority be given to the Monitoring Officer to grant a dispensation for the same purpose to the new member when elected.


At a meeting on 28th April, 2009 Breckland Council’s Standards Committee agreed to grant a dispensation to the parish councillors of Holme Hale in respect of the Former Highway Surveyors Land at Holme Hale.


Following the resignation of three of the councillors, Holme Hale Parish Council co-opted three replacement parish councillors to fill the vacancies.


The Council received an e-mail from the Clerk to Holme Hale Parish Council requesting a dispensation for the three replacement parish councillors.


In line with the resolution made on the 4th September, 2009 by the Standards Committee, on the 27th April, 2010 the Monitoring Officer granted a dispensation to the three parish councillors of Holme Hale Parish Council, namely Mr. Robinson, Mr. Campbell and Mrs. Kerr.


This item was noted.


Raising Public Awareness Poster - Update

At the Standards Committee meeting on the 2nd February, 2010 the draft work programme was discussed.


Under the topic “Raising Public Awareness” the objective was to consider the most effective and appropriate ways to publicise Breckland’s Standards Committee and seek to use them.


It was suggested that a competition be held to produce a poster for sending to all parish/town councils and libraries.


The Standards Officer tried unsuccessfully to contact the sixth form centres in Dereham, Swaffham and Thetford by telephone.  A letter was subsequently sent asking if the students would be interested in entering the competition and asking for the sixth form centres to contact the Standards Officer to discuss.


To date no contact has been received.


It is therefore suggested that the Standards Officer liaises with the Council’s Marketing & Graphics Officer to design the poster in-house and the Committee’s views are sought.


The Standards Officer updated Members on the efforts she had made to contact local schools to encourage participation in a poster competition to raise awareness of the role of the Standards Committee.


Due to the lack of response she had received she sought guidance from the Committee for the next course of action.


The Member Services Manager was in attendance for this item.  He was still fully committed to using students to produce the poster as he considered it that a locally produced poster would have greater impact.  He said that the Youth Council could be approached to provide a route to the high schools and he also suggested that personal visits to the schools might produce more interest.  He asked the Committee for a further six weeks to allow the Standards Officer to make contact with the schools.


Members accepted that Standards was a difficult subject to portray visually and they were concerned that students might be busy with exams and then on holiday.  However they agreed to the six week extension.  They also thanked the Standards Officer for her efforts.


Items for future agendas (Standing Item)

To note items for inclusion on future agendas.



The term of office of the members of the committee was raised.  The Chairman informed Members that the Standards for England guidance advised that Independent Members should only stand for two terms.


It was noted that Parish and District Councillors would be standing for re-election in May 2011 and if all the Members of the Committee were changed at the same time it would mean the loss of continuity and experience.


It was agreed that the following items would be discussed at the next or future meetings:


§                     the rules of appointment and terms of office of Standards Committee Members

§                     a training presentation on the Social Media Policy

§                     a timetable of future training courses (including training for Town and Parish Councils)


The officers were also asked to refer any new Council Policies being drafted to the Committee where they had any Standards aspects.


Next Meeting

To note the date of the next meeting on 13 July 2010.


The arrangements for the next meeting on 13 July 2010 were noted.