Agenda and minutes

Venue: St George's Room, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham

Contact: Committee Services  Tel 01362 656870

No. Item


Chairman (Agenda Item 1)

To elect a Chairman for the meeting.



As the only eligible candidate, Mr Ridgway assumed the Chair.


He welcomed the new Parish Council Representatives to the Committee.



Minutes (Agenda Item 2) pdf icon PDF 74 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 17 May 2011.


The Minutes of the meeting held on 17 May 2011 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.



Apologies (Agenda Item 3)

To receive apologies for absence.



Apologies for absence were received from Mr M Eveling.



Urgent Business (Agenda Item 4)

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 (Agenda Item 5)

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 (Agenda Item 6)

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






Application for Dispensations (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 73 KB

Report of the Monitoring Officer.


Additional documents:


The Consultant Solicitor advised that there were four applications for dispensations.  The regulations regarding the granting of dispensations were set out in the report.  If granted the dispensations would stand until the next elections or until the proposed changes to the legislation come into force.


            (1)       Horningtoft Parish Council


RESOLVED to grant a dispensation to Andrew Hill, Graham Drew, Pauline Chapman, Tracey Hawke and Ivan Baker to speak and vote in connection with the Former Highway Surveyors Land Charity.


(2)               Dereham Town Council


RESOLVED to grant a dispensation to Timothy Birt, Ann Bowyer, Phillip Duigan, Michael Fanthorpe, Linda Goreham, Robin Goreham, Stuart Green, Robert Hambidge, Kate Millbank, Linda Monument, Thomas Monument and Haydn Rogers to speak and vote in connection with the Bishop Bonner’s Cottage Charity, the Recreation Ground Charity and the Headborough Estate Charity.


(3)               Weasenham Saint Peter Parish Council


RESOLVED to grant a dispensation to Mr P Davies, Mr B Blower, Mr R Bowyer, Mrs J Grimwood, Mr K Grimwood, Mrs L Parke and Mrs I Sincock to speak and vote in connection with the Former Highway Surveyors Land Charity.


(4)               Weasenham Saint Peter Parish Council


It was noted that the Parish Council could be quorate if the dispensation was not granted.  Members considered that as the individuals had been elected by the public to represent both bodies the dispensation should be granted.  However, it was felt necessary to point out that there might be a need on occasion for individuals to declare a personal and prejudicial interest and leave the room.


The Chairman suggested that a letter should be sent, highlighting advice about personal involvement for clarity.




(a)   grant a dispensation to Mrs J Grimwood, Mr K Grimwood, Mrs L Parke and Mrs I Sincock to speak and vote in connection with the Weasenham Recreation Ground Charity; and

(b)   delegate authority to the Standards Consultant and the Standards Officer to compose a letter to the Parish Council highlighting the importance of declarations and conflicts of interest.



For Information: Draft Report from Norfolk County Council on Standards (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 55 KB

The Committee were informed previously that a draft report was being prepared by Norfolk County Council in relation to the future of Standards and possible joint Codes of Conduct and/or Joint Standards Committee.  The draft has now been received and is attached for information.


Additional documents:


The Standards Consultant asked for comments on the draft report from the Norfolk Monitoring Officers.


The Chairman thought it was useful to see but that things had already moved on to the next stage.  It was suggested that the report should be added to the letter to the Leader to provide background information.  It could also be added to the Minutes so that all Members would see it.


A Member was concerned about the statutory sanctions which seemed to be aimed at District Councillors leading to unequal censure for District and Parish Councillors.


The Solicitor explained that the idea of removing the mandatory code was to make each authority responsible for its own councillors.


The Chairman felt that this was a key point.  He said that consideration needed to be given to what powers District Councils and Standards Committees would have over Parish Councils who might choose not to adopt a voluntary code.  Public perception would be that Councillors could not be held to account.


Mrs Matthews (as a Vice-President of the Association) was asked to find out what the Norfolk Association of Local Councils thought about the voluntary code.


The Chairman said that is was important for the Committee to emphasise the importance of standards training for Councillors.


The Solicitor suggested that the Committee could write to the DCLG drawing attention to their concerns about the gap in the current proposals which could lead to a potential downturn in behaviour.


A Member commented that he had noticed an improvement in behaviour at Committees since the code was adopted.  He agreed that a letter should be written.


RESOLVED that the Standards Consultant should send a letter of concern to the DCLG on behalf of the Committee setting out their fears with regard to disparity of censure and potential future behaviour problems, in the context of what had been achieved since the introduction of the Code of Conduct.



Letter to the Leader on Standards Issues (Agenda Item 9)

A draft letter to the Leader, based on instructions from the last Committee, will be tabled for consideration and approval by the Committee.



A draft letter to the Leader was tabled for Members’ comments. 


In line with paragraph 8 of the Monitoring Officers’ report, Members supported the introduction of a Countywide Code and the Chairman asked that that was made clear to the Leader in the letter.


The Standards Consultant said that one suggestion had been to keep the current code without Interests, but still covering respect, bullying, disrepute, etc.  Alternatively a new code could be developed, as the current code was difficult to understand, although some parts would be good to copy word for word.


Discussion turned to the introduction of the criminal offence for failure to declare an interest and questions were raised about which matters the police were likely to act on.  This was another matter that needed to be clarified.


Turning to the letter, the following amendments were suggested:


Page 2 (a) amend to read:  A voluntary Code of Conduct is seen as important for Breckland and should be ready to take effect on the abolition of the current Code


The Committee wished to emphasise the importance of maintaining the current number of members as it would be difficult to cope with a lower number.


The Committee supported the adoption of a County-wide Code.


The report of the Monitoring Officers should be attached to the letter for information.


The Chairman hoped that the letter would be seen as a clear and constructive document in the best interests of all elected members.


RESOLVED that subject to the amendments above, the letter be sent to the Leader of the Council on behalf of the Committee.



Items for Future Agendas (Agenda Item 10)

To note items for inclusion on future agendas.



A Member suggested that training should be considered on a future agenda and the Consultant Solicitor advised that he had received clearance from the Monitoring Officer to offer limited training to Breckland Members and others from town and parish councils which he hoped to arrange for September.


He had already given all new Councillors a brief session on the Code.


The Chairman agreed that training should be included on the next agenda.



Next Meeting (Agenda Item 11)

To note the date of the next meeting on 30 August 2011 at 2.15pm in the Norfolk Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham NR19 1EE.



The arrangements for the next meeting on 30 August 2011 were noted.