Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Committee Services  Tel 01362 656870

No. Item


Minutes (Agenda Item 1) pdf icon PDF 75 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 21 February 2012.


The Minutes of the meeting held on 21 February 2012 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Apologies (Agenda Item 2)

To receive apologies for absence.





Urgent Business (Agenda Item 3)

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 4)

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.





Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting (Agenda Item 5)

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



Mrs L Turner and Mr M Wassell were in attendance.


Introductions were made round the table.


Response from Cabinet (Agenda Item 6) pdf icon PDF 57 KB

To note the response from Cabinet to the recommendations made in the Minutes.


The Chairman set the scene particularly for the benefit of non-Members so that they could see how the current position had been reached.


Under the old regime there had been a Code of Conduct set by the Government for all County, District and Town & Parish Councillors.  It had been a good Code which had encouraged high standards but the old framework had been cumbersome and bureaucratic leading to frustration.


The Government had abolished Standards for England and the old regime, but during the passage of the Localism Bill it had become clear that a new Code would be required to ensure high standards of behaviour by Councillors.


The Committee had been trying to get a political steer since May 2011 to help prepare for the future.  In July 2011 a letter had been written to the Leader of the Council asking for his views.  An acknowledgement had been received in November but no actual response had ever been received.


On 15 November 2011 the Localism Bill had become law.  Again the Committee had asked for guidance and had invited the Executive Member to attend a meeting.


At the meeting of the Standards Committee on 3 January 2012, with the Executive Member present, it had been agreed that unless the Committee acted as trail blazers there would be no progress.  They had again requested a political steer from the Executive Member. 


At that meeting the Committee had agreed to advertise for two new Independent Persons as time was running out to have a replacement system in place for July when the current system ceased.  The two current Independent Members would retire in July.  The Committee had also recommended that the Standards Committee should continue with the involvement of District and Parish Councillors (and the two new Independent Persons) for the remainder of the year whilst the new system bedded in.


It had also been decided at that meeting that a Sub-Committee led by Councillor Matthews and Parish Councillor Smith would conduct the interviews for the new Independent Persons and that the existing Independent Members would not be involved in that process to ensure transparency.


On 31 March the Chairman had e-mailed Officers for a progress report and been told that Cabinet had instructed that the advertisement should be withdrawn and that they would deal with the recruitment.


The Chairman had been astonished that that had been done without consultation with himself or the Committee.  He considered that the Committee had been ignored and treated with contempt.  It was poor governance and extremely bad manners.


He thought that Cabinet’s proposed way forward was not in the spirit of the Code laid down by Parliament and would certainly not inspire public confidence.


He appealed to all Councillors to take the matter very seriously to ensure that public confidence was maintained, and that high standards of behaviour by Councillors were encouraged and monitored.  He then asked other Members of the Committee for their views.


Mrs Smith had been flabbergasted by the newspaper reports of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.


Draft Code of Conduct (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Document provided by the Monitoring Officer for comment by the Committee.

Additional documents:


Two suggested National Codes of Conduct had been circulated to Members.  The Solicitor asked if they had any recommendations to make to Cabinet on 8 May 2012.  The Codes were both very different from the existing Code and were more general.  They lacked reference to such things as confidentiality, respect and bullying.  The Solicitor was not sure if their vagueness would lead to an increase or a decrease in complaints.


Mr Ridgway had experience of preparing Codes and he was pleased with the style which was generally saying ‘behave yourselves’ without giving specifics.  If sensibly applied the Codes would give guidance, but deciding complaints would require careful judgement.


Mr Wassell pointed out that Members were ruled by other issues apart from the Code of Conduct, such as Member/Officer protocols and Data Protection.


Generally speaking Members were pleased with the drafts which were considered to be user friendly and clearly explained. 


The Monitoring Officer noted that the Code was likely to get longer once a definition of pecuniary interests was available.  She also noted that the Independent Person would be crucial in providing advice and judgement.


Recruitment of Independent Person (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 5 MB

Documents provided by the Monitoring Officer for comment by the Committee.


The Monitoring Officer informed Members that she had been instructed by Cabinet to draft an advertisement and accompanying papers which she had based on that of another Council.  The closing date for applications was 3 May 2012.  At the interview stage they would be looking for good judgement and the ability to filter complaints.


From her research she was able to advise that not many other Local Authorities were at the same stage as Breckland.


The advertisement had been placed on the Council’s website and sent to other Monitoring Officers throughout the County.  It had also been circulated to all Parish Clerks.  It would appear in the local paper on Wednesday 25 April 2012.


Items for Future Agendas (Standing Item)(Agenda Item 9)

To note items for inclusion on future agendas.





Next Meeting (Agenda Item 10)

To note the date of the next meeting on 15 May 2012.


The arrangements for the next meeting were noted.  The Chairman gave his apologies as he would be unable to attend.  


He thanked everyone for attending.