Agenda item

Members' Interests in the LDF Process (Agenda Item 6)

To consider any comments from the Breckland Members of the Committee on the Committee’s resolution at its last meeting (see Minute 36/08).  A copy of the officers’ report to that meeting is attached for convenience.

Minutes:

This item had been accepted back by the Chairman at the Council meeting on 30 June 2008 for further consideration.

 

The Chairman explained that the Committee had previously felt there were three main reasons for the recommendations that had been made at the last meeting:

 

  1. The high stakes involved in the LDF process.

  2. The importance of the public perception of the management of the process.

  3. The fact that the Council membership was sufficient to enable decisions to be made without those Members with interests in the LDF site specifics process.

 

The report and Minute 36/08 of the Committee’s consideration of the matter at its last meeting fully set out the background to the matter.  The Committee had endorsed the general advice previously given to Members.  Attention was also drawn to the provisions of the Local Government Act 2000 which specifically state that the main function of Standards Committees is to promote high standards of conduct within Councils.

 

During discussion, the Breckland members expressed concern that the recommendation appeared to preclude Members from all discussion relating to their Wards and appeared to be applying different standards between District and Parish Councillors.

 

It was explained that there was a distinction between the normal circumstances governing members’ interests on general matters, including Members’ rights to participate in the LDF process in other respects that did not involve specific interests, and those matters of the LDF, particularly the site specifics process, where Members either did or could have prejudicial interests.  Examples to explain the issues were given.

 

The report was concerned with the Council’s reputation from the point of view of the public in seeing the involvement of members with specific interests in LDF matters.   This was felt to be particularly relevant in the case of Panel 1.

 

Mr. Nunn stated that the situation in relation to Panel 1 was likely to be resolved by forthcoming changes to the structure of the Policy Development and Review Panels which were currently under discussion.

 

In answer to a question about whether Members of the Cabinet could be granted dispensations, it was explained that the role of the Cabinet in the matter was felt to be even greater than that of the Panel and that dispensations would not normally be given to such key members of the Authority.  In the present circumstances, the minor nature of the interests of the three members of the Cabinet concerned was such as to be unlikely to present any problems.  More particularly, however, where less than half the members of the Cabinet were affected, they would not qualify under the rules for the grant of dispensations as the committee would have a quorum of members remaining to make decisions.

 

By way of clarification, it was explained that “other matters” in recommendation (2) was intended to relate to those instances where Members might have specific prejudicial interests.

 

In conclusion, the point was made that the function of the Standards Committee was to give clear advice to the Council on best practice.  It was up to the Council to decide whether or not it agreed with or wished to accept that advice.

 

The recommendations as contained under minute 36/08 were endorsed for resubmission to the Council as follows:

 

RECOMMEND to the Council that:

 

(1)         Policy Development and Review Panel 1 be reconstituted to ensure that it is not comprised of any Members who are promoting sites under the LDF on behalf of themselves or any other person;

(2)         On the basis that a number of members of Cabinet were making representations or were involved in the process, Cabinet be not involved in the deliberation of LDF sites specifics allocations, settlement boundaries and other matters but simply transmit site specific documents direct to full Council;

(3)         Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission continue to be mindful of the need to declare any personal or prejudicial interest in receiving references from Panel 1 on the LDF in appropriate circumstances;

(4)         the Council remains conscious of public perception and of the need to act in the spirit of the Code of Conduct at all times; and

(5)    the general advice on members’ interests as given in paragraph 7 of the report of the Monitoring Officer be endorsed.

Supporting documents: