Agenda item

Development of local assessment and review of complaints about the conduct of Members


The Borough Secretary and Solicitor (Monitoring Officer) referred to the recent changes to the Committee’s constitution to accommodate the new local standards regime provided for in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 and the supporting Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008.  The constitutional changes gave the Standards Committee and its Sub-Committees the power to assess, review and where necessary investigate complaints about Member misconduct. 


At the Committee ‘s last meeting Members had expressed concern about the lack of additional funding from the Government to enable local authorities to adequately resource these new responsibilities and asked the Monitoring Officer to write to the Government highlighting these concerns.  The Department of Communities and Local Government had responded indicating that the Department acknowledged that the new regime would have resource implications on local authorities and in recognition of this the Government had included an extra £2.3m per annum in the local government finance settlement to reflect the estimated additional cost to authorities.  A copy of the letter was submitted for information.


The Monitoring Officer drew attention to the membership of the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee which comprised the Deputy Chair of the Committee, and Mr Fred Ashmore together with three elected Members drawn from the Standards Committee.  He proposed that the selection of elected Members to serve on the Sub-Committee should be determined by lot and sought the Committee’s approval to this.  The three elected Members not selected by this process together with the Chair of the Committee and Dr Henna Khan would form the Standards (Review) Sub-Committee.  The selection process by lot would also apply to Parish Council representatives.


It was intended to permit Complainants to submit complaints in writing by post, fax, email and online through the Council’s internet website.  The introductory text and standard documentation, including the complaint form and guidance notes, to be placed on the Council’s website was submitted for Members’ comment and consideration. 


The Standards Board for England had made it clear that local authorities should develop criteria on how they would handle the assessment and, if necessary, the subsequent review of complaints and a draft policy guidance document was submitted to the Committee for consideration.  The document had been produced with the benefit of the Standards Board’s assessment toolkit the “Local Standards Framework – Guide for Authorities” with the inclusion of some “local criteria” which reflected local issues which had arisen in the past. 


The Monitoring Officer drew attention to Section 9 of the guidance document which dealt with the review of “no further action” decisions.  He proposed that the first sentence in the second paragraph of this Section should be amended to provide for the Review Sub-Committee to consider all complaints referred to it with “fresh eyes” and the deletion of the last sentence in that  paragraph  i.e. “This will only be if the decision was flawed because of the irregular way in which the allegation was processed or because an irrational judgement was made on the reported facts”. 


Resolved –


(a)  That the letter received from the Department of Communities and Local Government on the funding of the local standards regime be noted.


(b)  That the appointment by lot of elected Members to the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee and the appointment of elected Members to the Standards (Review) Sub-Committee now proposed be approved.


(c)  That the documentation now submitted to be posted on the Council’s internet website on how to make a complaint about the conduct of a Councillor be approved. 


(d)  That the policy guidance document on the assessment and review of complaints as now amended be approved and adopted.

Supporting documents: