Agenda and minutes

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Items
No. Item

7.

Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest

To receive any apologies for absence and declarations of interest.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Asker and Loughlin, and Mrs Wellingbrook-Doswell.

8.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 79 KB

To consider the minutes of the previous meeting held on 6 November 2017.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 6 November 2017 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

9.

Standards in Public Life: Report on Intimidation in Public Life pdf icon PDF 79 KB

To receive the Committee on Standards in Public Life report on Intimidation in Public Life.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director – Governance and Legal Services summarised the Committee on Standards in Public Life report on “Intimidation in

Public Life”. He said the report recommended the non-disclosure of personal data that could lead to a councillor being subject to violence or intimidation e.g. home addresses, shares held by a councillor. He said he had written to councillors and parish clerks to advise them of this practice but asked Members to contact him if they had any concerns.

 

In a wider context the Assistant Director – Governance and Legal Services said it was desirable for councillors to foster a respectful environment in which people in public life behaved well. This could be achieved by following the Nolan principles and reinforcing the Code of Conduct. Political parties had an important role to play by enforcing the code, through the party whip and internal discipline. The establishment of a cross party consensus on what constituted acceptable terms of debate would go some way in fostering a respectful political environment.

 

Councillor Knight entered the meeting at 5.15pm.

 

Members discussed the use of social media in local politics, and the recommendations they had inferred after reading the report. There was a general consensus that social media could be used for the benefit, and detriment, of those in public life.

 

The Assistant Director – Governance and Legal Services said Member training on social media would be part of Member induction training in 2019. Members agreed this was a good idea.

 

The Assistant Director – Governance and Legal Services said the Local Government Association had guidance on the use of social media, not only warning public figures of the dangers but also highlighting the positives it could bring. He said he would circulate this guidance with Members. 

10.

Review of Local Government Ethical Standards: Stakeholder Consultation pdf icon PDF 100 KB

To consider the Review of Local Government Ethical Standards: Stakeholder Consultation report.  

Minutes:

The Assistant Director – Governance and Legal Services said the committee should reach a consensus on how they wanted to respond to the consultation and he, along with the Chairman, would draft a response with the committee’s approval. The other option put to Members was the formation of a task group although this would be difficult due to the deadline of 18 May 2018.

           

Members discussed how to respond to the consultation, with particular regard to the Code of Conduct, which had been adopted by the Council last year.

 

Councillor Knight said the Council’s response should include mention that the code was meaningless due to the lack of punitive sanctions available when the code had been breached. She said parish councillors should have mandatory standards training, as the majority of complaints originated with parish councils.

 

Councillor Artus said the Council’s response should include the implementation of a graduated scale of sanctions, where the frequency and severity of breaches of the code could be taken into account.

 

Members agreed unanimously that the code was ‘toothless’ and sanctions needed to be strengthened in cases where the code had been breached.  They requested that this point be made in the consultation response.

 

In response to a Member question, the Assistant Director – Governance and Legal Services said that Independent Persons could not be given voting rights as this was contrary to legislation. He said that Member comments on the importance of the Independent Persons role, and their belief that the role should be further empowered, could be included in the consultation response.

 

RESOLVED for the Chairman and Assistant Director - Governance and Legal Services to draft a response to the consultation and circulate with Members for comment and approval. 

 

11.

Update on the adoption of the Council's Code of Conduct by town and parish councils

To receive an update on the adoption of the Council's Code of Conduct by town and parish councils (Verbal).

Minutes:

The Assistant Director – Governance and Legal Services said 18 out of 52 parish/town councils in the district had adopted the Code of Conduct. He said he would send out a reminder to parish clerks.

 

Councillor Sell said UDC Members should be included in any correspondence so they could also encourage the parishes within their ward to adopt the code.

12.

Standards Work Programme 2018 - 19

To discuss potential items for the Standards committee Work Programme for 2018 – 2019 (Verbal).

Minutes:

Members discussed potential items for the Standards Work Programme 2018-19.

 

The Chairman said that any work on the Constitution would now be the business of the Governance, Audit and Performance (GAP) Committee which had been established in 2017.

 

Councillor Knight said the Constitution, and council procedures, required much work, which she had begun. She said her findings could be forwarded to the GAP committee for consideration. 

 

Mrs Butcher-Doulton said more training was required for members of the Standards Committee, specifically on hearings.

 

The Assistant Director – Governance and Legal Services said training would be provided during induction for new Members but he would look at a ‘stop-gap’ session to cover the period before the next election.  

13.

Time of Future Meetings

Minutes:

Members agreed that the start time of scheduled meetings would be changed from 4.00pm to 5.00pm.

 

 

The meeting ended at 6.35pm.