Agenda and minutes

Standards Committee
Thursday 29 June 2017 6.00 pm

Venue: Board Room 4 - Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley HA9 0FJ. View directions

Contact: Thomas Cattermole, Head of Executive & Members Services  020 8937 2063, Email: Thomas.Cattermole@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Independent Members Mr Robert Cawley and Ms Margaret Adenike Bruce and Ms Mandip Johal (Independent Person).

 

2.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, any relevant personal and prejudicial interests and discloseable pecuniary interests in any matter to be considered at this meeting.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

3.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 57 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting, held on 28 November 2016, be approved as an accurate record of the meeting, subject to correcting Ms Karen McArthur’s name on page 1.

 

4.

Matters arising

Minutes:

None.

5.

Review of Member Development Programme and Members Expenses pdf icon PDF 132 KB

The purpose of this report is to provide members of the Standards Committee with a summary of the Member Development Programme and information regarding the Members’ Expenses Scheme.This report outlines the member learning and development sessions delivered for members since May 2016, and also the upcoming quarter of the member learning and development programme (June to December 2017).The report also provides an outline of the Member induction programme to be delivered after the May 2018 Local Elections.

Minutes:

Thomas Cattermole (the Council’s Head of Executive and Member Services) introduced the report which provided Members of the Committee with a summary of the Member Development Programme, information regarding the Members’ Expenses Scheme and an outline of the Member induction programme to be delivered following the Local Elections in May 2018.

 

Mr Cattermole informed Members that the Member Learning and Development Steering Group, Chaired by the Leader of the Council, monitored the Member Learning and Development programme, including the scope of the sessions and attendance. He said that a list of all sessions delivered (34) could be found on page 4 to the Agenda Pack, with details of attendance outlined in paragraphs 3.5 to 3.11 on pages 5 and 6. Mr Cattermole highlighted that the first trial of a ‘Saturday’ session had been successful with 17 Members attending. As a result, it had been considered to hold such ‘Saturday’ sessions every two months.

 

Mr Cattermole spoke of the positive feedback received from Members in relation to the mentoring supporting provided in collaboration with the Local Government Association (LGA) and the two sessions delivered by the LGA to support the Council’s ‘Top Team’ (i.e. the Cabinet and the Corporate Management Team). As far as attendance was concerned, he explained that all Members had completed the sessions dedicated to Standards and Code of Conduct and Safeguarding, with attendance at other sessions varying. He clarified that Members who had not completed the respective mandatory training session, had not been allowed to sit on regulatory committees (i.e. Planning Committee, Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing Committee and Sub-Committees).

 

Mr Cattermole reminded Members that the Council had received a Charter Plus Assessment Interim visit on 18 October 2016. The assessor confirmed that Brent Council continued to meet the standard of the London Charter Plus for Elected Member Development. He said that the assessor had confirmed that the Council continued to have a strong strategic commitment to member development that the Council had responded to the recommendations following the September 2015 assessment and had also moved forward with a comprehensive member development programme.

 

Responding to a Member’s question, Looqman Desai (the Council’s Senior Solicitor (Governance)) said that all Members of the Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing Committee had received standards training, similar to that provided to Members of the Planning Committee. It was confirmed that the training covered how the Members’ Code of Conduct impacted upon licensing decision making. In particular, the rules on Member interests and the other standards that applied such as approaching applications with an open mind and not expressing a concluded view on matters to be considered. In response to a related question, it was confirmed that these rules also applied to Members of the Standards Committee when making decisions about complaints.

 

In relation to the Member induction programme, Mr Cattermole said that a cross-party prospective candidate event would take place in October 2017 and the formal induction would begin on 21 May 2018.

 

A Member of the Committee enquired whether training had been delivered  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Standards Committee Report - General update pdf icon PDF 108 KB

This report brings to Members’ attention recent national standards news items for information.

Minutes:

Looqman Desai (the Council’s Senior Solicitor (Governance)) introduced the report and outlined the facts of two recent Freedom of Information (FOI) decisions about Members’ Code of Conduct investigations concerning other local authorities. In one case disclosure of a councillor’s response to a complaint was refused. In the other case, the Tribunal decided that there was a strong legitimate interest in the disclosure of a draft but completed investigation report even though the complaint itself was not pursued. Members were informed that FOI decisions can be difficult and require balancing privacy rights under data protection legislation and the public interest in ensuring transparency and accountability under Freedom of Information legislation. Each FOI request would be considered on its own merit and the outcome would depend on the case and the circumstances and, in particular, the nature of the information and the timing of the request.

 

Mr Desai mentioned that the Council’s complaints procedure stated that draft investigation reports would be sent to both the Member concerned and the complainant for comment. As a complaint can be made by anyone, including someone with no involvement in the matter being investigated based, for example, on a newspaper report, the disclosure of a draft report containing confidential information to a complainant was a risk. In addition, Mr Desai drew Members’ attention to other relevant provisions of the Brent Council’s complaints procedure (paragraph 3.13 on page 14 to the Agenda Pack) and advised that any need to review the procedure would be reported to the Committee.

 

The report to Members also informed them of the facts and outcome of standards cases dealt with by other Councils.

 

In addition, Debra Norman (the Council’s Chief Legal Officer and Monitoring Officer) advised Members that at its next meeting Full Council would be asked to approve the appointment of two additional standards Independent Persons which Members welcomed.

 

Members enquired about the frequency of formal updates on Members’ Code of Conduct complaints and the receipt of gifts and hospitality. Members were advised that receipt of gifts and hospitality by Members was published on the Council’s website in real time. It was agreed however that Members would receive quarterly updates on complaints and gifts and hospitality. 

 

RESOLVED that the ‘Update on Standards Matters’ report, be noted.

 

 

7.

Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the committee is scheduled to take place on 28 September 2017.

Minutes:

It was noted that the next meeting of the Committee is scheduled to take place on Thursday 28 September at 6:00 pm.

 

8.

Any other urgent business

Notice of items to be raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Head of Executive and Member Services or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 64.

Minutes:

There was no other urgent business.