|Date: Friday 8th September 2017 Time: 3.00 p.m. Place: Executive Room, Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale|
|Present||And||Report to||Report of|
|Mr. R. Alexander (CHAIR)|
TUDALEN GLAWR AGENDA/WELSH VERSION OF AGENDA COVERSHEET
Tudalen Glawr Agenda Gymraeg/Welsh Agenda Coversheet (376K/bytes)
WELCOME & APOLOGIES
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and introductions were made. The following apology for absence was reported:-
Mr. Paul Amos, Information & Governance Officer
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING
The minutes of the Standards Committee held on the 29th July, 2016 were submitted, whereupon:-
A Member said he understood that new Members of the Standards Committee had received training, but asked whether the possibility of 'refresher' training for existing Members had been considered, as raised at the last meeting.
The Head of Legal & Corporate Compliance said the possibility of undertaking joint refresher training with another Local Authority had been mentioned, and undertook to refer this matter to the Information & Governance Officer for attention.
RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.
COUNCIL MEMBERS FOLLOWING MAY ELECTION
The Head of Legal & Corporate Compliance reported that there had been a significant number of new Members elected in Blaenau Gwent following the local Elections held in May. She confirmed that three new Members had been appointed to the Standards Committee, and they had all received appropriate training on the operation of the Standards Committee.
OMBUDSMAN ANNUAL REPORT 2016/17
The Chair reported that the Annual Report and Accounts had been combined for first time, so the format of the report was slightly different this year.
At the invitation of the Chair, the Head of Legal & Corporate Compliance gave a verbal summary of the Ombudsman Annual Report 2016/17 for Blaenau Gwent, as follows:-
The Annual Report mainly related to service complaints, in particular Health Board complaints and improvements which was expected. In terms of conduct there was very little to report, and again the Ombudsman's view was that Authority's should be utilising Local Resolution Procedures to facilitate complaints of conduct, and the Officer confirmed that a number of internal issues had been resolved via the Local Resolution Procedures.
The Chair pointed out that of the 248 cases that were considered only 5 cases were referred back to the Standards Committee and on to the Adjudication Panel for Wales across the 22 Local Authorities in Wales.
In response the Head of Legal & Corporate Compliance said this was indicative of the high threshold set by the Ombudsman in relation to breaches of the code of conduct. Most of the cases referred were fairly minor, and use of the Local Resolution Procedures would have been more appropriate.
The Officer also urged Members' to look at the Code of Conduct Casebook to gain an understanding of the type of complaints and circumstances surrounding those complaints, and also outcomes.
RESOLVED that the Ombudsman Annual Report 2015/16 be accepted and the information contained therein be acknowledged.
MONITORING OFFICER REVIEW OF CONDUCT OVER THE PREVIOUS YEAR.
The Head of Legal & Corporate Compliance reported that following the local Elections in May training on the Code of Conduct was rolled out with a very positive response being received, and Officers were doing their best to support new Members.
In terms of conduct over the previous year there were no issues to report. The Temporary Lead Corporate Director/Head of Paid Service had facilitated conversations with some Members about the meeting process, etc. and to explain the process of Local Resolution Procedures in dealing with issues of conduct.
The Officer confirmed that two issues had been dealt with very successfully under the Local Resolution procedures during the year. A number of conduct issues had also been raised in relation to Town & Community Councils which were linked to the upcoming local Elections when disagreements would be expected, and these were also resolved at an early stage.
The Officer confirmed that suitable training had been rolled out to new Members, and following earlier discussions 'refresher' training would be considered for existing Members.
In response to a question raised regarding the minutes, the Officer confirmed that following discussions with the relevant Department it was agreed minutes would be circulated electronically following the meeting.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
The Chair referred to a white paper on Local Government Reform issued by the Minister for Local Government, which included proposals to enhance the role of Standards Committees.
The Head of Legal & Corporate Compliance said she was aware of the white paper, but understood that the proposals for the role of Standards Committees did not form part of the final consultation questions, and it was likely that the final questions were limited to the main thrust of the white paper. However, comments on the proposals had been gathered and submitted to the All Wales Local Government Lawyers Group which met on a quarterly basis, and the Officer understood that further extensive consultation on the white paper would be undertaken in the Autumn and hopefully there would be opportunity to comment at that time.
However, she pointed out that the proposals were in line with the Ombudsman view to utilise Standards Committees to resolve issues of conduct, and also the All Wales Local Government Lawyers Group would like to see regional collaboration of Standards Committees.
The Chair thereupon thanked everyone for attending and declared the meeting closed.