To consider the report of the Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance/Monitoring Officer.
The report of the Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance was submitted for consideration.
At the invitation of the Chair, the Head of the Legal and Corporate Compliance advised that the purpose of the report was for Council to approve and adopt proposed changes to the Constitution. It was noted that the document had not been updated since 2019 and no updates had been undertaken the previous year as focus was responding to the pandemic. Therefore, this document incorporated 2 years of amendments, both procedural and updated changes.
The Constitution Working Group had considered and approved the proposed amendments at a meeting held on 2nd September, 2021. Correspondence had also been forwarded to absent Members asking for their views and key officers for further amendments. However, no further proposals or comments had been received.
A Member referred to the proposed schedule of amendments to the Council Constitution, in particular the following two proposals:
- Part 4 – The Register of Members Interests – proposal to increase the material benefit of value from £10 to £20.
- Section 20 – Officer’s Code of Conduct – proposal to increase the value of gifts from under to £10 to under £20
The Member continued by stating that in the interests of openness and transparency the above proposals should not be increased but either reduced to zero or the status quo remain.
The Head of Corporate and Legal Compliance confirmed that a recent benchmarking exercise had been undertaken at the All Wales Monitoring Officer’s Group regarding the threshold level of material gifts, at which Members and officers would be obliged to legally record any gifts received. It was pointed out that the setting of the threshold was currently at the discretion of Council and it was evident was from the benchmarking exercise that Blaenau Gwent had set the lowest level in Wales.
The Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance continued by advising that the level of £10 had been in place for over 30 years and most other authorities in Wales had increased their levels to £25-30 because it was quite common for Members and officers to receive gifts at Christmas. Therefore, an increase to £20 in the threshold level would make the process less onerous for Members and a more realistic amount, bearing in mind this had not been revalued for a considerable number of years.
It was noted that some Members disclosed all gifts received irrespective of their value but were not legally obliged to do so unless it fell over the threshold level, which was currently £10. Therefore, this proposal would bring the Council in line with other councils across Wales and the Constitution Working Group had considered £20 to be a reasonable level.
A Member said that he had received gifts previously and had been advised by the then Legal Officer to accept these but make a donation the face value of the gift to the Mayor’s Appeal.
Another Member said that he appreciated that inflation had increased and the Council should congratulate itself about being one of the more onerous councils in Wales but said that he would propose an amendment that in the interests of openness and transparency the above proposals should not be increased but either reduced to zero or the status quo remain. He, thereupon, proposed a vote being taken in respect of the following options:
Consider and approve the suggested amendments and incorporate these into the existing Constitution.
Do not approve some or all of the amendments and revert back to the Constitutional Working Group for further consideration.
The value be reduced to ‘zero’for the above proposals relating to the Members Register of Interest and the Officer’s Code of Conduct.
The limit of ‘£10’ remain for the above proposals relating the Members Register of Interest and the Officer’s Code of conduct.
Another Member proposed that Option 1 be approved. This was seconded.
For clarity in terms of the voting procedure, the Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance suggested that an initial vote in respect of Options 1 and 2 be taken and should Option 2 be carried, a further vote in respect of Options 3 and 4 be undertaken.
A vote in respect of Options 1 and 2 was, thereupon taken:
In Favour of Option 1 – Councillors J. Collins, M. Cook, N. Daniels, D. Davies, G. A. Davies, G. L. Davies, M. Day, D. Hancock, S. Healy, J. Hill, W. Hodgins, J. Holt, J. Mason, J. P. Morgan, L. Parsons, K. Rowson, B. Summers, B. Thomas, G. Thomas and J. Wilkins.
In Favour of Option 2 – Councillors D. Bevan, P. Edwards, L. Elias, H. McCarthy, J. Millard, J. C. Morgan, K. Pritchard, T. Smith, S. Thomas, H. Trollope, D. Wilkshire and B. Willis.
The vote on Option 1 was, thereupon carried.
RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and Option 1 be endorsed, namely, the suggested amendments be approved and incorporated into the existing Constitution.