To receive a report of the City Solicitor asking the Committee to consider whether the new standards and conduct arrangements are operating effectively and remain fit for purpose, including the Members’ Code of Conduct.
The City Solicitor submitted a report asking the Committee to consider whether the new standards and conduct arrangements are operating effectively and remain fit for purpose, including the Members’ Code of Conduct.
In relation to the complaints procedure, Members of the Committee agreed that it would be helpful to expand the list of criteria against which each complaint is assessed to specifically cover complaints which otherwise do not fall under the Members’ Code of Conduct.
Members of the Committee particularly discussed the feedback that had been received from Leeds City Councillors attending the training sessions on the new standards arrangements, as outlined in paragraph 3.8 of the report:
· In relation to appeal arrangements, Members discussed whether it was necessary to offer the subject Member an appeal after Stage 3 of the complaints procedure. Members were advised that there was no provision in the Localism Act 2011 for an appeal to be heard. Members agreed that this was not necessary especially as the Independent Person must be consulted prior to the Committee making a decision, and in doing so the Independent Person may offer a view as to the reasonableness of a proposed finding.
· Members discussed whether Leeds City Councillors who have a disclosable pecuniary interest, but are not part of the decision making body, should be required to leave the room during the discussion and vote. Some Members felt that there was potential for a perception of a Member unduly influencing the decision making body if they remained in the room, but on balance Members concluded that it should be down to personal choice whether they choose to leave the room or not, and they should have the right to observe the proceedings as a member of the public would.
· Finally, Members of the Committee agreed that the Code of Conduct should be kept as simple as possible and that the provisions about ‘other significant interests’ should be removed from Part 2 of the Code of Conduct, and instead Members should be advised that they may make a declaration of a significant and relevant interest if they wish in accordance with the principle of ‘honesty and integrity’.
The Committee also noted the Deputy Monitoring Officer’s intention to write to the relevant Director at the Department for Communities and Local Government to seek clarification on the definitions of disclosable pecuniary interests.
RESOLVED – Members of the Standards and Conduct Committee resolved:
· To note the information in the report;
· To recommend to General Purposes Committee that the list of assessment criteria in paragraph 6 of the complaints procedure is expanded;
· To request an annual reminder to update the register of interests following the Annual Council Meeting;
· To recommend to General Purposes Committee that the Members’ Code of Conduct is amended by full Council to remove the provisions regarding ‘other significant interests’ from Part 2 of the Code of Conduct, and instead to insert a footnote to the principle of ‘honesty and integrity’ in Part 1 of the Code to emphasise that it is entirely down to the personal judgement of the Member whether they wish to declare any other conflicts of interest rather than a requirement;
· To recommend to General Purposes Committee that the Members’ Code of Conduct is also amended by full Council to clarify that only Members of the decision making body are required to leave the room when they have a disclosable pecuniary interest in an item of business, and that Members who are attending the meeting in another capacity who have a disclosable pecuniary interest can remain in the room to observe the discussion and voting; and
· That the current arrangements are operating effectively and are fit for purpose.