Complaints Received Under the Members’ Code of Conduct
- Meeting of Audit, Governance and Standards Committee, Monday 14th September, 2020 6.30 pm (Item 129.)
- View the background to item 129.
The Principal Solicitor, Contentious and Corporate Governance, presented her report updating the Committee on complaints under the Members’ Code of Conduct (a) previously reported as under consideration and (b) received in the period 1 March 2020 to 1 September 2020. The report also included an update on the Local Government Association’s (LGA) draft Model Member Code of Conduct.
The Principal Solicitor, Contentious and Corporate Governance, advised the Committee that:
· The complaints related mainly to Parish Councillors, but only four Parish Councils were involved and there did not appear to be any widespread single issue. Recommendations and suggestions had been made regarding training where appropriate, but no responses had been received. This could be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
· Following the last meeting of the Committee in July 2020, the Monitoring Officer had contacted the LGA asking for an extension of time on the consultation on the draft Model Member Code of Conduct but did not receive a response. It was understood that the consultation was now closed and that the LGA was considering the responses and would publish its conclusions in due course.
In response to questions, the Principal Solicitor, Contentious and Corporate Governance, explained that:
· The Localism Act 2011 required all Parish Councils to adopt a Member Code of Conduct. They were permitted to adopt their own Code or to adopt that of the Principal Authority. Most Parish Councils in the Maidstone area had adopted a similar Code to the Borough Council based on a Kent-wide model. A few Parish Councils had adopted their own Code. Although Parish Councils were required by law to adopt a Member Code of Conduct, there was no sanction or punishment if they failed to do so. She was not aware of any Parish Councils in the Borough that did not have a Member Code of Conduct. They were mostly adopted around 2012 and were usually published on the Parish Council’s website if it had one.
· The complaints made against Parish Councillors involved four Parish Councils, but not necessarily the same complainants or subject Members and there did not seem to be one issue that was recurring across all Parishes. This type of data was kept under review by the Monitoring Officer.
· Once there was a national adopted version of the Model Member Code of Conduct, that would be considered by the County Council and they would take a view on what they would want to take forward as their adopted model. That would then be looked at by the Principal Authorities who would decide for themselves what they want to adopt and then Parish Councils would have the discretion to decide whether they wish to adopt the same Code as the Principal Authorities or adopt their own version.
During the discussion concern was expressed that the draft Model Member Code of Conduct was a loosely and badly drafted document and to adopt it would be a retrograde step. The Principal Solicitor, Contentious and Corporate Governance, confirmed that these views had been conveyed to the LGA.
RESOLVED: That the report be noted.
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