Agenda and draft minutes

Standards Committee
Wednesday, 5th December 2018 6.10 p.m.

Venue: Lancaster Town Hall

Contact: Liz Bateson, Democratic Services - telephone 01524 582047, or email  ebateson@lancaster.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

14.

Minutes

Minutes of meeting held on 13 August, 2018 (previously circulated). 

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on Monday 13 August 2018 were signed as a correct record.

15.

Items of Urgent Business authorised by the Chairman

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

16.

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations by Members of interests in respect of items on this Agenda. 

Members are reminded that, in accordance with the Localism Act 2011, they are required to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests which have not already been declared in the Council’s Register of Interests. (It is a criminal offence not to declare a disclosable pecuniary interest either in the Register or at the meeting). 

Whilst not a legal requirement, in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9 and in the interests of clarity and transparency, Members should declare any disclosable pecuniary interests which they have already declared in the Register, at this point in the meeting. 

In accordance with Part B Section 2 of the Code Of Conduct, Members are required to declare the existence and nature of any other interests as defined in paragraphs 8(1) or 9(2) of the Code of Conduct. 

 

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer advised that he was not in a position to advise the meeting with regard to agenda item 7 in view of a suggestion that the disclosure could have been made by officers.  He advised the meeting that the Principal Democratic Support Officer had no advisory role and would remain in the meeting in the capacity of note taker with the agreement of the Committee.  The Committee confirmed that it was acceptable for the committee clerk to remain for item 7 and that the entire committee could be perceived to have an interest in that item.

17.

Exclusion of the Press and Public

The Committee is recommended to pass the following recommendations in relation to the following items:-

 

“That, in accordance with Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item(s) of business, on the grounds that it could involve the possible disclosure of exempt information, as defined in paragraph 1 of Schedule 12A of that Act.”

 

Members are reminded that, whilst the following item(s) have been marked as exempt, it is for Committee itself to decide whether or not to consider each of them in private or in public. In making the decision, Members should consider the relevant paragraph of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, and also whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.  In considering their discretion Members should also be mindful of the advice of Council Officers. 

 

Minutes:

That in accordance with Section 110A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it could involve the possible disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 1 of Schedule 12A of that Act.

 

 

18.

Complaint 5/18

Report of the Monitoring Officer

Minutes:

The Committee considered an exempt report from the Monitoring Officer about a code of conduct complaint.  Initially it was proposed that consideration of the item be deferred to the next scheduled Standards Committee on 17 January 2019, due to the Councillor having indicated that he was unwell. At this point the Committee were made aware that the Councillor could be seen on the webcast of a Lancashire County Council Children's Services Scrutiny Committee meeting, which had taken place earlier that afternoon.  A majority agreed not to defer the issue and the Committee proceeded to discuss the complaint at some length. 

 

During the course of the discussion, Members indicated that they accepted the investigating officer’s findings that the code of conduct had been breached and considered a subsequent course of action.

 

The Committee unanimously agreed to the following statement:

 

The Standards Committee, having considered the report of the Monitoring Officer and upon noting Councillor Gardiner’s admissions, find that the Councillor did during an Overton Parish meeting shout at a member, gesticulate with his spectacles and act in such a manner as to cause alarm and distress to another member of the public.

 

The behaviour of the Councillor was contrary to the Members Code of Conduct, Part 7, Section 2, Paragraph 3 – namely the requirement to treat others with respect.

 

Furthermore, the Standards Committee noted Councillor Gardiner’s failure to engage sufficiently in the Monitoring Officer’s investigation and find that the lack of engagement offends against the Standards in public life – namely accountability.  Such behaviour, we find breaches the Members Code of Conduct, Part 7, Section 2, Paragraph 5 in that it is conduct which can reasonably be regarded as bringing the office of councillor into disrepute.

 

Resolved unanimously:

 

(1)          That the investigating officer’s findings be accepted and the decision made public.

 

(2)          That the Deputy Monitoring write to Councillor Gardiner and the complainant explaining the outcome of this issue.

 

The Monitoring Officer left the meeting at this point.  The Legal Assistant joined the meeting during consideration of the following item.

 

Councillor Barry in the Chair.

19.

Investigation into Data Breach

Report of the Deputy Monitoring Officer

Minutes:

The Standards Committee considered a report and recommendations from the Deputy Monitoring Officer following an internal investigation into sensitive material being disclosed to the national media and member conduct.  The Committee agreed to deal with each of the recommendations in turn.

 

The Committee recognised that the current Standards Committee could be perceived as being tainted by the investigation and therefore agreed with the first recommendation that the matter be referred to full Council to appoint a single purpose Standards Committee to consider the investigation report. 

 

Members then considered the draft report and agreed that Council should be provided with the full investigation report in order that it had all the information necessary to decide whether a single purpose Standards Committee was justified.  The Committee requested the Deputy Monitoring Officer to undertake any required redactions/minor modification before the report was made available to Council.

 

The Committee made a number of other points:

 

·         Council needed to be clear that they were being asked to appoint a single purpose Standards Committee and not act as a Standards Committee. 

·         To avoid further possible data leaks the Monitoring Officer/Deputy Monitoring officer should draft a strongly worded sentence about respecting exempt information.

·         That preparations be made in order that the single purpose Standards Committee can be convened as soon as practical if its establishment is agreed at  full Council on 19 December 2018.

 

 

Resolved unanimously:

 

(1)  That the recommendations of the Investigations Report be accepted and the matter referred to Council to appoint a single purpose Standards Committee.

 

(2)  That the draft report for full Council be agreed.