Agenda item

Code of Conduct

Report of the Director of Corporate Services (Monitoring Officer)


In March 2019 the Committee had considered the annual report on the handling of complaints about breaches of the Code of Conduct by County Councillors.  The national Committee for Standards in Public Life (CSPL) had also published their review of Ethical Standards in Public Life.  The CSPL report contained 26 recommendations covering Code of Conduct and Standards Complaints.  The recommendations were attached to the report with a comment on each in relation to the County Councils current and suggested position.  Three main areas were highlighted where the code and arrangements for dealing with complaints might benefit from amendments.  These were:

·         Code of Social Media – Separately, the CSPL had also issued a report which suggested that the use of social media needed to be considered in relation to the seven Principles of Public Life which are the lynchpins of the Code of Conduct.  Consequently, it was proposed that a new general undertaking should be added to the code and a revised guide on the use of Social Media and criteria against which complaints could be assessed be adopted.

·         Declaration of ‘Other Interests’ – The CSPL advised that there should be consistency between local authorities in the same geographical area.  The suggested revised declaration form, providing for the declaration of ‘other’ interests was attached to the report.

·         Processes for consideration of Alleged Breaches of the Code of Conduct and Sanctions available – changes to the process were suggested to improve communication lines between the monitoring officer and parties affected.  Additional sanctions were also proposed.


Regarding the Social Media Guidance, it was felt that it was very difficult to separate comments made in a personal capacity to those made as a Councillor and that any comment made under a personal account could show predetermination.


There was also concern that the term “bringing the Council into disrepute” needed to be clearer as it could be argued that opposing the Council’s direction or a decision made, could be classed as “bringing the Council into disrepute” which would undemocratic.


It was reported that Gifts and Hospitality would be considered as a separate item to this report.


With regards to sanctions, it was felt that they should be applied for all members.  However, if a Councillor had a position of special responsibility, it could be viewed that they were speaking on behalf of the Committee and therefore a recommendation to a group leader to remove them from a position of or outside body was reasonable.


Other proposals considered by the Committee included:

·         The period of office for the Independent person

·         The role of the independent person in formal decision making

·         The publication of statistics on Code of Conduct complaints


The Committee discussed the appointment of the Independent Person (IP).  The CSPL advocated a two-year fixed term, renewable once.  Members felt that a two-year appointment was too short and that the period should remain at four years with the option to reappoint at the end of the period.  It was also felt that the IP’s views should be formally recorded in the minutes of the Committee and that they should be covered by the Councils legal indemnity to protect them from the challenge, should their views influence a complaint decision.



RESOLVED:   That the following be recommended to Council:

a)    That subject to the term included in the Social Media Guide “bringing the Council into disrepute” being defined, the Guide; the additional undertaking relating to Social Media; and the criteria for determining alleged breaches of that code, be agreed.

b)    That the Declaration of Interests Form be amended to include ‘Other Interests’.

c)    That the process chart for dealing with allegations of breaches of the Code of Conduct, and the additional two sanction, be supported.

d)    That the Independent Persons Period of Office remain at four years with the option to renew at the end of the first term.

e)    That the Independent Persons views be included in the decision of any hearing and that that Legal Indemnity be extended to cover the Individual.




Supporting documents: