To consider the report of the City Solicitor.
The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support presented the report which provided detail of a draft new model code of conduct which is being presented for consultation by the Local Government Association (LGA) with comments due back to them as part of the consultation exercise by 17 August 2020.
The report included a template for Councils to adopt in whole and/or with local amendments. The additional elements contained in the new model code, particularly when compared to the existing code adopted by this Council, made clear the conduct expected of councillors, as well as showing what action could be taken if the code was found to have been breached, thereby adding to the Council’s transparency agenda.. It was noted that the Monitoring Officer would be looking to retain the existing protocol where members who declared a Part 2 interest (i.e. one of a personal but not pecuniary nature) would be expected to leave a meeting if the matter was being discussed – this was noted as being an extension to the model code.
Members were encouraged to offer their comments to the City Solicitor in consultation with the Chair of this Committee as part of a collaborative response on behalf of the Council as well as there being an online tool for Members and officers to also make comments.
Members made the following comments:-
· the inclusion and enhancement of what we have at the moment was to be welcomed. The Member referred to the importance of ensuring there was a mutual respect and civility between all those connected with the organisation including Councillors, paid employees and volunteers and partner organisation. He hoped that in moving to an enhanced model of conduct that there should be more rigorous action to deal with any bullying behaviour or incidents of harassment. The Member also commented on the need to explore issues around managing and maintaining professional relationships with Elected Members who may also have a range of mental health and other complex needs. The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support referred to the work behind the scenes to those Councillors who might have put the Council into that position and also in terms of investigations by the Monitoring Officer into formal complaints. The new model code of conduct raises awareness of the respect there should be for all involved in public office.
· it was important that all councillors were aware of the draft new model code of conduct and would make a submission.
The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support thanked Members for their comments and confirmed that although the report and invitation to comment had been circulated to all Members as part of the Audit and Governance agenda, he would ensure that the detail was circulated again. He also responded to a Member’s question and confirmed that although Members were aware there was an annual requirement for them to review and renew their declaration of interest as appropriate, when the Council decides to adopt a new code of conduct, all councillors will be expected to sign up to it at that point. The appendix circulated with the report contained a definition about Members’ interest, but it was important to continue with the stance that the interest not only related to themselves but also to their spouse or anyone else who lives with them.
The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support was unable to put a timeframe on this matter as the draft model code of conduct was out for consultation, he suggested as and when the finalised version of the model Code of Conduct was approved by the LGA that the Code comes back to this Committee and then Full Council for formal and final approval.
RESOLVED that the Audit and Governance Committee considered the Model Code of Conduct and commented accordingly, delegating the City Solicitor in consultation with the Chair of this Committee, to submit any comments on behalf of the Council.