Agenda item

Model Code of Conduct

To consider the report of the Monitoring Officer.


The Service Lead Legal Services presented the report which sought to establish whether the Council wished to adopt the new Model Code of Conduct. The draft Model Code of Conduct, attached to the circulated report had been prepared by the Local Government Association.  If approved, the intention was that it would be effective from the Council’s Annual Meeting in May. The Service Lead Legal Services noted that comments made by the Audit and Governance Committee at the July 2020 meeting were broadly welcoming of the proposals submitted, as part of the consultation exercise which took place last year.


The Localism Act required each local authority to adopt a Members’ Code of Conduct with the aim of promoting and maintaining a high standard of behaviour by both its Members and Co-opted Members. The draft model Code of Conduct would help to continue to maintain the openness and accountability of Members by clearly expressing a greater level of explanation of the obligations imposed on Members and ensure a greater consistency across all local authorities. In adopting the new Code of Conduct this would also ensure that current and all new Councillors elected from May 2021 would be bound by its provisions.


A number of points were highlighted:-


  • more user friendly with the onus on the individual Councillor to understand, in effect, what they are signing up for,
  • the formal inclusion of what are known as “Part 2 interests” (relating to the financial or well-being of the councillor, or relative or close associate) in the Code,
  • a section on acceptance of gifts and hospitality,
  • the ability to grant dispensations has been added to the draft Model Code to be used by Exeter City Council, and
  • the Code had been brought to the attention of the Council’s Independent Persons, both of whom offered their support for the new Model Code of Conduct. Professor Brian Kirby made reference to paragraph 10 in the documentation and suggested removing the reference to ‘Christmas’ in relation to gifts received as this provision applied more generally.


The Corporate Manager Democratic Services and Civic Support and Service Lead Legal Services (who were also the two Deputy Monitoring Officers for the Council) responded to the following Members’ questions and comments:- 


  • in terms of a requirement within the Code for Councillors to register a trusteeship on outside bodies, it was stated that where a Member received remuneration in respect of a trusteeship, then consideration should be given  to registering it as a discloseable pecuniary interest. When there was no remuneration, then whether a Member would be expected to make a declaration would be fact sensitive and depend upon the matter being considered at the time. In addition, the new Model Code provides for ‘other registrable interests‘ in relation to any body of which the Councillor is a member or in a position of general control or management and to which the Councillor is appointed or nominated by the Council.
  • a forthcoming report on the representation by Members on Outside Bodies should help to explore the wider ramifications of membership or representation by Councillors.
  • in addressing comments made by a Member on ensuring mutual respect between Councillors and Officers, it was noted that there was the opportunity for redress through the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy which offered some level of anonymity to Officers, as well as the Councillors’ Complaints process. Officers frequently worked closely with Members and so in the first instance, it was likely that  some effort would be made to resolve any such matter, but if needed the Monitoring Officer would be involved in any subsequent investigation. In addition, any such occasion could involve a discussion with one of the Council’s two Independent Persons for their view.


RECOMMENDED that the Audit and Governance support and Council approve the following:-


(1)        the Model Code of Conduct appended to the  report, with effect from the Annual Council Meeting scheduled to take place on 18 May 2021;


(2)        the inclusion of a section in the Constitution which allows for the Monitoring Officer to grant dispensations to Members as appropriate; and


(3)        authorises the Monitoring Officer to amend the following areas of the Constitution (if appropriate) where reference to the Members’ Code of Conduct is also made:-


a.            The General Principle of Good Conduct (section 5(b) of the Constitution);

b.            Protocol on Member/Officer Relations (section 5(e) of the Constitution);

c.            Local Planning Code of Conduct (section 5i of the Constitution) and 

d.            Gifts and Hospitality - the deletion of the word Christmas in section 10 of the Code of Conduct.


Supporting documents: