Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Via Video Conference: Accessible to members of the public at https://buckinghamshire.publici.tv/core/portal/home

Contact: Clare Gray - Email: democracy@buckinghamshire.gov.uk 

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Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Cllr Adoh and Stephanie Boyce, Independent Person.

2.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 555 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 10 December, 2020, copy attached.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 10 December 2021 were agreed as a correct record.

3.

Declarations of Interest

Members to declare any interests.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

4.

Buckinghamshire Electoral Review - Final Council numbers submission pdf icon PDF 702 KB

To consider the attached report.

 

Contact Officer:  nick.graham@buckinghamshire.gov.uk

 

Annex A Council size template

Annex B Options paper with annexes

Annex 1: Introduction to Community Boards

Annex 2: Community Board in practice

Annex 3: Town & Parish Charter

Annex 4: EY Report

Annex 5: BCC Unitary proposal

Annex 6: Spreadsheet of Councillor time calculation

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that the Boundary Commission wished to undertake an Electoral Review of Buckinghamshire Council. The first phase of that Review sought to determine what should be the appropriate size of the Council in terms of the number of Councillors. The process required the Commission to seek representations to assist its deliberations.

 

In July 2020 the Standards & General Purposes Committee established a Member Working Group to formulate the Council’s response and recommendations to the Boundary Commission’s Electoral Review of the Council. That Working Group has met 10 times since July 2020 and has sought the advice and guidance of the Boundary Commission in the formulating of the Options paper who have attended many of its meetings. The Options paper, together with the completed Council size template, was the culmination of the Working Group’s deliberations and concluded with a recommendation that the Council should submit to the Commission a proposal for a Council size of 120 elected Members.

 

The Director of Legal and Democratic Services reported on the submission as follows:-

  • The Executive Summary was circulated in a supplementary agenda.
  • The supporting annexes in the paperwork illustrated the role of the councillor in the governance structure and their role in the community they served, both critical to the work of the Council.
  • Background information had been included such as demographic data and housing growth, plans on how the Council should be led and work carried out through regulatory functions.
  • There was no scientific calculation in terms of the final proposal so the Working Group agreed to formulate an Options Paper with their thinking and rationale in terms of strategic and community leadership for a Council of this size. This included the future agenda for the Council; its ambitions concerning the involvement of Members in the strategic direction of the Council; the Scrutiny and Regulatory functions; and the role of Members as leaders in their localities.
  • Evidence was provided of comparator unitary Councils largely drawn from recent data, but also referencing the earlier Ernst & Young report and the Unitary proposal from the former Buckinghamshire County Council.
  • Phase 2 would look at ward boundaries.

 

During discussion the following points were made:-

  • A Member commented that he considered 120 to high and suggested 80 or 90 councillors and referred to the previous county council unitary business case which had proposed 98 councillors.
  • A representative of the Member Working Group commented that they had looked at all the detailed evidence and had come up with a logical proposal. With the new Council there would still be the same workload in relation to meetings and partnership work and it was important to recognise the consequences of moving to 120 councillors and individual workload. At current casework levels each councillor had 21 hours per week on average which would go up to 32 hours per week with 120 councillors. This was almost a full time job and would put off attracting new councillors who worked. He asked that the increase in hours be highlighted (point 24).  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Model Member Code of Conduct pdf icon PDF 298 KB

To consider the attached report.

 

Contact Officer:  maria.damigos@buckinghamshire.gov.uk

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that on 19 January 2021 the Local Government Association published a model Councillor Code of Conduct (the Model Code) which was “designed to protect our democratic role, encourage good conduct and safeguard the public’s trust in local government”.

 

The publication of the Model Code had co-incided with the timings of the review into the Council’s Code of Conduct and this report presented the Model Code (Appendix A of the report), compared it to the Council’s current Code of Conduct (at Appendices C and D) and raised specific issues to consider in relation to suggested amendments.

 

When researching the local Codes of Conduct, the Committee on Standards in Public Life found there was considerable variation in the length, quality and clarity of codes of conduct. They believed that this created confusion among members of the public, and among councillors who represent more than one tier of local government. The Model Code of Conduct should help with consistency across all levels of local government within the Buckinghamshire Council area.

 

A supplementary pack was published which included a revised version of Appendix D (Comparison of Obligations) in relation to the model code of conduct – the changes were shown in yellow under the second heading ‘obligations’.

 

The Principal Solicitor reported that in summary the Model Code: -

• Continued to require upholding the seven principles of public life (the Nolan Principles) and translated these to general principles of conduct

• Contained 10 general obligations (broken down into 21 specific obligations) with guidance and explanation

• Set out legal requirements

• Defined a councillor as a member or co-opted member of a local authority

• Set out when the Code applies and in addition to ‘acting in capacity as a councillor or representative of the Council’, includes when actions ‘would give the impression to a reasonable member of the public with knowledge of all the facts that you are acting as a councillor’

• Introduces:

- Concept of acting with civility

- The word ‘harassment’ and a definition of bullying and harassment

- Under the Obligation to comply with the Code of Conduct: to undertake Code of Conduct training, co-operate with any investigation or determination, not to intimidate persons administering or investigating a complaint and to comply with any sanctions

• Included reference to social media

• Required employees of the Council, partners and volunteers for the local authority to be treated with respect

• Required registration of gifts and hospitality with a value of £50 and over

• Maintained the concept of ‘bringing the council into disrepute’

• Codified the position on declaration and participation in relation to personal interests

 

Scope and Social Media

It was considered that the Model Code would apply in the same circumstances and situations as the Council’s Code and provided a clear, objective and reasonable test of applicability on a case by case basis. The Model Code did not, however, cover the situation when acting as a representative of the Council on another authority or  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Constitution Working Group - Update

To receive a verbal update.

 

Contact Officer:  nick.graham@buckinghamshire.gov.uk

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted that a Working Group had been formed to discuss possible changes to the Constitution which would need to be discussed by this Committee and also Audit and Governance Committee. The Working Group had undertaken some work following the Notice of Motion discussed at Full Council relating to planning aspects which would help with drafting changes to the constitution. In addition, there were other changes including procedures for Committees and adding information on the governance and terms of reference of Community Boards. Further work was required on these constitutional changes. A further meeting would be arranged before the next full council on 21 April so this Committee can make recommendations.

7.

Work Programme

8 April 2021

1.                  Annual Review of Code of Conduct and Complaints Procedure

2.                  Standards Complaints Monitoring Report 2020-21

3.                  LGO Annual Report

4.                  Bucks Electoral Review: Member Working Group update (if required)

5.                  Compliments and Complaints Report 2020-21 (Mid Year update)

6.                  Constitution Working Group (Update)

7.                  Draft Work Programme for 2021-22

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Work Programme

 

8 April

Review of constitution including the code of conduct

 

15 April

1. Annual Review of Code of Conduct and Complaints Procedure

2. LGO Annual Report

3. Bucks Electoral Review: Member Working Group update (if required)

4. Compliments and Complaints Report 2020-21 (Mid Year update)

5. Constitution Working Group (Update)

6. Draft Work Programme for 2021-22