Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Via MS Teams Video Conference, available to the public at https://buckinghamshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/home

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

Media

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Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Additional documents:

2.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 409 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 8 April 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED –

 

That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 8 April 2021 be agreed as a correct record.

3.

Declarations of Interest

Members to declare any interests.

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Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

4.

Code of Conduct Complaints Report 2020-21 pdf icon PDF 581 KB

To consider the attached report.

 

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

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received the report on the review of Code of Conduct Complaints to maintain an overview of the number and nature of the complaints received about Members under the Code of Conduct from October 2020 to April 2021 along with details of other complaints which were in the process or have been concluded. The Appendix to the report showed that the Monitoring Officer had received 34 complaints, although 7 of these relate to the same town or parish council councillor and incident. Fourteen of the complaints related to a Buckinghamshire Council Member, six of which were still active. 

 

The Director of Legal and Democratic Services reported that whilst some complaints covered more than one theme, just under a third of complaints related to behaviour at meetings and interests/bias. Information (disclosure, use or obtaining) and social media accounted for approximately one fifth of the issues and the remaining matters alleged criminal or unlawful behaviour or condoning such behaviour, failure to represent residents and breaches of COVID rules. He particularly made the distinction of councillors acting in their personal capacity rather than on behalf of the council e.g. if Members were not socially distancing at a personal function this was not relevant.

 

During discussion the following points were made:-

 

·             Information broken down into themes was appreciated but it would also be helpful to break information down by type e.g. number of complaints relating to social media or under respect. It would also be helpful to have further training on social media. The Director of Legal and Democratic Services reported that the line between acting in a personal capacity and for the Council did get blurred particularly around the use of social media.

·             In relation to Parish Councils complaints could be raised by the public or clerks around bullying or harassment. This could sometimes be difficult to deal with to know the difference between bullying and a robust leadership style. Analysing the difference was an important part of the process. It was also important to investigate the accuracy of the complaint and whether the Member made the comment in error and had later corrected the mistake.

·             It was important to allow freedom of expression (Article 10 of the European Convention). There were limits to this e.g. if someone was inciting hatred but Members should also be free to express opinions. This was an important balancing exercise.

·             A suggestion was made that there should be a consistent level of training on the code of conduct with Buckinghamshire councillors and parish/town councillors. The Head of Legal and Democratic Services reported that he had met with the Chief Officer of Bucks and Milton Keynes Association of Local Councils to discuss training for Members. The challenges were the costs of training and whether training for areas such as equalities was mandatory.  Code of conduct training was mandatory for Buckinghamshire Councillors and many Members were also dual hatters. A comment was made that not every Member was a member of BMKALC but a number of Parish/Town Councils  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Public Health and COVID Secure Measures for Local Elections pdf icon PDF 179 KB

To consider the attached report.

 

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

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report on the public health and COVID secure measures that would be put in place for the delivery of the Unitary, Parish and Police and Crime Commissioner Elections scheduled for 6 May 2021. A huge amount of work had been undertaken to ensure that the elections were held safely and securely. All Government and Electoral Commission guidance was being adhered to, and work had also been undertaken with colleagues in Public Health. There were a high number of contested Parish Council elections and in addition a Neighbourhood Planning Referendum.

 

A number of control measures were being implemented to limit any possible transmission of the virus which included minimising contact between individuals and maintaining social distancing, cleaning hands thoroughly and regularly, wearing of face coverings at all times, enhanced cleaning of surfaces and provision of hand sanitisers, PPE and screens for all polling stations and the count and keeping occupied spaces well ventilated. Lateral flow tests were available but not mandatory.

 

During discussion the following points were noted:-

 

·             The count would be undertaken on a two phase approach, with half of the number of wards being verified in phase 1 and the remaining number of wards being verified in the second phase. This enabled candidates and agents to be present in a safe environment. Candidates would be sent information on how the phasing would work.

·             There would be plenty of spare pencils at the polling station if residents did not bring their own.

·             Face covering would be mandatory inside all polling stations and screens would also be in operation inside polling stations. Detailed signage and markings inside polling stations would also be displayed, with ‘greeters’ also managing the numbers inside a polling station at any one time, including keeping any queues to a minimum and in line with social distancing requirements. Signage would be introduced to provide clear messaging about the flow of a polling station and social distancing. People would still be able to vote without a mask.

·             Concern was made about tellers and the importance of making it clear what the rules were and that they abided by them. The Director of Legal and Democratic Services reported that they had ensured that there would be sufficient people to staff polling stations. Tellers have no legal standing and it would be easier to influence their behaviour with regard to COVID guidelines inside the polling station rather than outside. There would be posters displayed with COVID guidelines. Guidance would be issued to the Presiding Officers on tellers and posters would be displayed on what they can and can’t do.

·             There would be less count teams to abide with social distancing. Face masks should be worn within the count venues, unless there were exceptions and spares would be supplied.

 

RESOLVED that the measures in place for delivering the May 2021 elections be noted.

6.

Work Programme

7 July 2021

1.                  LGO Annual Report

2.                  Compliments and Complaints Report 2020-21 (End of Year)

3.                  Bucks Electoral Review (Update) + Member Working Group arrangements

4.                  Constitution Working Group (Update)

5.                  Draft Work Programme for 2021-22

 

7 October 2021

No agenda items, as yet

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the Work Programme and noted the following items for the meeting on 7 July 2021.

 

7 July 2021

1.   LGO Annual Report

2.   Compliments and Complaints Report 2020-21 (End of Year)

3.   Bucks Electoral Review (Update) + Member Working Group arrangements

4.   Constitution Working Group (Update)

5.   Draft Work Programme for 2021-22

 

7 October 2021

No agenda items, as yet

 

RESOLVED – That the Work Programme be noted.