Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: The Oculus, Buckinghamshire Council, Gatehouse Road, Aylesbury HP19 8FF. View directions

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

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Items
No. Item

1.

Appointment of Vice-Chairman

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman appointed Councillor Bill Chapple OBE as his Vice Chairman of the Standards and General Purposes Committee for the ensuing year.

 

2.

Apologies

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Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors R Carington and S Lambert.

3.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 363 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 18 May 2022 and 14 April, copy attached.

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Minutes:

RESOLVED –

 

That the Minutes of the meetings held on 14 April 2022 and 18 May 2022 be approved as correct records.

4.

Declarations of Interest

Members to declare any interests.

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Minutes:

There were none.

5.

Compliments and Complaints Report 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 707 KB

To consider the report.

 

Contact Officer: Jennifer Griffin

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Minutes:

The Committee received an annual report on compliments and complaints for Buckinghamshire Council for the period 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.  The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s annual review letter would likely be issued to authorities in July for 2021/22. For this reason, there was no ombudsman case information in this report. An update on this area will be issued later in the year.

 

It was explained that the Council operated 3 complaints systems.  2 related to statutory responsibilities for Adults Social Care and Children’s Social Care complaints, with all other complaints recorded separately.  Data from all 3 sources had been combined into the annual report.

 

912 compliments had been received during 2021/22, which was less than the 1,029 received in 2020/21.  The majority of compliments were thanking officers for their contributions to individual situations, particularly in areas like social care and SEND.  Compliments were shared with services so that they could be passed on to individuals.

 

1,988 complaints had been managed through the corporate complaints process during 2021/22 (2,099 in 2020/21).  The highest number of complaints were received for the Southern Waste and Recycling team (859), Transport for Buckinghamshire (219), SEND (129), Planning and Development Management (173), and Revenue and Benefits (135).

 

The Corporate Complaints Policy stated that the Council would attempt to respond to complaints within 20 working days.  Where a complaint took longer than 20 working days to answer the Complaints and Improvements Team would write to the complainant and explain that there was a delay.  The average response time for Stage 1 Corporate Complaints for 2021/22 had been 21 working days.

 

Stage 2 of the corporate complaints process involved an in-depth review of the stage 1 response carried out by Stage 2 officers who worked within the Complaints and Improvements Team.  186 Stage 2 complaints had been considered which represented an escalation rate of 9.35% from stage 1 complaints.  This compares to 172 stage 2 complaints received during 2020/21.  The average response times for Stage 2 Corporate Complaints for 2021/22 was 42 working days.

 

The Adults Social Care (ASC) statutory complaints process was a one stage process that encouraged local resolution to resolve issues within 48 hours. The complaints process usually began once the Concern Stage had been exhausted.  The pre-complaint stage (called the Concern Stage) allowed the Service 48 hours to informally resolve issues with the complainant.  105 concerns had been raised this year compared with 75 for the previous year.  The average response times for the concerns received was 2 days.

 

49 ASC statutory complaints had been received during the year that was slightly more than the 44 dealt with in 2020/21.  Whilst the statutory timescale allowed up to six months to issue a final response to the complaint, the Council had set a local standard of 28 calendar days during which time most complaints were expected to be resolved.  The average response time for 2021/22 had been 28 days which was met in spite of additional pressures that the service  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Member Code of Conduct Complaints - Quarterly Review and Benchmarking pdf icon PDF 621 KB

To consider the attached report.

 

Contact Officer:  Nick Graham/ Glenn Watson

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Minutes:

The Committee received a report on Member Code of Conduct complaints that were opened and/or closed during Quarter 1 (April to June 2022).  As previously requested, the updates included an indication of the source of the complaint (e.g. public, fellow councillor) and of the nature of the alleged behaviour.

 

The report also informed the Committee of the outcome of a recent benchmarking exercise during which the Council’s arrangements were compared with those adopted by other unitary authorities and the Local Government Association’s (LGA) best practice guidance.  This indicated that the Council’s ‘Initial Assessment’ stage was lacking a defined timescale, although in practice, the Council normally conformed with the 15-day timeframe recommended by the LGA.

 

Annex 1 to the Committee report contained information on complaints open or closed within Quarter 1 and relating to Parish and Town Councils.  Annex 2 contained similar information relating to Buckinghamshire Council.  Officer provided a summary of the complaints.  3 of the 4 Parish complaints had related to the same instance and while no breaches had been found and the complaints had been closed, 3 further complaints about this Parish Council/Councillor were currently in progress.

 

Two complaints had been raised about a Buckinghamshire Councillor during Quarter 1.  Both related to the same person and the same incident.  In both cases, the complainant had been a fellow Member of the Council.  Both had been closed at the Initial Assessment stage as the context suggested that no Code principle was likely to have been breached.

 

Annex 3 set out the complaints that were currently open, for either tier of local government.  This showed four complaints currently open. Three relate to the same council and councillor and were at Stage 3 (Investigation). The other was currently at Stage 1 to determine the facts of the case and whether any informal resolution is possible.  Officer reported that another complaint had been received from within the same council about the same incident, which was also at Stage 1. This made 5 complaints currently open at the time of the meeting.

 

Members were informed that on Monday 4 July 2022, the Deputy Monitoring Officer had given a presentation to the local Association of Parish and Town Councils on the handling of member code of conduct complaints to acquaint parish and town councillors and their clerks on the nature of the complaints process.  This had undertaken as part of the Council’s ongoing commitment to raising awareness of Code of Conduct matters among local councils.

 

Section 3 of the Committee report included information comparing the Buckinghamshire Council’s arrangements for dealing with Code complaints against the LGA guidance and the arrangements adopted by other unitary authorities.  While principal councils (i.e. not parish/town councils) were legally required to adopt arrangements for dealing with Member Code of Conduct complaints, the law did not specify the format of such arrangements and it was for each council to determine them.  The Council’s arrangements consisted of 4 parts as detailed at paragraph 3.4 of the Committee report.

 

Annex 4  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Electoral Review Working Group - Update report on current position pdf icon PDF 564 KB

To consider the report.

 

Contact Officer:  Nick Graham/ Glenn Watson

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Minutes:

In April 2022, Council had approved a submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) on the second stage of the electoral review of Buckinghamshire Council.  This related to a proposed pattern of 50 wards based on two Member representation and achieving 98 Councillors overall.

 

The Council had been aware when making the submission that certain aspects of the proposal would potentially be the subject of future dialogue with the Commission and was also mindful that in some instances its own proposals needed revising to come within the acceptable threshold for electoral equality: that is, to bring the electorate figure (per councillor) within +/-10% of the Commission’s average.  It was also envisaged that some areas might benefit from adjustment to achieve better community identity.

 

It had been agreed that the Electoral Review Working Group would review any options for change and recommend proposals to this Committee.  The Working Group had met on a number of occasions over the past months and had now agreed 3 proposed changes for consideration, as follows:

 

A.                 Booker, Cressex and Castlefield and West Wycombe Wards: to revise the Council’s submission by including the portion around Spearing Road and Grenfell Avenue (part of polling district Oakridge and Castlefield No. 2) back into Booker, Cressex and Castlefield ward; and revising the boundary in the Booker part of the ward.  The changes were reflected in the map at Annex 2 to the supplementary agenda. Electoral equality would be as follows:

 

Proposal variance

Ward

Ward Members

-7%

West Wycombe (8,417 electors)

2

4%

Booker, Cressex & Castlefield (9,378 electors)

2

 

B.                  Farnham, Burnham Beeches and Stoke Poges: to create three one member wards, better to reflect the community identity, particularly around Farnham. This would also involve the inclusion of a small portion of the Fulmer area within Stoke Poges, to enhance electoral equality. Under the Council’s current submission, Farnham Common and Burnham Beeches would otherwise come together as a two-member ward. The changes were reflected in Annex 3 to the supplementary agenda.  Electoral equality would be as follows:

 

Proposal variance

Ward

Ward Members

-8%

Burnham Beeches (4,174 electors)

1

9%

Farnham (4,937 electors)

1

-9%

Stoke Poges (4,123 electors)

1

-2%

Denham & Wexham (8,833 electors)

2

 

C.                  Aston Clinton & Weston Turville; Bierton and Wing: to revise the Council’s submission by bringing the Coppice Way polling district into Aylesbury North ward (from the proposed Bierton and Wing Ward). Creating a more coherent Aylesbury North ward is then further enhanced by the inclusion of the Oldham’s Meadow polling district into Aylesbury North, from Watermead & Buckingham Park ward. The changes were reflected in Annex 4 of the supplementary report. Electoral equality would be as follows:

 

Submission variance

Proposal variance

Ward

Ward Members

18%

6%

Aston Clinton & Weston Turville (9,621 electors)

2

-5%

7%

Aylesbury East (9,652 electors)

2

-6%

9%

Aylesbury North (9,822 electors)

2

14%

3%

Bierton & Wing (9,346 electors)

2

2%

-6%

Watermead & Buckingham Park (4,267 electors)

1

7%

7%

Wendover, Halton & Stoke Mandeville (9,647  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 197 KB

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Minutes:

RESOLVED –

 

That the proposed Work Programme as submitted to the meeting be noted.

9.

Date of Next Meeting

20 October 2022

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Minutes:

The next meeting would be held at 2pm on Thursday 20 October 2022.