To consider Item 7
Councillor Clarke OBE introduced the report and highlighted to Members one of the recommendations made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life about the desirability of having at least two Independent Persons available to the Authority. The Authority currently had access to a pool of four Independent Persons as a result of a collaborative arrangement put in place in 2016 between the Authority and the councils of Milton Keynes, Central Bedfordshire and Luton Borough. As their term of appointment was due to expire this year, recruitment had been undertaken by officers at Milton Keynes Council and this had created a pool of six new Independent Persons including some, who as well as being appointed by Milton Keynes Council were also appointed by Buckinghamshire Council.
The Authority would receive a report at its next meeting in December with recommendations that it utilised this new pool of Independent Persons.
The Director of Legal and Governance advised Members that the genesis for this report was the letter to the Chief Executives of all local authorities published in July 2020 from the Committee on Standards in Public Life about its report on Local Government Ethical Standards which it published in January 2019. The report made 26 recommendations mostly aimed at government requesting changes to legislation; and one aimed at the Local Government Association (LGA) to create a new model draft Code of Conduct after consultation with councils. The LGA had stated that it was due to report on its final model Code of Conduct later this calendar year.
The Director of Legal and Governance advised Members that the Committee on Standards in Public Life report also included 15 Best Practice recommendations which, as its July letter stated, it would expect all Local Authorities to implement. In its letter, the Committee on Standards in Public Life stated that it would be writing to Local Authorities again in the Autumn to ascertain progress against its 15 Best Practice recommendations.
An audit was undertaken of the current arrangements, benchmarked against the 13 recommendations applicable to combined fire and rescue authorities. There was nothing in the findings which gave cause for concern, however, there were some aspects of the recommendations which the Committee should recommend to the Authority to agree.
The first substantive Recommendation to the Authority was that it should agree to the Code of Conduct being reviewed on an annual basis in line with the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s recommendations, but that this should wait until 2021/22 so as not to pre-empt the content on the new model LGA Code of Conduct. Therefore, the outcome of the LGA’s consultation on its draft Code of Conduct should be considered when this Authority’s review was undertaken.
The Director of Legal and Governance advised Members that when the Code of Conduct was reviewed, the prohibition on ‘harassment’ be added to the prohibition of bullying; and that definitions and examples of both bullying and of harassment be included.
That the Authority be recommended to:
1. note the benchmarking report (Annex A) regarding the 15 Best Practice Recommendations in the CSPL’s Local Government Ethical Standards Report;
2. approve that:
(a) the Code of Conduct is reviewed on an annual basis commencing 2020/21; and where possible taking into account the views of the public, community organisations, and neighbouring and appointing authorities;
(b) in any review of the Code of Conduct:
i. the outcome of the LGA’s consultation on its draft Code of Conduct be taken into account;
ii. the prohibition on ‘harassment’ be added to the prohibition on bullying;
iii. definitions and examples of both bullying and of harassment be included; and
iv. the requirement on Members to comply with any formal standards investigation be included.
(c) the ‘Procedure for the handling of allegations under the Code of Conduct against Members of the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority’ be amended to include a non-exhaustive list of public interest factors which will be taken into account at the filtering stage of a complaint.
A Member asked a question regarding the Independent Persons and was advised that the Independent Persons would not be co-opted onto the Authority, they would be separate and would not be bound by the Members Code of Conduct like Members of the Authority. The Independent Persons had provided their credentials which were vetted by Milton Keynes Council and the proposal was that at the December Fire Authority meeting, to include a short pen profile of these individuals.
- ITEM 7_Ethical Standards in Local Goverment Cover Report BMKFA, item 7. PDF 136 KB
- ITEM 7a_Annex A - July_2020_email_to_local_authorities_following_up_best_practice_recommendations_in_local_gvt_ethical_standards (1), item 7. PDF 289 KB
- ITEM 7b_Annex B - Local Government Ethical Standards Best Practice Recommendations Report, item 7. PDF 254 KB