Agenda and minutes

Standards Committee - Monday, 7th October, 2019 6.00 pm

New regulations came into effect on 4 April 2020 to allow Councils to hold meetings remotely via electronic means. As such, Council and Committee meetings will occur with appropriate Councillors participating via a remote video link. Public access to the meetings is via a live stream video through the Council’s official YouTube channel

Venue: Council Chamber

Contact: Email: committees@midsussex.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

1.

To receive apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillor Liz Bennett, Councillor Eves, Councillor Chris Ash-Edwards and Councillor Denham St Pinnock.

 

The Chairman proposed that Councillor Brunsdon acts as Vice-Chairman for this meeting.  This was unanimously agreed by the Committee.

 

2.

To consider any items that the Chairman agrees to take as urgent business

Minutes:

None.

3.

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 10 June 2019 pdf icon PDF 116 KB

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 10 June 2019 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

4.

To receive Declaration of Interests from Members in respect of any matter on the Agenda

5.

Report to Standards Committee – 7th October 2019 pdf icon PDF 193 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Tom Clark, Monitoring Officer, introduced the report which detailed the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life in relation to Local Government published in January 2019.  He noted that Standards Committee would have the power to suspend Members and the recommendation is to remove their powers to prosecute Members for non-disclosure of disclosablepecuniary interests.  He advised that most councils in the area have adopted the same code of conduct.  A new Code of Conduct will be drafted by the Local Government Association (LGA) which this Committee can adopt.  He confirmed that the Council currently follows the WSCC Code of Conduct and many of the town and parish councils follow Mid Sussex District Council’s Code of Conduct. 

 

As the Parish Councils have no powers to deal with complaints they are dealt with by this Standards Committee.   The report published in January suggests an annual review but the Council intend to continue following the County policy.  He also noted that since 2011 most Parishes had reviewed their Codes of Conduct.  The Monitoring Officer highlighted the tabled open letter from the Committee on Standards in Public Life to all public office holders which had been sent following recent inappropriate ways of debating issues and other areas of concern i.e., use of social media.  He noted that it makes the assumption that if notes are made on public social media the presumption is that Members do this in their capacity as a Councillor and not in a private capacity.

 

The Chairman asked if Members had any general comments about the tabled letter, and he confirmed that as a result of the Localism Act Mid Sussex District Council must process complaints received by Parish Councils about their Members.  

 

The Vice-Chairman reminded the Committee that they should be careful when using social media, she expressed concern over the presumption that comments made on social media made are always in capacity as a Councillor.  The Chairman advised that this would be discussed in more detail once the recommendations were reviewed.

 

The Chairman moved on to the list of recommendations on page 13 of the paper and the Committee discussed each recommendation. 

 

1)    This recommendation was agreed with no amendment.

 

2)    The Committee discussed reasons for Members withholding their home address.  A Member expressed concern and noted that the public have a right to contact Members.  The Chairman advised that Members are easily contactable without their home addresses being in the public domain.  The Committee were given examples where for security reasons it was preferential for a Member’s home address to be withheld.

           

3)    The Monitoring Officer explained that if a Member’s social media account has restricted access then it is a private account and is not used in their capacity as a Councillor. The Committee discussed the possibility of extracts from private social media accounts being put into the public domain, and agreed that Members should use caution when posting on all social media accounts.  A reminder should be sent to all Members on  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.