To receive the report of the Solicitor to the Council.
The Committee received the report of the Head of Legal and Democratic Services (copy filed with signed minutes).
A. General Standards Issues for County Councillors and Co-opted
A1. Code of Conduct Training
There was nothing to report.
A2. Mandatory Training
There was nothing to report.
B. Referral of Councillors to the Public Services Ombudsman
B1. County Council Referrals
The current position regarding matters with the Ombudsman is detailed below, subject to the Committee noting the changes since the Committee report had been published as indicated * :
02/CC/2017 Ombudsman investigating
01/CC/2018 Referred to APW
08/CC/2018 Ombudsman deciding whether or not to investigate
09/CC/2018 Ombudsman deciding whether or not to investigate
10/CC/2018 * Concluded no action
11/CC/2018 * Concluded no action
12/CC/2018 Ombudsman investigating
02/CC/2019 * Concluded no action
C1. Applications- CountyCouncillors
No applications for dispensation have been received from County Councillors.
D. LatePayment ofExpenses
One claim for late payment of expenses had been received but had been returned to the Councillor, as the form was incomplete.
E. Ombudsman’s Casebook
The Ombudsman had published the October – December 2018 Code of Conduct Casebooks. A copy of the Casebook was attached at Appendix A to the report.
The following items were taken next.
G. The North Wales Standards Committee Forum – 24 June, 2019 10 a.m. – 2.0 p.m. – Delyn Committee Room, Flintshire County Council, Mold
The Committee noted that the Ombudsman was to attend the Forum meeting and the Chair and Vice Chair advised that they could attend.
The Committee raised concerns about reports about cases in the press before they were reported to the Standards Committee. The Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that members, who are the subject of a complaint, are notified directly by the Ombudsman when investigated and when an investigation is completed. Comment was made that the Ombudsman should advise councillors not to comment on a decision, until after the Committee had been officially notified of the decision. Further comment was made that the Ombudsman had advised the press that an investigation into another councillor was still ongoing. The Committee queried this and commented that councillors involved in an investigation are advised that they would be in breach of the Code of Conduct if they discuss anything about it until it is concluded. It was agreed that the Chair and Vice Chair would raise these concerns with the Ombudsman at the Forum meeting.
Supplementary report - Member attendance
County Councillor S Lewis declared a personal interest in the item, as she was identified in the report. The Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that the Committee was not discussing individual cases. It was being asked to consider the process and whether it wished to contact the Councillors regarding the reasons for absence.
Reason for decision
That a letter is sent to the 10 Councillors regarding the reasons for their absence and that their responses’ be considered at the Committee meeting on 2 October, 2019.
To obtain the reasons for absence from the relevant Councillors.
F. Whistleblowing Policy and Procedure
The Chair welcomed Steve Holcroft, Employment Policy & Service Development Business Partner to the meeting, he advised that because of a recent follow-up review of the whistleblowing and grievance arrangements by Wales Audit Office the policy had been reviewed.
The Committee noted that due to the managerial structure changes the references to Strategic Directors would be changed to Corporate Directors.
The Committee made the following comments:
· Definition of volunteers needs to be included as this can mean many things [paragraph 3.1]
· Concerns were raised about using the Police 101 telephone number. If individuals used this, members queried how there was feedback to the Council [paragraph 7.1]
· The parties identified in Step 3 [paragraph 6.4] were all internal to the Council and it was questioned whether they would have a conflict of interest. Steve Holcroft advised that the Council’s Auditors were external to the Council. The Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that, if for example, the Monitoring Officer considered he had a conflict of interest he would pass a case to her or another appropriate person identified under the policy. Steve Holcroft advised where an individual is dissatisfied with a local response they can contact external organisations as listed in paragraph 12. It was noted that many individuals seek advice from their Trade Union on the best way to resolve concerns.
The Chair advised it was important to show that the Whistleblowing Policy worked. He asked if details of the number of concerns raised and the comments from those who had raised concerns could be published. Steve Holcroft advised that this could be done as the number of cases concluded satisfactorily was high.
Reason for decision
The revised policy, taking into account comments from the Committee, be circulated to the Committee for further comment.
To seek the views of the Committee.
There was no correspondence.
I. Meeting dates
To note the date of the next meeting: Wednesday 2 October, 2019.