Agenda and minutes
Venue: Town Hall, Watford
Contact: Pat Thornton
Election of Chair
To elect a Chair for the remainder of the 20111/12 Municipal Year
that Councillor Wylie be elected Chair for the remainder of the Municipal Year.
Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence.
Disclosure of Interests (if any)
There were no disclosures of interest.
To sign the minutes of the meeting held on 30th March 2011
The minutes of the meeting held on 30th March 2011 were submitted and signed.
Report of the Head of Legal & Property Services
The Localism Act received Royal Assent on 15 November 2011. Whilst not all the provisions in the Act in relation to standards had been brought into force, the Government had indicated that it intended for the new regime to be in force from 1 July 2012. It was, therefore, considered timely to advise Members of the provisions of the Act and to start to prepare for the new regime.
The Head of Legal & Property Services presented a report which had also been considered by the Standards Committee on 12 January 2012. The report incorporated the recommendations from that meeting. It was noted that it would be necessary to take a report to Annual Council in May to agree the new standards regime for Watford to come into effect on 1 July 2012.
The Head of Legal & Property Services advised that the draft regulations on disclosable pecuniary interests had not yet been published. She had had discussions with legal colleagues in other Hertfordshire authorities about whether there should be a standard Code of Conduct across the county. There were, however, differences of opinion about how rigid the Code should be. The LGA was also considering proposing a Code for Councils to adopt, however, nothing had been formally published
She advised that ACSeS had procured a Legal Opinion on whether existing independent members could apply to be the Independent Person in the new regime. This had confirmed that as the wording of the legislation currently stood they could not. A report in the legal press had indicated that DCLG may be considering a change to that wording.
The need for the Standards Committee to be politically balanced had been discussed by the Standards Committee. The point had been made that there could be a danger of bias and that this could be a particular issue in the run up to the elections. The Head of Legal & Property Services had advised that full Council could appoint a non-proportionate committee if it was so minded and provided the voting was unanimous. The Standards Committee had suggested that the committee comprise two members from the majority group and one from each of the others. Members had been asked to consult their Groups on this proposal. The Independent Person could not be a member of the Standards Committee.
The Standards Committee had also agreed an additional criteria that the Independent Person should not have stood for election during the past 5 years and that that the interview panel for the Independent Person would comprise Councillor members of the Standards Committee.
A councillor who was also a member of the Standards Committee endorsed the views expressed about the non proportionality of the Standards Committee. He also added his concerns about the loss of expertise if existing independent members could not be re-appointed and the need for the Independent Person to be non political.
In response to a Member’s question about the appointment of the Independent Person, the Head of Legal & Property Services confirmed ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Report of the Head of Legal & Property Services
The Working Party received a report on a number of suggested changes to the Constitution in relation to the following:
A minor amendment to the Council scheme of delegation relating to Town and Country Planning and Development Control with regard to Article 4 Directions.
The Working Party AGREED the amendment.
To agree to changes to the Officer Code of Conduct to reflect the introduction of offences under the Bribery Act 2010.
The Working Party AGREED the changes.
The Watford Borough Petition Scheme
A Member commented that he found the current arrangement for dealing with petitions frustrating as the opportunity for debate was limited. He would like to revert to the position of petitions being accepted for discussion at Cabinet or Council by way of the Procedure Rules. The Chair added that whether a petition went to Cabinet or to Council would depend on the subject matter.
Members suggested that it might be useful to get feedback from petitioners
The Working Party AGREED that the Council should revert to the previous position of petitions being accepted for discussion at full Council and Cabinet by way of the Procedure Rules but that the length of the debate be extended to up to 30 minutes and that petitioners be asked for feedback.
Matters for consideration at Council meetings
The Working Party AGREED to keep public petitions at Annual Council and Budget Council because if the provision were removed it would create a large gap between meetings at which they could be presented.
The Working Party AGREED that there should continue to be a Mayor’s Report at Budget Council. Members felt it was important to retain the opportunity to ask questions of the Mayor at all Council meetings (except the Annual meeting
The Working Party AGREED that written Member Questions should continue to be taken at Annual Council.
Arrangements for access by councillors to Part B reports
The Working Party AGREED the following process for dealing with Part B reports:
One hard copy of a Part B report would be sent to each of the Group Leaders asking them to contact the Democratic Services Manager if they required any further copies and stating why they needed them. This would give all Groups an opportunity to see the report whilst still retaining a level of control over distribution.
Access to meetings and papers in respect of Scrutiny Task Groups
When the current scrutiny arrangements were introduced it was determined that scrutiny task groups should be treated in the same ... view the full minutes text for item 6.