Uncertainty Over Council Standards Committee

Council Chamber at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

There’s uncertainty over what will happen next with the Council’s Standards Committee, the panel that presides over allegations of wrongdoing by members.

Critics claim the boards can victimise Councillors, or rack up costs, investing trivial matters when no laws are broken.

The Government is axing them under its new Localism Act.

From July 1st Councillors who fail to declare financial interests will face criminal action but there’s no additional guidance about dealing with other complaints for our Town Hall yet.

At last week’s Full Council meeting, Councillors were asked to agree to stick with the current standards committee until new guidance arrives, but newly-elected Councillor, Gordon Bilsborough wasn’t happy as he thinks it is unfair.

Gordon says the person about whom the complaint has been made is not allowed to attend the committee or make representations. He says it all happens behind closed doors and described it as a “kangaroo court.”

He said members who are accused of misconduct should have the right to have their case heard in public.

Fred Ticehurst said members only have to stick with the current standards regime for six weeks and he urged members not to break the rules before it ends.

Administration Officer Sue Pritchard claimed the current system hadn’t been as fair as it could have been. She’s written a draft paper, which would allow Councillors to answer complaints before a committee investigation.

From July, an independent person will also be part of the process for assessing member complaints. Richard McCarthy said that role would need to be advertised quickly.

He suggested that Scilly could share an assessor with other mainland Councils. And there were suggestions that other scrutiny roles could be performed from the mainland too.

At the moment, Scilly’s Council is unusual in that the Council Chief Executive, Philip Hygate, has the Monitoring Officer role. It’s usually another senior staff member other than the head of the authority.

Dudley Mumford suggested that they could look at how the official who looks at complaints against the Council or its staff is employed. He felt a system that is ‘more agreeable’ and appropriate for Scilly could be devised.

There’ll be special meeting to discuss what happens in the future.

 



2 Responses to Uncertainty Over Council Standards Committee

  1. Gordon Bilsborough May 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Good point, Todd.

  2. Todd Stevens May 15, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Hygate should never be the monitoring officer-nor should anyone else under him– nor should anyone paid by our council. Only total independence from our council and its officers will do in this role. That way the monotoring officer cannot be influenced by anyone.