New Standards Regime Is Work-In-Progress

Councillors had to approve a temporary version of a new Standards regime for members as there was too little time to complete the document.

Under changes introduced in the Government’s Localism Act 2011, a new Code of Conduct had to be introduced by each local authority by 1st July.

But Administration Officer, Sue Pritchard, apologised to Councillors for the short space of time between receiving the report and having to vote on it at Full Council last Thursday. She said the Standards Committee only met on Tuesday.

That meeting had been delayed from the previous week due to administrative errors.

Sue said, in order to stay within the law, they had to take a decision that night and use the period before the next Full Council on 27th September to examine the code and make changes.

One of the key points that had been introduced by members at the previous meeting was a commitment to consider whether the post of Monitoring Officer had to be held by the Chief Executive, Philip Hygate.

Councillor Gordon Bilsborough said he had proposed that amendment and he wanted to make it clear this was not aimed at, “any personalities.”

He said the Isles of Scilly was the only Council were the Chief Executive was the also the Monitoring Officer and he felt it was putting an, “unfair strain” on him. He felt the two roles should be, “divorced entirely.”

Councillor Richard McCarthy said he felt the recommendation about the Monitoring Officer was, “too black and white” and he wanted to understand what the various alternatives were. He said he understood that the Monitoring Officer had to be an Officer of the council.

Councillor Chris Savill also wanted to know other roles that the Monitoring Officer was involved with. She said it looked, “simple in four or five lines but it was actually a minefield.”

Chief Executive, Philip Hygate, told members that the post, “by statute has to be an Officer of the Council,” then left the room so that there could be no conflict of interest.

Councillors were told that the Monitoring Officer could be a nominee or could be employed by the Council from another authority to do the job and that there was no rule that said the role had to be taken by the Chief Executive.

But Sue Pritchard said options were not available at the moment, which is why she wanted more time.

Councillors agreed to bring a report before the Standards Committee to evaluate the Monitoring Officer role and post holder and the options available for change.

Councillor McCarthy said he wanted to see, “a number of changes” in the document.

He said it sometimes feels like a member, “only has to boil an egg in public to be brought before the standards committee” and he felt the document could be much simpler.

Chris Savill agreed, saying there were lots of things unanswered in the document. She was, “prepared to go along with this” but there was a lot of work needed before September.

Vice Chair, Amanda Martin said she wanted to ensure that nothing agreed at this meeting would be binding and couldn’t be changed in September.

Councillors agreed that the two candidates for the Independent Person role on the Standards Committee will be Mary Gibbs and Smudge Smith.

Councillors will spend time working through the fine detail of the document before the next Council Meeting in September.