Council Votes To Disband Standards Committee

Council Chambers at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

Council Chambers at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

The Council has voted to wind up its Standards Committee.

That’s the group who investigate claims of councillors breaching the Authority’s code of conduct.

But the decision was a close run thing, with the current Chairman of Standards unhappy about the way the Council Chairman used her casting vote.

The Council’s Democratic Review Panel, made up of six councillors, had proposed a number of changes to the committee structure.

These included reducing them from 13 to 10 and lowering the number of members who sit on some.

They’d recommended merging the Standards Committee into a new Audit, Finance and Scrutiny Committee.

Legal Officer, Richard Burraston, said this was because, while the law had a defined process to investigate complaints against councillors, it didn’t require a separate committee to run it.

But the current Chairman of Standards, Gordon Bilsborough, argued that amalgamating the Standards function into the new committee would result in the same amount of work.

And he felt that, with only the Chairmen of committees being allowed to sit on the new Scrutiny committee, it would exclude other members from taking part.

Cllrs Colin Daly, Fran Grottick and Adrian Davis all spoke in support of keeping the standalone committee.

But Cllr Richard McCarthy had strong views on how it had been run in the past.

He said under a former Chief Executive, who also acted as the Monitoring Officer, the process “was not appropriate.”

He said he’d been threatened with being referred to Standards, and sat in meetings where “pint-sized disputes” were turned into “massively protracted confrontations.”

He described it as “peashooter politics.”

Councillors were split down the middle in the vote, with six for and six against keeping Standards.

But Council Chairman Amanda Martin used her second, casting vote in favour of disbanding the Committee.

That was allowed within the rules of chairing the meeting.

Speaking afterwards, Cllr Bilsborough told Radio Scilly that he felt the use of a second casting vote by the Chairman was a “shameful move.”

He felt the Chairman should have remained impartial and not voted in the initial round, which would have meant the Committee was retained.

He says he’ll be writing to Cllr Martin to express his concern.