Agenda and minutes

Standards Committee - Thursday 21st March, 2019 7.00 pm

Venue: Room 18.01, 18th Floor, 64 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6QP

Contact: Toby Howes, Senior Committee and Governance Officer  Tel: 7641 8470; Email:

No. Item



To report any changes to the membership.


1.1       There were no changes to the membership.


Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations by Members and Officers of the existence and nature of any personal or prejudicial interests to matters on the agenda.



2.1       There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 165 KB

To sign the minutes of the meeting held on 6 December 2018.



3.1       RESOLVED:


            That the Minutes of the meeting held on 6 December 2019 be signed by the Chairman as a correct record of the proceedings.


Q&A with the Leader of the Council on Ethical Standards


4.1       The Chairman introduced the item and referred to a review undertaken by the Committee on Standards in Public Life that had been circulated to Members. The review had made a number of recommendations, of which al large number the Council already carried out.  The Committee noted that the list of ‘Dos and Don’ts’ in respect of Members’ use of social media was to be included in the Members’ bulletin on 22 March. The Chairman then invited the Committee to ask Councillor Nickie Aiken (Leader of the Council) questions and make comments in respect of the review.


4.2       Councillor David Boothroyd suggested that it would be useful if there was some form of official or unofficial code of understanding between the Majority Group and the Minority Group in terms of boundaries for reasonable debate. He added that the behaviour of members towards each other, including between the two groups, was better than that experienced at some other local authorities. In respect of members accepting gifts or hospitality, Councillor Boothroyd stated that he had read the investigation report about a former member who had chaired Planning Application Committee meetings which had concluded that although there had been no breach of regulations, the acceptance of gifts and hospitality had been excessive. He asked if there was a threshold in accepting gifts and hospitality that would be considered reasonable and was there any specific guidance on this.


4.3       In reply, Councillor Aiken emphasised the importance of members adhering to the Members’ Code of Conduct and that members should be aware of the level of behaviour expected of them as elected representatives. At a national level, the aggressive behaviour of some elected representatives, including their use of social media, was unfortunate and Councillor Aiken stated that she no longer used Twitter as some of the exchanges that members could be involved in were not helpful. She advised that she was in contact with Councillor Adam Hug (Leader of the Minority Group) and Karen Buck MP when there were any issues arising between members of the two groups and she enjoyed a respectful relationship with them. With regard to accepting gifts and hospitality, Councillor Aiken felt that this was about members exercising sound judgement and having a clear understanding on what is considered acceptable and there was no harm in regularly reminding them of this.


4.4       Councillor Daniel Chalkley referred to the recommendations of the review in relation to councillors accused of criminal offences and queried whether it was appropriate that the Police be involved in view of the pressures on their resources. He also asked what would be the appropriate action to take if, for example, a councillor deliberately failed to declare a pecuniary interest. He also commented that he did not recall as a Standards Committee Member, ever being asked to investigate another member and he asked how the Council compared with other local authorities on this matter.


4.5       In reply, Councillor Aiken stated that the action that should be taken against a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Review of Local Government Ethical Standards by Committee on Standards in Public Life pdf icon PDF 195 KB

Report of the Director of Law.


Additional documents:


5.1       Tasnim Shawkat (Monitoring Officer) presented the report and referred to the key findings of the review in relation to bullying and harassment, social media, gifts and hospitality, including in relation to planning, investigations and safeguards and leadership and culture. She stated that consideration could be given as to whether to provide a definition of what constitutes bullying and harassment. A separate document was being produced in respect of planning and gifts and hospitality and Tasnim Shawkat confirmed that public speaking at Planning Application Committee meetings was now taking place. In respect of the review’s recommendations concening investigations and safequards, the Council already undertook these and there were some local authorities that did not have a separate Standards Committee. Tasnim Shawkat added that although rules and guidance were necessary in respect of standards, leadership and culture had the biggest impact on the standing of the Council’s ethical standards.


5.2       During discussions, the Chairman felt that the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service’s (ACAS) definition of bullying was too restrictive and the Committee agreed to her suggestion that wording of what constitutes bullying and harassment be considered and Tasnim Shawkat agreed to undertake this. Asif Iqbal MBE welcomed the conciseness and clearness of the report.


5.3       In reply to a query concerning pre-determination and planning, Tasnim Shawkat advised that pre-determination was not a Code of Conduct issue, however it could make a decision unlawful where pre-determination had been established. Members should also seek advice in advance where they think they may be exposed to accusations of pre-determination. Tasnim Shawkat advised that an update would be presented at the Committee’s next meeting with proposals for changes to the Code of Conduct in light of the review’s recommendations that did not require changes in legislation.


5.4       RESOLVED:


               1.      That the 26 recommendations made by the Review of Local Government Ethical Standards by Committee on Standards in Public Life and the 15 best practice points be noted.

            2.      That it be noted that the Council already practices many of the recommendations which do not require legislative changes as a matter of good practice.


Annual Report on Complaints to the Monitoring Officer pdf icon PDF 163 KB

Report of the Director of Law.


6.1       Tasnim Shawkat presented the report which also included recommendations to recommend to the General Purposes Committee to amend paragraph 2.10 of the Code of Conduct to read:


            “To promote and support high standards of conduct through leadership and by example, including not acting in a manner which could be seen to bring the Council or the role of the Councillor into disrepute.”


6.2       Tasnim Shawkat advised that other local authorities also used similar wording to address this issue.


6.3       The Chairman commented that it was important that councillors anticipate the implications of their actions and that there was a need for those elected by the public to improve the perception of elected representatives.


6.4       RESOLVED:


               1.      That note the outcomes of the Members complaint referred to in paragraph 3 of the report be noted.

               2.     That it be agreed that the Members Code of Conduct be amended to provide greater clarity to paragraph 2.10 by adding the following:

including, not acting in a manner which could be seen to bring the Council or the role of the Councillor into disrepute”.

            3.     That the General Purposes Committee be recommended to agree the proposed amendment to paragraph 2.10 of the Code of Conduct, which will read as follows:

                          To promote and support high standards of conduct through leadership and by example, including not acting in a manner which could be seen to bring the Council or the role of the Councillor into disrepute.”


Work Options and Work Programme pdf icon PDF 90 KB

Report of the Head of Committee and Governance Services.

Additional documents:


7.1       Members noted that an update in respect of the Planning Protocol would be provided at the next meeting. The Chairman added that other items could be added to the agenda before the next meeting.


Any Other Business The Chairman Considers Urgent


8.1       There was no other business.