Cheltenham Borough Council
Cheltenham Borough Council

Hello, please sign in to your account. New customer? Creating a new account only takes moments.

find our main contact details and opening hours or find our location.

Agenda and minutes

Venue: Sherborne Room - Municipal Offices. View directions

Contact: Saira Malin, Democracy Officer 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

Councillor Barnes had given his apologies.

 

Councillor Whyborn arrived at 10:10am.

2.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

No interests were declared.

3.

Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 32 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on the 11 July 2014

Minutes:

The minutes of the last meeting were circulated with the agenda.

 

Upon a vote it was unanimously

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on the 11 July 2014 be agreed and signed as an accurate record.

4.

Planning protocol pdf icon PDF 61 KB

Report of the Borough Solicitor and Monitoring Officer recommending approval of a revised Planning Code of Conduct for adoption by the Council

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Borough Solicitor and Monitoring Officer introduced the Planning Code of Conduct, which had taken quite some time to finalise.  She explained that the existing version had been reviewed and amended by a Working Group of members of the Standards and Planning Committee and that the suggested revision reflected changes to legislation and the Code of Members’ Conduct.  It also aimed to reflect on best practice and distinguish where the provisions were relevant to all members and where only relevant to members of the Planning Committee.

 

Some of the main substantive changes were highlighted;

 

·         Appendix 4 of the Planning Code of Conduct, page 33 of the agenda pack - this had been the subject of significant debate at the Working Group.  The Appendix provides that developers are permitted to make presentations to members at a pre-application stage to allow the developer to take on-board any comments prior to submitting an application.  However, there was to be no further presentation from the developer to members once the application had been submitted. 

·         The bullet point on page 17 of the agenda pack relating to the noting of conversations had been struck out as it had been considered excessive and the italic bullet points added to ensure that at the point of any decision, all members were in receipt of all the relevant information.

 

The Monitoring Officer gave the following responses to member questions;

 

·         In relation to the flowchart on page 31 of the agenda pack, an arrow would be added from the ‘no’ additional information has not been provided, back up to the ‘planning application submitted’ box, to make clear that the process would have to start again. 

·         Whilst the continued presence of ward members who had concluded their public speaking at Planning Committee, could result in an accusation that the ward members was trying to influence members of the committee, the Monitoring Officer considered the risk to be minimal.    The committee felt that this paragraph should be removed from the document. 

·         Members of Planning Committee needed to approach applications with an open mind but this was not to say that they needed to have an empty mind. 

·         Members of the Planning Committee were permitted to attend pre-application meetings in their role as ward members and were not required to declare this at the Planning Committee meeting, though they might like to acknowledge that they had attended the pre-application meeting.

·         Planning Committee members could give residents advice on how best to make their case in support of, or in objection to a planning application but they were not permitted to enter into a discussion about how they might be intending to vote. 

·         This document was intended to provide the public with an understanding of how the council would approach the planning matters as the existing document was inconsistent with the current legislation and Code of Conduct.  

·         Planning Officers were experts engaged by the council to weigh all material considerations on planning applications and make appropriate recommendations.  If the committee was minded to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

social media protocol for members pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Report of the Borough Solicitor and Monitoring Officer attaching a draft Social Media Protocol for Members for consideration by the committee and recommendation to the Council for adoption

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Borough Solicitor and Monitoring Officer introduced a draft social media protocol circulated with the agenda.  She explained that the Constitution Working Group had felt it prudent for the council to have a protocol, which was intended to provide good practice guidance to members when interacting on social media and to provide legislative and Code of Conduct (CoC) context for use of social media by members.  The draft protocol acknowledged the significant benefits of social media, whilst addressing the underlying risk associated with using it, given that it creates a permanent written record.  The Monitoring Officer stressed that the protocol related only to use by members acting in their role as an elected member as opposed to any purely personal use. 

 

The Constitution Working Group had intended the protocol to be a comprehensive stand-alone document which was why the protocol provided legal and Code of Conduct context.  The committee was referred specifically to pages 46-48 of the agenda pack, which set out some social media do’s and don’ts.  The committee was advised that there was no requirement for the council to have a social media protocol, some authorities had one and some did not.  The council’s Communications Team had been consulted, as had all members of the Council.  Members were referred to the summary of comments received from members, which had been circulated in advance of the meeting (Appendix 1).  The Monitoring Officer provided responses to each of the three comments received;

 

Councillor 1 could be assured that the protocol related only to the use of social media in their role as a councillor including circumstances where the member is giving the impression of acting as a councillor.  This protocol did not apply to use of social media in a personal capacity. 

 

In relation to councillor 2’s comments the Monitoring Officer advised that the members’ Code of Conduct set out, in full, the requirements relating to public interest and disclosure to a third party, which was not precluded by the Code of Conduct.  The Code of Conduct required that a member seek written advice from the Borough Solicitor and make a decision on that basis. 

 

In response to the comments from councillor 3, it was confirmed that there was no requirement for the council to have a protocol and it was a matter for the Committee to decide whether to recommend it for approval by Council.

 

Collectively members were of the opinion that adoption of a protocol on this topic was unnecessary and whilst they felt that the document contained useful advice, albeit some of it was common sense, they felt that it would be more appropriate to communicate it as part of the induction and ongoing development offered to members.  The Committee also considered it to be wholly appropriate for a reference to the fact that it was inappropriate for members of regulatory committees to be communicating on social media during a meeting, to be added to the Constitution and asked that the Constitution Working Group consider this matter.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

work planning

Consider what matters, if any, the committee could consider at future meetings:

 

21 October 2015

 

24 February 2016

 

13 July 2016

 

 

 

 

Minutes:

The committee were asked to consider what matters, if any, they wanted to consider at upcoming meetings.

 

The Monitoring Officer suggested that the Committee may wish to review the Gifts and Hospitality and Member and Officer relations Protocols, as these had not been reviewed for some time.

 

She explained that the meeting dates were agreed at council but would only be held if they were required. 

7.

Local Government Act 1972 - Exempt information

The Committee is recommended to approve the following resolution:

 

 “That in accordance with Section 100A(4) Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the remaining items of business as it is likely that, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, if members of the public are present there will be disclosed to them exempt information as defined in paragraph 1, Part 1, Schedule 12A (as amended) Local Government Act 1972, namely:

Paragraph 1; Information relating to any individual

Minutes:

Upon a vote it was unanimously

 

RESOLVED that in accordance with Section 100A(4) Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the remaining items of business as it is likely that, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, if members of the public are present there will be disclosed to them exempt information as defined in paragraphs 1 of Part 1, Schedule 12A (as amended) Local Government Act 1972, namely:  Information relating to an individual. 

 

8.

review of complaint

A report of the Monitoring Officer

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer gave a report on a review of complaints.  The committee noted the decisions taken and did not consider that there was any further action which could appropriately be taken and neither were there any training needs identified for the wider Council membership arising from these complaints.

9.

exempt Minutes

To approve the exempt minutes of the meeting held on the 11 July 2014

Minutes:

The exempt minutes of the last meeting had been circulated with the agenda.

 

A member raised a minor amendment. 

 

Upon a vote it was unanimously

 

RESOLVED that the exempt minutes, as amended, of the meeting held on the 11 July 2014 be agreed and signed as an accurate record.

10.

Any other business

Minutes:

In response to a member question the Monitoring Officer explained that there was no matter of recourse were someone to make email exchanges between themselves and member, public.  Even the addition of a disclaimer would not protect members from this risk and this reinforced the need for members to think carefully about the content of electronic communications, either by email or via social media.  Copyright was only relevant if it had been registered and members also needed to consider that email correspondence could form part of Freedom of Information requests.    

 

The committee observed the 1 minute silence at 11:30am to mark 10 years since the 7/7 bombings. 

 

Duncan Chittenden queried whether the Council had a disengagement policy which set out circumstances and means by which Officers and members could legitimately cease correspondence with a member of the public.  The Monitoring Officer was unsure whether there was a disengagement policy and would consider the issue further, but added that any approach would need to be balanced. 

11.

Date of next meeting

21 October 2015

Minutes:

The next meeting was scheduled for the 21 October 2015 at 2pm.