Cheltenham Borough Council
Cheltenham Borough Council

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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Virtual WEBEX video conference via YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/user/cheltenhamborough. View directions

Contact: Saira Malin, Democracy Officer 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Councillor Karl Hobley

Duncan Chittenden and Martin Jauch (Independent Persons)

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillor Hobley and the two Independent Members (Martin Jauch and Duncan Chittenden).

2.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

There were none.

3.

Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 287 KB

Minutes of the meeting held on 3 July 2020.

Minutes:

One Member clarified comments that he had made on page 5, noting that he had said that it was a shame for a discussion of such an important topic to be overshadowed by controversy. He suggested that the line that the incident had ‘instead highlighted an issue of racism within the council’ be amended to ‘instead turned the spotlight on the council’. The Monitoring Officer agreed that this amendment was appropriate.

The minutes of the meeting held on 3rd July 2020 were approved and signed as a correct record. One Member abstained as they were not present for the previous meeting. The minutes were carried with one abstention.

4.

Consultation-LGA draft Model Code of Conduct pdf icon PDF 242 KB

Report of the Monitoring Officer

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer (MO) introduced the code of conduct, explaining that the model code outlined in the report had arisen from the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. This followed their 2018 review of ethical standards in local government, the report for which was published in January 2019. One of the many recommendations was that the Local Government Association (LGA) should be asked to provide a model code with a view to providing clarity and consistency for both local councillors and the public. This arose from their finding that codes of conduct in place at all tiers of local government were not consistent and some failed to address important areas of behaviour such as bullying and harassment. She added that the draft model code had been released for consultation purposes and responses to an online questionnaire were requested by the 17th August 2020.

She reassured Members that there was not a huge difference between the recommended provisions and those that were already in place within the Cheltenham Borough Council Code of Members’ Conduct. In some cases, the wording was slightly different, but most of the provisions of the LGA’s model code were already in place. She sought to focus on the differences.

 

She added that the current legal position was that the Code of Conduct only applied to a Member when acting in their official capacity as a Member of the Council.  One of the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life was that this should be extended to include where Members are claiming that they are acting or giving the impression that they were acting in public in their capacity as a Member or representative of the Council. The model continued to say that Members were expected to uphold high standards of conduct and show leadership at all times, and clarified that the code applied to all forms of Member communication and interaction including via social media. She stressed that while this was already the case with the current code, the LGA advised making it a specific provision for the avoidance of any doubt.

The Monitoring Officer continued by explaining the format of the model code. Minimum requirements were set out, expressed as commitments, in bold type, while guidance was interspersed amongst the requirements as well as in appendices to the code.

She outlined the key differences between the model code and the council’s current code of conduct, as well as areas she felt were in need of clarification. The first requirement asked Members to treat each other, the public, volunteers, employees of the Council and of partner organisations with ‘civility’ – defined in the guidance as ‘politeness and courtesy’. This differed from the current requirement to treat others with ‘respect’. She suggested that the requirement be amended to refer to both civility and respect, since the former did not necessarily include the latter. The next requirement was that Members must not bully or harass any person, with definitions given. The Council’s current  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Any other business

Minutes:

The Chair reported that, as resolved in the last Standards Committee meeting, he had drafted a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and intended to send it as soon as possible. The letter concerned his department’s overdue review into codes of conduct, and reiterated the points made in the last meeting about the lack of ‘bite’ in possible sanctions.

He thanked Members for their thorough attention to detail, and ended the meeting.

6.

Date of next meeting

TBA

Minutes:

The next meeting was scheduled for 28th October 2020.