Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Council Chamber - Municipal Offices. View directions

Contact: Bev Thomas, Democratic Services Team Leader 

Note: This meeting will be recorded by the council for live broadcast online at www.youtube.com/user/cheltenhamborough. 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Martin Jauch (Independent Person)

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Cllrs. Bassett-Smith and Wilkinson, as well as from Martin Jauch (Independent Member).

In the absence of the Chair (Cllr. Wilkinson), the Vice-Chair (Cllr. Horwood) chaired the meeting.

2.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

There were none.

3.

Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 210 KB

Minutes of the meeting held on 25 November 2020.

Minutes:

The minutes of the last meeting were approved and signed as a correct record.

4.

Cheltenham Borough Council Code of Members' Conduct- Complaint against Councillor Sandra Holliday pdf icon PDF 270 KB

Report of the Monitoring Officer

Additional documents:

Minutes:

In introducing the item, the Vice-Chair acknowledged that an email had been circulated on the 5th December from Cllr. Holliday which cast doubt on some factual elements on the report, and that he had looked into this. He confirmed that she was correct in one respect, namely that her six month suspension was not from the Liberal Democrat party, but rather from the Liberal Democrat group on Cheltenham Borough Council. Her suggestion that she had resigned rather than been suspended was technically correct, but this had happened immediately after the Party Panel determined she could not remain a member of the group, so the difference was semantic rather than substantial. She had also suggested that the sanctions referred to in May’s Council meeting were confidential and should have remained in limited circulation. The Vice-Chair clarified that while the report in detail remained confidential, the sanction was public. He had not seen the report, nor had any member of the Liberal Democrat group besides the Leader. Finally, she had suggested that Cllr. Flynn’s Council speech had not been recorded in full at Appendix 1. This had been checked against the meeting recording, and he confirmed that the speech was included verbatim.

The Interim Monitoring Officer introduced the report, noting that section 1 outlined the background information. This was a contextualisation of the complaint and had no part or bearing on the decision, but aimed to help members understand how the speeches were made in way they were at the Annual Council meeting. Section 2 outlined the basis of the complaint made by Cllr. Flynn, itemising matters in which she felt a departure from the Members’ Code of Conduct had taken place.

The next section set out the rules and regulations regarding the consideration and determination of complaints. Part 2.2 explained the test which needed to be considered prior to the matter moving forward. In discussions with the Independent Member, it had been deemed that there was a viable issue which required consideration by the committee.

Members needed to consider the speech delivered at Annual Council, and test it against the code and requirements outlined in the report. The report identified the Seven Principles of Public Life (selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership), while part 4.2 identified the parts from section 7 of the Code of Conduct which may be considered while testing the speech (to treat others with respect, not to bully a person, and to promote and support high standards of conduct when serving in public office by leadership and example).

An attempt had been made to mediate the matter, but that was not successful so it was necessary to bring it before the committee for consideration. He noted that the lack of a mediated settlement did not mean that members were required to decide that there had been a departure from the code. It was for the parties involved to determine whether they wished to seek a mediation.

Members were required to take a two-stage approach  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Any other business

Minutes:

The question of timeliness, which had been raised during the debate was queried. The Monitoring Officer explained that the Code of Conduct could be amended to reflect these concerns, and it was solely a matter for members to consider. It was acknowledged that it depended on circumstances, and that the complaints procedure did take time. However, if someone took an inordinate amount of time to submit a complaint, then they should be required to provide some reasoning for the delay. He felt this would be preferable to a specific time limit, which would not take context into account.

Members felt some kind of backstop was needed, since an open-ended process that took a long time could affect the clarity of the issue.

One Member emphasised that a complainant should not be discredited because of the time they took to submit their complaint. In the example she had related earlier, the reason for her delay was the risk of professional recrimination. She agreed with the need for some kind of backstop, and suggested that the end of the councillor’s term might be a suitable end point.

The Independent Member noted that the Monitoring Officer addressed complaints as soon as they were received, and sought to informally reach a conclusion without it becoming a formal process. The process took place for a long time behind the scenes without necessarily coming to committee. He warned that the practicalities of a backstop might be more difficult to enforce than they seemed.

It was noted that it was important to safeguard the process from abuse in any case, and to prevent it being used to continue political disagreements.

The Vice-Chair summarised the view of the committee as being reluctant to impose a specific time limit, but willing to polish the process to discourage either very long or vexatious matters. It was agreed that, in consultation with the Monitoring Officer, the Chair would look at possible amendments to the Code of Conduct to take this forward.

6.

Date of next meeting

9 February 2021

Minutes:

9th February 2022 (if necessary)