Agenda and draft minutes

Standards Committee - Wednesday 27 July 2022 6.00 pm

Contact: Wayne Chandai, Democratic Services,  020 7926 0029, Email: wchandai@lambeth.gov.uk

Note: Information on how to access the meeting is set out in the agenda. However, if you just want to watch the live broadcast you can copy and paste the following link into your browser: https://bit.ly/3zeocqh. The video will remain available to view for 180 days. 

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of Interest

    • View the background to item 1.

    Minutes:

    There were no declarations of interest.

2.

Member Learning Development Programme 2022 pdf icon PDF 319 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Victoria Lower, Deputy Democratic Services Manager, and Farah Hussain, Democratic Services Officer, introduced the report and noted:

    • The Member Learning and Development Programme (MLD) had been developed in conversation with the cross-party MLD Working Group.
    • In total, 23 training sessions had taken place, with an attendance rate of 45% for compulsory sessions and 37% across all training. Updated attendance details were provided to the Committee and published in an updated report.
    • Attendance was lower than in 2018 and only nine councillors had attended training sessions which had cost £1,150.
    • It was not possible to record all training sessions as some were hosted by external organisations and the council did not have the licence to record those sessions.
    • The next round of training would begin in September 2022 and would include sessions covering Corporate Parenting, Equalities and Diversity, PREVENT and Carbon Literacy.
    • Members would be contacted to remind them to attend compulsory training and that watching a recording was not sufficient.
    • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks were underway and 54 were complete.

     

    Officers responded to the Committee’s questions as follows:

    • The wording around compulsory or essential invites would be amended to ensure it was clear which sessions Members must attend.
    • Human Resource would be requested to provide an update on the status of DBS checks.
    • Compulsory sessions were varied and included committee specific training, training related to Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recommendations and sessions which covered significant areas of councillor work, such as Code of Conduct and Local Government Finances.
    • The addition of competency tests following training would be dependent on the associated costs of setting up and ongoing management.

     

    The Committee noted that:

    • Reviving the cross-party MLD Working Group would support the development of the annual training programme.
    • The training programme had been comprehensive; however, Members had numerous commitments and were not always available to attend all training sessions.
    • Making staff training available to councillors would be beneficial and cost effective.
    • Keeping all training in-house and delivered by council officers would be cost effective and would enable all training sessions to be recorded for future reference.
    • Member feedback would help support the development of future programmes.

     

    RESOLVED: To

    1.          Consider and comment on the progress that the Member Learning Development programme has made.

    2.          Support the revival of the Member Development Working Group including Councillors from all political parties to meet on an annual / as and when necessary basis.     

3.

Member Complaints Report pdf icon PDF 215 KB

    Minutes:

    Raymond Prince, Director of Legal and Governance, introduced the report and noted:

    • Six Member complaints had been received and all were from members of the public. This represented a significant improvement from the previous year, which was felt to be due to greater engagement with Members and Whips in terms of their responsibilities.
    • All complaints had been investigated on an informal basis and on three occasions the Monitoring Officer had consulted with the Independent Person in order to determine the complaint.. It had been found that there had been no breach to the Code of Conduct on any occasion.
    • There had been a general theme of the use of social media – and tweets in particular - across all complaints and all Members were encouraged to attend the Social Media training taking place the following day. Furthermore, it was noted that the Committee was due to consider an example social media guidance document later in the meeting.
    • Half the number of complaints had been received in comparison to a comparative London borough.
    • Code of Conduct training had been held for all Members and the Code of Conduct had been amended at the Annual Council meeting in May 2022 to strengthen what amounts to bullying and harassment.

     

    Officers responded to the Committee’s questions as follows:

    • The comparative London Borough had been Haringey which was also a Labour majority council.
    • The example social media guidance would be circulated to Members ahead of training.

     

    The Committee noted:

    • It was still early days in terms of social media but it was fast becoming a main form of communication and was an important tool for Members to able to communicate effectively with the public.
    • All councillors were bound by the Nolan Principles and that it was important that any guidance document should include a requirement for all members to review their social media accounts to ensure they were compliant with the Principles, which included posts from before they were elected.

     

    RESOLVED: To note the report.

     

    Items 5 and 6 on the agenda were taken ahead of item 4

4.

Developments in Ethical Standards pdf icon PDF 432 KB

    Minutes:

    Fateha Salim, Assistant Director Legal Services, introduced the report and noted:

    • The report set out recent cases in ethical standards which sought to support the Standards Committee’s work in upholding high standards of Member conduct. The details of the cases were contained within the report.
    • The investigation report in relation to the Southwark case on the use of social media was not publicly available.
    • When cases were investigated it was important that they were taken on a case-by-case basis.

     

    Officers responded to the Committee’s questions as follows:

    • That reviewing the Southwark case would be important when developing a social media guidance document and the report would be shared with Standards Committee members, if possible, following discussions with Southwark Council.

     

    RESOLVED: To note the report.

5.

Member Issues pdf icon PDF 446 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Raymond Prince, Director of Legal and Governance, introduced the report and noted:

    • Members were being asked whether they would like officers to explore applying for accreditation under the London Councils Member Learning and Development (MLD) Charter or Charter Plus schemes. Members were advised that, to-date, two councils had been awarded Charter Plus status.
    • Under existing arrangements for a complaint to be made against a councillor, the complainant had to email the Monitoring Officer. Included within the agenda was an example of a pro forma template which could be modified and recommended to Council for adoption.
    • The Constitution Working Group had considered the pro forma template and the consensus had been that a Lambeth version should be developed, but recommended the removal of the reference to fax, the inclusion of email addresses, explanation of the Independent Person; and had requested another example pro forma to review against.
    • Members had requested a social media guidance document be provided and an example document had been included in the agenda.

     

    Officers responded to the Committee’s questions as follows:

    • The cost of applying for the MLD Charter was not readily available and would be ascertained ahead of proceeding with an application.
    • Once the Charter was awarded the assumption – which would be checked - was that it was in place indefinitely.
    • Officers would speak with colleagues in the authorities that had been awarded Charter status to ascertain the resources required.
    • Telephone numbers would be included in the Lambeth version of the complaint pro forma as it was recognised that not all residents had access to emails.

     

    The Committee noted:

    • The Charter status would be beneficial if the council was in disarray, however it was felt that the current MLD programme was well developed and an application would require a large amount of officer time. It was suggested that the MLD Working Group could consider the Charter programme and establish whether to proceed with an application.
    • The complaint proforma was good and a Lambeth version should be developed and taken to a future Standards meeting ahead of a recommendation to Council to adopt.
    • Developing a social media guidance document was an important piece of work and a final version should be taken to a future Standards meeting ahead of a recommendation to Council to adopt.

     

    RESOLVED: To

    1.          Recommend the Member Learning and Development Working Group review the London Councils Member Development Charter in a year’s time to assess whether the council should apply for accreditation;

    2.          Agree to the principle of a pro forma complaint template for use by a complainant when making a complaint against a Member and request that the final pro forma be taken to a future Standards Committee meeting ahead of a recommendation to Council for adoption; and

    3.          Agree to the principle of a Member social media guidance document and request that the final guidance be taken to a future Standards Committee meeting ahead of a recommendation to Council for adoption.

6.

Local Government Association (LGA) Model Councillor Code of Conduct 2020 pdf icon PDF 563 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Raymond Prince, Director of Legal and Governance, introduced the report and noted:

    • In January 2019 the Committee on Standards in Public Life published the London Government Ethical Standards Report. One the recommendations had been for the LGA to develop a Model Code of Conduct, which had been issued in December 2020.
    • Enquiries of the LGA revealed that as at the start of 2021, nationally around 100 public authorities had adopted the Model Code of Conduct.
    • The report provided comparative analysis of the Model Code versus the Lambeth Code of Conduct, which set out that the Model Code contained greater explanatory text.
    • Members were asked to consider whether the Council should adopt the Model Code in whole or in part. However, the Director of Legal and Governance advised that feedback from Legal colleagues was that there was no need to adopt the Model Code, but that elements could be incorporated in the Council’s Code of Conduct to strengthen it further.

     

    Officers responded to the Committee’s questions as follows:

    • Table 2 set out areas of the Council’s Code of Conduct which could be amended.
    • A benefit of the Model Code was that explanatory text was included.
    • The Corporate Parenting Pledge had been incorporated in the Council’s Code but was not part of the Model Code of Conduct.
    • The requirement to declare gifts and hospitality in the Model Code was higher at £50 than the Council’s Code which was set at £25.

     

    The Committee noted:

    • There were elements of the Council’s Code which were stronger than the Model Code which should be maintained.
    • A full comparative review of the Model Code of Conduct and the Council’s Code of Conduct should be completed and a proposed updated Code of Conduct should be taken to a future Standards Committee meeting ahead of a recommendation for adoption by Council.

     

    RESOLVED: To                                                                         

    1.          Note the report; and

    2.          Request that a full comparative review be undertaken of the Model Code of Conduct and the Council’s Code of Conduct, and that a proposed updated Code of Conduct be taken to a future Standards Committee for consideration.