Agenda item

Member Code of Conduct

The report and appendices are attached.


Jane Pollard (Legal Services Manager) introduced the report, stating that the Local Government Association (LGA) had published its new Model Code of Conduct in December 2020 in response to recommendations made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL). She advised that some of the recommendations made by CSPL would require changes in the law before they could be implemented. The new Model Code, which included principles as well as guidance, was substantially longer than its predecessor, which formed the basis of WCC’s existing Code of Conduct.


Jane Pollard reported that the new Model Code had received a mixed response from monitoring officers nationally. Jane Pollard advised that it was considered that the Council’s existing Member Code of Conduct had provided a sound platform upon which to promote high standards across the organisation. On that basis, she advised that it was not proposed to adopt the new LGA Code on a wholesale basis. However, some amendments drawn from the new Code had been incorporated into existing arrangements. The Committee’s view was sought in respect of this revised Code of Conduct set out in Appendix 1 to the report.


Jane Pollard advised that it was proposed to introduce a requirement to register offers of gifts and hospitality with an estimated value of £50. Elements of the new LGA Model Code that required further legislation before implementation had not been incorporated within the updated WCC Code.


Councillor Gifford highlighted point 3(j) of the revised Code of Conduct, in which a member would consent to “not disclose confidential information … Nor will I prevent people gaining access to information to which they are lawfully entitled.” He suggested that these two points be separated to ensure clarity.


Councillor Gifford drew attention to point 3(m) which referred to training requirements alongside a commitment to “not intimidate or attempt to intimidate any person…” He suggested that these two elements be disaggregated.


In response to Councillor Gifford’s observation that mediation was often the most effective means to resolve a complaint, Jane Pollard advised that, under the current arrangement, the monitoring officer was afforded flexibility in determining the appropriate course of action when a complaint was made, including the option to pursue mediation.


Sarah Duxbury (Assistant Director, Governance and Policy) stated that the approach that the Council has taken for many years has been to seek to resolve complaints at an early stage in a way that is acceptable to the complainant without requiring recourse to a formal hearing. The rights of the complainant, alongside the rights of elected members, had to be considered however the preferred outcome would be to resolve the complaint by agreement at the earliest possible stage. The Authority’s track record showed the benefits of this approach and it was not proposed to depart significantly from arrangements which had proved to be effective.


In response to Councillor Reilly, Jane Pollard advised that the adequacy of sanctions within current arrangements had been considered by the LGA. This was among the elements of the Model Code that required legislative changes at a national level. She advised that there were certain sanctions that the Council could impose that did not require the agreement of the member concerned, such as censure at full council, or withdrawal of council resources.


Councillor Reilly highlighted the subjective nature of the Code of Conduct, stating that greater specificity could provide improved assurance for members.


Councillor Birdi stated that the proposed revised Code of Conduct constituted an improvement on existing arrangements. He emphasised the importance of training for councillors, particularly new members.


Councillor Horner acknowledged the subjective nature of a document of this type, stating that the revised Code was a product of wider societal values and influences; it was likely to continue to evolve. He commented that he was content with the proposed changes.


Councillor Dirveiks indicated his agreement that the approach outlined within the new LGA Model Code to automatically bar members with an ‘other’ interest from speaking was not proposed to be included in the revised Code. Councillors had been democratically elected and had a responsibility to hear all sides of an argument. He indicated his support for the updated Member Code of Conduct.


Sarah Duxbury stated that a thorough examination of the LGA’s Model Code had been undertaken; liaison with other councils had helped to inform the Authority’s view. She stated that a number of Councils were not proposing to adopt the LGA Model Code wholesale and that for Warwickshire, taking into account its track record, adopting the new LGA Model Code could be considered to introduce an unnecessary level of bureaucracy. She acknowledged Councillor Reilly’s observation, stating that a degree of subjectivity was inevitable when determining complaints.


Councillor Reilly stated that he was content to endorse the revised Member Code of Conduct. However, he commented that he had observed instances at other authorities where the code of conduct had been misused with the deliberate purpose of undermining members. He observed that there was an opportunity to examine the code of conduct for officers to ensure consistency and parity.


The Chair summarised the consensus view of the Committee and indicated his own support for the selective approach taken in drafting the revised Member Code of Conduct.




That the Committee commends the proposed revised Code of Conduct, as set out in Appendix 1 of the report, to Cabinet and Council.


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