Agenda item

Group Leaders Discussion


The Leader of the Council – Councillor Jane Mudd

The Leader of the Opposition – Councillor Matthew Evans

The Leader of the Newport Independents Party – Councillor Kevin Whitehead


The Chair gave a brief description on why the Standards Committee had requested the Groups Leaders’ attendance. The Chair noted that the Committee had previously expressed concern regarding the number of Councillors who had completed Code of Conduct training and wished to ensure that the Group Leaders encouraged accountability in ensuring that the training had been completed by their groups.


The Chair asked the Group Leaders to provide their verbal updates.


The Leader informed the committee that the group had 100% compliance with the Code of Conduct training and added that she wished to highlight the engagement of members with other available training. The Leader noted that it was important to highlight that Members were not always able to take up additional training opportunities due to other commitments and she had been pleased with the progress that had been made.


The Leader wished to raise an issue around the duty of group leaders but noted that this could be discussed following the other Group Leader’s presentations. The Leader informed the Committee that there would be training on Member safety in the next quarter and highlighted the importance of this session.


The Chair thanked the Leader for her presentation and commented that it was positive to note the 100% Attendance for Code of Conduct training.


The Chair asked the Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Matthew Evans to provide an update.


Cllr Evans informed the Committee that all Members had completed the Code of Conduct training and added that the figures for attending additional training had been requested. Cllr Evans noted that it had been previously discussed that there was often an overlap with training where Members may be required to repeat the same training for external positions they hold and queried whether this could be discussed. Cllr Evans noted that there had been no complaints about Councillor Conduct since the last update.


The Chair thanked Cllr Evans and invited the Leader of the Newport Independents Party, Cllr Whitehead to speak.


Cllr Whitehead thanked the Chair and stated his agreement with the Leader regarding personal safety training. Cllr Whitehead noted the importance of the relevancy of training for individuals and added that he trusted Members to be aware of what was relevant to themselves and their roles. Cllr Whitehead stated that he was open to all training opportunities.


The Chair highlighted that the Standards Committee’s role was to minimise the likelihood of complaints about Members being made by encouraging Members to complete relevant training.


Cllr Whitehead noted the importance of attending training and putting the training into action, as there was a risk of reports being made to the Ombudsman for issues that may be considered trivial, and this was something that Members should be prepared for.


The Democratic and Electoral Services Manager read out the supplied statement from the Leader of the Lliswerry Independent Party, Councillor Morris which read:


“I am pleased to report that the Lliswerry Independent Group Continues to uphold the highest possible standards in representing our constituents. We communicate via regular monthly Ward Surgeries, social media, and a regular column in the South Wales Argus. We are amongst the few Councillors who publish our mobile phone numbers making us available 24/7 to our Constituents.


All of us are active school governors with good attendance records.


We have regular meetings and communications between ourselves and work closely as a team. My colleagues are on a very steep learning curve, I am delighted at their progress and the feedback they have from the public.

As far as I am aware, all statutory training is up to date. No problems or complaints have been reported to me.”


The Chair thanked the Group Leaders for their input and opened the floor for any questions.


A Committee Member noted that he chaired the training sessions and informed the Committee that they are mostly very well supported with attendance between 18 to 30 Members.


The Chair noted that there had been a steep uptake in the training since he had first joined and praised the Group Leaders for their support in the huge steps forward that have been taken.


A Committee Member noted the Councillors had busy lives and gave his appreciation that they had kept on top of the training.


The Chair invited the Leader to share her comments.


The Leader firstly wished to speak on the Member Safety Training and stated its alignment with the Code of Conduct due to its focus on behaviour. The Leader stated that Members are required to be conscious that on occasion they are exposed to risk and informed the Committee that she was very pleased with the developed programme which would shortly be rolled out. The Leader stated that due to the importance of the training she would not only be encouraging her group to partake the training but also that it will be available to the Community Councillors. The Leader wished to highlight the Councils serious stance on matters of safety.


The Chair queried whether a large uptake was expected.


The Leader stated that a large uptake was expected and added that it would be particularly helpful for those who are the only Member in their ward, and those who have a greater public profile.


Cllr Evans noted that he had completed the Elected Member safety training some time ago and informed the Committee that within their group they used a buddy system. Cllr Evans stated that one Member had encountered issues on social media and commented that the amount of abuse Councillors can receive is concerning. Cllr Evans stated that a former Councillor had stepped down due to abuse from the public.


A Committee Member expressed thanks to the organisers for including the Community Councillors in the Safety Training.


A member of the Committee stated that he welcomed the training from his perspective as a Committee Member as well as a Member of Newport City Council.


Cllr Routley informed the Committee that in 2019 he had had two experienced two incidents and at that point in time felt that there was not support from the authority. The Committee Member added that he welcomed the training that would help to address to a long-standing issue.


Cllr Whitehead agreed and added that he too welcomed the training and noted that he had seen comments online and had avoided posting anything on social media himself. Cllr Whitehead gave an example of a time where he may have made himself vulnerable and noted that it was important to be aware and mindful of placing oneself in situations where you may be open to risk.


The Chair noted that it was positive to hear that the training will also be available to Community Councillors.


A Committee Member noted the importance that the awareness training was available to all Members and suggested that the Ethics Training could be linked in at the same time and thanked the Group Leaders for their l reports.


The Chair proposed the possibility of the Group Leaders providing a written report for every other Standards Committee meeting with their attendance only being required in person once in a 12-month period.


The Monitoring Officer explained to the committee that the frequency of the Group Leader’s attendance had been decided at the start of the year but added that this could be looked at again at the start of the following year.


The Chair informed the Committee that he had attended a Liaison Meeting with Community Councils and highlighted the benefits of raising the profile of the Standards Committee with them. The Chair noted that he wished to continue to build on raising the profile of the Standards Committee within their remit.


The Leader noted an anomaly within the legislation which noted that although the Group Leaders should be accountable for their group Members they would not be informed if a complaint was made to the Ombudsmen regarding one of their group Members. The Leader highlighted that this could put Group Leaders into a situation where they are held accountable for something that they are unaware of. The Leader stated that although this was not the intention of the Legislation, she wished to bring it to the attention of the Standards Committee. The Leader stated that she felt in principle the Legislation was largely positive but that there may be issues with the practical application.


The Head of Law and Standards informed the Committee that she would be reporting on the Statutory Guidance later in the Meeting in which the Group Leaders role would be covered and added that it did clarify within the guidance that the Leaders should not be held personally responsible for the behaviour of individuals. The Head of Law and Standards noted that the main responsibility of the Group Leaders is to encourage good conduct and added that they would be made aware if a report from the Ombudsman relating to one of their Members was brought to the Standards Committee.


The Leader noted that there could have been scope for earlier intervention if they had been aware of issues as soon as possible.

Both Cllr Evans and Cllr Whitehead stated their agreement with the Leader and Cllr Evans noted that he would hope that his group Member’s would approach him themselves but added he may not be aware of any allegations made.

The Chair stated that the Head of Law and Standards would pick this up.




The Committee noted that the Group Leaders should attend Standards Committee again after a 6-month period to provide an update.

A decision on the frequency of Group Leader reports and attendance to Committee would be agreed in the new financial year.