The Head of Law and Standards welcomed the committee members to the first standards meeting following the election and introduced councillor Cockeram to the well as thanking councillor Davies for his continued participation as the community council representative. The membership and terms of reference of Standards Committee was set out in the first section of the report.
The Head of Law and Standards highlighted that every year, the Standards Committee annual report to Council sets of a draft work program for the forthcoming year. However, it was for the Committee to decide what matters to raise and when to raise them
The Head of Law and Standards noted that there were two Items to consider at the next meeting in November, the first being the new requirements for the committee to meet with political group leaders within 6 months of the election to review compliance with their new duty to promote ethics within their political groups. The Head of Law and Standards noted that this has been done voluntarily for years but now it’s a required duty. The second item was to consider their annual report to Council, which was now a statutory requirement and copies had to be sent to the Ombudsman and the community councils
The Head of Law and Standards stated that there was flexibility in how this could be done informally or in a formal setting and could consist of meeting individual leaders or meeting them as part of a group, as well as having the leaders create a written document.
It was also noted a governance handbook was due in May but the final version was still awaited from Welsh Government.
Regarding the reports it was noted by the Head of Law and Standards that other committees in Wales asked the leaders for a written report. The Head of Law and Standards then went on to state the number of political groups and their composition such as the requirement of two members for a group to be formed. The Head of law and Standards asked for clarification from the committee on how they would like this requirement to take place?
· Councillor Cockeram queried that there were 4 independents in Lliswerry rather than the three stated by the Head of Law and Standards when the breakdown of political groups was given. The Councillor also asked if a formal and informal process could occur with the leaders of the political groups. Lastly it was asked why the committee only dealt with complaints and not compliments given to the council.
The Head of Law and Standards noted only three independents of the four had grouped together. The Head of Law and Standards also went on to state that the Governance and Audit committee were responsible for both compliments and complaints under new regulations.
· G.Nurton also agreed with both a formal meeting with the leaders and a written report.
· R.Morgan also agreed with Councillor Cockeram and asked whether the first meeting the political leaders could explain their thoughts and that they fully understand what they wanted.
· The chair also agreed with the above sentiment and asked if the meeting could take place before the Council meeting in November
· G.Nurton also asked whether single member political groups could also be contacted to inform them that the committee is there should they need assistance.
The Head of Law and Standards stated that including these single members in a formal meeting is unlikely due to their nature of not being duty bound, however the gesture of writing to them is something that could be done.
The Chair noted that this will be arranged with the governance team as well as Law and Standards so that an appropriate response can be drafted
The chair highlighted the range of dates to work towards in the upcoming year and to use the dates within the forward work programme as key milestones as well as dealing with issues as they would arise.
The Head of Law and Standards stated a review of the council’s whistleblowing policy had been incorrectly included within the Scrutiny forward work programme and that this would be brought to the standards committee.
The Head of Law and Standards also asked for clarification of what the committee would like from the written report regarding the political group leaders as well as highlighting whether they wanted to modify the examples from other councils as well as whether the report is desired before or after the meeting with the group leaders.
· The chair recommended the report come after the first meeting with the group leaders
· R.Morgan agreed with the chair that it would be better to speak to them first
The Head of Law and Standards then asked whether they would like to meet the members individually whether that be on the same day in different time slots or on different days, or whether one group meeting with them all would be better suited.
The chair preferred meeting everyone together to avoid any ambiguity should the meetings be conducted separately
Several other committee members agreed with the chair’s sentiment
· The chair asked whether community Councillors also were given the same message as regards to ethics and standard
The Head of Law and Standards stated that they did not need to but that a review of the community council’s ethics does occur, information provided by community council clerks support this as the community councils have a variety of systems set up as well. The Head of Law & Standards had delivered a presentation on standards for those community councillors attending the last Liaison group meeting, as well as handing the information from the presentation to members who could not attend. It is also noted by the Head of Law & Standards that the presentation received positive feedback as well as stating that many of the community councils subscribe to “One Voice Wales”.
The Chair stated the next key item was to occur in December, which was the training review, he asked whether a meeting could be added that also included the community councils
The Head of Law and Standards that this was unlikely due to the total size of members of the community councils, but that the information is typically circulated by the Clerks. Additional training could be provided but due to the subscription to “one voice wales” the community councils are likely to know what to do. It was stated however by December there should be more concrete information on this. As well as a hybrid training meeting that occurred with those not in attendance being sent the information from the training.
The Head of Law and Standards mentioned a lot of new training is needed for the council following the election so he informed the community council that training for them would occur on the other side of December.
The Chair would like the meeting to occur in the first half of December.