Agenda item - Review of Code of Conduct Complaints Procedure

skip navigation and tools

Agenda item

Review of Code of Conduct Complaints Procedure

Report of the Head of Law & Monitoring Officer (copy attached).

(Appendix 2 to follow)


81.1      The Committee considered a report of the Monitoring Officer in relation to the review of procedure for dealing with alleged breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct. The report sought agreement to the proposals of the cross-party working group tasked with reviewing the Council’s procedure for dealing with alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct for Members. Since the introduction of the current procedure in 2012 a more full review was necessary to address certain issues including those highlighted in a recent case decided by the Council’s Standards Panel. At the previous meeting the Committee agreed to the formation of a cross-party working group to review the procedure and to report back to the subsequent Committee meeting. There was also an amendment to paragraph 13.6 of the procedure such that ‘if a request for an appeal is granted, a Standards Panel composed of different members and a different Independent Person from those who originally heard the allegation would consider the entire case’. By way of introduction both Dr Meleyal and the Monitoring Officer spoke to the report.


81.2      The Monitoring Officer clarified that the proposed change to the status of the Standards Panel was a technical change and the usual rules normally applicable to committees and sub-committees in relation to ‘access to information’ would apply even if the Panel were to convert from a Sub-Committee to a Panel. The Chair noted the two key changes were the status of the Panel and the appointment of one of the independent persons as the chair.


81.3      In response to Councillor Summers the Monitoring Officer explained that the Localism Act had removed the previous structure of the Standards regime; the Act was not as prescriptive as the previous legislation on Standards and the Council only needed to have in place “arrangements” for investigating and deciding on allegations of Code of Conduct breaches. It was also important to note that the new regime had no formal sanctions and was simply expressive or could make recommendations; this changed the need for the decision making body to be a Sub-Committee.


81.4      In relation to the collective decision of the Panel the Monitoring Officer explained that consideration of matters such as human rights and freedom of speech had been undertaken, but the working group was of the view that the strength of the system required the Panel to collectively own the decision. There was concern that if the decision of the Panel was not cross-party then the process could be open to accusations of being driven by party politics, and the preference would be for the process to be driven by consensus; this needed to be weighed against the desire of a particular Member to speak out.


81.5      Councillor Lepper stated that the working group had been extremely useful, and its work had formed part of a regular review process. She considered it appropriate that the Panel be chaired by an independent person and that they not have a vote in the process. If there was a difference of opinion of the Members on the Panel then only the collective decision should be reported; as with the practice with Licensing Panels and Personnel Appeals where Members were free to express their opinion in the decision making process and then reach the final decision collectively. It was felt that if a clear difference of opinion were publicised then this could undermine the whole process.


81.6      Councillor A. Norman noted that she agreed with the comments made by Councillor Lepper and felt strongly that the process would be undermined if the decision were not owned collectively. She highlighted how important this piece of work had been and thanked the input of Officers and the independent persons. She was happy with the recommendations and felt that they were fair, and hoped they would be accepted by the Committee.


81.7      Councillor Sykes suggested that the wording of decision notices could give an indication of where the decision making had not been unanimous with the use of phrases such as ‘on balance’.


81.8      RESOLVED – That the Committee: 


(1)          Subject to recommendation 2.2, agree to the amended procedure for handling alleged breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct, as set out in Appendix 2, based on the proposals of the Standards cross-party working group set out in Appendix 1;


(2)          Recommend to Policy & Resources Committee that the Standards Panel’s designation be altered from a sub-committee to a panel; and,


(3)          Instruct the Monitoring Officer to co-ordinate a review of the Members’ Code of Conduct later in 2014 and, in consequence of that review, to bring a report with recommendations to the Committee.

Supporting documents:


Brighton & Hove City Council | Hove Town Hall | Hove | BN3 3BQ | Tel: (01273) 290000 | Mail: | how to find us | comments & complaints