Agenda and minutes

Standards Committee
Wednesday, 16th September, 2015 7.30 pm

Venue: Civic Offices, St Nicholas Way, Sutton, SM1 1EA

Contact: Alexa Coates, Committee and Management Services Support Manager  Tel: 020 8770 5094 | Email:  alexa.coates@sutton.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND DECLARATION OF SUBSTITUTES

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Mr David Wales (Independent Member)

2.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

Agenda item 6. Petition referred to Full Council.

 

Councillor Joyce Melican, Non Pecuniary, as the report contained significant reference to former Councillor John Drage who was a colleague of Councillor Melican on the Council between 2010-2014. Councillor Melican informed the meeting that he would approach any information under item 6 with due objectivity.

 

Councillor Marlene Heron, Non Pecuniary, as the report contained significant reference to former Councillor John Drage who was a colleague of Councillor Heron on the Council between 2010-2014. Councillor Heron informed the meeting that he would approach any information under item 6 with due objectivity.

 

Councillor Richard Clifton, Non Pecuniary, as the report contained significant reference to former Councillor John Drage who was a colleague of Councillor Clifton on the Council between 2010-2014. Councillor Clifton informed the meeting that he would approach any information under item 6 with due objectivity.

 

Councillor Simon Wales, Non Pecuniary, as the report contained significant reference to former Councillor John Drage who was a colleague of Councillor Wales on the Council between 2010-2014. Councillor Wales informed the meeting that he would approach any information under item 6 with due objectivity.

 

Councillor Tony Shields, Non Pecuniary, as the report contained significant reference to former Councillor John Drage who was a colleague of Councillor Shields on the Council between 2010-2014. Councillor Shields informed the meeting that he would approach any information under item 6 with due objectivity.

 

3.

MINUTES pdf icon PDF 52 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 27 April 2015.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 27 April 2015 were approved as a correct record, and signed by the Chair, subject to an amendment to reflect that Cllr Graham Whitham did not attend the meeting as he was no longer a member of the Conservative Group on whose behalf he was appointed.

 

4.

Process for dealing with Standards Allegations under the Localism Act 2011 pdf icon PDF 85 KB

To consider changes to the Standards Committee Complaints Procedure

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer introduced the report which proposed a revised process for dealing with code of conduct complaints. Members discussed the use of the form as a process for ensuring that complaints were valid and whether removing the form would open the process to more vexatious or frivolous complaints.

 

 

Resolved

 

1.    That Council is recommended, via Strategy and Resources Committee, to amend the standards committee complaints process.

 

2.    That the Monitoring Officer is requested to make contact with complainants over the past 12 months who did not choose to complete the Standards complaints form.

 

5.

Declarations of Interest log online pdf icon PDF 85 KB

To consider implementing a system where declarations of interests made at meetings are logged on individual councillor pages of the website.

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer introduced the report which proposed implementing a declaration log online for declarations of interest made by Councillors at committee meetings. Members supported the more open process but questioned the impact on resources and risks of declarations not being logged correctly. Members were informed that the process was not resource intensive and if the declarations were logged for the minutes they would be picked up for publication on the individual councillor pages of the website.

 

Resolved

 

That the use of an online declarations log online for declarations of interest made by Councillors at committee meetings is approved.

 

 

6.

Petition referred to Full Council pdf icon PDF 125 KB

To consider a petition presented to Council on 13 July 2015 by Cllr Nick Mattey.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer (MO) introduced the report setting out the role of the committee and the options available which broadly were to: commission an independent enquiry as requested by the petitioners, take no action or take alternative action such as referring the issues to other bodies, such as the regulators set out in the report. The MO highlighted an error in paragraph 4.5 of the report which stated a number of former Sutton elected members are active members of the congregation, the MO had since been informed that this was only one former elected member.

 

The chair invited Cllr Mattey, as lead petitioner, to address the meeting for no more than 5 minutes. At this point Cllr Mattey objected to Cllr Clifton’s participation in the meeting as he felt he had predetermined the matter. Cllr Clifton reiterated the statement he had made at the start of the meeting under declarations of interests.

 

There was discussion amongst members as to whether the Standards Committee had the authority to establish an inquiry. The MO highlighted paragraph 5.1 of the report which stated that Standards Committee can make a recommendation to the Strategy and Resources Committee.

 

Cllr Mattey addressed the meeting, during the course of his presentation he was advised by the MO regarding statements made about individuals.

 

The chair used his discretion to allow members of the committee to ask questions of Cllr Mattey. Cllr Shields asked Cllr Mattey to clarify whether the alleged misleading information was published as political material or corporate communications from the Council. Cllr Shields also questioned whether allegations made by former Cllr Fenwick should have been included in the agenda paperwork for the meeting.

 

Members of the committee debated the petition. As part of the debate members discussed whether there was enough information provided to warrant an enquiry and whether the Council was the appropriate body to conduct an investigation when some of the allegations were outside the remit of the Council. Members discussed whether there was any evidence of wrong doing in relation to the alleged links between Viridior Credits, Viridor Ltd and the Council. Concerns were raised regarding the timeline of former Cllr Drage’s non-pecuniary declarations of interest and whether the alleged misinformation regarding the Energy Recovery Facility was corporate communication or political literature.

 

Members discussed whether the issues had already been independently reviewed through the courts during the recent Judicial Review and the Committee's legal adviser clarified that there had been one Judicial Review challenge involving two distinct processes, the full judicial review hearing and the hearing for permission to appeal which was heard in the high court.

 

The Chair closed the debate by asking the independent non-voting members to give their view. Mr Evans stated that the petitions raised allegations against the Council which had to be taken seriously; however, no evidence of Council wrong doing had been presented and in order to recommend an enquiry there needed to be something more concrete than allegations. He added that as complaints had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

ANY URGENT BUSINESS

brought forward at the direction of the chair, who has approved the reason for the urgency.

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.

8.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on 9 December 2015.

Minutes:

The chair informed members of the committee that the next meeting was scheduled for 9 December 2015.