Venue: Bromley Civic Centre
Contact: Philippa Gibbs 020 84617638
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Tickner and Mr Ken Palmer (Independent Person).
The Chairman welcomed Ms Kath Nicholson (Independent Person), Mr Jonathan Farrell (Independent Person) and Ms Tasnim Shawkat (Director of Corporate Services and Governance and Monitoring Officer) to their first meeting of the Standards Committee.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no additional declarations of interest.
The minutes of the meeting held on 15 July 2021, were agreed and signed as a correct record.
The Committee noted that the Development Control Committee, at its meeting on 11 January 2022, would be considering a recommendation that basic training for all Councillors, before they sit on Planning Committees, be made mandatory.
In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, questions that are not specific to reports on the agenda must have been received in writing 10 working days before the date of the meeting.
Questions specifically on reports on the agenda should be received within two working days of the normal publication date of the agenda. Please ensure that questions specifically on reports on the agenda are received by the Democratic Services Team by 5pm on Tuesday 7th December 2021.
There were no questions.
The report updated the Committee on a number of standards issues. The Monitoring Officer introduced the report and drew the Committee’s attention to changes that had been made to Appendix 5 of the report. The appendix had previously been considered in Part 2 of the meeting, however recent changes that had been implemented meant that an anonymised schedule of complaints would be considered in Part 1 of the meeting. The schedule would provide details of the substance of the complaint and the outcome. Any emerging trends and training requirements would be picked up through the commentary in the Monitoring Officer’s General Report. The Monitoring Officer highlighted that the intention was to move towards a position where very few complaints were submitted as Members understood their obligations under the Code of Conduct and members of the public understood the requirements for a valid Code of Conduct complaint.
Declarations of Interest at Meetings
The Chairman raised the issue of whether there should be additional requirements for Members to declare at meetings such as Planning Sub-Committees whether they knewcertain individuals socially in order to improve the public perception of decision-making processes. Noting that elected Members were entitled to a private life, a Member suggested that there had to be openness and transparency and there had to be a clear line in terms of where they were meeting someone in a social capacity and where they become involved in their capacity as a Councillor. Further guidance for Members may be helpful as the perception of how well a Member may know a third party involved in a decision was subjective.
An Independent Person highlighted that it was often difficult to define how well a councillor may know someone and that the matter often came down to the perception of the degree of influence. It was therefore beneficial to have openness and transparency.
Another Independent Person suggested that in the context of gifts and hospitality, in addition to the record of hospitality received there could be a further requirement to declare offers and refusal of gifts and hospitality. It was also noted that in terms of the professional relationships and networks developed by elected Members, the “Clapham Omnibus Test” – the perception of the average person on the street – was often a good measure. It was suggested that in order to avoid any sense of suspicion and reduce complaints arising from public perception, it was often better to be open about any professional connections.
A Member noted that for the vast majority of councillor activities it was adequate to declare that someone was known on a social basis. However, there needed to be more robust requirements for Members involved in the quasi-judicial committees – those dealing with Planning and Licensing matters.
There was recognition that it was almost impossible for elected members to fulfil their roles without developing professional networks and getting to know people. However, it was important that Members were transparent about these professional relationships and free ... view the full minutes text for item 15.
At its last meeting on 15 July 2021, the Standards Committee discussed the review undertaken by the Planning Advisory Service and the Council’s recently implemented Planning Protocol with the Chairman of the Development Control Committee. At the conclusion of the discussion the Committee resolved that issues of probity of planning be further considered by the Standards Committee at its next meeting in December 2021.
The Chairman welcomed the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Development Control Committee and the Assistant Director for Planning to the meeting.
The Chairman of the Development Control Committee reported that she was pleased to confirm that all the recommendations made by the Standards Committee in July 2021, were on the agenda for the Development Control Committee on 11 January 2022, and were all recommended for approval.
One of the recommendations from the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) was that all Members involved in planning decision making should have basic training. The Chairman of the Development Control Committee set out the scope of the training and noted that there was support amongst Members that any councillor sitting on planning committees must undertake basic training. It was noted that training would take place early after the May 2022 elections. The general view was that there would not be a Member of the Council who was not involved in planning one way or another, due to the nature of the role of local ward members. Consequently, all Members of the Council would be strongly encouraged to engage with and undertake the planning training provided, however the training would be mandatory for members sitting on Planning Committees.
The Standards Committee noted that on 11 January 2022, the Development Control Committee would consider and vote on the 19 recommendations from the PAS and this would include the issue of training. Members further noted that PAS recommendation 13 called for impartial substitutions at Planning meeting and once agreed, this would be added to the Local Planning Protocol with no more than two Members from one ward being permitted on a 9 member Plans Sub-Committee. The Standards Committee noted that the 2 ward member restriction would also needed to be taken into consideration at the start of the municipal year when committee memberships were proposed and agreed.
The Vice-Chairman of the Development Control Committee highlighted that the Local Planning Protocol was a continuously evolving document and policies and procedures could be updated as learning occurred. Members sitting on Planning Committees would also be required to formally confirm that they had read the Local Planning Protocol and would comply with all the provisions within.
The Standards Committee noted that once considered by the Development Control Committee on 11 January 2022, a report with recommendations for approval would be presented to Full Council in February 2022.
The Chairman thanked the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Development Control Committee and the Assistant Director for their attendance at and participation in the meeting.
RESOLVED: That the Standards Committee endorse the recommendations of the Planning Advisory Service ... view the full minutes text for item 16.