Agenda item

Review of the ethical standards framework (Penn Report)


The Chief Officer for People and Governance explained that he had attended a Monitoring Officer meeting on 28th July 2022.  Conversations had focused on Code of Conduct training and whether it should be mandated or not. 


A key concern had related to the mandating of a local resolution as a preliminary step before a complaint can be submitted to the Ombudsman.  There had been no support for that at the meeting given that a fundamental strength of the ethical standards framework is that it has an independent body to deal with complaints and to carry out investigations thus providing confidence to complainants that there will be an independent approach.


A conversation took place around the need to develop the relationship between the Ombudsman and organisations such as One Voice Wales, Audit Wales etc. The Ombudsman has been trialling a period where if a complaint is made about a Councillor, rather than informing the Councillor and the Monitoring Officer, the Ombudsman will go through a 2 stage process where it is determined whether to investigate first and notify afterwards to streamline process.  Feedback will be sent to Monitoring Officers on the types of complaints received and anonymised information will be shared with Standards Committee.


The powers and sanctions of the Adjudication Panel for Wales and Standards Committees were discussed. There are mixed views on the value of the power to direct that someone undergoes training or provides an apology. There was also discussion on whether a suspended power would be a useful addition.


There will be more conversation around the use of social media. The WLGA guidance on this is very good.


There will be consultation on any proposed changes with stakeholders.


The Chair was pleased to see the local resolution mandate has gone and welcomed consultation on changes.


A Member sought clarification on the trial of a new notification process and expressed concerns about the anonymised feedback in terms of fairness to the person being complained about.  It was explained that the process prior to the pilot was that the Councillor and Monitoring Officer would be informed.  There was no duty to inform anyone else.


The view was expressed that the Councillor should only be informed after an assessment that indicates potential breach of the code of conduct due to the protracted time involved. If, however, processes are to be speedier, it would not be so much of an issue. The converse view was expressed that it is better to know as soon as there is a complaint.


It was suggested that Code of Conduct training should be mandatory for Community Councils.  It was queried which councils had undertaken training. The Chair explained that all town and community councils must publish a training plan by 5th November.  The statutory guidance provides that there must be induction, finance, and Code of Conduct training.  The Monitoring Officer explained that mandatory training will require new legislation. Locally, Group Leaders may agree that elected members can’t attend a committee before training and signing the Code of Conduct.  It was pointed out that this would not work for the Independent Group and Community Councils because there is no affiliation to political parties with their own constitution and standards.

Supporting documents: