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Disclosures of Interest
In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, councillors are reminded that it is a requirement to declare interests where appropriate.
No disclosures of interests were made.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Governance Committee held on 22 June 2021.
In connection with Minute 4 (Annual Governance Statement) a Committee Member drew attention to the note by the Head of Legal, Governance and HR which advised that the deadline for signing the Statement of Accounts had been moved from 31 July 2021 to 30 September 2021 and that an Audit Committee meeting had been scheduled for 30 September 2021 to ensure the Accounts were signed off within the required timeframe. The 30 September 2021 Audit Committee had recently been cancelled and the Committee Member queried whether the deadline for signing off the Statement of Accounts had been further extended. In response to the query the Committee was advised that the 30 September 2021 Audit Committee had been cancelled at the request of the Head of Corporate Finance and that the Statement of Accounts would now be considered at the 14 December 2021 Audit Committee. The Committee was advised that a fuller explanation would be sought from the Head of Corporate Finance and circulated via email to the Governance Committee.
NOTE BY THE HEAD OF LEGAL, GOVERNANCE AND HR: The deadline for signing the Statement of Accounts for 2020/21 was extended to 30 September 2021 however, The Accounts and Audit Regulations (2015) state that where an audit has not been concluded within the specified timeframe, the Council must approve the Statement of Accounts as soon as reasonably practicable after the receipt of the audit report. The Statement of Accounts will therefore be considered at the 14 December 2021 Audit Committee.
The minutes of the meeting of the Governance Committee held on 22 June 2021 were then approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
Public Question Time
To answer any questions asked by the public which relate to an item on this agenda and which are in line with the Council’s Constitution.
Public Question Time will be concluded by the Chair when all questions have been answered or on the expiry of a period of 15 minutes, whichever is the earlier.
No questions were asked by the public.
To consider report LDS/171 of the Head of Legal, Governance and HR.
The Committee considered report LDS/171 of the Head of Legal, Governance and HR which requested that the Committee consider the outcome of the temporary changes to the Scheme of Polling Places made for the elections held on 6 May 2021 and decide whether to make any changes to the existing Scheme (adopted in 2019) either on a permanent or temporary (one year) basis. In making its decision the Committee were requested to consider whether to extend the temporary replacement of schools for a further year.
The Electoral Services Manager presented the report and drew the Committee’s attention to the Supplementary Agenda which provided amended 2021 electorate figures for some Polling Districts.
To assist in the Committee’s consideration, the Chair advised that they intended to move recommendation d) of paragraph 5.1 of the report as it gave the Committee the opportunity to vote on all possible permutations. In light of this, debate and voting on each Polling District took place in turn. The Polling Districts, as well as the normal Polling Place and the Polling Place used for the May 2021 elections, were set out in Paragraph 4.4 of the report.
It was acknowledged that a public poll had indicated that the public experience of the May 2021 election had been good and the Committee thanked the Elections staff for the work they had undertaken.
Following a query from a Committee Member, it was acknowledged that any suggestion to merge Polling Districts would need to be brought before a future Committee meeting to ensure the Committee had sufficient information and time to consider such a proposal.
It was suggested that having several Polling Places within an Electoral Ward reduced the number of people queuing to vote. It was also stated that keeping some consistency in Polling Places encouraged voter turnout.
Several Committee Members expressed the view that the temporary replacement of all schools identified in Paragraph 4.4 of the report should be extended for another year to avoid any further disruption in children’s education.
Polling District LAB (Bewbush & North Broadfield Ward):
It was suggested that Broadfield Community Centre had worked well as a combined Polling Place for Polling Districts LAB, LBB and LEB during the May 2021 election. However, the view was also expressed that, given the large combined electorate of those three Polling Districts, having a single Polling Place for all three Polling Districts could cause capacity issues, especially during a general election.
Following a vote by the Committee it was declared that the Polling Place for Polling District LAB should be Broadfield Community Centre on a permanent basis.
Polling District LBB (Broadfield Ward):
It was acknowledged that the comments made with regard to Polling District LAB above were also relevant for Polling District LBB.
Following a query from the Committee, the Electoral Services Manager confirmed that although Community Services had advised that Creasys Drive Adventure Playground might be available to use as a Polling Place for the May 2022 election, its availability could not be guaranteed.
Following ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
To consider report LDS/164 of the Monitoring Officer.
The Committee considered report LDS/164 of the Monitoring Officer (Head of Legal, Governance and HR) which requested that the Committee consider whether to adopt the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Model Councillor Code of Conduct (“Model Code”) in full or in part, or whether to retain the Council’s current Code of Conduct for Councillors (“Code of Conduct”).
In presenting the report the Head of Legal, Governance and HR stressed that there was currently no legislation to accompany the Model Code. The Committee was advised that a survey conducted among Monitoring Officers in Local Government showed that 55% of Councils had chosen not to adopt the Model Code (25% not adopting the Model Code at all and 30% not adopting the Model Code but changing their existing Code), 20% of Councils had adopted the Model Code in full, 20% had adopted the Model Code in part, and 5% of Councils remained undecided.
In addition the Head of Legal, Governance and HR advised that the Model Code had not brought “teeth” to the Code which many Councils had hoped for. The Committee’s attention was specifically drawn to Paragraph 6.4 of the report which drew comparisons between the Model Code and the Council’s current Code of Conduct, and Paragraph 7 which set out the proposed timetable. The Head of Legal, Governance and HR advised that, in addition to reviewing the Council’s current Code of Conduct, a review of the Council’s Procedure for Dealing with Code Complaints would be necessary. It was anticipated that any change to the Council’s Code of Conduct and related Procedures would come into effect in the new municipal year.
The Committee then considered both the report and the Model Code, and made the following comments:
· The comparisons drawn in Paragraph 6.4 of the report were helpful.
· The Model Code ultimately appeared to change very little.
· Expressed disappointment that the Model Code lacked sanctions, although it was noted that Political Parties had the option to impose sanctions on members of its own party.
· If a Model Code was produced in future which fulfilled the needs and wishes of the Council it could be useful to adopt such a document as it would be consistent across the majority of Councils.
· The first person narrative of the Model Code was not favoured.
· In reviewing the Council’s current Code of Conduct and Procedure, it would be beneficial to seek the Council’s Independent Persons’ views on the current documents and procedures.
· Support expressed of reviewing the Council’s current Code of Conduct.
1. That the new LGA Model Councillor Code of Conduct not be adopted.
2. That the Council’s current Code of Conduct and Procedure for Dealing with Code Complaints be reviewed by the Head of Legal, Governance and HR, and that a revised Code be presented to the Governance Committee on 25 January 2022. This may incorporate specific elements of the LGA Model Code.
3. That the timetable set out in Section 7 of report LDS/164 be approved.
Appendix: Polling Scheme 2021/22 with Temporary Amendments
81473 18227 63246
* = temporary polling place to remain in force up to and including elections to be held on 5th May 2022