Wirral Council’s Standards Panel will meet on the 15th June to decide on a complaint about a councillor
I noticed looking through the calendar of public meetings at Wirral Council this month that a Standards Panel meeting is scheduled for Thursday 15th June starting at 5.00 pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall.
However two days before it meets Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (its parent Committee) meets to decide which councillors sit on the Standards Panel.
Publishing the date, time and place of the meeting is of course is an improvement on the last Standards Panel involving a complaint about Cllr Steve Foulkes last year which wasn’t added to the calendar until after the meeting had taken place.
So who is the complaint about? Short answer is I don’t know as I didn’t make it! Here however are the papers from a previous Standards Panel meeting I was present at involving Cllr Denis Knowles in 2012. The complainant was also then Denis Knowles too!
However, presumably it won’t be about any of the three councillors that may be on the Standards Panel deciding it (Cllr Chris Blakeley (Conservative), Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat) or Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Labour)).
It looks possible that Cllr Paul Hayes could be an Alternate Member at the Standards Panel meeting for the Conservative Group in place of Cllr Chris Blakeley though.
It also won’t be about about Cllr Gillian Wood as she was only elected earlier last month. Therefore there has been insufficient time for any complaint about her to reach this stage.
That leaves a large number of other councillors (sixty or so) it could be about! As the agenda is set to be published by the 7th June 2017 it’s possible I might find out then.
The good thing about it meeting in Committee Room 1 is that it’s possible microphones can be used there. Other people down on Wirral Council’s website as attending the meeting are Shirley Hudspeth (presumably to take the minutes), Surjit Tour (in his capacity as Monitoring Officer) and Professor Ronald Jones (in his capacity as Independent Person).
The agenda to be agreed for Standards Panel meetings is as follows:
1. Appointment of Chairperson of the Panel
2. Declarations of Interest
3. Opening remarks of the Chairperson
4. Panel to determine whether the exemption to exclude the press and public is to be maintained. (Parties invited to make representations)
5. Complainant (or representative) invited to make opening remarks
6. Subject Councillor (or representative) invited to make opening remarks
7. Investigator to present his/her report
8. Parties invited to question the investigator and/or seek points of clarification on the report
9. Panel to question the investigator on her report
10. Complainant (or representative) invited to make final submissions
11. Panel to seek clarification on any points relevant to the Complainant
12. Subject Councillor (or representative) invited to make final submissions
13. Panel to seek clarification on any points relevant to the Subject Councillor
14. Panel to invite the views of the Independent Person for consideration
15. Panel hearing adjourned to allow for deliberation (as deemed appropriate the Panel)
16. Panel hearing resumed for decision
17. If the Panel decision upholds/finds a breach of the Code, the Subject Councillor (or representative) shall be invited to make submissions in respect of any mitigation (including in respect of sanctions) for consideration by the Panel
18. Panel hearing adjourned to allow for deliberation (if deemed necessary by the Panel)
19. Panel hearing resumed for decision on sanctions (if any)
The Chairperson and Panel shall have discretion to vary the above procedure if it is considered appropriate and necessary to ensure fairness to all parties.
The Standards Panel can decide either to determine that no action should be taken in respect of the allegation(s) made (if so and the councillor complained about agrees a media statement is issued about it and if the councillor complained about agrees it is reported to the next meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee) or the Standards Panel can determine that the Members’ Code of Conduct is proven to be breached.
If their decision is the latter, then the Standards Panel can request:
(a) that Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer) write to the councillor concerned,
(b) that the councillor has to apologise tot the Complainant (whether verbally or in writing),
(c) recommend to the Leader of that Political Group that disciplinary action be taken against the councillor,
(d) ask Surjit Tour to arrange training for the councillor concerned, if the councillor fails to turn up to the training then this is reported to the Leader of that Political Group.
If the Standards Panel upholds the complaint, the councillor complained about can choose within 21 days to appeal the decision to the Standards Appeal Panel.
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