Councillor Bailey registered to speak and made the following points:
· That having listened to suggestions that the Council had a general culture of bullying, Councillor Bailey was pleased with the conclusion of the Constitution Review Working Party that it was clear that there was no widespread culture of bullying.
· Issues with Councillors bullying behaviour on social media were highlighted.
· A request was made that definitions in paragraph 2.8 of the report to be modified to include the more subtle forms of online bullying and harassment for Councillors that act individually or as a group.
Councillor Pope registered to speak and made the following points:
· That although he acknowledged the powers the council has to deal with Code of Conduct complaints are weak limited by legislation, Councillor Pope was pleased the process is being reviewed and supported the recommendations.
· Paragraphs from the Local Government Ethical Standards Report, a review by the Committee on Standards of Public Life were highlighted which related to the abuse of social media by Councillors.
· Where the Council is unable to resolve a complaint, a suggestion was made that party groups got involved and the possibility that they would remove an individual from a position or in more serious cases from the party.
Councillor Pound registered to speak and made the following points:
· That having read the report Councillor Pound was pleased that two of the suggestions he made to the Constitution Review Working party were included in section 5.2.
· With reference to section 3.4 of the report, several requests were made to the Constitution Review Working party and the Audit & Governance Committee, that they:
o Explored in more detail between the date of November 2019 and July 2020 how many different subject Members were complained about and how many different complainants there were.
o Calculate what the cost has been to Mid Kent Legal Services in dealing with these complaints.
o Advise of the specific legislation that prohibits the naming of Members that are sanctioned in accordance with the constitution as it was currently or to be constituted.
o Explored the possibility that all complaints against 1 Member can be taken as one complaint.
o Explained how Members could be advised of the range of sanctions that can be placed on a subject Member.
Ms Narebor, Head of Legal Partnership and Monitoring Officer presented her report which provided an update of the Constitution Review Working party’s work and provided an update on the work of the Local Government Association (the LGA).
Members of the Committee took account of the report and raised a number of questions and issues within their discussions. These included:
· Thanks and congratulations were given by Councillor Reilly to Tony Quigley and Ms Narebor along with the rest of the team for a robust review of such a serious issue which he said he was glad to see diminish in recent times.
· Clarification was given on recommendation 15, that is was a process already in place which reported on a quarterly basis the number of complaints dealt with and did not require further legislation.
· It was advised that it was not possible to go into specific details about complaints to avoid individuals being identified.
· It was important to note that each complaint must go through the complaint process to ascertain whether there was a breach.
· Complaints could be dealt with informally however in more severe cases they could be dealt with in public and a change of legislation was required before the Council could impose more severe sanctions.
· Group Leaders were already being approached regarding issues within their parties.
1. That the report and the CRWP’s conclusions, be noted.
2. That the proposed actions set out in the report, be approved.
3. That the Committee await the model code of conduct & primary legislation and refer appropriate changes back to this Committee for comments.