Agenda item

Standards of Conduct

Please note that the three political Group Leaders of BCBC have been invited to attend the meeting for this item.


It was noted that the Leaders of the three political groups had been invited to attend the meeting for this item.


The Chief Officer Legal and Regulatory, Human Resources and Corporate Policy presented the report, the purpose of which was to present to the committee, the report of the three political group leaders outlining their compliance with the duties in relation to maintaining standards of conduct.


She referred to the report presented on 30/09/2022 on the new duties placed upon standards committees and political group leaders under the Local Government and the Elections Wales Act 2021 and invited the three group leaders to introduce their reports after which they could be asked questions by the committee.


The Chairperson invited the Leader, Bridgend County Independents, to present her report in the order of the appendices of the report.

Cllr Williams explained that the report is divided into three sections namely:


  • Demonstrating personal commitment to and attending relevant development or training around equalities and standards.
  • Encouraging group members to attend relevant development or training around equalities and standards.
  • Ensuring nominees to a Committee have received the recommended training for that Committee.


The Group Leader stated that while she was a returning member, her group mainly comprised of members in their first term  of  office. The group were eager and enthusiastic about being active and making progressive changes for the good she explained. She stated that all the members in her group endeavoured to attend all member training provided and where they could not attend in person, they looked at the video recordings of the sessions.


The Group Leader also made reference new members still learning the speed at which processes work, adding that she has been on hand to advise them and guide them on the democratic processes of the Authority. She stated that she also works closely with her group members in terms of adverse comments made on social media, including those made personally.


A member of the committee inquired, particularly in respect  of new members, if there was something the Standards Committee could do to assist  in the support of new members in any way.


The Group Leader responded that she felt new members would benefit from a briefing from the Standards Committee   On its remit and the type of issues it considers


A member enquired if the issues with regards to social media had calmed down as this new term had progressed and asked for recommendations on what the group leader felt could be done to assist in the above regard.


The Group Leader responded that the level of attacks had not reduced or calmed down but the new members adverse reaction to such verbal attacks had subsided.


The Chief Officer Legal and Regulatory, Human Resources and Corporate Policy thanked the Group Leader for her presentation and informed the committee that she had recognised the requirement of a briefing in relation to the standards committee to members and will include this within the annual report to Council in July.


The Chairperson invited the Leader of the Democratic Alliance Group to present his report.


The Group Leader stated that his group comprised of a 50/50 split of returning members and those who were their first term with a balance of experience and enthusiasm that he felt was positive. He re-iterated the comments made by the Group Leader of the Bridgend County Independents, in that he felt they had a collegiate relationship among group leaders which enabled them to meet regularly to discuss operational and strategic issues facing BCBC. He stated that he felt it was fortunate that no member of his group had been subject to a complaint, formal or otherwise.


The Chairperson invited questions for the group leader and acknowledged that there were none.


The Chairperson invited the Leader of the Council and Group Leader for the Labour Group to present his report.


The Leader stated that there were a majority of new members within the party and they shared the enthusiasm and energy he had been accustomed to with more longstanding and experienced members. He stated that they were both learning and developing in the role and therefore they were not always equipped with the knowledge that experience brought about, so were sometimes unaware of all of the processes of the Council at present.


He confirmed that all members in the Labour group had attended all mandatory training and he felt that the member development sessions were equipping them with the skills they required.


He agreed with comments made by the other group leaders who presented before him, stating that he felt they had a constructive, open and positive relationship as group leaders. He stated that they try to lead by example and show civility and respect to each other and fellow members from different political allegiances.


The Leader referred to the issue raised in relation to attacks on elected members and stated that he had raised this with the Police Commissioner. He clarified to the Committee that the attacks mentioned are not between elected members but more directed at elected members by members of the public on social media.


He mentioned plans of a meeting with elected members to understand the level of the threshold where the Police can and cannot get involved and provide some support. The Leader also mentioned that a meeting with the Police Commissioner was to be arranged over the summer, in order to discuss issues including this problem.


The Leader drew members attention to the two complaints raised with the Public Service Ombudsman and stated he would include the outcome of these, within the annual report.


A member of the committee queried if there was an opportunity for an informal resolution to be agreed prior to any complaints being escalated to the public service ombudsman.


The Leader responded by stating that while there was some engagement before, it was the choice made by the complainant to escalate the complaint, if they felt this to be necessary.


A member of the committee queried if there was any knowledge about the topics to be covered within the member briefing planned for August.


The Leader responded that they were exploring the options available and bringing in specialists that can educate members further. He stated that as it was a broad subject, there were practical measures in terms of action that can be taken as some of it was preventative and some of it was more about reassurance.


The Chief Officer Legal and Regulatory, Human Resources and Corporate Policy added that a briefing had been organised with the South Wales Police. The aim was to specifically target what the thresholds were for intervention by them and if reports were made to them. The Democratic Services Committee were to have a report at its September meeting, in relation to personal safety of Members. In addition to that the council were already liaising with the police about the opportunity to put markers (referred to as police markers) on member’s houses who were receiving personal attacks, should this be required.


She reassured that if there were individual Members who were experiencing issues they needed to contact the relevant officers in BCBC as there were safety measures BCBC could also put in place. As required, with members who approached the Council, individual risk assessments had been undertaken and any issues where it was required, had been dealt with appropriately.


A member of the Committee raised a query in relation to harassment faced by elected members and asked if the police briefing could include guidance and advice on how such instances could be handled.


It was agreed that while recognising that the Police alone could advice on specific matters and would be able to elaborate on thresholds in line with their experience on such matters, the concerns raised should be brought to their attention in readiness for the briefing.


The Chief Officer Legal and Regulatory, Human Resources and Corporate Policy  responded that the police will be preparing the briefing. She agreed to contact them and ask that they covered the scenarios so mentioned today. She stated that she would welcome questions from members and that they were able to respond to some queries themselves.

The Leader suggested a member briefing with the Standards Committee to allow an opportunity for individual members to meet with members of the committee to get a better understanding of its purpose and functions.


              RESOLVED:          That the Committee considered the reports        

                                             attached as Appendices 1-3 and provided

                                             feedback as given above.

Supporting documents: