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Agenda item

Member Interests

Minutes:

The Committee considered the legal framework applicable to the registration and declaration of Member Interests and reviewed the process of submitting and updating the register of Members’ Interests.

 

The current legal framework relating to members interests and standards is set out in the Localism Act 2011 (‘the Act’). Under the Act Councils are required to:

 

·       To promote and maintain high standards of conduct by its members, and;

·       Adopt a code dealing with the conduct that is expected of its members.

 

In relation to the Code of Conduct (‘the Code’), the requirement is simply that a council’s code is consistent with the following principles:

 

·       Selflessness

·       Integrity

·       Objectivity

·       Accountability

·       Openness

·       Honesty and

·       Leadership

 

These principles were recognised as the Nolan Principles of standards in public life. The Act also requires councils to ensure that its code includes such provisions the council considers appropriate in respect of the registration and disclosure of both:

 

·       Pecuniary interests; and

·       Interests other than pecuniary interests.

 

Pecuniary interests and the specific requirements are set out in the Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012. The list of those matters coming within the definition of a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (DPI) is contained in Part 2 of the adopted Code (contained in Part 5, section 1 of the Constitution).

 

The Localism Act 2011 requires Members to notify the Monitoring Officer within 28 days of becoming a Member of any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPIs). In addition, if a Member is present at a meeting and they have a disclosable pecuniary interest in any matter to be considered or being considered at the meeting, which is not yet registered, they must notify the Monitoring Officer of the interest within 28 days. These requirements are set out in the Code. The Codes also outlines that it is a criminal offence to:

 

·       Fail to notify the Monitoring Officer, of any DPI within 28 days of election

·       Fail to disclose a DPI at a meeting if it is not on the Register of Members’ Interests.

·       Fail to notify the Monitoring Officer within 28 days of a DPI that the Members has been disclosed at meeting but is not on the Register of Members’ Interests

·       Participating in any discussion or vote on a matter in which the Member has a DPI,

·       Knowingly or recklessly providing information that is false or misleading in notifying the Monitoring Officer of a DPI or in disclosing such interest to a meeting.

 

The criminal penalties available to a court are to impose an unlimited fine and disqualification from being a councillor for up to 5 years.

 

The Council adopted a Code of Conduct in August 2012 in accordance with the Act, and since then some minor amendments have been made. The current version of the Code is published on the Council’s website and is also contained in Part 5, section 1 of the Constitution.

 

Currently, the Members are asked to complete on an annual basis a form adopted by the Council in 2012. Once all the completed forms are collated, they are scanned and published on the Council’s website. In view of the legal requirements referred to above, Members are also advised to notify and update any changes to the register during the year. Such changes could include change of employment/office/trade, change of ownership or interest in land, new sponsorships, membership of bodies, gifts/hospitality etc. However, many new Members have joined the Council over the years and the practice of registering interests amongst Members varies.

 

The Council’s Mod.Gov system has a facility for registering interests for each Member, which is then published in a table format. Many councils are already using the Mod.Gov system to register and publish Member interests. It is also acknowledged that some Members require advice and guidance when registering their interests. The Government has published a guide for councillors, ‘Openness and transparency on personal interests’ which members can refer to as well as seek specific guidance from the Monitoring Officer.

 

In order to assist Members and simplify the process for registering their interests, the Monitoring Officer will put in place arrangements for individual Members to receive guidance when registering their interests, as soon as they are elected to office. The completed register of interest would then be published via the Mod.Gov system. In addition, all Members would be requested to notify the Monitoring Officer of any changes, and update the register of interest. An annual reminder will also be sent to all Members to review the register and notify of any changes.

 

RESOLVED –

 

·       That the legal framework for the requirement to register interests, and consider the process for submitting and updating the Register of Members’ Interests be noted

·       That Members be reminded of the requirements to register and declare interests be recommended to Council

·       That the revised process for submitting and updating the Register of Members’ Interests be recommended to Council

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