Standards Minutes

Date:
Wednesday, 16th November, 2011
Time:
7.30 p.m.
Place:
Front Committee Room, Town Hall, Reigate
 
Min NoDescriptionResolution
Part I
1 CONSENT FOR THE MAYOR TO TAKE THE CHAIR
RESOLVED that in accordance with the Council's Constitution, consent be given for the Mayor to take the Chair for the next item of business.
2 ELECTION OF CHAIRMAN
RESOLVED that Mr. J. Broadbent (Independent Member) be elected Chairman of the Committee for the Municipal Year 2011/12.

Mr. Broadbent took the Chair.
3 ELECTION OF VICE-CHAIRMAN
RESOLVED that Mr. P. Allen (Independent Member) be elected Vice-Chairman of the Committee for the Municipal Year 2011/12.
4 MINUTES
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting held on 27th April 2011 be approved as a correct record and signed.
5 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Councillor B.C. Cowle, Mr. S. Norton - Salfords and Sidlow Parish Council and Mr. P. Allen - Independent Member.
6 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
None.
7 BRIBERY ACT 2010
RESOLVED to note:

(i) the new bribery policy:

(ii) the arrangements by the organisation to ensure the Committee can comply with its requirements under the Bribery Act 2010.
8 LOCAL GOVERNMENT OMBUDSMAN: ANNUAL REPORT 2010/11
RESOLVED that the Local Government Ombudsman's annual report for 2010/11 be received and noted.

9 LOCALISM BILL
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
10 ANY OTHER URGENT BUSINESS
None.

Minute

Min NoMinute
7The Committee received a report on work by officers to ensure the Council was compliant with the Bribery Act 2010

The Bribery Act 2010 came into force 1st July 2011 and required all organisations to prevent employees or other persons using bribery. The Council was required to put "adequate" procedures in place to prevent bribery.

Local Government generally (and the Council specifically) had strong records of ensuring the highest standards of practice by officers and Members. For example, Members should all be aware of the range of policies which relate to decision making by officers such as Whistleblowing policy etc.

The Act created several offences relating to the giving or taking of bribes and bribing foreign officials. The Act also set out the need for bodies including the Council to have "adequate procedures" in place to prevent those offences.

The Monitoring Officer with the Head of Service with responsibility for finance, and the Human Resource Manager, had considered all areas which might be affected by the Bribery Act and had produced a Bribery Act Policy. The report now before the Committee gave an outline of the work done and responsibilities going forward.

There were no "standard bribery policies" for local government, but the Council's policy was based on best practice and documents provided by the Ministry of Justice adapted to the Constitutional position of the Council, ensuring at the same time consistency with other fraud related policies such as the Council's whistleblowing policy.

Training had been undertaken by the Monitoring Officer provided by the Local Government Group training team, and this had formed the basis of work and developed an understanding of best practice. Links with the Ministry of Justice had also been helpful in improving the level of local knowledge including legal officer membership of the local Court user group which also considered this issue.

The Monitoring Officer and Human Resource Manager had given training sessions to the Council's Operational Management Team on the Bribery Act. The Corporate Fraud team had adapted their training to all staff on Corporate Fraud Awareness to include elements on the Bribery Act.

The Council's intranet had been changed to include the Bribery Act in the Corporate Fraud area, and a new area dedicated to the Bribery Act in the Human Resource intranet pages had been added. These changes were on-going and would evolve with guidance and best practice.

The Monitoring Officer had considered all policies and considered that they complied with the Bribery Act. The only physical change was that historically departments had held their own hospitality or gift registers. These records had now been amalgamated into a single register, managed by the Monitoring Officer.

To create clarity, the policy made clear that trivial matters were outside the scope of the policy, that small gifts were acceptable but should be noted in the register, and that larger gifts were not normally acceptable. Any uncertainty should be referred to managers or the Monitoring Officer.

The Policy also made clear that staff should report concerns or matters of uncertainty to the Monitoring Officer. The Monitoring Officer now had responsibility for ensuring compliance of the policy going forward.

Arising from discussion of the report, it was agreed that Members of the Committee would be provided with a briefing note covering monetary values and gifts and hospitality, publication of information relating to gifts and hospitality on the Council's web site; the situation on political donations; any changes made to the procurement policy as a result of the Bribery Act and in relation to the legislation the role of internal and external audit.
8The Committee received the Local Government Ombudsman's (LGO) annual report for 2010/11 which had appended to it a schedule with statistics on the number of enquiries and complaints made in respect of Reigate and Banstead. The statistics also showed the average time taken by the Council to respond to written enquiries.

For 2010/11, there had been 16 enquiries and complaints against the Council compared with 11 for the previous year. There had been no findings of maladministration and no local settlements. The Council's average response time was 21.2 calendar days, well within the LGO's top best performing banding of 28 days.

The 16 complaints fell into the following service categories:

Planning and Development:
7
Benefits and tax:
2
Corporate and other services:
1
Environmental Health:
3
Housing:
3
9The Committee was informed that the Localism Act 2011 had received Royal Assent on 15th November 2011. A briefing note on the Localism Bill was circulated at the meeting but as changes (to the Bill) had been introduced prior to Royal Assent and were not covered in the note, it was considered that it would be premature to discuss issues in the absence of a clear understanding of the new legislation. A report on the Act, so far as it related to standards, would be submitted to a future meeting of the Committee.