Venue: The Victoria Room, Loughborough Town Hall
Contact: Democratic Services
Appointment of Chair
The Panel will appoint a Chair from amongst its members.
RESOLVED that Councillor Tassell be appointed Chair for the meeting.
Disclosures of Pecuniary and Personal Interests
No disclosures of interests were made.
The Panel is asked to determine a complaint of a breach of the Members Code of Conduct of Birstall Parish Council by Councillor Julian Howe. A report of the Monitoring Officer setting out details of the complaint and the pre-hearing process is attached.
In accordance with the procedure for dealing with complaints, the Panel was asked to determine a complaint of a potential breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct of Birstall Parish Council as set out in the report of the Monitoring Officer, and to decide whether they amounted to a breach of the Code of Conduct by Councillor Howe, and if so whether it felt it was appropriate to recommend the imposition of sanctions to the Parish Council.
Administration of the Panel
The Chair explained the order of proceedings and all present confirmed they understood the procedure. It was established that nobody present were aware of any interests or other reason which could prejudice the ability of the Panel to hold a fair hearing and make a sound determination on the matters in question.
It was confirmed that the Investigating Officer and Councillor Howe would not be calling witnesses. However, during the meeting Panel members wished to ask questions of the Clerk for Birstall Parish Council (Mrs S Coulson), who was attending as an observer, so the Investigating Officer called her as a witness.
Summary of Proceedings
The Investigating Officer, Mr Oram, thanked Councillor Howe and Mrs Coulson for their cooperation during the investigation. He presented his report and highlighted the salient points as follows:
· the relations with the Clerk had been strained for some time but the investigation had focussed on the period of 2015 to 2017.
· that Councillor Howe’s ability to conduct himself as a parish councillor had been limited since 2017 and he not had the opportunity to defend himself due to the sanctions imposed by the Parish Council.
· reference was made to the summary of the complaint on p15 of the report and that the evidence gathered was not in dispute as it was mainly based on written communications.
· that additional comments made by Councillor Howe to the information contained in Section 4 of the report had not had significant impact on the Investigating Officer’s recommendations.
· with reference to the Localism Act 2011, it was considered that Councillor Howe had been acting in his capacity as a parish councillor when writing the blog and newspaper article and, at the Broadnook event, as he specifically commented on parish council business.
· that the ACAS definition of bullying was applicable to Councillor Howe’s behaviour.
· with regard to the email correspondence, it was difficult to determine if receipt of 27 emails over 10 months was significant, however the impact on the Clerk and the capacity of the Parish Council to manage this quantity was noted. As the emails in question had not been supplied it was difficult to determine the impact but in his opinion the quantity of emails didn’t not amount to bullying.
· concerns raised by Councillor Howe regarding the alleged conduct of the clerk in the complaint he made to the Borough Council’s Monitoring officer about Councillor Marshall did not, in his view, represent a failure to comply with the Code.
· with reference to p47-48 of the report there ... view the full minutes text for item 3.