Venue: Plas y Ffynnon, Cambrian Way, Brecon, Powys LD3 7HP
Contact: Julia Gruffydd
To receive and consider the attached Schedule of Correspondence and any recommendations thereon (below).
The Chairman welcomed Mr Julian Stedman to the committee and advised that this was likely to be Mr Parsons’ last meeting before his retirement as the Authority’s Monitoring Officer.
He proposed to make a couple of changes to the order of business.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest from members relating to items on the agenda. Members’ attention is drawn to the sheet attached to the attendance sheet and the need to record their declarations verbally and in writing, specifying the nature of the interest.
If Members have declared an interest in an item please ensure that you inform the Chair when you are leaving the room, so that this can be recorded in the minutes
No declarations of interest were made.
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 7 May 2015 and authorise the Chairman to sign them as a true record.
The minutes of the meeting held on 7 May 2015 were received. A member asked for amendments to be made to the second paragraph of minute 20/15 which would clarify the points she made at that meeting. She proposed the following text:
The Monitoring Officer reported that he had sought advice from the Ombudsman on the question raised at the last meeting about whether members who had declared a prejudicial interest but not obtained dispensation to participate in the business of the Authority, could stay in the meeting for the purpose of making representations, answering questions or giving evidence relating to the business in accordance with paragraph 14 of The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (Wales) Order 2008. This raised the question as to whether the Authority had the power to suspend the rights of members under paragraph 14 by requiring them to follow the rules of the Authority’s Public Speaking Scheme in such circumstances. He was advised that there is currently such a case under consideration but stood by the guidance that members had to leave the meeting. However, they accepted that people might take a different view. He would update members further on this point once the case had been determined.
The Monitoring Officer advised that he has spoken to the Ombudsman’s Office who had confirmed that a member who has been given dispensation to speak but not vote should remain in the meeting for the officer presentation and any member speakers, but then leave the meeting.
RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 7 May 2015 be approved (as amended) and the Chairman authorised to sign them as a correct record.
To note changes to the Regulations.
To note amendments made to the Authority’s request for dispensation form to reflect these changes.
The Monitoring Officer summarised the changes to the legislation. He highlighted the additional clause under which Standards Committees could grant dispensation if they felt it was ‘appropriate in all circumstances’. Members felt that this ‘catch all’ effectively nullified all the other clauses.
The Chairman stressed that it was important for the Standards Committee to assess each application based on the information provided by members and to support the decision made. He felt it essential to have looked at the changes to the legislation before considering the applications before the committee.
RESOLVED: To note the changes to the Local Government (Standards Committees, Investigations, Dispensations and Referral)(Wales)(Amendment) Regulations 2016.
To note the report that went to the National Park Authority on 10 June 2016 outlining changes to the members’ code of conduct. The amended code was adopted by the Authority and is available on the website: Members Code of Conduct
The Monitoring Officer advised members of minor changes to the Model Code of Members Conduct, which the Authority had adopted on 10 June 2016. In particular he noted that the provision regarding a perceived conflict between a member’s ward role and decisions taken on behalf of the Authority (Paragraph 10(2)(b) was removed. He reminded the committee that members of National Park Authorities were not representing their wards whilst making decisions for the Authority.
RESOLVED: To note changes to the Model Code of Members Conduct.
To consider applications from members for dispensation to speak at Planning, Access and Rights of Way Committee in respect of the following planning applications:
Three applications for Powys Schools:
16/13827/FUL – Talgarth Primary School (Planning Officer: Ryan Greaney),
16/13829/FUL – Llangors Church in Wales Primary School (Planning Officer: Donna Bowhay)
16/13830/FUL – Hay on Wye Primary School (Planning Officer: Matthew Griffiths).
16/13596/FUL – Land adjacent to Cerrigcochion Road, Brecon (Planning Officer: Matthew Griffiths).
The following members have applied for dispensation and their applications are attached:
Cllr Paul Ashton (Schools and Cerrigochion Road)
Cllr David Meredith (Schools and Cerrigochion Road)
Cllr Geraint Hopkins (Hay and Talgarth Schools, Cerrigochion Road)
Cllr Evan Morgan (Schools and Cerrigochion Road)
Cllr Gwilym Williams (Schools)
Cllr Phil Pritchard (Schools and Cerrigochion Road)
In addition, the following members have confirmed via email their wish to apply under the new dispensation clause:
Where the member asks the Standards Committee to determine that ‘it appears to the Committee to be otherwise appropriate to grant a dispensation’
Cllr Paul Ashton
Cllr David Meredith
Cllr Evan Morgan
Cllr Geraint Hopkins
The Chairman advised that while members may have applied for dispensation to cover different lengths of time, the committee could decide a common period.
(i) Applications for dispensation had been received for three planning applications in relation to primary schools.
a) That the following members be granted full dispensation for 12 months to speak, participate and vote in relation to applications 16/13827/FUL Talgarth Primary School, 16/13829/FUL Llangors Church in Wales Primary School and 16/1380/FUL Hay on Wye Primary School: Cllr Paul Ashton, Cllr David Meredith, Cllr Evan Morgan, Cllr Phil Pritchard and Cllr Gwilym Williams.
b) That the following member be granted full dispensation for 12 months to speak, participate and vote in relation to applications 16/13827/FUL Talgarth Primary School and 16/1380/FUL Hay on Wye Primary School: Cllr Geraint Hopkins.
(ii) Applications had been received in relation to a planning application for development on Cerrigochion Road, Brecon.
a) That the following members be granted full dispensation for 12 months to speak, participate and vote in relation to application 16/13596/FUL – Land adjacent to Cerrigochion Road, Brecon: Cllr David Meredith, Cllr Evan Morgan, Cllr Geraint Hopkins and Cllr Phil Pritchard.
b) That the following member be granted dispensation for 12 months to speak and participate only in relation to application 16/13596/FUL – Land adjacent to Cerrigochion Road, Brecon: Cllr Paul Ashton.
Following detailed consideration of these applications for dispensation members were unanimous in commenting that the lack of detail in the applications had not helped members’ cases. It was requested that the application form be amended to require applicants to fill in more detail against each of the clauses, which would give a more transparent and unequivocal case for dispensation. The committee asked the Chairman to write a letter to all National Park Authority members setting out the requirements.
The Monitoring Officer had delivered several training sessions to members but he was aware that not all members had attended one of these.
Ombudsman's Annual Report
To note the Ombudsman’s Annual Report for 2015-16: Annual Report 2015-16
The Monitoring Officer referred to the Ombudsman’s Annual Report for 2015-16. While the number of complaints for maladministration had fallen overall, the local authorities were still the largest group. The fact that the Ombudsman had now absorbed responsibility for National Health Service and private care home complaints was one reason for the introduction of the local resolution procedures whereby authorities now took more responsibility for resolving member on member complaints.
Eight National Park Authority matters were included out of a total of 1992.
To watch and note a video prepared by the Ombudsman: Video
Members watched a short video featuring the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Nick Bennett, highlighting recent changes to legislation.
Standards Conference: 2015 and 2016
To receive feedback from Standards Committee member Ian Raynes on the Standards Conference 2015 at which he represented the National Park Authority.
To note any information about a similar event in 2016.
Mr Raynes reported on the Standards Conference he had attended last Autumn on behalf of the Authority. He had attended workshops focusing on the use of social media and how to deal with vexatious complaints. Another workshop had reviewed whether the Nolan Principles were still valid, and concluded that they were.
There was no information available on a similar event for this year.
The feeling of the meeting was that these events, while they could be useful, were costly and that similar learning might be achieved internally or with other authorities.
The Monitoring Officer felt that members of the committee might find some briefing on Section 106 agreements useful in relation to declarations of interest and dispensations. He would approach the planning officers about this.
Any Other Business
To deal with any other business, which is, in the opinion of the Chairman, of such urgency as to warrant consideration.
The Chairman paid tribute to the work of the Monitoring Officer, who had given him both personal and professional support. The gap would be difficult to fill as Mr Parsons’ approach to training using practical examples was hugely beneficial to members, as they could be applied to real situations. He thanked him on behalf of the committee.
Mr Parsons thanked members for their good wishes and said that it had been a pleasure rather than a duty to work with the Authority.