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Agenda item

Report of the Monitoring Officer in Respect of Issues Arising at Anston Parish Council

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report presented by Jacqueline Collins, Monitoring Officer, which provided an update about issues arising at Anston Parish Council.

 

Over the last few years concerns have been increasing regarding the behaviour of Anston Parish Council Councillors.  The Monitoring Officer had, in the last two and a half years, received over thirty-five complaints in relation to alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct.

 

A huge amount of work has been undertaken by the Independent Members, the Monitoring Officer and Councillors in order to resolve the situation, but all efforts have had little effect.

 

There has been one formal investigation which had led to a meeting of the Considerations and Hearing Panel.  The Panel concluded that the behaviour in that case amounted to breaches of the Code of Conduct.

 

The Monitoring Officer expressed concern that relationships were not improving with the Parish Council being hindered in considering its proper business.  It was, therefore, suggested that the Committee consider two options to deal with the problem:-

 

·                Offer dispute resolution “intervention”

 

Use of a consultancy firm led by a former senior officer at the Standards Board for England working on five phased areas of work.

 

The indicative cost of this intervention was £8,000 and this cost would be covered by the Parish Council.

 

The Monitoring Officer recommended that this intervention be offered to the Parish Council

 

·                Abolish or merge the Parish Council with another Parish Council

 

In order to abolish or merge a Parish Council the Borough Council must undertake a community governance review and in order to abolish an existing Parish the Borough Council must show that community governance review was in response to “justified, clear and sustained local support” from the area inhabitants.

 

This would be an option of last resort.

 

In addition, it was noted that Phil Beavers, Independent Person, who had been working with Anston Parish Council had agreed to attend the next meeting.  He outlined the current situation and the problems that were continuing.  Whilst the option to offer dispute resolution intervention would be welcomed by some, the problems were caused by a small minority.

 

Despite all the work that had been done so far the complaints against certain members of the Parish Council continued.  It was now up to the electorate of Anston to make any changes to the Parish Council membership at the forthcoming elections in May.  It was, therefore, suggested that Phil Beavers, Independent Person, attend the first meeting of the Parish Council after the election and report back to the Standards Committee on the outcome.

 

The Committee considered the two options on the table and considered them both in detail.

 

The Committee noted the position with the Yorkshire Branch of the National Association of Local Councils who had been asked to lobby the Government about the sanctions that could be imposed against Parish Councillors.

 

The Committee suggested that any further work with Anston Parish Council be delayed until the outcome of the May elections was known.

 

Resolved:-  (1)  That the options to resolve issues arising at Anston Parish Council be placed on hold until the results from the May election were known.

 

(2)  That Phil Beavers, Independent Person, attend the next meeting and first meeting of the newly elected Anston Parish Council and report his findings back to the Standards Committee in due course.

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