To consider the attached report.
Every Council was required to appoint a Head of Paid Service, a Monitoring Officer, and a Chief Finance Officer (Section 151 Officer). Each of these posts carried specific statutory responsibilities. As these postholders operated in a sensitive environment, Councils had been required to follow special procedures to investigate disciplinary matters regarding officers holding these positions. Prior to the 2015 Regulations, procedures were governed by statutory Designated Independent Person (DIP) provisions. The Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 replaced the statutory DIP provisions with an Independent Panel process.
The Council had made the required amendments to the Constitution, in relation to the dismissal of the three statutory officers, to ensure that these officers could discharge their duties without any fear of being unduly influenced or dismissed by the authority without good reason. The Joint Negotiating Committee for Chief Officers of Local Authorities Conditions of Service Handbook had also been updated to reflect the regulations. A revised disciplinary model procedure was published in the 2017 edition as a reference guide for the dismissal process.
A standing Investigating and Disciplinary Committee (IDC) had to be politically balanced with at least five members. The Senior Management Selection Panel established in December 2017 already fulfilled the redundancy panel functions of the existing Officer Employment Procedure Rules and it was recommended that the Terms of Reference of the Panel should therefore be extended to encompass the new requirements of the 2015 Regulations in terms of the establishment of the IDC. Appointment to membership of the Committee could therefore continue to be made as part of the annual appointments process.
The new regulations required that a Council must appoint an Independent Panel made up of a minimum of two Independent Persons appointed under section 28 of the Localism Act 2011 (in relation to standards complaints against members), whose advice, views and recommendations should be considered before any decision by the full Council to dismiss a relevant officer could be made. The Independent Persons could refuse to accept an invitation to sit on an Independent Panel and if either was unavailable when needed, it would be necessary for the Council to appoint additional Independent Persons from other local authorities, to ensure at least two Independent Persons were appointed. The Panel could only be appointed by the full Council. The Council currently had three Independent Persons appointed under S28 of the Localism Act 2011 in relation to standards complaints, two of whom had been appointed in December 2018 on the basis that they might also be required to form part of a Panel that would consider disciplinary action against the most senior officers of the authority. In order to meet the appointment requirements of the Independent Panel, it was recommended that it was appropriate for the Council to formally appoint the three Independent Persons to membership of the Panel as part of the annual appointments process, so that the Panel remained available at all times.
The proposal on the establishment of a panel of Independent Persons and using the model disciplinary procedure would ensure the organisation was best placed to manage any matters relating to the potential dismissal of the Chief Executive Officer, Monitoring Officer and Section 151 Officer in the unlikely event that such circumstances should occur.
Councillor J H Whitehouse asked about the Senior Selection Panel and was it an ad hoc panel. The Service Director (Business Services), P Maginnis, replied that the proposal was that its Terms of Reference be extended to include the IDC, and to be part of that process to decide if an investigation would be carried out by two Independent Members. The Council did currently have standing members appointed to the Panel.
Councillor J H Whitehouse asked if the specific provision relating to the Independent Panel (paragraph 10 of the report) could be clarified as it was incomplete. The Service Director (Business Services) replied that this should have read, ‘‘The Independent Panel shall consist of the Council’s Independent Persons appointed under section 28(7) of the 2011 Act provided that at least two such Independent Persons are willing to sit on the Panel. If they are not, then the Council has the option to appoint additional Independent Persons from other local authorities, to ensure that a Panel of the required number of at least two Independent Persons is appointed.’
Councillor J Philip asked about the dismissal procedure. The Service Director (Business Services) replied that the dismissal vote would be made by full Council, while the Senior Selection Panel would come in with action just short of dismissal.
To give effect to the above, the Working Group agreed that the Officer Employment Procedure Rules set out in in Part 4 Constitution be revised accordingly. There were no changes required to other elements of the Officer Employment Procedure Rules (particularly Section C (Disciplinary Action) – Suspension) as the current provisions remained in line with the 2015 Regulations.
That a report be made to Council recommending:
(1) That the incorporation of the revised Officer Employment Procedure Rules be approved; and
(2) That pursuant to Recommendation (1) above, the Monitoring Officer be authorised to make necessary revisions to the Council’s Constitution.