Venue: Committee Room 1, City Hall
Contact: Graham Watts, Principal Democratic Officer (01522 873439)
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 14 March 2019 be confirmed.
Declarations of Interest
Please note that, in accordance with the Members' Code of Conduct, when declaring interests members must disclose the existence and nature of the interest, and whether it is a disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) or personal and/or pecuniary.
No declarations of interest were received.
Becky Scott, Legal Services Manager:
(a) Presented a report which provided the Ethics and Engagement Committee with an opportunity to consider a revised version of the Member Code of Conduct.
(b) Explained that the revisions incorporated aspects such as harassment, bullying, social media use and acting in an official capacity as recommended at the previous meeting of the Ethics and Engagement Committee.
(c) Reported that the revisions were proposed following a review undertaken by the Council’s City Solicitor and Monitoring Officer.
(d) Reported that a revised version of the Member Code of Conduct was appended to the report, with those key changes as a result of the review having been highlighted.
(e) Reported that the Social Media Policy was currently in the process of being developed in consultation with service managers and trade union representatives and would subsequently be considered by the Policy Scrutiny Committee and the Executive.
(f) Invited members’ questions and comments.
Councillor Christopher Reid highlighted the following paragraph under the bullying and harassment section:
“Where you have witnessed bullying and harassment you have a responsibility to speak out. You should challenge inappropriate behaviour as it happens and consider making a complaint”.
Councillor Reid was concerned that having a responsibility to speak out in such circumstances could mean that if a Councillor chose not to do so they themselves could be in breach of the Code of Conduct. He was therefore of the opinion that this section was worded too strongly as it could result in people being found to have breached the Code of Conduct when they had not done anything wrong in the first instance.
Councillor Ric Metcalfe, Leader of the Council, disagreed with this suggestion and understood that there was a common law obligation not to simply stand aside, adding that there would be a danger of situations arising that were not being reported. This was key to the issue of bullying and harassment and Councillor Metcalfe did not wish to see members’ responsibilities in this regard being weakened in the Code of Conduct. He therefore proposed retaining the existing wording.
It was acknowledged that a member failing to report such an instance would not necessarily mean that they had breached the Code of Conduct, as the wording of the draft Code of Conduct included the term ‘and consider making a complaint’. The way in which the Code of Conduct was worded meant that members would have a responsibility to challenge inappropriate behaviour with regards to bullying and harassment.
Councillor Reid highlighted that victims of harassment and bullying may not be comfortable with a complaint being made for various reasons, including fear, humiliation or intimidation and that, potentially, this choice would be taken away from them in the way in which the Code of Conduct was currently worded. Councillor Laura McWilliams agreed with this point in that some victims would be afraid to come forward and highlight instances of bullying and harassment that they themselves had experienced.
Councillor Geoff Ellis agreed with Councillor Metcalfe in ... view the full minutes text for item 36.
Graham Watts, Democratic and Elections Manager:
(a) Presented a report outlining that National Democracy Week would take place between 14 and 20 October 2019 and provided the Ethics and Engagement Committee with an opportunity to consider what publicity or activities the Council may wish to undertake to support the event.
(b) Explained that National Democracy Week provided a great opportunity to encourage local residents to register and exercise their right to vote, participate in local and national democracy and perhaps decide to stand as a Councillor.
(c) Highlighted that resource packs had been developed aimed at supporting the promotion and participation in National Democracy Week, with a pack specifically developed for young people entitled ‘Rock Enrol!’
(d) Highlighted the range of engagement activities currently taking place regarding electoral registration, particularly as part of the annual canvass which had commenced in July.
(e) Invited members’ questions and comments.
Councillor Laura McWilliams asked whether any publicity for National Democracy Week, but also generally, could take place via social media on the role of the Council’s individual committees, what City Councillors did and the different responsibilities associated with the City Council compared to the County Council. It was agreed that these suggestions would be forwarded to the Council’s Communications Team in order that publicity around these aspects could take place.
Councillor Ric Metcalfe, in view of other authorities recording their proceedings, asked whether consideration had been given to the City Council recording its meetings. The last two meetings of Council, for example, had attracted some interest due to the submissions of Motions on the climate emergency and single-use plastics and said that the Council could have been more opportunistic and made more out of the interest generated. With regard to the webcasting or recording of the Council’s meetings, this was something that had not been properly explored, other than the recording of meetings for training and development purposes.
Councillor Lucinda Preston asked what engagement had taken place with Universities in Lincoln. The Democratic and Elections Manager reported that, from an electoral registration perspective, a significant amount of work had been undertaken in partnership with the University of Lincoln to encourage the registration of students, which he felt would be improved even more as part of next year’s electoral registration canvass reform.
Councillor Preston asked whether the display screens in the Waterside and at the Bus Station had been utilised and also put forward the suggestion of a pop-up stall in the Waterside or other venues in the city, encouraging people to register to vote but also promoting the role of the Council and members. It was noted that the display screens had been used recently to publicise registering to vote, particularly in the lead up to the City Council elections. Consideration would be given to the suggestion of a pop-up display in due course.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
Engagement Event - 17 October 2019
Councillor Laura McWilliams provided the Ethics and Engagement Committee with an update on a Parliament Project which sought to inspire women to get involved in democracy. This a-political event was originally scheduled to be held on 17 October 2019 at the University of Lincoln, however, there had been a delay and a revised date had not yet been confirmed. Once this had been agreed, Councillor McWilliams agreed to circulate some information in order to promote the event.
Code of Conduct: National Cases Review
Graham Watts, Democratic and Elections Manager, provided the Ethics and Engagement Committee with a number of recent examples of Code of Conduct cases where breaches had occurred from across the country.
At the close of the meeting Chris Elkington, Independent Person, reported that he had recently provided notice of his intention to leave the role due to him moving out of the area. This would therefore be Mr Elkington’s last meeting of the Committee. Councillor Ric Metcalfe put on record his thanks to Mr Elkington for his outstanding contribution and valued counsel during his time as the Council’s Independent Person.