The Ethical Framework ensures that councillors maintain high standards of behaviour in public life. It comes from Part 111 of the Local Government Act 2000.
The Parish councils (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2001 provides the mandatory basis for local codes of conduct.
Upon election Councillors must sign the declaration of acceptance and a commitment to abide by the Code. If they do not comply they cannot take up office and a vacancy must be declared. Having agreed to bide by the Code, Councillors must at all times (not only when acting as Councillors) avoid bringing the Council or their office into disrepute, nor do they use the position as Councillor to secure advantage or disadvantage.
Councillors are responsible for disclosing an interest in any item discussed at any meeting of the Council. Interests are personal or prejudicial.
- a Councillor has a personal interest in a matter affecting the well being, financial or otherwise of, (more than others in the parish) self, family, friends, employment or business interests (including shareholdings over £5,000)
- a personal interest becomes a prejudicial interest if a member of the public (with knowledge of the relevant facts) might think that the Councillor's judgement of the public interest could be prejudiced. (this does not relate to another authority where the Councillor is a member or when the Councillor represents the council on another body)
If members have a personal interest, they may stay in the room and vote after declaring an interest. It is only when they have a prejudicial interest that they must withdraw from the meeting and avoid influencing a decision on the matter.
If a Councillor is aware that another Councillor has breached the Code of Conduct, for example, by failing to disclose an interest, they have a duty to make a written allegation of the breach to the Standards Board for England.
The Standards Board for England normally asks an Ethical Standards officer whether there is a case to answer. The ESO can conclude that:
- There is no evidence of a breach of the Code
- There is evidence of a breach but it is minor or technical
- They can decide to send it back to the local Standards Committee for adjudication
- They can send it to the adjudication panel for England
The way you express yourselves in public reflect on the Council. Whatever your role, always be professional when dealing with the public and partner organisations. Normally the Chairman or the Clerk speaks for the Council. It is unwise to express your personal opinion; you keep to the facts and express the views of the Council as a corporate body.
Active Councillors will make sure that their electors know who they are and how they can be contacted. Members can become known by attendance at meetings.
If members of the public make mistakes about the role of the Council, it is good practice, good manners and good public relations to help them by pointing them in the right direction.
The Council will establish procedures by which service users and the public can register complaints. The complaint must be dealt with quickly and positively, but is always considered appropriate to get the circumstances of the complaint in writing – directed to the Council via the Clerk.
The modern Council raises its profile by using information and communications technology. It considers a website to provide information about the Council ways of contacting the council and links to other organisations (a newsletter is published on a quarterly basis).
- The Council recognises and accepts that it is responsible for the health safety and welfare of its staff and other persons, including members of the general public who may visit its premises or be affected by its activities. The Council also recognises its duties to take all reasonable steps to promote and maintain safe and healthy working conditions and to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that its statutory obligations are met at all times.
- The Council recognises the fact that health and safety has positive benefits to the organisation and commitment to a higher level of safety making good business sense.
- The Council recognises that health and safety is the responsibility of everyone within the council and is not just a function of management. Employees will have specific responsibilities to take care of themselves and others who could be affected by their activities and to co-operate with management in achieving the required standards
- The Clerk to the Council has overall responsibility to ensure that health and safety is effectively planned, organised controlled, monitored and reviewed within the Council.
- The Council, through the Clerk, shall take all reasonable steps within its power to meet these responsibilities, paying particular attention to the provision and maintenance of:
- Arrangements for the effective planning, development and review of this policy statement.
- Appropriate systems for the effective communication of health and safety matters throughout the Council
- The necessary information instruction and training to employees and others to ensure their competence with respect to health and safety.
- Sufficient resources in the form of finance, equipment, and time to ensure health and safety. The assistance of expert help shall be sought where the necessary skills are not available within the Council
- Arrangements for liaising with and working with all necessary persons to ensure health and safety and will ensure that adequate arrangements are also in place for ensuring the health and safety of visitors.
- Arrangements for ensuring the safety and absence of risk to health in connection with the use, handling storage and transport of articles and substances.
- A system to ensure that accidents are fully investigated and appropriate action taken to reduce the likelihood of there reoccurrence
- Procedures to ensure, and provision of, safe equipment (including personal protective equipment) plant and systems of work
- Ensure that any operator of Parish Council properties and assets develops, maintains and implements a Health and Safety Policy which will be presented to the Parish Council for inspection.
Clanfield Parish Council is committed to ensuring that children and young people are protected and kept safe from harm, in accordance with Hampshire County Councils ‘Safe From Harm’ document, whilst they are engaged in any activity associated with the Council and to establishing the following principles:
- Anyone under the age of 18 years ( and up to 25 if the young person has been identified with special learning needs) is considered to be a child
- The welfare of the child is paramount;
- All children and young people without exception, have the right to protection from abuse and for their rights, feelings and views to be respected.
- All suspicions and allegations of abuse will be taken seriously and responded to swiftly and appropriately.
In line with these principles the Parish Council will aim to:
- Create a healthy and safe environment for all activities, where children and young people feel safe and secure
- Promote the general welfare, health and full development of children and young people during activities
- Promote and implement appropriate procedures to safeguard the well-being of children and young people and protect them from abuse.
- Respect the rights, wishes and feelings of children and young people and ensure that they are listened to.
- Ensure that any allegations made by a child are not allowed to go unchallenged, and that any allegations and suspicions are investigated, recorded and acted upon promptly.
- Ensure that councillors, staff and volunteers are well informed, supported and enabled to provide the best possible practice
- Ensure that all new employees/volunteers who will work with, or come into contact with, children and young people in the course of their work activities will complete a disclosure form from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to ensure that there are no irregularities in their background that may give cause for concern
- Ensure that all new employees/volunteers will be provided with the Child Protection Policy and asked to sign to confirm that they understand it and will abide by it.
- The Parish Council will appoint a Child Protection Officer who will ensure that procedures are put in place to enable the aims of the Parish Council to be met and to initiate appropriate action should any allegation of improper conduct be made.
The Council’s Child Protection Officer is The Clerk to the Council
When working with children you should:
- Always be publicly open. Avoid any situations where you and an individual child are completely unobserved.
When working with children you should never:
- Engage in rough, physical or sexually provocative games
- Allow or engage in any form of inappropriate contact
- Allow children to use inappropriate language unchallenged
- Make sexually suggestive comments to a child, even in fun
- Allow allegations made by a child to go unchallenged, unrecorded or not acted upon
- Do things of a personal nature that the child can do for itself
(based on Hampshire County Council Guidelines)
For activities where children are not accompanied by parents/carers minimum requirements are as follow:
- Under 5 - 1:6
- Under 8 - 1.8
- 8 to under 18 - 1 per activity/group (max 1:20)
A minimum of two leaders should be present
Should the risk assessment for the particular activity indicate a larger number of leaders/adults is required this will take precedence.
A Council can arrange for a committee or a sub committee to make decisions or spend money on its behalf except when setting the precept or agreeing to take out a loan. Alternatively the Council can retain the decision making role and committees or sub committees simply advise. Arrangements for standing (permanent) committees or sub committees have been set out in the standing orders.
The only committee that this Council have is the planning committee – this has a Chairman and an agenda and minutes are duly produced. The Chairman of the committee should be duly elected in May of each year. All others are working groups who meet to carry out the ground work for items and report back for full decisions to be made by the Council as a whole.
The Finance Working Group will meet once a year (November) to work through and produce a draft precept to issue to members for a full decision at the following Council meeting – the Finance Working Group may also meet at other times should the Council consider that an item (i.e. an application for funding) needs further investigation then to report back to the whole Council for a decision.
A Finance Working Group must consist wholly of Councillors. People who are not Councillors can be co-opted onto other committees / working groups in an advisory capacity but are not normally permitted to vote. There are exceptions and a Council can set up an advisory committee consisting of young people (often called a Youth Council).
The public must be given notice and have access to committee meetings in the same way as Council meetings. A reinterpretation of the law also suggests that the Council should also advertise sub committee meetings and make them open to members of the public. Councils frequently set up working parties/groups to investigate special topics. These are advisory groups only (i.e. Down Farm (Crimea) Barn).