Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Virtual meeting via Skype*
The Chairman explained that the Standards Hearing Sub-Committee would be conducted in accordance with the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panel (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 No. 392.
In welcoming Members, independent persons Mrs Patricia Richards and Mr Christopher Webb, and members of the public, the Chairman explained which Swale Borough Council (SBC) officers were in attendance.
Declarations of Interest
Councillors should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves or their spouse, civil partner or person with whom they are living with as a spouse or civil partner. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
The Chairman will ask Members if they have any interests to declare in respect of items on this agenda, under the following headings:
(a) Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) under the Localism Act 2011. The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared. After declaring a DPI, the Member must leave the meeting and not take part in the discussion or vote. This applies even if there is provision for public speaking.
(b) Disclosable Non Pecuniary (DNPI) under the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council in May 2012. The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared. After declaring a DNPI interest, the Member may stay, speak and vote on the matter.
(c) Where it is possible that a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts would conclude that there was a real possibility that the Member might be predetermined or biased the Member should declare their predetermination or bias and then leave the meeting while that item is considered.
Advice to Members: If any Councillor has any doubt about the existence or nature of any DPI or DNPI which he/she may have in any item on this agenda, he/she should seek advice from the Monitoring Officer, the Head of Legal or from other Solicitors in Legal Services as early as possible, and in advance of the Meeting.
No interests were declared.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
To decide whether to pass the resolution set out below in respect of the following item: -
That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
1. Information relating to any individual.
To not pass the resolution to exclude Press and Public and to hold the meeting in public session.
The Chairman outlined the procedure the panel would follow in determining the matter. She referred Members to Part 4.6 of the Council’s Constitution.
The Monitoring Officer presented the pre-hearing summary report. Councillor Alan Horton confirmed that he agreed with the details contained within the report.
The Monitoring Officer introduced the report which considered allegations that Councillor Horton had breached the Members’ Code of Conduct by making unsubstantiated allegations of probable criminal misconduct against SBC Cabinet Members during a Full Council meeting on 17 June 2020. He summarised the impact the allegations had on some complainants including those that were angry and distressed and others who had reported the allegations made to their professional or charitable bodies. The Monitoring Officer explained that Councillor Horton gave an apology for the allegations made, at the Annual Council meeting in July 2020.
Referring to paragraph 5.1 on page 9 of the report, the Monitoring Officer explained that SBC Members’ code of conduct contained 11 paragraphs delineating the behaviour which all Councillors were expected to model and he drew particular attention to paragraphs 9 and 10 of the code, which he considered were breached by Councillor Horton.
In response, Councillor Horton said he agreed with the report, including the findings that he had breached paragraphs 9 and 10 of the Members’ code of conduct.
A Committee Member said that Councillor Horton had apologised and withdrew his comments during the Full Council meeting on 17 June 2020 and this should be included in the transcript. The Monitoring Officer referred to the transcript on page 15 of the report which included the apology. Councillor Horton added that he accepted the apology he made at the Full Council meeting on 17 June 2020 was inadequate and it was appropriate to make a full apology at the Annual Council meeting held on 15 July 2020.
The independent persons made no comment.
The Sub-Committee, Deputy Monitoring Officer and Senior Democratic Services Officer left the meeting at 13.42 hours and returned at 13.45 hours to advise on the Sub-Committee’s decision.
The Sub-Committee determined that there had been a breach of paragraphs 9 and 10 of the SBC Members’ Code of Conduct.
The Monitoring Officer drew attention that, if a public apology was considered as a sanction, Councillor Horton’s full public apology had already taken place at Annual Council on 15 July 2020.
Mrs Richards agreed with the Sub-Committee’s decision and noted the comments by the Council Leader that the allegation was a one-off made in the heat of the moment and was not typical of Councillor Horton.
Mr Webb agreed with the Sub-Committee’s decision and commented that Councillor Horton had retracted his comment and already made a public apology.
The Sub-Committee, Deputy Monitoring Officer and Senior Democratic Services Officer left the meeting at 13.52 hours and returned at 14.06 hours to advise of the Sub-Committee’s decision on any sanctions that were to be implemented.
In concluding the meeting, the Chairman advised that a written decision would be published on the Council’s ... view the full minutes text for item 280.