This report proposes new arrangements for dealing with disciplinary action against the Council’s Statutory Officers in order to comply with statutory requirements.
Members considered a report which proposed new arrangements for dealing with disciplinary action against the Council’s Statutory Officers in order to comply with statutory requirements.
The following issues were discussed:
· Independent Persons
It was clarified that the Independent Persons who would comprise the Independent Persons Panel had to be the same Independent Persons appointed by the Council for the purpose of advising on councillor conduct issues. They were appointed by full Council after applying for the position in response to a public advertisement.
Members were advised that the Statutory Officers could appeal any decision to take disciplinary action against them short of dismissal. As Council had to approve any proposal to dismiss then no appeal against a decision to dismiss was possible. However, as Council was effectively reviewing the process before a final decision was taken then effectively a form of appeal would take place at Council.
The procedures only applied in the case of dismissal on disciplinary grounds. Officers undertook to clarify where the decision would be taken to dismiss a Statutory Officer on the grounds of redundancy and whether an appeal against such a decision existed.
· Decision making in cases of a need to urgently suspend
The proposal in the report was that a decision to suspend one of the Statutory Officers would be a matter for the Employment Matters Committee. The report stated such a decision could not be delegated to the Chairman of the Committee. In the light of that and given it would seem inappropriate for a subordinate officer to take such a decision, a Member queried how an urgent decision could be made to suspend one of the officers in circumstances where the seriousness of the situation meant it was not feasible to wait for a meeting of the Committee to take place given that five days’ public notice had to first be given. Officers confirmed that it would not be legally possible to delegate such a decision to the Chairman of the Committee or to the Leader. A formal meeting of the Committee would be needed (it could not take place virtually) but provided the meeting was quorate then a decision could be taken. The Access to Information rules contained an implicit power to convene meetings in cases where less than 5 days’ notice had been given.
Although the proposal was that, for consistency, the power to suspend all three officers would rest with the Employment Matters Committee it would be possible to include provision for the Head of the Paid Service to suspend either the Chief Finance Officer or the Monitoring Officer in cases of urgency. Officers were asked to clarify what urgency powers existed to suspend the Chief Executive in cases of urgency.
Officers also advised that suspension was a neutral act and the authority could require one of the officers not to attend for work pending a formal decision to suspend.
The Committee agreed to:
a) ask officers to clarify the process for taking urgent decisions in circumstances where there is a need to urgently suspend the Statutory Officers, and:
b) recommend the following to Council:
i) to extend the terms of reference of the Employment Matters Committee, as set out in Appendix 1 of the report;
ii) to appoint a Disciplinary Appeals Committee and agree its terms of reference, as set out in Appendix 1 of the report, and agree the Committee should comprise three Members of the Council appointed on a politically proportionate basis (Cons 2: Lab 1);
iii) to appoint an Independent Persons Panel, agree its terms of reference, as set out in Appendix 1 of the report, and agree that it should comprise three Independent Persons;
iv) to agree to pay a fee to Independent Persons appointed to the Independent Persons Panel equal to the agreed rate paid in respect of their role in advising a Council on Councillor Conduct issues;
v) to amend the Employment Rules, as set out in Appendix 2;
vi) to amend the Employee Delegation Scheme as set out in Appendix 3, including agreeing to delegate to the Head of Democratic Services authority to invite and appoint members to serve on the Independent Persons Panel as set out in paragraphs 5.7-5.9 of the report, and;
vii) to agree that where the Employment Matters Committee is considering allegations regarding disciplinary matters relating to the Designated Statutory Officers that, for consistency, unless a Member is unavoidably indisposed or conflicted, the same Members shall comprise the Committee until the matter has been dealt with fully and that the same principle shall apply to the Disciplinary Appeals Committee.