To hear questions from councillors of which due notice has been given in relation only to the business for which this extraordinary meeting has been called.
Councillor Tony Rooth asked the Lead Councillor for Planning Development, Legal and Democratic Services, Councillor Tom Hunt, the following question:
“Could the Lead Councillor please clarify the scope and extent of the role of recommended Joint Monitoring Officer generally and in particular:
(a) any differences between the proposed role and the existing role
(b) the scope and extent of the proposed and existing role (or indeed any officer role) over the policies and actions of all GBC departments, and
(c) the Corporate team, both councillors and officers and its relationship with other teams within GBC, in particular the Planning team.”
The Lead Councillor’s response to the question was as follows:
“The Monitoring Officer has the specific duty to ensure that the Council, and its councillors and officers, maintain the highest standards of conduct in all they do. The Monitoring Officer's legal basis is found in Section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (as amended).
In all principal local authorities, the person designated as Monitoring Officer has three main roles:
1. To report on matters they believe are, or are likely to be, illegal or amount to maladministration;
2. To be responsible for matters relating to the conduct of councillors and officers; and
3. To be responsible for the operation, review, and updating of the Constitution, including provision of advice on the interpretation of the Constitution, and making determinations where necessary.
I can confirm that the only difference between the existing and proposed Monitoring Officer roles is that the former is currently an interim appointment and the latter the permanent appointment. In terms of influence over the policies and actions of GBC departments, the Monitoring Officer’s role is to ensure all such policies and actions are implemented and exercised in accordance with the law and with the provisions of the Constitution.
One of functions of the Monitoring Officer, as set out in Article 13 of the Constitution, is ‘to contribute to the corporate management of the Council, in particular through the provision of professional legal and ethical advice’. This applies to all teams and services within the Council, including the Planning service. At GBC, the Monitoring Officer also has a direct reporting line to the Chief Executive on governance matters and, with the Section 151 Officer and the three Strategic Directors, a permanent invitation to meetings of the Corporate Management Board, which is the regular meeting of senior officers.”
In response to a supplementary question which sought
(a) clarification as to whether there was any difference between the monitoring standards of Guildford and Waverley, and
(b) confirmation that the relationships and discussions between all GBC teams, the officers, councillors and consultants with third parties and their advisers and any resulting potential conflicts of interest were also covered by the Monitoring Officer’s duties and responsibilities,
the Lead Councillor confirmed that there was no difference in the monitoring standards between Waverley and Guildford and assured the Council that the ethical wall between GBC corporate and GBC in its role as Local Planning Authority was robust and had not been breached. There was no evidence of any impropriety, and the monitoring officer responsibilities covered the oversight of that ethical wall.