Venue: Ashburton Hall, EII Court, Winchester
Contact: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Please Note: The resolution to exclude the press and public (Item 4 on the agenda) was not passed by the Panel and therefore this meeting was live-streamed via the County Council's YouTube page. Owing to this decision, the reports for the meeting have also been made publicly accessible, but as a result in some places still retain their original confidential markings.
Apologies for absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
All Members were present and no apologies were noted.
Declarations of interest
All Members who believe they have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in any matter to be considered at the meeting must declare that interest and, having regard to Part 3 Paragraph 1.5 of the County Council's Members’ Code of Conduct, leave the meeting while the matter is discussed, save for exercising any right to speak in accordance with Paragraph 1.6 of the Code. Furthermore all Members with a Personal Interest in a matter being considered at the meeting should consider, having regard to Part 5, Paragraph 4 of the Code, whether such interest should be declared, and having regard to Part 5, Paragraph 5 of the Code, consider whether it is appropriate to leave the meeting while the matter is discussed, save for exercising any right to speak in accordance with the Code.
Members were mindful that where they believed they had a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in any matter considered at the meeting they must declare that interest at the time of the relevant debate and, having regard to the circumstances described in Part 3, Paragraph 1.5 of the County Council's Members' Code of Conduct, leave the meeting while the matter was discussed, save for exercising any right to speak in accordance with Paragraph 1.6 of the Code. Furthermore Members were mindful that where they believed they had a Personal interest in a matter being considered at the meeting they considered whether such interest should be declared, and having regard to Part 5, Paragraph 5 of the Code, considered whether it was appropriate to leave the meeting whilst the matter was discussed, save for exercising any right to speak in accordance with the Code.
All three members (Councillors James, Thacker and Vaughan) declared a personal interest as elected Members of Hampshire County Council.
Election of Chairman
To elect a Chairman for the meeting
Councillor Vaughan was appointed Chairman for the meeting.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
That the press and public be excluded from the meeting as it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present, there would be disclosure to them of exempt information within Paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, being information relating to any individual which should not be disclosed for the reasons set out in the report.
The proposal to exclude the press and public from the meeting under Paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 was considered and rejected. The meeting continued open to the press and public.
To consider a report of the Monitoring Officer
The Hearing Panel considered the report of the Monitoring Officer regarding a complaint against a member of the County Council.
The Monitoring Officer presented her report, which summarised the process in respect of the complaint alleging that Councillor Woodward had breached the Members’ Code of Conduct with respect to his handling of a grant for £15,000 by the Rockets motorcycle display team. Following investigation, an Investigation Consideration sub-committee had agreed that the independent investigator’s report and finding should be considered by the Hearing Panel. The Monitoring Officer drew Members’ attention to the documents included in their pack and confirmed that redactions had been made to ensure compliance with GDPR. She set out the Panel’s role; to consider Councillor Woodward’s actions in relation to the process around the application by the Rockets to the Recreation and Heritage Community Fund (the grant scheme); noting that the motives of the two complainants were not relevant and it was not necessary to get into the detail of any relationship Councillor Woodward might have had with any third party. The Monitoring Officer confirmed that in terms of process, the Panel needed to make a finding on the facts, whether or not it found Councillor Woodward to have breached the Code of Conduct.
Councillor Woodward sought and was given clarification by the Monitoring Officer regarding the provision for the establishment of the Investigation Consideration sub-committee in accordance with the County Council’s arrangements regarding the assessment, investigation and determination of allegations of a breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct, approved by the Conduct Advisory Panel in accordance with the Constitution and the Localism Act. He furthermore questioned the submission of additional evidence (annex 2b) after the initial publication of the Hearing Panel’s agenda and it was confirmed that this was to provide context following his request that an unredacted copy of annex 4j be provided to the Panel (as annex 4p).
The independent investigator was introduced to the Panel as a partner in a firm of solicitors with experience of public sector law, in Member complaints and as a Monitoring Officer. He highlighted the complexity of the complaint, noting that it was clear Councillor Woodward had not approved the grant himself, therefore his finding was based on patterns of behaviour in relation to its submission and approval. The investigator addressed and set out a number of key areas in his report including Councillor Woodward’s:
- unusually high level of involvement in preparing the grant application and lack of transparency in the nature of his personal interest;
- unusual level of interaction with County Council officers amounting to applying pressure in relation to the grant application;
- close relationship with Ms A from the Rockets and his subsequent involvement in her new team, the Solent Stars, including driving the team lorry;
- discrepancies as to the status of an alleged ongoing police investigation against the complainants; and
- actions with respect to bringing forward the decision day at which the grant application was approved to a time ... view the full minutes text for item 5.