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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Standards Committee held on 19/07/2006
ETHICAL GOVERNANCE – ISSUES ARISING FROM SELF ASSESSMENT SURVEY UNDERTAKEN BY THE AUDIT COMMISSION IN APRIL 2006



Summary & Purpose
This report sets out the findings of the recent self assessment survey and workshops on Ethical Governance, undertaken by the Audit Commission, and invites the Standards Committee to consider further work to be included in a work plan.

APPENDIX A
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL
STANDARDS COMMITTEE – 19TH JULY 2006
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Title:
ETHICAL GOVERNANCE – ISSUES ARISING FROM SELF ASSESSMENT SURVEY UNDERTAKEN BY THE AUDIT COMMISSION IN APRIL 2006

[Wards Affected: All]
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Summary and Purpose
This report sets out the findings of the recent self assessment survey and workshops on Ethical Governance, undertaken by the Audit Commission, and invites the Standards Committee to consider further work to be included in a work plan.
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Environmental implications

There are no environmental implications arising from this report.

Social/community implications

The following impact on the service delivered to the community:

Ensuring compliance with Codes of Conduct
Prevention and detection of fraud and corruption
Clear officer/Member responsibility for decision making
Strategic and integrated approach to diversity, human rights and user focus
Council has a high reputation for efficiency and integrity.

Resource implications

There are no immediate resource implications arising from this report, but any recommendations of the Standards Committee on further work that needs to be undertaken in this area, may have an impact on staff and other resources.

1. Background

1.1 On 13 December 2005, the Council endorsed the decision of the Standards Committee to commission an independent ethical governance diagnostic, developed by the Audit Commission in conjunction with the IdeA, to assess the Council’s arrangements for setting and maintaining high ethical standards. The diagnostic comprised two elements, namely:

An ‘on-line’ survey for Members and officers carried out and analysed by the Audit Commission; and Workshops using scenarios.

2. Ethical Governance Survey and Workshops

2.1 All Members and some 240 officers were invited to take part in the survey which was carried out in April this year. The survey covered a wide range of issues including compliance with the Code of Conduct, awareness of the role and work of the Standards Committee and the Monitoring Officer, whistle blowing, conflicts of interest, leadership, relationships between officers and Members and the management of standards issues in the Council.

2.2 Contributions were received from 23 Members and 53 officers. These responses were analysed by the Audit Commission, and the analysis formed the basis of two informal workshops for Members held on 7 June 2006. A total of 21 Members attended the workshops. Representatives of the Audit Commission conducted the workshops which were considered by Members to be a success.

2.3 Copies of the slides shown at the workshops, which summarised the survey results, are attached as Annexe 1. A full set of the survey results has been placed in the Members Room. At both workshops there was a lively discussion of the issues raised by the survey responses, and Members were then asked to consider a number of scenarios. For each of these scenarios, Members were asked to consider them in the context of the following questions: Has the Code of Conduct been breached?
How should the Council act, ie what actions should be taken by the Monitoring Officer, the Standards Committee, the Chief Executive and the political group leaders?

3. Issues arising from the Ethical Governance Survey and Workshops

3.1 The survey responses and the subsequent workshops highlighted a number of issues which are set out in the following paragraphs.

3.2 On the positive side, the survey results were encouraging in terms of relationships between Members and officers, compliance with key elements of the ethical framework, engaging with the public and partnership working. However, the survey identified a number of areas in which further work may be required. These are as follows:

(i) Officers’ awareness on reporting a potential breach of the Code of Conduct
Just under 50% of officers who responded to the survey were unsure about their responsibilities under the ethical framework, including the action they should take when discovering a potential breach of the Code of Conduct.

(ii) Standards Committee Forward Plan
Just over 50% of Members who responded to the survey confirmed that they had no knowledge of the Standards Committee Forward Plan.

(iii) Officers understanding of the role of the Standards Committee
While over 60% of the officer responses indicated an awareness of the existence of the Standards Committee, less than 50% confirmed that they understood the role of the Standards Committee, and less than 20% stated that they were aware that the Standards Committee has a forward plan to guide its work.


(iv) Whistle blowing – awareness of Members and officers
Nearly 90% of Members confirmed that they had no knowledge of the Council’s whistle blowing policy whereas over 82% of officers confirmed that they knew about this policy.

(v) Training on race relations, disability discrimination and sex discrimination
35% of Members and 45% of officers appeared to be unaware that the Council has begun to integrate the requirements of codes of conduct on the above legislation, into other schemes, policies and procedures.

(vi) Review of hospitality register
Just under 60% of Members who responded to the survey were unaware that the hospitality/gifts register is reviewed regularly.

(vii) Communication of high ethical standards
50% of Members and officers who responded to the survey appeared not to believe that the importance of high ethical standards was communicated to local communities.

(viii) Public access to Members Code of Conduct and Register of Interests
45% of Members and officers disagreed that members of the public could easily access the Members Code of Conduct, and over 50% of Members and officers disagreed that the public could easily access the register of Members’ interests.

3.3 In the light of the above, and in order to address some of these concerns, it is suggested that the following actions could be taken:

The Monitoring Officer to publish a single side leaflet for office notice boards, giving staff guidance on how to report a potential breach of the Code of Conduct.
Standards Committee Work Plan to be prepared and publicised more widely on the Council’s website, in Outlook (Members briefing) and Soundwave (staff briefing).
Publicising the role of the Standards Committee throughout the organisation.
The Head of Personnel and Central Services to be asked to look at ways of raising awareness of Members and officers regarding the Council’s Whistle Blowing Policy.
Further training to be provided to Members and officers on race relations, disability discrimination and sex discrimination.
The Monitoring Officer to undertake an annual review of the register of hospitality/gifts, and to remind Members and officers of the existence of the register.
Consideration to be given to publicising the arrangements for members of the public to access the Members Code of Conduct and the Register of Interests.

3.4 The Audit Commission has confirmed that it would be possible to run the survey again later in the year. However, the Committee is asked to consider whether or not any real benefit could be achieved from this. An alternative proposal would be to invite the two Audit Commission facilitators to run workshops showing the relationship of ethical standards to the Council’s business, the CPA process in order to achieve a better understanding of the Code through case studies.




Recommendation

4. It is recommended that the Standards Committee:

(i) notes the outcome of the survey and workshops as set out in this report;

(ii) considers any actions that could be undertaken to address some of the issues raised by the survey;

(iii) considers whether further surveys and/or workshops facilitated by the Audit Commission should be undertaken later in the year;

(iv) considers whether there are any other ethical governance issues that need to be addressed which could form part of the Committee’s work plan.

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Background Papers (HCMS)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.
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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Mrs Anne Bott Telephone: 01483 523415
E mail: abott@waverley.gov.uk


comms\standards\2006-07\004.doc