(1) As well as repealing the legislation relating to the 2007 Model Code of Member Conduct, the Localism Act 2011 also repealed a number of general dispensations for Members. In particular, there are no relieving provisions for members to enable them to consider certain matters, such as setting the Council’s Budget and the Council Tax, and approving the Members’ Allowances scheme.
(2) The Committee noted the specific dispensations in the 2007 Code of Conduct where it was deemed that an elected Member would not have a prejudicial interest i.e.
(a) School meals or school transport and travelling expenses, where you are a parent or guardian of a child in full-time education, or are a parent governor of a school, unless it relates particularly to the school which the child attends;
(b) Statutory sick pay under Part XI of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, where you are in receipt of, or are entitled to the receipt of, such pay;
(c) An allowance, payment or indemnity given to Members;
(d) Any ceremonial honour given to Members; and
(e) Setting council tax or a precept under the Local Government Finance Act 1992
(3) According to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) it was not the Government’s intention that members would be regarded as having a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (DPI) in these specific areas, hence there is no relieving provision in the statutory regime. However, the law is far from clear on this issue and does not explicitly support the DCLG position.
(4) For the avoidance of doubt, therefore, the Committee was being requested to delegate authority to the Monitoring Officer to grant dispensations for members to participate in the Budget and Council Tax setting and other matters which are already set out in the Kent Member Code of Conduct.
(5) The Localism Act 2011 and the Regulations do not provide any relieving provisions for any of the circumstances described in sub paragraph (2) above.
(6) The recommendation before the Committee was that the Monitoring Officer be requested by the Committee to grant such dispensations. The record of this committee’s decision on this matter will suffice as a written request on behalf of the members of the Council. The dispensation is requested for the following reasons:
(a) Without the dispensation, the number of persons prohibited from participating in the budget and council tax setting item, together with the approval of the Members’ Allowances Scheme and ceremonial honours at County Council meetings, would be so great a proportion of the body transacting the business as to impede the transaction of business; and
(b) Granting the dispensation is in the interests of persons living in the Authority’s area.
(7) The Committee noted that with regard to the proposed dispensation in relation to the setting of the Budget and Council Tax, section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 still applies, which means that any Member who is in arrears of Council Tax of two months or more may must disclose the fact of their arrears and cannot vote on any relevant meeting.
(8) The Committee discussed why it appeared on the face of it that not all of the dispensations provided for in the 2007 code of Conduct were being proposed to the committee to be requested from the Monitoring Officer e.g. Statutory Sick Pay under Part XI of the Social Security contributions and Benefits Act 1992, school meals or school transport and travelling expenses where you are a parent or guardian.
(9) The Committee agreed that the Head of Democratic Services should examine in consultation with the Chairman whether a specific dispensation was required for those matters referred to in sub paragraph (8) above.
(10) RESOLVED that the Monitoring Officer be requested to grant a blanket dispensation for all council members from 23 January 2013 to 7 May 2013 for the following:
(a) The approval of the Council’s Revenue and Capital Budget and the setting of the Council Tax (unless in arrears as explained in Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992);
(b) The approval of any borrowing under the Local Government Act 2003;
(c) The making of calculations under s49A and $(B of the Local Government Finance Act 1992;
(d) The approval of an allowance, payment to indemnify Members; and
(e) The Head of Democratic Services in consultation with the Chairman be asked to further examine that all the issues have been identified where a blanket dispensation is required.