Code of Conduct

Document Version Control

Version No. 

Date Change Made 

New Version No. 

Changes Made By (initial) 

Comment 

 001

 

 

 PT 

Approved at MTC 16 03 2020

 

Contents

toc goes in here

1. Background 

Macclesfield Town Council has adopted this Code of Conduct to promote and maintain high standards of conduct and underpin public confidence in the authority and its Members and co-opted Members (referred to collectively in this Code as “Members”). 

The Code is based closely on the one adopted by Cheshire East Council and supersedes the Previous version adopted in April 2013. 

The Code has been adopted under the Localism Act 2011 and is based on the following core principles of public life: 

  • Selflessness
  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Accountability
  • Openness
  • Honesty
  • Leadership

The Code sets out general obligations about the standards of conduct expected of Members and co-opted Members of the authority, together with provisions about registering and declaring interests. Members are also expected to comply with the Protocol on Member-Officer Relations, Planning Protocol and Protocol on Social Media. 

2. General obligations 

Whenever you are acting as a Member or co-opted Member of this authority you must act in accordance with the following obligations: 

2.1 Selflessness 

You must act solely in the public interest and must never use or attempt to use your position improperly to confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person or act to gain financial or other material benefits for yourself, your family, friends or close associates. 

2.2 Integrity 

You must not place yourself under a financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence you in the performance of your official duties. 

2.3 Objectivity

When carrying out your public duties you must make all choices, such as making public appointments, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards or benefits, on merit. 

You should remain objective, listen to the interests of all parties appropriately and impartially and take all relevant information, including advice from the authority’s officers, into consideration. 

You should exercise independent judgement. Although you may take account of the views of others (including a political group), you should reach your own conclusions on the issues before you and act in accordance with those conclusions. 

2.4 Accountability 

You are accountable to the public for your decisions and you must cooperate fully with whatever scrutiny is appropriate to your office,  including appropriate scrutiny by local residents. 

2.5 Openness 

You must be open and transparent where possible about your decisions and actions and the decisions and actions of your authority. You should be prepared to give reasons for those decisions and actions. 

2.6 Honesty 

You must declare any personal, pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests that relate to your public duties and must take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest, including registering and declaring interests as set out in Part 2 below. 

You must only use or authorise the use of the authority’s resources in accordance with the authority’s requirements. You must, when using or authorising the use of such resources, ensure that they are used for proper purposes only. Resources must not be used improperly for political purposes (including party political purposes) and you must have regard to any applicable Local Authority Code of Publicity in force from time to time. 

2.7 Leadership 

You must promote and support high standards of conduct when serving as a Member of the authority, by leadership and example, championing the interests of the community. 

You should uphold the law and, on all occasions, act in accordance with the trust that the public is entitled to place in you. 

3. Respect for Others 

You must treat others with courtesy. You should engage with colleagues and staff in a manner that underpins mutual respect and courtesy, essential to good local government. 

You must not: 

  1. do anything which may cause your authority to breach any equality laws 
  2. compromise or attempt to compromise the impartiality of anyone who works for, or on behalf of, the authority 
  3. bully [note1] any person, including other Councillors, officers of the authority or members of the public 
  4. intimidate or attempt to intimidate any person who is or is likely to be a complainant, a witness, or involved in the administration of any investigation or proceedings in relation to an allegation that a Member (including yourself) has failed to comply with his or her authority’s code of conduct. 

You must not disclose information given to you in confidence by anyone, or information acquired by you which you believe, or ought reasonably to be aware, is of a confidential nature, except where: [note2]

  1. you have the written consent of a person authorised to give it 
  2. you are required by law to do so 
  3. the disclosure is made to a professional third party for the purpose of obtaining professional advice provided that the third party agrees not to disclose the information to any other person, or 
  4. the disclosure is reasonable, in the public interest; and made in good faith and in compliance with the reasonable requirements of the authority.

You must not prevent another person from gaining access to information to which that person is entitled by law. 

4. Gifts and Hospitality 

You must within 28 days of receipt, notify the Town Clerk in writing of any gift, benefit or hospitality with a value in excess of £100 which you have accepted as a Member from any person or body other than the Authority. The Town Clerk will place your notification on a public register of gifts and hospitality. 

5. Registering and Declaring Interests 

Registering and Declaring Interests – General Requirements 5. You must, within 28 days of: 

5.1 the adoption of this Code 

5.2 taking office as a Member 

5.3 becoming aware of any new interest not already registered 

5.4 becoming aware of any change to any interest already registered notify the Town Clerk and Monitoring Officer in writing of any disclosable pecuniary interest, or other type of interest as defined by this Code. 

If you become aware of any such interest not already registered (or the subject of pending notification) during the course of any meeting of the authority at which you are in attendance then you must disclose the interest to meeting, take the action required by the Code depending on the nature of the interest and notify the Town Clerk and Monitoring Officer of the interest in accordance with the provisions of this Code. 

6. Sensitive Interests 

A ‘sensitive interest’ is described in the Localism Act 2011 as an interest the nature of which is such that the Member and the authority’s Monitoring Officer consider that disclosure of the details of the interest could lead to the Member or a person connected with the Member being subject to violence or intimidation. 

Where you consider that you have a sensitive interest, and the Monitoring Officer agrees, that part of the register recording that interest will not be published or made available for public inspection. A declaration of interests must still be made at a meeting where relevant, but the sensitive information need not be disclosed. 

7. Disclosable Pecuniary Interests 

disclosable pecuniary interest is defined by statute and is subject to change from time to time. The Regulations current at the time of adoption of this Code are The Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 20123

Unless dispensation has been granted, if you are present at any meeting of the authority and you have a disclosable pecuniary interest in any matter to be considered or being considered at the meeting, you must leave the meeting while any discussion or voting on that matter takes place. You may not participate in any discussion of the matter at the meeting and you may not participate in any vote taken on the matter at the meeting. 

You must not discharge or participate in the discharge of any function related to any matter in which you have a disclosable pecuniary interest. 

Failure to comply with these requirements of the Code may amount to a criminal offence. 

8. Other Interests – Personal Interests 

In addition to disclosable pecuniary interests referred to above, you must also declare personal interests

You have a personal interest in any business of the authority where the business of the authority relates to or is likely to affect any body of which you are a member or in a position of general control or management and to which you are appointed or nominated by your authority. 

You will also have a personal interest in any business of the authority where the business of the authority relates to or is likely to affect any body exercising functions of a public nature, which is directed to charitable purposes or whose principle purposes includes influencing public opinion or policy where you are a member of that body or in a position of general control or management. 

The Council may, from time to time, prescribe certain bodes the membership of which amounts to a personal interest. 

You will also have a personal interest in any business of the authority where a decision in relation to that business might reasonably be regarded as affecting your wellbeing or financial position or the wellbeing or financial position of a relevant person to a greater extent than the majority of other Council tax payers, ratepayers, or inhabitants of the ward, as the case may be, affected by the decision. 

For the purposes of this Code, a relevant person is: 

  1. a member of your family or any person with whom you have a close association, or 
  2. any person or body who employs or has appointed such persons, any firm in which they are a partner, or any company of which they are
  3. directors, or 
  4. any person or body in whom such persons have a beneficial interest and a class of securities exceeding the nominal value of £25,000 or one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that body. 

Unless your personal interest also amounts to a prejudicial interest, a disclosable pecuniary interest or pre-determination, you may remain in the meeting and take part in the debate and vote. 

9. Other Interests – Prejudicial Interests 

You will have a prejudicial interest if you have a personal interest in any business of the authority and where that personal interest is one which a member of the public with knowledge of the relevant facts, would reasonably regard as so significant that it is likely to prejudice your judgement of the public interest and where that business: 

  1. 20.1 affects your financial position or the financial position of a relevant person or body described in paragraph 14 or 15 above, or
  2. 20.2 relates to the determination of any approval, consent, licence, permission or registration in relation to you or any relevant person or body described in paragraph 14 or 15 above. 

Where you have a prejudicial interest, you may not participate in any discussion of the matter at the meeting or in any vote taken on the matter at the meeting. You are also required to leave the room where the meeting is taking place during the discussion and vote. However, you may attend the meeting and make representations, answer questions or give evidence provided that the public are also allowed to attend the meeting for the same purpose and you leave the meeting immediately after having done so. 

10. Pre-Determination and Bias 

Separately from considerations as to personal, prejudicial or disclosable pecuniary interests, Members must be mindful of falling foul of the general obligations of this code by taking part in decisions where they are biased or have pre-determined the matter in question. 

Simply put, a Member will be biased or will have pre-determined a matter if they have approached a matter with a closed mind. That is to say if they have made up their mind on which way they will decide a matter before all of the relevant considerations are presented and debated in the appropriate decision-making forum. 

Previous actions or statements of a Member will not be taken by themselves as proof of predetermination. A Member may be predisposed to a certain point of view, however notwithstanding any pre-disposition, Members need to be careful to ensure they approach and, insofar as is possible, are seen to approach decisions with an open mind. 

Particular scenarios to be mindful of are where a Member, in some other role, is seen to be a promoter or advocate for a proposal which later comes before them for decision. A risk arises when there has been significant personal involvement in preparing or advocating the proposal such that a Member may become or may be perceived by the public as being no longer able to approach the decision with an open mind. 

If you feel that you have pre-determined a matter you should say so. You should not speak or vote on the proposal. You may, however, make representations on the proposal if a member of the public also has the right to do so. You are not legally obliged to withdraw from the meeting for the remainder of the debate and vote but in most circumstances doing so will counter any suggestion that you influenced the remaining Members by your continued presence. If you do not withdraw, as a minimum you must withdraw to the public area of the meeting room for the whole of the consideration of the matter, whether or not you are also exercising your right to speak. 

If in any doubt you should seek advice from the Town Clerk or Monitoring Officer. 

11. Further Information 

The Monitoring Officer of Cheshire East Council, will publicise from time to time arrangements for dealing with complaints made against Members that their conduct has breached the requirements of this code. The Monitoring Officer will publicise from time to time a Monitoring Officer Protocol reflecting current trends in Member Conduct matters in order to provide guidance on how emerging or common issues will be approached. 

12. Dispensations 

The Town Council may, on written request made to the Council’s Proper Officer by a Councillor, grant a dispensation, to enable the Councillor to participate and vote on a matter in which he/she has a prejudicial or disclosable pecuniary interest. 

The Council may grant a dispensation under paragraph 29 only if, after having had regard to all relevant circumstances, the Council considers that: 

  • without the dispensation the number of persons prohibited by Section 31(4) Localism Act 2011 from participating in any particular business would be so great a proportion of the body transacting the business as to impede the transaction of the business,
  • without the dispensation the representation of different political groups on the body transacting any particular business would be so upset as to alter the likely outcome of any vote relating to the business,
  • granting the dispensation is in the interests of persons living in the authority’s area,
  • it is otherwise appropriate to grant a dispensation. 

A dispensation under paragraph 29 must specify the period for which it has effect, and the period specified may not exceed four years. 

The requirement to leave the room and not participate in the discussion and vote does not apply in relation to anything done for the purpose of deciding whether to grant a dispensation under paragraph 29. 

The Town Council may delegate a decision under paragraph 29 to the Town Clerk, in circumstances where the interest is in an item on the agenda of a committee, and there is not a Council meeting to consider the application. 

Notes: 

  1. “Bullying” may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting or humiliating behaviour and includes “cyber bullying”. It may happen once or be part of a pattern of behaviour. It can be contrasted with the legitimate challenges a member may make in challenging policy or scrutinise performance. You may challenge others as to why they hold their views but must take care to raise issues in the appropriate forum and in an appropriate way. Ideas and policies may be robustly criticised but individuals should not be subject to unreasonable or excessive personal attack. Return to where note 1 is referenced.
  2. It is your responsibility to ensure that any judgement you make in relying on any exception will stand up to rigorous objective scrutiny. In the case of any doubt advice should be sought from the Monitoring Officer or an independent qualified legal advisor. Return to where note 2 is referenced.

13. Extract from the Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012.

The following categories are Disclosable Pecuniary Interests.

The regulations apply if the disclosable pecuniary interest is yours, your spouse’s or civil partner’s or is the pecuniary interest of somebody with whom you are living as a husband or wife or as if you were civil partners.

Disclosable Pecuniary Interests

Subject

Prescribed description

 

Employment, office, trade, profession or vocation

Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.

Sponsorship

Any payment or provision of any other financial benefit (other than from the relevant authority) made or provided within the relevant period in respect of any expenses incurred by M in carrying out duties as a Member, or towards the election expenses of M.

This includes any payment or financial benefit from a trade union within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992(1).

Contracts

Any contract which is made between the relevant person (or a body in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest) and the relevant authority —

  1. under which goods or services are to be provided or works are to be executed; and
  2. which has not been fully discharged.

Land

Any beneficial interest in land which is within the area of the relevant authority.

Licences

Any licence (alone or jointly with others) to occupy land in the area of the relevant authority for a month or longer. 

Corporate Tenancies

Any tenancy where (to M’s knowledge)— 

  1. the landlord is the relevant authority; and 
  2. the tenant is a body in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest. 

Securities

Any beneficial interest in securities of a body where –

  1. that body (to M’s knowledge) has a place of business or land in the area of the relevant authority; and 
  2. either— 
    1. the total nominal value of the securities exceeds £25,000 or one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that body; or 
    2. if the share capital of that body is of more than one class, the total nominal value of the shares of any one class in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest exceeds one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that class.