Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Committee Room 2, Witney
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 18 July 2022.
The minutes of the meeting held on 18 July 2022 were approved and signed by the Chair.
Apologies for Absence
Councillor Luci Ashbourne sends her apologies.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Luci Ashbourne and Councillor Andy Graham.
Councillor Ruth Smith substituted for Councillor Luci Ashbourne.
Councillor Elizabeth Poskitt who was Vice-Chair, Chaired the meeting in Councillor Luci Ashbourne’s absence.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations from Members of the Committee on any items to be considered at the meeting.
There were no declarations of interest received.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
If the Sub-Committee wishes to exclude the press and the public from the meeting
during consideration of any of the items on the exempt from publication part of the
agenda, it will be necessary for the Sub-Committee to pass a resolution in accordance with the provisions of Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972 on the grounds that their presence could involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as described in specific paragraphs of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.
The Sub-Committee may maintain the exemption if and so long as, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
The Committee Resolved that:
1. In view that the content to be discussed was in, or had been in the public domain, and because the public interest test did not outweigh the exempt material, the public were not excluded from the meeting for the remaining business.
Determination of Allegation of Breach of the West Oxfordshire District Council Code of Conduct by a West Oxfordshire District Councillor
The purpose of the report is to provide the Standards Sub-Committee with the evidence to enable them to determine the allegation that a West Oxfordshire District Councillor, has breached the West Oxfordshire District Council Code of Conduct for Members.
Members of the Standards Sub-Committee are recommended to follow the Standards Sub-Committee Procedure Rules approved for use at this meeting, consider all evidence before them, and:
a) Determine whether West Oxfordshire District Councillor, has breached the code of conduct; and
b) If the Sub-Committee determine a breach of the Code, to consider and determine any sanctions that should be imposed upon the Councillor and any other appropriate action to be taken.
The Sub-Committee considered the reports of the Monitoring Officer and the Investigating Officer to determine allegations that the Subject Councillor had breached the West Oxfordshire District Council’s Code of Conduct for Members.
The Members of the Standards Sub-Committee followed the Standards Sub-Committee Procedure Rules approved for use at the meeting.
The Chair introduced the Committee Members, Independent Person, Officers, parties and their representative, to all attendees.
The Council’s Monitoring Officer outlined the scope of the meeting, and laid out the order of the hearing, and stated that the posts themselves have not been denied by the Subject Councillor, so there were narrow issues in dispute. The Monitoring Officer reminded the Sub-Committee of the Human Rights Act, the need to act in accordance with the principles of natural justice, and the Subject Councillor’s right to a fair hearing.
The Council’s Investigating Officer outlined the report and explained each social media post which was being considered and determined as a breach of the Councillors Code of Conduct. Some of the posts were not original posts from the Subject Councillor but were a share/re post of content from elsewhere. Posts that had been reposted and shared without a reason, were left open to misinterpretation as no context has been placed on the reposted shared content. The Investigating Officer concluded that overall findings were that these posts and sharing of posts provided evidence that the Subject Councillor had a lack of awareness, of offending others.
The Subject Councillor requested information regarding when the complaints arrived and if they were of a similar nature. The Subject Councillor believed he was being politically targeted, and that the hearing was a waste of council time and money.
The Investigating Officer confirmed that there were four complainants from different email addresses that arrived in September 20232 and that a further complaint was received in October 2022 from another completely separate person. The Investigating Officer advised that only one complaint of this nature needed to be reported in order to investigate a breach, and therefore the number that had been received was deemed irrelevant.
Following the Investigating Officer’s summary, the Chair opened up the meeting for questions from the Subject Councillor and his representative, the Independent Person and the Councillors on the Sub-Committee.
The Subject Councillor, and his representative, then had the opportunity to address the Sub-Committee. Then the Chair allowed questions of the Subject Councillor from the Investigating Officer, the Independent Person, and the Sub-Committee.
The Chair adjourned the Sub-Committee meeting and the Sub-Committee retired with the Independent Person and the Monitoring Officer to deliberate and determine the matter.
The meeting adjourned for 45 minutes, at the end of which, the Sub-Committee had reached a determination.
Upon the meeting resuming, the Chair informed those present that the Sub-Committee had considered all the evidence laid out in the original documentation report, listened to all parties’ representations to them, and taken account of the legal advice and the views of the Independent Person.
The Monitoring Officer summarised the legal advice ... view the full minutes text for item 17.