Section 7: Taking decisions on quasi-judicial or regulatory applications
Question 8: Do you agree to the changes proposed for Section 7: Taking Decisions on Quasi-Judicial or Regulatory Applications?
Twenty respondents (42%) provided comments on the changes proposed in Section 7 of the revised Code. Twenty eight (58%) did not comment.
Overall, several respondents expressed support for the adoption of a more generic approach to this part of the Code, and the move away from being very focused on planning matters. One respondent was concerned about the potential dilution of the Code in relation to planning issues and interests, and suggested that that planning scenarios should be added into the associated guidance to the Code. In general, respondents found the revised Section 7 to be clearer, more consistent and more comprehensive in its approach.
There were a few specific suggestions in relation to different paragraphs in this section.
For Paragraph 7.3, one respondent considered that a further explanation of what is meant by ‘quasi judicial’ would be helpful. Other respondents suggested language clarifictions or improvements.
Comments in relation to Paragraph 7.4 included the need to clarify Paragraph 7.4(a), and whether this would require attendance at every stage of the decision-making process. Another comment suggested that the objective test should be referenced in relation to the requirement that a Councillor ‘be seen to act fairly’ at 7.4(a).
One respondent made comments in relation to requirements in Paragraphs 7.4(e) and 7.4(f) that Councillors seek or take advice from Council Officers:
“It is vital that Councillors are seen to respect and adhere to this part of the Code at all times. [We] suggest a firmer and less stakeholder-dependent means of monitoring and policing this is required. It is not uncommon for Councillors to take a planning decision that is contrary to officer advice. That is not inherently wrong, but there must always be clear evidence, before the decision is taken and demonstrated through committee discussions, that the decision is based on proper planning considerations.
Likewise, at 7.4 (f), wording should be added to make it absolutely clear that Councillors must ‘seek advice from the relevant Council Officer if I am in doubt as to any material or relevant considerations before and not after a decision has been taken’.”
A few respondents gave views in relation to Paragraph 7.8. In particular, the wording ‘that suggests I have a closed mind’ was considered to be too subjective and open to interpretation, and should either be rephrased or supported by examples. Another considered that:
“The content is laudable in its intention, but we would question how determinable some of the matters covered are, and as a result how enforceable the provisions would be.”
One respondent requested clarifications in relation to what would be considered to be lobbying or influencing in specific scenarios, in response to Paragraphs 7.11 and 7.13.