Consideration was given to Motion No. 154, moved by Councillor M Storey and seconded by Councillor Rostron of which notice had been given in accordance with Council Procedure Rules No. 53-60 as follows:
A Standards Committee Meeting held on 11 May 2022 concluded that Councillor J McTigue, acting in her capacity as a member of Middlesbrough Borough Council (‘the Council’), had breached items 3.2, 3.5 and 3.12 of the Members Code of Conduct on social media posts on 28 November 2019 and on 23 December 2020, in that she did not respect others, conducted herself in a manner which was likely to bring the authority, office, or the Member into disrepute and did not use social media responsibly.
Following consideration of the Standards complaint, the Standards Committee in consultation with the Independent Person, ordered that a number of sanctions be imposed, one of which included that Councillor McTigue to be subject of a motion of public censure at the full Council meeting.
In accordance with the Standards Committee’s resolution, the matter of a motion of censure is now placed before Council in respect of Councillor McTigue’s conduct in respect of the matters detailed by the Investigating Officer in the report to the Standards Committee meeting held on 11 May 2022.
Councillor M Storey advised that the motion had been due to be considered by the Council meeting on 6 July however, Councillor Saunders, the acting Chair of the Standards Committee at the time the resolution was passed, had refused to bring the motion to Council, because he had concerns regarding the fact that the complaint had been processed, given the six months deadline for submission of complaints, contained in the procedure rules. In Councillor Saunders view, the complaint was not submitted within the required six months deadline. Councillor Storey advised that Councillor Saunders believed that on the above technicality, Councillor McTigue should not be censured. The Standards Committee had however unanimously agreed that Councillor McTigue had breached the Members’ Code of Conduct and as a consequence, the motion to Council to censure Councillor McTigue had been agreed.
The matter was considered again at an informal meeting of the Standards Committee, following advice from legal services, where a decision was made that Councillor M Storey and Councillor Rostron should propose the censure motion at the Council meeting scheduled for 7 September 2022.
Councillor Storey stated that Councillor McTigue had posted unacceptable information about an officer on social media. The motion to censure would send a clear message to members with regard to how they should behave towards officers.
It was essential that members abided by the Members Code of Conduct and the Nolan principles, and when members failed to abide by these rules, then action should be taken.
The Chair advised that as Councillor McTigue was unable to attend the meeting, she had requested that he read a statement out prepared by the councillor, setting out the reasons, why in her view, she should not be censured. The Chair read the statement out to the meeting, as requested by Councillor McTigue.
Councillor Saunders advised that at the Standards Committee held on 11 May, where Councillor Mc Tigue was adjudged to have broken the Code of Conduct, he was acting as the Chair of the Standards Committee.
Councillor Saunders stated that he had advised the Monitoring Officer of his concerns regarding the 6 months cut off deadline for submission of Standards complaints. The six months rule for submission of complaints was contained in the procedure rules. The procedure rules were subsequently removed from the internet as they were misleading. Councillor Saunders stated that in his view, this was a governance failing and, as a consequence, he stated that he was unable to support the motion for censure.
Councillor Hubbard stated that he concurred with the comments of Councillor Saunders. The procedure rules had been submitted to the Constitution and Members Development Committee in April 2018 and had been subsequently confirmed by full Council, on 16 May 2018. He stated the issue was not about a technicality, it was regarding policies and procedures and whether Council officers should be allowed to change them.
Councillor M Storey pointed out that officers, at both meetings, had provided clear guidance, to the Chair of the Standards Committee, that there was no time restriction for hearing the complaint. There was an archaic document on the website but that was taken down. Councillor Storey advised that both labour and independent councillors were present at the meeting, where the committee decided to recommend that Councillor McTigue be censured.
The Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that the Council delegated functions to various committees, and the authority to deal with Standards functions had been delegated by Council to the Standards Committee. The Standards Committee was overseeing the governance arrangements in respect of complaints about breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct, and by doing so, the committee was making decisions on behalf of full Council. The Standards Committee were unanimous in their decision that there had been a breach of the Members Code of Conduct.
The Deputy Monitoring Officer pointed out that the members of the Standards Committee were provided with advice before and after the committee meeting.
There was an opportunity for the councillor subject to censure, to challenge the decision of the Standards Committee and the councillor was at liberty to do that.
The Deputy Monitoring Officer stated that members might want to consider whether they were undermining the authority of the Standards Committee if they chose not to consider the motion submitted through the Standards Committee. The Deputy Monitoring Officer reminded members that they were voting on a motion of the Standards Committee to censure Councillor McTigue.
Councillor Rathmell stated that he acknowledged the view and the opinion of the legal officers. He stated that the issue was not about undermining the Standards Committee, because paragraph 51 of the Council Procedure Rules stated “The Council shall consider recommendations made to it by Committees on matters falling within the Committee’s terms of reference. The recommendation shall be moved by the Chair of that Committee”. A seconder to the motion is not required.
Councillor Rathmell stated that any motion to censure the councillor should have been submitted by the Chair of the Standards Committee, in accordance with paragraph 51 of the Council Procedure Rules.
Councillor Rathmell stated that Councillor McTigue had sought clarification on the Standards complaints guidance and with regard to whether there was any provision within the Localism Act with regard to this issue however the guidance had been removed from the Council website because it was archaic and there was no response received with regard to the query about the Localism Act.
For the above reasons, Councillor Rathmell stated that it was not appropriate to pass the motion of censure in respect of Councillor McTigue.
Councillor Rathmell proposed a motion under paragraph 93 (c) of the Council Procedure Rules. The motion to proceed to the next business was seconded by Councillor Hubbard.
Councillor Rooney requested that a recorded vote be held.
The Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that in order for a recorded vote to be held, a vote would need to be carried out. If 12 councillors indicated that they wished to have a recorded vote, then a recorded vote would be held.
As more than 12 councillors indicated that they wished to have a recorded vote, the Deputy Monitoring Officer conducted a recorded vote on whether to proceed to the next business.
The outcome of the recorded vote to proceed to next business was as follows:
FOR: Mayor – A Preston, Councillors A Bell, C Hobson, J Hobson, B Hubbard, D Jones, L Mason, D McCabe, M Nugent, J Platt, E Polano, J Rathmell, R Sands, M Saunders, G Wilson
AGAINST: Councillors R Arundale, I Blades, T Furness, A Hellaoui, T Higgins, N Hussain, L Lewis, D Rooney, J Rostron, M Storey, P Storey, Z Uddin, J Walker
ABSTAIN: Councillors D Coupe, C Dodds, T Grainge, M Smiles, S Walker
Following the outcome of the recorded vote, it was ORDERED as follows:
That the Council proceed to the next item on the agenda.