South Tyneside Council faces overhaul on rules for councillors' expenses and behaviour

Rules on expenses claims and behaviour for councillors face an overhaul.

By James Harrison
Friday, 21st August 2020, 11:59 am
South Shields town hall
South Shields town hall

South Tyneside Council’s annual review of its guidelines and regulations is overdue after the COVID-19 outbreak put a halt to usual procedures.

But as borough bosses begin to tentatively return to normal business, the local authority’s constitution is in the sights of officers.

“As you know, every year we have an annual council meeting and that meeting reviews recommendations on the constitution,” said Nicola Robason, head of corporate and external affairs.

“This year (2020) [because of coronavirus] we obviously haven’t had that annual meeting of the borough council yet, so we haven’t been able to bring through a report to the Constitution Committee, which would then in turn produce a report for council to consider.”

She added: “As soon as we possibly can we will make sure the detailed report with a mocked-up version of the constitution and all necessary required changes goes to the Constitution Committee.

“The committee will then consider those proposed amendments and provide their own report with recommendations through to the borough council as soon as we are able to make that meeting happen.”

Robason was speaking at a meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet.

Among the issues to be addressed highlighted in a report for cabinet were:

:: Changes to the council’s Pensions Committee, following the approved multi-billion pound merger of the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund and the Northumberland County Council Pension Fund

:: Update guidelines on ‘Member Conduct and Rules of Debate’ for councillors

:: Adding a designated telephone and broadband allowance for councillors

:: Simplifying the ‘complex’ rules on expenses claims for councillors

:: Ensuring an up to date register of interests is compulsory for senior council staff

Council leader Iain Malcolm added there was ‘nothing unusual’ about such an overhaul of the council’s internal rules for staff and elected councillors.

He said: “It’s about strengthening and seeing if there have to be any changes made for legal [reasons].

“We would have ordinarily done this in May, but obviously because of where we are we’re a little bit behind schedule.”