Agenda and minutes

Constitution Committee
Wednesday 10 June 2015 2.00 pm

Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

Items
No. Item

15.

Election of Chairman for the 2015-16 civic year

Minutes:

15.1    Cllr Mark Hawthorne was appointed Chairman of the Constitution Committee for the 2015-16 civic year.

 

15.2    The Committee agreed not to appoint a vice chair for the 2015-16 civic year.  Members acknowledged that in the absence of the Chairman at a meeting, the Committee would follow the usual practice of appointing a member as Chairman for the duration of that meeting.

16.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 125 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 11 May 2015.

Minutes:

  The minutes of the previous meeting of 10 June 2015 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

17.

Public Questions

To answer any written public questions about matters which are within the powers and duties of the Committee.  The closing date/time for receipt of questions is 10.00 am on 3 June 2015.  To answer any oral question(s) put by members of the public with the consent of the Chairperson.

 

Depending on the nature of the questions asked it may not be possible to provide a comprehensive answer at the meeting, in which case a written answer will be supplied as soon as reasonably possible after the meeting.

Minutes:

No public questions were received.

18.

Members' Questions

To answer any written members’ questions.  The closing date/time for the receipt of questions is 10.00 am on 3 June 2015.

Minutes:

No questions from members were received.

19.

The Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 pdf icon PDF 210 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

19.1    Dilys Wynn, Director of People Services, explained that the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, came into force on 11 May 2015.  The effect of the Regulations would be to change and localise the disciplinary process for the most senior officers of the Council, i.e. the Head of Paid Service, the Monitoring Officer and the Chief Finance Officer.

 

19.2    The Committee noted that the Council was required to modify the standing orders to implement the changes no later than the first ordinary meeting of the Council after 11 May 2015.  The Committee acknowledged that whilst the Council had no choice in implementing the changes to local government law, the changes did have contract of employment implications for the officers involved, which were currently unresolved.

 

19.4    Members of the Committee recognised that there was also a whole range of other issues which would need to be worked through in detail, relating to how the new process would work in practice.  Officers reported that the Local Government Association was liaising with the Department for Communities and Local Government to consider the practicalities of how local authorities would deliver the new process, and also the contract of employment implications for those senior officers.  Further guidance from the LGA to local authorities was expected shortly. 

 

19.5    RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND TO THE COUNCIL that the amendments to the Constitution set out in Annex 2 of the report relating to The Functions of the Full Council, Appointments Committee and Officer Employment Procedure Rules, be approved and recommended to full Council for adoption.

20.

Changes to the Employee Code of Conduct pdf icon PDF 150 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

20.1    Jane Burns, Director of Strategy and Challenge and Monitoring Officer, informed the Committee that the Employee Code of Conduct had been revised following a recent review. 

 

            The main changes related to:

 

Ø   Up-dated information on procurement and contract management.

Ø   Cross-referencing the Rules on Access to Information in respect of disclosure of information to members.

Ø   Cross-referencing the protocol on the relationship between members and officers in respect of officers’ political neutrality.

Ø   Minor typographical changes.

 

20.2    The Committee agreed that paragraph 62, Political Neutrality, on page 10 of the Employee Code of Conduct, should be amended to read:

 

         Employees other than political assistants must serve all Councillors and not just those of a single controlling group…..’

 

          ACTION: Jane Burns

 

20.3    RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND TO THE COUNCIL that the revised Employee Code of Conduct be approved and adopted.

21.

Items requested by Cllr Lesley Williams

At the Annual Meeting of the Council held on 20 May 2015, Cllr Steve Lydon requested that the Constitution Committee consider the principle that chairs of the overview and scrutiny committees should be drawn from opposition political groups and not the political group running the Council. He also called for the way the Cabinet operated to be looked at, particularly the arrangements for allowing questions.

Minutes:

21.1    Cllr Lesley Williams informed the Committee that at the Annual Meeting of the Council held on 20 May, Cllr Steve Lydon requested that the Constitution Committee consider the principle that chairs of the overview and scrutiny committees should be drawn from opposition political groups and not just the political group running the Council.  He was also calling for the way the Cabinet operated to be looked at, particularly the arrangements for allowing questions.

 

21.2    The Chairman said that one of the principles of the Cabinet model was that non-executive members scrutinise the Cabinet.  He stated that  it was recognised as good practice for chairs of the overview and scrutiny committees to be drawn from political groups across the Council and not just from the opposition groups.   This was an approach followed by this Council and many others.  Most members of the Committee were of the view that this approach helped to shape a balanced non-political scrutiny process.

 

21.3    The Chairman acknowledged that the 30 minutes allocated to consider member and public questions at Cabinet meetings was often not enough time to consider all of the supplementary questions from members.  He noted that members had the opportunity to engage through ‘Shadows’ and the scrutiny process.  They could also raise supplementary questions with the Cabinet Member outside of the meeting.  There was recognition amongst members of the committee that whilst this was the case, members often still wanted the opportunity to raise their questions with the Cabinet Member during the public Cabinet meeting.

 

21.4    Cllr Lesley Williams asked for consideration to be given to the suggestion that members of the opposition groups should be able to become part of the Cabinet.  In response, the Chairman explained that the Council was structured and operated according to the Leader and Cabinet model.  To change this would mean navigating away from this system which was not a realistic option.  There did not appear to be an appetite for change.

 

21.5    To conclude the discussion, the Chairman asked that members of the committee speak to their political group colleagues about the arrangements for questions at Cabinet meetings, and provide feedback and any suggestions for change to Cllr Lesley Williams.

 

22.

Monitoring Officer changes to the Constitution pdf icon PDF 253 KB

Minutes:

22.1    Simon Harper, Head of Democratic Services, informed the Committee that the need for this amendment was picked up at a recent meeting of the Pensions Committee, where it was agreed that the Pensions Board should always have a pensions member representative and an employer representative present, for a meeting to proceed.  Consequently the Pension Committee agreed that the Board would have a formal quorum of 3 to include one employer representative and one member representative.

 

RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND TO THE COUNCIL to ratify the changes to the Constitution  by the Monitoring Officer under delegated powers, regarding paragraph 4 Quorum, of the terms of reference of the Pensions Board, under part 3 (Responsibility for Functions), Section 3.5 of the Constitution.