Agenda and minutes

Constitution Committee
Friday 8 January 2016 10.00 am

Venue: Members' Room - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 188 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 10 June 2015.

Minutes:

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

 

 

2.

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 10.00am on 4 January 2016.  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.

3.

Members' Questions

To answer any written members’ questions.  The closing date/time for the receipt of questions is 10.00am on 4 January 2016.

Minutes:

No questions from members were received.

 

4.

Report of the Independent Remuneration Panel pdf icon PDF 340 KB

To consider the report and recommendations of the Panel.

Minutes:

4.1      Richard Blamey, Chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), attended the meeting and presented the Panel’s report and recommendations for the 2016/17 revision of the Members’ Allowances Scheme.  

 

4.2      Mr Blamey informed the Committee that the Panel had conducted an in-depth review of all matters relating to the remuneration of members.  Interviews with 21 councillors were conducted on 19, 26 and 28 October 2015.  Members were asked about their roles both at the Council and within their communities; they were also invited to give their views on the current allowances scheme.

 

4.3      He explained that the Panel had recognised the support provided to members by the Democratic Services Team and the value of an ongoing member development programme to help members understand their role and responsibilities.  The Panel was of the view however that there may be a need for more tailored support to be provided to individual members, who join the Council with no previous experience of local government.

      

4.4      He informed the Committee that in the Panel’s previous reports in 2013 and 2014, the Panel stated its view that the appropriate rate for the Basic Allowance should be at least £10,000. The Panel continued to hold this view.

 

4.5      He reported that the Panel conducted a review of comparative data and the analysis revealed that both the average and median figures for the Basic Allowances were in the region of £10,300.  Whilst the Panel was aware of the economic climate, in the face of the existing data it simply could not recommend a Basic Allowance of less than £10,000.  The Panel was strongly of the view that the current Basic Allowance of £9100 was too low, and in effect undervalued the role of county councillors. 

 

4.6      The Panel was unanimous in its recommendation to increase the Basic Allowance from £9100 to £10,000 for a two-year period from 1 April 2016.

 

4.7      He explained that the Panel was also recommending that all other allowances remain fixed at their 2015-16 level as detailed in Appendix B in the report.  The Panel recognised that this would remove the principle of using the Basic Allowance as a ‘building block’ for the Special Responsibility Allowance, and the Panel planned to address this in 2017 as part of a thorough review following the May 2017 elections.

 

4.8      One member informed the meeting of the issues she was experiencing with her Council provided IT equipment. She explained that those technical problems were hampering her role as an elected member.  The member emphasised the importance of investment in suitable IT systems.  In response, Mr Blamey explained that it was not within the remit of the Panel to consider IT investment.  However, he confirmed that Democratic Services had been made aware of the IT related issues raised by members during the interviews.  Simon Harper, Head of Democratic Services, confirmed that a Members’ ICT Group had been established to focus on how members’ ICT could be made more effective, and to look at new ways of working.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Motion 763 - referred from County Council 2 December 2015

The following Motion (proposed by Cllr Jeremy Hilton and seconded by Cllr Iain Dobie)was received at the full Council meeting held on 2 December 2015, and was referred to the Constitution Committee for consideration:

 

            This Council expresses deep concern over the Cabinet’s decision on 11 November 2015 to approve a £17 million one-off financial contribution to the residual waste project, funded from revenue reserves.

            This Council believes that redirections of such significant sums should be approved by all members of this Council.

           

            The Council therefore recommends that the Constitution Committee considers changes to standing orders and reports back to full Council at the earliest opportunity.

 

The Committee is asked to consider the matters raised in the Motion and, if necessary, to make recommendations accordingly.

Minutes:

5.1      Cllr Jeremy Hilton presented the Motion which had been received at the full Council meeting held on 2 December 2015, and was referred to the Constitution Committee for consideration.

 

5.2      He had expressed concern over the Cabinet’s decision to approve a £17 million one-off financial contribution to the residual waste project funded from the Council’s revenue reserves.  He felt that redirections of significant sums should be approved by full Council. He understood that the decision taken was lawful.  However, he would find it helpful to know if other authorities apply financial limits or exceptional circumstances to executive decisions.

 

5.3      Cllr Hilton also suggested that the Audit and Governance Committee be asked to review the relevant Standing Orders, including looking at whether there should be a revision to specify that the transfer of funds from Council’s reserves, to mitigate the additional costs of a project, once the costs had reached a certain level, should be taken by full Council, rather than Cabinet. He commented that this had been the practice in 2002/03.

 

5.4      Members of the Committee agreed that it would be a useful exercise to ascertain the reporting processes followed by other local authorities, for transfers of significant funds from Council reserves to mitigate additional costs of a project.  The Committee agreed that a report on the findings of the exercise would be brought back to a future meeting of the Committee.

 

            ACTION: Jane Burns/Jo Bolton.

6.

Modifications to the Petition Scheme pdf icon PDF 67 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

6.1         Simon Harper, Head of Democratic Services, presented the report.  He drew members’ attention to Annex A of the report outlining the proposed revised scheme.  The revised scheme has been presented to Group Leader’s and the proposed changes had been supported. 

 

6.2         He explained that the scheme had been redrafted so that it followed a more logical format and linked across to the new flow chart which had been developed so that the public could follow the steps required in presenting a petition.

 

6.3         He reported that all petitions were received and then processed by the Democratic Services Unit. The local member(s) and Cabinet member were made aware of the petition and kept informed.

 

6.4         One member questioned whether, given the amount of work it would take to collect 5000 signatures to trigger a debate at a full Council meeting, the length of time to present the petition should be extended beyond 5 minutes.  In response, the Chairman explained that from his recollection the length of time allowed for petition debates, at full Council meetings, had seemed sufficient.  He added that the Chairman of Council had the flexibility to extend the time allowed if he felt it necessary.  He suggested that if issues arose in the future then the matter could be looked at further.

 

6.5         The Head of Democratic Services reported that he was liaising with representatives of Modern.Gov, with the aim of improving the E-petition system and making it more user friendly.

 

6.6         RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND THAT THE COUNCIL:

 

     a) Approve the revised petition scheme at Appendix A including the associated flow chart at Appendix B of the report.

    

     b) Include the petition scheme in part 5 of the Council’s constitution under ‘codes and protocols’.

 

7.

Monitoring Officer changes to the Constitution pdf icon PDF 84 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

          RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND TO THE COUNCIL to ratify the changes to the Constitution, as set out in the report, by the Monitoring Officer under delegated powers.