Election of Chair
To elect a Chair for this meeting only.
RESOLVED that Cllr Mark Hawthorne be elected to the position of Chair of the Constitution Committee for this meeting only.
Apologies for absence
No apologies were received.
To consider the attached paper.
3.1 Members were reminded that in the previous council term, there was a recommendation from the Fire Cabinet Panel to create a new scrutiny committee which would entirely focus on scrutinising the Fire and Rescue Service. This was then agreed at the Council AGM in May.
3.2 It was noted that the additional responsibilities of GFRS in trading standards, registrations and the corners service would remain under the scrutiny of Adult Social Care and Communities Committee.
3.3 After discussions, it was agreed that there should be a formal review of the Committees progress one year after creation, estimated at June 2022. The Chair highlighted however that this was subject to the expected publication of a Govt. white paper on fire governance and the outcome of a council network commissioned piece of work on fire county services. It was accepted that any review should take account of recommendations from these two publications.
RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND TO THE COUNCIL to adopt the terms of reference outlined in Annex A, with the additional agreement to review its progress around a year after creation.
To consider the attached report.
4.1 Gillian Parkinson, Assistant Director of Legal Services, advised the attached paper proposed changes to the Constitution to ensure it was up to date with JNC model guidance on handling potential disciplinary issues for statutory officers. These procedural amendments were explained at point 3 in the report followed by a tracked changed annex for members to consider.
4.2 In clarifying the current arrangement, it was confirmed that if a statutory officer wanted to make an appeal, anything short of dismissal would be considered by the Appeals Committee and full dismissal would be considered by full Council.
4.3 At the moment the Appeals Committee has up to 15 members politically balanced but the JNC guidance explains there should be up to 5, the nature of the membership would not change (i.e. cabinet members would still be allowed), it would just be smaller with a minimum of 3 and maximum of 5.
4.4 The Chair highlighted that the majority of members on the Appeals Committee at the moment would have joined to do home to school transport appeals. It was confirmed that full training would be required if the Committee membership was required for other purposes such as this.
4.5 There was a discussion about impartiality. It was raised that as Cabinet had Collective Responsibility, a decision by Cabinet meant all cabinet members were party to that decision and that could lead to impartiality if a cabinet member were to form part of the appeal hearing.
4.6 It was reminded that there were several steps before an Appeals Committee would be called, including the involvement of independent persons. It was in everyone’s interest to ensure impartiality and any potential conflict would be thoroughly investigated before membership was agreed.
4.7 If the need for an Appeals Committee arose, membership would be identified at that point, similar to when the need arose for a Sub-Appointments Committee for recruiting to senior posts. This comment however raised confusion about the linkage between the 15 existing appeals committee members and this arrangement. It was noted that if this type of appeal was required, it was likely the membership would need to be senior members across the groups, rather than the current pool of volunteers.
4.8 In addition it was identified that the same members would not be able to sit on both the Investigatory and Disciplinary Committee (the step before an appeal) and the Appeals Committee as these two processes had to be separate.
4.9 Following a lengthy discussion, members of the Committee concluded that the current wording was confusing due to its attachment to the existing Appeals Committee that served a different purpose day to day. Members suggested it would be clearer to create a separate appeals committee that was brought together purely for this specific purpose.
4.10 Members requested for this report to be revised and brought back to the next Committee meeting.
To note the following changes made to the Constitution under the Monitoring Officer’s delegated powers:
a) Cabinet Member Portfolios (paper attached – Annex A)
b) Removal of Remote Meetings Protocol and Procedure Rules (paper attached – Annex B)
5.1 Rob Ayliffe, Director of Policy, Performance and Governance, advised of changes to the constitution made under his delegated powers as Monitoring Officer.
5.2 There had been some minor changes to cabinet member portfolios after the election and due to legislation expiring, the remote meeting protocol needed to be removed. It was added the Government were currently in consultation on the issue of remote meetings more generally, the LGA had a strong sense of allowing flexibility in terms of future local authority meetings.
5.3 It was explained that meetings at the moment were about balancing risk. If there was a risk of being challenged, meetings were being held in person, if like with scrutiny, that risk did not exist, meetings continued to be virtually.
5.4 Members noted that there would be the ability to webcast meetings in both the Chamber and the Cabinet suite to allow hybrid meetings from the autumn, if the legislation follows.
5.5 A cabinet member requested a minor change to their portfolio from superfast broadband to full fibre broadband.