Agenda and minutes

Constitution Committee - Monday 11 October 2021 2.00 pm

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

Items
No. Item

1.

Election of Chair

Minutes:

Cllr Mark Hawthorne MBE was appointed as Chair of the Constitution Committee for the remainder of the 2021-22 Civic Year.

2.

Election of Vice-Chair

Minutes:

Cllr Colin Hay was appointed as Vice-chair of the Constitution Committee for the remainder of the 2021-22 Civic Year.

3.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

All the committee members were present so there were no apologies for absence.

4.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 82 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 14 June 2021.

Minutes:

The minutes of the virtual meeting held on 14 June 2021 were confirmed.

5.

Public Questions pdf icon PDF 87 KB

To answer any written public questions about matters which are within the powers and duties of the Committee.  The closing date and time for receipt of questions is 10.00am on Monday 4 October 2021

Minutes:

Alan Mossman had submitted six public questions ahead of the meeting.

 

Referring to the answer to question 1, Mr Mossman asked that whilst awaiting the publication of the procurement toolkit, was there anything that stopped members and officers from using the spirit and the letter of the County Council’s commitment to carbon reduction across all major policies, sustainability, reduction of climate impact and environmental considerations in selecting contractors for County Council business.

 

Cllr Hawthorne noted that the item relating to contract procedure rules had been withdrawn from the agenda as an associated paper on financial procedure rules had not been circulated.  He said that a written answer would be provided after the meeting. 

 

Referring to question 2, Mr Mossman asked when the procurement toolkit was expected to be in place?

 

Cllr Hawthorne advised that this would be included in the written answer.

 

Referring to question 3, Mr Mossman acknowledged that a full budgetary, statutory or environmental assessment might not be possible in the time available.  He requested that the committee ask the Chief Executive to advise the Council of possible or actual environmental, climate and carbon conflicts and consequences so far as is possible within the timeframe?

 

6.

Members' Questions

To answer any written members’ questions.  The closing date and time for the receipt of questions is 10.00am on Monday 4 October 2021.

Minutes:

There were no member questions.

7.

Contract Procedure Rules pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To consider the attached report.

 

Minutes:

This item was withdrawn from the agenda to allow the contract procedure rules to be presented alongside the finance procedure rules.

8.

Appeals Committee pdf icon PDF 376 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

Gillian Parkinson, Assistant Director, Legal Services, explained that the purpose of the report was to propose changes to the Constitution relating to the disciplinary appeal process for the Chief Executive, Statutory Officers and any other Chief Officer to whom the Council’s employment related procedures expressly applied. The Council needed to have an appropriate committee structure in place to quickly consider any potential disciplinary issues for the Chief Executive, the Head of Paid Service, the Section 151 Officer, the Monitoring Officer and other Chief Officers.

 

After discussion on the merits of the various options, option 2 was preferred.  This involved the retention of the existing Appeals Committee with the creation of a standalone Disciplinary Appeals Committee.

 

RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND TO THE COUNCIL that option 2 in the report be adopted and incorporated within the Council Constitution.

9.

Audit and Governance Committee

To adjust the terms of reference for the Audit and Governance Committee at Table 3.09 in Part 3 of the Council Constitution relating to the Independent Member of the committee.  In line with the Scrutiny Procedure Rules the Independent Member to be identified as a non-voting member of the committee.

 

 

Minutes:

Cllr Hawthorne noted that the change proposed was simply a tidying up exercise after the Audit and Governance Committee had been moved to its own section of the Constitution and no longer fell under the rules relating to the overview and scrutiny committees.

 

RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND TO THE COUNCIL to adjust the terms of reference for the Audit and Governance Committee at Table 3.09 in Part 3 of the Council Constitution to show the Independent Member as a non-voting member of the committee.

10.

Use of Gender Neutral language pdf icon PDF 127 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

Rob Ayliffe, Monitoring Officer, presented the report and explained the conventions which had been adopted regarding the use of gender-neutral language. 

 

Members were generally satisfied with the arrangements in place although they acknowledged that occasionally members and officers used non gender-neutral terms by mistake.

 

One member expressed particular concern at the lack of consistency and felt that the use of gender-neutral language was not as well embedded as it ought to be.  He felt that a more detailed discussion was required.

11.

Notice of motion - Chief Executive's accompanying note pdf icon PDF 187 KB

To consider the attached report.

 

Minutes:

Simon Harper, the Head of Democratic Services, explained following the decision to ask the Chief Executive to provide an accompanying note for all motions it was agreed that it should be reviewed after a period of time.

 

There was general support for the procedure and it was noted that that the Chief Executive could decline to make a comment if they felt that it was inappropriate.

 

RESOLVED that the Chief Executive should continue to provide an accompanying note for each Council motion.

12.

Public questions at full Council and Committee meetings pdf icon PDF 371 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

The report set out the provisions for questions from the public at full Council and committee meetings.  Information was included on the arrangements in place in other county councils in England the six district councils in Gloucestershire.

 

It was noted that difficulties had been encountered in providing responses due to the volume of both public and member questions relating to particular areas of the Council’s business at recent meetings.  A longer notice period than the current four clear working days would provide officers with more time to collate responses and lessen the pressure on officers.  This was particularly evident in the Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Directorate.

 

Some members were concerned that a longer timeframe would mean that the deadline for questions would be ahead of the agenda being published. Other members did not see this as a particular problem for full Council meetings as questions did not need to relate to items on the agenda, although it was accepted that special arrangements might need to be in place for the budget-setting meeting in February each year.  

 

It was recognised that it was a complex issue to resolve and officers were requested to bring a detailed report to a future meeting setting out the deadlines for both public and member questions at full Council, committee and Cabinet meetings.  This would allow members to better understand all the issues including the deadlines for the publication of agenda papers.   

13.

Council agenda: Cabinet Decision Statement and Individual Cabinet Member Decision Statements pdf icon PDF 187 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

At the full Council meeting in September 2021 a request was made for the position to be clarified around the purpose of including Cabinet decision statements and individual Cabinet member statements on the Council agenda.

 

Although there was a legal and constitutional requirement that decisions of the Cabinet shall be published and made available as soon as is reasonably practicable, there was no further requirement for these statements to be presented to Council. 

 

Council questions provided an opportunity for members to ask about decisions taken by the Cabinet or an individual Cabinet member.

 

Cllr Hawthorne believed that separate items on the decision statements were not necessary as members already had ample opportunity to ask questions at both full Council and Cabinet meetings. 

 

Cllr Hay quoted from Knowles on Local Authority Meetings where there was a reference to the importance that Widdicombe attached to being able to question the majority party on Council policy.  He said that it was a fundamental responsibility to be able to call to account those people making decisions on behalf of the Council. 

 

There was a difference of view expressed among members with some believing that separate Council agenda items were no longer necessary as mechanisms were in place to hold decision makers to account.  Others believed that it was important to retain the opportunity to ask Cabinet members questions when the decision statements were presented.

 

After a short adjournment, it was agreed that Cabinet and individual Cabinet member decision statements would be included as ‘information items’ under member questions on each Council agenda and the amount of time allocated for member questions should be increased from 30 to 45 minutes.

 

RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND TO THE COUNCIL that the time limit for questions by members at full Council meetings included in Procedural Standing Order 9.1 in Part 4 of the Constitution be increased from 30 to 45 minutes.

 

14.

Addition to scheme of delegation: pdf icon PDF 65 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

Rob Ayliffe, Monitoring Officer, advised that the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 placed a collective duty with other Category 1 responders to provide an effective local response to a major incident or emergency. This was exercised through the Local Resilience Forum and senior officers, where necessary, needed to be authorised to take decisions on behalf of the Council that were not ordinarily within their remit. 

 

RESOLVEDTO RECOMMEND THE COUNCIL to include decision category number GEN5 as shown in the report in the Council’s Scheme of Delegation in Part 3 of the Constitution.

15.

Council motions

To raise an issue relating to notice of amendments to Council motions.                                                                              

Minutes:

Cllr John Bloxsom expressed concern that opposition groups had not been given any notice of particular amendments from the controlling group at the last full Council meeting.  He believed that the debate would have been much better informed if notice of the amendments had been given ahead of the meeting.

 

Cllr Hawthorne stated that when his group had previously given notice of amendments opposition members had taken the opportunity to attack the amendments in their speeches before the mover of the amendment had even had an opportunity to speak.  He believed that the current position could be improved but it would require a level of trust on each side.  It was agreed that this should be raised at the next meeting of Group Leaders.