Agenda and minutes

Constitution Committee - Monday 17 January 2022 2.00 pm

Items
No. Item

21.

Public questions

Minutes:

The public questions and answers were noted.  No supplementary questions were asked at the meeting.           

22.

Members' questions pdf icon PDF 321 KB

To answer any written members’ questions. The closing date/time for the receipt of questions is 10am on 12 January 2022.

Minutes:

The public questions and answers were noted.  No supplementary questions were asked at the meeting.           

23.

Independent Remuneration Panel 2022/23 report pdf icon PDF 73 KB

Minutes:

Richard Blamey, Chair of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), provided information on the review process and set out the recommendations included in the report.  He thanked staff in Democratic Services for the work in supporting the IRP including the research they had undertaken on the allowances paid by other county councils in England.  

 

The Chair and the members of the committee thanked Mr Blamey and the other members IRP for their work in reviewing the allowances. 

 

Answering questions, Mr Blamey said that meeting some councillors virtually, as opposed to in person, had proved less than ideal as it did not allow the members of the IRP to build the same rapport that they could by meeting councillors in person.  He felt that the lack of engagement by some of the new members was probably because of a lack of understanding of the role of the IRP. 

 

Answering further questions, he did not believe that it was practical to increase the current Basic Allowance up to the median figure for county councils in England as it would necessitate a rise of more than 5 per cent. 

 

A member referred to a wider discussion that they had during their meeting with the IRP and hoped that some of the issues that they had raised relating to particular special responsibility allowances could be considered further by Group Leaders.

 

Another member expressed disappointment that the IRP had not felt able to increase the allowances in 2021-22 as it was an election year.  He believed that the allowances should be increased automatically each year in line with the staff pay rise.

 

Mr Blamey said that the IRP felt strongly that automatic increases should not be applied and the level of allowances should be assessed each year to ensure that they reflected the latest position at the Council.  He stated that the allowances had not been increased in 2021-22 as previous experience suggested that any recommendations made in an election year could end up becoming ‘political’.

           

There was wide support for the introduction of a cycling allowance for councillors at the same rate as cars, currently 45p per mile, although a concern was raised that it would be out of line with the rates payable to staff.  It was hoped that steps could be taken to set the staff cycling rate at the same level in an effort to encourage both councillors and staff to use bicycles whenever they could.  The overall number of miles was likely to be small so the increase in overall costs would not be that significant to the Council.

AGREED

 

a)        TO RECOMMEND that the Council

i)          Increases the Basic Allowance from £10,500 to £10,750 for the financial year 2022-23.

ii)         Maintains Special Responsibility Allowances at their current level

iii)       Notes the revised Members’ Allowances Scheme for 2022-23 at Appendix B to the report.

                                                           

b)                     To request that the Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director: Corporate Resources make further enquiries regarding the cycling rate for staff with the aim of introducing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

Public and member questions pdf icon PDF 65 KB

Minutes:

Simon Harper, Head of Democratic Services, introduced the report.

 

            At the meeting of the Constitution Committee held on 11 October 2021, members requested that a detailed report be brought to a future meeting setting out the deadlines for public and member questions at full Council, committee and Cabinet meetings. At the same meeting, it was agreed that Cabinet Decision Statements and Cabinet Member Decision Statements would no longer be included on the Council agenda as member questions provided an opportunity for members to ask about decisions taken by the Cabinet or a Cabinet Member.  As a compromise, a recommendation was made for the time limit for member questions to be increased from 30 to 45 minutes.  The recommendation was not considered at the Council meeting on 8 December 2021 as it was felt that more time was required to allow a better understanding of all the issues including the deadline for the publication of agenda papers.

 

            The Chair proposed for Council questions only that the notice period be extended by two days from four to six clear working days.  In practice, that meant that the deadline would be 10am on a Monday in the week before a meeting on the Wednesday in the following week.  It was recognised that this would result in a question deadline ahead of the legal deadline of five clear working days for publication of the agenda and reports. The Chair accepted that there would need to be a later deadline for questions specifically related to items on the Council agenda.  Four clear working days were suggested in line with the current deadline for Council and committee questions – 10am on the Wednesday a week before a meeting on the following Wednesday.

 

            The Monitoring Officer noted that if the proposal was accepted it would result in three question deadlines for Council meetings: six clear working days for general questions, four clear working days for questions specifically related to items on the agenda and 12 noon on the day before the meeting for questions that were accepted as urgent.  

 

            If this proposal was accepted members requested that the deadlines be published on the agenda.  They asked that the Constitution make clear that the deadline for questions would be extended when reports were delayed. This would apply to all the meetings including Cabinet and committees where questions could be asked. 

 

            Referring to the Council Budget meeting, a member believed that the agenda item for member questions should be before the presentation of the Budget report. The Chair noted that this was a matter for the Chair of the Council and could be raised at the briefing ahead of the meeting. 

 

            AGREED

 

a)    To request the Monitoring Officer to recommend changes to public and member questions to reflect the views expressed by members of the committee. Following consultation with members, the changes would be presented at the Council meeting on 16 February 2022.

 

b)    TO RECOMMEND to the Council that the time limit for member questions at full Council  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.

25.

Pensions Committee report pdf icon PDF 130 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

  Cllr John Bloxsom declared an interest in this item as he was in receipt of benefits from the Local Government Pension Scheme. 

 

  In introducing the report, Matthew Trebilcock, Head of Pensions, explained that the recommendations in the report were consistent with good practice elsewhere. There had been a discussion at the Pensions Committee and members had requested that the position be reviewed after two years.

 

  In terms of political balance, the regulations made clear that the controlling political group must have the majority of voting members on every committee, including the Pensions Committee.  Although the Gloucestershire Pension Fund included members from outside the Council, the Pensions Committee remained a committee of the Council.  If co-opted members representing employers, employees and other organisations had voting rights then the controlling political group would no longer have a majority on the committee.

 

  A member believed that there should be an extra employee representative on the committee if there was going to be an extra employer representative as indicated in the report. The Head of Pensions explained that the reasoning for another employer representative was that decisions generally had a greater impact on employers compared with employees.  He confirmed that the term of office for co-opted members was four years and this would be included under the Pensions Committee membership in the Constitution.

 

  Referring to page 21 of the report and the changes proposed at 23 to the duties of the Pensions Committee, a member noted that it should refer to the interests of the ‘Gloucestershire Pension Fund’ not to the interests of the ‘County Council’. 

 

  Cllr Lynden Stowe, Chair of the Pensions Committee, explained that a review after two years would allow the membership to be re-examined alongside the operation of the committee.  He said that there were already a number of new members on the committee and to increase that number further would put even more stress on the membership.  He noted that the Pensions Committee and the Pensions Board had in the past struggled to recruit members.

 

AGREED TO RECOMMEND that the Council adopt the changes to the duties and membership of the Pension Committee at Section 3.4 of Part 3 of the Constitution included in the report along with the changes identified at the meeting relating to the terms of office for co-opted members and ‘promoting the interests of the Gloucestershire Pension Fund’ at 23 under the duties of the committee.

26.

Update to the Council's Contract Procedure Rules pdf icon PDF 335 KB

To note the attached report.

Minutes:

Rob Ayliffe, the Monitoring Officer, advised that the report highlighted the new financial thresholds for Council contracts that had been introduced through Government regulations on 1 January 2022. 

 

AGREED to recommend that the Council ratifies the changes to financial thresholds in the Contract Procedure Rules at Part 4 of the Constitution as set out in the report.